Here We Go Again
The commonest objection to this writer's mystery thriller, The Myth Makers, is that the book is a waste of paper—less in a literary sense than as a laboring of the over-obvious, the beating of a dead horse. Would that were so! When friends and enemies protest that the charges against Joseph Smith are brought by witnesses so obviously prejudiced and unprincipled that only an idiot would make an issue of their accusations, it is the writer's painful duty to point out that those accusations are to this day the soul and substance of a large and flourishing school of anti-Mormon literature, most of it going under the banner of serious scholarship. If the investigator really wants to know how far supposedly intelligent and serious-minded people can go in their myth making, we would recommend a calm appraisal of Mr. Wallace's story of Ann Eliza's wondrous romance with Brigham Young. As a piece of sheer effrontery it is unsurpassed in the annals of literature, or at least in the literature that this writer has got through in forty years of grimly systematic reading.
Let it be clearly understood, then, that but for one peculiar circumstance, the discussion that follows is a total waste of time and paper. The peculiar circumstance is that the drivel we are to survey is taken seriously by large numbers of our fellow citizens and were it to go unchallenged would pass in time as a correct and accurate history, a true portrait of Brigham Young and a true measure of his religion. It already passes for that today with a large portion of the population, and Mr. Wallace is seeing to it that the numbers of such believers shall increase.
The Ann Eliza Version
There are, Mr. Wallace admits, two versions of the great romance of Ann Eliza and Brigham Young—hers and his ("the Mormon version"). According to the first, he chased her: "I did not seek the position of wife to him; it was forced upon me."1 "I never loved him and never said to him that I loved him. I looked upon him as a heartless despot."2 According to the second, she chased him.3 In most romances both parties do some of the chasing, but Ann Eliza's position is uncompromising. "Whose version can one believe?" asks the sapient Wallace, and after the inevitable pompous cliché—"Probably the truth lies somewhere in between"—he goes all out for his Ann Eliza: "There is no reason to doubt Ann Eliza's account of the Prophet's love and pursuit of her."4
The evidence for the Ann Eliza version rests on three stirring conversations—all fictitious. The first was between her and Brigham Young when she was seventeen, the second ditto when she was twenty-two, and the third was a brisk altercation with the Webb family just before the marriage.
The pursuit motif runs through Ann Eliza's story from beginning to end. It starts out with Brigham Young lusting after the three-year-old Annie—not in so many words but unmistakably: "I attracted a great deal of his attention," which was indeed significant, "since he is not noted for fondness for children, even his own."5 "He had watched me from my infancy," Brigham Young is supposed to have told Ann Eliza's father; he "had always loved me and intended to marry me."6 Then when she was sixteen "he seemed suddenly to realize that I had grown to be a young lady, and the first intimation he gave of it was by interfering with my beaux."7 This he did "out of some inexplicable impulse," according to Wallace, who proceeds to explain the inexplicable by reporting Ann Eliza's reaction: "The very thought was outrageous to Ann Eliza. . . . 'I wouldn't have him if he asked me a thousand times—hateful old thing.' "8 Do you still not know what this is all about? Well, "Inevitably," Mr. Wallace assures us in his best House-That-Jack-Built style, "a report of Ann Eliza's declaration got back to the Prophet. Perhaps he was annoyed."9 Ann Eliza herself is more emphatic: when her spirited speech was reported to Brigham, "his vanity was sorely hurt,"10 and the great duel was on between the empire builder and the sixteen-year-old Ann Eliza. He soon contrived to pick her up in "the presidential carriage" of which he was "the sole occupant" (for there is never a witness to any of Ann Eliza's crucial meetings with Brigham), and with infinite subtlety played his opening card: "I heard you said you wouldn't marry me if I wanted you to ever so much."11 But only a short while after, President Young presided at Ann Eliza's marriage to James Dee—with a breaking heart, to be sure, for he "always hoped that the time would come when he would have me."12
When she was again free, he accordingly laid Homeric siege to her heart. First "he tried in every way to win me, a willing bride,"13 but she shrank with aversion from "a man older than my father . . . the father of children older, by many years, than myself."14 She did more than shrink, however: "Thus began a year of anguish and torture. I fought against my fate in every possible way." With him trying "in every way" to catch her, and her trying "in every possible way" to escape, it was indeed a battle of the giants. "For almost two years," as Wallace puts it, "Brigham wooed Ann Eliza, and for two years she resisted him." Only after the great man's infinite resource and experience were exhausted in vain attempts "to win me, a willing bride," he "attempted to coerce me."15 His hot campaign of "ardent" wooing,16 based on intimidation, bribery, and trickery,17 culminated in a Machiavellian business maneuver of imperial proportions, designed to force the lady to yield in order to save her brother's position in the Church. Gilbert's embarrassment gave Young the whip-handle he needed—"with his departure the black threat hung over the household";18 and so they were married—"my doom was fixed. My religion, my parents—everything was urging me on to my unhappy fate."19 But lo, from the wedding day Young treated the apple of his eye with "studied contempt" and cruel neglect,20 while she on her part was always the model wife, by Brigham Young's own admission (according to her) "the least troublesome of any wife he had ever had,"21 until, alas, his selfishness and cruelty finally forced her to abandon him.22
Such briefly is the Ann Eliza-Wallace version of the great romance. What evidence is there to support it? We know that Ann Eliza married Brigham Young, but was that how it happened? Mr. Wallace says it was. The proof? That Ann Eliza actually married Brigham Young! For a generation and more, Ann Eliza herself held that lone fact up as full and sufficient evidence for whatever she chose to say about Brigham Young and the Mormons. The powerful clincher to this argument for Mr. Wallace is the undeniable fact that he was a man and she was a woman—need one look farther? "There is no reason to doubt Ann Eliza's account of the Prophet's love and pursuit of her" is his thesis, and the proof is that she was "young, pretty, and available,"23 while "neither his potency nor his fecundity was impaired by his great age."24
Brigham's lust for Eliza—that is Wallace's menin aeide Thea,25 the grandiose theme trumpeted forth on the very cover of his book. Yet he must establish his thesis by laborious indirection and devious sophistry, prodding the reader by degree along a path that never once offers him the firm foothold of solid evidence. He begins with a subtle innuendo: "Sometimes, it was said, Brigham's interest in young actresses—as in the case of Ann Eliza Webb—was less fatherly."26 Of course "it was said," but by whom? Wallace gives satisfaction by following up with a report of how Heber C. Kimball once remarked during family prayers, "The greater the strumpet, the more brother Brigham is after her." A more utterly impossible story could not be imagined, but Mr. Wallace assures us that it has the high authority of "Dr. Wilhelm Wyle, the German researcher." All the world possesses of this great scholar is a thin volume of unauthenticated and lurid stories published in Salt Lake in 1886 "by Dr. W. Wyl, A German Author." What he was a Doctor of, nobody knows, but by turning him into Dr. Wilhelm Wyle, the German researcher, Wallace calls the impressive credentials of nineteenth-century Teutonic Wissenschaft to his aid, and though conceding in the next sentence that "the story, from an anti-Mormon source, is likely apocryphal," he has left us properly impressed—for who has not heard of the famous Dr. Wyle?
Before we can pause to wonder about this, Mr. Wallace rushes us on with an admonition that the story may be true, since "as a matter of recorded fact, Brigham Young did have one protracted and public love affair with an actress."27 Who can challenge a recorded fact? And where is the record? Well, in 1905 an anti-Mormon by the name of John S. Lindsay recollected that back in those days, some half-century before, "speculation was rife, and much surprise and wonder was excited in certain quarters" about Young's interest in a certain actress visiting the city. Since there was never any shortage of speculation about Brigham Young in many quarters, we need something better than this, and so Wallace hurries us on: "There seems every evidence that Brigham, at sixty-four, had a deeply romantic involvement." Every evidence is pretty strong, and it is too bad to have to spoil it with that poor little "seems"; let us have the evidence. Well, Brigham Young gave two receptions for the actress and actually sent his own sleigh to bring the guest of honor to the party! Some unimaginative and uncooperative readers might think that this was simply the normal way an ardent patron of the theater would pay his respects to a great actress and ask impatiently for the proof of anything like a red-hot love affair. Here it is at last: "It is said that Brigham tried to convert the actress to the Mormon faith and even proposed marriage. But Julia Dean Hayne would have her patron neither as Prophet nor as polygamist."28 It would sort of spoil things to let the deliciously mystified reader know that the provocative "it is said" here refers to our good friend A.E.W.D.Y.D. and to Mrs. S., and that neither of them will vouch for the story. But it is a known fact that Julia Dean Hayne (always give the full name in case like this, to show you've got the goods) never did marry Brigham Young—which gives Mr. Wallace full authority for saying that she would have him neither as a Prophet nor as a polygamist.
So far where are we? We have learned that people gossiped about Brigham Young. But that is hardly news; it is time for Wallace's bombshell: Ann Eliza heard a rumor that President Young had Miss Hayne's "temple work" done for her after she was dead; Wallace followed up the lead and struck pay dirt—"long-forgotten Church records" show that the lady was "sealed" to Brigham Young.29 So were many, many others. It is as characteristic of any good Latter-day Saint to want temple work done for a dead Gentile friend as it is for him to try to convert a living one. Marrying here and sealing beyond are by no means the same thing—after all, the party concerned was dead, and the sealing, however sentimental may have been the motive behind it, was an extremely common, almost routine affair, albeit confidential. The point is that this is Mr. Wallace's prize evidence for a "protracted and public love affair with an actress." What was protracted and public was the speculation, and that is all our authority has to go on. We need something better than a leer and a snicker when so much is being claimed. One does not have to go to very private records to prove the reality of a protracted public event.
Wallace labors heroically on the youth-and-beauty angle—his Ann Eliza is, as she depicts herself, always very young and very beautiful. Only others did not see it that way: To the reporters who studied her, she was "no 'Spring chicken,' "30 and at the time she left Brigham Young they guessed her age at thirty-five rather than thirty;31 experienced newspaper reporters, willing enough to play up the lady's glamour, would go no further than to concede that "her face is attractive rather than handsome."32 Wallace and Ann Eliza, on the other hand, have given us an image of youth and beauty that Brigham Young "found . . . irresistible."33 Yet at the time of the marriage, Ann Eliza was by no means the prize package that she and Wallace present for our inspection; she was a twenty-four-year-old divorcee with two children, still unmarried after four years of living at home. On the face of it, her case was desperate—by the standards of her society she was far beyond the ideal age for marriage. To cover this up, she insists on describing herself as a veritable babe: "I was a child with my children, and it would be difficult to tell which of us got the most scoldings and pettings from the fond grandmamma."34 As to Mr. Young lurking and slavering in the wings, "What was that to me? How did it affect me when he came or went? . . . So I thought, as I lay cradled in my mother's arms that summer evening."35 But the very next day the man proposed—to Ann Eliza's parents: "Had I known it, I should by no means have . . . frolicked so gaily with my children."36 Brigham at the time "looked upon my assertions as girlish affectation that a good offer would speedily overcome."37 And so on and on—Ann Eliza is the perpetual ingenue, the frolicking girl-child, a contemporary not of Brigham Young's other wives (of whom she was not the youngest) but of his younger children. The wives "I had known from my childhood, and they were old and intimate friends of my mother's,"38 while "I . . . enjoyed myself very much with some of the younger members of the family."39
Flaws in the Diamond
Even if Ann Eliza's youth and beauty were not desperately exaggerated, they prove nothing. Actually her story collapses at a touch; a fabric of moonshine. The great proposal scene is a phony. It takes place on the way home from a meeting at which Brigham Young had never taken his eyes from her; "I am sure he saw my discomfort; but he was pitiless."40 Also he was apparently unaware that everybody's gaze was on him. Yet nobody—not even all-perceptive mama—suspected a thing. When Ann Eliza gave her a verbatim account of the President's clumsy proposal of marriage immediately after the meeting, the good woman "seemed amused by it, but did not give it any more serious thought . . . than I had done."41 And this was the woman who, according to Ann Eliza herself, desired nothing in the world so much as to see her daughter married to Brigham Young. Is any further evidence necessary to show that Eliza is making this all up? Here she tells mama that Brigham Young has within the hour told her that "now I was free, and he was at liberty to tell me, what he had wanted to tell me long before, that he loved me."42 Yet neither she nor her mother suspected for a moment what the man had in mind, so that when Young proposed to her, the girl was absolutely thunderstruck, stunned, incredulous—she thought it was a joke, she says, for during that long and amorous conversation, "I had no idea at all of Brigham's real object in thus sounding me, and drawing me out. It never occurred to me that he could want me for himself."43
There can be only one explanation for such obtuseness: the conversation never took place. Indeed it is a very different story she tells in the Stenhouse letter, as we shall see. The long, romantic conversation of the book is a free composition, a sumptuous afterthought. Go back to the meeting. All the time he was totally absorbed in staring tactlessly at Ann Eliza while everybody else stared at him, President Young was engaged in a lively exchange of vituperation with members of the congregation, who openly accused him of skulduggery. The key to the situation is one Van Etten, who, according to Ann Eliza, endeared himself to the Prophet on the occasion by tossing his tormentor, Howard, out of the meeting. After that, Brigham endorsed Van Etten so enthusiastically that the latter could take to a life of crime with complete immunity to prosecution. He began by stealing a hundred sheep from Ann Eliza's own brother Gilbert, and then disappeared with "several thousand" stolen beasties into parts unknown.44 Meanwhile Howard, the man who attacked the President, according to Ann Eliza, voluntarily went off on a mission for the Church to England.
