Spires and minarets—Cordova!
Home of romance flower-strewn over—
Knights in armor
Wielding scimetars and lances
For the shy and half veiled glances
Of the charmer!
. . . .
Russian spies—the wild Circassian—
Muscovites and Tartar dashin'—
Odalisques and houris hidden
Saved by Christian, and forbidden
. . . .
Sapphire skies and seas cerulean,
Whiskered pirates fierce, herculean,
Isles of coral;
Colored consorts of the pirates—
Practices, a Christian eye rates
These, and other tales entrancing
Guide the summer hours, enhancing
Joys of living;
Stories that will chill and fright one—
Tales that hypnotize, delight one,
WHITTAKER, thou rare raconteur,
When I take my summer saunter
To the mountains,
Lo! I hunger not, and never
Am athirst, for thou are ever
AL. W. CROWELL, "A Dedication to the Works of Capt. Frederick Whittaker, the Prince of Novelists," Banner Weekly No. 681, November 30, 1895.
Frederick Whittaker, son of Henry Whittaker and his wife Catharine Maitland, was born in London December 12, 1838. His father was a solicitor, but, having endorsed some papers for a noble client who defaulted, he was obliged to flee to the Continent to escape being imprisoned for debt.(1) He lived with his family for several years in various towns and in 1850 came to New York City, where he obtained a position as managing clerk in a law office. Frederick's education was limited to six months in a private school in Brooklyn, conducted by a Mr. Walker. His father wished him to become a lawyer, and at the age of sixteen he was entered in the law office of N. Dane Ellingwood, as office boy. He was, however, not interested in law and several years later he was working in the office of Henry G. Harrison, an architect, but a defect in his eyesight compelled him to relinquish this work. Just before the breaking out of the Civil War he had had an article published in The Great Republic Monthly, and hoped to become a writer. When war broke out, he enlisted November 11, 1861, at Camp Scott, Staten Island, as a private in Company L, 6th New York Cavalry. He was transferred to Company D in the same regiment February 16, 1863, and was honorably discharged December 15, 1863, as a corporal, to enable him to enlist as a veteran volunteer. He re-entered the same organization December 16, 1863. In the Battle of the Wilderness, in May, 1864, he was shot through the left lung and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on February 12, 1865, in Company A. He was mustered out and honorably discharged august 9, 1865, as 2nd Lieutenant, Company A, New York Provisional Cavalry. Nothing has been found of record to show that he ever received the pevet rank of Captain,(2) but there is a letter in the "files of the National Archives,(3) from James D. McClelland, a member of the New York State Senate, dated October 10, 1911, in which he stated that Frederick Whittaker "was made Brevet Captain after the War for bravery in action."
After the war he worked as a book agent for a while, and then taught school. When Mayne Reid established his magazine Onward in 1869, Whittaker wrote for it, the first item published being a little song entitled "Starlighted Midnight." This was followed by several other poems and a sketch, "Shot by a Sweetheart," but when Reid's magazine ended in February, 1870, Whittaker began to write for Frank Leslie's story paper. After inheriting some money from English relatives, he married and bought a house in Mount Vernon, New York, where he lived the remainder of his life. He now settled down to steady literary work and wrote for various journals. In the Army and Navy Journal for January 21 and June 3, 1871, he had a series of articles: "Volunteer Cavalry, the Lessons of the Decade, by a Volunteer Cavalryman," in which he gave personal experiences during the war. He also wrote for the Galaxy, the Fireside Companion and for Beadle's Young New Yorker, Saturday Journal, and Banner Weekly, and turned out a great many dime and nickel novels, mostly stirring stories of adventure of the swashbuckling type. They were well written, without padding, and were about the best of the kind.
In 1874 he was made National Guard editor and later assistant editor of the Army and Navy Journal. He resigned for the year 1876 to write his "Complete Life of General George A. Custer," but in 1877 he was back with the Journal and remained connected with it until his death.
About two years before he died he became interested in spiritualism and was an enthusiastic worker in the cause. He was almost insane on the subject and "of late had frequently commanded that every member of his family should think as he did. His argument was that there should be harmony between his wife and children and himself in order to have close communication with the spirits."(4) He was always of an excitable disposition, irascible, and at times became extremely violent. He was interested in the International language Volapuk, and shortly before his death had asked those interested to meet at his home.
On the thirteenth of May, 1889, returning home from the office of the Mount Vernon Record, for which he wrote, he met his wife at the door, said a few pleasant words to her, then ran up stairs. He always carried a revolver in his pocket and, apparently taking it out to put it away as was his custom on returning home, when he reached the head of the stairs his cane seems to have caught in the banisters, tripped him, and he fell, breaking the rail. His pistol exploded and he was shot in the head, dying in half an hour without regaining consciousness. His wife, three daughters, and a stepson survived him.
