Transmigration of Dexter to Dragonfly
Dexter's Contexture ~ The Array of Threads that Weave
the Fabric of this Vision ~ Homespun by the Darning Need

Home ~ Maxims, Minutiae and Miscellany


The Knowing Ones | The First, Second, Third, and Fourth Estates

Informer of Deer | Privateer, privateering | Entourism | Newburyport~the Waterside's Milestones

Old Style~New Style Calendar | New England's Prospect | Dragonfly on the Wall

Over the Teacups" with the "Laydes" and Oliver Wendell Holmes

Simile of the Souls | Cairn | Thoughtway

The Knowing Ones

Who were "the Knowing Ones" Lord Timothy Dexter references in his anthology, "Pickle for the Knowing Ones"? Some offer that Dexter bespeaks of the Intelligentsia, those of higher learning --- the "larned" he occasionally cites and indicts in his scribed diatribes. Take note however, Dexter frequently addresses the Knowing Ones as open-minded thinkers and lifelong learners. Is there but one definition?

Dexter claims his own inspiration comes not from books but from nature, from thought. He implies that the Knowing Ones' true source is not a recycled fountainhead of knowledge that draws from a contained reserve or think tank. One does not find the Knowing Ones simply spouting erudite wisdom memorized from another's opus. No, the Knowing Ones are those who ask good questions, and then question the answer: They are ponderers and wonderers in touch with the true nature of the world that surrounds them --- and know that the answer is as likely found within as without.

Actually, the term "gnostic" came from a Greek word "gna" meaning "to know." The Gnostics were "those who know" or "the knowing ones" who claimed that they had contacted the "Divine Spark" within --- and therefore knew through direct perception.1 During the 18th century, the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) held that this Gnostic view provides an answer:

"Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed tutelage. Tutelage is the inability to use one's own understanding without another's guidance. This tutelage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one's own mind without another's guidance. Dare to know! Have the courage to use one's own understanding! is therefore the motto of the Enlightenment ... If it is only given freedom, enlightenment is inevitable ... We [do] live in an age of Enlightenment. We have some obvious indications that the field of working toward the goal of religious truth is now being opened."

The Age of Enlightenment was the Age of the Philosophe, rife with European philosophers who greatly influenced the thoughtway of that period --- and during the formative stages of our new nation, our forebears greatly contributed to the colloquy. Two of those forebears (coincidentally, both are "figgers" in Dexter's "mouseum of grate caricters") oft used the phrase "the Knowing Ones" in their own writings.

[In John Adams' diary of his voyage to France in 1778, the term "the knowing ones" is used to identify the mariners who demonstrate remarkable instincts at sea.2 More than a generation later in 1820, Thomas Jefferson employs the term in his correspondence to Albert Gallatin about the troubling "Missouri Question." His reference implies that "the knowing ones" are those with the ability to assess the motive and consequences (intended and unintended) of an action.3]

When the Fourth Estate began publishing Dexter's own letters in the 1790's, Dexter would include himself in the enlightened echelon, first as a constituent then a leader --- for the very premise and promise of a New World liberal democracy was that anyone could become one of the Knowing Ones. Flush with the freedom of speech and the free time to speechify, Dexter's thoughts had surfaced to flow as coarsely abridged epistles submitted to the local press.

"Mr. Printers, I hope my weak brother won’t be disturbed about my scratching a little in the newspaper. I do it to learn myself to write and spell which I never knew how; I am now at leisure and a man of pleasure. I mean no hurt - I let you know what I know without reading - what I know only by experience - clear nature has been my school master - nothing borrowed by reading or very little - nature is my great study."

Thus with this introduction, and in the missives that would follow, Dexter maintains he is the sole architect of his "brigg," a bridge spanning the Ages of the Enlightenment to Romanticism. And for generations of the Knowing Ones, Dexter's "construct" remains a sound thoughtway into the New Millennium. The Greatest Philosopher of the Western World serves as both reproaching iconoclast and approachable catalyst --- and "Pickle" is not so much the Philosopher's treatise as an application of ... and supplication for ... individual thought. In fact, Dexter's ideology is best expressed in his faith that "the sole is the thinking part." And Dexter bares his "sole" freely.


