Ch. 8: The Elf-Child and the Minister
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"But it is an error to suppose that our grave forefathers—though accustomed to speak and think of human existence as a state merely of trial and warfare, and though unfeignedly prepared to sacrifice goods and life at the behest of duty—made it a matter of conscience to reject such means of comfort, or even luxury, as lay fairly within their grasp. This creed was never taught, for instance, by the venerable pastor, John Wilson, whose beard, white as a snow-drift, was seen over Governor Bellingham’s shoulder; while its wearer suggested that pears and peaches might yet be naturalized in the New England climate, and that purple grapes might possibly be compelled to flourish, against the sunny garden-wall. The old clergyman, nurtured at the rich bosom of the English Church, had a long established and legitimate taste for all good and comfortable things; and however stern he might show himself in the pulpit, or in his public reproof of such transgressions as that of Hester Prynne, still, the genial benevolence of his private life had won him warmer affection than was accorded to any of his professional contemporaries."
The Scarlet Letter
It would be wrong to assume that our great ancestors rejected comfort and luxury. True, they thought and spoke of human existence as a state of constant warfare and trial with temptation, and they were prepared to sacrifice their possessions and even their lives when duty called. But they still enjoyed what pleasures they could. Of course, this lesson was never taught by the wise, old pastor John Wilson, whose white beard could now be seen over Governor Bellingham’s shoulder. Reverend Wilson was just then suggesting that pears and peaches might be transplanted to New England and grapes might grow well against the sunny garden wall. The old minister, who grew up in the wealthy Church of England, had a well-earned taste for all comforts. Despite how stern he might appear in the pulpit or in his public dealings with Hester Prynne, the warmth and goodwill displayed in his private life had made him more beloved than is typical for ministers.
As you can see, they enjoyed the same comfort and luxuries as anyone else..... as long as they could afford them! Therefore their true Puritan attitude was a bit hypocritical from those they vocalized. Actions speak louder than words.
There is a stark hypocrisy to be seen when Hester visits Governor Bellingham's mansion. Puritan's were supposed to reject luxuries as temptations of the Devil. THe Governor's mansion was unlike anything that Hester had seen. Instead of living a life of austerity the Governor was quite proud of his estate, "Such as elderly gentlemen loved to indue themselves with, in their domestic privacy,—walked foremost, and appeared to be showing off his estate, and expatiating on his projected improvements." THere seems to be a contradiction between the Puritans in power and the rest of them.