Casper S. Yost and Patience Worth

CASPER SALATHIEL YOST
CASPER SALATHIEL YOST

Perhaps if it were not for the scholarly Casper S.Yost, the writing of Patience Worth might never have been brought to the public eye.  It was Casper Salathiel Yost who published the first book about Patience Worth which provided a brief history of the coming of Patience Worth and a sampling of her poetry and prose as well as his interpretations of some of it.  His small book was titled “Patience Worth: A Psychic Mystery” and was published by Henry Holt and company in 1916.  It was due to this book that the writing of Patience Worth gained some degree of notoriety attracting the attention of other newspaper men, doctors, lawyers, psychologists and college professors.

Other books would eventually be written about Patience Worth and Pearl Curran over the next 100 years or so, but it was Casper Yost, with his gentle trust and belief that Patience Worth was a spirit of a woman who lived 250 years ago, who presented the story of Patience Worth in a simple non-scientific way that enabled Patience Worth to gain a substantial readership during the early 20th century.  It helped of course that Casper Yost was the Editorial Director of the St. Louis Globe Democrat.  He was an accomplished writer himself having written several books among which were “The Carpenter of Nazareth”, “The Making of a Successful Husband; Letters of a Happily Married Man to His Son” and “The Principles of Journalism”.

He was born in Sedalia Missouri on July 1, 1864 and died in St. Louis in 1941.  His career in newspapers started when he was 8 years old when he worked as a type-setter on a weekly newspaper in Lebanon, Missouri.  As a youth of 17 years old he was employed as a reporter in St. Louis where he worked at the Missouri Republican until 1889 when he went to work for the St. Louis Globe Democrat.  He was considered one of the most convincing editorial writers in the country at that time.  Yost was committed to promoting journalism as a profession and was instrumental in organizing in 1922 the “American Society of News Editors” becoming the first president of a membership of nearly 100 newspaper editors.  So, he had a lot of contacts.  He was a man of integrity and as one can discern in his writing and conversations with Patience Worth, he conveyed a certain sweetness and naiveté that made him not only believable but lovable.

Irving Litvag, in his book “Singer in the Shadows” reports that Casper Yost “wrote six books, received honorary degrees from four colleges (he had never attended college), and in 1936 was given the national award for scholarship in journalism by Sigma Delta Chi the national journalism society,” 

Litvag continues by reporting that “When Casper Yost died in 1941 at the age of seventy-seven, his newspaper, which he had served almost fifty-two years, said of him: ‘To those who worked with him, he was not merely a gentleman.  He was in the authentic and original sense of that word a gentle man.  Slight, modest, soft-spoken, courteous  .  .  .  he thought and weighed and wrote.  Beneath the scholar was the thinker, beneath the thinker, the poet, and beneath the poet a deeply religious spirit.  .  .  .  ‘  An editorial the same day described him as ‘an omnivorous reader  .  .  .  and a student of the classics’  He was one of thirty-three noted Missourians for whom a Liberty Ship was named in World War II.’ “

“More to the point,” Litvag believed that, “.  .  .   he was a man of unimpeachable honesty and integrity.  He was the old-fashioned man of virtue, the sort of old newspaperman who sat at a roll-top desk and wrote everything in longhand.  He was the kind of man of whom a fellow St. Louisan would say at a memorial service; ‘If ever, in our day, there lived and labored among us a man of fearless intellectual honesty, it was Casper Yost.’ ”  

The book and Capser Yost were severely criticized by Dr. James Hyslop, head researcher for the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) because strict controls to detect fraud were not in place during the sessions with Patience Worth and Pearl Curran.

Professor Hyslop had been in secret contact with Pearl Curran’s friend, Emily Hutchings and had become her confident.  After Emily channeled “Jap Herron”, a book purportedly dictated by Mark Twain, Professor Hyslop took sides and supported Emily’s work while he blasted the work of Pearl Curran as presented in Yost’s book.

