I am specializing in short Updates lately, as I spend most of my time and energy keying in my past-life journalist works from 1831, written by a young Mathew Franklin Whittier in NYC. This will hopefully be the shortest yet.
I discovered Mathew's later works first; it is only within the past year, after eight years of research, that by a circuitous route I discovered his very early work, written in his late teens. At that time I realized that many of his literary ideas, in work that I had identified as his, were rehashed from this early body of work. In other words, like many comedians, he returned to his best gags. This gets very specific, and idiosyncratic. The skeptical theory, which will be immediately invoked, that these things were either coincidental or generic, doesn't wash, here. Sure, some of them may have been used by other authors. But I have a ton of examples, and some of them are, as said, very specific and idiosyncratic to Mathew as a writer.
The reason I bring this up again (I've mentioned it, before) is that I ran across another one yesterday. Mathew generated characters, and pseudonyms, at a phenomenal rate. Historically, he is only credited with writing the character "Ethan Spike"--and that is only because somebody "outed" him in 1857. But here, in 1831, he is writing a precusor to that character named "Enoch Timbertoes." The historians disagree on who wrote "Timbertoes"--but I have abundant proof it was Mathew. Not only that, but it is based loosely on real life, so there are numerous autobiographical clues in it--just as there were in "Spike," which he launched in 1846.
Well, I recognized one of the standard "Ethan Spike" gags in "Enoch Timbertoes." The country bumpkin goes to the big city in search of someone important, and begins asking around. He misunderstands something about the public figure's title, and doesn't understand his importance. In this case, it appears he has been told to look for the "Regency"; i.e., the Regency Hotel; but he thinks the "Regency" is a public official, and everyone he asks directions from is laughing at him.
"Enoch Spike" goes to Boston looking for Daniel Webster, and bangs on the door of the statehouse where he thinks Webster lives, early in the morning (as I recall), to wake him up. I'm pretty sure there are even more on-target examples in the 63-something "Spike" sketches, I just don't have time to look for them.
But yet another of Mathew's characters, one "Jedediah Simpkins," does the same thing looking for the governor, whom he calls the "Old Man." "Simpkins" appears, in a series, in the Boston "Weekly Museum" of the late 1840's and early 1850's.
This is interesting in itself, because one gets a sense of the true extent of Mathew's legacy. Again, Mathew is credited by historians only with "Ethan Spike," and perhaps a handful of other pieces; and one Whittier biographer mentions that he was also "a versifier." But I have well over 800 of his works, now, running from 1829 to 1875. Many of these were claimed by, or attributed to, other authors, including a few famous ones.
If you read the previous entry or two, you know that I am convinced that he, along with his wife Abby, were the original authors of "A Christmas Carol," not Charles Dickens. And here is where it gets interesting. I found two of these uniquely "Mathewsian" elements in the "Carol." One of them was written many years before the "Carol" was published. The second may have been written before, but published after. I could lay them out for you--but from memory, you will almost certainly remember that Scrooge skeptically dismisses Marley's Ghost as an "undigested bit of beef," etc. Mathew used that before in a skeptical piece about dream interpretation--sometime between 1830-1832, I'd have to look it up.* And if you are more familiar with the "Carol," you may recall that when the dancing commences at Fizziwig's party, the narrator describes the dancing as "work." I don't have the exact quote in front of me. I'm not sure how common this expression was, i.e., "they took to the work," etc. But the only two examples I know of, are one in a sketch by Mathew about how he first danced with his future wife, Abby, at a fall festival party; and this reference in "A Christmas Carol."
Now, every piece of evidence can be handily dismissed by the skeptical mind, when they are isolated like this. In fact, skeptics prefer to take them that way, in the spirit of "divide and conquer." Dr. Jim Tucker did this to me, with three very solid examples of past-life memory, while refusing to read my entire study for lack of time. These two examples (even if I had taken the time to quote everything precisely) are the same way. They will be dismissed as coincidence.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
P.S. After completing this Update, and returning to my digitizing work, I found another example. In October of 1831, "Enoch Timbertoes" speaks of the "Mare" of New York. "Ethan Spike" refers to the "Mare of Boston" in his open letter to President Lincoln, written for Vanity Fair in 1862. So far as I know, Mathew didn't invent this joke, and I have no statistics on how common it was or how often it might have been used by other writers. So this one is not quite so useful as evidence. But some of these things are much more specific to Mathew's own style.
*As with so many of these references, this one had a deep context for Mathew, inasmuch as I can demonstrate that he had a long history of stomach ailments, which he termed "dyspepsia." Thus, this example (and the sketch lampooning dream analysis, which precedes it) were taken from his own personal experience, and where it appears in the "Carol," it is not, as the reader may assume, simply pulled by Dickens out of thin literary air. You can find one of many references Mathew made to this ailment in the audio rendering of "Ethan Spike's First and Last Visit to Portland," linked from the bottom of the book's supporting page.
Music opening this page: "Galileo," by It's a Beautiful Day, from the album "Marrying Maiden"