Frank Stanislaus Finn was a son of the comedian and author Henry James Finn and his wife Elizabeth Powell. His father (1785-1840) perished in the fire that destroyed the steamboat "Lexington," in Long Island Sound, January 13, 1840. Frank's brother George H. was also an actor, played for several seasons at the Boston Museum, and died while a member of that company. The oldest of the three brothers was Henry Webster Finn. He went to South America while a young man, married, settled in the country, and was engaged in business there. Frank was born and bred in Boston, became an actor and first appeared September 7, 1857, as a member of the Boston Theatre Company, playing "Pietro" in R. Shiel's "Evadne." He remained with this company for several years. He was acting in Barnum's Museum, New York, for the first time in September, 1863. Later, on account of deafness, he retired from the stage and took up writing. He wrote many dialogues for Our Boys and Girls as early as 1868, and in the 1870's wrote many short sketches and dialogues for Beadle but only one serial, which appeared in the Saturday Journal in 1871 and later was several times reprinted in the "libraries." He was an active "puzzler," conducted puzzle columns in various publications for juveniles in the 1870's, and was editor of the puzzle departments of four different periodicals at the same time; one in Maine, two in Massachusetts, and one in Philadelphia. From 1875 to 1889, at least, he spent his time alternately between Nashua, New Hampshire, and Greenwood, †, with different periods at Mechanic Falls, †Massachusetts, and Upper Gloucester, Massachusetts. In 1898, the last date at which his name has been found, he was in Boston.
It is possible that Finn used the pen name "Eve Lawless," for both Finn and Lawless wrote short articles in the weekly story papers, and both signed articles from Greenwood, Maine, at the same time.(1) Nothing is known about him after 1898.
The accompanying portrait is reproduced from a photograph kindly lent by Mrs. George Waldo Browne.
REFERENCES: Boys of the World, I, June 8, 1876, Correspondents' Column; H. P. Phelps, Players of a Century, a Record of the Albany Stage; Boston Evening Transcript, editorial, March 17, 1888, May 11, 1889; "Music and the Drama, a Glance Backward," Ibid., January 13, 1898; data from a playbill in the Harvard Theatre Collection; T. Allston Brown, A History of the New York Stage, I, 78; Portland, Maine, Transcript, XXXI, February 8, 1868; Victory's Fireside Visitor, Augusta, Maine, V, October, 1878 (under "Chats"), August and June, 1879.
Saturday Journal. No. 76
Half-Dime Library. Nos. 26, 1166
Pocket Library. No. 21
SPECIMEN OF FRANK S. FINN'S STYLE
"The Boy Clown; or, The Queen of the Arena. A Romance of Real Life in a Traveling Circus. Half-Dime Library No. 36, pp. 4-5.
As the night grew older a bank of black, angry-looking clouds loomed up in the West, and presently the low muttering of thunder came borne upon the freshening breeze.
"Old Jake," the man who had first discovered Jessie, and afterwards persuaded the manager to take her along with the troupe, predicted a storm, and no light one, before morning.
Jake was one of the "characters" of the company, an odd but kind-hearted man, and was universally liked and respected by his associates. He always had a good story to tell to pass away a tedious hour, and a willing heart to assist any one who might be in distress.
"This 'ere have been a night of adventure," he said, "and I misses my guess if something more out of the usual don't happen afore we gets to the next station. You see three is allus a lucky or onlucky number, as the case may be; and when two things, out of the usual, you know, happens in one night, or day either, thar's sartin to be another to make up the third. Now there's that boy Henry, God bless him, and Old Nick take the villain Mu— but I won't mention no names—he comes first. Then there's the gal we picked up—she comes second; and, mark what I says, there'll be some-thin' else afore mornin'. What a row there'll be among the animiles when this storm breaks. They don't like thunder and lightnin."
The rain falling in huge drops put a stop to his joking.
The storm was coming with all its fury, and, ere long, the rain poured down in a perfect deluge! Lightning flashed and played around the caravan, making the party look like witches springing from the darkness of that inky black night. The thunder was heavy and frightful to hear.
The animals, maddened by the sounds of the tempest outside, walked up and down the limits of their cages, howling and lashing their tails in rage at being thus confined.
The women huddled together, and at every glare of lightning, peal of thunder, or cry of the infuriated beasts, would cower down and tremble.
The men worked with all their power to get their poor horses along, but even these animals had given way to fear.
And yet, through all this fearful din, the young gymnast lay dreaming sweet dreams of other days, while his watcher kept his vigil silently, well knowing that, should his patient awake and find him absent from his post, it would sorely grieve him.
One of the women woke Jessie up and asked her how she could sleep in such a tempest, but the girl said she was used to storms, and that she loved to hear the thunder, for it lulled her to sleep, and many a night had she laid in a cave by the sea listening to its wild music.
