He was a scholar, and a ripe and good one;
Exceeding wise, fair-spoken, and persuading.
Henry VIII, Act IV, scene 2
Edward Willett, born in Vermont in 1830,(1) was a son of William Marinus Willett (1803-1895), editor, author, and professor of Hebrew in Wesleyan University, a grandson of Marinus Willett (died 1830) who was mayor of New York from 1807 to 1808, and a great-great-great-grandson of Thomas Willett(2) who warned Peter Stuyvesant of the approach of the hostile British fleet in 1664 and later became the first mayor of New York City, 1665 to 1667.
After leaving school Mr. Willett entered Columbia College and took the course in arts, but apparently was not graduated, for he is not listed among Columbia alumni although his grandfather, his uncle, and his cousins are. He then entered Harvard and was graduated in Law. He was apparently also getting practical knowledge, for he is listed in the New York Directory for 1853-54 as clerk (evidently law clerk) and the next two years as lawyer at the same address.(3)
From law Willett drifted into journalism. He went west in 1855 or 1856, and for a short time was on the Chicago Tribune. He then joined the staff of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and remained with that paper for some years, eventually becoming its editor-in-chief in 1873.
During the Civil War he was with the armies of the Cumberland and Tennessee, presumably as war correspondent,(4) but he was still with the St. Louis Globe-Democrat in 1875.(5) In 1876-77, however, he was editor of the St. Louis Times.(6) In the early 1880's (probably 1882(7)) he returned to New York and worked on the editorial staff of the New York Sun under Dana. He continued contributing to that paper until a few weeks before his death. He also, for a time, contributed to the Brooklyn Eagle. In the spring of 1888, probably when the paper was rejuvenated May 6, 1888, and after the retirement on account of ill health of the former editor, Edward H. Holmes (1832-1889), he became editor of the New York Sunday Dispatch. He was still holding this position at the time of his death, which occurred February 14, 1889. He left a widow, Dora Willett, and a daughter, Marion Elizabeth ("Mittens") Willett,(8) a well-known actress.
Said the Dispatch in an editorial, February 17, 1889: "He was a critic of the highest class, a scholar, a wit, a poet, and a man of strong and earnest personality. . . . a genial, kindly, able man."
Willett began writing as early as 1852, when he had a poem in the Knickerbocker Magazine. The first book for Beadle written by Willett under his own name was No. 15 of the Dime Biographical Library, the "Life of Ulysses Sydney Grant," published in January, 1864, and in the same year he wrote four novels which were published in the American Tales. The next year, six American Tales appeared under his own name, and one Dime Novel and three numbers of Dime Fiction under the name "J. Stanley Henderson." In his newspaper articles in St. Louis, he occasionally used the pen name "Carl Brent."
Besides his contributions to the Beadle publications, he wrote for Drake's Magazine, of which he was editor at the time of his death, and to which Harbaugh, Tom P. Morgan, and Arthur Grissom also contributed. For the New York Dispatch he wrote a column of humor; other writers for the same paper at that time being "Roger Starbuck," "M. Quad," Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Bill Nye, "Fanny Fern," R. H. Stoddard, Helen Hunt Jackson, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, and Joaquin Miller.
REFERENCES: New York City Directories, 1853-55, 1883-88; St. Louis Directories, 1875—77; New York Dispatch, February 17, 1889, four notices, an obituary, an editorial, a biography, and "In Memoriam," a poem by Joseph W. Gavan; Banner Weekly, March 23, 1889, No. 332; Allibone, Dict. Eng. Lit. and Supplement; William M. Willett, A Narrative of the Military Actions of Colonel Marinus Willett, New York, 1831; Journalist, VIII, February 16, 1889, 4; Drake's Magazine, VII, March, 1889, 230 (Willett's birth year is here given as 1838); Logan U. Reavis, St. Louis, The Future Great City of the World, with Biographical Sketches of the Representative Men and Women of St. Louis and Missouri, St. Louis, VII, 1876; J. T. Scharf, History of Saint Louis City and County, Philadelphia, 1883, I, 922; F. A. Sampson, A Bibliography of Missouri Authors, Sedalia, 1901, 50; New York Weekly, XXIX, November 10, 1873, 4.
