Er ist bin! Vergebens, ach vergebens
Stohnet ihm der bange Seufzer nach!
J. F. C. SCHILLER, Die Ranker, Act. Ill
William George Patten, later known as Gilbert Patten, was born in Corinna, Maine, October 25, 1866, the son of William Clark Patten, a house carpenter, and his wife Cordelia Simpson. They were Seventh Day Adventists although they belonged to no regularly organized church. After passing through grammar school, William Jr. worked in a machine shop for a few months, then entered Corinna Union Academy in 1880. It was during this period that he sent his first sketch, "A Bad Man," to the Banner Weekly. It was rejected at first, and Patten sent in "The Pride of Sandy Flat." Reconsideration had passed the first story, and Patten received six dollars for the two. In the summer of 1883 he got a job as reporter on the Dexter Eastern State, then on the Pittsfield Advertiser, and re-entered the Academy in the autumn. He had many short sketches in the Banner Weekly from 1885 to 1887, and in 1886 his first long story was published as a Half-Dime Library. It was entitled "The Diamond Sport; or, The Double Face at Bedrock," and for it he received $50. Launched as a writer, he decided to get married, and on October 25, 1886, was united to a schoolmate, Alice Gardner. During 1887 he had two stories published as Half-Dime Library. "Captain Mystery," for which he received $75, and "Daisy Dare," which brought him $100. In 1888 he sent but one story to Beadle, but began the publication of a weekly paper in his home town—The Corinna Owl. This struggled along for a year and was then sold to the rival Pittsfield Advertiser.(1)
In 1889 Patten's parents removed to Camden, Maine, and the young couple accompanied them; there William, Jr., continued his literary work, selling four Half-Dimes and two Dimes to Beadle that year, and four Half-Dimes and two Dimes in 1890, besides various sketches and poems. In the summers of 1890 and 1891 he managed a professional baseball team. In 1891 he removed to Brooklyn and wrote for Beadle for a time, but after falling out with the publishers transferred to Norman Munro's Golden Hours, for which he wrote a number of serials under his own name. Most of these were later reprinted in the Bound to Win Library but with the author given as "Herbert Bellwood." The last serial for Golden Hours was "John Smith of Michigan," which appeared in volume XVII, beginning May 2, 1896. That year he went over to Street & Smith, and on April 18, 1896, under the pseudonym "Bert L. Standish," published the first of his Merriwell stories. About the same time, in real life, "to live down his dime-novel days," as he says, he dropped the "William G." in his name and became "Gilbert Patten."(2)
For the next seventeen years a weekly Merriwell story was written. All with the exception of three in 1897, and those from the spring of 1900 to the spring of 1901 when John H. Whitson(3) wrote them, by Patten himself. Beginning in 1913, Patten wrote much of the material in Street & Smith's Top Notch Magazine, and also several series of books for boys. In 1934 he began making the layouts for a Merriwell comic strip, drawn by Jack Wilhelm, and in 1941 Frank Merriwell again appeared on the scene, but now as a middle-aged man.(4) The book, however, did not appeal to his old admirers.
Patten was married three times, first to Alice Gardner in 1886. They were divorced in 1898 and in 1900 he married Mary Nunn of Baltimore. From her he was divorced in 1916 and in 1918 married Carol Kramer, who died in August, 1938. Patten himself—the last of the dime novelists—died in Vista, California, January 16, 1945.
