Meet Frank

Howdy, folks!

      Frank L. Fettle here, broadcasting live, of a sort, from London town. I welcome you to my first venture onto the World Wide Web. I hope that we will share many a happy blog post together in the future, but, for now, I thought I’d take this opportunity to answer the three questions I’m most commonly asked.  So here goes.

So, Frank, just how old are you?

     Well, that depends. If you count from when my mother gave birth to me then I’m one hundred and seventy one years old. If you begin counting from the day I was resurrected from the dead then I’m one hundred and forty years old. Like her majesty the queen, I have two birthdays – just for differing reasons. One thing we can be sure about is that I was definitely thirty-one years old when I died.

    To understand how I lived, died, and lived again, you must first understand how it was that I came to be in existence at all. Obviously, my lives (combined) have been lengthy, and I couldn't possibly tell you of all the things I've known and seen, especially when so much has changed since I was a boy, but I will begin by telling you about my parents. After all, if it weren’t for them…

     The world I was born into was a very different world to the world I see today. But, just like now, my old world had its joys and its cruelties. For instance, in the year my mother met my father, slavery was about to be abolished in the UK - the owners would be compensated for the loss of their slaves but the slaves would receive nothing. Her majesty, Queen Victoria, was just fourteen months into her sixty-year reign, and Lord Melbourne was her prime minister. Her reign would well outlast his. In travel news of the time; although there was much excitement about the opening of the new London to Birmingham rail line, horses and carriages would continued to ferry well heeled people to and from the new National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. However, it would be another year before Nelson's column would be fully erect...thus, giving the square the iconic look that we are more familiar with today.

My mother, Amber Lee
     That same year, a book titled 'Oliver Twist' was also published. When I was a small boy my father would read it to me before I slept. It was a book that I grew to adore, for it reminded me of how fortunate I was, and how easily I could have become a member of Fagan's gang.
     Disease, misfortune, and a certain amount of alcohol induced stupidity, had caused the demise of almost the entire Lee family. Just one remained. Amber Lee - the youngest daughter. She would deliver me safely into the world. As August 1838 approached my mother was working at a small hotel in Mayfair. Somehow, she had scraped and toiled to avoid a life, if you can call it that, in the workhouse, which was the unfortunate fate of many poor people at that time. With her wages she'd rented a small attic room in a Vauxhall house that she shared with her elderly landlady. Known as a conscientious worker who took pride in her work, my mother had been working at Mivert’s hotel for nearly three years when she met my father.

My Father, Frank Fettle
   My father was an American national, and his life couldn't have been more different than my mother's. He came from a long line of wealthy Maine shipbuilders, and as a family they'd built some of the most magnificent wooden sailing ships that the world had ever seen. The Fettle &  Friends shipyard liked to be at the cutting edge of ship design, so my father's role was to travel far and wide so that he could see for himself which designs, materials, and techniques the world's shipwrights were using. He'd just finished a tour of the Far East and mainland Europe when he booked into the Mivert Hotel, Mayfair.
Every morning my mother would knock on the door of room # 9. For the first week of her visits, my father would reply 'Enter!' My mother would do as instructed and enter the room so that she might change the washstand water and leave replace the dirty towels. My father would be sitting at a table next to the window, hunched over his notebooks; scribbling and sketching all that he'd seen, barely lifting his head to acknowledge my mother's presence. He was polite and courteous but clearly focused on his task. Her may not have noticed her, but my mother had noticed him. To see such a muscular man engrossed in work as gentle and delicate as sketching intrigued her. As week two of his stay commenced the most important of his sketches were complete, and my father began to see my mother. His head of dark wavy hair lifted from the table and he was love struck almost immediately. That was how it started.

     From that moment my parents-to-be spent time together whenever my mother was free of her hotel duties. They picnicked in Hyde park, and boated on the serpentine, more than once. They had shared three of the happiest weeks either of them had ever had and the blossoming of love was mutual.  As my father's stay neared an end he resolved to return soon, whereupon they would be wed. A more sceptical person might think that he had no intention of making good his promise, especially when my mother stayed with him in his hotel room on the final night of his stay. And that was how I came to be.

       Of course, when my parents parted company they didn't know that their unplanned relations had created what would, in approximately nine months, be me. My mother had wept as she waved my father off on his journey to Liverpool so that he could catch his ship back across the Atlantic. She believed he would return but as the months passed and her belly began to swell, and there was still no sign of him, she, quite understandably, had begun to doubt his pledge. 

