john Saffin 1626 - 1710
- john Saffin 1626 - 1710, does any one know of his burial site? Can any one send a photo? What archive material exists on the land that he held, children he fathered and their children?
John Saffin was not only a prominent lawyer and statesman but also a noteworthy poet of New England. The amazing breadth of his interests and the impressive versatility of his style have prompted some critics to insist on his being placed among the ten best poets in America during the seventeenth century.
Born in Devonshire, England, to Simon and Grace Garrett Saffin, Saffin immigrated to Scituate, Massachusetts, at an early age. As a young man he served as a selectman in Scituate. He married Martha Willett (the first of his three wives) in 1658, and in 1660 he moved to Boston, where he became a prominent merchant and public figure, serving at various times as deputy to the General Court, Speaker of the House, and a member of the Governor's Council. In about 1688 he moved to New Bristol and became the first judge of probate for the newly formed county of Bristol (now part of Rhode Island).
Saffin is best known as a writer for his commonplace book, which was published in 1928 as John Saffin, His Book (1665-1708). Found in this work are personal letters, scientific examinations, medicinal cures for diseases, historical anecdotes, summaries of his wide reading, ideas for future writing, analyses of moral behavior, philosophical contemplations, and poetry.
While some of the prose pieces have a satirical bent, almost all of them reflect his recognition of divine intervention in the events of this world. The finest of the writings in this volume are Saffin's poems, about which he made two important observations: "Good verse ought to be concise and significant, plain yet elegant"; and "He that would write well in verse must observe these rules ... that it be elegant, emphaticall, metaphoricall, and historicall; running in a fluent, and smooth channell." These rules are carefully observed in "Sayle Gentle Pinnance," a love poem written during his courtship of Martha Willett, which Brom Weber hails as one of the finest American poetic creations of the seventeenth century and Harold S. Jantz calls "a poem of the most artful simplicity and quiet perfection." Although Saffin did not have a university education, his poems indicate that he was well read. Jessie A. Coffee identifies in Saffin's poems seventy-one allusions to Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia (1590), explaining how Saffin changed context and altered words in Sidney's euphuistic prose to make his own concise and plain style. Alyce E. Sands's dissertation, "John Saffin: Seventeenth-Century American Citizen and Poet," is the most comprehensive analysis of his notebook.