Did Mary Baker Eddy write it? “Once every day in the morning…”
We are occasionally asked about the authenticity of a document that begins “Once every day in the morning pray after this manner: Oh Love Divine, fill me with love for all….”
This is from a letter addressed to “Mr. Knapp”—likely Ira Oscar Knapp, at the time a member of the Christian Science Board of Directors. It is signed “Mother,” which was an affectionate title Mary Baker Eddy’s students gave to her. This suggests she could have been the author. While the original letter is not extant, we located a copy in the William E. Chandler Papers at the New Hampshire Historical Society (NHHS).1
How did a copy of a letter from Eddy end up in the papers of a United States Senator from New Hampshire? The answer lies in Chandler’s deep involvement in the “Next Friends Suit,” as an attorney. He filed the suit in March 1907, in the name of Eddy’s son, George Glover, and other so-called “friends.” The lawsuit claimed that Eddy was mentally incompetent and that members of her household and church controlled her finances.2
According to Peter Wallner, the former library director of the NHHS, the New York World hired Chandler to run the case “because of his contempt for Christian Science and Eddy.” During a period of yellow journalism and muckraking, the World saw this litigation as a means for selling more newspapers.3 The suit ultimately failed and was withdrawn in August 1907.4
Eddy’s adopted son, Ebenezer J. Foster Eddy, joined the lawsuit shortly after it was filed.5 Before the August 1907 hearings, he provided Chandler with a package containing 20 copies of letters to be used as evidence in the case. This package included the letter written to Knapp.6 Comparing the 20 copies in this package to letters in the Library’s collection, we have determined that we have 12 in Eddy’s handwriting, one in Laura Sargent’s handwriting, and one with edits by Eddy. It appears that Foster Eddy sent items to Chandler that he felt could be authentically attributed to Eddy.
But how did Foster Eddy obtain a letter addressed to Knapp? One possible explanation is that for a period of time between 1890 and 1891, Foster Eddy lived with the Knapps at their home in Roslindale, Massachusetts.7 While we cannot be sure of the letter’s authenticity, it is likely that Eddy was in fact the original author, and that only a copy of the letter has survived.
- William E. Chandler Papers, Box 45, Folder 20, 1926.006. New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, NH.; Mary Baker Eddy to Ira O. Knapp, undated, N00590.
- State of New Hampshire, record, (Concord, NH: Rumford Printing Company, 1907), 17, in Subject File, Eddy, Mary Baker – Lawsuits – “Next Friends” – Court Records – Clerk’s Files – Copies Part I.
- Peter A. Wallner, Faith on Trial: Mary Baker Eddy, Christian Science and the First Amendment (Concord, New Hampshire: Plaidswede Publishing, 2014), 5, 206.
- “Unconditional Surrender of ‘Next Friends,’” Christian Science Sentinel, 24 August 1907, 983–85, 987
- State of New Hampshire, record, (Concord, New Hampshire: Rumford Printing Company, 1907), 17, in Subject File, Eddy, Mary Baker – Lawsuits – “Next Friends” – Court Records – Clerk’s Files – Copies Part I.
- Foster Eddy to Chandler, 5 August 1907, William E. Chandler Papers, 1926.006. New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, New Hampshire; Wallner, Faith on Trial, 206.
- Bliss Knapp, The Destiny of The Mother Church (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1991), 106–107; Eddy to Knapp, 28 September 1890, L03380; Eddy to Foster Eddy, 24 January 1891, L01788.