A youthful Mrs White
At that time in history, unmarried mothers were often ostracised from society, but Amber was lucky as she had Mrs White, her aging landlady. Mrs White and her late husband had been unable to have children, and Amber was about the age Mrs White's daughter would have been, had she had a daughter. As it became apparent that Amber Lee was with child, Mrs White encouraged her to stay. As Amber's pregnancy progressed she would be unable to work and no longer able to pay the rent, but Mrs White had a lodger for the company in the evenings rather than the financial gain. My mother's boss, Mr Badger, had been pleased to see her with some happiness in her life, so, although courtship between staff and guests was forbidden, he'd turned a blind eye to her meetings with Frank Fettle. He'd believed him to be a decent fellow, and felt partly responsible when Frank Fettle didn't return. Mr Badger couldn't leave Amber to her fate in the workhouse, so he retained her job. When the child was weaned, Mrs White would look after it, and Amber could return to work. It seemed the perfect arrangement.

      In some regards my mother was very fortunate. I can only presume that she must have been a charming woman for these people to want to help her in the way they did. I have to make the presumption because I, unfortunately, never got to know my mother. In the early hours of May 1st, 1839, she went into labour. There had been much howling, as you'd expect during childbirth without pain relief, but it seemed that my birth had gone to plan. She named me Frank, after my father. And then, less than an hour after giving birth, with me grasped to her breast, my mother suddenly passed away. She was just twenty-five years old.

       Due to my mother's passing, I found myself at the London Orphan Asylum in Hackney. Mrs White was unable to look after me permanently, and Mrs Badger's wife didn't want another baby in the house. With my father presumed absent, and no other surviving blood relatives, there weren't any other options for me. Even then, it was only because Mr Badger vouched for the respectability of my late mother that I was accepted into the orphanage at all. He told them that my mother had been widowed whilst carrying me. According to Mr Badger, my father had a valiant death, and it was probably the sadness of it all that killed her. It might have been a white lie but there may also have been some truth to the tale. Unsurprisingly, the orphanage was a dour place full of god-fearing nuns, but it was preferable to the squalor of the workhouse. Thankfully, I was, of course, a newborn and remember none of this first hand.

      So, what happened to my father? Was he the dirty rotten scoundrel that he appeared to be? In short: no. My father had caught his ship back to the United States. But four days into the crossing he had taken ill with a suspected case of cholera. It was nothing short of a miracle that he survived the journey but, somehow, he did. His family had collected him from the port and taken him home in the hope that he might fully recover his senses. In his fevered state he had muttered a certain amount of nonsense. So when he spoke of his intention to marry the hotel maid, his nurses merely thought he was delusional.
The around the clock nursing must have paid off because he did eventually regain his health. 

Mr Badger
      And, against the wishes, of his family, as soon as he was fit and able, he caught another ship back to the UK. Once he reached London he immediately headed to Miverts Hotel so that he could be reunited with my mother. Mr Badger was shocked to see him standing in the reception area. The hotelier hadn't expected to ever see him again. And it was he who had the unenviable task of informing my father that his love had passed away a month earlier. Frank Fettle was absolutely devastated to hear the news. His intentions had been entirely honourable, but his beloved had gone to her grave probably thinking the worst of him. This knowledge crushed him almost as entirely as her absence. Once my father's shock had subsided somewhat, (a subsidence due largely to the large tot of rum he gulped back,) Mr Badger informed his of the gift that Amber Lee had left behind.

       It came as a huge shock to Frank Fettle to discover that he was a father. It's understandable that he would have liked a little more notice but fate hadn't taken that into account. Frank resolved immediately that he would take me home with him back to his hometown. He and Mr Badger made their way to the orphanage where Mr Badger explained to the mother superior that there had been a terrible, or wonderful, misunderstanding. My father was, in fact, alive, and here to collect his son.  The nuns were always glad of the extra space so I was immediately released into the care of my father. For the next two months we stayed with Mrs White in Vauxhall whilst my father began the task of coming to terms with both his loss and his gain. Once he was confident that he would, just about, be able to look after me, albeit with some help from his family, we bade our farewells and began the journey back to Cabot Cove, Maine.

2) ‘Frank, I really hate to ask this, it is terribly nosey of me, but just how did you die? For your sake, I do hope it wasn’t painful.’