Whittaker wrote over the pseudonym "Launce Poyntz," and is said by some to have written the novels credited to Thomas Hoyer Monstery. The evidence for and against this authorship is given under the name of Monstery, above.
REFERENCES: J. Thomas Scharf, History of Westchester County, New York, 1886, I, 636-37; New York Tribune, May 14 and 15, 1889; New York Sun, May 14, 1889; Mt. Vernon Chronicle, May 14, 17 and 24, 1889; Westchester County Record, May 14, 1889; Mt. Vernon Daily Argils, May 13, 1889; The Yonkers Statesman, May 14, 1889; Banner Weekly, VII, No. 345, June 22, 1889.
Dime Novels. Nos. 226, 229, 235, 245, 249, 253, 267,
274, 278, 282, 297, 303, 307, 312, 381, 386, 389, 402, 406, 416, 420, 423. 428, 457
Handbook of Sports. Summer Sports.
Saturday Journal. Nos. 91, 92, 127, 145, 161, 192, 203, 218, 232, 260, 332, 498, 513, 532, 564, 577, 612, 629
Beadle's Weekly. Nos. 1, 19, 31, 50, 62, 74, 86, 98, 145
Banner Weekly. Nos. 166, 178, 526, 538, 572, 636, 667, 751
Pocket Novels. Nos. 222, 142, 221, 222
Twenty Cent Novels. No. 9
Fireside Library. No. 5
Dime Library. Nos. 39, 65, 69, 96, 98, 108, 115, 132, 159, 174, 187, 193, 206, 211, 215, 226, 230, 242, 247, 253, 265, 272, 277, 284, 290, 295, 303, 310, 326, 378, 406, 412, 445, 609, 614, 913, 1046, 1050, 1052, 1055, 1062, 1067, 1074,1076, 1079, 1081, 1086, 1092, 1096
Half-Dime Library. Nos. 4 (partim), 15, 29, 43, 150, 154, 159, 200, 214, 249, 265, 331, 395, 1109, 1112, 1122
Young New Yorker. Nos. 1,18 Boy's Library (quarto). Nos. 12, 18, 20, 24, 31, 40, 45, 92
Boy's Library (octavo). Nos. 24, 28, 33, 36, 43, 50, 72, 79, 150, 187, 311
Pocket Library. Nos. 23. 29. 79. 84, 116, 200, 230, 284, 296, 465
Under the name "Launce Poyntz" were published:(5)
Saturday Journal. Nos. 190, 235, 380, 401, 413
Banner Weekly. No. 384
SPECIMEN OF CAPT. FREDERICK WHITTAKER'S STYLE
"The Russian Spy; or, The Brothers of the Starry Cross." Dime Library No. 39, p. 2.
Presently through the storm came flying a sledge, drawn by three horses at full speed, but without any noise of bells, while a black crowd of wolves galloped alongside, and tried to spring up at the horses and into the sledge, howling and snarling.
At the moment when this strange sight came across them, there was a red flash from the sledge, and the report of a gun; then a terrible snarling and growling followed, in the midst of which was heard the shrieks of a woman, as a black crowd of wolves leaped into the sledge.
A dark figure fell out behind on the snow, and Captain Blank fired into the heap of struggling wolves six shots from his revolver, while the Cossacks, with loud hurrahs, speared at the rest of the fierce brutes, as they galloped alongside the sledge and fled into the steppe, out of sight.
Then, in a moment as it seemed, the young captain found himself left alone in the driving storm, the wolves all scattered in dismay, sledge and Cossacks alike lost to view and rushing toward the fort before the merciless gale, while in front of him lay two dead wolves, and a woman, who might or might not be dead as the case should turn out.
The young captain was in the act of swinging himself off his horse to find out, when the woman rose up on her knees in the snow, and turned her face toward him.
And Captain Blank stared at it in wonderment, for it was as the face of the queen of all beauty, and that beauty brunette.
Eyes of wonderful size and depth were fixed on his, eyes whose magnetic power might have lured angels down from heaven. The fur hood which had concealed her in the sledge had fallen back in the struggle with the wolves, and allowed a mass of black curls to escape over her shoulders; while a dark face, with the perfect outline of Italian beauty, keen, acquiline and rich in color, completed the spell which enthralled him.
This lovely creature, kneeling there alone in the snow, clasped her hands piteously and addressed him in imploring tones:
"For the love of our Lord Christ and all the saints, good my lord, ride back whence you came, and leave me here."
The officer for a moment was astounded.
"Leave you here, madam, in the midst of a terrible snow-storm! As an officer and a gentleman I could not do such a thing."
"As an officer and a gentleman, if you wish to earn the undying gratitude of a broken-hearted woman, do not detain me," she cried, passionately. "Oh, you do not know what hangs upon my journey, sir, or you would not stop me. I can not, I will not go with you to that fort, alive."