Are thoughts expressed a continuum of the human consciousness? Is this a form of eternal life? (What Walt Whitman terms " a soul-sight of that divine clue and unseen thread" --- at the very fiber of our Being?) Witness that more than a century before Hermann Hesse wrote Steppenwolf, Dexter equates mankind to "wouls" (wolves). A novel metaphor from that novel comes to mind.

"The breast and body are indeed one, but the souls that dwell in it are not two, nor five, but countless in number. Man is an onion made up of a hundred integuments, a texture made up of many threads."

Hesse's metaphor is fitting: For as Dexter plied his paradoxical philosophies, his weave was not so much a contest of contrary thoughts but the very "contexture" of his thinking: many souls (as the thinking parts) in one body. Sweep your mind across the broadcloth, and you have a sense that Dexter's looming points and counterpoints are on the same nap. Yet, how those points must have converged in a conversation with his Lordship is left to the imagination. Those in the dark must have found themselves blinded by his "Lite." But in Dexter's small circle of nimble dreamweavers, those confabulations must have been fabulously enlightening and delightfully entertaining.

As for those juntos at the Tracy House and later the Dexter House --- where it is said that wine, wit and wisdom (and whimsy) flowed freely --- there is no record of the food for thought on the menu. No secret recipe remains for the elixir to cure what ails the wights and set all right with the world. (Think globally and act locally, to distill the Knowing Ones' words and actions in today's lingo.) With precious few exceptions, Dexter leaves no physical endowment of his industrious "perpetual progress toward perfection." The bridge by which he offered this famous "Deare Oilen" toast to humanity has been replaced many times over. And while his High Street mansion retains its celebrated owner's name, little of his Lordship's accoutrements can be found. No foundation stone for Dexter's "Temple of Reason" has been unearthed in his paradise lost. Only one "wodden figger" and odd appendages remain from Dexter's "mouseum of grate caricters," these on display at the Historical Society's Cushing House. However, the "Hist" still proffers its reprint of his Lordship's peerless production: "A Pickle for the Knowing Ones" amongst its wares. For more than two centuries after its first publication, "Pickle" continuously reseeds an awareness, a consciousness of Dexter's "maxims, minutiae and miscellany" to new generations of the Knowing Ones. Savor it as yourself as you consider the following quote from Hesse sensing he was nearing the end of his life:4

"For even the most childish intoxication with progress will soon be forced to recognize that writing and books have a function that is eternal. It will become evident that formulations in words and the handing on of these formulations through writing are not only important aids but actually the only means by which humanity can have a history and continuing consciousness of itself."

Seeking to become one of the Knowing Ones, one should know the essence of what the Knowing Ones know about knowing and knowledge. This "epistemology" is best conveyed in a conversation between a wise old mariner and his young friend --- a waterside "gam" captured by L. Frank Baum, the Royal Historian of Oz, whose collection of stories mesmerized a generation at the turn of the 20th century.5

Seems to me," said Cap'n Bill, as he sat beside Trot under the big acacia tree, looking out over the blue ocean, "seems to me, Trot, as how the more we know, the more we find we don't know."

"I can't quite make that out, Cap'n Bill," answered the little girl in a serious voice, after a moment's thought, during which her eyes followed those of the old sailor-man across the glassy surface of the sea. "Seems to me that all we learn is jus' so much gained."

"I know; it looks that way at first sight," said the sailor, nodding his head; "but those as knows the least have a habit of thinkin' they know all there is to know, while them as knows the most admits what a turr'ble big world this is. It's the knowing ones that realize one lifetime ain't long enough to git more'n a few dips o' the oars of knowledge."


