It is circa 1788. An American lawyer, Archippus Seele (1765–1789) of Easton, Massachusetts, is apparently in a grumpy mood.

The reasons could be many. Some in the community accused Archie’s father, a sawyer, of employing the imps of Satan to keep things running. That could make you unhappy.

If Archippus had been a precog perhaps he had a freak when he intuited his mother would become a distant ancestor to the creator of Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Basically, and to the point, Archippus doesn’t like women. We know this because he left behind a strange manuscript we’ve given a caption title of The Discription {sic} of the Female Sect. – A Woman Is As Full Of Failings As A Spider’s Nest of Eggs.

Massachusetts Man of Mystery

Why Did Esquire Seele write this manuscript and for whom? We may not ever know, but we surmise it was written in jest and we speculate his “essay” was shared in an exclusively male social sphere.

Archippus thinks women are “deceitful crickets.” And he’s not shy to elaborate:

When a man is married, he had better be in a small cottage or cave in peace than in the statelyest palace in the world with one of these spendthrifts & diabolical conceited deceitful crickets which are much more destructive than the devouringst beast upon Earth {etc.}.

Of course, this 18th Century-Man-About-Massachusetts wouldn’t be a true misogynist unless being the son of the sawyer he pulled out this old saw against women:

Among all the observation concerning women I have considered and observed that a women that that {sic} is limber tongued in my opinion is as bad a piece of houseing {sic} stuff as a man can be troubled with. For when he has done his labour & comes home his wife begins with him which, if he minds or cares for, is harder than his labour in the day…

The lawyer starts to get warmed up....

Archippus gets exercised. In part: “…he was flounder’d by his wife & for my part I am for no such Trafick for I can scarce mention anything about them [women] without their mentioning their failings and for to Constrain from it, I can no longer…”

Did I tell you one about the husband who lays an egg and then asks his wife to keep it a secret? (She doesn’t keep the secret; it’s the other old saw about women as “gossips.”) I didn’t tell you this story, but Archippus did. To someone.

Archie’s handwritten manuscript is not a diary. It’s not an essay. It’s small. Something you would put in your pocket and pull out like a speech. Something to be read from aloud. It’s not a funny or a creative thought you write down like in Sherwood Anderson’s story “Paper Pills” then crumpled up and stuffed into a pocket.

Remember, it’s 1788 in Easton, Massachusetts. This might have been 18th century humor epitomized, Toastmasters-style. Seele is a lawyer. Perhaps he’s in a small tavern with his fellow leagle beagles, having a drink, a social, reading this off to a small male gathering.

The men laugh and applause. Perhaps from behind the closed doors the tavern keeper’s wife catches a few words from Seele’s lips. As Seele reads from his manuscript, she may hear the drift of laughter in the room, from the small audience. She thinks about what she has heard.

_______________________________

"What’s Eating Archippus Seele? A 1788 Lawyer" first appeared in the blog Collecting Rare Americana August 10, 2014. It has been slightly edited in its present form.

Comments