The young officer looked gravely at her. Wildly as the storm swept past them, there was something in this frail, beautiful girl that seemed to defy all its rage, and to be totally devoid of fear, even after her late escape from instant death by such a hair's breadth.
"Gracious lady," said Captain Blank, "if I leave you here in the snow, you will infallibly be buried alive and frozen to death. Do you know that?"
Then, for the first time, she started up, and looked around as if bewildered, murmuring:
"The sledge—where is Demetri?"
"The sledge has been carried away by your frightened horses," said the officer, kindly; "and ere this, my Cossacks have found and stopped it. Your only chance of reaching it is to go with me."
"And what then?" asked the lady, eagerly; "may I pursue my way? Will you not stop me?"
"I fear it will be my duty to take you to the fort," said the captain, in a grave tone, "unless you have a regular passport."
"I have none," said the lady, frankly, but in a despairing tone; "but oh, sir, something in your face tells me that I can hope for reason and pity from you. On my journey hang life, liberty, and happiness, for one who—"
"Enough," interrupted the officer, gently raising his hand as if to deprecate further speech; "I seek not to know your secrets. As an officer of the czar, it is my duty to take you to Fort Peroffsky; as a knight of the cross, I must help a woman. Tell me only this, do you love Russia? Are you true to the czar?"
"God knoweth that I am," she said, clasping her hands. "Oh, sir, if you knew all—"
"I would know nothing but this," he said, gravely; "you are a lady and in distress. I dare not leave you to perish. Give me your hand."
He extended his own as he spoke. With singular activity the lady placed one foot on his in the stirrup, and sprung up to the horse's croup.
"We have lost time enough," said Captain Blank. "Now we must ride to save our lives."
Away went the fiery Ukraine stallion down the wind at a rapid pace, and the storm seemed to abate as he sailed before it. Captain and lady held their peace as they plunged along through the rapidly-deepening snow, which already was up to the fetlocks of the steed.
They galloped on in silence, mile after mile, their only guide the wind, which blew direcdy toward Fort Peroffsky.
After a long ride, the horse began to neigh loudly, and the call was answered some distance ahead.
"My Cossacks and the sledge," was the only commentary of Captain Blank.
He felt the figure of his companion tremble all over as he spoke, and the clasp of her arms loosened round his waist, but she said nothing.
Presently a gray, plunging ghost of a horseman powdered with snow loomed up ahead, and grim Sergeant Potapoff came riding up, saluting as if nothing had happened.
"Where is the sledge?" asked the captain, as Potapoff wheeled and rode alongside in silence.
Through the howling storm the Cossack shouted back:
"Halted, a verst ahead, gracious captain. We could not kill off the wolves and stop it before."
"Call off your party, and we will go back to camp," said the captain. "The sledge will proceed alone."
He felt a close pressure of the lady's arms as he spoke, and Potapoff galloped away into the mist of snow-flakes, while the mysterious captain slackened his pace, and rode at a canter.
"Gracious lady," he said, to his fair partner, "I am taking a risk for your sake no other man in Russia would take. You are about to cross the frontier, and I know what you are, a political prisoner. Nay, fear not, I will not betray you, for your face tells me you do not lie! To you I say, do not make me repent this"
The tones of his voice were grave and solemn, and he turned and looked in his companion's face. The dark eyes met his own blue ones with perfect frankness, and they were full of tears, as she answered:
"My lord, you shall not repent it, and Russia shall not."
"I hope not," he answered, gravely; "and now tell me frankly, are you not afraid to face this storm alone? Remember that our post is the only human habitation for many hundred miles."
"My lord," said the lady, proudly, "you say you know me. If you do, you know that a Russian noble never feared to be alone with God."
As she spoke, they discerned the dim outline of the sledge through the driving snow, and there on the box sat the man she had called Demetri, waiting, while the party of Cossacks were drawn up at some distance off. The captain pulled up at the sledge, and the lady jumped off and buried herself among the furs, without a word. Then she turned to the strange officer without speaking, and kissed her hand. He raised his cap in a courteous salute, Demetri cracked his whip, and away went the sledge to the south, lost in the storm in a moment.
Captain Blank rode slowly toward the fort, as if in deep thought. Ere long he beckoned to Potapoff, and asked:
"Sergeant, what lies in the way yonder sledge is going?"
"The open steppe, your honor. They will be lost to a certainty unless—"
"Unless they come across the Middle Horde of the Tartars, and then God help them, for the heathen will sell them for slaves to the Khan of Khive."
|1||This may account for the fact that later the villains in the son's stories were usually Englishmen.|
|2||Data from the Adjutant General's Office, Washington, D. C., November 15, 1944.|
|3||Letter from the War Records Office, National Archives, Washington, D. C., November 8, 1944.|
|4||New York Tribune, May 15, 1889.|
|5||Novelettes in which the names Whittaker and Poyntz are given together in the by-lines are listed here under Whittaker.|