Here we have rich scandal in the very bosom of Ann Eliza's family, with Brigham Young at the center of it. Why not a word of all this in Mr. Wallace's book? Why does he never mention Van Etten? Is it because Ann Eliza, nee Webb, is lying? But Van Etten is the key to her whole story of the meeting. To make up for the vivid and dramatic story he passes by in such peculiar silence, Mr. Wallace on his own authority reports how Young stares with tactless fascination at Ann Eliza from the stand, how he trembles with rage when a member of the congregation hurls charges against him, and how he takes off like an alley cat after the meeting in pursuit of our heroine, while the Church dignitaries stand about "casting knowing glances at one another."45 All this is pure invention, and what Wallace calls "their long walk and secret conversation" on the way home46 is no less so.
For it was a short walk and a very unsecret conversation. Ann Eliza reports the latter in half-a-dozen lines in her Stenhouse letter, where Brigham Young gives her exactly the same advice that he gave all young ladies. "I thanked him for his counsel," she concludes, "and as my home was so near to the place of meeting, the conversation abruptly terminated."47 So much for the long walk, and the conversation which in her later book is developed into a four-page melodrama. In the latter, the protagonists exchange in stilted and artificial language remarks that are both absurd and impossible. Brigham explains that it "was a great shock to him" when she married Dee, but "now I was free, and he was at liberty to tell me . . . that he loved me."48 Since Young himself had performed the ceremony, to which Ann Eliza's family (his close personal friends) strenuously objected "as a duty,"49 why hadn't Brigham protested too? The answer is a killer: "I knew you was doing the wrong thing when I saw the man. I could have told you so, but you didn't ask my advice."50 Both as the General Authority performing the ceremony and as a personal friend, Brigham Young would be obliged and expected to give counsel and advice in a routine interview. Brigham, like everybody else, says Ann Eliza, deplored the move she was taking; yet though his heart was breaking, and he saw his beloved Eliza going to ruin, he uttered not a word of protest—"you didn't ask my advice." Since when did Brigham Young, of all people, wait to be asked before giving advice to sixteen-year-olds? And then when she got her divorce, who granted it? Brigham Young did: so at last she was free. And so two years later he proposes.
In the four-page conversation which is the cornerstone of the great romance, Ann Eliza is as exquisitely noble and literate as Young is clumsy and boorish. To the Prophet's discourse on marriage and his "tenacious inquiries into her love life,"51 she replies that she is a mature woman of hard and bitter experience who had put all thought of marriage from her mind forever. If not marriage, what then? She tells us: "I pictured myself growing old in this quiet spot, with my strong, brave boys near me."52 She describes herself on the same page as a real beauty—healthy, vivacious, and "frolicsome"—yet her only thought is to look forward to a quiet old age in Cottonwood. Actually this is exactly what she did have to look forward to—but do you really believe she relished the prospect? She has Brigham protest: "Women of your age, and your looks, don't stay single all their lives; not a bit of it,"53 while she pointedly refers to the army of suitors that constantly besiege her.54
Again the buzzer and the red light: Who were these suitors? They are necessary to make it appear that Ann Eliza was eminently desirable, but why is none of them ever named? Why is no episode of her many Mormon wooings ever mentioned by a woman who gives us verbatim accounts of so many other women's wooings? For two years, she says, she employed every possible means of avoiding a mating with Young. Yet if she is telling the truth, the door of escape was wide and beckoning. For on the evening of the great walk, she instructed her father to convey to Brigham the answer she gave "to all my other suitors,"55 and reminded her mother of her "aversion to another union, above all, to him."56 Brigham Young, then, was but one suitor among many, and by far the least desirable. Among "every possible means" of avoiding him, the most obvious and convenient would certainly be that of marrying any of the other men "who with each other vie to do her menial duty." Her parents left the decision entirely up to her;57 why didn't she simply choose somebody else? Is it for the same reason that she never names anybody else? Because there was nobody else?
Ann Eliza says her parents, though they wished her to marry Mr. Young, would not force her to,58 yet in two years she cannot think of a single good reason for not marrying him except his age—which means that all the brutal mistreatment and cynical plundering of the Webb family are also Ann Eliza's invention. And what about that two-year "ardent wooing" that is the theme of Mr. Wallace's book?59 The woman who can recall every syllable of her long private conversation on the way home from meeting remembers nothing of the long and ardent wooing that followed. She recalls not a single episode, revealing or otherwise, of that hectic campaign by a master wooer—what a book she could have made of that, if it had only occurred! She trims and hedges, telling how after Brigham was unable to move her by kindness, he "tried another tack. He asked my father if a house and a thousand dollars a year would make me comfortable."60 But in her letter to Stenhouse, this proposal is made on the very day he walked her home from church; that is, there was no romantic preliminary whatever.61 Even the famous conversation is ruled out by the Stenhouse account.
And how did the master-wooer woo? By visiting the family from time to time, when "he manifested all the growling propensities of an old 'cur.' "62 When her father reported her reluctance to the great lover (who never bothered to propose to her), "he only laughed," and told the family that he expected them to get results. "The last remark was made with a peculiar emphasis and a sinister smile, which every Saint who had had dealings with him knew very well, and whose meaning they also knew."63 This too took place on the day of the walk from the church—Brigham starts out putting on the pressure in the nastiest way—which makes it perfectly clear that there was no romantic approach: it was business from the first. To get Ann Eliza into his power, Brigham threatens the family with ruin—why? The family was already enthusiastically on his side—why ruin them? "With his departure the black threat hung over the household," says Mr. Wallace, surpassing even the Police Gazette for sheer banality. But the household continued to love Brigham. What was the threat, incidentally? Not anything so trite as financial ruin—Ann Eliza insists that money plays no part in all this; no, the threat is "the Prophet's curse!"64
Then, when he finally won her consent, "he was triumphant, although he did not show it";65 while she "still fought against it, but the conflict now was all internal."66 The family of course was elated, "and everything 'went merry as a marriage-bell.' "67 At the moment of decision she was successful in concealing her sorrow from the world—"I did not dare admit anyone to my confidence, not even my mother"68—while he was just as successful in concealing his joy. This is a preposterous situation, but it is necessary to explain why there were never any witnesses to the Ann Eliza version.
But how about that passionate soul-baring on the way home from church? That is a fabrication: in the Stenhouse letter it is made not to Ann Eliza at all, but to her father, and when in the book it is shifted to her, it is freely adorned and expanded. It is quite inconceivable that she and her mother should have missed the point of such a speech, if it had been given. The lady herself insists that she never had the remotest suspicion that Young was being romantic, in any of those dramatic conversations before the marriage.
And after the marriage? From the hour the ceremony was performed, he overwhelmed her with abuse and treated her with studied contempt—that is her story. So where does that leave the great Romance? Can you blame those who accept the "Mormon version" in view of Ann Eliza's own admission that there was no overt evidence whatever either for Brigham Young's pursuit of her or of her avoidance of him? "He was triumphant although he did not show it," while no one—not even her mother—was aware of Ann Eliza's reluctance. The truth is not that "there is no reason for doubting Ann Eliza's version of Brigham's pursuit of her," but that by her own confession there is no reason for believing it beyond the ready rhetoric of her secret history.
The Real Ann Eliza?
If the Ann Eliza-Wallace version leaks like a sieve, what about "the Mormon version," i.e., that it was Mrs. Webb and her daughter who sought the marriage—while Brigham Young "protested that he was an old man" (which he was) "and wanted no more wives"? His First Counselor told how the ladies used to come to Brigham Young's office, where mama would plead, "Let her have the joy of being called by your name"—she will be satisfied with that—"while the daughter sat weeping into her carefully arranged pocket handkerchief."69 And indeed Ann Eliza herself tells how she studied before her marriage to move the great man with her tears and actually sat cooling her heels in the waiting room of his office only, as she puts it, she was intending to plead not for herself but for Gilbert.70 So, unwittingly, she supplies us with all the elements of the "Mormon version"; it is only the motives that need adjusting. If Brigham Young was chasing her, why did she have to wait—in vain—for an interview at the office? Again, that belongs to her secret history, never revealed even to her mother—the public history is that she sat in the waiting room. There was nothing highly irregular in being married in name only: Brigham Young, as we have seen, had already given his name and protection to many women; "very many more," says Ann Eliza, ". . . have been married to him 'for eternity.' I should be sorry even to guess their numbers."71 Sorriest of all is that she is among that number, for she insisted publicly and often that she had never had marital relations with Brigham Young.72 Mr. Wallace cannot accept that mortal blow to his whole thesis. Though Ann Eliza solemnly makes that claim in an official biographical register, he dismisses it out of hand: "Undoubtedly it was false."73 Having called his informant a liar in a crucial matter to which she is the only possible witness, our guide then gallantly explains that she is merely trying to "disassociate herself from Mormonism."74 Yet in the same lectures in which she confesses, "It was impossible for me to ever interest my husband,"75 she tells how very, very hard she tried to gain his attention and affection, making it only too clear that the disassociation was all on his side, not on hers.
Kimball Young says "the mother of Ann Eliza 'engineered the match with Brigham—for the sake of prestige and money' ";76 and according to Dee's descendants, Mrs. Webb "was aggressive and wanted her daughter in society."77 A wicked Mormon fiction? Then why does Mr. Wallace admit that "Ann Eliza's mother . . . desperately wanted the marriage for the standing it would give her daughter and the entire family"?78 And why does Ann Eliza herself report, "My mother and father both favored his suit, and labored with me . . . to view it in the same light"?79 Before we consider Brigham Young's deep-freeze treatment of Ann Eliza, there is one item that cannot be overlooked in evaluating her story, and that is her own character.