Besides his own name and "Burt L. Standish" and "Herbert Bellwood," mentioned above, Patten also used the pseudonym "William West Wilder" ("Wyoming Will") for a few tales published by Beadle in the Popular Library, that curious series in which the names of all but one of the authors were pseudonyms. The "Don Kirk" stories, originally published in Good News in 1895 as by "Harry Dangerfield," were later reprinted in the Medal Library as by Gilbert Patten. "Gordon MacLaren" was used but once,(5) and then for the serial "The Riddle and the Ring," which appeared in Top Notch Magazine in 1914 or 1915. In three or four of the early numbers of the same magazine, which were edited by Patten as "Burt L. Standish," he used the pen name "Julian St. Dare" on novelettes which afterwards were tied together by him and published in book form as the "Clif Stirling Series."(6)
REFERENCES: Journalist, XIV, December 12, 1891, 37; XVI, December 17, 1892, 19, with portrait; XVIII, December 16, 1893, 46; Gilbert Patten, "Dime Novel Days," Saturday Evening Post, February 28 and March 7, 1931; James M. Cam, "Man Merriwell," Ibid., June 11, 1927; John L. Cutler, "Gilbert Patten and his Frank Merriwell Saga," The Maine Bulletin, XXXVI, No. 10, May, 1934, with several portraits; Edmund Pearson, Dime Novels, Boston, 1929, 216-17, 267; Louis Sobal, "The Voice of Broadway," New York Journal, November 21, 1931; Heywood Broun, "It Seems to Me," World Telegram, August 12, 1931; Philadelphia Inquirer, March 26, 1939, with two portraits; New York Sun, February 21, 1940, with portrait; Worcester Telegram, March 15, 1942, with portrait; Chicago Daily Tribune, January 17, 1945, obituary notice; New York Times, January 18, 1945, with portrait; Dime Novel Round Up, XIII, No. 150, March, 1945; Who's Who, XXII, 1942; numerous personal letters to me.
Patten had an article in The Writer, III, March, 1889, 59, in which he gave advice to young writers, and related personal experiences.
Dime Library. Nos. 545, 571, 602, 631, 641, 648, 656,
663, 669, 676, 689, 696, 702, 715, 747, 756, 768, 795,
Half-Dime Library. Nos. 489, 519, 531, 587, 604, 619, 629, 641, 651, 663, 682, 693, 705, 714, 724, 730, 741, 750, 763, 774, 789, 806, 818, 820, 836, 857, 866, 1063, 1073, 1075
Pocket Library. No. 339 Banner Weekly. No. 746
Under the pen name "William West Wilder" were published:
Banner Weekly. No. 335
Popular Library. Nos. 3, 8, 14, 20, 30, 38, 44, 48
Half-Dime Library. Nos. 7012, 1041, 1056, 1066, 1094
SPECIMEN OF WILLIAM G. PATTEN'S STYLE
"The Giant Sport; or, Sold to Satan." Dime Library No.663, pp. 2-3.
Through the open door of the saloon came a cry of distress—the cry of a female!
The rough men started and uttered exclamations of amazement, for the sound was an unusual one in Kicker's Bar.
In at the open doorway darted a young girl of seventeen or eighteen. Her head was uncovered and her golden red hair streamed in an unconfined mass over her shapely shoulders. Her dress was of fine material, and had plainly been a choice garment in bygone days, but it was now torn in several places. That the girl was beautiful became evident at a glance.
A short distance within the saloon she halted, glancing around like a hunted deer. Then she threw her body forward a bit, extended her arms appealingly, a beseeching light in her heavy blue eyes, crying:
"Oh, gentlemen, gentlemen! help me—save me—Do not let those terrible wretches touch me again. I had rather die!"
The appeal was enough to touch the heart of the most callous, but the men within the saloon seemed suddenly paralyzed by the vision of beauty that had burst upon them. They were only aroused when two ruffianly-looking fellows came rushing in after the girl.
"Hyer she is!" exclaimed one, with satisfaction, as he advanced upon the girl—"hyer's ther ongrateful hussy thet'd run away frum her own daddy!"
"Stand off!" cried the girl, facing him with clinched hands, her blue eyes blazing. "Do not dare to touch me, you brutal wretch!"
"Now thet's er poorty name ter call yer own daddy, hain't it?"
"You are no father of mine!"
"Now, will you hear thet, pard?" and the man turned toward his companion. "She even denies thet I am her own flesh-an'-blood pap!"
