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I’m coming, I’m coming the scourge of mankind,
I float on the waters, I ride on the wind,
Great hunger and squalor prepare my dread way,
In the homes of the wretched my sceptre I sway,
In filthy, damp alleys and courts I reign,
O’er the dark stagnant pool and putrid drain.

James Withers,1853.


With the coronavirus sweeping around the world, past pandemics have taken on new interest. My novel Remembrance Man about the 1832 Cholera epidemic is in its final polish stage and will be out by the summer.


I found my research into the period of the early 19th century fascinating. There were a lot of things happening at the time: the development of railways, the Erie Canal, the industrial revolution, developments in medicine and science, and the Second Great Awakening. The Protestant revival movement with their camp meetings were popping across the US and in Great Britain. There was the famous Cane Ridge revival meeting in the summer of 1801, which was held in a log cabin church in the backwoods of Kentucky. Some 25,000 people were in attendance. The people came from all walks of life from around the US and convened in this tiny church in the woods.


In my novel, we have our own Methodist revival meeting in the woods. I was particularly interested in the mourner’s bench (or anxious bench) during camp meetings which was placed at the centre of the congregation adjacent to the pulpit in full view of everyone. This is where would-be converts would contemplate their decision for Christ. The mourner’s bench allowed for the dramatic conversion of sinners, including intense praying, exhortations by the preacher and other previously converted Christians, crying, singing, proclamations of guilt and shame, involuntary spasms, visions and trances. In the end, the camp meeting experience was both a personal journey from unbelief to faith and a public declaration of a commitment to change one's life.


So it’s been a very pleasurable six months rewriting my original text for the Remembrance Man novel and doing the historical research.


Have a nice week.

*Originally posted in March 2020