Even to the casual reader it is apparent that we have to do with a spoiled and pampered creature. "It is a wonder that I was not completely spoiled," she reports with evident pleasure. "I daresay I should have been, had it not been for my mother's sensible and judicious training. I was her idol, the one object for which she cared the most in the world."80 To idolize Ann Eliza is merely being sensible and judicious. "A spoiled child, eh?" says the Squire, "continu[ing] to stare" (the stare is Mr. Wallace's contribution to history), and the damsel replies, "My will seems to be everybody's way at home."81 Is it her fault if everyone is insanely jealous of her? In the spirit of "sweet humility," albeit against the advice of parents and friends, she stole Dee from all the other girls and immediately began to compete with him for the affections of a girl friend: "In order to win me from her," she says, and "to break up our friendship, he pretended very great interest in her."82 When she discovered that her friend was quite innocent of competing for her husband's attention, i.e., that the sordid triangle was of her own making, she still would never forgive her: "To this day I cannot see my old friend that a feeling of the most intense bitterness does not rise up in my heart against her."83 Ann Eliza never forgives anyone, and why should she, since they are to blame? "But some persons never forget, and my husband was one of those; . . . he was revenging himself for the opposition shown to him by my friends."84 Then when she has a child, Dee is insanely jealous of it: "He did not care for my baby, seeming to consider it a rival, and my love for it seemed to anger him."85 So she proceeded to rub it in: "All the tide of my affection, that had been so rudely repelled, turned towards it [the baby]. . . . I should live in and for my child."86 Then she has another child, and the two infants become rivals for her love: "I had been at first jealous of the little new-comer for the other baby's sake. . . . The measure of my love seemed to be the measure of their father's indifference, and even hate. He used to either take no notice of them at all, which I infinitely preferred, or he would handle them so roughly that the little things would shriek with pain and terror, and I would be almost frantic with fear lest he should kill them in his mad frolics."87
Can you imagine trying to live with that woman? The poor kids were in for it: "I can have no room for other love while I have them to care for," she told Brigham Young. "They fill my heart exclusively, and . . . I should be jealous if I saw the least hint of regard for anyone creeping in. I couldn't love anybody else; I wouldn't. . . . I am a woman . . . with hard, bitter experiences; . . . a mother, too, who will not give her children a rival."88 Is it too much to call such a woman possessive? When President Young suggested, she says, that she "might give them a protector," she answered (she says), "They don't need it; my love is sufficient protection. Besides, they . . . will be my protectors in a few years."89 "No one would dispute with me for their affection," she cries—as if anybody wanted to—"no one claim their love. I was supremely, selfishly happy. . . . I dreamed for them, I planned for them, lived in them."90 "My romance had died; my idol, with its feet of clay, was broken; . . . but the little souls . . . were more beautiful than any idol."91 "I dreaded the days . . . when my clinging arms could no longer infold them, when my love alone would cease to satisfy."92 And so forth. It is not surprising to learn that when Ann Eliza's sole surviving son's marriage with a Southern Socialite (non-Mormon) was broken up, he moved into a cottage with mama, only to have her "sell the house over his head" when she needed money.
Naturally one expects all of Young's wives to be insanely jealous of Ann Eliza, and Wallace tells us that her "youth and beauty" were actually a threat to "the economic comfort and security of the other wives."93 But it won't wash. Aside from the fact, noted even by Stenhouse, that she was his least loved and worst-treated wife, we have her own unguarded admission: "Others were cared for, and it was more than a woman's nature could stand, to see them thus petted."94 Where is our noble Ann Eliza, who thinks only of the happiness of other women? Where is the darling of the harem, the dread and envy of them all?
In Ann Eliza's code of chivalry there is no halfway: either a man makes stars in a woman's eyes or he is an utter cad. "I made an ideal; then I set myself to find some living person to invest with all the virtues and graces, mental, moral, and physical, of my imaginary hero. I found the person, and straightway set myself to worship. . . . There is such a sweet humility about a woman's love"!95 And she never forgave James Dee for falling short of her ideal—he "blighted her life" forever: within "a month . . . I learned that I had made a fatal mistake in my marriage,"96 as Dee's "desire to torment me made life almost unbearable."97 He wanted to hurt her. The same fatal flaw was discovered with the same promptness in her next two husbands, guilty, like Dee, of "treating me in the indifferent, matter-of-fact manner . . . which most Mormon men assume towards their helpless wives."98 Woe to the man who treats Ann Eliza in a matter-of-fact manner! All her husbands are cads. Brigham Young "refused to care for me when it was his duty to do so";99 and Denning sent her "messages . . . entirely unbecoming a man—such as, 'Now she can starve, and see how she likes that.' "100 Yet all three men were model husbands with their other wives.
The program she had planned for her sons, "to help my faltering footsteps over the stony places," precluded any happy married life for them.101 She repeatedly puts her male relatives on the spot—they must rescue her from Dee (who never got a word in edgewise).102 Poor little Edward Milo must interfere with the President's private affairs and get bounced from his office because Ann Eliza put him up to it with the news "that his sister was being ill-treated by the Prophet";103 her father, she told the reporters, would take care of the terrible Danites if they laid a hand on her—we wonder how father felt about that? When Brigham Young asked for her in marriage, she again put papa on the spot: "Why, I belong to you, father. Tell him so, and that you can't give me away to anybody."104 But father was on Brigham's side. Even Presidents of the United States are disowned and denounced by Mrs. Young for their lack of chivalry in failing to comply with all her instructions.105
Ann Eliza is always having to be rescued—beauty in distress is her specialty, frail loveliness brutally assaulted—the infant drenched with the frantic tears of a mother who prayed for merciful death—"every hour of her life her heart was torn by some new agony";106 the babe innocently unaware of the lurking Squire, the child shocked and brutalized simply by being baptized—a sacrificial lamb "consecrated . . . to . . . the Mormon faith";107 the sensitive innocent terrified by the image of J. D. Lee leaning over her bed; when she was twelve, had her father not prevented "making his little girl a victim," she would have been snapped up by one of the competing "church dignitaries";108 the girl all but swooning from the brutality of the endowment rites; the adolescent pursued by the panting Squire. At sixteen she paints a picture of herself as "quite a martyr to the Mormon priestly rule."109 Wallace is titillated by the idea of Mormon men discussing women "with reference to their 'points,' as jockeys would talk of horses, or importers of fine stock"110—it gives you an idea of how Dee treated Ann Eliza. Then the dazzling beauty, helpless beneath Brigham's basilisk stare: "I am sure he saw my discomfort; but was pitiless."111 And then the way her own family dragooned her into marrying Brigham Young—only Mr. Wallace can describe the scene with lovely Eliza at bay, tortured by her own parents. And then she enters Brigham Young's home and finds there one of the wives who "had been a servant [ugh!] in my mother's family. . . . She used to take care of me when I was a baby, and . . . wished with all her heart that she had choked me when she had a good chance."112 Not a very pretty picture—but that is how people treated our Eliza. Of course she must be rescued from "the contaminating clutches of Brigham Young" under the most harrowing and breathtaking circumstances—all of her own invention. But when she had made good her "escape," she turned to Mrs. Cooke, and when she spoke her voice was weak and helpless. " 'What shall I do?' she asked."113 She is always getting herself into these situations and then appealing to the chivalry of bystanders to rescue her. After her liberation from the Mormons, "her own bouts with nervous illness and fatigue were more frequent. . . . She feared the loneliness and obscurity of retirement."114 People just aren't nice enough to Ann Eliza.
Incidentally, part of Mr. Wallace's Ann Eliza image is the host of loyal friends she has, friends through whom Brigham Young is able to hurt her after she leaves him. Who were they? If Mr. Wallace in his vast researches ever ran across the trace of any real friend of Mrs. Young, he has failed to mention it. The gallant Major, the Judge, the Gentile Boarders who magnanimously paid their rent for three weeks, the Clergy, the people at the Hotel—all were kindness itself, as they carefully calculated just how much they were going to get out of Mrs. Young. Even the devoted Mrs. Cooke, who was paid to go with her, presently left her and returned to Salt Lake. Correction, "bravely returned," says Mr. Wallace,115 since just to go back there would obviously be suicide if Ann Eliza's story of the Danites is true.
Ann Eliza is not a little proud of her skill at weeping. Of her first husband she says, "I presume I annoyed him greatly by my tears and reproaches. A woman in Mormonism has need enough for tears, but it is little use for her to shed them."116 But she went on shedding them just the same and notes as a remarkable phenomenon that when she had her first baby, "I even forgot to cry under the sweet restful influence."117 But she didn't forget when Brigham proposed: "Oh! the horrible hours that I spent in crying and moaning, no tongue can picture."118 And as the gentlest and quietest of all Brigham Young's wives, she always got what she wanted by crying. At the farm, she says, she never ceased weeping. When Young wanted to relieve Mrs. Webb of the drudgery of the farm which, according to Ann Eliza, was ruining her health, her daughter's reaction was prompt and effective: "I cried bitterly. . . . I could not live without her. I leaned on her in piteous dependence, . . . the child from whom she had never been separated."119 And this in her thirtieth year: still the weeping, piteous child.
Of Ann Eliza as the "gimme girl," little needs to be said—she has told that story herself. One passage will suffice: "I could not get anything else out of him, except by the hardest labor [Now we know what she means by the "hard, unceasing labor" to which she was forced], and the little that I got was given so grudgingly that I hated myself for accepting it; and many a time I would have thrown the pitiful amount back in his face, but stern necessity would compel me to accept the money and overlook the insult. . . . The hot blood tingles to the very ends of my fingers as I recall the insults I received from that man while I was his wife."120 Insult consists in not giving Ann Eliza all she wants: "I would not now be bought," she says of her refusal of a generous cash settlement of $15,000, "by the man who refused to care for me when it was his duty to do so."121 The trouble was that the cash settlement was not enough. She asked for double rations and got them. Her reaction? Scathing sarcasm: "Unheard-of liberality!—I was allowed to draw sugar twice a month."122 "I never learned to hate anything in my life as I did the word 'economy,' while I was Brigham Young's wife."123 Not polygamy, but economy is the naughty word. In marrying Brigham Young she "undoubtedly expected to be rewarded with the luxuries of regal living. Her disenchantment was immediate and enduring."124 Thus Mr. Wallace; well, at least we know now that she had a very good motive for marrying Brigham—the luxuries of regal living, which she confidently expected.
And which she demanded—for she was a terrible snob. The Webb house, she says, was "regarded with admiration, and ourselves with envy, since no one else had so fine a place."125 What makes Brigham Young's clutches "contaminating clutches"126 is that "this glazier . . . once worked for two-bits a day." In Ann Eliza's code a lady does not work; hence any wife who helps around the house is really supporting herself, and hence her husband—Brigham Young's wives toiled all the day to support him. Lucy Bigelow's charge of the fine house at St. George means for Ann Eliza that her "position as housekeeper" is "that of servitor, entirely";127 Lucy Decker in managing the Beehive House "was not only obliged to cook for them, but to wait upon them at the table, in the capacity of a servant."128 Her family and friends objected to Dee because "they saw that he was in no way my equal,"129 and indeed when she gave him "the truest love a woman can give a man . . . he repaid it as men of his class . . . usually repay it—in neglect and abuse when once I was in his power."130
The Amelia Story
A useful clue to the motives of Ann Eliza is her obsession with Amelia Folsom. She can't get Amelia out of her system; Amelia is all the things that Ann Eliza wants to be. Both Wallace and Ann Eliza work hard to make it appear that Amelia and Ann Eliza were rivals, as they must have been if Ann Eliza's story is true. Amelia was Ann Eliza's "main competition,"131 Wallace assures us, "Ann Eliza's principal rival,"132 the only other woman "so difficult to conquer"133 in all of Young's vast experience. No wonder Amelia must hate her with a "deadly hatred."134 With Emmeline safely dead, Ann Eliza uses her as her foil in the great dual with Amelia; it is Emmeline, not Ann Eliza who cries out, "Can I never go any where without having her thrust in my face?"135 "Seems to me you're taking Emmeline's part pretty strong—ain't you?" says the Squire, to which Ann Eliza, gallant as ever, replies, "Yes, I am, for I think you've treated her badly." "Guess a little of the mad is on your own account—isn't it?" says the Squire, correcting his grammar; but Ann Eliza is equal to him: "Not a particle of it. Amelia doesn't interfere with me."136 Ann Eliza jealous? Ha!
It is Ann Eliza who furnishes Mr. Wallace with the intimate portrait of her closest rival, her own inverted mirror-image. But how well did she know Amelia? She tells us in a most revealing sentence, which has been the object of some of Wallace's deft and drastic surgery. We have already quoted the sentence: "During the dessert she reached the cake-basket to me, and with as freezing a tone and manner as she could assume, asked—'Will you have some cake?' I declined, and that ended our conversation—the last, and indeed the only one I ever had with her."137 And now the Codex Wallace: "Suddenly, said Ann Eliza [did she?], Amelia shoved the cake basket at her 'and with as freezing a tone and manner as she could assume, asked, "Will you have some cake?" I declined, and that ended our conversation.' "138 Period. Does the reader perhaps wonder why our emender cut off Ann Eliza's sentence in the middle? Let him not feel cheated, for in return for what he has removed from the text, Mr. Wallace has adorned it with a generous addition, telling us on the word of Ann Eliza—who said nothing of the sort—how Amelia "suddenly . . . shoved the cake basket at her."139 It is only fair to point out that if Mr. Wallace often omits essential material, he just as often supplies it out of his own magnanimous mind.