Dime Novels. Nos. 110, 119, 125, 129, 132, 139, 145,
149, 159, 170, 187, 205, 212, 219, 225, 234, 240, 246,
251, 262, 271, 277, 293, 304, 375, 409, 412, 415, 438, 444, 450, 456, 462, 471, 476, 478, 626
Biographical Library. No. 15
American Tales. Nos. 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 34, 38, 41
Starr's American Novels. Nos. 152, 193, 196, 199, 201, 203, 205, 207, 209, 211, 213, 215, 218
Saturday Journal. No. 531 Pocket Novels. Nos. 111, 117, 127, 139, 167, 170, 172, 173, 179, 209, 228, 238
Lives of Great Americans. No. 13 Dime Library. Nos. 129, 209, 222, 248, 274, 289, 298, 308, 315, 327, 337, 348, 368, 483
Half-Dime Library. Nos, 267, 199, 223, 282, 295, 311, 322, 340
Boy's Library (quarto). Nos. 19, 36, 49, 68, 80, 98, 103
Boy's Library (octavo). Nos. 15, 40, 55, 78, 94, 106, 114, 129, 133, 145, 170, 192, 201, 209, 219, 235, 259, 269, 293, 305
Pocket Library. Nos. 269, 184, 251, 260, 269, 283, 293, 314, 344, 382, 389, 397, 402, 412, 429, 439, 460, 468, 472, 476
Under the pen-name "J. Stanley Henderson" were published:
Dime Novels. Nos. 86, 91, 100, 105, 109, 114, 135, 151,
165, 176, 197, 265, 400, 429, 467
American Library (London). Nos. 60, 77
Dime Fiction. Nos. 3, 6, 8
Starr's American Novels. No. 222 (unpublished)
Boys' Book of Romance and Adventure. Nos. 3, 21
Pocket Novels. Nos. 131, 133, 135, 137, 149, 156, 171, 195, 211
Boy's Library (octavo). Nos. 158, 165, 177, 186, 210, 241, 320
Pocket Library. Nos. 335, 450
SPECIMEN OF EDWARD WILLETT'S STYLE
"The Canyon King; or, A Price on his Head." Dime Library No. 368, pp. 3-4.
The brothers seated themselves on the rocks, and gazed at the dark and turbid stream and the lofty over-hanging cliffs.
"I am afraid we are on a wild-goose chase," observed Harry. "Are you sure, Frank, that this girl is Clara Carron?"
"Quite sure of it, and sure that she is the same Clara Carron whom we knew in Ohio."
"Mart Carron's daughter?"
"Yes. Her father left Akron shortly after I came away, and while you were at college. He came to New Mexico, and his wife died at Santa Fe. Then he made his way up through the country to Salt Lake with his daughter. There he joined the Mormons, and became a leader in what is called the Danite Band. This much 1 know from reliable sources; but it was only lately that I heard of Clara's troubles."
"I should have thought that you, who were so deeply interested in the girl, would have gone up into Mormondom to see her."
"I meant to do so, as soon as I heard that she was in trouble. I thought then that I ought to go, as I feared that she might be in trouble. You know what a wild and unscrupulous man Mart Carron always was. If he thought he could advance himself in the world by selling Clara to the devil, I verily believe he would strike the bargain."
"That is about his style," remarked Harry.
"But I could not go when 1 wanted to, as I was bound in honor as well as in law to the chief of the survey tor a certain time, and then 1 heard of her through one of our men who had crossed the Colorado at this place."
"That was a stroke of luck for you, Frank."
"I was glad to hear from her, though the news was not good news. Our man said that there was a beautiful white girl at Nathan Sollis's, whose name was Clara Carron, and who was in trouble. He did not know what was the matter with her, but judged that she had fled from the Mormons. I could easily guess what was the matter, provided that she was our Clara Carron, and there could be no doubt of that."
"I suppose not. It is an unusual name."
