Saturday, August 8, 2009

Clue #107: Wickham: John or William--Counter-Revolutionary Spy

This is one of those clues where I believe there is still room for disagreement about the proper answer. I'll present both sides here.

Clue #107, posted at 12:23 p.m. PDT on Fri., Aug. 7th: - Counter-revolutionary spy

The link leads to a TwitPic that shows the name "wickham" in the form of an ambigram. Several people have noted that there are actually two Wickhams who might fit this clue: William Wickham, an English spymaster of the 19th century who tried to subvert the French Revolution, and John Wickham, an American attorney of the Revolutionary period who was accused of being a British spy.

William Wickham as a Solution

William Wickham took a law degree in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1786. Entering the British diplomatic service after law school, he was sent to Switzerland in 1794 as assistant to the British ambassador -- and chief spymaster. By the following year, England was fighting against the French Revolution; any movement that removed the heads of royal personages was perceived as a threat to a country, such as England, that was ruled by royal personages. William Wickham developed a spy network in Switzerland and directed it against the Revolution in neighboring France -- with no real success.

I am reliably informed by some of my readers who comment on this blog that they have received communication by Twitter from an executive at Doubleday who confirmed that the solution to the puzzle is indeed William Wickham, as is further confirmed by the text of Clue #110. One can see how Dan Brown would use William Wickham in The Lost Symbol: in the Dan Brown universe, as indeed in the universe of the more wild-eyed and fringe-y conspiracy theorists, the Illuminati were behind the French Revolution. William Wickham, in fighting the French Revolution, was therefore fighting the Illuminati itself; perhaps the reason for his lack of success was that he or his agents were actually double agents for the Illuminati.

That said, I still hold out for another candidate as a solution to this Twitter puzzle.

John Wickham as a Solution

John Wickham was a Loyalist in America during the Revolutionary War. That is, he supported the British Crown. After the war, he was accused of not only having been a supporter of the British, but of also being a spy for the British, a charge of which he was acquitted. He was, however, forced legally to give up his residence in New York, and move to the American South.

John Wickham seems to me by far the better choice for a Wickham who is likely to appear in The Lost Symbol. This is because of the chain of associations that this Wickham has to people and events mentioned in the Twitter clues. Consider this:
  • John Wickham was a Loyalist during the Revolutionary War. Of course, The Lost Symbol focuses extensively on the American Revolutionary War, not the French Revolution.
  • After moving to the south, John Wickham was the defense attorney for Aaron Burr during Burr's trial for treason. Of course, Burr was the person who killed Alexander Hamilton (Clue #36) in a duel. Burr's alleged treason, years after the duel, involved Burr's efforts to form his own independent empire in the West, efforts that were said to have inspired the similar ambitions of the Knights of the Golden Circle (Clue #34) in later years. The attorney who prosecuted Burr for treason, and who thus struggled against John Wickham, was William Wirt (Clue #6).
  • John Wickham's descendents in the American South included prominent officers of the Confederate Army -- which was supported by the Knights of the Golden Circle (Clue #34).

Put all the connections together, and John Wickham is clearly the more likely of the two possible Wickhams to play some part in The Lost Symbol. And what might that part be?

John Wickham's connections could put him realistically at the center of a conspiracy to support the cause of the Knights of the Golden Circle, beginning decades before the time (the 1850s) that history reports their formation. In the world of the novel, John Wickham really had been a British spy during the American Revolution; after the Revolutionary War, he secretly maintained his connections, and provided a way for the British to lend support to these Knights of the Golden Circle, in the years leading up to the Civil War--and perhaps after.

Of course, there is a third possibility:

Perhaps both Wickhams show up in the novel.

Copyright 2009 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.

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