Though Amelia never spoke to Ann Eliza, she chose to act out her most disgraceful private scenes with her husband in that lady's presence: "I was once present when she wanted her husband to do something for her; he objected, and she repeated her demand, threatening to 'thrash him,' if he did not comply"—that was the one sure way to control Brigham Young. "It is, perhaps, unnecessary to say [see? we told you so!] that she was not obliged to ask him again."140 Because Brigham Young was a meticulous tidy housekeeper, Amelia loved to eat peanuts and throw the shells all over the house; because he abhorred bad language above all else, she made it a point to use the vilest. Screaming, bullying, smashing furniture, splitting the ears of all and sundry with the voice of a banshee and the language of a stevedore, a singularly repulsive combination of a pig, monkey, and water buffalo, Amelia had her way in everything. When Mary Van Cott had a child, Amelia forbade Brigham Young ever to see the mother again, and "for several months Brigham sheepishly obeyed."141 That is Wallace speaking—where does he get such stuff? Well, "apparently Mary told Ann Eliza what happened, and Ann Eliza repeated it."142 The alternative, that Ann Eliza is making it up, never occurs to our scholar—his only source for all this is Ann Eliza, and "apparently" is good enough evidence for Wallace, when a story is as nasty as this one.
And speaking of nasty stories, the worst of all is the harrowing tale told by Mrs. Lewis, for which Ann Eliza is our only informant. Mrs. Lewis's son had walked home with a girl who had caught the eye of a Mormon bishop:
Lewis's doom was sealed at once; the bewitched Bishop was mad with jealous rage, and he had only to give a hint of his feelings . . . and the sequel was sure. . . . An injury so brutal and barbarous that no woman's pen may write the words that describe it. . . . Whether this victim of priestly rule is dead or living must for ever remain a mystery. [Why forever?] . . . Yet during the whole of this affair the bishop was sustained by Brigham Young, who knew all about it.143
Ann Eliza finds it a "great marvel," which by 1908 has become "the almost incredible marvel,"144 that the victim's poor distracted mother, who nursed him with a breaking heart, "still retained her faith in Mormonism," and since has been "sealed to Brigham Young as one of his wives."145
What was Young's object in marrying the old lady? To get her property, for when she held out, "the agents . . . rushed in breathless haste to the Prophet, and told him of Mrs. Lewis's rebellion. He instantly formed a plan of inducing her to surrender."146 The plan was simple: since according to the Mormons, "no woman can enter heaven except some man go through the ordinances with her," he had the widow where he wanted her—she would have to marry him to be saved. There are two things wrong with this: (1) there is no such Mormon doctrine, and (2) Ann Eliza forgets that Mrs. Lewis, "an old lady, with children all grown,"147 had long since "attended to all the important matters" with her husband Mr. Lewis. Anyway, he told her to keep things to herself: " 'They would not understand, you know,' murmured he in his most drivellingly sweet accents."148 And that is how it came about that she told only Ann Eliza, whom she hated. We leave it to the reader to detect the flaws in the story, which Mr. Wallace now gives to the world as a public service.
As a widow, Amelia lived a long, busy public life, but Wallace discounts the testimony of those who saw her every day to give priority to one lone anonymous telegram to a New York newspaper saying she married a railroad man,149 to which dubious report, innocuous enough even if it were true, Mr. Wallace manages to impart a flavor of scandal.150 In her lectures Ann Eliza made it clear that in Amelia she had met her equal: "Almost everyone agreed that she possessed enough 'spirit' to have been Amelia Folsom's match," said the review.151 And what on earth could all those Gentiles have known about Amelia Folsom? Only what Ann Eliza chose to tell them about her, of course; it was she who went around the country telling of the rivalry between the two beauties—she wanted to be thought of as "Amelia Folsom's match." Ann Eliza can repeat the very speech with which Brigham Young proposed to Amelia and announce, "This is the same argument he used to win me."152 Isn't it odd that she tells the story of Brigham's proposal to Amelia, but except for this casual reference, tells no story of any proposal made to her? Plainly Amelia is another of those dream-creations in which Ann Eliza specialized, the grand lady in whom she saw the wish-image—the deadly rival—of herself.
In Amelia we have an interesting control for our speculations. Ann Eliza and Wallace want us very much to think that she was Amelia's match and counterpart. The conjunction is unfortunate, for the contrast speaks volumes. If Brigham had felt toward Ann Eliza as he did toward Amelia and as Wallace assures us he did,153 why does Amelia live in a palace while Ann Eliza lives in a "tiny, ancient house"?154 If it was passion for Eliza that finally overpowered passion for Amelia, why did he desert Ann Eliza on her wedding night for "fear of Amelia," who knew nothing about the marriage?155 If Ann Eliza was his engrossing love, why was he "paying his addresses while he was wooing me" to Mary Van Cott, whom Amelia considered a more serious rival?156
While Ann Eliza is the best and sweetest wife Brigham Young ever had, Amelia wears ever "a querulous, discontented expression,"157 and "hates Brigham," and "uses the vilest language in her common conversation."158 "She is a perfect virago, and carries everything by storm,"159 which she is able to do because the President lives in mortal dread "that she might expose his personal business,"160 even though he "never discussed Church or personal business with his mates."161 Now Ann Eliza through her family knew more about Young's personal business in a minute than Amelia did in a month—why didn't he lick her boots? The point is that Amelia, the worst wife, has everything that Ann Eliza wants, including influence with the great man, while Ann Eliza, the best wife, "never could influence him in the slightest."162
Wallace assures us that it was the "love and physical attraction" of Ann Eliza that broke "Amelia's power over him."163 Amelia too had resisted Brigham's wooing, but he was "a most arduous and enthusiastic lover, and during all the time that his suit was in progress, his carriage might be seen standing before the door . . . several hours at a time every day. . . . He promised her anything that she might desire."164 What a contrast to the "old cur" who molested the Webb family! At least we know that Brigham Young knew how to go about winning a difficult lady—why didn't he employ these techniques on Ann Eliza? She is not one to leave it unrecorded if the Presidential carriage had stood daily in front of her house. Far from promising her everything, the man drove a hard bargain with her parents—and got what he wanted. The picture of Ann Eliza, the superbeauty, the dread and envy of them all, having to beg "two bits worth of fresh meat"165 while the other wives get mansions and carriages, is, to say the least, incongruous. Amelia is a useful control to show us how Brigham Young would have treated Ann Eliza before and after marriage had he felt toward her as she and Mr. Wallace insist that he did.
If Amelia gives us a pretty good idea of the grand lady that Ann Eliza would like to have been, Louise, a plural wife of Ann Eliza's father, gives an even better one of the woman she was. As Ann Eliza tells it, Louise married Mr. Webb on the recommendation of the authorities, but he "received her proposition somewhat coolly and cautiously, for, to tell the truth, he would much have preferred to make his own selection." Yet Mr. Webb had to go through with it because "he would have been . . . held up to derision in the Tabernacle, had he ventured to refuse."166 We search the Journal of Discourses in vain for any such sort of derision, but Ann Eliza must clear her father and put all the blame on this defenseless girl.
Well, immediately there was trouble. Louise "did not love work, and she would not do it. She said she was a milliner, and had once been an actress, and declined 'to soil her hands with menial labor.' "167 So "the new wife was unhappy, and . . . all the rest were disgusted with her selfishness and indolence." She insisted "that she was my father's wife, and her rights in the house were equal to any other person's."168 Accordingly, Mr. Webb treated Louise "with such a marked coolness that she demanded the cause," and when he told her that she showed "lack of respect for herself, him, or his family, . . . she was very penitent, and promised all sorts of things if he would only allow her to remain in his family; she went about the house the very personification of grief and humility."169 Next "she determined to create a sensation in the family" and took to her bed with a broken heart and "a great display of grief in the shape of a pocket-handkerchief." She resorted to the "trickery" of "trying to win Eliza [one of the other wives] over to her."170
When the thirteen-year-old Ann Eliza visited her, "she was very pathetic in her conversation with me, and made me quite miserable by the recital of her wrongs."171 Then she said she was going to die: "my husband does not love me, and I cannot live; all I desire is death," and announced that she had taken poison.172 "We had all considered before this that Louise was giving us a taste of her dramatic powers," says Ann Eliza;173 and when after a touching farewell "she tried her hand at acting a kind of stupor," Mrs. Webb, "losing all patience," called her bluff, whereupon "Louise answered, her eyes flashing suddenly, and a great deal of the old-fashioned spirit in her will," accusing her of spoiling everything by administering an antidote.174 When the hired men came to inquire about Louise's condition, "the men thought . . . very heartless" the answer that Mrs. Webb gave them, but she was in a rage at the way Louise "had turned the house topsy-turvy."175
When Mr. Webb arrived, he recommended some cayenne tea for the sufferer; and his wife, with "a little malice in her heart," gladly fixed it. "I fancy," says Ann Eliza, "there never was a stronger decoction mixed than the one my mother prepared for the imposter."176 The drink threw Louise into "paroxysms of pain," and she was told by Mr. Webb "that she must no longer consider herself a member of his family,"177 and "in spite of tears, entreaties, and protestations, she was taken to Salt Lake City, and we none of us ever saw her again."178 However, "she married again in a very short time, and in three weeks was divorced from her second husband, . . . went to the southern part of the Territory, and married another man, whom she persuaded to take her to St. Louis. While there she suddenly went away one day, taking her husband's money and leaving him behind."179 He "made no attempt to follow her" or to get his money back, being only too pleased to be rid of her.
It would be hard to imagine a closer parallel in real life to Ann Eliza's own behavior. What she has told us in joyfully recounting the story of Louise is that there really are such women; and if she has not a kind word for the lone and friendless girl, we can hardly be accused of cruelty in pointing out the resemblance of the two stories.
For Mother, Just for Mother
Ann Eliza was as close to her mother as paper to the wall. "I was her idol, the one object for which she cared the most in the world."180 And "Ann Eliza's mother [Wallace speaking] . . . desperately wanted the marriage for the standing it would give her daughter and the entire family."181 Ann Eliza knew what mama wanted, all right, for mama "labored with me . . . to view it in the same light."182 Did she oppose her mother's plans? She did not—when he asked to walk home with her she said she would be very pleased; "I was pleased, too, for I knew that in bringing him home with me I should be conferring the greatest happiness on my mother."183 Why great happiness? Wouldn't Mrs. Webb have been just as happy if President Young had come to the house with any other member of the family?
From the Stenhouse letter it would appear that Mama had arranged that little walk which so delighted both her and her daughter; for here we learn (it is omitted from the book, although implied)184 that President Young and the other dignitaries had all been invited to dinner at the Webb house, which was very near the church. So it was not lust but a perfectly normal procedure for Brigham Young to accompany a member of the family to the home. But the point is that we find Ann Eliza here playing the game right along with mother and enjoying it; and when she was heroically fighting off Young's advances, she would never let mother know it: "I could not tell my feelings to my mother, for . . . she could never separate him from her religion."185 "I dared not enter into religious discussion with her, for . . . I should be sure to say something to shock her."186 This by way of explaining why Ann Eliza appears always to be accessory to the act; why she never really seemed to oppose marriage with Brigham, but always went along with Mama.
Here Mrs. Woodward's thesis187 deserves mention: she notes that Ann Eliza only married Dee when it became evident that Brigham Young was not to be had, but when two years later Young married again and was therefore in the market, Ann Eliza with lightning speed divorced Dee and went after the President. Remember that her "friends did not approve of my lover [Dee] at all." Why not? "They saw that he was in no way my equal."188 Who was her equal? She has Brigham Young resenting the interest shown in her by even the young blue-bloods—some his own relatives; who then was fit for Ann Eliza? Who but the man her mother "desperately wanted" her to marry? That the showdown with Dee was rigged and timed is apparent from a number of things. First, Dee was a very decent sort: the fact was that in two years of watching, the perceptive and resentful mama ("she had opposed my marriage as a duty")189 living under the same roof with Dee (who had a perfectly good house of his own) found nothing to accuse him of, even though "her motherly eyes were too keen, her maternal instinct too unerring, to be deceived by my [noble] silence."190 But the giveaway is Ann Eliza's announcement that, thanks to the divorce, "my children were better off, and stood far better chances of becoming the men that both she and I wished them to become, under my guidance alone."191 Both Mrs. Webb and her daughter had plans, then, to which Dee was an obstacle.
