NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

January 23, 2013

A downright entertaining eccentric -- with heart

(Continued)

Dexter, now the nouveau riche, purchased his palace on High Street in Newburyport and opened it to the public. His new digs were lined with statues from George Washington to King George, and one of himself titled: “I am the first in the East, the first in the West, and the greatest philosopher in the Western world.” The interior was lavish, well stocked in spirits and verse. A menagerie, a paradise of sorts, emerged and he boasted to his carpenter, “My house and gardens will make my stuck-up neighbors burst with envy!” With the townies whispering, “Lord Dexter,” he dubbed himself such, declaring his ennoblement as the first American “lord” according to “the will of the people.”

Being a lord, it made sense to Dexter that he travel like one. His carriage was decorated with his artifacts of clothing and gaudy property. His royal crest — a warming pan — boasted his credo, “By this I Got Ye!” His eccentric presence made “enemies grin like a cat over a hot pudding.” He hired a poet laureate, Jonathan Plummer, to sing his praises. He roamed the streets in crazy garb with his adored four-legged companion Pepper, a Mexican hairless, black dog. As socialites snubbed him, he became an imperial hit on the Hampton Beach scene, his favorite hot spot to frolic and chase local nymphs.

He hosted soirées with all the ne’er-do-wells grasping a piece of the pan fortune and a royal residence to lay their hat. His entourage included Madame Hooper, famous clairvoyant, and Lucy Lancaster, the notorious seer. His wife became increasingly suspicious and green-eyed over his sudden influx of fame and cast of characters intruding her home. Even the statues became a threat. To prove to his wife he was worthy, he faked a mock funeral. More than 3,000 showed and when his wife did not shed a tear, he set her out to pasture. He placed an ad for a new wife, but no bites, so he invited her back via a tidy sum. However, when she returned, he told visitors she had died and “the drunken nag that inhabited the house was her ghost.”

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