I woke up this morning with a research question for my study of Mathew Franklin Whittier (my earlier incarnation in the 19th century). It led nowhere, but by some circuitous route of synchronicity, I discovered something germane. In the text regarding one James Redpath, a militant abolitionist, was a mention of Samuel Clemens' address given for John Greenleaf Whittier's 70th birthday celebration. I had written extensively about it in my book, by way of trying to prove that the text of that speech was actually ghost-written by Mathew, as a birthday present for his brother.
But here was a mention that this was actually Clemens' first public address. Somehow I had missed that detail. This makes it far more plausible that someone else had written it for him.
A little more poking around brought me to that portion of Clemens' autobiography wherein he describes the event. Here, he says that he had "written it out the day before" and memorized it (however unlikely that might be unless someone has a photographic memory--it's a lengthy story). He also says he "stood up there at my genial and happy and self-satisfied ease," which we know would be bullshit* for any human being giving his first address to an august assembly.
He may have transcribed it and memorized it the day before, but I guarantee he didn't compose it the day before, as he clearly implies in his autobiography. He acknowledges the quality of the piece by saying, in retrospect, that "it hasn't a single defect in it from the first word to the last. It is just as good as good can be." But this is not a case of genius being able to create such a work in a day, like Handel writing the Messiah within (what was it) six weeks.
Of the three claims I have made, that Mathew was the original author of works claimed by famous authors, this one is the most obvious. What's missing is that people don't have the 1,000-plus works published by Mathew, to compare it to. At best, a few historians know a little of his "Ethan Spike" character. Clemens was well-aware of Spike, and one historian indicates that he had planned to include a Spike-like character in "Huckleberry Finn."
If you look into this deeply, my conclusion is a no-brainer. Mathew wrote the sketch, and induced Clemens to deliver it for his brother's birthday. It offended people because Mathew intended it to. William Dean Howells, the toastmaster, even relates that during the speech, the deepening silence was "broken only by the hysterical and blood-curdling laughter of a single guest, whose name shall not be handed down to infamy." That would have been Mathew, laughing not so much at the text, but at his practical joke. In other words, Mathew was so much the senior writer to Clemens, that he used the younger Clemens as a pawn to take a dig at the Boston literary establishment, for having excluded him in their snootiness--just as he had previously warned, in an "Ethan Spike" sketch published several years earlier, that he would do. The full back-story is in my book.
Charles Dickens also claimed to have written "A Christmas Carol" within six weeks. Same deal. And Edgar Allan Poe, who was not grieving at the time he wrote "The Raven," explains that he composed it as a sort of literary exercise.
When people stop dismissing me as a nutcase, I think they will hit themselves on the forehead and say, "Why didn't we see this?" These "claims" I make are that obvious, once you take your blinders off.
But my claim to have been Mathew Franklin Whittier is just as obvious.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*Or, perhaps, deliberate irony.
Music opening this page: "Won't Get Fooled Again," by The Who, from the album "Who's Next"