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View Split Obits ~ A pairing comparing the 1806 and 2006 obituaries

The name of the obiter who penned the following notice of Dexter's passing remains unknown. Historians consider it less likely a member of "The Fourth Estate" but one from "The First Estate," for there has been speculation that the eulogist was one of the "blind" clergy that Lord Dexter had often criticized in "Pickle." T
he writer's pharisaic phrasing leaves a bitter aftertaste, with no trace of sympathy or compassion typically reserved for the recently departed. It is a startling piece, more a commentary on its partial "imparter" than the departed. J. P. Marquand said it best in his fictionalized biography of Dexter when he asserts that the obiter "had not the wit to see how truly bright a light had passed, for it needed one of the Knowing Ones fully to understand."

This entry must be prefaced with sentiment from one most sentient of the Knowing Ones: Jonathan Plummer. In a broadside entitled, "Something New" that was published upon his patron's death, Plummer concluded that Dexter's many acts of charity so overbalanced his faults, when adjudged before the "Throne" Lord Timothy Dexter would finally rest in "the glorious company of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

The following is the text of Lord Timothy Dexter’s obituary, published in the Newburyport Herald, October 24, 1806.

Departed this life, on Wednesday evening last (October 22, 1806), Mr. Timothy Dexter, in the 60th year of his age, --- self-styled ”Lord Dexter, first in the East.”  He lived perhaps one of the most eccentric men of his time.  His singularities and peculiar notions were universally proverbial.  Born and bred in a low condition in life, and his intellectual endowments not being of the most exalted stamp, it is no wonder that a splendid fortune, which he acquired (though perhaps honestly) by dint of speculation and good fortune, should have rendered him, in many respects, truly ridiculous.  The qualities of his mind were of that indefinite cast which forms an exception to every other character recorded in history, or known in the present age, and “none but himself could be his parallel.”  But among the motley groups of his qualities, it would be injustice to say he possessed no good ones --- he certainly did.  No one will impeach his honesty, and his numerous acts of liberality, both public and private, are in the recollection of all, while one of the items in his last Will will be gratefully remembered.  His ruling passion appeared to be popularity, and one would suppose he rather chose to render his name “infamously famous than not famous at all.”  His writings stand as a monument of the truth of this remark; for those who have read his “Pickle for the Knowing Ones,” a jumble of letters promiscuously gathered together, find it difficult to determine whether most to laugh at the consummate folly, or despise the vulgarity and profanity of the writer.  His manner of life was equally extravagant and singular. A few years since he erected in front of his house a great number of images of distinguished persons in Europe and America, together with beasts, &c,. so that his seat exhibited more the appearance of a museum of artificial curiosities than the dwelling of a family. By his orders a tomb was several years since dug under the summer house in his garden, where he desired his remains might be deposited (but this singular request could not consistently be complied with), and his coffin made and kept in the hall of his house, in which he is to be buried.  The fortunate and singular manner of his speculations, by which he became possessed of a handsome property, are well known, and his sending a cargo of warming-pans to the W. Indies, where they were converted into molasses-ladles and sold to a good profit, is but one of the most peculiar.  His principles of religion (if they could be called principles) were equally odd:  a blind philosophy peculiar to himself led him to believe in the system of transmigration at some times; at others he expressed those closely connected with deism; but it is not a matter of surprise that one so totally illiterate should have no settled or rational principles.  His reason left him two days before his death, but he has gone to render an account of his life to a just and merciful Judge.

 The funeral of Mr. Dexter will be to-morrow, at 3 o’clock, from his dwelling house.


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