I hope you had a good Christmas Day, or holiday season, as the case may be. I managed to catch several themed shows on TV during the course of my caretaking duties, including on the History Channel, where various researchers study Jesus as a historical figure. Even the believers don't get it right. One of them portrayed John the Baptist as a sort of fanatical apocalyptic figure, who preached "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!"--as though some great cataclysm was imminent, and the reason for repenting was not to be caught off-guard. No, no, no. The esoteric meaning of that is, "Cleanse your heart, because when you do, you will find that the Higher Reality is just a step away."
Only yesterday I was agreeing with someone, in a Facebook afterlife studies group, that you can't force anyone to accept anything against their will. I get a handful of people reading this blog each day (whether happenstance visitors, or regulars, I can't tell). None of these people purchase my book, so they can't be very deeply interested or impressed. Yet, I persist.
Now, recently in this blog I have been on about Mathew Franklin Whittier (my past-life self) having been a literary prodigy. I've favorably compared him to Samuel Clemens (or unfavorably compared Clemens to Mathew) at age 16. Such claims tend to go in one ear and out the other. But I can prove it. Being able to prove it, does not necessarily mean, however, that anyone reading this will accept it. Anyone, from the dullest to the most brilliant, can go into denial. Denial is, thus, the equal-opportunity defense mechanism.
But I thought I'd provide proof--or shall we call it "evidence"--since I have made the claim. The following appears in the Jan. 30, 1829 edition of the "New-England Galaxy and Boston Mercury." It is signed "L. Cranfis," and I cannot prove it is a young Mathew's work. But I can almost prove it. I suppose I won't go into all the reasons I conclude this is his work. It goes to style; it goes to the way his mind works (mine still works exactly the same way); it goes to the fact that, on this same page, there appears a very competent humorous poem which is almost certainly Mathew's work. This last is significant on two counts: firstly, throughout his life, his pieces, under various pseudonyms, appear side-by-side, or back-to-back, on the same page. Precisely why this occurred--by chance or design--I'm not sure. It may be as simple as a matter of convenience for the compositor, who might have been drawing from a pile of manuscripts. Or on certain occasions, Mathew might have specifically requested it. Secondly, Mathew was very, very shy about his poetical ability, because his brother, John Greenleaf Whittier, older by five years, was considered by his family to be the "man of letters" in the family, and was already making a name for himself. Little Mathew was the jokster of the family (you know how it is, with siblings, each carving out their niche, as Adler theorized). So what he would do, is to write some biting satire, deprecating his own abilities; and then, he would anonymously show what he could really do. No-one besides himself would ever guess that both were written by the same author.
Mathew has done this, here, on the same page, side-by-side.
So for these reasons--and many, many indications of style--I am about 99% certain this is Mathew's work. But he is only 16 years old! I think by any honest criterion, one would have to admit he is a child genius. There were authors publishing at this age, and even younger, during this era. The poetry of Mathew's future wife, Abby, was being stolen and published without her consent when she was 14 years old, and it is, perhaps, even more sophisticated than Mathew's work. Both of them were prodigies. Had they lived, and had they not had to hide to avoid persecution, there is no telling what they might have been able to produce, together. As it is, you will find, in my book, an excellent case made for both of them having collaborated to create the original version of "A Christmas Carol." This is not a wild, megalomaniacal claim. It is a sober, carefully-examined claim with strong evidence. But people have to examine the evidence before they make that knee-jerk reaction of ridicule.
In the piece which follows, Mathew is, of course, lampooning the lack of originality, and lack of thought in general, which went into so much of the poetry one might see gracing a typical newspaper of the period. Remember that whatever homeschooled training John Greenleaf Whittier obtained, growing up--including access to Dr. Elias Weld's private library, in East Haverhill--Mathew would have had the same opportunities. And when John Greenleaf attended Haverhill Academy (the year before this piece is published), Mathew began receiving private tutoring from Abby, who, being from an upper-class family, had been privately tutored. So the quality of Mathew's education actually equalled, or perhaps even excelled, his brother's.
You can look up Samuel Clemen's first humorous piece, published when he was 16 years old, on your own. Probably, he got his ideas, in part, when Mathew shared some of his earlier work with him, in 1852. I can back up that speculation, but now's not the time.
FYI the only puzzle about this piece, to me, is where Mathew got the signature. Usually, his pseudonyms carry some personal or secret meaning--but "Cranfis" is an actual last name, and I can think of no meanings or associations which would cause Mathew to adopt it, whatsoever. All I know is that he would not have wanted his brother to know he had written it, because there was a great deal of sibling rivalry between them, and for several reasons Mathew didn't want to stir up trouble. For one thing, I get the sense he didn't want to compete with his brother, because John Greenleaf had Asberger's syndrome, was physically in poor health, and Mathew knew that if he couldn't make it in the literary field, he would be unable to support himself in other, more physical occupations. So he wanted to encourage him as much as possible, rather than risk crushing him with competition. This relationship went back to their childhood, when their father instituted an abusive "toughening" program on the farm, and Mathew, being physically stronger, and cheerful by nature, did his best to shore up his brother, even though Mathew was so much younger.* I have found several instances where Mathew printed his brother's early work in the New York newspapers he was acting as junior editor for, to give him a little publicity. So for this reason, as well as lack of self-confidence, Mathew did not want his brother, or his family, to know the level at which he was writing and publishing.
