Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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The Peaceable Kingdom

July 31, 2015

There’s so much bad news engulfing us these days that I decided to write about an artist who makes me smile. He wasn’t a great artist; in fact it’s a wonder he painted at all. His name was Edward Hicks. He painted The Peaceable Kingdom.


And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down

with the kid, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling

together; And a little boy will lead them.

— Isaiah 11:6


Edward Hicks (1780-1849) was an American folk painter born in Pennsylvania. His father had supported the British during the American Revolution, and later died when Edward was only eighteen months old. As a teenager, Hicks became apprenticed to a coach maker and showed a knack for painting charming scenes on interiors. At a young age he also became acquainted with the Quakers, whose teachings would guide the rest of his life.


Hicks wanted to become a painter as well as a preacher, which didn’t sit well with Quaker beliefs prohibiting extravagance or excessive accumulation of objects or materials. Some types of painting were permitted, business signs and portraits of the dead, but commercial art didn’t appeal to him. He turned to farming, but friends convinced him to return to painting when he couldn’t support his wife and five children. Focusing on Quaker beliefs, particularly the concept of “Inner Light,” the notion that salvation could only be had by yielding to God’s will, Hicks became convinced that the best way for him to yield to God’s will was by preaching with paint.


Hicks traveled throughout the young Republic, and like Johnny Appleseed he scattered seeds of love and peace wherever he went, leaving behind variations of The Peaceable Kingdom. Sixty-one versions have been discovered; they are all similar but slightly different.




The Peaceable Kingdom 1826



Hicks would have been familiar with farm animals, but it’s unlikely he ever saw lions or tigers or leopards. He probably used his imagination to populate scenes with all creatures living in peace and harmony with nature. Without classical training, his figures are unrealistic and primitive, but not without a certain charm.


Many of these paintings show William Penn in the background signing a treating with Indians. Penn was one of the few to negotiate with Native Americans instead of taking Indian lands through warfare—a practice that appealed to his Quaker love for all humanity. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we lived in a world where everything, including humans, lived peacefully, if lions did lie down with lambs and other helpless creatures, even though I can’t help wondering what lions would eat? Yogurt?


Hicks must have been convinced his vision of a better world would eventually come. He died poor but beloved; hundreds attended his funeral. Today, his quaint paintings of early Americana sell for big bucks, and prints of The Peaceable Kingdom are popular. Recently, I’ve seen several politicians interviewed with reproductions in their offices. I wonder what the artist would think of his paintings selling for millions and hanging in the National Gallery of Art.




Too bad Cecil the Lion didn’t live in Hicks’ Peaceable Kingdom. Have you seen this painting, or one of the many versions of it?




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I am familiar with the artist. I think he found a great way to do what he loved while spreading God's word. And all in a peaceful way. Sadly, I doubt most of those politicians hold his beliefs.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on July 31, 2015
For someone who has never seen animals from Africa... he sure had good instincts for interpreting how they may have looked. I agree with your comment about the bad news. We live in world divided, where religious beliefs have been bastardized to serve varying agendas. Lies, deceit, corruption at all levels prevails. Makes you wonder where and when the madness will ever end.
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 31, 2015
I've never heard of this artist. It's interesting the number of artists who died poor and had not been discovered and then after their death are discovered. I just saw a program on Vivian Maire...not sure if I have the spelling correct. She was a photographer who was discovered long after she died. I love her prints of everyday people.
By: Beckie on July 31, 2015
The subject and style does seem familiar. Once again thanks for the art lesson. Good point on what would the lion eat, maybe we could feed him a dentist.
By: cranky on July 31, 2015
i like that idea of 'preaching with paint'. i have seen some versions of his art. didn't know his story, though, so thanks!
By: TexWisGirl on July 31, 2015
I fell in love with this painting when I was in elementary school. (You know, back in the Dark Ages...) A copy of this painting (and some other really good ones, too) hung on the walls of our school's hallways. There's a place here in GA called Noah's Ark, which is a sanctuary for all kinds of wild animals. The most memorable animal group there is a lion, a tiger, and a bear, who share the same compound! They play together, and nuzzle each other, Quite a sight... and it always makes me think of this painting.
By: Susah Swiderski on July 31, 2015
If only we could be like these paintings- instead of the way we are. Humans are indeed a scourge upon this planet.
By: Kathe W. on July 31, 2015
If only we could be like these paintings- instead of the way we are. Humans are indeed a scourge upon this planet.
By: Kathe W. on July 31, 2015
probably the same thing Van Gogh would think. never cared for art history because I didn't like the teacher pontificating about what the painter meant. but I enjoy your posts.
By: Ellen Abbott on July 31, 2015
I studied history of art at uni and yet I haven't seen this painting. I like his style. It's interesting how he gets some of the perspective so right and in other places, so wrong!
By: LL Cool Joe on July 31, 2015
I AM familiar with this painting but I knew nothing of the artist!!
By: fishducky on July 31, 2015
A beautiful post. Thanks for the back story behind the prints we've seen and for the great biographical information on Hicks. His "ministry" continues as we ponder his work, still. I've been fascinated by the way he painted the eyes on the lions and leopards. Thanks for another splendid post.
By: Tom Cochrun on July 31, 2015
Ah wouldn't that be nice. You are right, with the current news bashing us we realize how far removed we are from that ever being a reality. One can hope.
By: Akansas Patti on July 31, 2015
Oh, I see. His life was kind of like that movie Groundhog Day, with paintings.
By: Val on July 31, 2015
I've seen at least one version of the Peaceable Kingdom before - what an interesting story behind it!
By: The Bug on July 31, 2015
Awesome presentation. Will there be a test?
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on July 31, 2015
I like folk art. I don't think I've seen that particular painting. I have a peaceable kingdom here in my microcosm. Franklin agrees. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on July 31, 2015
I've seen similar paintings. Now I know the history and it makes much more sense.
By: red on July 31, 2015
I love folk art. Ray does not! These are great paintings.
By: Bouncin Barb on July 31, 2015
Never heard of him, so thanks for the art lesson. I hope you're not talking about any particular bad news in your life, just the general bad news that surrounds us every day. Anyway, I second your emotion: wouldn't be nice if we could all just get along!
By: Tom Sightings on July 31, 2015
I like Cranky's idea about what to feed the lions ... And I like learning about painters and paintings here - your writing always makes those topics interesting.
By: jenny_o on July 31, 2015
I had never heard of the artist, but his paintings look familiar so I might have seem them before. They remind me a bit of Grandma Moses' art. Thanks for the background story!
By: Pixel Peeper on July 31, 2015
That's a part of Americana i hadn't heard. His pictures are rather charming
By: mimi on July 31, 2015
There's something about that picture that reminds me of "Where the Wild Things Are."
By: Cherdo on July 31, 2015
I'm so glad you shared this---I needed something uplifting after hearing all the bad new this week.
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on July 31, 2015
The figures are pretty awful, but I really like the detail on the leaves and trees. Those are lovely. Thanks for the info & have a great weekend! :)
By: Lexa Cain on August 1, 2015
What a beautiful story. What his paintings lacked in technique they more than made up with their soul!
By: John on August 2, 2015
I've seen copies of some of these paintings. I never knew the story behind them. I'm guessing Cecil's death will not be in vain because I'd bet things are about to get very uncomfortable for trophy hunters.
By: Rick Watson on August 2, 2015
I hold the belief that your paintings should be selling for millions, Stephen, and I'm quite certain others who read my comment will concur! ;)
By: Michael Manning on August 5, 2015

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