Yesterday I completed downloading pdf's of the pages of the 1844/45 New York "Tribune" in which Mathew Franklin Whittier contributed, signing chiefly as a single asterisk, but occasionally with his middle initial, "F." He begins with an asterisk-signed letter from Buffalo in November of 1844, and concludes with a brief book review (probably, one of the assigned ones) in October of 1845. As with his "X.F.W."-signed letters to the editor of the Boston "Chronotype," in 1847-48, he is writing on an average of three times per week (sometimes, daily). Most of these are book reviews; some are reports or essays. You got a look at his Jan. 1, 1845 piece on the New Year, yesterday.
Again, there is no question that this is Mathew's work. Now, some interesting insights emerge from this new material, and one of them has to do with Henry Ward Beecher, who wrote essays for the "Independent" in the 1850's, also signing with a single asterisk. Those letters were later published in a compilation, called the "Star Papers." In 1845, Beecher lived in Indianapolis and worked as a pastor (which means he couldn't have written this series in the "Tribune"); but it's entirely possible he had that liberal, anti-slavery paper sent to him. Therefore, he might have been inspired by Mathew's reviews and essays (some of which, as you have seen, read like sermons)--so much so, that he adopted the same signature a few years later. That's admittedly speculation, but it's entirely plausible. Mathew writes of seeing Beecher speak for the first time in April, 1849:
I listened to every word he uttered with unqualified respect, and could not help falling into the current of enthusiastic admiration, which follows him, wherever he opens his mouth. He is a man of plain, rather unprepossessing appearance, whom a careless observer would never point out as anything extraordinary. You might meet him in a stagecoach or steamboat, without being overwhelmed by the imposing character of the outer man; but if he should begin to talk on any subject which enlisted his feelings, I fancy, you would find that he was "thar," and no mistake. He speaks from the heart, from earnest conviction, and from interior perception, without much regard to the prescriptions of the school, either as to manner or matter; his voice has an expression of remarkable depth and energy, though destitute of great sweetness or compass; but he knows how to manage its capabilities with masterly skill; and in the intensity of passion, it rises into a preternatural elevation and power, which even Webster might envy, and the effect of which on the audience is nothing short of terrific.
The series which this quote appears in, the "Gossip from Gotham" column, is unsigned. Therefore, I cannot 100% prove that this is Mathew's work.
A great deal of my evidence is circumstantial--an interlocking "preponderance of the evidence." It's actually very strong--just shy of absolute proof, I would say. The problem is that you have to consider it as a whole. And the more hidden the thing is, the more circumstantial evidence you have to bring to bear on it. Mathew lived his life in deliberate, almost pathological obscurity. Partly that was so he could function as an agent for social change, and a literal "agent" for the cause of abolition; and there were certain aspects of his personality, and Victorian sensibilities, and perhaps even promises to his first wife Abby, as she lay on her deathbed--which played into it. I have the vague sense that Abby said to him something to the effect of, "Promise me that you will do everything in your power to eschew the vanity of fame." If so, he would have remained true to that promise.
So he was very, very cagey and circumspect. I mentioned in yesterday's entry that, when he returned to Portland, Maine from New York City in October of 1845, he wrote for the "Transcript" about a meeting (which he had attended there about a year earlier--around the time he first wrote to the "Tribune" from Buffalo) of the religious doomsday sect, the "Millerites," and it was published under his own name. Let me see if I can find that historical mention of it, by the Seventh-Day Adventists...
I actually found a couple of references, but one of them is a complete article, quoting, in sections, Mathew's own report. This is found in "Spectrum," the Journal of the Association of Adventist Forums, Vol. 17, No. 5. The article, by Frederick Hoyt, entitled "We Lifted Up Our Voices Like a Trumpet: Millerites in Portland, Maine," is found on page 17; and the extended portion having to do with Mathew's report begins on page 20:
You'd have to read this article to understand the absurd conclusion that the author comes to:
It is obvious that Whittier was moved by the threats of "burning in unquenchable fire" unless he joined the "children of light." Yet he, and everyone else in Beethoven Hall that autumnal day in 1844, escaped from those fires.
Mathew wasn't moved. It was all tongue-in-cheek. But this brings up an interesting point. If Mathew publishes one article, out of--I'd say it's over 1,400 now--under his own name, and it is remembered and quoted in its entirety, what would have happened if he had used his own name for all 1,400?
Incidentally, you see the subtitle (which either the author, or an editor, placed above this portion of the article), "The Visible Presence of Sincerity Was There." The full quote from Mathew's report reads, "The singers all stood with folded arms and raised eyes, and down the fair cheeks of beauty and deeply furrowed face of age, tears rolled freely. We could not--we did not doubt that, though the spirit of Truth might be absent, the visible presence of Sincerity was there!" At least, the complete quote is given in the body of the article.
