I'm up at quarter-to-four, after an hour of trying to get back to sleep...
I had said that I haven't seen any sign of "A Christmas Carol" this Christmas season, but yesterday I caught a promo for a version starring Patrick Stewart as "Scrooge." I haven't seen that one, but it looks classy and respectful. The promo featured the close of the following scene:
"Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?" asked Scrooge.
The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if instead of being so close beside him, it were at a distance.
"Who, and what are you?" Scrooge demanded.
"I am the Ghost of Christmas Past."
"Long Past?" inquired Scrooge: observant of its dwarfish stature.
"No. Your past."
Perhaps, Scrooge could not have told anybody why, if anybody could have asked him; but he had a special desire to see the Spirit in his cap; and begged him to be covered.
"What!" exclaimed the Ghost, "would you so soon put out, with worldly hands, the light I give? Is it not enough that you are one of those whose passions made this cap, and force me through whole trains of years to wear it low upon my brow!"
Scrooge reverently disclaimed all intention to offend or any knowledge of having wilfully “bonneted” the Spirit at any period of his life. He then made bold to inquire what business brought him there.
"Your welfare!" said the Ghost.
My past-life wife and soul-mate, Abby Poyen Whittier, wrote that. How odd to be going about my caretaking duties, and be startled by a piece of her writing on the television that way. If you think Charles Dickens wrote that, it is manifestly absurd. He was a worldly man, who thought of these passages as merely a "ghost story." This was obviously written by a deeply spiritual person. Abby was so far ahead of her time, that this spirit guide of Scrooge's practices psychotherapy on him, by taking him back to his childhood.
Other random thoughts...
Many years ago, I was deeply disappointed when John McEnroe beat Bjorn Borg in that classic tennis match. I never got over it, but I've seen John working as a commentator, and he seems quite likable and mature, so I figured he'd grown up, and I must have been too harsh on him, thinking of him as a spoiled brat whose father had ruined him by championing the "New York attitude" when raising him. And then, a few nights ago, I caught an exhibition match between the 58-year-old McEnroe, and a 37-year-old Andy Roddick. I saw an exhibition match like this, when I was a kid, between Pancho Gonzales and Rod Laver, and I'll never forget it. I seem to remember one very long point in particular, in which one of the players literally scraped a ball off the back fence for an offensive lob, and I think he won the point. So could age and wiliness beat power and (relative) youth? It looked like it might, in the first few games, but Andy simply overpowered John.
In these exhibition games, they mic the players, so you hear every under-the-breath remark. But you wouldn't have needed the mic to hear John, as he was being wiped off the court, toward the end of the set (they play only one set). He was complaining about the crowd (even though Andy pointed out they were cheering for him), he openly accused Andy of serving before he was ready, etc. In short, under pressure, he hasn't changed since I saw him play Borg in 1981.
We don't change so very much from one lifetime to another, either. My researcher was able to garner my past-life works from age 16/17 last week, and will go back in to get more of it, Friday. And boy, does the John Greenleaf Whittier legacy have it wrong, if I have it right. I wrote to the caretaker of the Whittier homestead, who I understand to be knowledgeable about the Whittier family lore, telling him I keep seeing indications that Mathew, John's younger brother by five years, must have run away to sea when he was 14 or 15. This is, I think, the third time I've written this fellow--in my first e-mail, I was quite above-board about my reincarnation claim--and no response. But then, these New Englanders can be stubborn. If he was ever convinced I was genuine, he might be my strongest defender.
The problem is, John Greenleaf Whittier's big public hit was his retrospective poem about being stuck in a snowstorm around the family hearth as a boy, "Snow-Bound." It was originally intended as a children's poem; but what he did, was to magically transform his own dysfunctional family into a nostalgic haven of familial warmth and good cheer. In reality it must have been quite different. And when this poem made him an overnight success, everybody assumed it was literal--so he had to play along. All his life. The only person in a position to put the lie to it, was his brother, Mathew--and he was gracious enough not to say anything.
If I am piecing Mathew's history together correctly, now, his older sister, Mary, sent one of John's poems to the paper edited by a young William Lloyd Garrison, who printed it. Garrison urged John's father to let him get a higher education, which his father refused to pay for. So John worked as a shoemaker and saved up enough to attend the local school, Haverhill Academy. Mathew, five years younger, wanted to attend, too, but his wish was denied. Presumably, they needed one son at home to work the farm--John Greenleaf had injured himself (probably, a hernia), and wasn't able to do heavy labor, anyway--but Mathew was strong, and needed at home. There was a blow-out argument; Mathew fought his own father, and was only subdued because his uncle joined the fray. Mathew left home and went to sea, starting from nearby Newburyport, Mass. He may have been working under ship magnate William Wheelwright, probably ending up in Cuba, or possibly getting as far as South America.
