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American Detective Fiction    Prior to July 1891

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  Published in
Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, September 1852.

This story was later reprinted in Leaves from the Diary of a Law-Clerk by the Author of “Recollections of a Detective Police Officer,” &c. London: J.C. Brown & Co., 1857.

 

 
The Incendiary
  prices for their produce—acted as if the chance-blown prosperity they enjoyed was the result of their own forethought, skill, and energy, and therefore, humanly speaking, indestructible. James Dutton was, consequently, denied nothing—not even the luxury of neglecting his own education; and he availed himself of the lamentable privilege to a great extent. It was, however, a remarkable feature in the lad's character, that whatever he himself deemed essential should be done, no amount of indulgence, no love of sport or dissipation, could divert him from thoroughly accomplishing. Thus he saw clearly, that even in the life—that of a sportsman farmer—he had chalked out for himself, it was indispensably necessary that a certain quantum of educational power should be attained; and so he really acquired a knowledge of reading, writing, and spelling, and then withdrew from school to more congenial avocations.

I frequently met James Dutton in after years; but some nine or ten months had passed since I had last seen him, when I was directed by the chief partner in the firm to which Flint and . . .

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I KNEW James Dutton, as I shall call him, at an early period of life, when my present scanty locks of iron grey were thick and dark, my now pale and furrowed cheeks were fresh and ruddy, like his own. Time, circumstance, and natural bent of mind, have done their work on both of us; and if his course of life has been less equable than mine, it has been chiefly so because the original impulse, the first start on the great journey upon which so much depends, was directed by wiser heads in my case than in his. We were schoolfellows for a considerable time; and if I acquired—as I certainly did—a larger stock of knowledge than he, it was by no means from any superior capacity on my part, but that his mind was bent on other pursuits. He was a born Nimrod, and his father encouraged this propensity from the earliest moment that his darling and only son could sit a pony or handle a light fowling piece. Dutton, senior, was one of a then large class of persons whom Cobbett used to call bullfrog farmers; men who, finding themselves daily increasing in wealth by the operation of circumstances they neither created nor could insure or control—namely, a rapidly increasing manufacturing population, and tremendous war

   

 

 


 

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