Brigham Young's treatment of the Webb ladies is significant: he always deals with them as a team. It was not with her but with her parents that all proposals and arrangements of marriage were made. "After the ceremony was over, Brigham took me back to my mother's house"192; and the first month of the marriage she spent at home with Mama, during which time, she writes, "I was happy indeed"—she was happy because she was with Mama and could "almost forget that he had any claim upon me." Her alarm was groundless: "At last he came to me and told me that he was ready for me to move into the city, and invited my mother to come and live with me."193 The same invitation was tendered when Ann Eliza moved to the farm and back again to a new house in the city. Brigham Young always takes it for granted that Mama is going to provide companionship for Ann Eliza. All of which, if practical, is anything but romantic and certainly gives strong support to the "Mormon version." It was Mama who was so terribly shocked, so heartbroken, when Ann Eliza left her husband. "The idol is rudely broken that I have worshiped so long."194 But Ann Eliza was alive and well—what was the idol? Specifically, Ann Eliza married to Brigham Young: that was the idol that was broken.
Nobody else would do; indeed, Ann Eliza reports that her parents "were no more anxious for me to marry than I myself"—where anyone else was concerned "if I did not wish to marry, that was quite enough."195 But when President Young was the suitor, what a different story! They drove the poor girl to distraction, though she bravely concealed her emotions and gave every appearance of being as pleased as they. And then the terrible shock of the divorce: why a shock? Hadn't Mama known all along just how Ann Eliza felt about the man? Of course she did, and that just shows what a wild story Eliza has cooked up: is it conceivable that her parents, knowing all those awful things about Brigham Young who had perpetrated crime after crime against their own family—the father disbelieving Mormonism from the first, the mother loathing polygamy and all connected with it—would force their darling daughter to marry the monster, the superpolygamist? Is it conceivable that when the beast began from the day of the marriage treating their child with every form of abuse and contempt and kept it up without intermission for seven years, the entire family should be not only surprised but heartbroken—utterly desolated—when she left him, not for the way he treated her, but for what she was doing to them? "My fault has been in loving you too well, and having too great anxiety for your welfare," her mother moaned, while she "longed to fly to her; but even to make her happy I could not violate my conscience."196 Has mother no conscience, then? Have the family no principles whatever? Why didn't Ann Eliza appeal to their conscience before and after marrying Brigham Young? Why didn't she simply tell them that she could not marry a practicing criminal? None knew the man's evil ways better than the high-minded Webb family who had so often been his victims. Yet she can only protest lamely that he is too old for her. Why had she so carefully concealed her true feelings from everybody before and during her marriage to Young? To spare their feelings? But she spared nobody's feelings in the terrible denunciation scene:
Oh, Mother, Mother! Have you turned against me too? Am I to fight you all, singlehanded, alone? Won't you, at least, stand by me? . . . Do you think it would not be wrong to stifle all natural feelings, all aversion to another union, above all, to him? . . . She glared at her mother, and then, thrusting her words at her mother like a spear, she demanded, "Do you want to get rid of me?"197
Here the perceptive reader can discern the crude contriving of the great romance. For what Ann Eliza is objecting to is not just marriage with Brigham Young but marriage with anybody. Any other union is repugnant to her: "I belong to you, father. . . . You can't give me away to anybody."198 How true! The cruelty of the family consists not in wanting to "get rid" of her to Brigham Young in particular, but to anybody else in general. She must insist on her "aversion to another union," Brigham or no Brigham, to explain why she does not marry someone else. But having done that, she is faced with her own emphatic declarations that her parents made not the slightest effort to influence her, except where Brigham Young was concerned, and always gave her her own way.199 For in the great denunciation scene with which Mr. Wallace wrings our hearts, Ann Eliza has created an issue which by her own accounting could not possibly have arisen.
As if to clinch the absurdity of the scene, we find no mention by Ann Eliza of Brigham's crimes, so well known to her family. The only specific objection she can give to marrying Young is that he is too old. Why no mention of his horrendous past? Because that might offend her mother's religious sensibilities or, as Mr. Wallace so carefully puts it, she was "determined not to become mired down in a religious discussion."200 But when shortly after Brigham "delivered a terrible threat to the first Mrs. Webb," promising to excommunicate her son Gilbert unless she forestalled him "by 'counselling' her daughter to become his wife,"201 the religious issue could not be avoided. Since the marriage was Mrs. Webb's dearest desire, and since she had never counseled anything else, the threat is of course as absurd as it is melodramatic. But when Mrs. Webb replies, "I know enough to know when my children are ill-used and cheated, Brigham Young,"202 she has taken a moral stand and given Ann Eliza her reprieve; henceforth it was not her parents' wishes that force her to marry the monster, but only her concern for Gilbert's salvation, which of course depended on the pleasure of this holy man. But then once Ann Eliza capitulated, all "went merry as a marriage-bell."203 What a story!
We need not waste time analyzing the silliness of all this—comparison with Ann Eliza's letter to Stenhouse shows that she is making it all up. But even without that evidence, the lady's descriptions of her own emotions and reactions are sufficient to give her away completely.
Don't Touch Me, but Hold Me Tight
On the morning of the day he proposed, Brigham Young, in a long and intimate conversation, had inquired into Ann Eliza's love life, told her how beautiful and marriageable she was, how shocked he was when she married Dee, that he had always loved her and meant to have her himself, that now she was free he could tell her so, etc., while she told him just why she would never marry again and eloquently declared her independence in matters of the heart. As soon as she got home she recounted the whole thing to her mother—who was amused by it, but gave it no further thought; Ann Eliza, who of course dismissed the whole thing from her mind, could recall it—letter perfect—years later. But that very evening Brigham did an amazing thing. He proposed marriage, of all things—not to Ann Eliza herself, but to her parents. "I cannot describe my feelings; I was frightened. The thought of it was a perfect horror. I thought Father had gone crazy, and I would not believe his statement for hours."204 Do you really believe she—or her mother!—was that naive? Raise your right hand. At noon she told Brigham Young, "I am a woman . . . with hard, bitter experiences; a woman who has lost faith in mankind, and hasn't much faith in matrimony,"205 and he had spoken of nothing but marriage and his feelings towards her—and all the time she never dreamed what he was getting at.
If the lady's innocence and incredulity are awfully overdone, her protestations of disinterestedness are no less so. When a reporter asked the perfectly normal question, whether she "thought it would be better to marry the highest man in the Church, and be well cared for, than to marry some one in an inferior station?" she spilled the beans with the lofty declaration, "I had no such thoughts."206 Granted that wealth and position were not even important in considering a marriage, what woman on earth would fail to consider them if only as a minor factor? Only Ann Eliza, apparently. Yet in protesting too much, she is caught in another fib, for she must have had such thoughts if, as she says, her parents and friends and girlish associates were constantly forcing them on her; she could not have been without them either in her social-minded environment or as a human being. Had she expected and wanted nothing, as she insists, she would hardly have rent the air with her banshee wail of poverty and neglect at never getting enough. What does she object to in Brigham Young page after page? His cheapness. From the first, the noble and disinterested Ann Eliza starts raising hell—she isn't getting enough.
ACT II, Scene iii. The Garden. Enter Melissa right.
Melissa: "No, as I have said it to all my other suitors, . . . I do not even thank him for the position he intended to confer upon me, for he knew I did not want it. Does he think I have escaped one misery to wish to enter another? 'Position!' I wonder what he thinks there is particularly fine about being a plural wife even to Brigham Young?"207
Well, the Squire took her at her word—"the position he intended to confer" on her was not very exalted after all, and so Item One in the divorce bill is that Brigham Young did not support her "in a manner proportionate to his means nor to her station in life."208 Position indeed! "To support myself and children suitably" would require, she insisted, "the sum of two hundred thousand dollars" and a thousand a month pending settlement.209 Not bad for the little lady who never gave a thought to money.
But back to our thesis that it was Ann Eliza who pursued Brigham Young before the marriage, and not the other way around. Time and again she assayed to appeal to him: "I was sure that I could move him. I would make myself so humble, so pathetic, before him." Only her courage failed her, and she never went through with it: "Two or three times I started to call to see him, but I would only . . . turn back faint and trembling."210 She saw her chance one day when she met him in the street, but again it flopped: "All my eloquence was frozen under the chilling glance of the steely-blue eyes, which had not a ray of sympathetic warmth in them."211 And this was the man who would give anything for a smile from Ann Eliza? All he gives her is the brush-off, so we have her word for it that even "at the last, he was influenced entirely by pique and wilfulness"—he didn't love her at all.212 Why did he go through with it then? "Well," Ann Eliza explained to reporters, "we think it is vanity. They like to show that if they are old men, they can marry young women."213 She tries to prove this, as she does her claim that Brigham Young threatened her father and had a special revelation for her, by elevating it to the level of an indisputable General Principle—that was the way Brigham Young always operated: he always threatened, he always has revelations as a last resort, and always marries only "because he is conceited, vain, and fond of showing his power and increasing his importance in this way."214 But if number of marriages was the measure of prestige, why did he keep the number of his marriages a secret that even Wallace could not crack?
Anyway, we have Ann Eliza's admission that she did seek out the President and that he avoided her, which is simply the "Mormon version" so far as overt behavior is concerned. What converts the story into the Ann Eliza-Wallace version is that insight into the motives of the actors which may be derived only from Ann Eliza's telling of the story. If Brigham Young's behavior suggests anything but a man who has lost his head over a girl, and Ann Eliza's suggests anything but a woman who felt nothing but aversion for the man she was pursuing, and if the Webb family's reaction suggests anything but that of people losing their dearest treasure to the man they had most reason to hate, all these apparent absurdities can be explained if we realize that Brigham Young was simply being sadistic, Ann Eliza utterly self-sacrificing—throwing her life away just to spare the feelings of poor, superstitious Gilbert—and the family deeply religious, worshipping the prophet they all despised.
Once married to the man from whom she "cringed with aversion," Ann Eliza's constant complaint was neglect. From the first, he left her strictly alone while she hungered for "companionship and stimulation," and "looked forward to seeing Brigham as often as possible."215 Why? She had her doting mother, her darling boys for whose affection she would tolerate no rival, a huge and bustling household, the society of Salt Lake City a "lovely four miles" away,216 a constant round of church and social activities—why did it have to be Brigham? Never mind: the fact is that she sought his society after the marriage as much as he avoided hers. She invited him to social functions and was furious when other wives came along—by his special invitation. What is more, she was as sweet as pie to him all the time, while he treated her like an old cur. On the same page where she announces, "I never loved him," she can also report: "He had said I was the best wife he had, . . . for I had never given him a cross word or look."217 And while she treated him "with the utmost tenderness,"218 he treated her "with studied contempt."219
And then there is that little matter of rebaptism after she had fully made up her mind to leave her husband. After her final disillusionment, after weeks of plotting with Young's enemies against him, after having poured her whole story into eager Gentile ears and having discussed divorce procedures with Judge Hagen, after discovering the wonderful free outside world and the way leading to it, Ann Eliza lets loose with a blast at the Ward Teachers that leaves them "stunned"; but when the teachers begged the lady ("pleaded" is Wallace's invention) to get herself rebaptized, what does she do? She consents! Mr. Wallace's explanation for that is deliciously absurd: she yields because she is "wearied by evangelism."220 What a way to escape the ennui of evangelism—to follow its advice and become recommitted to its ways just as one is in the act of kissing it all good-bye! Wallace attributes this astounding gesture to Ann Eliza's lingering religious sensibilities, but she herself makes it clear enough that she had none, when at the baptism "I was trying to feel solemn and to exercise faith,—a signal failure, I assure you."221 Yet it would have taken a great deal of faith to induce the fugitive from bondage to place herself again in the hands of the Mormons if faith had anything to do with it. With so little faith, why would she submit to "the farce," as she calls it, at such a late date? Wallace comes up with the answer when he has the ward teachers suggest that Ann Eliza, by getting baptized, might improve her standing with Brigham and even become the Favorite Wife.222 To the very end she is pursuing him.
