McFarland, Philip 1930–
McFARLAND, Philip 1930–
(Philip James McFarland)
Born June 20, 1930, in Birmingham, AL; son of Thomas Alfred (a lawyer) and Lucile (a teacher) McFarland; married Patricia Connors (a teacher), July 23, 1960; children: Philip James Jr., Joseph Thomas. Education: Oberlin College, B.A., 1951; St. Catharine's College, Cambridge, M.A., 1957.
Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA, textbook editor, 1958-64; traveled and lived in Europe, 1964-65; Concord Academy, Concord, MA, English teacher, 1965-95; writer. Military service: U.S. Naval Reserve, 1951-54; became lieutenant junior grade.
(Editor, with others) Golden State Arms—World's Guns and Other Weapons, Peterson (Los Angeles, CA), 1958.
A House Full of Women (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1960.
(With Allan A. Glatthorn, Harold Fleming, and others) Composition: Models and Exercises, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1971.
(Editor, with others) Forms in English Literature, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1971.
(With others) Explorations in Literature, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1971.
(With others) Perceptions in Literature, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1971.
(With others) Moments in Literature, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1971.
(Editor, with others) Themes in American Literature, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1971.
(Editor, with others) Reflections in Literature, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1971.
(With others) Focus on Literature, six volumes, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1972, revised edition, 1978.
Sojourners: A Narrative of the Human Adventure as Lived by Some Historic Dreamers and Sufferers, Including John Brown, Aaron Burr, Sir Walter Scott, Mary Shelley, John Jacob Astor and Washington Irving, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1979.
Seasons of Fear (fiction), Schocken Books (New York, NY), 1984.
Sea Dangers: The Affair of the Somers, Schocken Books (New York, NY), 1985.
A History of Concord Academy, 2 volumes, The Academy (Concord, MA), 1986, 2000.
The Brave Bostonians: Hutchinson, Quincy, Franklin, and the Coming of the American Revolution, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1998.
Hawthorne in Concord, Grove Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Philip McFarland is a former English teacher and the author of numerous titles in English and American literature and history. His Sojourners: A Narrative of the Human Adventure as Lived by Some Historic Dreamers and Sufferers, Including John Brown, Aaron Burr, Sir Walter Scott, Mary Shelley, John Jacob Astor and Washington Irving, according to Chicago Tribune Book World critic James R. Mellow, "is not a plodding textbook account of the birth of the American nation.… Noristhe book strictly a 'biography,' as it is billed, of Washington Irving, America's first great man of letters. It is both more and less than either of these; a stirring narrative of life and times in 19th-century America from the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton in 1804 to the death of Irving and the hanging of the abolitionist leader John Brown in 1859—a period that marked the coming of age and the end of innocence in American society."
More specifically, Sojourners traces the development of American society through the eyes of Irving who, as both writer and ambassador, crossed paths with some of the most illustrious names of the nineteenth century. McFarland describes, for instance, Irving's relationship with the young widow Mary Shelley (author of the gothic classic Frankenstein) and speculates on how the life and death of her husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, affected them. "In epochal biography," noted R.W.B. Lewis in his New York Times Book Review article about Sojourners, "the relationship can be a casual one. Irving once rode with Aaron Burr in a stagecoach from Fredericksburg to Richmond.… That is warrant enough for [the author] to launch into the histrionic narrative of Burr from his soldiering days through the fateful duel with Hamilton, the bizarre adventuring in the Southwest and the trials that followed, the later years of wandering in disgrace."
Critic James Atlas found both the format of McFarland's work and the author's writing style distracting. The reviewer particularly objected to what he saw as McFarland's dwelling on one theme—"that we are mortal," as Atlas wrote in his New York Times review. "Time and again, … McFarland marvels over this immutable and unpleasant fact…. Yes, one longs to cry, it is miraculous, unnerving, tragic that people die; but can't this author allow his subjects to live on the page without reminding us that they are really dead?" On the other hand, Mellow and Lewis found Sojourners a satisfying study of American history. Lewis cited McFarland's dramatic imagery, remarking that the author displays "an almost Faulknerian intensity" about the subjects of his work and that "by quickening such images … into being [he] makes Sojourners a constantly beguiling and informative experience." Mellow felt that McFarland has "an unfailing eye for the color and excitement of the age, and he has written one of the most absorbing cultural histories I have read."
In his Sea Dangers: The Affair of the Somers McFarland relates the true tale of the Somers, a ship commissioned in 1842 by Commodore Matthew Perry as a "floating prep school," according to Atlantic reviewer Phoebe-Lou Adams. Intended as a training vessel for would-be officers, the ship's maiden voyage—manned by a crew mostly made up of teenagers—turned into a disaster when the ship's captain hanged three of the young sailors for attempted mutiny. One of these was the son of the secretary of war, and the incident caused a scandal. Adams went on to praise McFarland's account for the "richness of contemporary detail that he provides and for the skill with which he delays revealing his own opinion."
McFarland recounts another incident in American history with his The Brave Bostonians: Hutchison, Franklin, Quincy, and the Coming of the American Revolution. This book details the repercussions of the Boston Tea Party and how it turned some into patriots for American independence and others into staunch loyalists for England. Gilbert Taylor, reviewing the work in Booklist, found it to be an "appealing reconstruction [that] endows these events with a you-are-there immediacy."
With his 2004 title, Hawthorne in Concord, McFarland returns to the more familiar ground of literature, as well as to Concord, Massachusetts, where he taught for many years. Here, McFarland places the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne in context with other writers who were in Concord at the time, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and the Alcott family. A reviewer for Bookwatch considered this volume to be a "substantial, informative, and superbly presented in-depth account." Writing in World and I, William H. Pritchard felt that McFarland "has found a way to bring [the writer] into fresh perspective by focusing on Hawthorne's life in three different decades when he lived in Concord."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, February 14, 2005, Gerald T. Cobb, "The Old Manse and Beyond," review of Hawthorne in Concord, p. 22.
Atlantic, November, 1985, Phoebe-Lou Adams, review of Sea Dangers: The Affair of the Somers, p. 143.
Booklist, March 1, 1998, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Brave Bostonians: Hutchison, Franklin, Quincy, and the Coming of the American Revolution, p. 1090.
Bookwatch, October, 2004, review of Hawthorne in Concord.
Chicago Tribune Book World, November 11, 1979, James R. Mellow, review of Sojourners: A Narrative of the Human Adventure as Lived by Some Historic Dreamers and Sufferers, Including John Brown, Aaron Burr, Sir Walter Scott, Mary Shelley, John Jacob Astor and Washington Irving.
English Journal, October, 1981, Ethel S. Stein, review of Focus on Literature, p. 71.
Library Journal, April 1, 1998, Richard P. Hedlund, review of The Brave Bostonians, p. 106.
New York Times, January 5, 1980, James Atlas, review of Sojourners, p. 19.
New York Times Book Review, December 30, 1979, R.W.B. Lewis, review of Sojourners.
World and I, December, 2004, William H. Pritchard, "Hawthorne: Shy Writer Was Enchantingly Apart," review of Hawthorne in Concord.