David D. Hall on Charles H. Foster’s The Rungless Ladder: Harriet Beecher Stowe and New England Puritanism (Duke University Press, 1954)
The challenge of identifying a work of intellectual history that merits reappraisal led me initially to Perry Miller’s The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (1939; 1954) and its sequel, The New England Mind: From Colony to Province (1953). But this, I realized, would mean repeating what I have said elsewhere. Instead, I turn to a virtually unknown book, Foster’s The Rungless Ladder: Harriet Beecher Stowe and New England Puritanism, which I had encountered at the beginning of the 1960s as a graduate student in American Studies at Yale. Much has happened in Stowe scholarship in the ensuing decades, not to mention all that has happened in and around “New England Puritanism.” Nonetheless, The Rungless Ladder remains instructive and, as I realized after returning to it, a book that altered my understanding of religion.