Returning a year later--partly because his weak stomach wasn't conducive to life aboard-ship--he struck out for his own in Boston, finally landing a job with the Boston "Courier." It is in 1829, when he is 16, that I pick him up in my current investigations. He appears to be working for that paper, but submitting to its sister-paper (both of them having the same ownership), the "New-England Galaxy and Boston Mercury." His future wife, Abby (the same as I have quoted above), and her older brother, Mathew's friend, Francis, visit him there.
This is a year or two after John attended Haverhill Academy. In the definitive work about John's life, the "Life and Letters of John Greenleaf Whittier," those letters pick up in February of 1828, when he is just beginning his literary career as an editor. But there is no mention of Mathew, who is also launching his own literary career in Boston, at roughly the same time. Or so it seems from my investigations.
These brothers were very competitive. John Greenleaf Whittier won the popularity contest, to such an extent that Mathew's accomplishments, and most of his life, have been wiped off the map, and his best works claimed by, or for, other authors.
One reason is that John Greenleaf signed all his work with his own name--while Mathew, feeling insecure as the younger brother, signed his with a plethora of impenetrable pseudonyms. As to the question of how I know that this work is Mathew's, for that, you'd have to read my book.* But in the case of the New-England Galaxy, there is one piece that's unmistakable. I've mentioned that Mathew tended to repeat his best gags, with variations, over the years. In one of these editions is an "Anti-Mouseonic Meeting" of humanized cats, protesting infestations of mice and rats--clearly, a lampoon of the "Anti-Masons" (whom he lampoons again, for a different paper, in 1832). But I already know that Mathew uses this idea for dogs three more times in his literary career--once for the New York "Constellation" in June of 1830; again in the New Orleans "Daily Delta" of July 1846; and finally in the "Carpet-Bag" of May 1851 (where it is accompanied by a stellar cartoon). I discovered them in reverse order, but knew immediately that the 1851 sketch was Mathew's. All are published anonymously, but they are clearly discernible as his work, once you get to know his style as well as I have. I had in mind to place the opening paragraph of each to give you an idea of it, but I don't have time, now. Perhaps later.
I am glancing at the first volume of John Greenleaf Whittier's "Letters," and I see one of the first is written to Elias Weld, a doctor in East Haverhill (Rocks Village), Mass., who is mentioned in "Snow-Bound." Abby was, apparently, named after his wife, but she must not have liked her, because she changed her middle name from "Weld" to "Rochement," and appears to have tried on a couple of other first names, like "Adeline" and "Juliana," when she was a teenager, as well.
In this letter, dated March 5, 1828, John Greenleaf informs Dr. Weld that his older sister, Mary, is married--so apparently they haven't seen each other in some time (the Welds had moved out of town). There is no mention of Mathew. One would think that it was business as usual with him--either that, or the family had disowned him, and he was never spoken of. John writes: "I really do not know of any thing to tell thee of, which will make my scrawl interesting." I suppose the fact that his brother had run away for a year, returned, and either was, or soon would be, living in Boston and working for a newspaper there, was not newsworthy.
One thing's for sure--either I have it all wrong, or they do...
Perhaps this is just old news, and the statute of limitations has so far run out on it that nobody except a handful of historians would care. And the fact that it was Mathew and Abby who wrote the original of "A Christmas Carol"--and Mathew who wrote "The Raven," signing as "---- Quarls," doesn't matter, either. After all, someone else claimed to have written the original screenplay for the film "Avatar," and nobody cares about that... "Take Me Home, Country Roads" was written by Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert, with John Denver making it famous, and even though it was all above-board, nobody cares about that, either.
Why does it matter, when these are people from a bygone era? Well, I'm still here--I haven't lost any (or very much) of my earlier acumen, and I've proven reincarnation in an age which desperately needs reincarnation proven to it.
I haven't heard back from the publisher to whom I submitted a compilation of Mathew and Abby's poetry. If it lands on the desk of someone sharp and intuitive, he or she may recognize its worth. If anybody ever figures out what I've accomplished, here, I could rocket from obscurity to fame in five minutes. Hopefully I would have the stamina, at almost age 64, now, and the humility, to handle it gracefully. These days I am putting in 16 hour days, between this project and acting as sole caretaker for my 98-year-old mother. Just the caretaking alone would burn most people out. I still have Mathew's stamina and perseverance. And his insomnia.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*There are other pieces of evidence linking Mathew's work for these different papers, as for example that some of his works found in the "Constellation" are reprinted from the "Galaxy"; and that, in the "Constellation," when the editor of the "Galaxy" launches a new paper, Mathew, in announcing it, lavishly praises his editorship of the earlier paper. (In his list of examples of good work that had appeared therein, I strongly suspect that the last one on the list was one of his own productions, though if so, my researcher hasn't located it, yet.)
Music opening this page: "You Look Like A Memory,"
by Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert, from the Fat City album, "Reincarnation"