Rather than link to Hoyt's article, with its piecemeal presentation of Mathew's report, interspersed with his own commentary, here are photographic copies of the original, page one and page two. Note that on page one, Mathew's report and a poem by his brother, John Greenleaf Whittier, are side-by-side. This isn't the only time that's happened, but it is the only time it happens where Mathew is signing with his own name. Frankly, I wonder whether this might not have been an error on the part of some associate editor, meaning, not the juxtaposition of the brothers, but Mathew's report being signed as it is. He had occasionally signed adventure stories, and once, a travelogue, but never journalistic reports.
This is "work product." The quality is not unusual for him, it's typical. That's why he was featured every day, or every other day, on the front page of a major New York City newspaper, in 1845. He was that good. So when you see that I "claim" that this literary nobody co-wrote "A Christmas Carol," and wrote "The Raven" (both of which intersperse humor with serious topics), it is not nearly as far-fetched as it may first appear. It seems absurd because Mathew kept himself so well-hidden. When he was writing--under a slew of pseudonyms and adopted characters--for the Boston "Carpet-Bag" in 1851/52, he was churning out work of this quality to the tune of as many as eight pieces per weekly edition. It was his work, and his humor--not so much that of B.P. Shillaber and the associate editors--which was driving that paper. When Mathew and Shillaber collaborated, Mathew made Shillaber look good. Mathew was like a studio musician who is actually better than the "name" he is backing.
Now, when I got up this morning--and I didn't sleep at all well, because, I think, my subconscious mind is still processing all my past-life work that I "touched" yesterday, as I downloaded it--I had in mind to address a different topic. That is, "smoking guns" vs. circumstantial evidence. Just how many things can I absolutely prove, 100%? There aren't very many. It's like panning for gold. You are lucky if you find one or two.
Again, this is not to diminish the weight of cumulative evidence. But cumulative evidence has to be taken in bulk; and no matter how efficiently you organize it, it still has to be studied with an open mind. The more obscure the thing you are trying to prove, the more little bits of evidence you must amass. To stay with the analogy, this would be like collecting grains of gold dust. You need a lot of grains, and they have to be sifted and processed.
Then there is the "nugget." So how many "nuggets" do I have?
I can prove, absolutely, that Benjamin Franklin believed in reincarnation--and not via his youthful epitaph, but in a letter written in his later years.
I can prove that one of the best, and most popular, parodies of "The Raven," entitled "The Vulture," appeared in the "Carpet-Bag" in December of 1852, before any instance cited by historians.
I can prove, as I mentioned recently, that Edgar Allan Poe borrowed $50 from "Tribune" editor Horace Greeley, probably in the mid-1840's, and didn't pay it back. Fifty dollars, at that time, was the equivalent of about $1,600 in today's money.
I can prove that Mathew Franklin Whittier was, by any normal journalistic standard, an exceptionally-talented writer.
I can prove that Mathew Franklin Whittier was publishing, in the early 1840's, in the Portland (Maine) "Transcript" under the pseudonym, "Poins." And hence, that he wrote poetry in a style reminiscent of "The Raven" before that poem was published; and that he also wrote very competent adventure stories.
I can prove that in 2003--two years before I discovered Mathew Franklin Whittier--I said, in a written online interview, that I felt one of my past lives was as a writer, who was a peripheral figure around the Romantic poets. I can prove it, because that article, as it was published on the interviewer's website, was digitally archived on Archive.org's "Wayback Machine."
Finally, I can demonstrate, and have demonstrated in this blog for some years--and am demonstrating this very minute--that I can write at a level, and at a frequency, which compares favorably with Mathew Franklin Whittier's own work.
There may some I've left out, which I'll add as I think of them. Understand that I am invoking the most demanding definition of proof, in the items listed, above. This is like DNA results in a criminal investigation. I can show you these things in black-and-white.
Now comes the next class, the things that are 99% proven. Under this category are two past-life memories which show that I am the reincarnation of Mathew Franklin Whittier. Also coming in at this level, is evidence that it was Mathew Franklin Whittier who used, as his secret, go-to pseudonym, a single asterisk or "star" throughout his career. This, for example (along with other indicators) identifies him as the book reviewer for the 1845 "Daily Tribune."
At this level, also, are dozens of facts I claim about Mathew's relationship with his first wife and true love, Abby Poyen, and about Abby, herself. That they were both child prodigies; that she excelled in both poetry, and music; that she tutored him; that her 14-year-old poetry was stolen by her then-classroom teacher, Albert Pike (the one of conspiracy theory fame). That she had a deep knowledge of esotericism even at a tender age, and that she attempted to teach it to Mathew, as part of her curriculum. And much more.
