Described by Thomas Gunn as "a weak, well-to-do Fifth Avenoodle [sic]," Robert Pearsall was born in 1833 (Gunn, vol. 12, 139-40). While not much is known about his childhood or early life, he became a succesful businessman, making the majority of his fortune in the wholesale grocery business ("The Pearsalls").
Gunn colorfully describes Pearsall's entree into the Pfaffian world saying that Clapp "has swindled...[him] to the amount of $4,000, through the 'Saturday Press.'" Gunn goes on to further cement Pearsall's connection to Pfaff's writing that he was "to marry Ada Clare" yet he suggests that because of Pearsall's engagement to Clare that she "consquently, doesn't show so much among the Pfaff clique" (Gunn vol. 12, 140). During 1860, Pearsall was an active contributor to The New York Saturday Press and even co-authored numorous pieces with Press editor Henry Clapp, which is confirmed by Gunn's account in which he recounted that Pearsall "had his name printed in conjunction with Clapp's as 'editor and proprietor.'" (Gunn, vol. 12, 140). While it is unknown what precipitated the dissolution of Pearsall and Clare's engagment, he married a different women, Elizabeth Woodbridge Phelps, on July 2, 1860 ("The Pearsalls"). Gunn seemed to agree with Pearsall's departure from the group arguing that "it served Pearsall right that Clap had swindled him -- what right had an aritocrat to come among literary (!) men? with more blatherskite than this book would hold" (Gunn, vol. 12, 145).
In 1863, Pearsall purchased land in the prosperous Brentwood section of Long Island, where he built a lavish estate for his new wife and family ("The Pearsalls"). The estate, which came to known as "Pine Park," was to serve as a place where Pearsall could experiment with farming, as he had become involved in scientific agriculture (Klosowicz 32). Inspired by a famous chateau in France, the estate featured landscaped grounds desgined by Frederick Law Olmsted. The mansion was completed in 1870, but Pearsall did not get to enjoy his new residence long as he died a year later at the age of 38 ("The Pearsalls").
Referred to as "Lord Pierceall, Troubadour to Her Majesty" Ada Clare, the "Queen of Bohemia."
Pearsall is mentioned as Gunn describes the borrowing habits of Henry Clapp: "Clapp has swindled the man Pearsall, – a weak, well-to-do Fifth-Avenoodle, they say, – to the amount of $4,000, though the 'Saturday Press'. This Pearsall is to marry Ada Clare, who, consequently, doesn't show so much among the Pfaff clique. He originated dreary, innocentish, gushing bosh entitled 'Leaves from Nature' in the S.P., getting men to re-write 'em as he couldn't do English himself; he had his name printed in conjunction with Clapp's, as 'editor and proprietor'. Last week he fired off piddling satire at the Pfaff clique in the 'Courier', which Briggs, getting it for nothing, printed" (139-40).
Gunn justifies the swindling of Pearsall: "he, Banks, had determined to devote himself to literature again – he'd give himself twelve months to obtain a footing – he had the entrÃ©e to Harper's – anything he took there would be accepted (this in consequence of the insertion of one forlorn, half-cracked, half- column article!) – it served Pearsall right that Clapp had swindled him – what right had an aristocrat to come among literary (!) men? – with more blatherskite than this book would hold" (145).[pages:139-140, 145]
Short bio of Robert Pearsall and his family created and maintained by the local library in the town on Long Island where he established his estate.
"Robert W. Pearsall, Jr., . . . one of the owners of the Saturday Press, has persuaded [Ada Clare] to stop sowing any more wild oats and marry him."
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015