"Quite unusual. It is not at all likely that there are two Clara Carrons in this part of the country. When I received the news I was expecting you every day, and you know that I haven't lost an hour's time since you arrived."
"Indeed you have not, Frank. I found an adventure ready for me as soon as I struck you. What will you do with her when you find her?"
"What will I do? That will depend entirely upon what she needs or what she wants. I only know that she can depend upon me in any extremity, and that I would lay down my life for her if she needed that sacrifice. I mean to serve her to the best of my ability, and shall expect you to help me."
"You may bet on me, old fellow, though I don't happen to be in love with her. What's that, Frank? I thought I heard oars up yonder."
"Both listened, and soon they distinctly heard through the darkness the sound of oars and the grating of a boat on the rock.
Then came a hail from a little distance up the river.
"Who's thar? Air ye white?"
A satisfactory answer was given, and a skiff soon dropped down with the current and landed near them.
A man in the skiff arose and looked at them closely.
"Is that you, Cap'n Ford?" he demanded.
"Glad to know that you remember me, Mr. Sollis," answered Frank. "This is my brother, and we want to cross. Will you take us over?"
"Yaas; but you'll hev to leave the bosses hyar, and I'll send 'em over some fodder."
"All right. I want to ask you, Mr. Sollis, about a young lady named Clara Carron."
"Cre-ation!" exclaimed the old man.
"What do you mean? I heard that she was at your place, and I think I am acquainted with her."
"Cre-ation! Hyar's another of 'em, axin' arter leede Clara. Why, man alive, she's gone!"
Senor Francisco de Lerdo, a su servicio de ustedes, senores y senoritas.
A scion of one of the families of California, of a family which boasted that the blue blood in its veins was the unadulterated article from the fount of Old Castile, of a family which had once been wealthy and had always been proud.
The branch of the family which terminated in Francisco had been stripped of its foliage of wealth, while it retained its inheritance of pride.
His father had been a spendthrift, who had brought up his son in idleness and with extravagant ideas. The consequence was that the young Californian had been left at his father's death with nothing but his wits to live upon.
He had contrived, however, to make his wits serviceable to him after a fashion. Being an adept in cards and billiards, the discovery of gold and the settlement of the country had opened to him a field which he had not failed to work.
His qualities were such as enabled him to extract money from the pockets of others without much labor or risk on his own part, and he would thus have been able to subsist comfortably, if it had not been for his extravagant habits and for the fact that he was as ready to lose money at faro and monte as to win it at those games of which he was master.
It was between a feast and a famine with him, therefore, and he was always either at the extreme of luxury and triumph, or in the depths of poverty and despair.
There was a branch of the family from which he had expectations.
The sole representative of that branch was his father's brother, Antonio de Lerdo, who had not only saved his patrimony, but had largely increased it by dealing in hides and cattle.
Though this mercantile De Lerdo disliked his extravagant nephew, Francisco was not without hopes of becoming his heir, until the old man suddenly married the widow of a Yankee sea-captain, named Hannah Carver, nee Russell.
Soon after his marriage he died, leaving the greater portion of his wealth to his widow, and Francisco felt that his expectations were at an end in that quarter.
Consequently his disappointment was not great when he learned, at the death of his uncle's widow, that she had bequeathed her fortune to some far-away relations of her own.
He felt, however, that he had been shamefully treated, and his indignation vented itself in a battle royal with the tiger on Kearney street, in which the tiger, as usual, got the best of it, and Francisco de Lerdo retired from the contest with empty pockets and disconsolate demeanor.
Returning to his lodgings, and wondering where and how he should next replenish his purse, he found his room occupied by a gentleman whom he would not have expected to see there.
This was no less a personage than Emilio Tessier, who had been the legal adviser of Antonio de Lerdo, and was the executor of his widow's will.
With this gentleman Francisco had always been on good terms, and his presence at that place, the young man hoped, might be regarded as a good omen.
He therefore welcomed the lawyer warmly, and offered such hospitality as his abode afforded.
"I drink to your health and prosperity," said Tessier, as he tossed off a glass of wine.
"There is nothing the matter with my health," sadly answered Francisco, "but as for prosperity—vaya!"
