Sejanus’ Swan Song



In the final scene of If Two Are Dead, which takes place in October 1762, Thomas Dordrecht expresses regret that his effort had not resulted in the villain’s specific conviction for Mr. Sproul’s murder, nor in further prosecution of the powerful Philadelphia mercantile establishment that he was positive had instigated it. His cousin Charles Cooper consoles him with the observation that the fact that the villain was executed at all (for the murder of his own associate) was solely due to Dordrecht’s efforts. As to the ultimate villains, Cooper cryptically boasts, “Who knows what that unscrupulous hack Sejanus might reveal in the newspapers?”


In Chapter 6 of Exquisite Folly, a scene takes place thirty-five months later, in September 1765, which includes Adelie Glasby, Hermione Leavering, Cooper, and Dordrecht. In it, the foursome gloat briefly over the fact that the Aldridge Brothers firm was bankrupted in 1763, and its chief has been thrown into debtor’s prison. This is acknowledged as due in part to “a certain scurrilous, defamatory poem [that] appeared in Philadelphia newspapers,” according to Charles Cooper, whom all know, at this point, was the author.  In the final chapter of Exquisite Folly, the two ladies have occasion to remark the “horrendous damage” that gossip can do in a small town—perhaps thinking of this particular object lesson.


The following is the literary effort in question. Cooper’s device was to make the teasing initials the subject of the puzzle-solvers of the day, incidentally encouraging them to rethink the scandalous accusations involved. Had its author’s identity been known, he would undoubtedly have been prosecuted for libel—quite possibly successfully. This might have prompted Cooper’s decision to “retire” the Sejanus pseudonym. (Jonathan Carriel provides a concordance, below.)




Abecedarian Peregrination

By Sejanus


A crime arranged by brothers A

O how could such a horror Be?

Collusion bold with C— and D—?

Confession by self-murd’rer E—!

A Fraud immense on royal G—!

A murder by the villain H—!

Who swung, I saw, and earned his fate.

A Jury, shewn by steady K

Condemned him sure to go to ’L!

Madly retreated from town of N

O’er neighb’ring lands to city P—.

Through one lad’s long and arduous Quest,

Fine ’tis we managed some Redress

On him who slew the worthy S—.

Two were his crew, and these know U:

A Villain cheap, and W—!

The murd’rer had them both Xpunged

With brutal force in Y— city …

Yet witnessed by the foreign’r Z—!

The alphabet traversed.… No more, we say!

Traducer?  Start with S.L.A.!






Brothers A

The Aldridge Brothers firm of Philadelphia

C and D

Aaron Colegrove and James DeLancey, Jr., and their respective businesses

Self-murdr’er E

Christopher Enniston

Royal G

King George III

The villain H

Stephen Hardifant

Steady K

John Tabor Kempe

City N

Newark, N.J.

City P


One lad’s Quest

Thomas Dordrecht’s quest

The worthy S

Daniel Sproul

A Villain cheap, and W

Meshach “Slimy Shacky” Hager and Joe Wicklow

In Y— city

New York City

The foreign’r Z

Nacek Zamoyski


Samuel Low Aldridge






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