If you are a regular, you may have felt quite clever upon discovering that I haven't deleted the entries in my Archive--I only removed the link from the "final" entry at the bottom of the page, and announced my supposed retirement. I did that on purpose, of course. This way, I can still blog occasionally, but employers or prospective employers will be less likely to find it in a cursory scan of my website.
There is no question, now, that Mathew Franklin Whittier was the real author of "The Raven," claimed by Edgar Allan Poe in 1845; "Lady Geraldine's Courtship" (the entire poem) published in a compilation by Elizabeth Barrett in 1844; and the star-signed reviews in the New York "Tribune" beginning in December of 1844, and continuing until October of 1845--despite the fact that the reviews are historically claimed for Margaret Fuller, the literary editor of that paper at the time.
The only question remaining is that of being taken seriously; and there, I seem to have hit a dead-end. After the death of Mathew's wife, Abby, in March of 1841, Mathew wrote tributes to her. He began showing this work, along with work that he and Abby had written together, to various prominent literary figures. Most of these were honorable. Elizur Wright published Mathew's homework assignments--from the early days when Abby was tutoring him in French--as an English translation of La Fontaine's Fables, in verse. No-doubt Mathew requested that his and Abby's name not be used, as he knew she would have wished. He shared their Christmas story with Charles Dickens, during Dickens' visit to Boston in 1842, which was later published, having been heavily edited, as "A Christmas Carol." In 1844, Barrett included "Lady Geraldine's Courtship" in a published compilation; and in Jan. 1845, Poe published "The Raven" under his own name, at the same time that Mathew had published it in a different publication, under "---- Quarles." Mathew tried to publish "Some Words with a Mummy" in "The Columbian Magazine," and it was accepted, but for some reason was pulled. Instead, it appears that Mathew wrote a few engraving reviews for them the following month. Poe then published that story, in heavily edited form, in "American Review" in (I believe it was) April. Mathew must have shared his work with other literary figures, who of course did the honorable thing and, if they responded at all, gave him feedback via private correspondence, or in person (as Mathew did move in these circles, being the brother of poet John Greenleaf Whittier).
This is the scenario in a nutshell, as best I could ferret it out. I have a great deal of circumstantial evidence, at this point, which in my opinion is persuasive. The problem--as with the problem of reincarnation--is that, as a friend of mine recently wrote me, people "don't know, and they don't want to know."
Here is a treat for any historians who may be reading. This and this were written by Mathew Franklin Whittier at age 19 as the junior editor for the New York "Constellation" in 1832, signing with his go-to signature for that paper, "D."; and this was also written by Mathew Franklin Whittier for the New York "Tribune" in 1845, signing with his life-long secret signature, a single asterisk (star). The former was not written by the editor of the "Constellation," Asa Greene; and the latter was not written by Margaret Fuller, the literary editor of the "Tribune," despite the fact that at least one historian tells us that she was a vocal advocate of prison reform. (I apologize for the lack of sharpness in the first two images--these were taken on-site by a researcher, and while I have keyed it in, I find it more convincing, authentic and interesting to present the originals.)
Note that Mathew was also a co-author (along with his wife, Abby) of the original document which Charles Dickens fluffed out to publish as "A Christmas Carol," which was published in 1843. I would guess that some portion of the following was also expanded by Dickens. A close scrutiny of Dickens' handwritten manuscript, and the words he so heavily scribbled over, suggests that most of his changes were of this sort, just adding verbiage to Mathew's more concise style. Still, this is Mathew and Abby's deep concern for social issues, not Dickens':
"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.
"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
"And the Union workhouses?" demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"
"They are. Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."
"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?" said Scrooge.
"Both very busy, sir."
"Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course," said Scrooge. "I'm very glad to hear it."
"Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude," returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?"
"Nothing!" Scrooge replied.
"You wish to be anonymous?"
"I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge. "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned--they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there."
"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."
"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population..."
I have been able to bring my blood pressure down 20 points in the last couple of weeks, partly by backing off this project. All that remains is to key in the remainder of those "Tribune" reviews. As I do so, of course, I keep a close watch for clues pointing to Mathew's authorship; or just clues indicating a male author. I already have the smoking gun in this regard, but I'd ideally like two of them.
