Thursday, February 21, 2013

Nephi Anderson's "Duplicity"

I don't think Nephi Anderson was a bad writer, but he was--like most writers--guilty of producing some less than impressive works. Take "Duplicity," for instance. I discovered it during my research trip last year in the Church History Library. It was written in 1890, when Anderson was twenty-five years old. It's the earliest thing I've discovered by Anderson, although I'm sure there is earlier stuff out there. It was read during a teacher's conference in Ogden, but I don't know if it was ever published.  

As indicated in the title, the poem is a fairly standard treatment on the theme of duplicity. I find the first four lines particularly amusing, with predictable rhymes and the clumsy line "Thou art a monster grim." As it progresses, though, I think the poem improves, yet I wouldn't call it Anderson's best work. Of course, I haven't made a study of his poetry, but what I have read of it hasn't impressed me as much as his long fiction. 

What I do find interesting about the poem is its context. The poem was written to be read and performed before an audience. I've come across accounts of Anderson reading his work to an audience before--with a less than stellar reception*--so I wonder how "Duplicity" played out with its audience. In 1890, Anderson would have been a new teacher with his success as a popular Mormon writer still in the future. Moreover, he was still a year away from his first mission to Norway, which may suggest that his public speaking skills were still rough and largely untried before anyone but a classroom full of young students.  I wonder how and how well Anderson carried out the reading.

Anyway, here's the poem:


Duplicity, what evil lies
Within thy double-dealing eyes!
Thou art a monster grim. Within
Thy heart is hid a grievous sin.
First from thy meek, smoothe lips are sent
Soft honeyed words to represent
Kind feeling; and when simple hearts,
Not skilled in all thy wily arts,
Extend the tender flower of trust,
Thou scorn it, tread it in the dust.

Duplicity, in Godlike guise
Thou drovest Eve from Paradise.
And ever since the world began
Has stirr’d up strife in man ‘gainst man.
Oft hidden in the church, the state;
Found dwelling in the low, the great;
Existed in the rich, the poor,
The meek, the proud, the evil doer;
In lowest depths, on top most heights,
Where e’er man’s pinions take their flights.

Duplicity, what loving bands
Are burst asunder by thy hands!
Fair maiden, wife, or motherhood
Escape not they capricious mood.
In cooing lovers’ calm retreat,
Thou comest with thy dark deceit.
E’en round the sacred hearth of home
Thou’rt not afraid, bold one, to come.
Where peace should reign, where love should bless,
Thou’rt seen in all thy hideousness.

Duplicity, in armour bright,
The cause of freedom feigns to fight.
Yet, but within that glit’ring mail
Cowers a fearful, craven snail.
Sitting on heights, beneath thine eye
Earth’s hoards of toiling creatures lie,
Looking to thee for help, for light
Protection in each vested right
With the right hand stretched out to bless
Thy left pours forth destructiveness.

Duplicity, what meaning lies
Within thy double-dealing eyes?
Who, laughing maid, from wanton glances
Can judge aright fond lovers’ chances?
From eye, or hand or lips can guess?
For oft thy “no” means naught but “yes.”
Who can discern thee in thy guises?
Who are prepared for thy surprises?
Thou art too wise, too deep for me,
Duplicity, Duplicity.

                                                Nephi Anderson

Read before the Ogden City Teachers’ Association. May 6, 1890.

* In the 1 July 1894 issue of the Woman's Exponent, this mixed review was given of Anderson's reading at a Brigham City event: 

"Changing the character of the entertainment was an original true story composed and read by Nephi Anderson. The reading and the scenes were restful and true to life and portrayed the talent of the young man in story telling, though the pictures were not so powerfully drawn as to be at all exciting" (157).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New Tumblr Page

I've set up a new Low-Tech World Tumblr page. I hope to use it to share pictures, memes, quotes, and links about Mormon literature.

Things are getting busy, so this is one way for me to contribute without investing a lot of time.

