Anti-Calvinist allegory: A critical edition of William Austin's "Peter Rugg, the Missing Man" (1824-1827)

Joseph A Zimbalatti, Fordham University


Since its original publication in the New-England Galaxy for 10 September 1824, 1 September 1826 and 19 January 1827, William Austin's "Peter Rugg, the Missing Man," has never received the attention of a critical editor whose main concern is in producing a text that is as close as possible to the author's intentions. All prior editions of the tale have introduced into the text either non-authoritative emendations of substantives or modernization of accidentals, or both. This edition of "Peter Rugg" presents an unmodernized, critically-edited text, along with a full textual apparatus, which includes lists of emendations and variants, textual notes, and a glossary of names, places and terms found in the tale. Despite the problems in its textual history, "Peter Rugg" has attained a modest place in the history and development of American literature. Critics of American literature have tended to view Austin's tale as being among the earliest manifestations of the romantic movement in America, and to regard Austin as an enigmatic figure who never again was able to write a tale with the imaginative appeal and dark romantic possibilities of "Peter Rugg." However, since no contextual analysis of "Peter Rugg" has ever been attempted, no critic has recognized that the tale bears the imprint of the fierce battle being contested between the Calvinist and the Unitarian churches in New England at the time it was written. The "Critical Introduction" to this edition provides for the first time an analysis of "Peter Rugg" in light of the Unitarian-Calvinist controversy. When examined within this context, the tale reveals itself to be an intricate and resounding anti-Calvinist allegory, replete with allusions, symbolism and subtle irony that leave no doubt that "Peter Rugg" is William Austin's distinctly Unitarian version of the death-knell of Calvinism in nineteenth-century New England.

Subject Area

American literature

Recommended Citation

Zimbalatti, Joseph A, "Anti-Calvinist allegory: A critical edition of William Austin's "Peter Rugg, the Missing Man" (1824-1827)" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9223831.