"It may come, my boy. I have always been your well-wisher, and am none the less so now. How are you off for money?"
Francisco turned his pockets inside out.
"Money? I can't find a coin. I hope you have not come to me for money."
"By no means. I supposed that you were poor enough, and I have come to advise you, to assist you, to tell you how you may get money."
"That is quite another thing. You could not have come to a place where your advice would be more acceptable, and I hope you will give it to me without any delay."
"Be patient, my friend, and I think you will admit that my advice is worth having. As you already know it has been my opinion that you were unjustly treated by your deceased uncle and his widow."
"More than unjusdy, my dear Tessier. I was shamefully ill-treated."
"I have thought of the matter a great deal, and am inclined to believe that you will be able to recover not a part only, but the whole of the property that should have been yours,"
"How is that?" demanded Francisco. "Can the will be broken? You told me that it could not. What has changed your mind on that point?"
"I have not changed my mind. The will is impregnable. But there is something that you can do for yourself."
"What is it?"
"Do you know to whom your uncle's widow left the property?"
"To some Yankee, I believe. What need I care for the name? To some person with whom I have nothing to do, and in whom I can take no interest."
"It is a woman, Francisco."
"All the worse for that. When women get hold of money, there is no hope that they will ever let go."
"She is a young woman," observed the lawyer.
"You catch my meaning, then?"
"I believe I do, my dear Tessier."
"Why should you not marry this women who is young and beautiful and unmarried and rich, and thus gain possession of the property which should have been yours, with a pretty wife to boot?"
"Why not?" eagerly answered the young man. "Consider it done. But who is this young and beautiful woman who is unmarried and rich, and where shall I find her?"
"Her name is Clara Carron, and she is the child of the sister of your uncle's widow—in other words, the niece of Senora de Lerdo."
"A sort of cousin of mine, then."
"You may call her so, if you choose. As executor of the will it is my duty to find this heiress, and some memoranda were put in my possession to assist me in the search. From the memoranda I learned that she lived in Ohio, or had lived there."
"Ohio!" exclaimed Francisco. "Where is Ohio? I have heard of a river of that name. Is it in New York?"
"Is that all you know about Geography? Ohio is a great State, half as large as California."
"Very well. What should I know of those Yankees and their barbarous country? I have learned too much about them since they have overrun California. Do you expect me to go to Ohio?"
"Not so far as that. She is not living in Ohio now. But you must let me tell the story in my own way. She had been living in Ohio, at a town named Akron, and to Akron I wrote. She was well known there, and was described as a beautiful and amiable young lady."
"How old?" demanded Francisco.
"As near as I can judge, she must now be about twenty."
"So old? Horrors!"
"You forget, my boy, that those American girls of the North are mere children at twenty."
"So let it be. What has become of this mere child who is so beautiful and amiable?"
"She had left Akron some time before my informant wrote, with her mother and father, and had gone to New Mexico. There the mother died, and she accompanied her father to Utah, where the paternal Carron joined the Mormons."
"Cospita! I have heard of those people. She must have been married or martyred before this."
"Let us hope not. But you should seek her, Francisco, without any loss of time."
"Have you not written to her, then, in Utah?"
"No, indeed. I have kept the affair to myself. When I learned that she was young and handsome and unmarried, I declared that there was a chance for my friend, Francisco, and I have come to offer it to you."
"But in what shape?"
"As executor of the will I make you my agent to search for her, and you shall go and find her."
"To break the joyful news to her that she is an heiress, and that I am her poverty stricken cousin?"
"That is not exactly the style in which I would advise you to attend to the business," answered the lawyer. "Why should you be in a hurry to inform her of her good fortune?"
"What else should I do?"
"Why should you not play the part of a rich gentleman who falls in love with a poor girl and marries her? After the marriage you will have time enough to tell her the good news you know. Too much happiness at once might injure her health."
"True enough. The news will keep until she is my wife, provided that she will marry me. All depends on that."
"And that depends on yourself. I see nothing to hinder you. How old are you, Francisco?"
"You are still young. And you are handsome."
