Part 2: Woodcock
The New York World scooped its rival, the Herald, on November 1, with a detailed account of Charles Woodcock's history, stressing his worldly rise from humble butcher's son to king's favorite. The rags-to-riches story was getting a workout.
Woodcock's mother, interviewed by the World, revealed that her son was thirty-eight (born, then, in 1850), born in New York City, where he had attended college.
The only known photograph that is probably of Woodcock appears below, accessed on September 23, 2011, from Wikipedia, which accessed it from an exhibit on German history. It shows Queen Olga in the upholstered armchair at left, two ladies-in-waiting, and a reader who is probably Charles Woodcock. Photograph taken in Nizza (Nice, France) around 1885. No other photos of Woodcock are now available.
Returning from a first trip to Germany in 1873, Charles Woodcock had joined the Church of the Disciples, presided over by the Reverend Dr. George Hughes Hepworth, and "won the warm friendship" of the pastor. (The World revealed that Hepworth was then associated with its rival, the Herald. Hepworth was, in fact, that paper's "superintending editor" from March 1885 to the summer of 1892.)
Woodcock had pursued religious studies, graduating in 1875 from the Congregational Theological Seminary in Bangor, Maine. He had then preached at the Congregational Church in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, and had been ordained pastor of that church, after being "vouched for" by the by Reverend Hepworth.
Pastor Woodcock had resided in Saint John at the Victoria Hotel, said the World, and soon became "a prominent society man," his evenings spent in "entertainments." It "is whispered among some of the older 'boys' of the town," added the paper, "that his parlors in the hotel were often the scene of very gay stag parties." A former bellboy recalled: "Champagne was the favorite beverage at these gay parties." Woodcock had also been "much abstracted" in 1878, due to debts and creditors, said the paper: "These, with occasional hints at his gay life, were gradually making trouble."
The term "gay" is first known to be used, unambiguously, in reference to "homosexual" men and women in the 1920s. So the World's reference to "gay stag parties," "gay parties," and Woodcock's "gay life," probably suggests a loose-living, profligate pastor, not, specifically, one sexually involved with men.
Spending his mornings at Saint John's leading bookstore, added the World, Woodcock was "sure to see all the good-looking society girls," and it was "here that he met Donald Hendry, his present companion." The pastor's looking for girls and finding Hendry was not presented as surprising or as opposed enterprises -- the paper presumed no exclusive love interest in one sex or another.
Hendry, a clerk in the bookstore, reportedly came from Eel River, York County, Canada ("a backwoods settlement"), had "adapted himself to city ways," and, while "Donald was not more wicked than the others, he always managed to be where the fun was best." A "popular fellow," the "good-looking, affable, agreeable" Hendry was "highly respected by the lady patrons of the book-store." Though Hendry was originally a Baptist, "his friend Woodcock converted him to the Congregational faith."
In 1879, "the interest taken by Woodcock in the defaulting teller of the Park Bank in New York City who was in jail" reportedly caused some "trouble" in the pastor's congregation (the World does not, unfortunately, explain further). Woodcock had traveled to New York to attend to the teller, and on his return had "preached his farewell sermon."
Invited by the Reverend Hepworth to make a Continental tour, Woodcock and Hendry, joined by a Mr. Arnold of the New York Bible Society, had set off for Europe. (Heyworth’s biography says that Mrs. Hepworth and several others composed a group of nine -- so, despite the newspaper, this was not a bachelor party. Woodcock and Hendry finally ended up together in Stuttgart, where, about 1883, following Richard Jackson's example, they met and developed a profitable five-year intimacy with the King of Württemberg.
Scandal in Württemberg
"His Majesty's Darlings Beat a Sudden ... Retreat," the Herald reported of Woodcock and Hendry on November 5, 1888. The King "has dismissed Woodcock" from his court, added the paper five days later. King Karl was quoted in the World of November 18: "At the command of my people I have sacrificed the noblest friend a monarch ever had."