1 Consider the word "nous" as the beginning of the Ancient Greek philosophy of thought, thinking which evolved over time. Homer defined "nous" as mental activity in general but then the pre-Socratics began to identify "nous" with knowledge and reason (as opposed to sense perception). At some point, the term "nous" was applied to the force that formed the world out of an original chaos, and the development of the Cosmos. Plato would describe "nous" as the immortal, rational part of the soul --- thinking in which truth (what Dexter called "trouth & facks") is immediately known without having to understand the preliminary premises. In turn, Aristotle refined the definition of "nous" as that part of the intellect (distinguished from sense perception) --- dividing it into an active and passive nous: The passive affected by mortals' acquired knowledge and the active as immortal connection with the universal Cosmos. To the Stoics "nous" would be synonymous with Logos, the whole Cosmic reason (which contains human reason as a part of the whole). It would be Plotinus who would define "nous" as divine emanation, and in his metaphysical writings have paved centuries of Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Gnostic and mystic metaphysical thoughtways. The mind-traveling reader might follow this link without: for yet more insight and enlightenment.6

2 Please refer to the Massachusetts Historical Society website, transcribing John Adams' diary 47, 13 February 1778 - 26 April 1779 at the link without:

3 Jefferson's letter to Gallatin can be found on the following links without:

4 Hesse in Reading in Bed, edited by Steven Gilbar, 1974

5 This passage opens Chapter 1 of the first of L Frank Baum's "little wizard stories" entitled "The Scarecrow of Oz" --- corollary work to "The Wizard of Oz." See link without at: )

6 "... I beseech you,
If you know aught which does behove my knowledge
Thereof to be inform'd, imprison't not
In ignorant concealment."
--- So does Polixenes beseech Camillo in William Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale"

Read the Bard's play at the link without: and an abstract of what the play entails in Charles and Mary Lamb's "Tales from Shakespeare" at this link without:

And along the thoughtway, truly ought to (ap)ply some additional weft about the word aught ~ as referenced in Merriam Webster's "word of the day" at this link without.

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The First, Second, Third, and Fourth Estates

Reassessed during the Age of Enlightenment and the French Revolution, these were terms given the traditional order ("classes" or "etats") vested with distinct political powers: (1) The First Estate, the Church, Clergy --- in England represented by the Archbishop of Canterbury and in America, with due consideration of the separation of Church & State, the ecumenical body of churches; (2) The Second Estate, Nobility --- in England represented by the House of Lords and in America, with no recognized aristocracy, the "plutocracy;" (3) The Third Estate, the general population --- in England represented by the House of Commons and in America, the Federal (representative) government; and (4) The Fourth Estate --- the free press, the media.  The proposition of “The Fifth Estate” would establish a common ground for these spheres of power, fostering comity and communication.

Caste, the "Second Estate" in America

In his biography of Dexter, J. P. Marquand cites Samuel Morrison's "Maritime History of Massachusetts" and Samuel Knapp's memoirs to describe both the splendor and splintering of Newburyport's society. Of course, in the British colonies, the landed gentry, "gentlemen" of a certain status and property, continuously sought their distinction recorded for posterity in civil and legal documents. From the time of the sumptuary laws in the 17th Century, the Puritan colonials were not above vanity and cruel elitism. Even after the War of Independence was hard won by a united citizenry, this tradition of "caste" was retained in the newly formed union.

Further still, along with their acquired accouterment, the moneyed aristocracy held onto their hope that a noble order, a fixed and national aristocracy, might be established. When in "Pickle" Lord Dexter predicts that as "first Lord in the younited States of Amercary Now of Newburyport ... Now as I must be Lord there will foller many more Lords pretty soune" --- he merely reflected the general opinion and ambition of his newly acquired "class." Of course, Dexter was crowned Lord by the "voise of the peopel" in his country seat of Chester, New Hampshire --- and the "title" maintained by the "Warterside peopel" of Newburyport upon his return. Thus and so, this is a rather democratic distinction.

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Informer of Deer

In British colonial townships and sustained in the early American governance and jurisprudence --- particularly in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts including Maine --- the "Informer of Deer" was a local officer whose principal occupation was largely based upon the role of the feudal game warden; The jurisdiction of the "Informer" was to enforce the given local law as to the killing of deer by providing information and assisting in the prosecution of offenders.