(Actually Hyslop was more opposed to  the work as presented by  Yost, rather than the quality of the writing of Patience Worth itself.  In a letter from Hutchings to Hyslop, Emily stated that Mark Twain wished that 25% of the proceeds from the sale of Jap Herron be used for research of psychic phenomena, probably understood by Hyslop to mean ‘given to the ASPR’.  So—Hyslop praised Hutchings’ book while he trashed the book by Yost.  Interestingly, Hyslop wrote to Emily Hutchings that he too had contacted the spirit of Patience Worth thereby authenticating, I guess, that Patience Worth was what she claimed to be, that is—a spirit of a long dead Puritan lady, so Hyslop’s gripe must have been with Casper Yost, not with Patience Worth—or maybe it was just the bribe offered by Mark Twain.)

Let’s listen to Casper Yost in his preface to “Patience Worth: A Psychic Mystery.”  Perhaps if Hyslop had read it carefully, he might have better understood the intent of Casper Yost in publishing the book.  I don’t think that Casper Yost was out to prove anything.  He simply wanted to bring to the public, poetry and prose which in his professional opinion was of high quality.

Casper Salathiel Yost

Casper Salathiel Yost

The compiler of this book is not a spiritualist, nor a psychologist, nor a member of the Society for Psychical Research; nor has he ever had anything more than a transitory and skeptical interest in psychic phenomena of any character.  He is a newspaper man whose privilege and pleasure it is to present the facts in relation to some phenomena which he does not attempt to classify nor to explain, but which are virtually without precedent in the record of occult manifestations.  The mystery of Patience Worth is one which every reader may endeavor to solve for himself.  The sole purpose of this narrative is to give the visible truth, the physical evidence, so to speak, the things that can be seen and that are therefore susceptible of proof by ocular demonstration.  In this category are the instruments of communication and the communications themselves, which are described, explained and, in some cases, interpreted, where an effort at interpretation seems to be desirable.”

Nowhere, in his wildest dreams did Casper Yost ever think that anyone would challenge his presentation of what he believed were the facts about Patience Worth.  He was not a man of science.  He was a newspaper man who revered the written word.  The written word was his medium, not a spiritualist nor a scientist.

At the end of his book, Yost quotes a poem in which Patience Worth  provides a promise of spirit survival after death of the body.

Swift as light-flash o’ storm, swift, swift,
Would I send the wish o’ thine asearch.
Swift, swift as bruise o’ swallows’ wing ‘pon air,
I’d send asearch thy wish, areach to lands unseen;
I’d send aback o’ answer laden.
Swift, swift, would I to flee unto the Naught
Thou knowest as the Here.
Swift, swift I’d bear aback to thee
What thou wouldst seek.  Swift, Swift,
Would I to bear aback to thee.

Dost deem the path ahid doth lead to naught?
Dost deem thy footfall leadest thee to nothingness?
Dost pin not ‘pon His word o’ promising,
And art at sorry and afear to follow HIm?
I’d put athin thy cup a sweet, a pledge o’ love’s-buy.
I’d send aback a glad-song o’ this land.
Sing thou, sing on, though thou art ne’er aheard—
Like love awaked, the joy o’ breath
Anew born o’ His loving.

Set thee at rest, and trod the path unfearing.
For He who putteth joy to earth, aplanted joy
Athin the reach o’ thee, e’en through
The dark o’ path at end o’ journey.
His smile!  His word!  His loving!
Put forth thy hand at glad, and I do promise thee
That Joy o’ earth asupped shall fall as naught,
And thou shalt sup thee deep o’ joys,
O’ Bearer, aye, and Source; And like glad light o’ day
And sweet o’ love, thy coming here shall be!

Yost finishes his book by saying, “With this promise, this covenant, we bring the narrative of Patience to an end.  There will be many and widely varied views of the nature of this intelligence, but surely there can be but one opinion of the beauty of her words and the purity of her purpose.” 

 

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