I was orphaned at the tender age of two when John Allan, a Richmond
tobacco dealer, took me into his home and raised me as a son. He did not, however, formerly adopt me
and this fact, along with his penny pinching ways and critical personality,
caused much friction between us and eventually led to a painful separation.
William Galt, John Allan’s uncle and my great uncle, was a wonderful man,
possessing much of what John Allan lacked.
Aside from being the richest man in Richmond in the 1820’s, he was also
the most generous. Uncle William
owned real estate in Richmond and Lynchburg, plantations, a tobacco business,
grist and saw mills and a bank. I
can recall the summers of my youth when we stayed at Uncle William’s property at
the White Sulpher Springs spa in the Virginia Mountains. We often stopped in Lynchburg, sometimes
staying for days while John Allan looked after Uncle William’s affairs. I have fond memories of the Lynchburg
hotels at which we resided during these exciting journeys.
Like John Allan, William Galt accepted a young boy, his sister’s son,
into his home. But unlike John
Allan, Uncle William formerly adopted and loved his heir. He also protected and rescued John Allan
on at least two occasions from financial ruin when a downturn in the tobacco
trade nearly wiped him out. First,
in 1819, when the London tobacco market collapsed, William Galt loaned us a
house in Richmond when we had nothing.
Again, on March 25, 1825, Uncle William rescued John Allan from a
debtor’s life of poverty when he died, and left one third of his estate to my
adopted father. I estimated the
value of this inheritance to be $750,000!
The story of Robert Morriss, the loyal innkeeper in The Beale Papers who lost everything
save his honor because of a downturn in the tobacco market, comes directly from
my memories of John Allan and William Galt. Indeed, as a youth I myself worked for a
time as a clerk in my father’s tobacco house. Morriss exhibits many of the admirable
qualities of my Uncle William Galt; his honesty, gentle but stern disposition
and, particularly, his generous nature.
The Beale Papers is a tale of
a treasure found and lost, true, but it is much more than just a buried treasure
story. The Beale Papers is a mystery that
exposes how each man defines “treasure”.
For over a century this story has trapped the greedy, as I hoped it
would, into ruining their lives in a vain search for illusory wealth. Many continue this hopeless quest
today. They will fail. The Beale Papers has also lured those
who seek a solution to the codes purely for the sake of the intellectual
challenge. Many of these
mathematicians are confident that their proofs, algorithms and computers will
eventually break the ciphers. We
A third group, much smaller than the
first two, may ultimately penetrate the mysterious fog that has encompassed The Beale Papers for over a
century. These are the poets, those
who treasure beauty above material wealth.
This group may ultimately find the Beale treasure, for the real “treasure” of The Beale Papers is not gold or silver
but beauty, the beauty conveyed to posterity through literature that comes from
the heart and soul. It is a gift
that poets such as myself sometimes leave to all men to help them to see the
beauty that exists in this, and other, worlds.
Because John Allan refused to adopt me
and acknowledge any right I might have to his fortune, I was doomed to a life of
poverty. But for the generosity of
William Galt, John Allan would have suffered the same fate as myself. To the John Allan’s of the world, I
curse your greed and avarice. May
you forever search in vain for the wealth you seek. To those who treasure beauty, generosity
and human kindness, to the William Galt’s who would seek a solution to this
enigma, may you enjoy this little mystery by your warm fire. One of you, some day, will discover the
literary treasure that I have left to posterity.
The Beale Papers is my last
will and testament, a declaration in which I devise to posterity my “fortune”,
my literary treasure. During my
lifetime, I valued John Allan’s inheritance, a fortune that should have been
mine, at $750,000. It is no
coincidence that I also valued the Beale treasure at “more than three-quarters of a
million”. The Beale treasure is
my treasure! My inheritance! The Beale vault is a crypt! My
crypt! It contains the treasure
that I devise to posterity. Enjoy
this literary gift. It is all that
I have to give, my heart, soul and mind.
God save my poor soul if it is not enough! (July