Messrs. Editors.--When I read the poetry of the newspapers of the day, the real genuine newspaper poetry, that is to say, the not real or genuine poetry, of French, German, English, and American newspapers, it reminds me of certain German plays called Caleidacoustics, or waltz-games, which consist of the music of a watlz, the bars of which are numbered, and if you arrange them hap-hazard, in whatever order, they will present you a waltz good or bad, though most frequently the latter. This suggests to me the thought that it would give great pleasure to the editors of those papers of which not a single number is issued without a half column of poetry, more or less, such as it is, if they could be supplied with a poetical piece, the lines of which, in whatever order arranged, would always make an excellent newspaper poem, so that a neat little ode of only 13 lines, according to the well known formula of changes, or permutations, n. n--1. n--2. n--3., &c. to n--n, would give not less than 6227020800 different poetical effusions--some grave, some gay, now a love song, then by merely shaking up the numbers again in a box, a biting satire--out of so small a stock of materials. What a relief to the editors of poetical journals! This may be called the Poleidographic art, or Poleidographics. And this admirable invention is not merely applicable to poetical productions, it may be extended to editorial articles, popular addresses, sermons, July orations and presidential elections pieces, abusive and adulatory, by selecting a suitable number of sentences, and arranging them in an infinite variety of orders, so that a new and original piece should be produced, at each repetition. I especially anticipate a great effect in the abridgment of the polical labor, of those industrious and meritorious persons, whose business it is to forward and obstruct elections, appointments, and promotions, who are at present often driven to their wits' end, to fabricate encomiums, bursts of approbation, defamations, reprobations, detractions, and insinuations, suited to the person to be pulled down or hoisted up, and the place from which, or to which, he is to be brought down, or raised. Perceiving the straits to which these persons are driven in following their vocation, with the few artificial helps hitherto supplied by inventive genius, it gives me great satisfaction to be able to assure them that specimens of political Poleidographics will soon be finished, and so replete with the various phrases of commendation and vituperation, of which the English language supplies an abundance, that I will warrant that one of them being played off upon any particular candidate, shall, before the next election, and before one half of its variety of forms shall be exhausted, completely qualify or disqualify him for any given office, which he is to be run up to, or run down from, and still the same piece shall contain in itself a great store of new unexpended varieties, making so many original pieces in reserve, to be used as occasion may require in succeeding elections.
As this is unquestionably a useful invention there can, I think, be no doubt of its being patentable, and I intend soon to take out a patent for the same, authenticated by the seal of the United States and the signature of the president, and I already see myself possessed of a fortune acquired by this new process for inventing original poetry and prose, with as much ease and certainty, as you can make a musical box play a tune by merely winding it up.
For a specimen, which I intend to deposit in the patent office, as a sort of model of this invention which is to shed new lustre on this enlightened age, I offer the following lines on the subject of love, the moon, &c.
A. Oh! what is love? Is it to live? to die?
B. Alas! poor heart, thou'rt only strong to sigh,
C. None but the lonely moon shall hear my grief,
D. To look, and look, at her, is my relief.
Now you may arrange these lines in twenty four different ways, and of coures have so many different poetical productions, so that these four lines will supply the Galaxy with a new composition for six months to come. They will read
A. B. C. D
B. A. C. D
B. C. A. D
B. C. D. A
C. A. B. D
C. B. A. D &c.
and present just about as good a piece of poetry in one order as another. Nor is it surprising that so much good poetry may be made out of these four lines, for I do assure you that I wrought up a large quantity of poetry to fabricate them, since they are the quintessence of two bulky poems, which, printed in large type, would fill two volumes of the size of Webster's new Dictionary, and though I subjected them to my intellectual power press, under a pressure of I know not how many pounds to the inch. for I pressed very hard, I could squeeze no more sense out of them. The philosophers, as you know, speculate very scientifically about the compressibility of matter, and go so far as to say that the globe itself might, for aught they know, be compressed within the compass of a nut-shell. But of all sorts of matter, I am of the opinion that poetical matter is the most compressible, and I verily believe I shall be able to reduce a whole book cse full of forget-me-nots, new year odes, theatrical addesses, and scrap-books from the periodicals, within the compass of a common visiting card. A fashionable lady will thus be able to carry her whole library constantly about her person, in a corner of her indispensible or a leaf of her needle book, so light and convenient that you might meet her often, and become intimately acquainted with her, without ever suspecting that she had any library at all. This improvement will be the ne plus ultra in light reading, which will thus be rendered as light in quantiuty as quality.
I expect soon to open my establishment under a handsome sign lettered L. Cranfis, Poleidographer and Vender of patent Paleidographics, Poetical, Political, Occasional, and Miscellaneous; and ornamented with a figure of Mercury beautifully executed by Mr Curtis, holding a purse in one hand, and a wand entwined by two serpents in the other, this being the instrument with which that divinity was wont to compel damned spirits. I shall soon be ready to furnish to order, at short notice and on the most reasonable terms, encomiums, libels, abuse, theatrical addresses, original communications to newspapers, materials for souvenirs, patriotic orations, and numerous other patterns, each one of which shall contain within itself a greater or less variety, according to the taste of the purchser and his willingness to pay. And as I have presented you with the above specimen, I shall expect you to take particular notice of my shop, in the Galaxy, and give it an auspicious puff, without any further hint to this effect from
Your obedient servant,
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*This came to me in a flash of past-life memory, as a feeling-impression. Where you see the boys shoveling snow, in John Greenleaf Whittier's famous poem, "Snow-Bound," turning it into a fantasy game, this was actually Mathew turning it into a game by way of helping his brother survive their father's toughening training. He would also do the bulk of the work for him.
Music opening this page, "Things With Wings," by Liz Story
from her debut album, "Solid Colors"