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

obituaries offering different perspectives of the life and death

of the late Lord Timothy Dexter

The verbatim transcription of the 1806 obituary &
a 2006 revision (stylized in the past though realized in the present)



To follow is the verbatim transcription of the biting, bitter obituary of Lord Timothy Dexter published in the Newburyport Herald, October 24, 1806 ~ a pungent, pithy punctuation at his death.

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.



It follows that a more enlightened version of Lord Timothy Dexter's embittered obituary be published to remark the 200th anniversary of his passing ~ a more piquant, poignant observation on his life.

Departed this mortal life on October 23, 1806, one Mr. Timothy Dexter, in his 60th year of his age. Known by the (affectionate) affectation "Lord Timothy Dexter, first in the East," he paradoxically remains one of the most eccentric, quixotic (yet curiously sensible) men of all time. His singularities & peculiar philosophic notions are universally proverbial. Born on January 22, 1747 in Malden, the fifth generation in the Massachusetts Bay plantation, reared motherless & at a young age sent to work on a farm when his father remarried, Dexter was later apprenticed to a Charlestown leather dresser. When freed, he was drawn to the Waterside community of Newburyport & taking up his trade thereat married the widow Elizabeth Lord Frothingham, siring a son & a daughter. During the Revolutionary War Dexter was one of a few who had speculated in depreciated colonial bonds which (when redeemed at full value once the federal monetary system was established) made him one of the wealthiest men in the community. Bereft of formal education, Dexter called Nature his teacher: Living by both his wits & instincts, he followed the old ways & the wisdom of the ages as did those in his circle. An exception to every other character recorded in history or known in the past & present age, the qualities of his mind are unparalleled, some qualifying him to be a visionary and genius, others "everyman" ~ in that every man is one's superior since one might learn from him. Considered an honest & kind man by admirers & detractors alike, the charitable deeds demonstrated during Dexter's lifetime & executed by his will present him to be one of the nation's first philanthropists (as was cited in the annals of local history along with his renowned eccentricities). His inimitable anthology "A Pickle for the Knowing Ones" ever remains an amusing & consuming coda of profundity to decode: Its oblique, free-form text, context & subtext have made its author as infamously famous as his purported antics. It was to betide his Lordship that he was ahead of the wave: the forerunner to the Transcendentalist movement & a marvel in the modern style of composing who used a unique, phonetic orthography that rejected the standards for spelling & punctuation (a full century before another American rough rider hoped to rid all writers of the bother). He so valued history & its vital lessons that on his estate he erected a "mouseum of grate caricters" to pique the curiosity of all ages & under his aegis this menagerie of figures would reflect an ever-changing montage of history & history in the making. He placed his own figure as part of the story as if to say one is here as are you. Also, his intention that this curiosity would encourage that visitors pass over his toll Deer Island Bridge, in "Pickle" he seeded the thought that in time tourism would bring Newburyport good fortune. Those prudent heed him still, for his speculations were dexterously handled with a Midas touch. Of the panoply of peculiar pecuniary ventures, the cargo of warming-pans sent to the West Indies where they were converted into molasses-ladles & sold at a good profit may be the most canny and uncanny of the lot. His principles of religion were uniquely his own "soul sight" which led him to believe in the system of reincarnation; though not at all at odds with all other possibilities, at times he connected with deism & pantheism & cosmic order. It is not a matter of surprise that such a singular one of the Knowing Ones would not be restricted to a single set of possibilities. Under a grand outbuilding in the Dexter House gardens he had constructed a tomb to lodge his elaborate coffin for ephemeral & eternal repose. Howbeit rehearsing mock funerals at this site, these real funereal arrangements would be forsaken & he was buried at the summit of Old Hill Burying Ground. The "Tempel of Reason" is no longer but he leaves behind his resonating rhyme & reason for a new generation of the Knowing Ones on the "noue systom of knollege & Lite" at the domain Thus, having reckoned a full account of his life to a just & merciful & all knowing Judge, as Fate would have it, Lord Timothy Dexter continues to make some noise in the world.

On Yankee Homecoming's Olde Fashioned Sunday, July 30, 2006, a promenade with pageantry befitting his Lordship's prominence will commence at 11 o'clock in the morning ~ beginning at the corner of Auburn and High streets. Progressing to Dexter's gravesite at the knap of Old Hill Burying Ground ~ there and then an elegical epiphany will be led by Dexter's poet laureate Jonathan Plummer ~ joined by the Knowing Ones, including the epitome of Dexter himself. (Thereafter, the illustrious Lord Timothy Dexter will be judged by a less than just & merciful Jurist, so do come witness as Lord Tim has his day in court with the notorious "hanging judge.")


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