"Pore gal!" said the other, with assumed sorrow. "She's clean out of her head—plumb daft!"
The first one, a red-whiskered individual with the face and eyes of a ruffian, turned toward the defiant girl.
"Come now, Liz," he said, in as pleasant a tone as he could command, "this yar's played out! Wat yer want ter act so much like er precious fool fer! Jest come eriong peaceable like with me."
"I will not!"
"Wall, ye'll hev ter!"
"I shall appeal to these men; they will protect me, I am sure."
"They hain't no right ter step atween a father and his own child."
"But I say you are not my father!"
"An' I say I am!"
"You cannot deceive these gentlemen."
"Don't want to; I've got proof of w'at I claims."
"A ruffian of your own stamp! You can make no one believe your assertions!"
"D'yer think so ? Wal, thet's whar ye makes er mighty big mistake. You've got ter come eriong now, Liz—"
"My name is not Liz."
Again the red-bearded rascal turned to his comrade.
"Jest listen ter thet!" he cried, despairingly.
"Wy, she's crazy as er bed-bug! She even denies her own name!"
"Pore gal!" sighed the other once more.
A sudden burst of anger seized the girl.
"Oh, you wicked wretches!" she cried, trembling with passion. "You shall be punished for this! When Seth Culver lays his hands on you, you will suffer!"
"Thar she goes erg'in!"
"Allus talkin' 'bout thet 'maginary person!"
"You will find there is nothing imaginary about him when he reaches you, and he will not rest till you are trailed down. Then you will wish you never had touched me!"
"It's useless ter talk with her, pard," asserted the red-bearded man's comrade. "Jest git her away where she will be quiet as soon as possible."
But Major Navrain came forward.
"Hold on a moment," came commandingly from the old soldier's lips. "Will you kindly explain the meaning of this singular scene?"
The red-beard scowled.
"This is my gal," he explained.
"I did not know you had a girl, Taos Tom."
"Wal, I hev; but she's out of her head an' thinks she hain't my own kid."
"It is not true, sir!" cried the girl, starting toward J Major Nepal. "This man helped steal me from my home, and—"
"Thar, thar!" harshly broke in the one the major had addressed as Taos Tom. "I sh'u'd think you'd git tired of tellin' thet yarn, Liz!"
"It's 'cause she is out of her head," nodded the other, whose huge nose, which had been broken at some past time, was seriously turned to the left side of his face. "Ef she hain't clean daft, my handle hain't Crooknose Chet."
"Do not believe them!" entreated the maiden. "I am in my right mind, and it is true this man who says he is my father helped abduct me from my home. He is—"
"Thar, Liz, thet'll do!" snarled the red-whiskered tough, advancing as if to lay hands on her. "You kin invent more lies then a settin' hen c'u'd hatch in a y'ar of stiddy business. Jest you close your clapper an' come eriong."
Up to this moment Loyal Kingdon had made no move to interfere, for he had wished to thoroughly understand the case. Now he spoke to Yuma Yank:
"I am going to dip in. Are you with me?"
"Ter stan' by ther leetle leddy ? Yes, ter ther last gasp!"
"Then come on."
|1||The statement in Casper's Directory of the American Book, News and Stationery Trades for 1889, that Patten was a bookseller, stationer and printer, is, on the authority of Patten himself, incorrect.|
|2||The change came as early as 1893, for Patten had a short love story in The Journalist, XVIII, December 16, 1893, with the new first name.|
|3||In a letter from John H. Whitson to Ralph Adimari, July 11, 1932.|
|4||"Mr. Frank Merriwell," published in New York, 1941.|
|5||Personal communication by Mr. Patten to me, March 13, 1943.|
|7||"Fire Eye," Dime Library, no. 810, was the last story Patten wrote for Beadle. He received $90 for it. Saturday Evening Post, February 28, 1931, 129.|