Another Brand Plucked From the Fire

Calef's observations of events in the Mather home and his correspondences with Mather on the topic of witch curings would eventually turn into a major source of tension between the two men. Calef's critique of Mather culminated in More Wonders of the Invisible World or Another Brand Plucked From the Fire (1697; see primary source entry), which some scholars consider to be a valuable contribution to American history. Calef wrote the book in response to Mather's Wonders

At the time that Calef wrote More Wonders of the Invisible World matters had reached true hysteria in Salem Village. Reproduced by permission of the Corbis Corporation (Bellevue).

of the Invisible World (1693), in which Mather had defended the Salem trials. Calef's book is a voluminous collection of letters and testimony from judges and witnesses, as well apologies from jurors and others involved in the trials. Not only had Mather conveniently left these documents out of his book but, without Mather's permission, Calef also included incriminating letters written by Mather. The letters demonstrate Mather's defensiveness about his role in the trials and give vivid details about the case of Margaret Rule that hinted that her behavior was sexual in nature, rather than the evil affliction that she was believed to have had and for which she had been treated.

More Wonders of the Invisible World was not officially published until 1700, and then it was released in England. Nevertheless, copies of the book reached the colonies, causing a major blow to Mather's reputation. In 1700 Mather wrote in his diary:

Though I had often cried unto the Lord, that the cup of this man's [Calef's] abominable bundle of lies, written on purpose, with a quill under a special energy and management of Satan, to damnify my precious opportunities of glorifying my Lord Jesus Christ, might pass from me; yet, in this point the Lord had denied my request; the book is printed, and the impression is this week arrived here. (From Frances Hill, A Delusion of Satan)

Mather was so outraged that he had Calef arrested for libel (a printed statement that wrongly damages a person's reputuation), claiming he falsified supposed eyewitness accounts of what had transpired with Rule. The case never actually went to court, but Mather wrote Calef a series of desperate letters begging him to clear his name. He was particularly concerned about the passages that implied a sexual relationship between him and Rule, insisting he had never touched her. Calef gave in, admitting that when he wrote that Mather had "rubbed [Rule's] stomach, her breast not covered with the bedclothes," he had merely meant that her body was partially exposed. Yet it was still a damaging statement, and Calef's portrayal of the incident haunted Mather until his death.

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