Books, Films & Reviews






New English Canaan

by Thomas Morton of “Merrymount”: Text and Notes

The first and only edition of Canaan created from and textually collated with all (16) known copies in the world --- the first annotated edition in over 100 years.

263 pages incl. maps & illustrations: ISBN # 1-582-18206-X

Scituate, MA: Digital Scanning, Inc., 2000

781-545-2100, and

How did this vigorous Elizabethan, born to the “outdoors culture” of England’s West Country, become America’s most controversial early colonist? What Classical and country traditions inspired Morton’s notorious Canaan --- a perceptive, witty and often slapstick portrait, in prose and poetry, of Native New England peoples, land, creatures and colonists? Was this first colonial “criminal” America’s first poet in English?


Thomas Morton of ‘Merrymount’:

The Life & Renaissance of an Early American Poet

411 pages incl. maps & illustrations: ISBN # 1-582-18209-4

NOTE: Both Books Available in One Volume:

Trade: 1-58218-151-9            Hardcover: 1-58218-150-0


Atlantic Monthly, October 1999: “Dr. Dempsey’s lavishly annotated edition is worth attention.”

Early American Literature (34: 3, Fall 1999): “Based on collations of the 16 surviving original copies of Canaan, Dempsey’s extensively annotated presentation supersedes all other editions in its textual accuracy and in the thoroughness of its explanatory apparatus.”

Modern Language Association, “Professor Donald Weber, Chairman of the Committee awarding the Association’s Richard Beale Davis Prize for the Best Essay in American Literature for 1999, has announced the award of Honorable Mention to Canaan editor Dr. Jack Dempsey, for his essay-chapter from the biography Thomas Morton entitled ‘The Riddle of May Day’ [published in Early American Literature, see article this website]. Professor Weber’s remarks to the MLA Convention in Chicago described ‘the author’s impressive historical scholarship, and the startling light it sheds on this crucial but, to most Americanists, still relatively obscure text in the canon.’”

Society of Early Americanists Newsletter, Volume 12 (“The Ink Glass”): “Remarkable for its inclusion of Native American cultural matter in a vision of colonial regenerative possibilities.”

Howard Zinn, Professor Emeritus of History, Boston University: “Funny and fascinating: I was astonished at the research. Rarely have I seen it done better.”

Richard Drinnon, Professor Emeritus of History, Bucknell University, author of Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire-Building: “Done with directness and verve that propel the reader. Dempsey has helped me go beyond my own studies….A project of fundamental significance for the Humanities. If this new Canaan helps bring about the ‘return’ of Morton, it will be a magnificent achievement.”

Karen Ordahl Kupperman, New York University, and (in 2000) Professor of Humanities at The Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion at Yale University: “One of the things that comes through very forcefully is the unusual trajectory of Morton’s life. I find this analysis of his situation when he left England for the first time very interesting, even provocative. One of the things I most admire is the commitment to including the perspective of the Indians’ own oral traditions. This is extremely important, and I know how big a commitment is required to do it well.”, in Scott Malcomson’s “Mixing It Up” December 1, 2000: “Morton is the kind to inspire mad love, and his Canaan emerged into the sun this year in a labor-of-love edition.”

John McWilliams, author of New England’s Crises and Cultural Memory: Literature, Politics, History, Religion 1620-1860 (Cambridge University Press 2004): “This ingenious and convincing unraveling of [the May Day verse] ‘Rise Oedipus’ has given Morton’s ‘Poem’ the most coherent meaning it is ever likely to have.”

Ethnohistory (52: 2, Spring 2005), reviewed by William Pencak, Professor of History at University of Pennsylvania:  “…A fine scholarly job: loving, humorous, gripping and delightfully expansive --- the sort of volume that makes one glad university presses and referees have not completely taken over publishing. This Canaan conveys the exuberance that Morton and Merrymount themselves embodied….Should be required reading for all early American literature and history courses.”

National Public Radio, A Sense of Place series produced by Helen Borten (2001): “an enormous reexamination of the issues that Morton raises….He seems after all to be our most recognizable Early American ancestor.”


The only “disparaging” mention so far:

David Read, in his New World, Known World: Shaping Knowledge in Early Anglo-American Writing (University of Missouri Press 2005): “I use the Adams edition as my working text. I have also referred regularly to the edition of Canaan by Jack Dempsey. While it is good to have a reasonably priced paperback version of the text readily available, this edition…is eccentric in many respects, including in its editorial practices, and should be used with caution.”

            Eager to learn from Professor Read’s views, I contacted him via his web-page and email for examples of eccentric editorial practices in Canaan. He has not replied.


Good News from New England

and Other Writings on the Killings at Weymouth Colony

248 pages incl. maps & illustrations: ISBN # 1-582-18706-1

Scituate, MA: Digital Scanning, Inc., 2001

781-545-2100, and

            In March 1623, the struggling English colony of “Pilgrims” at Plimoth, Massachusetts, attacked a supposed “conspiracy” of New England Native Americans. By the time it was over, up to 12 Native people and perhaps 5 Englishmen from the new nearby colony at Wessagusset or Weymouth had died. What really happened? What was transatlantic New England like before the Pilgrims’ 1620 arrival? How, and at what costs, did the Pilgrims change that world? What difference did and does it make at the foundation of American history?

            Good News from New England and Other Writings on the Killings at Weymouth Colony includes a new edition of Edward Winslow’s 1624 Good News, which is both his account of “The Weymouth Massacre” and his collected early observations on Native American cultures; the first printing since 1858 of Weymouth colonist Phinehas Pratt’s account of those events of 1621-1623; plus excerpts from influential related works by William Bradford, Thomas Morton, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., George Willison and Karen Ordahl Kupperman. Rich with footnotes and teacher-friendly source-references (major and obscure), maps, illustrations, time line and photographs of relevant locations and artifacts ---so that you can evaluate these events and the production of American Histories about them, from those days to ours.