According to both Wallace and A. E. Young, Brigham Young lusted after Ann Eliza longer than any other of his victims, and tried longer and harder to win her. "He would not give me up," she told the family, confessing that he "had intended to propose for me so soon as I was old enough"—he had been waiting for her since childhood.223 Hence "he tried in every way to win me, a willing bride, before he attempted to coerce me."224 Her conquest was the most difficult and hence the most glorious of Young's amatory attainments.225 At the time of the great wooing, "It is likely," Wallace reports, that "he would have found Ann Eliza irresistible."226 Here surely are the makings of a great romance. But what do we find? The strangest courtship in the history of the world. Ann Eliza is good enough to tell us by what tried and true procedures Brigham won other willing brides—lavish gifts, delightful surprise, constant attentions, a gay progress of plays and balls. Why were there no such goodies for Ann Eliza during two years of "ardent wooing?" The woman who can recall every syllable of that four-page conversation on the way from Church reports not a single episode, revealing or otherwise, of the long and arduous wooing that followed. The woman who can recite Brigham's amorous speeches to other victims recalls none addressed to herself. Indeed she explicitly points out in recounting both of her personal conversations with Young—the one when she was seventeen and the other when she was twenty-two—that she never had the remotest inkling of a suspicion either time that Brigham Young was being romantic, and in each case states her firm conviction that he did not love her either time, but was speaking purely from vanity and from a desire to show who was the stronger.227
It was only after the marriage was arranged that Young gave his bride "some very pretty dresses, and a small sum of money, as a wedding-gift; but I never got such a present again afterwards."228 That's funny; other wives of Brigham Young got such presents afterwards—lots of them. Ann Eliza quotes the speech with which Brigham Young, very privately, proposed to Amelia, and casually remarks in passing that that was the same one used on her, and all the more difficult victims.229 But that is the only hint we get of any such proposal being made to her. It is perfectly clear throughout that Mr. Young settled everything not with Ann Eliza but with her family. If he actually proposed to her, why must she put amorous speeches in his mouth and at the same time specify that he did not love her and that those speeches never suggested to her the slightest hint of amorous intent? She is trying her best to make out that Brigham Young made some sort of proposal, but this insinuation, denial, and fabrication is the best she can do.
So Brigham wooed the family, and in his visits to the house "he manifested all the growling propensities of an old 'cur.' "230 And they, though they "desperately" wanted the match, barked right back at him: "After a still more spirited contest with my mother, the Prophet took his departure in a great rage."231 Curiouser and curiouser! Is that the way to get them on his side, or to get him on theirs? No, that was hardly necessary, since they were already so firmly on his side that two years of pleading by Ann Eliza could not pry them loose; while he was so wild about Ann Eliza that he was one hundred percent with the family. Actually when he acts like an old cur it can only mean that they are wooing him and he is being difficult. Sweet Eliza's thesis, however, is that he wanted to get the family into such a jam that Ann Eliza would have to marry him to save them. But since he was mad about Ann Eliza who was devoted to her family, why did she let him put the screws on the family—and do nothing to relieve them? If Brigham was really her ardent suitor, he would have done anything—or at least something—for Gilbert or Papa, just to please her. But he makes no effort to please her; she has no power over him at all—this clever and heroic girl has no bargaining power whatever. His attempt "to win me a willing bride" is supposed to have preceded a later effort at bribery when all blandishment failed, yet there were no blandishments; the bribe of a house and money, which Ann Eliza in her book insists came later, was made according to the Stenhouse letter on the very night on which Brigham first proposed—to the family. Why didn't he propose to her? She had told him that morning that she was of age and quite able to make up her own mind and that her parents gave way to her in everything—why, then, didn't Brigham ask her to marry him before appealing to them? Is this the romantic way to go about it—to play his opening gambit by accosting the father with the veiled threat and sinister smile with which he always gave orders?
In the end Ann Eliza marries Brigham Young entirely on his terms; during two years of "ardent wooing" she won not a single concession from him, received not a single gift; according to her he promised to make her a queen—but what substantial earnest did he offer? Consider the wedding and the honeymoon.
"After the ceremony was over, Brigham took me back to my mother's house, where I was to remain for the present, until he should deem it prudent to let Amelia and the United States government know that I was his wife."232 Wallace gratefully—desperately—accepts this feeble effort to explain why the great lover stood up his greatest conquest on the wedding night: "Because he was not yet ready to face Amelia's outrage and the harem's disapproval, Brigham returned his twenty-seventh wife to her father's home outside the city and then retired alone to his bedroom in the Lion House."233 But please note—Amelia and the government as yet know nothing of what our lovebirds have been up to—they will not know in fact until Brigham finds it "prudent" to let them know. What is to stop them from going on with the show? Nothing but Mr. Young's free choice. He did not hesitate to marry sweet Eliza in the first place in spite of Amelia and the government; he had made her his lawful wife, whether Amelia liked it or not—the damage was done and as yet no one the wiser; it remained only for the victor to claim the spoils. What a time to back out! Immediately after the marriage ceremony, according to the Stenhouse letter, President Young accompanied Ann Eliza to the Tabernacle in the most public meeting of the year, for the wedding day was April 6, the day of General Conference. A less secret time could not have been chosen: everything the President did on that day would be noted. But all the time he is worried about what Amelia and the U.S. Government will think when they find out; and so he leaves his bride with her mother and for three weeks does not see her again.
This puts her in a silly position too: "I didn't feel specially complimented," she says in the understatement of the year.234 To rescue her from a desperate case, Mr. Wallace quotes a letter of Ann Eliza to a personal friend (without telling us that it is simply the Stenhouse letter). "I had considerable of his attention; his visits were frequent"235—a vague, noncommittal attempt at face-saving, for we can be sure that Ann Eliza would not have told a story so shockingly unflattering to herself if she had a better one. Here was one time she could not invent a lurid tale about the lustful Squire—for April 6, her wedding day, was a day on which every move of President Young could be strictly accounted for. But finally he did get her alone. Shortly after the wedding day he came to take his bride for a drive (would Amelia tolerate that?). "He did not enjoy the drive one bit, for he was in constant terror lest he should be discovered."236 Then why not go into the house—couldn't better arrangements be made than that? Must the poor man put himself into a state of "constant terror" just to be with Ann Eliza? "He took me round all the by-ways." Alone at last! And his reaction after twenty-odd years of hungering for Ann Eliza? "He was anxious and distrait; while I, on the contrary, was in the highest spirits. I laughed and chatted . . . and was jubilant in proportion to his misery."237
No wonder even Wallace omits these precious lines—they have it all backwards. Instead of the triumphant Squire yielding to his great passion in the seclusion of the by-ways, we have a courteous and preoccupied gentleman taking a lady for a ride because it is the decent thing to do; instead of a cowering and terrified victim, we have the lady at last "jubilant," triumphant, laughing and chatting in her glory. As if to prove that this is not a mistake, "he repeated the drive, which was no more comfortable for him than the first one had been. . . . With the exception of those drives, I never went anywhere with him alone."238 Another bad slip: Brigham was terrified of being seen with Ann Eliza, yet he made sure wherever they went that they would be seen, and never be alone together. Far from being terrified of being seen with Ann Eliza, he chose the one way of making sure of it. But then who said he was terrified? That is Ann Eliza's own mind reading. The one thing that is really apparent from all this is that Brigham Young dutifully and reluctantly took his bride for drives, though he did not enjoy her company in the least—while she thoroughly enjoyed herself. Chalk up another for the "Mormon version."
Ann Eliza confirms our suspicions when she complains of his unromantic I didn't feel especially complimented, to be sure; but, as I did not desire his attentions, and was happier without them, I did not allow my pride to receive a very severe wound, but was exceedingly gracious to him, the more nervous and absorbed he got."239 More of the same: while she is "exceedingly gracious, . . . jubilant" and "laughed and chatted" in his company, he is in "misery, . . . anxious and distrait . . . nervous and absorbed," that is, paying as little attention as possible to her. What a miraculous reversal of role that strange wedding has accomplished! Or is it? When had it been otherwise? Next she invited him to a ball: "He was my husband, and whom else should I invite?"240 Well, since she preferred to have him leave her strictly alone, how about that army of warm friends, admirers, and old flames? "I was very much annoyed, . . . and really a little hurt that he could not take me somewhere just once without someone else along."241 Again she's got it all wrong: he is supposed to be the monster from whose contaminating clutches she "did shrink with aversion"242 (the expressions are hers); and she is supposed to be the one object for which he has lusted most through the years—yet he treats her to a strict hands-off policy—and she resents it like mad.
The leit-motiv of Ann Eliza's life with Brigham Young is clear and unmistakable—neglect. She was "mortified" that he did not pay more attention to her.243 By a courtship in which he treated her with the most icy aloofness and threatened to ruin a family which was ardently supporting his suit, marriage "was forced upon me; and I was now compelled to endure the indignities which he chose to heap upon me."244 How queer can you get? She had been unmoved by "the position he intended to confer upon me,"245 but no sooner were they married than he "chose" to heap on indignities instead. "I never asked for the smallest necessary of life that I was not accused of extravagance and a desire to ruin my husband."246 Is that the way to treat the best wife one ever had—to deny her even the smallest necessary of life? "The hot blood tingles to the very ends of my fingers as I recall the insults I received from that man while I was his wife."247 Insults, neglect, indignity—what next? He refused her the "companionship and stimulation" which she "desperately wanted,"248 and was totally immune to her enticements: Wallace tells the story, "possibly apocryphal," of how Ann Eliza bought thirteen roosters and one hen so that the hen wouldn't suffer neglect "the way your wives do!"249
If "her disenchantment was immediate and enduring,"250 it is only fair to note that the same immediate and enduring disenchantment marked both her other marriages. She expected moonlight and magnolias from Dee and quickly learned about the "indifferent, matter-of-fact manner . . . which most Mormon men assume towards their helpless wives";251 and she had hardly married Denning when he took to staying just as far away from her as he could get, telling her how infinitely preferable the charms of other women were to hers, and finally announcing his intention to let her starve to death.252 Isn't it an interesting coincidence that all three of these men were model husbands to their other wives? Stenhouse, sympathetic as she is to Ann Eliza, cannot resist a couple of little digs as to her unique unenviable position among the wives of Brigham Young: she was, she pointedly writes, "his last but yet not his best-beloved,"253 and observes that "she is the only wife whom Brigham has not supported"254—an enlightening statement in view of Ann Eliza's insistence that the other wives had to work to support not only themselves but their husband, and Mr. Wallace's moving description of the savagely cruel neglect of Mary Ann Angell. It will never do to have Ann Eliza the least loved of all the wives, when Wallace's whole story rests on the thesis that she was the best-loved! Her complaint is that "others were cared for, and it was more than a woman's nature could stand, to see them thus petted."255 He forced her children to wear homespun, she says, "and yet I noticed that none of his own children were compelled to do so."256 The stinginess towards her, the memory of which sends the hot blood tingling to her fingertips, was never turned against the other wives: She insists that she was "the least expensive" of all the wives, "for he spent but very little money for me."257
And all the time he neglects and insults her, Ann Eliza is being sweetness itself to Brigham, treating him "with the utmost tenderness," in return for his "systematic course of neglect."258 What is more, he recognized and acknowledged the noble effort she was making: "He had said I was the best wife he had, . . . for I had never given him a cross word or look."259 "I was, in fact, a perfect Griselda; and my husband had got so used to such unquestioning obedience and submission from me that I think he was never so surprised in his life as he was when I rebelled."260 "He would have looked for rebellion from almost any other wife sooner than from me, I had been so quiet and acquiescent during all my married life with him."261 "He said, up to the very last of my living with him, that I was the least troublesome of any wife he had ever had."262 But instead of being grateful to the woman who finally consented to marry him after years of hungering for her and who went all out to be agreeable once married, he merely "took advantage of my quiet tongue, and imposed upon me fearfully."263 "I was neglected, insulted and humiliated in every way imaginable,"264 or, as Wallace puts it, "deprived of material necessities and affection."265 So do you blame us for asking: Why did Ann Eliza, who "never loved" Brigham Young and always "looked upon him as a heartless despot"266 always behave towards him in the most acquiescent and ingratiating manner, while he, whose grand passion she had been lo, these many years, who had greatly loved, hotly pursued, and always admired her, treat her not with the cruelty of a Liliom but with "studied contempt"267 and "a systematic course of neglect,"268 rejoining to heap humiliation and insults on her? Others were not treated so by him. "Clara," by no means the favorite, "had everything that she could desire. . . . Not a wish that she expressed but was instantly granted."269 Even A. Cobb, who "for several years past" had been "grossly neglected by the Prophet," was "still a very stylish, elegant woman," though merely sealed to Brigham Young.270 Why does everybody have it so much better than Ann Eliza?