"So I have been told."
"A very fine-looking young gentleman. With the grace of a native Californian and the manners of a prince."
"I at least have a princely way of getting rid of money."
"You are noted for your conquests among the fair sex. Besides, you have the noble air and the Andalusian style with which those blonde Americans are so easily infatuated. You have only to lay siege to her in earnest, and she is sure to surrender.
"You give me hope, my dear avocado. Already I have her in my arms and her fortune in my pockets. But that reminds me that I am now penniless, and I will need money to carry on the campaign."
"Of course you will, and that is arranged?"
"I tell you that I make you my agent to find the heiress, and your expenses will be paid out of the estate. But they must be reasonable, my dear Francisco, and you must not waste the money in gambling."
"It is not likely that I will have a chance."
"When you have found her, everything will depend on your address and discretion."
"Those qualities may be relied on, my dear friend, and it will be strange if I do not secure her, provided I find her unmarried. I will at once make preparations, and will set out for Salt Lake with as little delay as possible."
A Third Party in the Hunt.
Cortez Castarra, better known as "The Whip," was the pride of the Mexican border from El Paso to Sonora.
He was one of the few Mexicans who were not terrified at the very name of Apaches, who were not afraid to meet those savage marauders on equal terms.
When the red outlaws swooped down upon the plains of Chihuahua or Sonora, Cortez Castarra was there to meet them, to drive them back if that were possible, or to harass their flanks and rear when they returned to their own country with their plunder.
When they lurked among the mountain fastnesses of the Pinaleno or Mogollon savages, or dried their meat near the head-waters of the Gila or the Little Colorado, he was there, too, stealing in among them to strike unexpectedly and deadly blows, and darting away before they could rally to take vengeance upon the daring intruder.
Castarra had personal injuries to avenge upon the Apaches, as well as the insults and outrages under which his people suffered, and he had devoted his life to the task of exterminating the savages.
He had collected a small but warlike band, very few of whom were of Mexican nationality, and had caused his name to be dreaded by the Apaches, as much as it was beloved by the Mexicans of the border.
It was true that the Mexican vallentes, who occasionally marched northward to repel the Indian invaders, and usually marched back without meeting them, were accustomed to take to themselves the credit of the blows that were struck by Castarra and his free lances; but he cared nothing for that, as he was not fighting for fame, and was sure that his brave deeds were known where he wished them to be remembered.
He had made his reputation in a few years, as he was not yet thirty.
On all sides he was admitted to be one of the handsomest fellows the sun shone on, with hair and eyes of the deepest black, complexion dark but rich, and the dress and manners of a Mexican caballero.
From Durango to Santa Fe he was famed for valor and gallantry, prominent at all fandangos and fiestas, the envy of the young men and the admiration of the ladies.
Great was the wonder among the Mexican population of El Paso when Cortez Castarra turned his steps northward, accompanied only by his faithful henchman, Pedrillo Mocco.
Secret as he was concerning the object of his journey, it was not concealed from his companion, who had proved his faithfulness and devotion on many occasions, and in whom Castarra placed the most implicit confidence.
Pedrillo Mocco was a Mexican of middle age, short, broad and squat, with low forehead, square face, and an immense breadth of chest.
. . . .
His most salient trait of character was his attachment to his master, as he called Castarra, and his readiness to follow him into any danger and obey instantly his slightest command.
On this occasion, however, Pedrillo felt it to be his duty to dissuade his leader from the enterprise he had undertaken, and he renewed his entreaties when they were crossing the valley of the Rio Grande.
"There is yet time to turn back, master," he said. "Why should we waste our time and risk our lives in such a wild-goose chase as this?"
"What!" exclaimed Cortez. "Do you dare to compare the peerless Clara to a wild goose? Perish the word!"
"It is dead, excellema, and I would never have thought of applying it to the peerless Clara or any other lady. Let her be a swan, or a nightingale, or any bird you please. It is just as hard to find her."
"But when we find her, Pedrillo; that will be worth all the time and trouble and labor?"
"And what then? Perhaps she is married, or she may not be willing to listen to your love."
