February 19, 1843, Ms. Charlotte Haven visited the Nauvoo, Illinois home of Lucy Mack Smith, mother of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith. For a small fee, Mrs. Smith invited Charlotte to follow her up a staircase to a dark attic room where several Egyptian mummies waited to welcome them.
According to the accounts of many visitors, the mummies were somewhat unpleasant to look at, with little of their original wrappings remaining. They couldn’t have been in great shape, either because, according to Charlotte, Mrs. Smith held up a detached appendage of one of them and said, “This is the leg of Pharaoh’s daughter—the one who saved Moses.”
The back story Charlotte and other visitors received was that the four mummies in Mrs. Smith’s possession included “King Onitus,” two of his daughters, and one poor unknown Egyptian who was spending his afterlife a long way from home.
The four mummies, as well as can be traced, arrived in the US from somewhere near Thebes, in the spring of 1833 along with seven others and at least a couple of scrolls covered in hieroglyphs no one in the US could yet read.
A man named Michael Chandler, armed with an unsubstantiated story about being the nephew and heir of Egyptologist Antonio Lebolo, claimed the shipment and spent the next two years exhibiting what was the largest collection of mummies to have yet toured the United States. He lost a few here or there along the way and eventually sold the final four to the early Mormon church in Ohio.
But Chandler wasn’t the nephew of Antonio Lebolo, at least not as far as any scholar has been able to find, and if Pharaoh’s daughter—the one who saved Moses—lost her leg in the afterlife, it didn’t happen in Nauvoo, Illinois.
Mummies have a strange history in the US, where they’ve found themselves displayed in parlors, ground into medicine, and used by painters to get that just right shade of mummy brown. They were unrolled before curious audiences, occasionally stripped so their linen could be recycled into paper, and yes, sometimes they were the unwitting mouthpieces of showmen and religious leaders.
The “lives” of mummies in 19th century America, thousands of miles from where, in life, they had planned to rest for eternity, was strange indeed. Strange enough even, that when I first began to learn about the Lebolo mummies and Michael Chandler, I thought there’s a great book in that.
I often have that thought as I’m researching. And once in a while I act on it.
My new novel Gentleman of Misfortune follows the story of the Lebolo mummies and the imposter who stole them. In my story, his real name is Lyman Moreau, a clever gentlemanly criminal, who hatches a plan, assumes an identity, and finds himself caught up in a dangerous journey that will bring him face to face with love and loss, and will force him to consider his own mortality. His adventure takes him through several states, along the Erie Canal, across the paths of several historical figures, and to the doorstep of a prophet. He doesn’t quite get all the way to Mrs. Smith’s attic. But there’s probably a great book in that, too.
You can check out a brief excerpt of Gentleman of Misfortune here. If it sounds like your kind of book, please consider one (or more) of the following:
1. Buy yourself the book. Reading is good for you, and you deserve it.
2. Buy a friend the book. Reading is good for your friend, and s/he deserves it.
3. Request that your library order the book. Reading is good for everyone, and libraries are wonderful places.
4. Help spread the word so others can discover the book. Because reading is good. For example, you could:
- Share/re-blog this post. Less work for you.
- Post about the book on Facebook. Watch the “likes” roll in.
- Put a picture of yourself holding the book on Instagram. #GreatReads
- Recommend the book on Bookbub. Be an influencer.
- Snapchat yourself with the book. Give yourself some kitty ears. It’s fun!
- Tell your neighbor about the book. You can borrow a cup of sugar while you’re at it.
- Tweet about the book. You can even just click one (or more) of the ready-made tweets below.
Gentleman of misfortune is a dark tale of mummies, mischief, and murder. Perfect for fall! #tbrlist #historicalfiction #newbook https://amzn.to/2Q47em1
19th century gentleman swindler Lyman Moreau finds his next big scheme and loses his heart among a collection of mummies bound for the most successful prophet in US history. #historicalfiction #tbrlist #newbook https://amzn.to/2Q47em1
From author Sarah Angleton comes a new historical novel—a dark tale of eleven mummies, a scoundrel, a seductress, and a prophet. #historicalfiction #tbrlist #fallreads https://amzn.to/
And if you do read and enjoy the book, please consider leaving a review. It helps a lot. Thank you!
15 thoughts on “Because Reading is Good: Gentleman of Misfortune”
Have done my duty and tweeted, and, as it’s my birthday today, have just treated myself to a copy. All best wishes and good luck 😀
Thank you so much! And a very happy birthday to you!
and thank you in return 🙂
I just got it! I can’t wait! Congratulations, it sounds so good I’m sure I will enjoy it. I’m very curious as to how one loses a mummy.
I also tweeted it! Good luck!
Thank you! I’m excited for you to read it!
Congratulations on the launch of your novel, Sarah! I’m sure readers will love it as much as I did!
That’s very kind. Thank you, Pat.
And the strangeness of real history inspires real authors to employ real creativity to interpret stories of real imagination! It’s fascinating. Mummies and Mormons — who knew? The past comes to vivid life under the pen of Sarah Angleton — although the mummies stay dormant, I hope. Can’t wait to see what you come up with next.
Thank you, Marcia!
Sarah, I just finished reading the Author’s Notes in the back of your book. The history behind your story is so intriguing. I can’t wait to read it! It’s at the top of my to-be-read pile.
Thank you so much!
Such an interesting premise, Sarah! I am intrigued. I need to read this book now ❤
You’re welcome 🙂