To quote Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, and a "grate Caricter" and of Lord Tim's "mouserum ~ that "corner ston and kee ston" laid with "grat Remembrence" ~ "Information is the currency of democracy."

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Privateer, privateering

Privateers were a state-commissioned “brigands” that operated in wartime and only against enemy shipping.  During the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, privateering was generally respected as a patriotic substitute for an established navy.  [Lacking formidable navies, the American and the French colonials intensively engaged in privateering.]  Often admired as glamorous and exciting, privateering could prove a lucrative enterprise for a shipowner or group of investors and crew.  As in the British navy, privateering sailors and officers were paid from the proceeds of captured ships.

Unlike the stateless, lawless pirates who savagely attacked any ship in peace or war under their own rules, privateering was highly regulated by the state.  A legal commission by Congress (a “letter of Marque”) authorized a privateering vessel to capture British ships and sell the cargoes, generally at public auction.

The licensing to operate and own a private warship was a long and complicated regulation system.  In addition to a “Letter of Marque,” the investor(s) of a privateering vessel were required to post a bond to insure they would not violate international law.  The Continental Congress itself outlined a set of instructions, laws and rules to which a privateer must adhere, lest he be considered a pirate.  With the adoption of the United States Constitution, the power to issue “Letters of Marque” was vested in Congress.  [See below.]

Of course, if captured by the enemy, privateering officers and crew were subject to severe penalty, imprisonment, and the loss of the goods and vessel.  But as a business venture, privateering could be a successful source of income for mariners and communities, luring those whose commercial and fishing industries suffered during the wartime economy.  Though initially highly profitable, as the war progressed the loss of privateering vessels and their plundered goods to the British navy became heavy --- and each venture to sea became a higher risk.  (Obviously, however, any maritime enterprise was perilous during war.)

Nevertheless, as a military apparatus to fill the void of a legitimate continental navy, individual privateering ships were fairly efficient in disrupting enemy commerce.  Yet because privateering vessels were merely merchant ships retrofitted with arms and manned by an untrained navy, their defensive deployment in local waters or offensive actions to capture enemy ships were highly unpredictable ventures.

Local history records the lucrative enterprise of privateering during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.  Many a Newburyport mansion was built and decorated with the booty from British ships.  However, many wealthy families subsequently suffered great financial loss when the tide turned.  Noteworthy to mention is that Newburyport’s Tracy family experienced both ends of the spectrum:  The Tracy House, a wedding gift from father Patrick Tracy to son Nathaniel, was built with the shipbuilding family’s proceeds from privateering.  In 1792, Lord Timothy Dexter purchased the Tracy House from the financially ruined Nathaniel Tracy using profits from a less “romantic” speculation: investment in depreciated government securities.  

[Article I of the U.S. Constitution addresses the legislative powers that are vested in — and held exclusively by — the Congress. One of these powers is the right to "grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal" (Section 8, paragraph 11).   Section 10, paragraph 1, of this Article limits states from entering any separate treaty or alliance, and mentions the “marque”.  For a general history of these terms and these authorizations under the United States Constitution, the following website proves most informative:]

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This term is a neologism, derived from the French, entourer, meaning, to surround --- essentially, to surround, to envelop the Waterside with matters of interest, intrigue and importance: Develop our habitat and habitude --- with sojourners most welcome.  Though the term is used to newly define a perception and reception of tourism, entourism is actually a concept quite similar to Lord Timothy Dexter’s “Anker” --- and our exponent described it best.

When Dexter constructed his museum of statues ("grate mouserum of grate Caricter figers") he conceived they would be instructive to the “yong & ould fokes” who should “know Now to see good Lord what has bin in the world grat wase back to owr forefathers ---

In “Pickle” he addressed the concept thusly to “grat minds & Littel minds grate sols & Littel sols great minns & littel minds --- axons sum for grat thing sum for littel thing sumthing Nouw I say I say my figers will pay Intress money prove it first going over my brige sum more tole then helping the markett of the town Leeting hoses tavern keepers costom the honnor of the town & my selfe"

In this, he was explaining his statues would entice tourists to Newburyport, and in addition to an increase in the tolls over the Essex Merrimack (Deer Island) Bridge (which would benefit him as its primary investor) --- a percentage would be committed to help resurface Newburyport’s streets. He posited that tourism would be a most positive impact on the Waterside’s economy, its shops and markets, rents, and taverns and hostelries.  And the town would be honorably distinguished by this “costom.”

