Seymour Bloom writes:
These are my comments on Louis Midgley's review of No Man Knows My History by Fawn Brodie. I have a copy of the 1971 edition of No Man Knows My History, while Midgley comments on both the 1945 and 1971 editions. Consequently, I did not try to comment on Midgley's critique of the 1945 edition.
Although this review is 56 pages in length, it does not go into depth on any
of the issues Brodie raised in the book. Instead, it mostly concerns itself
with many side issues. These side issues are:
Midgley quotes a very serious allegation by Hugh Nibley in which Nibley accuses Brodie of being "extremely free not only in misinterpreting but in deliberately misquoting her sources." However, no example is given. All we have is a footnote (141) that references a preface that Nibley has written. I have not, as yet, read the referenced preface, so I cannot judge its accuracy.
Midgley covers Brodie's explanation of the First Vision in two parts as follows:
1. At the beginning, under the heading "Tidying up Some Embarrassing 'Historical Slips'", Midgley writes, that in her 1971 edition, "Brodie had to adjust her explanation to fit solid textual evidence that flatly refuted her earlier assertions about the First Vision." This implies that, for some reason, Brodie had some egregious error in the original 1945 edition of her book. That was not the case at all. In 1945, there was only knowledge of one version of the First Vision, the one dictated by Joseph Smith in 1839. Later historical investigation uncovered two more versions of the First Vision. All versions differ in important details. Because of this, it was appropriate for Brodie to expand and modify her description and explanation of this event. After all, that is what one expects a historian to do when new information is uncovered.
2. Near the end, under the heading "Some Strange Signs of Squeamishness about Brodie", there is a paragraph about Brodie's 1971 explanation of the various accounts of the First Vision. Midgley writes "As I have demonstrated, Brodie was subsequently forced to qualify her assertion. In 1971 she shifted to claiming that the very early accounts provided by Joseph Smith seemed to her to be contradictory (pp. 408-410), which was clearly not her position in 1945." Why would Midgley not expect her to change her position? In 1945, she knew of only one account, because the others were being suppressed or were simply unknown by the Mormon Church. By 1971, two more versions were found in the restricted LDS archives; so she wrote about all three.