And why, treating her as he did, was Brigham so sure of her that (according to her) the greatest surprise of his life was when she rebelled? What could he expect after inflicting such abuse on the woman? Why was he so surprised when she finally turned against him? There can be only one reason: the marriage had been her idea in the first place. Her final decision to have herself rebaptized (Brigham didn't ask her to) is quite enough to show that. If he had really pursued her with passion, he had every right to expect fireworks for giving her the deep-freeze after the marriage, and she had every right to set them off—reminding him of the crooked way in which she had been forced into the marriage and the vile way he had treated her ever since. If her story is true, she had plenty of bargaining power—first with the great man "who wooed her so ardently"271 and then with the husband whose secrets she knew. Why did she never use any of that bargaining power, even to alleviate her own terrible sufferings as her husband year after year heaped studied insults and abuse upon her? Why did this fiery little lady make no gesture of self-defense? The woman deserves no sympathy who will take such vicious and unjust treatment meekly and cheerfully: "I had been so quiet and acquiescent during all my married life with him."272 For heaven's sake, why? It is conceivable that if Brigham had made an effort even to meet her halfway, she might, in spite of her spoiled and jealous nature, have done the same towards him, but this total and absolute surrender—in going all the way to please him, while he thinks up new insults and abuses—what is behind it?
The pursuit after as before the marriage is all on her side. Why can't the man make any concession to her at all? Why should he accuse his best wife of ruinous extravagance every time she asked for the mere necessities of life? "I saw that it was impossible for me to ever interest my husband."273 Do you get that?—he simply wasn't interested in her—not even for old time's sake! "Indeed, of so little importance was I, or my actions, that he never troubled himself to come near me after he had given his consent (to run a boarding house)."274 "Speaking to him concerning these matters was worse than useless, for I never could influence him in the slightest, while every suggestion which I ventured to make irritated him extremely."275 If she couldn't interest the man, she did irritate him extremely, but even so she couldn't get a rise out of him; he refused even to quarrel with her—which is why she says she never quarreled with him; she tried indeed to stir him up, as in the affair of the train, but he refused to give her the satisfaction. Either her technique was the worst in history, or else Brigham Young felt not only no affection for her but what is more significant, no obligation beyond supporting her and showing her common courtesy. She knew that the one way to influence him would be to have children by him,276 and her explanation for her failure to do that is as good as any—that she had never had marital relations with him. She had no hold over him at all.
Ann Eliza, whose only accomplishment was acting, aspired to play the lead opposite Brigham Young, and Mr. Wallace is now determined to give her her wish. But who will deny that the keynote of her life with Brigham is total frustration? She tells us how as a girl she lived in a world of romantic make-believe and glorious expectations, and shows how she and her mother could give substance to their dreams through their unique talent for self-dramatization.
As a child, the mother had known insecurity and starvation as a homeless servant girl in England. Marrying Webb had liberated her from bondage and set her up for life. His second marriage, according to Ann Eliza, took it all away again; from then on, "every hour of her life her heart was torn by some new agony,"277 as she passed her days in "unutterable anguish."278 The thought of having to share anything with anybody was the one thing that drove Mrs. Webb perfectly wild.279 She spoiled Christmas dinner for her own family just to have the pleasure of keeping the other wives from getting any turkey—though those other wives were, by Ann Eliza's admission, splendid and self-sacrificing women.280 She would gladly have seen her husband die rather than permit another wife to assist in nursing him to health.281 And she imbued her only daughter with her own passion for absolute possession. Ann Eliza was "her idol, the one object for which she cared the most in the world."282 For Ann Eliza it had to be top billing or none; for her to marry a commoner like Dee was a catastrophe; for her to desert Brigham Young was even worse, for regardless of everything else he was still top man.
No one will deny that Mrs. Webb had plans for her daughter, and that those plans all centered on marriage to Brigham Young. And only a fool would deny that Ann Eliza herself was privy to those plans, and fancied herself in the stellar role of an Amelia. But the play flopped—Brigham Young was not available for the lead opposite Eliza. He had other things to do. What next? If the show is to go on, we must find a substitute for the role of Brigham and move the production back East, where nobody will know the difference. The man chosen to play Brigham Young was a palpable ham who stamped and roared and leered and snarled and glared in a way to delight the hearts of the matinee crowd seeking escape from anything resembling real life. To this animated dummy, Ann Eliza makes her stirring and gallant speeches, going through her stereotyped gestures of sweet appeal, screaming despair, and exquisite scorn. It is all her own production—she plays the lead and directs the rest, and you can be sure that everything goes off the way she wants it to.
In reviving the flimsy melodrama, Mr. Wallace has sought to give it substance by playing up that religious fervor which the real Ann Eliza never felt and by placing her stilted and impossible heroics against a pseudohistorical background which he thinks can be made plausible by well-known production gimmicks, using skillful sound and lighting effects to evoke a grim and somber atmosphere, as we have seen, that disarms and intimidates any who might feel inclined to snicker at that gallant little lady or to scoff at a tale of human suffering or treat lightly the most horrible crimes of the century. Whether these things are true or even distantly plausible becomes a mere quibble when our skilled producer begins to work his magic. Criticism is awed and silenced in the presence of such artistry and zeal.
To get to the heart of the great love drama, we present herewith some random questions for Mrs. Young or her doughty champion to answer. There are an even fifty of them, just to keep things under control.
1. Why would your doting parents want or even permit you to marry the man who had done so many evil things to them?
2. Why do you and Wallace claim not to know Young's reason for interfering in your love life, if he was always so blunt and tactless about it?
3. Why did he wait for two years after your divorce before proposing?
4. Since you were the object of his affections, why did he never propose to you personally, as he did to other women?
5. Why do you say that offers of money and grim threats were employed only as a last desperate device to win you if, as you say in the Stenhouse letter, those offers and threats were made on the very first night of the negotiations?
6. Why did you always fail to guess Young's real interest in you or to interpret his crude advances? Why did you never suspect anything but a fatherly interest in you?
7. Why did your mother, who dreamed of the match, utterly fail to see the significance of his glaringly obvious remarks to you—if those remarks were actually made?
8. Why do you and Mr. Wallace suppress the fact that Young walked home with you not of his own devising but because your mother invited him to the house while you knew that by walking with him "I should be conferring the greatest happiness on my mother"?283 Doesn't that put you two on the offensive?
9. Why, if Brigham Young stared at you hypnotically from the stand throughout the meeting, did nobody, including your mother, notice his significant behavior?
10. Why does Mr. Wallace never mention Van Etten, the key to the meeting story? Why did the man who assailed Young so viciously in the meeting willingly accept a missionary call soon after?
11. Why didn't you counter Brigham Young's attack on you by accepting any of your other and less obnoxious suitors?
12. Why in a book on Mormon marriage customs do you never name any of your army of suitors—including the "high church officials" that sought your hand when you were only twelve? Why do you not recount a single episode of those many courtships?
13. First you tell of a gigantic economic enterprise and swindle: "All this was for the purpose of influencing me";284 and then you say it was not money but fear of "the Prophet's curse"285 that did the trick. Did your family really place such store on the "curse" of a Prophet they had so often denounced as a fraud?
14. Then you say you did it all to save Gilbert's faith and position in the Church. What faith? What position? Were you willing to throw your life away to appease what you describe as Gilbert's foolish superstitions?
15. Then you say that for the sake of your friends,286 you were willing to marry even Brigham Young. Then why did you resist the pleas of those same friends for two years?
16. Then you say it was your children that decided you: "What if God should take my children, to punish my rebellious spirit?"287 Did it take you two years to realize that you were being rebellious?
17. Why during the courtship did Brigham Young make no concessions out of his love of you? Why, if he loved you so, were you never able to influence him in the least?288
18. Why did he never shower you with gifts and attention as he did other ladies whom he wooed and wives whom he favored? With his vast experience, why didn't he try the Amelia approach on you?
19. If he "succumbed to love and physical attraction,"289 why did he rebuff you coldly whenever you approached him during the courtship?
20. If he desired you so passionately, why did he subject you to "a systematic course of neglect"290 during your whole married life?
23. Why does the knowledgeable Mrs. Stenhouse call you "his last but yet not his best-beloved,"291 and say that you were the only wife he did not support,292 if he had really worked harder to win you than to win any other wife?
24. Why did he begin his suit by proposing not to you but to your father, and that "with a peculiar emphasis and a sinister smile"?293 Is such the way of the great lover?
25. You say, "He tried in every way to win me, a willing bride."294 In what ways? You report no romantic courtship and no presents—aren't those some of the things he might have tried?
26. Why were your heart-rending appeals to the parents who worshipped you completely unavailing? Why did you bother to appeal anyway, since your parents were determined not to make you marry against your will? You say you fought the marriage with every resource at your command: Whom did you fight, since your parents would not force you, and Brigham Young never proposed to you?
27. Why were you "surprised" when Brigham Young spoke to you after the meeting, even though he had stared at you the whole time and you knew he was supposed to walk home with you to dinner?
28. The only objection you mention to your parents is Brigham Young's age; but you were free to marry a younger man—why didn't you?
29. If "it is likely he would have found [you] irresistible,"295 why did Brigham Young resist you so effectively? You say, "If a man wants to marry a woman, the woman must marry him. They dare not refuse."296 Where was the top man's unlimited power when, with your parents' aid, he besieged you for two years? Why with all his power did he have to resort to such an elaborate subterfuge?
30. Why, though you were a "woman . . . with hard, bitter experiences,"297 does Brigham Young make his proposals and arrangements only with your family—in your absence? Doesn't that show that they were approaching him, since it would have been improper for you to do so? If he was the aggressor, why did he never propose to you personally?
31. If he did propose to you, as you imply in comparing your case with Amelia's, why do you report nothing of that dramatic event?
32. If Brigham Young accosted you in your youth "not, I think, from any particular affection, . . . but . . . to show me that his will was stronger than mine,"298 how can you say that he had always loved you and meant to have you?
33. You say that as a member of Brigham Young's household you put on a gay exterior for the sake of others: "I was very happy to see her happy, and enjoyed myself very much."299 How then was Brigham Young or anyone else to know of your sufferings?
34. At seventeen, you say, "I considered myself quite a martyr to the Mormon priestly rule."300 Why? "I expressed my opinion of the Prophet very freely," you continue, ". . . [and] fairly horrified my mother."301 And yet it was your religious feelings that drove you to marry the same prophet? And when the time came to save yourself from his "contaminating clutches," you did not "dare admit anyone to my confidence, not even my mother."302 For fear of "shocking" her, you say. After all, she had told you about Brigham and polygamy.
35. You always got what you asked for from Young, but you say it was never enough: how much would it take to satisfy you? (Answer: $200,000).
37. If you were, as you say, the least demanding and most easily pleased of the wives, how does it happen that you moved around more and had more houses than any of them?
38. If Brigham Young alone is responsible for your sufferings, how does it happen that you suffered the same pangs with Dee and Denning? How does it happen that all three got along famously with their other wives, but only had trouble with you?
39. If Brigham Young really said you were "the best wife he had," why were you treated so much worse than the others—"neglected, insulted and humiliated in every way imaginable?"305
40. If you despised his offer of social standing, why was your chief complaint against him that he did not support you as his position and station in life demanded? If you spurned all the luxuries he offered, why did you complain so loudly when those luxuries were denied you?
41. With your sweet disposition, why were you so unpopular with the other wives? Why are the wives with which you were intimate always dead ones?
42. How did you, a gentle and uncomplaining soul, suddenly become a master of vitriolic prose when you took up the pen? Did you really write the book, by the way? If it is your own story, why does so much of it come right out of Stenhouse, and why is it in the style of Beadle?
43. Since you had fought Brigham Young so long and so fiercely, and since you never lived with him after the marriage, why was Brigham Young so sure that you, of all the wives, would be the last to leave him? Why was he so sure of you after treating you like dirt, if the marriage was not your idea?
44. Brigham Young never hesitated to grant a divorce if a wife asked for it. Why didn't you ever ask him? Why didn't you ask for the freedom for which you yearned? Why? If there was anything Brigham Young would not do it was to lure anybody back into the fold, as Wallace suggests.306 Why did you ask for rebaptism when you were about to leave him? He never suggested such a thing—weren't you making a last bid for him?