Dexter’s “wooden caricters” have long since vanished --- save the carving of William Pitt and an odd appendage or two on display at the Cushing House Museum. There is no intention to replicate his Lordship’s “mouseum,” however. On the contrary, the peradventure of "entourism" counters a proposal for a promenade of granite statues to mark the prominent visitors to Newburyport.  Instead, Lord Timothy Dexter and the Knowing Ones wish these historical “Caricters” alive --- interacting with our community and visitors so we might learn from history, as we make history and once again regenerate the Waterside community and mark a new generation: "By our industry we get a living."

This proposal shall be fleshed out in expositions made by the Knowing Ones with Lord Timothy Dexter in the flesh. Come to know more at the Waterside community gam to be held in a Motion of Comity with Yankee Homecoming on July 29th! Read more about the upcoming event at the hyperlink.

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Milestones for the Waterside

In 2001, the City of Newburyport's Sesquicentennial Celebration marked 150 years with its present bounds and as a city form of government: Commemorating that in 1851, the Waterside town of Newburyport expanded its bounds to include Belleville and Joppa flats and established its city charter. During the celebration culminating on Inaugural Sunday, June 24, 2001 --- there was some general confusion regarding this milestone and the earlier founding of Newbury and Newburyport. In an effort to chronicle Newburyport's early history, John J. Currier's "History of Newbury 1635 - 1902" was used as reference, with pages noted in parentheses.

The territory laid out and incorporated as the town of Newbury was originally included in the grant made to Captain John Mason, March 9, 1621/2 and again assigned to him February 3, 1634/5. In the interim however, the 1629 patent for the Massachusetts Bay Company --- with its bounds three British miles to the south of the Charles River and three British miles to the north of the Merrimack River --- included the territory (most of what is now Essex County) originally granted to Mason. A title litigation brought by Mason and party to repeal the Massachusetts Bay Charter was not resolved until the 1690's, leaving Mason's assignes little recompense in the end.

To secure proprietary rights over the disputed lands, most of the passengers who had come to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1633 in the ship, "Mary and John" were persuaded to settle to Newbury in early 1635. Arriving from Ipswich (previously called Agawam) by water, landing on the shores of what is now called the Parker River, the first settlers constructed primitive houses near the Lower Green. (31) In the summer months of 1635, they were soon joined by freeholders arriving in two vessels that had landed in the port of Boston in June.

At a meeting held January 10, 1643/4, the proprietors of that First Parish (thereafter called Olde Towne), voted to remove some inhabitants of that tiny Parker river settlement into outlying reaches of Newbury. (85) This petition was granted by the General Court on June 11, 1644 and New Towne was established and land, including that along the Merrimack River, was partitioned to freeholders in four acre lots. (86) Settlement expanded and what was the west end of town petitioned for a separate meeting house (226) and in 1694/5 a separate Second Parish was established. The Byfield parish was first set off in 1710. (229)

In 1722, the First Parish of Newbury consented that the waterside lots of New Towne be formed as the Third Parish. The parish bounds and limits were fixed by a report to the General Court dated December 8, 1725 and accepted on November 3, 1728. The Third Parish Meetinghouse --- built in what is now Market Square with its doors facing the river --- was dedicated on June 25, 1725. The Third Parish was often called "ye Waterside Parish" (125) and its inhabitants were called the "Waterside people." In 1763, parishioners of the Waterside Third Parish petitioned the General Court for separation from Newbury. (266) The petition granted, the act was passed on January 28, 1764 and officially approved by the provincial governor on February 4, 1764 --- thereby establishing the town of Newburyport with its bounds formerly the Waterside Third Parish of Newbury.

