“Day After Thanksgiving”: An Early Article by Mrs. Eddy

By
  • Dillon Siewert
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The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday provides a timely opportunity to revisit one of Mary Baker Eddy’s early published writings, which provides a generous helping of food for thought regarding this day of gratitude. On December 1, 1864, her article “Day After Thanksgiving” appeared in the Lynn Bay State, a local weekly publication in the area of Lynn, Massachusetts.1

The article describes a family Thanksgiving celebration that Mrs. Eddy had recently attended. The experience must have resonated enough with her to move her to write the short reflective piece and submit it for publication in the local paper. She published it under her initials “M. M. P.,” or Mary Morse Patterson. At the time, she was living in Lynn with her second husband, Daniel Patterson. Their marriage was strained and her health still fluctuating — undoubtedly a tenuous time for her, although not without its bright moments.

During her lifetime, she would revise and republish this article two more times under the new title “Thanksgiving Dinner.” The first was nearly two decades later in the December 1883 issue of The Christian Science Journal, and the final version was published in 1897 in Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896.2 While these two later versions introduced important changes, they still preserved much of the original 1864 version. Significantly, this makes “Thanksgiving Dinner” the only article in Miscellaneous Writings first published before Mrs. Eddy’s 1866 discovery of Christian Science.3 Its content, therefore, provides a unique glimpse into Mrs. Eddy’s experience just two years prior to her significant healing in 1866.

Daniel Patterson, circa 1845. Longyear Museum collection.

In all three versions, the article largely focuses on the joyous experience she shared with a family that Thanksgiving, but importantly has a concluding lament for the fact that many people are missing loved ones on this holiday. The 1864 version makes it clear that Mrs. Eddy was a dinner guest of a family this particular year, which seems to indicate that if not for the welcomed invitation, she very likely may have been alone on that holiday.

It was written in the latter part of the Civil War when families all across the United States were grieving after losing loved ones or praying for the safe return home of their husbands, fathers, and brothers serving in the Confederate or Union armies. Mrs. Eddy herself was affected by the war through the involvement of both her husband Daniel, and her son, George Glover II. George, who was taken away from her in 1856 but had reconnected with her in 1861, joined the Union Army when just a youth of seventeen. He was injured in Mississippi at the Second Battle of Corinth in October 1862, but continued to serve through the end of the war.4 Daniel was captured and imprisoned by the Confederacy for several months before he escaped in September 1862.5 After his return home (a journey of some 400 miles),6 their marriage began to deteriorate. Patterson failed to adequately provide for his wife’s welfare, and was often away from her for long periods of time.7 In fact, in a letter she wrote to a friend on April 24, 1864, Mrs. Eddy stated, “I am a little bit lonesome, doing, and suffering! Am wishing I was round the home-hearth with child and husband amid the joys of liberty.”8

George Jr., circa 1861. Longyear Museum collection.

What is perhaps most central to this article is that it portrays Mary Baker Eddy’s love of home. This can be seen in her descriptions of the joyous festivities of celebrating this holiday with a family of many generations, from the baby to the grandmother. Some years later she made the comment to members of her household, “The strongest tie I’ve ever had, apart from love of God, has been my love of home.”9 Although her own home life in 1864 was far from ideal, her heartfelt appreciation for such is evident in “Day After Thanksgiving.” The article, therefore, is really a timeless exultation of love, which is found in the simplest of expressions. Fittingly, the last version closes with the added reminder to recognize those in need of such love, then look forward to “peace, and plenty, and happy households.”10

Below, please enjoy a transcription of “Day After Thanksgiving”.

A copy of Mrs. Eddy’s article. Longyear Museum collection.

DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING

Mr. Editor: — Yes, this festive holiday, the presidential election, and any other sign but boots and shoes in Lynn — are among the things that were.

But to indulge in audible grumbling over this, and at this time, were ungrateful, even for a dyspeptic; and to-day, to still the regrets for yesterday, we have only, like a veteran soldier, to “fight over our old battles,” —to “tell the tale that to us was so dear not long ago” — Thanks to the hospitality and the Thanksgiving “necessity,” which made us a guest at a family gathering in Lynn on this anniversary.

‘Twas a beautiful group, and needed but the pencil of the artist to have rendered it on canvas touching, tender, and glorious. Age, on whose hoary head the almond-blossom was a crown of glory, middle age, in smiles and the full fruition of happiness, infancy, exuberant with joy, — ranged side by side. The sober-suited grandmother, rich in experience, had seen the sunshine and shadow fall upon ninety-six years. Four generations sat at that dinner-table, and the rich viands that had passed through the hands of a skillful cook might in reason have made it groan spiritually with more than the Rochester-rapping11 intelligence.

