14 October 2011

Ethel Parton (with a long footnote on her father Q. K. Philander Doesticks) in Newburyport, Massachusetts: Literary New England #3

Ethel Parton was a writer born on 1 December 1862 in New York. Her father was Mortimer Thomson, who wrote bizarre works under the pseudonym Q. K. Philander Doesticks.* Her grandmother was Sara Payson Willis Parton, who didn't write bizarre material, although she sometimes wrote very controversial stuff under the pseudonym Fanny Fern. On the death of Ethel's mother Ethel lived with Fanny and her third husband, the biographer and editor James Parton (1822—91). Fanny died in 1872, James unofficially adopted Ethel and four years later married Ellen Willis Eldrege, Fanny's daughter by her first marriage, which was to Charles Eldrege.

Ethel later changed her name to Parton. She went on to publish poems and stories, and at the age of seventy wrote a series of historical children's books known as the 'Newburyport Chronicles', which were set in the 19th century. She died on 27 February 1944, and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Newburyport.

* Two examples of his work are the novels linked here: The Witches of New York (1859), and (along with, er, Knight Russ Ockside (Edward Fitch Underhill)), The History and Records of the Elephant Club (1857). The entire Preface of the latter book reads: 'This book has been written by the Authors, and printed by the Publishers, in the hope that it may be purchased by the Public. If it proves to be a failure, the responsibility must rest with the People who don't buy it.' Below I paste the opening paragraph of that novel:

'There were no two horses to be seen winding along the base of a precipitous hill; and there were no dark-looking riders on those horses which were not to be seen; and it wasn't at the close of a dusky autumn evening; and the setting sun didn't gild, with his departing rays, the steep summit of the mountain tops; and the gloomy cry of the owl was not to be heard from the depths of a neighboring forest — first, because there wasn't any neighboring forest, and, second, because the owl was in better business, having, some hours before, gone to bed, it now being broad daylight. The mountain tops, the lofty summits, the inaccessible precipices, the precipitous descents, the descending inaccessibilities, and the usual quantity of insurmountable landscape, which forms the stereotyped opening to popular romances, is here omitted by particular request.'


Sarah said...

How delightful to see your post of Ethel Parton's gravestone! I am in the process of writing her biography - may I offer some friendly edits to your post?

Sara Payson Willis Parton (Fanny Fern)was Ethel's grandmother. Her daughter Grace was Ethel's mother.

Ethel was never legally adopted by James Parton and Fanny.

She died on Feb. 27, 1944, not the 17th.

When was this picture taken? Those look like the flowers I left for Ethel a couple of weeks ago.

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Lovely to hear from you, Sarah, and thanks very much for the corrections - I was struggling trying to make sense of what seemed like conflicting information, so this is a big help. I only wish more people would correct my errors!

That biography sounds interesting, as there's not a great deal of information readily available at present.

Those are certainly your flowers as I took the photo this afternoon - we were going to go to central Maine today from Amesbury, but the rain made us change our minds.

I'll now make those corrections.

Thanks again.