In "A Pickle for the Knowing Ones," Lord Dexter laments the separation, claiming it diminished the communities' position of strength in the Commonwealth, merely to satisfy the lust for power of a few. The Knowing Ones acknowledge that "houeman Nater" was and is a natural factor in any dissent between the parties. However, on the matter of separation, a common viewpoint was widely shared by the Waterside people --- As for the manner of separation, as articulated in their remonstrance, their complaints ran much deeper and their aspirations soared much higher than Dexter's remarks imply.

These ideological differences that were the source of constant friction between the parishes came to (a more positive) light with an historical presentation made on city council floor on February 8, 1999 to mark the 235th year milestone for the community. Citing a transcript of the Waterside people's petition for separation to the General Court as a timeless agenda --- a contemporary 5-year term for the Waterside's Plan in Motion was launched under the banner of the city arms and seal.

Newburyport's city arms and seal, established by City Ordinance No. 14, includes the scroll, "terra marique" translation, land and sea, the Waterside --- in recognition of Newburyport's "terminus a quo" --- its point of origin in 1644 --- and the Waterside community's original ambits and ambitions.

Read more about the Waterside's Plan in Motion at

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Old Style/New Style Calendar

The year is so indicated to differentiate between the old (Julian) and new (Gregorian) calendar year. It was not until 1752 that Britain and its colonies adopted the New Gregorian Calendar long in use in Europe. The Act of Parliament officially embraced the start of the calendar year as January 1st at that time. Adjustments were made to accommodate the difference between the two calendars, which by then had amounted to eleven days.

Prior to parliamentary acceptance, the start of the "Historical Year" was January 1st, and used for almanacs and for record keeping with European trading partners using the Gregorian calendar. January 1st was also the calendar date for traditional New Year festivities. However, March 25th was the Civil or Legal Year [also referenced as Old Style (OS)] and maintained as the official new year. Often registers, including parish documents, referenced a new heading or annotations of OS and NS (New Style). Or more commonly a stroke was used to indicate the bridge.

To clarify, dual dating was only necessary between January 1st through March 24th of each year --- and in Britain and British colonies only before 1752. The other dates throughout the year would require no such indication. Further information on the subject can be found at the following website:

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"New England's Prospect"

Authored by William Wood and published in London in 1634, the following is an excerpt, verbatim, printed on page 23 of Currier's "History of Newbury". The passage applies to the Essex region, and the mouth of the Merrimack River:

Agawamme is nine miles to the North from Salem, which is one of the most spatious places for a plantation being neare the sea, it aboundeth with fish, and flesh of fowles and beasts, great Meads and Marshes and plaine plowing grounds, many good rivers and harbours and no rattle snakes. In a word, it is the best place but one, which is Merrimacke, lying 8 miles beyond it, where is a river 20 leagues navigable: all along the river side is fresh Marshes, in some places 3 miles broad. In this river is Sturgeon, Sammon, and Basse, and divers other kinds of fish. To conclude, the Countrie hath not that which this place cannot yeeld. So that these two places may containe twice as many people as are yet in New England; there being as yet scarce any inhabitants in these two spacious places. Three miles beyond the river Merrimacke is the outside of our Patent for the Massachusetts Bay. These be all the Townes that were begun, when I came for England, which was the 15 of August 1633.

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Dragonfly on the Wall

In May 2001, when the Newburyport Public reopened after renovation and expansion, staff and patrons would often glimpse what appeared to be a dragonfly or darning needle flitting about, primarily in the Tracy House annex. Many occurrences went unexplained, such as research material left about and unclaimed scraps of paper whereupon oblique messages were conveyed to the Sesquicentennial Committee planning the community celebration of 150 years as a city form of government.

Then, an open letter was sent to the community at large explaining this Wonder of Wonder: Lord Timothy Dexter's "sole" had transmigrated through a Dragonfly to human form --- Lord Tim "came back to see houe you goue on" and considered himself an apt "Official Whiffler" for the Banner Day! Procession on Inaugural Sunday, planned for June 24th. After a brief tenure in the "boddey" of the Celebration's Chairperson, Lord Timothy Dexter transformed back to Dragonfly and found his former abode the Tracy House, a most comfortable setting. There he was oft seen as a Dragonfly on the Wall during the "Eve of the Millennium" discussions --- and overheard whispering bits of wit and wisdom from "Pickle" to one or more of the "Knowing Ones."