Yesterday, I happened to visit the street, here in Portland, where Mathew maintained his second family several years after his divorce. That building is gone, but while I was taking photographs, one of the residents came down to interrogate me, being concerned. Of course I didn't mention reincarnation, but I told her of my historical research. It was gratifying, to me, that I know enough about the history of Portland, at this point, to convince her that I was legit. She pointed me to a 1929 photograph of what was probably the original building--a brick structure with three apartments and a grocery store. (Presumably, the fourth apartment would have been the grocer's residence.) I first interpreted that theirs would have been on the bottom-left. Not fancy by any means, but the location was picturesque (with a view of the bay) and at that time, probably safe for the children. It did feel familiar, but there were no past-life memory flashbacks, and nothing I could consider evidence.
When I first saw this image, I assumed that the bottom-left, which has no windows and looks like it would be cramped, was their apartment. However, as I prepare it for insertion here, it strikes me that perhaps the entire bottom floor was the grocery (or whatever business it was, in the 1850's); and that the bottom-left apartment was just up the stairs. This seems more correct, and more familiar, though that is all I can honestly claim for it. I do note that it may have been one of the only brick structures on the street, and brick is safer from fire. Mathew would have chosen it for his children partly for that reason. In the first photograph, this building would have been on the left, just out of camera view. If you can see the stone wall on the left, I have a hunch, or a feeling, that Mathew built it. I think that, having above-average skills at building such walls, he would do it sometimes as a favor, or for a little extra cash. I will also say that I kept feeling drawn to the quaint little yellow house on the right, in the street view. As I look at it now, I see that the doorway would be typical of an earlier period, although I don't see it listed in the 1929 tax records, which should be comprehensive. Conceivably, it could have been moved there after 1929. If it had originally been nearby, Mathew might have known it and had positive associations with it, for some reason. (I got the feeling of someone eccentric and likeable living there.) That the two steps extend out over the sidewalk, may be a clue, since the same configuration prevailed with an old historic house I investigated in Dover, New Hampshire, being the only one like that on the street.
The lady who spoke with me lived in a house which went back to the same time period, i.e., the 1850's. It had prominent stacked bay windows--a feature typical of a later era--which she agreed might not have been original. It, too, seemed vaguely familiar, but that's all I could claim about it. The brick apartment building in the 1929 photograph didn't seem especially familiar. This is typical, where Mathew didn't have strong emotions about the subject, while I am in normal waking consciousness. I know that he did have feelings about the bay, and I surmise that he especially liked streets which ended at a body of water (I feel the same delight, today). So it is entirely consistent that I would have this limited reaction, in normal waking consciousness, even at the site, where so many of the original buildings had been replaced or modified.
This is the logical way to approach these things. Aggressive skepticism is often irrational. It's sort of like the fanatical stance that Mathew used to make fun of--"My country right or wrong." Or, we would say, "America--love it or leave it." Aggressive skepticism is rooted in the same exaggerated ego consciousness. It is only the researcher who has progressed beyond that stage of spiritual development, who can investigate in a truly rational manner. The scientific method is a formula designed to force the scientist to be rational--but it can be gotten around, as we know, by people who are still in a polarized state.
I am wrapping up the work, and I simply wait for it to be discovered by people who can understand and appreciate it for what it is.
I was able to purchase Vol. II of Barrett's 1844 poetry compilation (entitled simply "Poems"), which contains Mathew's poem, "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," at a reasonable price. But originals of the February, 1845 edition of "American Review," containing Mathew's publication of "The Raven," are beyond my financial reach. I can't justify taking $2,200 out of savings to buy a magazine which sits in a box. Someday, I hope (and feel) that there will be a small museum dedicated to Mathew and his work. It should have one of those copies, and I hope it will. For now, I simply downloaded the relevant pages from the internet and printed them out, as placeholders. Worse comes to worse, they could be projected on a screen in the museum. But I have a feeling that somehow, someday, it will come into my orbit--either at a price I can afford, or, at a time when I can afford it.