Well…With the invention of the steam ship, the ship building industry boomed and Fettle & Friends were reaped the rewards of keeping abreast of international maritime developments. As a result we were wealthy, very wealthy. I wanted for nothing, including a loving family. I received the best education money could buy at the time. Life in Cabot Cove was sickeningly idyllic. I had the run of the local countryside and coast, including the harbour. With warm summers and snowy winters, as a child I loved it. How I adored smell of the salty air and the sound of hungry gulls overhead. I was free to roam in a way that I never would have been had I stayed in London. I did, however, visit England many times. My father believed that it was important for me to always know where I began my life, and I'm thankful for that. Whenever my father's work took him to London I travelled with him. For the duration of our stay we were always the guests of Mrs White.  She was like a grandmother to me until her death in 1857. I always enjoyed our visits but there was no doubt that the bleakness of London was a world away from my privileged life in Maine.

      My father's family, my family, had been surprised by my arrival but they had also welcomed me with open arms and without question. I suddenly had grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, second cousins. I, of course, missed having somebody I could call 'mother' but I was surrounded by many women who showed me many maternal kindnesses. It was a large and loving family, and I loved them all dearly; especially my father. I'm not sure that my father ever came to terms with the death of my mother. There's no doubt that as I grew up he made sure I felt loved and wanted, but something in him had died the day he discovered that my mother has passed away. His passion for life had diminished and it, sadly, came as no surprise to me when he died of a laudanum overdose when I was 22. It was a devastating blow to the Fettle family.

     Until my father's death in 1861 I'd worked as an apprentice in the family business. I wasn't a natural shipwright and I don't think any of the family objected when I resigned my post. Due to the inheritance I received from my late father's estate. I was now a wealthy man. Knowing that the shipping industry didn't really have a place in my heart, I also sold my father's share of the business back to the family. I could now retire and live a comfortable life until the day I died. And, boy, did I live. I had travelled the world and experienced many of its differing flavours but after all that excitement, I opted to settle in London. Cabot Cove was suffering a high murder rate and, statistically speaking, London was by far the safer place to live. And there I remained until my untimely demise at the age of 31.

       It was June 14th 1870, and I'd gone to Westminster Abbey to pay my final respects at the open grave Charles Dickens. Ever since my father's childhood readings of Oliver Twist I'd followed his career right until the end. He was a fine man, with whom I had been fortunate enough to share dinner on many occasions. On that fateful day, once the abbey doors had opened, the mourners had begun to file in through the West door. In no time at all, the solemn queue had shuffled its way towards poet's corner. For the briefest of moments I had stood at the foot of the grave. I was just about to toss in a flower that I had picked from my own garden when, without notice, I was shoved from behind. The hefty bosom of an over zealous middle-aged English teacher had unexpectedly propelled me forward. I fell forward, right through the safety rope that was meant to prevent this kind of eventuality. Unfortunately, once beyond the rope there was nowhere to go except down - approximately six feet down, in fact. In an instant I instinctively tried to use my cane to break my fall, but the stick merely splintered such was the velocity at which I travelled. So, and with a wholesome thud, I landed heavily on the elm coffin lid. If the coffin hadn’t have been of such sturdy construction…Well, we all know how awkward a moment that would have been. Yet, I was still momentarily embarrassed to hear a communal gasp echo its way around the historic abbey, closely followed by a chorus of nervous tittering. Of course, it’s a blessing that I hadn’t just flattened the corpse of England’s most popular writer, worse still, in front of a queue of snivelling mourners. Ordinarily, I’d be rejoicing with the silver lining but my joy is tempered by the knowledge that I lost my first life during this unfortunate incident.
     You might think that my cause of death would be a broken neck, or maybe a fractured skull. No. Instead, in my ungainly attempt to avoid the downward momentum of gravity, as I landed in a heap I somehow managed to impale myself on my splintered cane. It’s fair to say that my memory of having internal organs is now a (very) vague one. But, still, I believe that my liver and spleen were ruptured and I quickly bled to death. In under a minute I had lost consciousness, and within three I was deceased. The final thought of my first life was 'how fragrant the roses smell today'.  

3) Frank, if you’re absolutely certain that you’re not the Son of God cometh again, how is that you’ve been resurrected from the dead?  

      Well...After my sudden and unexpected passing, my body was retrieved from where it lay. (I suspect I was dragged out by the ankles.) As I’d done nothing to warrant a burial in poet’s corner, a small funeral service was held for me in Nunhead Cemetery, during which my body was returned to the earth. And, had everything gone to plan, that is where I would have remained. However, like my final breakfast, I was destined to make an unexpected reappearance. I'd not been in the ground all that long, a matter of hours, before the resurrectionists came calling at my new wooden door. I was unceremoniously uprooted, the lid of my coffin slammed closed again, and the earth replaced on top. You'd never have known that my everlasting sleep had been disturbed. Under cover of darkness I was then transported down the hill and across town in the back of a cart. George Smirk and Augustus Hare were paid the princely sum of two pounds for the safe delivery of my reasonably fresh corpse.

