Autograph note in ink, boldly signed by Tilton, to a Mr. De Selding concerning Tilton’s passage to Europe on the S. S. Sardinian. Scandal, Theodore Tilton.

Autograph note in ink, boldly signed by Tilton, to a Mr. De Selding concerning Tilton’s passage to Europe on the S. S. Sardinian.

New York, [May], 1883. 2 pages on 2 leaves, scant 8 x 5 inches, 230 words. Splitting along old folds; a little browned along the edges; some loss in spots to the second leaf near the upper edge, as though it had been mounted in a scrapbook (holes touching a few letters but with no loss of sense); in good condition, quite clear and legible. Item #19700

“I send you herewith a draft for the amount of my passage money by the Sardinian May 12th, and if you will keep the room for myself alone, as you suggested, you will have the additional payment which consists in the thanks of a grateful fellow-citizen.” The culmination of the Beecher-Tilton Scandal, Theodore Tilton here purchasing the ticket that finally shipped him into exile in Europe to shake off the American dust from his feet after a tumultuous decade that saw his career as a reforming editor and lecturer (and his personal reputation) more or less destroyed by the influence of Henry Ward Beecher, with whom Tilton had worked closely in abolition and women’s rights while editor of the Congregationalist newspaper, the Independent. After Victoria Woodhull exposed in 1872 the affair between Beecher and Theodore Tilton’s wife Elizabeth, the ensuing scandal and trials (and the 1873 dismissal of Tilton from membership in the Plymouth Church) were front-page news in New York for a number of years; per the ANB, “In 1878 Elizabeth Tilton made a public confession of her adultery, and although she was then excommunicated from the church, Beecher’s reputation generally did not suffer. Beecher’s influence prevented Tilton from earning a living as a journalist after this scandal. In 1883 he fled abroad, where he lived in poverty. Elizabeth Tilton died in Brooklyn in 1897, the same year Tilton published his Complete Poetical Works. He died in Paris.” The Brooklyn Eagle of 13 May 1883 notes Tilton’s departure on the Sardinian the previous day; the Eagle of 19 August 1883 notes in a squib, “Mr. Theodore Tilton is at present in London. He will not lecture the coming season, but will spend the Winter traveling in Europe,” and the Buffalo Evening Telegraph of 17 December 1883 puts Tilton in his final destination, “Theodore Tilton is living in Paris with a piece of literary work on hand.” A few contemporary newspapers had also commented with some degree of asperity that while the Tiltons had long suffered in the wake of the scandal, with their household broken apart and Mrs. Tilton remaining in America in straitened circumstances to teach music to private pupils and Mr. Tilton at last driven abroad, the Rev. Beecher seemed to have prospered. The De Selding here is almost certainly the eventual real estate developer Hermann De Selding (1856-1935), who is listed in the 1880 census as a New York resident then “Clerk to Inman S. S. Line.” With a preliminary transcript.

Price: $600.00

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