Books: Eccentrics

Nowadays Biographers Have Fun

Lord Timothy Dexter,* like Cleon of Athens, was a humble tanner. He bought Continentals when they were becoming a curse. Alexander Hamilton funded the nation and Tanner Dexter moved into the show house of Newburyport, Mass., the Hub of that day. There was madness in the fellow, and method. Jibes and second sight pricked him to ship warming-pans and mittens to the Indies, coal cargoes to Newcastle. His profits startled. When he feigned dunce and cornered whalebone, the corset-makers "swarmed like hell-houns." He spelled worse than Chaucer, published...

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