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Looking “behind the scenes” with biography

From the October 2020 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Like many readers of the Journal, I recently learned that several books about Mary Baker Eddy are being reissued as digital titles on The first four of these consist of a narrative emphasizing Eddy’s healing work, a biography for young adults, and two volumes of reminiscences—recorded memories. As the Executive Manager of The Mary Baker Eddy Library, that made me happy for at least two reasons: first, because they represent several approaches to telling Eddy’s multifaceted story; and second, because the digital format makes the books searchable to subscribers of the site! At The Mary Baker Eddy Library, we receive questions every week asking for help finding a remembered passage. Now, many readers of these books will often be able to locate such passages themselves.

In addition to this variety and utility, there’s much to cherish about biographies and some of the building blocks that constitute them: insight, memory, balance, and inspiration.

The Scottish poet Alexander Smith observed, “A good portrait is a kind of biography, and neither painter nor biographer can carry out his task satisfactorily unless he be admitted behind the scenes” (Dreamthorp: A Book of Essays Written in the Country, p. 292). One of the best-known portraits of the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science is by Jean Jacques Pfister, painted from a 1903 photo of Eddy speaking to her followers from the balcony of her home in Concord, New Hampshire. Her outspread hands and tender expression show motherliness, eloquence, spiritual conviction—some of the qualities that make Eddy the Leader of Christian Science.