I could go on and on with this level, but then there is a level, perhaps, just below that. Now we are talking around 95%, or in the 90's. Here, I can put that Mathew and Abby were the original authors of "A Christmas Carol," and that Mathew was the original author of "The Raven," "Annabel Lee," and "Some Words with a Mummy." Here, also, I can place that Mathew was the original author of the story that Samuel Clemens read before John Greenleaf Whittier's 70th birthday party. The caveat, is that both "Mummy" and this story appear to have been heavily edited.
This is what I've been trying to get across in my blog--my evidence for these seemingly absurd claims is that good. Not perfect, but it's to that level.
Here, also, I could place a number of other past-life memories, including my deep and emotional recognition for a portrait of Mathew's co-worker, George Bradburn (as discussed in my video interview, found at the top of my interviews page).
I could go on in this vein, but I was thinking of something else, this morning. The people who get the attention, on the New Age circuit, are the "tin hats." What if I pretended to be a "tin hat"? Suppose, instead of writing to "Coast-to-Coast" radio with my full, rational presentation, providing links to the supporting page for my books, and explaining that my documentary is offered to colleges through Films Media Group--the media arm of the prestigious Facts On File--what if I approached it this way?
I am the reincarnation of a writer, who was the real, original author of "The Raven," and I can prove it.
And just left it at that. No mention of my master's degree in counseling; no mention that my documentary is sold to universities by a prestigious company. No mention of the actual evidence for my past-life match, or of my rigorous methods of investigation. Just the bare, wild claim.
In other words, maybe I have been going about this all wrong. Instead of being credible, maybe I should be incredible. I could even rent "Back to the Future" and practice Christopher Lloyd's wild look, in front of the mirror.
Hey, I could do it. Here I am some years ago, playing the role of a bandito in a video colleague's film spoof of Zorro:
This might work. It would be a weird sort of a scam. Eventually, people might figure me out, that I actually was for real.
Years and years ago, now, my very first psychic reading was at a Renaissance fair outside of Atlanta, where I was living at the time. If you haven't been to a Renaissance fair, all the participants are in costume, and in-character. Try to talk to one of them, and they remain in-character. There is the king, and the queen, and the page, and the juggler, and the wench, and the lady, and the knight, and so-on. But in the middle of all this pretence, sat a gypsy named Zenobia, with her wagon. I paid my $10, I think it was, and she began stroking the skin of a bobcat or something (with the head attached), on the table in front of me. Of course, she was in full costume--but I think it was really her dress, and it was really her wagon. In any case, she gave me a genuine reading.
Unbelievable! Zenobia must be gone by now, but I actually found her wagon. It's the same one, I remember it. Somebody is restoring it, which is how it happened to be online. (Either that, or the name is a coincidence, or Zenobia is still with us, and this project was her replacement wagon--it's not quite clear on the craftsman's website.)
So if I went this route, the "tin hat" route, I would be like Zenobia. And I might be able to make my $10 that way.
I haven't totally dismissed this idea. After all, I worked for many years, as Mathew Franklin Whittier, playing the role of a literary clown while doing undercover work for the cause of Abolition. Why not go under cover for the cause of enlightening society about the truth of reincarnation?
But I don't think I can do it.
Still, it's tempting......hmmmm.....
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
P.S. Oh, it occurred to me that this might be of interest. I have mentioned that Mathew would sometimes return to his previous literary concepts. You have, presumably, read (or at least scanned) the 1845 piece signed with Mathew's real name, about visiting the Millerite meeting. Here, in the December 22, 1849 edition of the Boston "Weekly Museum," writing as "Quails," he visits a Shaker meeting. I have insisted that "Quails" was written, not by entertainer Ossian Dodge, as historians say, but by Mathew. That's a long trail which I follow to its conclusion in my first book; but I think you can tell that these two pieces were written by the same author. That means when "Quails" visits with Daniel Webster, the President, several governors, a number of abolitionists, singer Jenny Lind, and Victor Hugo, that's radical abolitionist Mathew Franklin Whittier, not racist Ossian Dodge.
Note that Mathew uses the colloquial phrase, "the old 'uns." This is, simply, one of his pet expressions. It was Mathew, not Francis A. Durivage, who wrote the series of stories under the signature "The Old 'Un," which Durivage plagiarized and published both in book form, and individually, in "Gleason's Pictorial," soon after this article. (Durivage added a few of his own, which are markedly different in tone and quality.)
Music opening this page: "The Hook," by The Free Design,
from the album, "Cosmic Peekaboo"