On November 30, the New York Herald came to Woodcock's defense, quoting "two private letters" written by Donald Hendry "to friends in America" (probably the Reverend Hepworth, the Herald's editor).
Denying the "slanders" of the German "sensational press," Hendry blamed the scandal on the "jealousy and hatred" of those in Germany "who did not understand the relationship" of King Karl and "Mr. Woodcock-Savage." Denying that the King had gone "into debt" supporting Woodcock, Hendry maintained: "His Majesty has a capital of several millions and a large income from the Crown estates" -- he was certainly well informed about the royal finances. Woodcock had a contract with the king specifying "the amount of damages to be paid him in case he should leave," Hendry stressed, and: "Of course we have the contract ... and a mass of documents should it ever be necessary to use them" -- a threat to expose materials compromising to the King.
Hendry presented Woodcock's relationship with the King as hard work: the American "had to be always interesting and entertaining. He had to use all his extra time in reading and finding out what was going on in the world." (Do we note here the complaint of a neglected lover?) Woodcock, said Hendry, "was doing the work of three men."
Return to New York
"Freiherr von Savage," "Baron Woodcock," the former "favorite" of the King of Württemberg, had returned to New York City, and was living at his parents', the Herald reported eight months later, on July 13, 1889. The returnee was reportedly "Mourning His Sweetheart," a reference not, certainly, to King Karl but to a Miss Belle Carter who had died (conveniently) a few months earlier. Claiming a female sweetheart (however dead) was intended, obviously, to answer innuendos about Woodcock's intimacy with King Karl. But this sweetheart-ploy assumed that a love-interest in one sex precluded a love-interest in the other, a new idea in the late-nineteenth century. The following year, Walt Whitman would try the same new ploy.
- "The King's Two Favorites," The World, November 1, 1888, 16. On Woodcock, also see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Woodcock#External_links
- Woodcock's brief biography in his seminary's alumni bulletin relates that he was born in New York City on May 1, 1850; see Bangor Theological Seminary (1916), 110; and Historical Catalogue of Bangor Theological (1928), II, 26. I thank Clifton G. Davis, Librarian, Bangor Theological Seminary, for photocopies and emails.
- Jonathan Ned Katz would appreciate it if anyone with leads to photos or other pictures of Charles Woodcock would contact him at email@example.com.
- Ward, George H. Hepworth, 231.
- Woodcock's 1875 graduation from the Bangor Theological Seminary is confirmed by that school's Historical Catalogue 1816-1916, 110; by the Historical Catalogue of Bangor Theological Seminary, 26, and by Woodcock's correspondence with the school, in its library.
- Woodcock's ordination and his backing by the Reverend Hepworth are reported in The Daily Telegraph (Saint John), May 5, 1876. A copy of that article was sent to Katz by Barbara Binotto of the Saint John Regional Library, December 12, 1997. Information about Woodcock and Donald Hendry in Saint John also appears in "King and Courtiers," The Daily Sun (St. John), October 31, 1888; for a copy, Katz thanks the same library.
- For the sexual history of the word "gay" see Katz, "Up" and Lighter, I, 871.
- Additional information on Donald Hendry appears later in this article, and in The Daily Sun (Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada), October 31, 1888; copy sent to Katz by Barbara Binotto, Saint John Regional Library.
- Ward, George H. Hepworth, 191.
- "Exeunt Woodcock & Co.," New York Herald, November 5, 1888, 7:3.
- "Woodcock Sent Flying," New York Herald, November 10, 1888, 5:3.
- "Baron Woodcock Resigns," New York World, November 18, 1888, 1:3. Woodcock announced his withdrawal from Württemberg in a letter quoted in the same paper.
- "For The Defense," New York Herald, November 30, 1888, 5:4.
- "Wurttemberg's Favorite Comes To New York," New York Herald, July 13, 1889, 6:6.