“‘With Their Tongues Doom Men to Death’: Christian Science and the Case of Harold Frederic”
Albertine, Susan. “‘With Their Tongues Doom Men to Death’: Christian Science and the Case of Harold Frederic.” American Literary Realism, 1870–1910 21, no. 3 (Spring 1989): 52–66.
Albertine begins by surveying the media and publicity around the controversial 1898 death of Harold Frederic, London Chief of the New York Times. Frederic had died at his home which he shared with his companion, a Christian Scientist, while under the treatment of a Christian Science practitioner—both women then charged with manslaughter. Albertine then analyzes chapter 10 of Robert Barr’s 1901 novel The Victors with its characters depicting a melodramatic and sarcastic version of the Frederic incident. Overarching the press and literary coverage Albertine finds a subtext: the fear of Christian Science: “as a new kind of [financial, healing and social] power in the hands of women;” and the defendants being members of a “witchery,” “nonconformist sect” led by a woman. Thus, Barr’s chapter title: “With Their Tongues [powerful women’s words of prayer] Doom Men [rational males] to Death.” Albertine concludes that “the various stories of Frederic’s death, with their common subtext, were told as a public mitigation of [patriarchal] loss and an attempt to reclaim authority, an attempt that appeared more successful than it was.” The women were acquitted, and science and medicine in the late 19th century still lacked the public’s faith.
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