The thought has been nagging at me, that if I am to prove that Mathew Franklin Whittier submitted "The Raven," under the pseudonym "---- Quarles," to "American Review" in early 1845, I will have to show that he was living in New York City at the time. I have him living, working, and submitting articles to local New York papers--as well as writing a series of weekly or bi-weekly letters as "X.F.W." to the Boston "Chronotype," from July of 1847 to June of 1848; and again, with an unsigned series, beginning in April of 1849. I also have a suspicious dearth of material in the Portland "Transcript" from Sept., 1844 to June, 1845; except for one poem entitled "Absence," which, if it was his work, suggests he is away from home.
The last time I discovered a body of Mathew's work, the stress of processing and archiving it about ruined my health. I said, "No more." But this question kept on bugging me. This morning, I got word that the only eldercare client I had remaining, passed away overnight. That means that until they get me some new assignments, I have nothing but free time.
Now, in my sequel, I had recently added a section talking about what local New York papers Mathew might have been contributing to, during the periods I knew he was there. One clue indicates that he was working as an assistant editor for an evening paper; so that narrowed it down to about six possibilities. Still, the name "Tribune" seemed to vaguely ring a bell, even though I found a few of his faux letters in the "Evening Mirror." I sort of noted the impression, and filed it away for future reference. I wasn't consciously thinking that liberal Horace Greeley was the editor of the "Tribune," but no-doubt I had seen that information. Whether that's where my impression came from--whether the relationship between the subconscious mind and the conscious mind is that devious--I can't say.
So, this morning, after receiving the news, I very reluctantly looked for, and found, online copies of the 1844/45 "Tribune." I decided I might as well start with 1845, as this is the period when "The Raven" was first published.
Whamo! The very first page I opened--the front page for the Jan. 1, 1845 edition--leads with an editorial, in Mathew's typical style, about the New Year--signed with an asterisk. When you read this, note his familiarity with esoteric teachings, which Abby had introduced him to while she was tutoring him. I have said that Mathew was a philosopher who was in no way inferior to any of the Transcendentalists, and I stand by that remark.
Now, historically, I have found two other writers who signed with a single asterisk--both of them later than 1845. Henry Ward Beecher used it in the 1850's, but only in the "The Independent." And then James Redpath used it, but only in his own paper, the "Pine and Palm," in 1861. But Mathew had been using a single asterisk, or star, which symbolized a soul (his and his soul-mate Abby having been twin-stars, in her cosmology), since 1832, when he used it for book reviews in a Boston young man's magazine called "The Essayist." I have established far beyond a reasonable doubt that this was his consistent, if occasional, secret pseudonym throughout his literary career, the last instance occurring in the 1873 Portland "Transcript." In case you are wondering (I did), editor Horace Greeley's editorials are unsigned, as they normally would be. So I don't think this is a case of Greeley signing with an asterisk in his own paper, unknown to historians. That these (so far) are signed, but not indicated as having been "Written for the Tribune," suggests to me that Mathew is on-staff, or otherwise connected with the paper, and yet is permitted a signature.
I've just this morning started poking into this new avenue of research. Whether there will be a trail which leads to "The Raven," is unknown at this point. I would guess that the pseudonym he used for that poem, "---- Quarles," was a one-off, specific to the situation which inspired the poem. Using one-off pseudonyms was typical for Mathew (and atypical for Poe).
At any rate, here is the evidence that Mathew Franklin Whittier was living in New York City as of Jan. 1, 1845, and writing for the "Tribune."
I am so tempted to give any skeptics reading this, a raspberry of some kind, an "I told you so." But they are irrational. It does no good to taunt them. I am far more interested in rational, open-minded people who are at least hanging in there to see what evidence I may be able to come up with. This one surprised even me. Usually it takes a lot more digging. Then again, I knew precisely what I was looking for.
Now, I'll make a prediction. If Mathew was a regular contributor to this paper, after Edgar Allan Poe scoops Mathew, by publishing his poem in the "Evening Mirror" before Mathew's submission appears in "American Review," we should here something from Mathew by way of sarcastic protest. I already have such protests, as you know, if you've followed this blog, from late 1846, when he presumably discovered Poe's essay in "Graham's Magazine," entitled "The Philosophy of Composition." But there should be an earlier one after the theft initially came to his attention--and, probably, it should appear here, in the "Tribune."
I'll keep you posted.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
P.S. As I continue, on the front page of the Jan. 4, 1845 edition is a lengthy review of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poetry, also signed with a single asterisk. This, by style, confirms Mathew's authorship. If you have kept up with this blog, you have seen his extensive knowledge of poetry in pieces written under other signatures, like "B." The second page of the Jan. 13, 1845 edition contains an opera review--while writing his letters as "X.F.W." in 1847/48, Mathew frequently commented on the opera.
Music opening this page: "Manhattan," by Eric Johnson,
from the album, "Ah Via Musicom"