45. You and Wallace say you had to escape because "death, incarceration in a madhouse and many other terrible things had been threatened."307 And that at a time when Brigham Young still thought you were his meekest and safest wife! Threatened by whom? When? Where? How? Why? Why should Brigham Young threaten "the best wife he had" with such things?
46. Why do you make out that Brigham Young wanted desperately to keep you from leaving Utah, after he had offered you $15,000 cash to clear out?308 You were already free and had already told your story to the press. Why keep you in Utah? Couldn't he have stopped you any time? Isn't that an elaboration of the foolish pursuit motif? Why should Brigham Young ever pursue you?
47. Why should the invisible Danites be a mortal threat to you in Utah, but helpless the moment you crossed an invisible line into Wyoming?
48. To save your life you had to barricade yourself in your hotel room for two months. But how about the next three months—didn't you stay on in Salt Lake?
49. With Brigham's spies everywhere, how were you able to move out all your furniture and sell it at a public auction without being discovered?
50. If you always viewed Brigham Young as "a heartless despot" whom you had "never loved,"309 why do you complain so bitterly of his not loving you? And if you were "happy indeed," when you could "forget that he had any claim upon [you],"310 why did you resent his absence?
51. Wallace says Brigham Young used the press to attack you through your "best friends and family."311 That is your version, but what have articles in the San Francisco Chronicle to do with your friends and family? Who were the friends in question? If Brigham Young controlled the press, why did no man in America ever have a worse press?
This sort of thing can go on indefinitely, but let us get to more meaty matters.
* Sounding Brass was originally published in Salt Lake City by Bookcraft in 1963. It carried the subtitle, "Informal Studies in the Lucrative Art of Telling Stories about Brigham Young and the Mormons."
1. Ann Eliza (Webb) Young, Wife No. 19; Or, the Story of a Life of Bondage, Being a Complete Exposé of Mormonism, and Revealing the Sorrows, Sacrifices and Sufferings of Women in Polygamy (Hartford, CT: Dustin, Gilman, 1875), 543.
2. Mrs. T. B. H. (Fanny) Stenhouse, Tell It All: The Story of a Life's Experience in Mormonism (Hartford, CT: Worthington, 1874), 287.
3. Irving Wallace, The Twenty-Seventh Wife (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961), 168.
4. Ibid. (emphasis added).
5. Young, Wife No. 19, 115-16.
6. Stenhouse, Tell It All, 286 (emphasis added).
7. Young, Wife No. 19, 373.
8. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 122-23.
9. Ibid., 123 (emphasis added).
10. Young, Wife No. 19, 375.
11. Young, Wife No. 19, 376-77.
12. Stenhouse, Tell It All, 286; cf. Young, Wife No. 19, 444-45.
13. Young, Wife No. 19, 444.
14. Ibid., 443.
15. Ibid., 444; Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 168.
16. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 220.
17. Young, Wife No. 19, 445.
18. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 172.
19. Young, Wife No. 19, 453.
20. Ibid., 554.
21. Ibid., 458.
22. Ibid., 543.
23. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 168 (emphasis added).
24. Ibid., 220.
25. "Sing of the wrath, O Goddess," are the opening words of Homer, Iliad I, 1. The preamble explains how Achilles' wrath sent thousands of men to their deaths and fulfilled the will of Zeus. It is a statement of the cause of the catastrophe whose story follows.
26. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 134.
28. Ibid., 136.
29. Ibid., 137-38.
30. Ibid., 367.
31. Ibid., 254.
32. Ibid., 282.
33. Ibid., 168.
34. Young, Wife No. 19, 423.
35. Ibid., 425.
36. Ibid., 438-39.
37. Ibid., 441.
38. Ibid., 465.
39. Ibid., 508 (emphasis added).
40. Ibid., 433.
41. Ibid., 438.
42. Ibid., 445.
43. Ibid., 437 (emphasis added).
44. Ibid., 432-33.
45. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 158.
46. Ibid., 162.
47. Stenhouse, Tell It All, 286.
48. Young, Wife No. 19, 445.
49. Ibid., 399.
50. Ibid., 437 (emphasis added).
51. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 159.
52. Young, Wife No. 19, 423.
53. Ibid., 437.
54. Ibid., 423-24.
55. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 164 (emphasis added).
56. Ibid., 165 (emphasis added).
57. Stenhouse, Tell It All, 286.
59. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 220.
60. Young, Wife No. 19, 445.
61. Stenhouse, Tell It All, 286.
62. Young, Wife No. 19, 451.
63. Ibid., 444.
64. Ibid., 453; Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 172.
65. Young, Wife No. 19, 455 (emphasis added).
66. Ibid. (emphasis added).
68. Ibid., 455-56.
69. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 167.
70. Young, Wife No. 19, 453.
71. Ibid., 515.
72. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 219.
73. Ibid., 220.
74. Ibid., 219.
75. Ibid., 314.
76. Ibid., 167.
77. Ibid., 152.
78. Ibid., 165 (emphasis added).
79. Young, Wife No. 19, 445.
80. Ibid., 114.
81. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 160.
82. Young, Wife No. 19, 391 (emphasis added).
84. Ibid., 399.
85. Ibid., 403.
87. Ibid., 405.
88. Ibid., 435-36 (emphasis added).
89. Ibid., 436.
90. Ibid., 411.
92. Ibid., 536.
93. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 180.
94. Ibid., 234 (emphasis added).
95. Young, Wife No. 19, 385.
96. Ibid., 390.
97. Ibid., 399 (emphasis added).
98. Ibid., 390.
99. Ibid., 552.
100. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 414.
101. Young, Wife No. 19, 423.
102. Ibid., 408.
103. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 423.
104. Young, Wife No. 19, 443.
105. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 381, 385-89.
106. Young, Wife No. 19, 105.
107. Ibid., 180.
108. Ibid., 323.
109. Ibid., 374.
110. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 148.
111. Young, Wife No. 19, 433.
112. Ibid., 460.
113. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 277.
114. Ibid., 395.
115. Ibid., 297.
116. Young, Wife No. 19, 391.
117. Ibid., 404 (emphasis added).
118. Stenhouse, Tell It All, 286.
119. Young, Wife No. 19, 538.
120. Ibid., 459-60.
121. Ibid., 552.
122. Ibid., 459.
123. Ibid., 465.
124. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 179.
125. Young, Wife No. 19, 124.
126. Ann Eliza Young, Life in Mormon Bondage (Philadelphia: Aldine, 1908), 454.
127. Young, Wife No. 19, 489.
128. Ibid., 485-86.
129. Ibid., 384.
130. Ibid., 386 (emphasis added).
131. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 204.
132. Ibid., 205.
133. Ibid., 206.
134. Young, Wife No. 19, 461.
135. Ibid., 509.
136. Ibid., 510.
137. Ibid., 462 (emphasis added).
138. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 211.
139. Ibid., (emphasis added); cf. Ann Eliza's story in Young, Wife No. 19, 462.
140. Ibid., 499.
141. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 209-10.
142. Ibid., 210 (emphasis added).
143. Young, Wife No. 19, 280-81.
144. Young, Life in Mormon Bondage, 213.
146. Young, Wife No. 19, 282.
148. Ibid., 283.
149. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 375.
150. Ibid., 375-76.
151. Ibid., 295.
152. Young, Wife No. 19, 498.
153. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 206.
154. Ibid., 190.
155. Young, Wife No. 19, 456.
157. Ibid., 497.
158. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 211.
159. Ibid., 256.
160. Ibid., 212.
161. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 198.
162. Young, Wife No. 19, 537.
163. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 209.
164. Young, Wife No. 19, 498.
165. Stenhouse, Tell It All, 288.
166. Young, Wife No. 19, 297.
167. Ibid., 298.
171. Ibid., 300.
173. Ibid., 301.
174. Ibid., 302.
175. Ibid., 303.
177. Ibid., 304.
179. Ibid., 304-5.
180. Ibid., 114.
181. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 165.
182. Young, Wife No. 19, 445.
183. Ibid., 434.
184. Stenhouse, Tell It All, 286.
185. Young, Wife No. 19, 536.
186. Ibid., 443.
187. Helen B. Woodward, The Bold Women (New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1953), 320.
188. Young, Wife No. 19, 384.
189. Ibid., 399 (emphasis added).
191. Ibid., 423 (emphasis added).
192. Ibid., 456.
193. Ibid., 457 (emphasis added).
194. Ibid., 550.
195. Ibid., 424.
196. Ibid., 550.
197. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 165.
198. Young, Wife No. 19, 443 (emphasis added).
199. Ibid., 385.
200. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 165.
201. Ibid., 171.
203. Young, Wife No. 19, 455.
204. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 163 (emphasis added).
205. Young, Wife No. 19, 436.
206. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 257-58 (emphasis added).
207. Young, Wife No. 19, 442.
208. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 244 (emphasis added).
209. Young, Wife No. 19, 555.
210. Ibid., 453.
212. Ibid., 457 (emphasis added).
213. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 256.
214. Ibid., 295.
215. Ibid., 226.
216. Ibid., 224.
217. Ibid., 228.
218. Ibid., 244.
219. Young, Wife No. 19, 554.
220. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 21.
221. Young, Wife No. 19, 545.
222. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 247.
223. Young, Wife No. 19, 444; Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 163, 168.
225. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 206.
226. Ibid., 168.
227. Young, Wife No. 19, 376-77.
228. Ibid., 456.
229. Ibid., 498.
230. Ibid., 451.
231. Ibid., 452.
232. Ibid., 456.
233. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 175.
234. Young, Wife No. 19, 457.
235. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 175; Stenhouse, Tell It All, 287.
236. Young, Wife No. 19, 457.
238. Ibid., 465 (emphasis added).
239. Ibid., 457.
240. Ibid., 465.
242. Young, Wife No. 19, 443.
243. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 314.
244. Young, Wife No. 19, 543.
245. Ibid., 442 (emphasis added).
246. Ibid., 466.
247. Ibid., 459-60.
248. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 226.
249. Ibid., 228.
250. Ibid., 179.
251. Young, Wife No. 19, 390.
252. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 410-14.
253. Stenhouse, Tell It All, 282.
254. Ibid., 288.
255. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 234 (emphasis added).
256. Young, Wife No. 19, 466.
257. Ibid., 458.
258. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 244.
259. Ibid., 228.
260. Young, Wife No. 19, 466.
261. Ibid., 551.
262. Ibid., 458.
264. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 314.
265. Ibid., 233.
266. Ibid., 228 (emphasis added).
267. Young, Wife No. 19, 554.
268. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 244.
269. Young, Wife No. 19, 473.
270. Ibid., 504.
271. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 220.
272. Young, Wife No. 19, 551 (emphasis added).
273. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 314.
274. Young, Wife No. 19, 539.
275. Ibid., 537-38 (emphasis added).
276. Ibid., 513.
277. Ibid., 105.
278. Ibid., 106.
279. Ibid., 100.
280. Ibid., 420-22.
281. Ibid., 339-40.
282. Ibid., 114.
283. Ibid., 434.
284. Ibid., 452.
285. Ibid., 453.
286. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 255.
287. Young, Wife No. 19, 454.
288. Ibid., 537.
289. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 209.
290. Ibid., 244.
291. Stenhouse, Tell It All, 282.
292. Ibid., 288.
293. Young, Wife No. 19, 444.
294. Ibid. (emphasis added).
295. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 168.
296. Ibid., 255.
297. Young, Wife No. 19, 436.
298. Ibid., 377.
299. Ibid., 508.
300. Ibid., 374.
302. Ibid., 455-56.
303. Stenhouse, Tell It All, 288.
304. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 238: "She saw Brigham once more, for the last time, it would turn out, and his rejection of her request for a new stove finally hardened her growing resolve." Helen Woodward, Bold Women, 326: "Brigham Young must have realized . . . how much that stove he wouldn't buy for Ann Eliza was going to cost him. By his frugality, he had delivered into the hands of his enemies such a mouthpiece as they could not have hoped for: a certified wife of the Prophet who happened to be also a trained actress."
305. Ibid, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 228, 314.
306. Ibid., 248.
307. Ibid., 275.
308. Ibid., 250.
309. Ibid., 228.
310. Young, Wife No. 19, 457.
311. Wallace, Twenty-Seventh Wife, 250.