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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Dyers and the Great Migration - Guest: Christy Robinson

A few years ago, a group of writers with a passion for the 17th century and a determination to provide a forum for people interested in this period of history to find information about the life and times of the people, came together to form the HOYDENS AND FIREBRANDS. One of the newest Hoydens is writer, Christy Robinson and it's my pleasure to have her as my guest today to showcase her two fabulous novels based on movement of people between England and the "New World" that occurred during the mid 17th century.

Christy has written a pair of novels set in the 17th-century Great Migration from England to early-colonial America. Although written in novel format, the books focus on one (real life) couple (May and William Dyer) and their famous associates, and follow a timeline of actual events, showing the remarkable, world-changing people who precipitated oppression and freedom, law and grace, enslavement and redemption. And ultimately, it was death that saved lives and ensured liberty for centuries to come.

Mary Barrett Dyer, 1611-1660, was comely, dignified, admired for her intellect, and known in the court of King Charles. But how did she become infamous in England and America as a heretic who gave birth to a monster? Was she responsible for curses falling on colonial New England in the form of great earthquakes, signs in the heavens, and plagues? What possessed the ultra-righteous Governor John Winthrop to exhume her baby before one hundred gawkers, revile her in his books, and try to annex Rhode Island to get its exiles back under Boston’s control?

In Mary Dyer Illuminated, follow William and Mary Dyer from the plague streets and royal courts of London to the wilderness of America where they co-founded the first democracy of the New World 135 years before the Declaration of Independence. While living in the Puritan theocracy of Boston, Mary participated in a new religious movement that would be recognized today as evangelicalism. When she miscarried a “monster” fetus with severe neurological defects, Puritans called it God’s judgment for her heresy. The Dyers became co-founders of the colony of Rhode Island, where William was appointed attorney general, the first attorney general in America. They were only getting started.

In the second of two volumes, Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, the Dyers return to war-torn England and lay a foundation for liberty that resonates in the 21st century. William was appointed commander of the Anglo-Dutch War in New England, including what would become New York. Mary stayed in England for nearly five years, and became a Quaker convert. When she sailed back to America, she was arrested and imprisoned, but when William obtained her release, Mary placed herself in danger several more times. Why did beautiful, wealthy Mary Dyer deliberately give up her six children, husband, and privileged lifestyle to suffer prison and death on the gallows?

The two novels  are compelling, provocative, and brilliantly written, blending historical fact and fiction to produce a thoroughly beautiful work you won't want to put down. The author has reconstructed a forgotten world by researching the culture, religions, and politics of England and America, personal relationships, enemies, and even the events of nature, to discover who they were.

Both books are available on AMAZON. Click HERE for the link.

Statue of Mary Dyer at Philadelphia Quaker HQ

Christy K Robinson is the author of two (five-star-reviewed) historical novels and one nonfiction book centered on the mid-17th-century Great Migration from England to New England, the books spotlighting the Quaker martyr Mary Barrett Dyer. Christy’s books may be found at her Dyer blog, (click HERE). She has been a magazine and book editor since her university days, as well as a piano teacher and church musician for many denominations. At her parents’ instigation, she inhaled historical fiction and “real” history as a young schoolgirl, and helped her mother research the family genealogy very early on—long before the advent of the internet.

EXCERPT: From Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, (© 2014 Christy K Robinson, used by permission)

July 1653
Raby Castle, County Durham, England

            Before the household could awake and notice her absence, she took her Bible with her and left the crenellated castle through its gatehouse with the statues of medieval warriors on the top of the battlements.
Mary crossed the grassy park outside the walls and sunken formal garden, and entered the edge of the wood. She sat on a tree stump and listened to the birds chattering in the trees. Having been a city girl in her youth, she was unfamiliar with which birds sang which songs, but she thought she recognized the goldfinch by its plumage.
Only because the eye blinked did Mary notice the head of a doe that had settled down to ruminate in a stand of leafy saplings. The deer seemed little concerned with Mary’s presence, for they were nearly as tame as cattle.
With the sunrise came a slight breeze and the leaves trembled on a wide-spreading oak. Almost as if she could see the wind, she sensed tendrils of sweet summer herbal-scented air riffling the pages of her open Bible. When she focused her eyes on the words there, she read, 
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Then slowly, as the invisible tendrils of air caressed the ends of her hair and her cheeks, she relaxed, submitted to its ministrations, and inhaled, and with the intake of breath, she began to be filled with the love of God. Mary could feel it traveling from her heart through her core and to her limbs, and it was not unlike the butterfly flutters of a child quickening in her womb. As she was gradually filled with the love and Light, strength and power, Mary began to tremble with joy. No love in her life had ever filled her like this. Not her parents or dear friends, not her beloved husband William, not the joy of new motherhood, and not her teacher, Anne. She rose to her feet in reverence and lifted her hands.
Nothing could separate her from this love, for now it had become part of her. It was not in her blood—it was her blood. It was not the flesh of her arms or legs—it was the power that made them move. It was not the English summer air she breathed—it was the very life-breath of the Creator.
It was not an audible word in her ears, but an orchestra in her spirit, which said, “Mary, my child, I have ordained you to be a light in the world, a friend to the sick and imprisoned, a balm to the persecuted, a voice for the silenced, a banner to rally weary warriors.”
Mary replied without speaking. “Yea, and joyfully I go, Lord.”
Gradually, over a few minutes, the trembling faded away, but she felt no sense of loss or emptiness, for the love remained. Everything in her life had a purpose and a destination, which she did not yet know, but she was ready for the journey.

