Victor, Metta (Victoria) Fuller
VICTOR, Metta (Victoria) Fuller
Born 2 March 1831, Erie, Pennsylvania; died 26 June 1885, Hohokus, New Jersey
Wrote under: George E. Booram, Corinne Cushman, Eleanor Lee Edwards, Metta Fuller, Walter T. Gray, Rose Kennedy, Mrs. Mark Peabody, Seeley Regester, the Singing Sybil, Mrs. Henry J. Thomas, Metta Victor
Daughter of Adonijah (Adanigh?) and Lucy Williams Fuller; married Dr. Morse, circa 1850; Orville J. Victor, 1856; children: nine
Five years younger than her sister Frances, Metta Fuller Victor was eight years old when the family moved to Wooster Village, Ohio. Soon thereafter, she began her writing career. By the age of thirteen she was publishing in journals and papers. By fifteen, she had published The Last Days of Tul: A Romance of theLost Cities of Yucatan (1846). The same year, Victor began publishing as "The Singing Sybil" in Willis and Morris' New York Home Journal. Her poetry was much praised, but after producing one joint poetry volume with her sister, she turned her greatest energies to the writing of stories and novels.
Victor's early novels are often moralistic as well as melodramatic and focus on a particular social ill. One example, The Senator's Son (1853; sometimes called Parke Madison), is a temperance novel. It was also Victor's first bestseller, running to 10 editions in the U.S., and selling some 30,000 copies in pirated British editions.
There is some evidence that, by 1851, while living in Michigan, Victor was married to a Dr. Morse. Nothing is known about this marriage, which does not appear in records for St. Clair, Washtenaw, or Oakland County, Michigan. Her first marriage is even more mysterious than that of her sister to Jackson Barritt. It is known that in 1856 Victor married Orville J. Victor, a young journalist who would soon become one of the architects of the Beadle Dime Novel empire. Besides untold poems, stories, articles, manuals, and novels, Victor produced nine children. She was still an active writer when she died at age fifty-four of cancer.
Not surprisingly, Victor was one of Beadle's prime resources. She edited their journal, the Home, and was the author of manuals and cookbooks as well as fiction. She produced more than 20 books for Beadle. Dime Novel Number Four was Victor's Alice Wilde (1860). Her most popular Beadle novel was Maum Guinea and Her Plantation Children, first published in 1861. This impassioned story of slave life is said to have been praised by both President Lincoln and Henry Ward Beecher. It sold some 100,000 copies in the U.S. and was also reprinted widely in Britain.
Although Victor is perhaps best known for sensationalist sermons on issues like temperance and slavery, her most important contribution is probably her landmark work in the American detective novel. Under the pseudonym Seeley Regester, Victor produced The Dead Letter. First published by Beadle in 1866 (but believed to have been originally published two years earlier), The Dead Letter is one of the first detective novels. It antedates, by at least 12 years, Anna Katharine Green's The Leavenworth Case, which was long believed to be the first American detective novel.
Still a highly readable tale of treachery, true love, and murder, The Dead Letter features a professional gentleman sleuth named Mr. Burton. Besides the help of the young hero, Redfield, Burton also relies on the considerable talents of his young daughter, a psychic. Victor produced a second novel as Seeley Regester, The Figure Eight; or, The Mystery of Meredith Place (later called A Woman's Hand) in 1869. Other novels by Victor during this period, although not pure detective puzzles, feature violent crimes and their detection. One example, Too True: A Story of Today (1868), was published under Victor's real name and features a good deal of detection by a woman artist.
Victor deserves recognition as one of the earliest creators of the detective novel and as a writer with facility in any formula of popular fiction. She wrote romance, pioneer adventure, detective, sensation, and social issue novels. Late in her career she also created a comic realm populated by bad boys, bashful men, and prosperous pork merchants. During the heyday of the American dime novel and serial Victor was in great demand. At one point in the 1870s, Victor received $25,000 for exclusive story rights from the New York Weekly.
Victor could easily be labeled a hack writer. But she was also a writer of undeniable skill whose inventiveness anticipated the needs of her reading public. Sensational thrillers like The Dead Letter opened new frontiers in popular fiction and have the power to entertain even a modern reader.
Poems of Sentiment and Imagination (with F. F. Victor, 1851). Fresh Leaves from Western Woods (1852). Fashionable Dissipation (1854). Mormon Wives (1856). The Arctic Queen (1858). Miss Slimmen's Window (1859). The Dime Cook Book (1859). The Dime Recipe Book (1859). The Backwood's Bride (1860). Myrtle: The Child of the Prairie (1860). Uncle Ezekiel and his Exploits on Two Continents (1861). The Emerald Necklace (1861). The Unionist's Daughter (1862). The Gold Hunters (1863). Jo Daviess' Client (1863). The Country Cousin (1864). The Two Hunters (1865). The Housewife's Manual (1865). Who Was He? (1866). Laughing Eyes (1868). The Betrayed Bride (1869). Black Eyes and Blue (1876). Passing the Portal (1876). Brave Barbara (1877). The Hunted Bride (1877). Guilty or Not Guilty (1878). The Locked Heart (1879). A Wild Girl (1879). A Bad Boy's Diary (1880). The Black Riddle (1880). Madcap: The Little Quakeress (1880). The Mysterious Guardian (1880). Pretty and Proud (1880). Pursued to the Altar (1880). The Blunders of a Bashful Man (1881). At His Mercy (1881). Miss Slimmen's Boarding House (1882). A Woman's Sorrow (1882). The Bad Boy Abroad (1883). Morley Beeches (1883). Naughty Girl's Diary (1883). Abijah Beanpole in New York (1884). Mrs. Rasher's Curtain Lectures (1884). The Bad Boy at Home (1885). A Good Boy's Diary (1885). The Brown Princess (1888). The Phantom Wife (1888). Born to Betray (1890). The Gay Captain (1891). Who Owned the Jewels? (1891). The Georgie Papers (1897).
Johannsen, A., The House of Beadle and Adams, Vol. 2 (1950).
Cosmopolitan Art Journal (March 1857).
—KATHLEEN L. MAIO