I also plan to keep things pretty light on Tumblr. Hence the tagline: A Mormon Literary Funhouse.

The house is metaphorical. The fun is least not to me.

If you are on Tumblr, I implore you to follow me...

If you are not, I implore you stop by once and a while...

Here's the link:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Help Fund Mormon Punk: From LSD to LDS

Do you have $15 to $1000 to spend in support of Mormon literature? Why not spend it on Christopher K. Bigelow's latest project, a crowd-funded memoir called Mormon Punk: From LSD to LDS. As the publisher of Zarahemla Books, Bigelow has record for producing quality, award-winning books. Why not throw some money his way?

Interested people can learn more about the project, read a chapter from the memoir, and find out how to contribute here. Also, here is a synopsis of the book: 


As a sixth-generation Mormon and the oldest of ten siblings, I was ordained to the priesthood at age twelve. By then, however, I was utterly bored with the LDS religion—my true inner religion had become Dungeons & Dragons and the rock group Rush. As soon as I left home at age seventeen, I escaped into Salt Lake City’s mid-1980s underground punk and New Wave scene, my generation's version of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
Rather than finding a workable new life, however, I ended up—possibly as a result of taking hallucinogenic drugs—encountering the devil in a harrowing midnight ordeal. My encounter was not unlike the demonic experiences of some early Mormons, including Joseph Smith and my own ancestor, the polygamous apostle Heber C. Kimball. Wanting to protect myself against such malevolent forces, I did a 180 and dove back into the religion of my youth.
As I started seeking my spiritual fortune in Mormonism, I confronted an epic decision: Should I go through the mysterious Mormon temple and embark on the faith's rite of passage, a two-year proselytizing mission? And if I made it through that test, how would I then fashion an endurable lifelong Mormon reality for myself?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

From the Vaults: Josephine Spencer's "The House-Warming at Eardley's"

Here's some Mormon local color fiction for you...

“The House-Warming At Eardley’s”
By Josephine Spencer
Improvement Era
October 1907

Martha Stone looked after Letitia’s lithe, young figure with sudden inspiration.

“Dan’l, I wouldn’t wonder if she could ketch Purdy!”

“Who, Letty? I hope she’s got better sense’n to take up with that hulk!”

“His hulk o’ money’d come handy clearin’ up her family’s finances.”

“Martha !” Daniel rose and shook a warning finger at his wife.

“Don’t you go workin’ any sense of a duty like that into your match-makin’ for that child. She’s got a right to her own happiness and-”

“And that’s why she ought to know Sam Purdy’s got money enough to lift all her own and her family’s burdens. If that ain’t happiness enough she can go on school-teachin’ for life; or marry Marvin Pond and help keep the town store.”

“Either of them’s a heap better than helpin’ Purdy raise punkins. That’s what his wife ‘ll do in the end; and it ‘ll be Ellen Eardley that ‘ll do it. I’ll guarantee her punkin-fields against Letty’s pink cheeks and star-eyes any time.”

“You better not!” quoth Martha; “Sam’s had ten years chance at Ellen, and ain’t snapped her up yet.”

“It’s because of the sport you match-makin’, meddlin’ friends and mothers and daughters have made him, anglin’!” snapped Daniel; and for once his word was the last.

Letitia could not but feel resentful against the family financial crash which had nipped short her budding college career, and made her a pedagogic exile in Mayville; but nineteen is an effervescent age; and there were things that atoned.

Marvin Pond, for instance, she considered a dispensation. Could anything else have cut short his college career to bring him-keen-witted, stalwart-limbed, Roman-featured, brown-eyed-to sojourn here during her own exile? Of course, Dad Pond had ailed for years; but strange that the stroke that laid him at last temporarily helpless, and his beloved store at the mercy of strangers, should have happened to bring Marvin home this autumn, instead of some other! Both of them stranded, as it were, on ash-heaps of affinitive ambition-what wonder that the secret, though silent, sense of such a tie should electrically thrill their hearts.