       The scientist who paid the body snatchers’ bill was a man called Dr Malady. There were legitimate ways to obtain fresh bodies but Dr Malady wanted absolutely no record of his controversial work so he called on his old resurrection men to discreetly supply the goods.
Dr Milgram Malady was originally from the territory of Colorado where his mining family had made a small fortune during the Pike Peak gold rush. With their windfall they paid for the young Malcolm to travel to the UK to study medicine. When he returned he would be able to patch up those miners injured and diseased whilst in the pursuit of gold. It was a great idea in principle, and would have been in practice had Milgram returned to his homeland. When he was a fully-fledged doctor he had, instead, settled in London so that he could further his work. Only when his great works were complete would he return to his homeland.
Dr Milgram Malady was also obsessed with Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein'.  It was a book he'd discovered during his time at university. He'd read it cover to cover many times, and it was now his passion to discover if there was any truth between the pages. So strong was the desire to answer his question it had led him to immoral measures. But, to his mind at least, if his experiments proved that there was even an element of truth to the tale then he might have found the path to everlasting life. And that would make the moral indiscretions he made along the way a price worth paying.
    I doubt I was the first guinea pig he experimented on in his secret laboratory but I was certainly his last. I shouldn't laugh but he got quite a fright when I suddenly sprung back into life. The generator failed just as I sat bolt upright and groaned heavily, so I can only presume that to him, in the silence of the candlelit basement, my reappearance must have been rather terrifying. I've never heard a scream quite like it.

     Just like I hadn't made financial provisions for the eventuality that I should be resurrected, Milgram hadn't considered what he might do should his experiment result in the living dead sharing his basement. It was quite a warm summer that year and neither of us had banked on the rate of my decomposition. It was psychologically challenging time for me. By the end of the first week the aroma was pungent, to say the least; but London was a stinky place so nobody paid attention to the smell wafted up from the doctor's basement. I assume that we both thought that, as bits of me began to drop off, that I'd just curl up in a corner and die all over again. I was a shadow of my former self but as the weeks progressed I just kept on going. I know he thought about killing me but with Mary Shelley's book so engrained in him, Malady feared making the same mistake as Victor Frankenstein. Instead he cared for me with the tenderness of a mother hen. Gradually he stopped making notes of every physiological change in my body. Instead he would ask how I was feeling. Over those few weeks in the basement together we had grown fond of each other.

       It would only matter of time before the results of his illegal experiment were discovered. I didn't particularly want him to be imprisoned, or worse, but I also didn't want the rest of my second life to be spent in a laboratory being prodded and poked all day long. So, as soon as my enchanted bones were clean we made the decision to flee back to Colorado.
 I was carried on board ship labelled as a 'medical specimen'. This status meant I had to lie as still as possible for the duration of our journey. Milgram was kind enough to lend me a copy of ‘Frankenstein’ and a candle. Sadly he forgot the matches. My coffin didn’t come with a sea view so I confess that, about three days in, I did get a little bored. I just couldn’t resist having a little claw and scrape on the lid of the casket. Their screams led me to believe that I had, somewhat, unnerved the crew. The unease did mean that the captain pressed on, full steam ahead.  Milgram feared us being discovered but, unless I got up and did a song and dance across the ship’s bridge, how could they ever prove I was alive, again. But, despite my menial entertainment, and without a single remaining brain cell, I had plenty of time to lie there in the dark, and think. It was during this monotonous journey that it occurred to me that, had I stayed in the orphanage or workhouse I most likely would have died before the age of five. That was the way of it back then. If starvation hadn’t got me then disease certainly would have. And, had I succumbed, there would have been nobody to claim my body. After the anatomy act of 1832 it was legal for scientists to take the unclaimed bodies from the workhouse so, chances are, I’d have ended up on the dissection table, where I’d have been hacked to pieces, albeit carefully, and my blood vessels filled with wax, so everyone could gawp at the internal human structure. But I didn’t go to the workhouse and, still, I ended up on a table, in the hands of an inquisitive medical man. As I bobbed about the Atlantic in a tight fitting wooden box, it seemed to me that I was probably destined to be an anatomist’s plaything. It was just a matter of who and when… On realising my good fortune I immediately resolved to live my afterlife to the absolute fullest. A second chance at life, after actually dying, is not the kind of thing that happens to someone every day, and I promised both Milgram and myself that I would live proud. And for the past one hundred and forty years, and counting, I’ve done exactly as I said I would.

Well, folks. I need to go and rest my eyes.

My regards to you all,