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The Damnation of Theron Ware

Harold Frederic

Book Overview: 

The novel centers on the life of a Methodist pastor named Theron Ware who has recently moved to a fictional small town in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, which Frederic modeled after Utica, New York. A promising young pastor recently married, Theron has a number of experiences that cause him to begin to question the Methodist religion, his role as a priest and even the very existence of God. His moral decline (or illumination) is heightened through his dealings with Father Forbes, the town's Catholic priest; Dr. Ledsmar, a local atheist, philosopher, and man of science; and Celia, a local Irish Catholic girl, a species of aesthete, with whom Theron becomes hopelessly infatuated.

The novel reveals a great deal about turn-of-the-century provincial America, religious life, and the depressed state of intellectual and artistic culture in small towns.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .I don't smoke myself; but I am very fond of the odor, I assure you."

Father Forbes led the way out. It could be seen now that he wore a long house-gown of black silk, skilfully moulded to his erect, shapely, and rounded form. Though he carried this with the natural grace of a proud and beautiful belle, there was no hint of the feminine in his bearing, or in the contour of his pale, firm-set, handsome face. As he moved through the hall-way, the five people whom Theron had seen waiting rose from their bench, and two of the women began in humble murmurs, "If you please, Father," and "Good-evening to your Riverence;" but the priest merely nodded and passed on up the staircase, followed by his guests. The people sat down on their bench again.

A few minutes later, reclining at his ease in a huge low chair, and feeling himself unaccountably at home in the most luxuriously appointed and delightful little room he had ever seen, the Rev. Theron Ware sipped hi. . . Read More

Community Reviews

The tale of a Methodist minister who becomes increasingly enamoured with the love of learning, the exoticism of Catholicism, and a beautiful woman. A stern warning for those who come to bemoan what they have while craving what is not theirs.

Reading Thoughts:

22 JAN 2014 -- Having been visited upon by the "trinity of evil," Theron makes a veiled threat and, poof, the evil trinity is gone. I know they will be back!

28 JAN 2014 -- Theron is a young man feeling his way in the world. He is too naive to really understand the machinations of t

Once again, I've read a book that never once would've come into contact with my bookshelf had it not been for my American Lit class. I hadn't heard of The Damnation of Theron Ware until it showed up on the syllabus, but, being one never to shy away from a good story about goin' to hell, I looked for

It’s easy enough these days to pick out those among us consumed with puritanical fanaticism: “The Puritan’s idea of hell is a place where everyone has to mind his own business,” as Harold Frederic writes in The Damnation of Theron Ware. What’s harder sometimes – and perhaps it’s as difficult in our

Illumination is the only title this book should really have. This is not a Gothic horror of a young man's fall from grace, the sort of thing I so loved in Le Calvaire and which Octave Mirbeau depicted so exquisitely. This tale is too American for that.

What I thought about while reading is that histo

The Damnation of Theron Ware: Or Illumination is about a young Methodist priest. He and his wife have moved to a small town in upstate New York. Every three years the priests are moved around. He didn’t get the township he wanted, but he was young and happy and looked forward to the new position wit

As hysterical revivalisms and ignorant orthodoxies remain widespread, it seems neither illumination nor damnation have smitten the benighted.

This is an extraordinary book. I wish that I had read it while in school to be more fully aware of the symbolism throughout, but the young minister's story is compelling on even the most superficial level of plot. Reverend Theron Ware is assigned to serve a congregation in a dull and extremely conse

Assigned for a class, this book had all the makings of being a real bore. It’s a 19th century book on a Methodist minister, written by an author I had never heard lauded, with Victorian language (flowery!). I was looking forward to reading something less dry than what I had been reading for class bu

Note on the Text

--The Damnation of Theron Ware, or Illumination

Suggestions for Further Reading

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