Sylvester Judd (July 23, 1813 – January 26, 1853) was a Unitarian minister and an American novelist.
Sylvester Judd III was born on July 23, 1813, in Westhampton, Massachusetts to Sylvester Judd II and Apphia Hall, a daughter of Aaron Hall of Norwich, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, one-year attendee at Harvard and later modest Justice of the Peace. His great-grandfather was Rev. Jonathan Judd, clergyman of Southhampton, while his grandfather ran the family store. His father, after working in the store in his boyhood, went to Boston for several years, where, according to Judd's sister's biography, he became a voracious reader, returning to the family business. Sylvester Judd III studied at Hopkins Academy in Hadley, Massachusetts, graduated from Yale College in 1836, and from Harvard Divinity School in 1840. While a student, on April 4, 1838, Judd traveled to Concord, Massachusetts to meet Ralph Waldo Emerson after reading his essay "Epic Poetry". Emerson was pleased by Judd's interest in seeking a mystical identification with Christ. Judd may have been in the audience on August 31, 1837, and heard Emerson's commencement speech to the Phi Beta Kappa Society known as "The American Scholar."
Judd was ordained a Unitarian minister on October 1, 1840, becoming pastor of a church in Augusta, Maine. Early in 1841, Judd met Jane Elizabeth Williams, the daughter of United States Senator Reuel Williams. The couple married on August 31, 1841; they had three children.
According to Philip Brockway, Judd's early influences were Calvinist puritanism. After a spiritual conversion to Unitarianism as a young man, his readings took on wide spheres, particularly while at Yale College and then Harvard Divinity School. His readings included the poetry of Jones Very, the writings of Thomas Carlyle, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Robert Owen, Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, Goethe's Conversations with a Child by Bettina von Arnim, and the writings of William Ellery Channing, the Unitarian theologian, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Brockway cites Emerson's journal entry from 1852, the year before Judd's death at 40: "I saw Judd in Augusta [Maine], in February, and asked him who his companions were. He said, 'Sunsets.' I told him I thought they needed men. He said, 'I'm a priest and converse with the sick and dying.'"
American critic and poet James Russell Lowell called Judd's novel Margaret "the most emphatically American book ever written". He mentioned the novel in his long satire A Fable for Critics (1848) as "the first Yankee book / With the soul of Down East in 't, and things farther East". In a 39-page review, however, critic William Bourne Oliver Peabody called the work unfinished and its characters and style inconsistent. After publishing his novel Philo, Judd sent a copy to Edward Everett Hale, who responded, "I think Philo glorious."
The critic and poet Richard J. Powers finds the child characterization of Margaret in the novel the prototype for Nathaniel Hawthorne's character of Pearl, Hester Prynne's daughter, in the 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter.
- 1838: A Young Man's Account of his Conversion from Calvinism
- 1845: Margaret: A Tale of the Real and the Ideal, Blight and Bloom; Including Sketches of a Place Not Before Described, Called Mons Christi, a Transcendentalist novel (revised 1851)
- 1850: Philo: An Evangeliad, a religious poem
- 1850: Richard Edney and the Governor's Family: A Rus-Urban Tale
- 1854: The Church, in a Series of Discourses
- The White Hills (a novel unpublished during his lifetime)
He also produced a large number of sermons and religious addresses.
- Dedmond, Francis B. Sylvester Judd. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1980: 17. ISBN 0-8057-7305-3
- Hathaway, Richard D. Sylvester Judd's New England. Pennsylvania State University Press, 1981: 41. ISBN 0-271-00307-3
- Dedmond, Francis B. Sylvester Judd. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1980: 33. ISBN 0-8057-7305-3
- Dedmond, Francis B. Sylvester Judd. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1980: 39. ISBN 0-8057-7305-3
- Gura, Philip F. American Transcendentalism: A History. New York: Hill and Wang, 2007: 198. ISBN 0-8090-3477-8
- Hathaway, Richard D. Sylvester Judd's New England. Pennsylvania State University Press, 1981: 13. ISBN 0-271-00307-3
- Dedmond, Francis B. Sylvester Judd. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1980: 77–78. ISBN 0-8057-7305-3
- Hathaway, Richard D. Sylvester Judd's New England. Pennsylvania State University Press, 1981: 349. ISBN 0-271-00307-3
- Brockway, Philip Judd. "Sylvester Judd: Novelist of Transcendentalism." New England Journal Quarterly. 13.4. Dec. 1940: 654-667.
- Eliot, Samuel A. Heralds of a Liberal Faith. Boston: American Unitarian Association, 1910. (pp. 301–307) googlebooks Retrieved May 4, 2008
- Sylvester Judd (the present subject's father), Thomas Judd and His Descendants, J. &. L. Metcalf, Northampton, 1856.
- Arethusa Hall, Life and Character of Sylvester Judd, Boston, 1854. https://archive.org/details/lifeandcharacter00halliala