They thought she was a strange child, and trembled again as the lightning illumined the sky.
Fiercer and fiercer raged the storm. Faces and forms were undistinguishable, save when revealed by the lightning, and then only shown to be hidden again in the black pall of night.
Still, through all, the caravan toiled slowly along. There was no time to halt, for there was a duty to perform, and they must perform it or entail heavy loss upon the manager.
While the storm was at its very height, the train, leaving the open country over which it had been passing for some time, again entered the forest, at the foot of a long hill, over which the road wound.
The wearied horses toiled painfully up the steep grade, and at length reached the level summit, where a halt was called to allow a momentary rest before commencing the almost equally difficult descent upon the other side.
Upon either side of the road the tall forest trees lifted their heads, their long arms reaching far out over the road, in some places meeting and interlacing one with the other.
It was in such a place that the vans containing the animals were halted.
If the storm was violent in the valley below, it was found to be much more so upon the summit of the ridge, where the wind, having full sweep, roared and crashed amid the timber with fearful fury.
"Whew! what a night! And just listen to them ani-miles," said old Jake, as he crouched upon the box and drew his waterproof more closely about his person. He certainly had cause for the last remark. Even above the din of thunder, as peal after peal, with hardly an instant's intermission, rolled from out the blacked space above, the horrid yells and screeches of the animals, well-nigh maddened with terror, could be heard.
"I don't like the looks of that tree yonder," said Jake, pointing to an enormous oak, whose leafless branches, seen by a lightning-flash, told of the decay that was sapping its strength.
The words were scarcely out of his mouth before a blinding flash, instantly followed by a report like that of a heavy piece of ordnance discharged close by, told the watchers that the bolt had struck in their immediate vicinity.
"Great Heavens! See there!" shouted the watchful old man, pointing wildly, toward the dead oak.
A quick, sharp snapping of seasoned wood was heard, a louder crash, and then they saw, by the fitful gleam of the lightning, the great tree rushing earthward, and directly across the panther's cage, that unfortunately stood in its path.
With a deafening roar, the mighty tree struck the earth, but, fortunately, only the rear end of the van was touched, but this was cut off almost as smoothly as though it had been done with ax and saw.
The panther, a huge and exceedingly fierce animal of its kind, finding itself at liberty by the destruction of its cage, although sorely frightened, sprung from the opening, and, with a roar of mingled terror and delight, bounded away into the surrounding darkness.
The situation now became frightful, and the alarm spread rapidly along the line. The animal was known to be exceedingly fierce, and it might reasonably be expected that it would soon recover from its momentary fright and attack whatever might chance to attract its hungry gaze.
Besides this the other animals, especially the large tiger and cage of lions, already maddened by the storm, had, on hearing the peculiar yell of the panther as he found himself free, became entirely uncontrollable, and were using every effort to force their dens.
Such firearms as were in the company were quickly produced, and the men distributed along the line of wagons to prevent an attack upon the horses until the broken van could be put in condition to be taken forward.
Old Jake and his "pardner" were standing beside their van, the former holding a cocked pistol in his hand, talking over the singular event that had just transpired.
"You see how it is. I knowed that the third thing was bound to happen, and now—" Then abruptly pausing, as though struck by a sudden thought, he as suddenly exclaimed:
"Great Heavens! the boy! He is wounded and bleedin' yet, it may be, and that beast will scent him a mile off. Stay here, Ned; I must see to this!" and, without pausing further, the brave old fellow ran rapidly back to where the canvas covered wagon that contained Henry had halted, directly beneath a wide-spreading tree, whose thick branches served in some measure to shelter it from the driving rain.
As he approached the spot, a broad glare of lightning momentarily lit up the scene, and, instinctively glancing up into the dense foliage, overhead, he beheld a sight that almost petrified him with horror.
In that brief moment while the lightning lasted, he saw the panther crouched upon a limb directly above the canvas-covered wagon, and just in the act of making his spring!
Quick as thought he leveled his pistol, and waited for the next flash so as to make certain of his aim.
A moment later it came, blinding in its intense brightness, and, as once before that night, accompanied by a crash of thunder so powerfully loud that he was stunned for an instant.
He saw the bright bolt as it leaped from the bosom of the black cloud, and darting downward with inconceivable rapidity, bury itself amid the dense foliage of the tree-top near which he stood. He heard the rending of splintered wood, and instantly, thereafter, a dark object was hurled downward, striking the earth almost at his very feet.
It was the dead body of the panther, killed by the lightning which had struck the tree!
† Correction made as per Volume 3.
|1||The Young New Yorker, No. 10, January 27, 1879, 4.|