Book Review: Pilgrim – A Biography of William Brewster

     A copy of this book has been in my home for a few years now.  It was given to my late mother-in-love by her sister for Christmas, just a few weeks before she passed away.  I remember watching Lola read the book as she enjoyed the fire in our wood stove.  Lola, and therefore my husband and children, was a direct descendant of William Brewster who sailed to America aboard the Mayflower.  Lola’s mother’s maiden name was Brewster.  My Will’s first and middle names are William Brewster in honor of his distant relative. 

     I have, of course, read Governor Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation, as well as many other accounts of the pilgrims, but I was interested to read a more detailed account of my family’s relative.  Pilgrim – A Biography of William Brewster was written by Mary B. Sherwood, herself a descendant of William Brewster.  Knowing that she was writing, perhaps, for her own benefit as well as for that of others, I had high hopes for this biography.  In some respects my high hopes were realized, but in others, they were not.

     I very much enjoyed reading details of William Brewster’s youth and education at Cambridge.  I especially relished the details of his time, though limited, spent working in the court of Queen Elizabeth.  The author seems to have relished that period in history and fairly portrayed the various events and intrigues that were a part of that era.  It was interesting to read how William Brewster and William Bradford, as well as some of the other more famous pilgrims, originally became acquainted.  It was also fascinating to me to read how those pilgrims, sturdy enough to survive that first harsh winter, formed new families to continue on among the survivors and with those that arrived in the coming years.

     Ms. Sherwood gives a thorough history of William Brewster’s life, or at least as thorough as the existing records make available, through his peaceful death in America at a good, old age.  I know of no other telling of Elder Brewster’s personal story, and will value this book for that alone.

     However, the author does not share the faith of the pilgrims or of William Brewster, and that leaves her telling of the reasons for their pilgrimage a bit flat.  Her commentary about what the pilgrim’s believed was, often, patronizing at best and bordered on condescending at other times.  However, since I hold fast to my own Christian faith, I was able to read past her comments and understand the thoughts and beliefs (as quoted in the book) of not only Elder Brewster, but the rest of those fleeing England, and then leaving Holland, to preserve their church. 

     If you, or your husband’s family, can trace their ancestery back to the Mayflower as mine can, I would heartily suggest that you read whatever you can about these folks who gave up all in pursuit of the freedom to worship as they were called to do.  If your lineage goes back to William Brewster, or if you just want to know more about the man who was the pilgrim’s spiritual leader as they came to America, then I would recommend Pilgrim – A Biography of William Brewster as an addition to your own Heritage Library.


     Perhaps biographies aren’t your cup of tea.  Whatever your reading preferences, though, it is important that you read!!!  Please read this post and this post to understand the importance I place on reading!!

     You can read the list of books I have read to date this year here.  (The list is short because some of the books have been long!)

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3 comments to Book Review: Pilgrim – A Biography of William Brewster

  • Thanks for the book review.

  • i’ve been looking at your site for a little while now, and i’m interested in knowing more aobut your religion. basics, i guess. what denomination is it? do you have to wear skirts all the time? do you HAVE to stay home? etc…

  • Thank you for your post. I am a descendant of William Brewster too, through my mother’s side. I want to get the book you recommended but I too was hoping it would have more info on their religion journey and their beliefs. I am a Christian too and love that our ancestors stood for freedom. Thank you so much. I look forward to reading your blog more. 🙂 -Jenny