September 17, 1653
Newport, Rhode Island

William Dyer sat at the bench with Nicholas Easton, after adjourning the Court of Admiralty, and organized his notes and papers before leaving for home. Easton was working on a letter to the Commissioners of the United Colonies regarding Captain Thomas Baxter, the young privateer captain.
Two weeks before, Baxter had seized the Desire, a barque owned by Samuel Mayo and three other men of Barnstable in Plymouth Colony. Baxter claimed that the Desire was carrying on trade with the Dutch, though Mayo was only carrying goods from Reverend William Leverich of Sandwich to a new farm at Oyster Bay on Long Island, within English limits.
Baxter had put Mayo and his captain off the Desire at West Harbor, a larger and deeper harbor about ten miles west of Oyster Bay, claiming he had a commission from Rhode Island to offend the enemy Dutch, and all who did business with them.
Mayo and Lt. William Hudson of the Honorable Military Company of Massachusetts, on duty at the English outpost there, had come to Newport to investigate Baxter’s privateer claim.
Dyer and Easton called the Admiralty Court to session, and made a response to Mayo’s claim of Baxter’s actions.
Now, at the conclusion of testimony, Easton dictated a letter to the court clerk. 

16 Sept. 1653
Loving friends,
            Having received your complaint regarding Captain Thomas Baxter, I hereby affirm that Mr. Baxter has been authorized by Rhode Island, under a commission of the English Council of State, to offend the enemies of England, and all who treat with the Dutch. He is bound to bring his prizes into Newport for trial, that the state may get its share.
            Mr. Baxter tells us that he knows of no English patent or charter for the lands at Oyster Bay or the West Harbor, where he seized the sloop Desire, and that the place is known as Martin Gerretson’s Bay, in Dutch territory.
However, Mr. Mayo testifies that he, Mr. Wright, and Mr. Leverich purchased the land from the Indians, and he requests that his ship be brought to Connecticut or New Haven if it must be held for trial.
            We regret the inconvenience this has caused Mr. Mayo and the other owners of the barque, and assure you of a speedy hearing with the commissioners of the United Colonies when it meets at Hartford

            He signed the letter and its copies, and the original was given to the fuming Samuel Mayo, who said through gritted teeth that he would appeal to a higher court.
            “That would be my advice to you, anyway, sir,” said Dyer. “The Desire could remain impounded until the case comes up on the court calendar, probably six months from now. That will be a severe hardship for its owners, unless you post a bond with the court and reclaim your ship for the interim. If you win the suit, you’ll have your bond returned, and Baxter may be assessed damages.”
            Samuel Mayo and William Paddy became sureties for the bond and filed a suit against Thomas Baxter, and left the meetinghouse.
            Dyer and Easton remained at the bench, talking.
“Meanwhile,” said William, “Baxter, eager to make his fortune, sailed off to Connecticut’s Fairfield harbor and seized a Dutch ship there, which caused the Dutch to fit out two more ships to go after Baxter.”
Easton sat back in his padded chair and toyed with the gavel. “The commissioners of the United Colonies will renew their warning that the Dutch keep out of the rivers, harbors, and bays, and cease all Indian trading in our territory. Baxter and Hull, if they dare to make raids or to engage with the enemy, will run to Connecticut inlets for refuge—and perhaps to cache their prizes if we’re not vigilant.”
“I have no doubt,” Easton continued, “That in the matter of the Desire, the commission will find for Mayo and Leverich, and Baxter will be censured or fined. Legally, Baxter had a right to raid the Dutch waters and take the ship and its cargo as prizes on mere suspicion that it was trading with the Dutch. The lands and waters won’t be under New Haven, Connecticut, or Massachusetts control without a patent for its founding.”
            Will nodded. “But morally, Baxter knew it was an English ship with English cargo, and he was a fool to set a blaze like this. It’s exactly what Gregory Dexter protested would happen in the Providence assembly in May.”