Dexter's Contexture ~ The Array of Threads that Weave
the Fabric of this Vision ~ Homespun by the Darning Needle
Home ~ Life and Genius
[Transcribed from the Historical Society of Newbury's reprint of the 1838 Edition of "A Pickle for the Knowing Ones; or, Plain Truths in a Homespun Dress" --- this anonymous preface follows an introductory essay which other editions attribute to (obviously one of the Knowing Ones who used the pseudonym) "Cymon.']
Sancho Panza never longed to be governor more ardently than Timothy Dexter longed to be lord. If a real title of nobility could be have been bought with money, the illustrious trader in warming-pans would have thrown down the cash till his letters patent were gained, but as unfortunately for him, nothing of the kind in a legalized share could be procured, our hero hit upon the novel and ingenious expedient of bestowing the title upon himself, and this self-conferred honor seemed to have answered his purpose quite as well as anything more legitimate would have done. Everybody called him "Lord Dexter," and he will probably continue to be known as "Lord Dexter," as long as he is remembered. His other titled of "King of Chester," which he at one time had thought of taking, in consequence of possessing a fine country seat at the town of that same name in New Hampshire, was not so successful.
Dexter, having thus astonished the world by his great achievements in leather-dressing, money-broking, land-speculating, and castle-building, at length resolved to turn author, and exhibit to mankind an example of universal genius not to be easily to be paralleled in the history of the human intellect. For this purpose he took pen in hand and wrote "A Pickle for the Knowing Ones," --- a worked which at once placed him on the summit of fame as a literary character, and threw the world into a maze of wonder.
"That one small head could carry all he knew."
Dull people, indeed, could make nothing of it, they found fault with the spelling and punctuation.
But notwithstanding the cavils of the ignorant and unreflecting, the Pickle was well received by that portion of the community to whom it was addressed, namely, the Knowing Ones. These sagacious wights found in it a fund of amusement as well as instruction, and those recondite passages where the meaning was not immediately apparent, they were content to take upon trust, fully persuaded that time, that unfailing elucidator of hidden things, would bring to light all the mysteries of Lord Timothy's oracular wisdom. So popular, in fact, did the work become, that a second edition was soon called for, and eagerly taken up. We may add, however, that our author, with a truly liberal spirit, did not hesitate to meet the public curiosity at least half-way, by distributing his book gratis to all who had the taste to admire it.
No doubt he had good reason for adopting his peculiar style of composition, which, whatever may be said of it, must be allowed at least to possess this high merit --- that it is not servilely copied from any author ancient or modern, but is the original invention of the great man himself.
Dexter, thought he was an imitator in some trifling particulars, though he bought books which he could not read, like some other great men, yet in the main he had a way of his own, which he disdained to copy of suffer to be copied. He earnt (sic) his money shrewdly and spent it foolishly: --- others who are shrewd in earning are shrewder in spending. In short, he was a living exception to all general rules, and a living contraction to all maxims of human wisdom: yet we have heard people deny him the title of a great man!
The world has been much divided on the question as to which of Dexter's exploits was the greatest. The majority of his admirers seem to incline in favor of the warming-pan achievement, and it must be allowed that our hero's genius shines in full lustre in this adventure. Sending coals to Newcastle was a deed that had been done a hundred times, but to send warming-pans to the West Indies was indeed a new thing under the sun! Who had every thought of such an attempt before? and how the wiseacres laughed when they heard that the thing had been attempted by our sagacious Lord Timothy! But who laughed in the end? The warming-pans found purchasers to the great astonishment of the Knowing Ones of Newburyport, and our ingenious experimenter in trade had the satisfaction of turning the joke upon his detractors and putting money in his pocket at the same time.
He died at Newburyport, October 26, 1806*
(Correction: Records indicate that Dexter died on October 23, 1806)