"Can I doubt it? Is there a maiden, from Durango to Santa Fe, from the Rio Bravo to the California Gulf, who would not be proudly pleased if Cortez Castarra should whisper words of love in her ear? Is it possible that this northern beauty is so much colder than our Mexican maids?"
"They are different," insisted Pedrillo.
"Women are women, all the world over. Besides, Pedrillo, I have good reason to hope. When her father came to Santa Fe, with herself and her mother—ah! there was a woman! I never saw such a beautiful matron. Such eyes of heavenly blue! Such soft, brown hair, with gold dust sifted through it! Such an expression of the most exalted amiability! It was no wonder that the angels called her home."
"You are poetical, senor. Was it the mother with whom you were in love, or the daughter?"
"The daughter, my friend, is an exact counterpart of the mother. I was about to say that when the mother had sickened and died, and was still so beautiful in death, the fair Clara smiled upon me again and again."
"It is no wonder, senor, as you were so kind to her."
"Who could help being kind to such an angelic creature? I did not tell her of my love—it was too sacred a thing for that; but my eyes at least showed the sympathy I felt for her. If I can read a woman's face, and I think I can, she repaid my sympathy with more than gratitude."
"Let us take it for granted, senor, that she loves you, or will accept your love when you offer it to her. What reason have you to hope that you will find her?"
"I have told you that her father took her to Salt Lake, and that I had intended to go there to seek her; but the Indian troubles prevented me."
"That is a long way," observed Pedro.
"Not so very long for us. I have since learned that she has fled from Salt Lake, and has gone southward."
"How news does travel, to be sure!"
"The birds of the air bring news to me, as you well know, and they were bound to tell me of Clara. I can imagine why she left the Mormon city, and I am sure that she is in trouble, that she needs help and protection. I may save her life, or may rescue her from some great calamity, and then, Pedrillo, do you think she can refuse my love?"
"I should hope not. But it seems to me that you ought to have taken a larger escort. As you set forth with only poor Pedrillo to accompany you, I am reminded of a knight of whom I have read in a Spanish romance, who went in quest of adventures with only one squire to attend him. I suppose the story has been brought to my mind because the description of the squire fits me so exactly."
"You are speaking of the Knight of La Mancha, Pedrillo. You may liken yourself to Sancho Panza if you choose; but I am not Don Quixote. My enemies always are always flesh and blood, and I shall never fight windmills."
"Nevertheless, senor," persisted Pedrillo, "it seems to me that we are in pursuit of a cloud, a vapor, a will-o'-wisp, a phantom, and that we will be soon treading on dangerous ground."
"Vaya! where is the danger? There are no enemies on the route—nothing but peaceful Moquis and friendly Navajoes. Besides, have we not met danger together before now? If you make any more objections, my friend, I shall believe that you are getting old and silly."
"I will say nothing more about the matter, senor, but will leave everything to your skill and discretion."
Pedrillo kept his word, and was silent thereafter concerning his leader's object.
|1||This date is from the records of the Marble Cemetery, East Second Street, New York City, where all the Willetts are buried in an underground vault. The covering marble slab is marked simply with the name of Edward's grandfather, Marinus Willett, but there are no dates. In newspaper obituary notices his birth year is given as 1838.|
|2||Data from an obituary notice of Edward Willett's daughter "Mittens," in the New York Clipper, February 18, 1893, 802. Sec also Appleton's Cyc. Amer. Biog., VI, 517—18, and Drake's Magazine, VII, March, 1889, 230.|
|3||This seems to confirm his birth year as given in the cemetery records, for if the obituary notices are correct, he became a lawyer at sixteen. While many of the dime-novelists were precocious, this seems too young.|
|4||In a blurb about his "Life of General Grant," No. 13, Lives of Great Americans.|
|5||St. Louis City Directory, 1875.|
|7||He is listed as "Editor" in the New York City Directory for 1883-89, with his residence in Harlem.|
|8||A portrait of her is in the New York Clipper, February 18, 1893, 802. She was born in Columbus, Kentucky, July 27, 1864, and died in New York, February 8, 1893.|