Ms. Eddy’s “greatful and loving memory” of Rev. James Henry Wiggin

This is one of several posts exploring the accusations of plagiarism leveled against Ms. Eddy, as well as what may have influenced the writing of Science & Health. This, and future posts dealing with this topic will be tagged MBEPlagerism.

There is no doubt that Reverend James Henry Wiggin (1) was a valuable part of Ms. Eddy’s editorial team, and that he played an important role in crafting Science and Health.  As Gillian Gill points out on page 217 of Mary Baker Eddy (2):

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the earliest editions of Science and Health, put out before Mary Baker Eddy could afford the editorial assistance of educated gentlemen such as the Reverend Wiggin, were little more than illiterate ramblings. (Gill, p. 217)

Gill, Milmine, and Dakin all agree

what Mr. Wiggin did for Science and Health was to put  into intelligible English the ideas which Mrs. Eddy had so  befogged in the stating of them. Any one who reads a chapter, a page, or even a paragraph of the 1884 edition, and compares  it with the same portion in the edition of 1886, will see the more obvious part of Mr. Wiggin’s work. (Milmine p. 329) (3)

Gill, Milmine and Dakin are also in agreement with the wikipedia article on Science and Health (4):

[Wiggin] removed some contradictions, reduced the 47-page demonology chapter, added some Greek, Latin and Sanskrit, and wrote a new chapter, though it did not survive to the final edition.

While the addition of the Sanskrit was probably what caused the accusations that Ms. Eddy “borrowed” from Hindu scripture (5), there is no doubt in Wiggin’s mind that Science and Health was entirely of Ms. Eddy’s own making. According to Wiggin

“She [Ms. Eddy] would get in changes of her own in spite of me and thus mar or often turn my own sentence into an absurdity” (Dakin, p. 230).

Milmine, who is hardly a defender of Ms. Eddy agrees

Mr. Wiggin would have been the last man in the world to claim any part in the real authorship of Science and Health. The book has been rewritten again and again since Mr. Wiggin’s work upon it stopped, and the editions which bear his revisions have been considerably improved upon, especially in the arrangement of the subject-matter. But the successive editions never began to improve at all over the first one indeed, it may be said that they grew worse rather than better until Mr. Wiggin took hold of the book, and many passages of the work to-day remain practically in the form into which he put them” (Milmine p.331).

It seems quite likely anything that Mr. Wiggin added that Ms. Eddy disapproved or disagreed of did not make it into the final editions of Science and Health. As Mr. Wiggin was only her editor for four years, I find myself in agreement with Robert Peel who wrote that Wiggin “toned up” Eddy’s style, but did not affect her thinking, after all, twenty-two editions were published between 1886 and 1888, and Ms. Eddy went on to publish far more editions after Mr. Wiggin had been taken over by Malicious Animal Magnetism (6).

Did Mr. Wiggin’s editing help? Undoubtedly. The idea that he “ghost” wrote Science and Health seems highly unlikely at best, and utterly preposterous at worst.

More Reading:

End Notes:

  1. http:/
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5 thoughts on “Ms. Eddy’s “greatful and loving memory” of Rev. James Henry Wiggin

  1. Bill Sweet says:

    I am thinking that the subconscious system of Spirit tincturing the material sub-mind has to be considered in parallel to the confusing writing style and revisions of “Science & Health.” Max Kappeler Ph.D. wrote a book that is the clearest presentation I’ve seen of this linkage of Spirit breaking in on the material subconscious mind. The book is titled “The Structure of the Christian Science Textbook.”

  2. mkhuggins says:

    Personally I like the 1875 version the best. Wiggin did no service to the world by shaping this text into something that sounds more logical. I doubt CS would have gone as far had not Wiggin fixed the book.

    • kat @ kindism says:

      The 1875 version is quite a gem, however, if she’d stopped with that, there is no way she’d reach the “over a million copies sold!” that was proudly splashed across the mid-90s version.

  3. realscience says:

    In any case, it is an unlikely and fascinating relationship: Wiggin, erudite, well-read, lover of theater, a brilliant conversationalist, able to spice his speech with quotes from Shakespeare; and Eddy, marginally educated, willful, illogical, erratic. Must have been very exasperating for Wiggin to work with her. And she felt he often went too far with his edits. But she new he needed him; and he was willing to accept his fee and look the other way.

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