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James Janeway

(1636—1674) nonconformist minister


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Cotton Mather (1663—1728) minister in America and author

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(1636?–1674), nonconformist preacher and author of A Token for Children, was the son of a curate in Hertfordshire, England. He was educated at Oxford, but left the established church in 1662 when the Act of Uniformity required all clergy to accept the Book of Common Prayer. He was preaching in London during the plague year of 1665. In 1672 a meetinghouse was built for him in Rotherhithe, where he became a popular preacher. The first part of A Token appeared in 1671, and the second followed in 1672. Subtitled Being an Exact Account of the Conversion, Holy, and Exemplary Lives, and Joyful Deaths of Several Young Children, it consists of thirteen such accounts; none of the children seems to have been known to Janeway himself: as he freely admitted, he collected his material either from stories told to him or from others' works. One of these he identifies—Life's Lease by the Puritan divine Isaac Ambrose, simplified a little and shortened. Janeway's book may have been inspired by Thomas White's A Little Book for Little Children, which he himself recommends to his child readers. As the first book that had ever featured children as central figures enjoying heroic status, A Token was immensely popular with both children and adults. “I felt as if I were willing to die with them if I could with equal success, engage the admiration of my friends and mankind,” one boy reader recalled. Accounts of exemplary deaths of the young proliferated, and were imitated also in fiction by Victorian writers who had only read Janeway's imitators and wished to draw tears with their accounts of secularized but still triumphant deaths of child characters. Cotton Mather added New England examples to the Boston edition of 1700.

From The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.


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