From the onset, this escapade was observed by one of the Knowing Ones, whilom the executive editor of the local Fourth Estate. Noting the Dexterous caper's semblance to Don Marquis' "Archy the Cockroach," the Knowing One began to furnish glints to another quite in the dark. Along with the basic premise of published scribes reincarnating as an insect, similarities were striking. Of course, the Dragonfly gambol was inspired by Dexter's 18th Century oracles of his own reincarnation into human form through a Dragonfly, but other factoids were coincidence or chance. Who was the true prototype in the continuum ... in this wheel of whimsy? One fascinating nexus was the unusual name, "Mehitabel" --- the name given one of Dexter's merchant ships, an average size vessel of 171 tons built in 1792 and thought to be the name of the servant who had converted Dexter to Faith. Coincidentally, Mehitabel was also the name of Archy's feline friend --- though Mehitabel the Cat spoke the French language a tad more fluently than his Lordship in his "Deare Oilen" Independence Day speech. And so on. The clues mounted, and this site without confirms that indeed nothing is new under the sun --- (or the moon).

Paradoxically, this turn of the Wheel is history and history in the making --- and the Dragonfly (Darning Needle) oft alights on the wall at the Virtual Wolfe Tavern to shed light and phrase what's new (tidings) under this phase of the moon.

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"Over the Teacups" with the "Laydes" and Oliver Wendell Holmes
"No matter what Dexter Rits It Dus to make the Laydes Laf at the tea tabel" ---
from "A Pickle for the Knowing Ones")

And Oliver Wendell Holmes too is as well one of the Knowing Ones ~ poring over Dexterous text at the "tea tabel." In his volume of work, "Over the Teacups," Holmes offers commentary upon and commendations of "Pickle" as a "famous little book" as follows:

"As an inventor of a new American style, he goes far beyond Mr. Whitman, who, to be sure, cares little for the dictionary, and makes his own rules of rhythm, so far as there is any to suit himself, and in place of employing punctuation as it is commonly used, prints a separate page of periods, colons, semicolons, commas, notes of interrogation and of admiration, with which the reader is requested to 'peper and soolt' the book as he pleases.

"I am afraid that Mr. Emerson and Mr. Whitman must yield claim of declaring American literary independence to Lord Timothy Dexter, who not only taught his countrymen that they need not go to the Herald's College to authenticate their titles or nobility, but also that they were at perfect liberty to spell just as they liked, and to write without troubling themselves about stops of any kind ..."

In comparing the two personalities, Dexter and Whitman, Holmes observes their indomitable, unconquerable spirit and sense of self. He quotes Dexter's self promotion as "First in the East, First in the West, and the Greatest Philosopher in the Western World." Of Whitman, Holmes writes, "No man has ever asserted the surpassing dignity and importance of the American citizen so boldly and freely as Mr. Whitman. He calls himself 'teacher of the unquenchable creed, namely, egotism.' He begins one of his chants, 'I celebrate myself,' but he takes us all in as partners in his self-glorification. He believes in America as the new Eden."

Though Holmes identifies this credo of brash individualism and overt self-confidence and self-marketing as uniquely American, both Dexter and Whitman were actually global visionaries. The vainglorious sense of self belies their holistic views of the world, of life and nature.

Dexter's life ended three decades before the Transcendental Movement would influence American thinkers of the 19th Century --- nearly sixty years before the end of the Civil War --- a war Dexter presaged in passages of "Pickle" --- a war that would so influence Whitman's world and life's work. As the two share metaphors, their shared thoughts echo across a vale of time in a consonance of nonconformity. Bold, undaunted spirits, a simile of souls. To be celebrated.

