The moral of this mournful tale
is plain enough to all:—
Don't get above your proper sphere,
or you may chance to fall;
Remember, too, that borrowed plumes
are most uncertain things;
And never try to scale the sky
with other people's wings!
JOHN G. SAXE: Icarus
The name T. J. Flanagan first appeared among Beadle publications in 1891 in the Banner Weekly and the Popular Library. The latter was a series in which the names of the authors, with one or two exceptions, were pseudonyms. It is, therefore, presumable that Flanagan also is an assumed name. Among the regular Beadle authors, still writing in 1891 and 1892, were Manning, Patten, Harbaugh, Warne, and Prentiss Ingraham, all of whom have been identified among the pseudonyms of the Popular Library, and Cowdrick, Badger, Jenks, Morris, Albert Aiken, Eyster, Whitson, and "Harold Payne" (Kelly). It is probable that "Flanagan" is to be sought for among these names.
Captain Marryat's "Midshipman Easy." Chapter XVII. Published 1836.
"Mr. Gascoigne," said the gunner, "I have been very much puzzled how this duel should be fought. . . . Are you aware ... of the properties of an equilateral triangle?"
"Yes," replied the midshipman, "that it has three equal sides—but what the devil has that to do with the duel?"
"Everything, Mr. Gascoigne," replied the gunner: "it has resolved the great difficulty. Indeed, the duel between three can only be fought upon that principle. You observe," said the gunner, taking a piece of chalk out of his pocket, and making a triangle on the table, "in this figure we have three points, each equidistant from each other; and we have three combatants—so that, placing one at each point, it is all fair play for the three. Mr. Easy, for instance, stands here, the boatswain here, and the purser's steward at the third corner. Now, if the distance is fairly measured, it will be all right."
"But then," replied Gascoigne, delighted at the idea, "how are they to fire?"
Of course he may have been an author not previously represented among Beadle writers, but this is doubtful.
At first I suspected that Flanagan might be a name assigned to a reprint of a tale by Ballou, who also wrote tales of the sea of a similar type. This seemed confirmed by the fact that both Ballou and Flanagan had tales entitled "Roderick, the Rover," but the two stories proved to be entirely different.(1) I feel quite certain that I now know the true name, but until it is definitely determined, for various readily apparent reasons, the stories are listed under Flanagan's name.
An excerpt is given from Flanagan's "The Three Lieutenants" in parallel columns with an excerpt from Captain Marryat's "Mr. Midshipman Easy."
Banner Weekly. Nos. 459, 465, 471, 477, 489, 516, 584,
Half-Dime Library. Nos. 909, 925, 933, 949, 959, 966, 972, 999, 1014, 1058
Popular Library. No. 39
T. J. Flanagan's "The Three Lieutenants." Banner Weekly, No. 471, Chapter XI. Published 1891.
"Mr. Laurie, I've had no experience on the field myself, and I must confess this puzzled me for awhile, but I've got it all right now. You know what an equilateral triangle is?"
"One having three equal sides," replied Laurie, "but what the deuce has that to do with the duel?"
"Everything—it solved the puzzle. Indeed, the duel can only take place upon this principle. See here!"
The gunner took from his pocket a card upon which was drawn a triangle, and at each corner the initial of one of the parties.
"You see," he continued, "we have three parties, and as each must have the same chance, and each a shot, this is the only fair way it could be done. Now, for instance, there stands Mr. Decatur, the master here, and the steward at the other corner, so if the distance is fairly measured, everything is even."
"By jove, Mr. Morgan, you've got a great head!" exclaimed Laurie, who could hardly keep a straight face, "but how do they fire?"
"It certainly is not of much consequence," replied the gunner; "but still, as sailors, it appears to me that they should fire with the sun; that is, Mr. Easy fires at Mr. Biggs, Mr. Biggs fires at Mr. Easthrupp, and Mr. Easthrupp fires at Mr. Easy; so you perceive that each party has his shot at one, and at the same time receives the fire of another."
Gascoigne was in ecstasies at the novelty of the proceeding, the more so as he perceived that Easy obtained every advantage by the arrangement.
"Upon my word, Mr. Tallboys, I give you great credit; you have a profound mathematical head, and I am delighted with your arrangement. Of course, in these affairs, the principals are bound to comply with the arrangements of the seconds, and I shall insist upon Mr. Easy consenting to your excellent and scientific proposal."
Gascoigne went out, and pulling Jack away from the monkey, told him what the gunner had proposed, at which Jack laughed heartily.
The gunner also explained it to the boatswain, who did not very well comprehend, but replied:
"I dare say it's all right—shot for shot, and d—n all favors."
