Michael Wigglesworth was born in England in 1631. He came over to America with his family at the age of seven. He was raised in the town of New Haven, Connecticut until he went to Harvard at sixteen. He graduated in 1651 but remained a tutor for three years. He was called to the ministry and accepted a call to a church in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1655 and remained in that town the rest of his life. He had three wives and eight children.
Wigglesworth was a small and extremely frail man. Due to his sickness, he went to Bermuda for seven months in 1663, and there he began to study medicine, which was his initial interest before the ministry. After this trip, he was a physician as well as a preacher. However, Wigglesworth was not known for his preaching.
He was not very well liked in his hometown and turned to poetry due to his rejection in the pulpit. Samuel Sewall commenting on his death mentioned two things: the fact that he wrote "The Day of Doom" and that he was "very useful as a physician." The fact that Sewall did not comment about Wigglesworth being a preacher helps verifies that he was not well known for his preaching.
Wigglesworth wrote a lot of poetry, but his piece "The Day of Doom" was by far his most famous work The poem sold 1800 copies in its first year of publication, and sold many copies after the first year as well. About one in every twenty people in New England bought a copy, and it was supposedly America's first bestseller. Children memorized verses of the poem along with their catechism, and others memorized it as well. This poem affected the people of his day and the new American culture. The poem was written in common hymn meter, which made it easy to memor...
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...rtheless, it should be read and remembered for a few reasons. First, it captures the spirit of one of the main religious bodies at the beginning of this Country, Puritanism. The Puritans were one of the first peoples to come over to America and set up a colony, and for this we owe them our gratitude and remembrance. Also, the fact that this poem was probably America's first bestseller is reason enough to read it. It is important to know our heritage. So, let's celebrate America's religious and literary heritage by reading "The Day of Doom" by Michael Wigglesworth.
Lawson, Stephen. "About Michael Wigglesworth and His Poetry." Ed. Milton Stem. New York: Viking, 1962. http://www.puritansermons.com/poetry/wigglife.htm.
"Michael Wigglesworth" The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 5th ed. Vol. 1. Ed. Nina Baym. New York: Norton, 1998. 283-284.
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