The full text of "Over the Teacups" is available online at the following website:

A compilation of links about Oliver Wendell Holmes (and his son and namesake) can be found at:

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A Simile of the Souls

Dexter and Whitman share more than figures of speech, format or formula --- more than the strident independence of their writing styles. They shared what Whitman terms "soul-sight." Chronologically, Dexter self-published his anthology, "A Pickle for the Knowing Ones," more than a half century before Whitman's entries. While Holmes' subtext often implies that Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" had been propagated with seeds of thought long on the wind --- Whitman himself aptly describes their simile of souls with the following leaf.

Absolute Balance
, from "Leaves of Grass" by Walt Whitman --- its first seeds broadcast with the author's self-publication in 1855 ---

"There is, apart from mere intellect, in the makeup of every superior human identity, (in its moral completeness, considered as ensemble, not for the moral alone, but for the whole being, including physique,) a wondrous something that realizes without argument, frequently without what is called education, (though I think it the goal and apex of all education deserving the name) --- an intuition of the absolute balance, in time and space, of the whole of this multifarious, mad chaos of fraud, frivolity, hoggishness --- this revel of fools, and incredible make-believe and general unsettledness, we call the world; a soul-sight of that divine clue and unseen thread which holds the whole congeries of things, all history and time, and all events, however trivial, however momentous, like a leashed dog in the hand of the hunter."

A work posthumously uncovered and added to Whitman's oeuvre, the following is reminiscent of Dexter's metaphor of "The Ship" and "The Anker." Of course, Dexter's mythical Ship was an Argosy, with the Captain also a superior Quartermaster and Supercargo ... on an adventurous mission toward progress. As one of the Knowing Ones, Dexter would ask good questions, and question the answer. The question remains, What is progress?

"One Thought Ever at the Fore" by Walt Whitman [WW Old Age Echoes 1891; published 1897]

One thought ever at the fore ---
That in the Divine Ship, The World, breasting Time and Space,
All Peoples of the globe together sail,
Sail the same voyage, are bound to the same destination.

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Pronounced ka(e)rn [from Middle English carne, from Scottish/Gaelic carn (link without) akin to Old Irish, carn, carne] --- cairn is defined in versions of Webster's Dictionary as a heap of stones piled up as a memorial or employed as a landmark --- or set in place to arrest attention, as in surveying, or in leaving traces of an exploring party. A cairn was commonly used to indicate the summit of a hill, and the mounting of a funereal cairn is a widely used tradition.

The ancient term, now part of the lexicon of archaeologists and hikers alike, is embraced by the Knowing Ones who sense a certain kinship with stones --- these minions of the Mineral Kingdom with whom we all share the landscape on the way to the Summit. In this sense, the markers for civilization are not the firmly established monarchies of reigning purple mountains majesty ~ or even myriad monumental milestones in history. But rather the collective cairns of an exploring humanity --- establishing towardly terms, not of ambits but global ambitions --- that adventure to the New World, that quest for a better tomorrow.

Along the way are fieldstone, wall stones, cornerstones, foundation stones, keystones, milestones, millstones, grindstones, whetstones, holystones (to scrub and polish the ship's deck), touchstones (to test for the purity of the perfect paragon), lodestones (to attract in polarity) and the mythical Philosopher's stone ~ cobblestones, capstones, pavestones, quarrystones, flagstones, shalestone, stepping stones (and stumbling blocks) ~ the edifices of granite and sandstone and brownstone (and the "cast stone" to repair those time-weathered facades) ~ those structures that harbor fragile "living stones" ~ and the tombstone and gravestone reminders over the remains of that fragile anatomy. Those carefully positioned tributes in the form of pyramids and obelisks and the mysteries of Stonehenge ~ and those simple cairns along the thoughtway that signify we have come this far ...


Defined in Webster's Dictionary as a particular way of thinking that is characteristic of a particular group, time or culture --- "thoughtway" is the perfect word for the philosophies expressed by Dexter and the Knowing Ones --- a way illuminated, enlightened by the "holl Lite" and afterlight. The journey, the voyage through generations --- in a "Motion of Comity" ...

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