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Friday, 12 May 2023

Mary's brother Albert

I dipped into Historical Sketches by choosing to read the chapter on Albert Baker, Mary’s brother. It is Chapter 3 in the book. I found Clifford P Smith's writing clear and economical, and it showed a keen insight into the relationship that Albert and Mary would have shared. Mary was closer to Albert than to her other siblings. Eleven years older than her, they both had exceptional intellectual talents. Smith describes him, along with their mother, as Mary’s closest family member.  

Albert Baker distinguished himself as a sharp, independent, and ethical thinker, a natural leader, and a gifted orator. His education at Dartmouth College and subsequent  mentorship with Franklin Pierce ably prepared him for a distinguished career in law and politics. Clifford Smith writes of this association with the future President of the United States thus: “This association had rather far-reaching influence: the polish and learning of Franklin Pierce and his protégé, Albert Baker, so impressed the latter’s little sister that she too became anxious for the advantages of an education”.  

Indeed Albert encouraged Mary to go to school whenever she was well enough, and tutored her whenever he was home on holidays. He thus had a profound influence on her education and awareness of the outside world. Clifford Smith writes:  "...she attributed her initial intellectual stimulus to the example and tutoring of her brother.” Albert recognised his sister's exceptional intellect and obviously held her in high regard. One time, Albert wrote to Mary encouraging her to associate with a new attendee at Sanbornton Academy, a Mr Harrison Andrews. He wrote: “He is a very close (strictly logical) student, and is as much given to discursive talking as yourself, though he has not quite so much poetry at his command…”  It would appear that by "discursive talking" Albert meant that Mary possessed the ability to proceed in her communications by reasoning and argument rather than intuition. It also would appear that her expression was always particularly poetic. Both of these talents emerge full-blown in her primary work, Science and health with Key to the Scriptures 

Albert had a distinguished career in the New Hampshire legislature, and seemed poised to enter the United States Congress when he passed away at age 31. Many were the tributes to him for his public services, his love of good,  and his pursuit of “What is right?”, which "he would pursue fearless of the consequences.”  

An extraordinary statement concludes this chapter: “Only a month or so before she passed on, (Mrs Eddy) spoke of him as the most scientific man that she ever knew before the discovery of Christian Science.”  One can only wonder what the discovery of Christian Science might have looked like had Albert been at Mary’s side, reasoning scientific truths with her and encouraging her in her research and writing. 

Marie Fox

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