And here is an interesting question. Suppose that it becomes public knowledge (that elusive holy grail of acceptance) that Poe falsely claimed "The Raven." Would its value to collectors go up, down, or remain the same? I was able to get one expert to respond to the question, and he simply didn't know the answer. Personally, I think the value would go down, until people became familiar with Mathew, at which time it would go back up. So I would have to catch it at the low point--that is, if I'm still alive when Mathew is discovered and accepted as the true author.
I continue to feel that it is the responsibility of the person encountering such claims, to love the truth in so profound a way, as to ferret it out from seemingly outrageous presentations. I would say that out of 100 such claims, one of them is true. The mere fact that a presentation shocks you, does not necessarily mean that it is false. Conversely, the mere fact that something strikes you as outrageous, does not mean it is a "hidden truth," either--as conspiracy theory junkies get in the habit of believing. Discernment requires intuitive perception of truth--it requires the faculty of recognizing truth, the way you would recognize your friend's voice. But this takes practice, and practice requires motivation. You can't learn to intuitively recognize truth without the requisite motivation.
Some years ago, I, who pride myself on my ability to discern, was asked by the absentee landlord to interview prospective renters for the upstairs apartment. (This, because renting sight-unseen to people who responded on Craigslist had yielded a series of problematic neighbors.) I blithely spoke to a few people on the phone, without even meeting them (no less doing a background check), and recommended one young woman because I liked the sound of her voice. I did notice that there was a hint of amusement in her voice later on, when she recounted the story of how I decided on her. Long story short, she was entertaining paid guests for her income, and finally had to move out when neighbors complained. Her customers would leave her romantic gifts, like plants, on the steps, and she would leave them there to freeze to death. For Halloween, one of them left a large pumpkin on the steps. It stayed there, and stayed there, and began to rot. I took photographs of it and posted them on this blog, as I recall, wondering just how the whole thing would end up:
Finally, another customer must have stepped right into the rotting remains on his way down the steps at night, and shortly afterwards she cleaned it up. Last I looked on Google Street view, that pumpkin is still there, enshrined for eternity.
For myself, being a photographer, at least I was able to get a fairly nice artistic shot out of the whole situation:
So much for my famous powers of discernment.
So I include myself among the "discernment-challenged" (as I now must)--but think of this. Suppose someone had told me, "Your upstairs neighbor is a prostitute." I wouldn't have believed it--it's too outrageous. What actually happened, is that there were clues leading up to my discovery of the obvious. She supposedly worked as a hotel cleaner--but two people came looking for her, and they didn't know anything about that supposed job--despite the fact that she kept cleaning supplies in the back of her car. And then there were all the different "boyfriends" visiting. Finally, a policeman came to the door, looking for a missing girl--but all he really wanted, it seemed, was information about the girl upstairs. When repeatedly asked if there was anything unusual about her, I finally admitted that she did seem to have quite a few different male visitors. That was all the policeman wanted to know, and the questioning session was over.
Things like that. Gradually, I had to admit that the outrageous was probably the truth.
The same is going on here, with my outrageous claims. The clues have stacked up, now, to the point that if anyone really looked at them rationally and objectively, the claims are more than proven. When I say "more than proven," I mean that the accumulation of the evidence, if you take it all together, is overwhelmingly persuasive. In the case of the prostitute, you take the phony job, and the unending series of groaning boyfriends* (including an elderly man who, my next-door neighbor told me, having parked his expensive car, would proceed up the stairs with his cane), and the policeman, and you're finally convinced. But this is a much weaker "case" than the claims I'm referring to. I have far better evidence for them.
That's enough--I can feel myself getting stressed, again. I'm learning when to stop. I don't know whether anyone will find this, but if you do, of course, feel free to tell others. Feel even freer to buy my books.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*Fortunately, her bedroom was above mine, not above my aging mother's, who I was caretaking for at the time. Actually, she must have put the fear of God into them (or of somebody), because they were all amazingly quiet, except for one especially enthusiastic fellow who evidentally went for double rounds.
Music opening this page: "Won't Get Fooled Again," by The Who,
from the album, "Who's Next"