But the mammoth turkey, under the skilful carving of the generous host, was fast growing beautifully less. And when the fair hostess served the plum-pudding, she seemed to be engaged in a hand-to-hand contest with one of her guests, and in the dexterous use of knife and fork Greet [sic] met Greek.12 We hope here ‘tis sufficient to acknowledge that we all kept up the affray after the same fashion. And the baby! Oh! he made a big hole with two incisors into a big pippin, and bit the finger that was presumptuously stuck into that rose-bud mouth to arrest the apple peel. Then he was caught walking! one, two, three steps! And papa knew that it could walk, but grandpa was taken napping. What! and hasn’t it just tumbled like thistle-down on to the carpet; but instead of a real set-to at crying, with only a look of encouragement or a toy, he brought the soft little palms patting together, and puckered the little mouth up in the middle into saying, “Oh! pretty!” This was Baby’s first sitting-at-the-table Thanksgiving, and that little rainbowy existence was the sunshine of every heart.

How many homes have echoed the every tone of joy on that day! and, alas! how many hearts in which the chords of feeling once vibrated to the sweetest, finest tones of friends and home, have been harshly chilled, and are silent, to waken not again, never more to believe in the false motive or falser claim to love. How many too, who mourned at the threshold of a desolate door through which the loved one comes not; and within must gaze at that vacant seat at fireside and board; and who that has not thought, ay, and tenderly too, of our brave soldiers accepting toil, danger, and death for our prosperity as a people and country. God bless them ever, pray I. Peace, plenty, and the Union forever, we pledged in a bumper of pudding sauce to all.

But give us the bower where loving hearts dwell

In holy communion with home’s magic spell;

Rose-bud of a baby enchantingly fair,

Add those we love best ever happiest there.

Dear reader, have we wearied your fancy with too long a yarn? Then own up, and we leave you, that your taste could not have tired (till your jaws had), and your shadow never grown less beside this Thanksgiving Dinner.

M. M. P********
Nov. 25th

Notes


  1. M.M.P. [Mary Baker Eddy], “Day After Thanksgiving,” Lynn Bay State, December 1, 1864, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.
  2. Mary Baker Eddy, “Thanksgiving Dinner,” The Christian Science Journal 1 (Dec 1883): 4, which is only the fifth issue of the Journal; Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings, 230-32.
  3. “Miscellaneous Writings: A Finding Aid,” The Mary Baker Eddy Library, Boston, Massachusetts. The next oldest publication in Miscellaneous Writings is her poem “Christ My Refuge,” first published in 1868. This is not to say there aren’t possibly fragments of her earlier writing elsewhere in Miscellaneous Writings. Interestingly, in the original 1864 version of “Day After Thanksgiving,” the stanza she includes near the end is adapted from a poem written in her youth, which is later published in full as “The Country Seat” in Retrospection and Introspection, 17.
  4. Isabel Ferguson and Heather Vogel Frederick, A World More Bright: The Life of Mary Baker Eddy (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 2013), 50-51, 56.
  5. Ferguson and Frederick, A World More Bright, 52-56; Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966), 174.
  6. Peel, Discovery, 174.
  7. Ferguson and Frederick, A World More Bright, 56.
  8. Quoted in Gillian Gill, Mary Baker Eddy (Reading, MA: Perseus Books, 1998), 149.
  9. We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition, Vol. 2 (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 2013), 547.
  10. Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings, 232.
  11. The term “Rochester-rapping” refers to the supposed noises made by otherworldly spirits, a belief publicized by the Fox sisters from Rochester, New York, in 1848. The Spiritualist movement enjoyed some popularity during the 1860s, but in context Mrs. Eddy’s reference clearly shows she was not an adherent. She would later argue more directly against it in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, in the chapter “Christian Science versus Spiritualism.”
  12. The Lynn Bay State made a typographical error when they originally ran the article on December 1, 1864. The phrase should have read “Greek met Greek.”  Mrs. Eddy was either simply using a common proverbial phrase of her day [Bartlett Jere Whiting, Early American Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1978), 187], or perhaps referencing its origin, a line from “The Rival Queens, or The Death of Alexander the Great” by 17th century British dramatist Nathaniel Lee. The line is from Act IV, Scene 2, and reads: “When Greeks joyn’d Greeks, then was the tug of war.” Over the centuries since the play was first performed in 1677, the line evolved into the proverb “When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war,” meaning “a contest or struggle between equally matched opponents in a long and fierce battle” [Martin H. Manser, The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs (New York: Facts on File, 2007), 296]. In other words, this was a colorful way of describing a Thanksgiving Day tussle over dessert!

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