The parties then repaired to the spot with two pairs of ship's pistols, which Mr. Tallboys had smuggled on shore; and, as soon as they were on the ground, the gunner called Mr. Easthrupp out of the cooperage. In the meantime, Gascoigne had been measuring an equilateral triangle of twelve paces—and marked it out. Mr. Tallboys, on his return with the purser's steward, went over the ground, and finding that it was "equal angles subtended by equal sides," declared that it was all right. Easy took his station, the boatswain was put into his, and Mr. Easthrupp, who was quite in a mystery, was led by the gunner to the third position.
"But, Mr. Tallboys," said the purser's steward, "I don't understand this. Mr. Easy will first fight Mr. Biggs, will be not?"
"No," replied the gunner, "this is a duel of three. You will fire at Mr. Easy, Mr. Easy will fire at Mr. Biggs, and Mr. Biggs will fire at you. It is all arranged, Mr. Easthrupp."
"But," said Mr. Easthrupp, "I do not understand it. Why is Mr. Biggs to fire at me? I have no quarrel with Mr. Biggs."
"Oh. I flatter myself I've solved the puzzle," replied Morgan, complacently. "How they fire is not of much consequence, but if you like we can arrange it according to this card; that is, Mr. Decatur fires at Mr. Gorman, Mr. German at Mr. Williams, and Mr. Williams at Mr. Decatur! What d'ye think of it?"
"Magnificent!" cried Laurie, and to avoid laughing in Morgan's face, he arose and went over to his friend.
"Come outside!" he gasped, dragging Decatur from the table, and then, with the tears streaming down his cheeks, told him of Morgan's plan.
"It's a beautiful idea—for me," said Decatur, laughing heartily, "but I'm afraid his principals will insist on two duels."
But they did not. The master had been in hot water all morning ... so that when Morgan laid the triangle before him and explained its meaning, he was too angry to pay any attention.
"Oh, never mind! If it's shot for shot, it's all right," he said, moodily, and then they repaired to a secluded spot, where Laurie gravely measured off a triangle, after which Morgan went over the ground, and having proved its correctness, announced that everything was in readiness.
"So, you will please place Mr. Decatur as we arranged," continued Morgan, putting the master in his position, and then, taking the stewards arm, led him to the third corner.
"What does this m'ane?" asked the steward, as Morgan handed him a pistol. "Doesn't Misther Gorman fight Misther Decatur first—or do the two uv us fire at him at wanst?"
"Don't be a fool—if you can help it!" exclaimed Morgan, testily. "Now listen: Mr. Decatur fires at Mr. German, Mr. Gorman fires at you—."
"Mr. Gorman fires at me!" burst in Williams. "An' phat the divil w'u'd he fire at me for? Sure it's t'other man ye m'ane."
"Confound you! Can't you listen: It's not the other man I mean—it's you! Now try to keep your mouth shut and I'll explain. . . .
"Because Mr. Easy fires at Mr. Biggs, and Mr. Biggs must have his shot as well." . . .
"Yes, yes, I know that, Mr. Gascoigne; but still I've no quarrel with Mr. Biggs, and therefore, Mr. Biggs, of course you will not aim at me?"
"Why, you don't think that I am going to be fired at for nothing?" replied the boatswain; "no, no, I'll have my shot, anyhow."
"Mr. Decatur fires at Mr. German, he fires at you, and you fire at Mr. Decatur. Now do you understand it?"
"Sure I'll be dead be that time."
"No—confound it! You all fire at once."
"But what does Mr. German shoot me for? I'm his fri'nd!" expostulated Williams. . . .
"Because it is a duel of three," said Morgan. "You're in my hands and you must do as I say. Come, get ready!"
And so the duel comes off, almost identically in both cases, and afterwards Easy and Gascoigne, in the one novel, and Laurie and Decatur in the other, pretend that they are frightened at the result and, hiring a boat and boatman, go for a cruise.
There are many other incidents in Flanagan's tale which are very similar to some in Marryat's earlier novel, all lifted bodily. Perhaps it is just as well not to speculate as to who was thus masquerading under the name Flanagan. He wrote both Westerns and sea tales.
|1||M. M. Ballou, "Roderick, the Rover; or, The Spirit of the Wave," by Lieut. Murray (pseud.), Gleason's Publishing House, Boston, 1847, but apparently published earlier in one of Gleason's periodicals as a "One Hundred Dollar Prize Tale."
T. J. Flanagan, "Roderick, the Rover; or, The Scourge of the Sea," Half-Dime Library No. 1058.
The action of the former takes place in The West Indies, the sea, the Spanish Court, and the Isle of Man; of the latter, in Philadelphia, the sea en route to the West Indies, New York City, and Boston.