Mystic Fiasco:

How the Indians Won The Pequot War

Co-authored with, and illustrated by, David R. Wagner

240 pages, plus 58 illustrations, maps & Annotated Chronology

ISBN # 1-582-18775-4

Scituate, MA: Digital Scanning, Inc., 2004

781-545-2100, and

Traditions say that in May 1637, a force of English colonists and Native allies marched "undetected" across southern New England and surprised the Pequot village of Missituc or Mystic. They trapped and killed 300-700 Native men, women and children, and broke the back of Pequot dominion. But imagine histories of Gettysburg whose authors had never walked the battlefields. What does the land itself indicate about these untested records and traditions? What secrets strategies, bumbling errors and colossal lies emerge when we actually track this war across New England? Discovering the answers brings a "journey to a most unlikely massacre" that puts American colonial history in new relief, in a post-imperial globalizing world.

Mystic Fiasco is the most inclusive, detailed and documented account of this war that hard-wired the future American psyche. If you have accepted the account in Alfred E. Cave’s The Pequot War (the “standard” text in present teaching, summarized above), get ready. Mystic Fiasco demonstrates a story of failed, falsified conquest and cunning cultural survival: with its land studies and vivid reconstructions by David Wagner, you'll journey day by day through an astonishing Native victory built from know-how, daring cooperation and stifled laughter --- in the face of colonists "altogether ignorant" of the land, tribal distinctions, and New World combat. You'll read this landscape and colonial history itself in new ways; for here exposed are its great works that invented and hand down "Mystic Massacre," a frontier-paradigm that still bedevils American foreign policy.

Chapters Include:

1: With Friends and Plans Like These

2: Getting There Is Half (Somebody's) Fun

The Assault on Missituc/Mystic:

3: "It Is Naught": Going In

4: "It Is Naught": Getting Out

5: Aftermath: "So Must We Be As One"

6: "O Brave Pequots!"

7: Mystical Massacre


Thomas Morton & the Maypole of Merrymount:

Disorder in the American Wilderness 1624-1647

            This was my first documentary film (1992: 2 hours) --- produced on a shoestring budget over 2 years with Cambridge and Malden (Mass.) Public Access TV stations, beginning with efforts by Professor Mark Wagner (Nichols College) and Mr. Ken McKay (Malden), my first camera and video-editing teachers. It’s a young scholar’s work with rough edges --- No, not that bad. On the virtues of many people’s contributions to it, Morton ran for awhile on Boston Cable Channel, never made it to PBS. PBS gave us Colonial House instead, where confused and competitive moderns try to “settle” New England and fail because nobody knows the landscape or can “handle” Native trade relations.

            Thomas Morton includes extended interviews unavailable elsewhere --- with both Nanepashemet (see NANI below), then Director of Plimoth Plantation’s Wampanoag Indian Programs, and with Slow Turtle, then Supreme Medicine Man of the Wampanoag Nation. Tracing Morton’s story in time-order, it is packed with New England landscapes, Powwow music and performance, and a range of music, dance and opinion from English-traditional performers and scholars. Into the mix come historians Barbara Mor and Richard Drinnon, and old-English songs of May sung by artist Jessica Lupien (Dorchester, Mass.).


NANI: A Native New England Story

NANI is a 1-hr. study of the life and scholarly impact of Nanepashemet/ Anthony Pollard (1952-1994), late director of Wampanoag Indian Programs at Plimoth Plantation (MA). Produced in close cooperation with The Pollard Family, Plimoth Plantation and Mass. Archaeological Society, it details Nanepashemet’s growth as a Native New England man, as a scholar, teacher, spokesperson, cultural builder and performer, musician and prize-winning dancer. Its speakers evaluate Nanepashemet’s impact among many people’s labors to improve Native representation across fields of learning.

Nanepashemet declined an academic degree “because I didn’t want a GPA, I wanted to learn something.” Yet he earned his influences on leading professional historians, and their interviews include his Wampanoag peers Gkisedtanamoogk, Linda Coombs, Great Moose and Russell Peters, Pequot teacher Trudy Lamb Richmond, Tall Oak (Narragansett) and Bruce Curliss (Nipmuc), as well as scholars Neal Salisbury, Barry O’Connell, Kathleen Bragdon, Thomas Doughton and Shepard Krech III. Close friends heard from include Paul Levasseur (Micmac) and Barbara Hail of the Haffenreffer Museum in Bristol, Rhode Island.

NANI is also a portrait of Native New England in four parts: The Land & The People, The Land & The New People, Living History, and Continuance. It includes archive-footage of Nanepashemet’s many public contributions, his incisive out-takes from Costner’s 500 Nations, music by flutist Ron Perry and drum of The Iron River Singers.

NANI is distributed by myself ( ), and by:

V-Tape                                                                                   Shenandoah Film Productions

401 Richmond St. West, Suite 452                                    538 G Street

Toronto, Canada M5V 3A8                                               Arcata, CA 95521  USA

416-351-1317;                                            707-822-1030


The Nanepashemet Archive:

            You can learn more from Nanepashemet’s contributions through the archive of audio and video recordings (his discussions, talks, etc. recorded by many people over the years) that were collected together and copied during production of NANI --- at The Robert S. Peabody Museum of the American Indian, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. You’ll see some of Nanepashemet’s historical handicrafts displayed there too, including a copper Thunderbird pendant. Come and also meet the learned, friendly members of Massachusetts Archaeological Society at monthly meetings there!








See Also

Clues to Minoan Time from Knossos Labyrinth

on this website

also available on CD (in Microsoft Word & Adobe Reader formats).