One thing I did yesterday, that I forgot to mention, was to drive down Pleasant Street. This is an investigative branch which is almost entirely derived from paranormal sources, and specifically, from intuitive hunches in normal consciousness--so if I could verify it in the historical record, it would have relatively more value. First, the historical and deductive basis.
Among several other addresses, Mathew and his third wife, Mary Waite Tolman, lived on Pleasant Street in Boston, during his later years (I have a more precise date, but would have to look it up). There is, I believe, also a "Pleasant Street" in Dover, New Hampshire, which town Mathew and his beloved first wife, Abby, eloped to when they were youngsters.
That's it. That's all the normally-derived information I had to go on. Probably, many towns had a "Pleasant Street," just as they all seem to have had elm-lined streets.
At some point during my research, I got the intuitive "hit" that Mathew was sentimental regarding street names--that, in tribute to Abby, he would--unknown to his second or third wife--choose places which were secretly meaningful to Abby and himself. In short, he would clandestinely choose tributes to his first marriage. This was true with bells on in his creative writing, where his work is chock full of such tributes. But it is more difficult to prove in the scant historical evidence I have about his personal life. Nonetheless, I felt that if he and Abby had lived on Pleasant Street in Dover; or if they had particularly liked walking along it; that they would choose to live on Pleasant Street in Portland, when they moved there in 1839, as a sentimental gesture.
Some time later on, studying the map of Portland, I noticed that there was a "Danforth Street." Immediately, something was jogged in my memory. At first, I remembered Mathew saying to Abby, "Let's go to Danforth Street!" Then, the full phrase came to me: "Let's go forth to Danforth!" The latter phrase (based on Mathew's writing) is precisely the sort of pun he would have enjoyed, so it has the ring of authenticity about it--but it came to me spontaneously, without forethought about Mathew's writing style.
I had earlier had a powerful and clear memory of taking a walk with Abby on a tree-lined street, which turned out to have probably been not long after their marriage, in Dover, New Hampshire. So I knew that they liked to take walks together (again, not unusual in that era). In this case, "Let's go forth to Danforth" was probably a call to take a walk. I had also seen Mathew praise the Western Promenade in one of his articles (signed, atypically, with his own name), in 1845. This would be some four years after Abby's death. So I can pretty-much assume that they liked to walk on the Promenade.
Looking at the map, I saw that it was quite possible to walk a short distance from Pleasant Street to Danforth Street, and thence to the Promenade. Here, you will recognize that intuition and logical deducation are working hand-in-hand. But from all of this, I developed the theory that when Mathew and Abby first moved to Portland, and he was employed by a business which sold stoves, owned by a wealthy abolitionist named Nathan Winslow, he probably could have afforded a place on Pleasant Street.
Yesterday, I (physically) drove down it for the first time. It is lined with large old houses (I don't know enough about houses to date them). And it felt distinctly familiar, though from the car, I couldn't pick out any likely candidates. Here in Portland, it appears that two types of structures have been preserved: churches, and houses. Oddly, few of the governmental and business structures date back to Mathew's time. Partly, this is due to the fire of 1866, which devastated a large swath of the city about five years after Mathew had moved to Boston. But that doesn't account for all of it. They tore down the beautiful little city hall which, as I strongly feel, Mathew and Abby loved. This, for no particular reason. The space stands empty, today, except for a huge and (to my eyes) not very attractive monument to the Civil War. Then again, I have long felt (before I had plentiful evidence to support it) that Mathew viewed the War was a travesty and an unmitigated tragedy, sparked by hotheads and idiots on both sides, when "moral suasion" should have eventually prevailed in its stead.
But enough of editorializing. It is so socially accepted to glorify that war, you don't often hear the opposition, I suppose.
So today, if possible, I intend to park the car (easier said than done in Portland) and take at least some portion of that walk. Even if my internal Geiger counter went off strongly for some particular house, I don't know how I'd check it. With luck, you might be able to find the owners listed, but I doubt Mathew and Abby owned their house. More likely they were renting, or even renting a suite within someone else's house. That would be unlikely to show up in any historical records. Only the churches, it seems, have kept detailed records of their membership. Or maybe I don't know where to look. Now that I'm on-site, I can, perhaps, delve into some of these things more deeply, rather than making phone calls and asking reference librarians to look for them.
The question continually comes up in my mind, that if Abby was Mathew's true love, why did he remarry for practicality not once, but twice, after she died? It was a disaster for him both times. Abby was irreplaceable. Of course there is the problem of corralling male urges (Mathew was only 28 when Abby died of consumption, in March of 1841). But I think the missing puzzle piece is that Mathew was tricked by his family, and specifically his mother, into believing that Abby wanted it. That's a long story. By the time he got to his third marriage, I think he had reached a point in his life where he questioned everything, and also felt that he had let Abby down by trying to replace her in two or three flings with younger women. He could see that his writing was never going to be understood or appreciated; he was stuck in a dead-end job for the Boston Custom House; and I think he just gave up and adopted an ill-fitting philosophy of practicality. Unfortunately, I gather (from historical clues and intuitive memory) that the woman he married was really practical, in the cold, Machiavellian sense. She was the real deal in that regard. All of this hopelessness apparently drove him to drinking (whereas he had been a Temperance man for many years).
Still, he kept his first marriage alive, by choosing to live on Pleasant Street, as a sort of private tribute. That's what I gather.
I must report something else--I can't remember whether I've mentioned this here, or not. I am getting strange bits of feeling-memory which start to arise, and then are choked off, as it were. It feels as though I am remembering being a boy in summer camp--and yet, these are not memories of this lifetime (my one experience of summer camp was distinctly unpleasant, and I remember all of it). I think this is the subjective experience of being Mathew Franklin Whittier, his gestalt--but it is so discontinuous with who I am, today, as a person, that it can't come to consciousness. Possibly it would, under hypnotic regression, so I am considering undergoing another session, here, if I can afford to.
Tomorrow evening, I plan to attend a service of the Portland Spiritualist Church; the same organization for which Mathew served as an officer in 1857, and for which he gave at least four sermons. I had already been in touch, by e-mail, with the pastor. I am going just to put myself there, and because I feel drawn to it. Perhaps there will be some karmic connections, or some memory will be triggered. This new phase is quite different from the research for my book, "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own words." I'm primarily exposing myself to the environment, and recording what happens. I was going to say "subjectively," but I must pay attention to both subjective and objective. The same forces drive internal states, and karmic events, being two sides of the same coin (this, from the teachings of my Guru). So I am looking at everything that happens here, internally and externally.
If I can get on-the-ground at Pleasant Street, Danforth, and the Western Promenade, I'll report back on that.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
P.S. I was able to walk down Danforth, and then was given a driving tour which included a view of Peaks Island, and a brief stop at the Western Promenade. I did not experience anything I can definetly say was past-life memory (even emotions). I did learn that Peaks Island is, in fact, close enough that Mathew could have easily rowed to it. That was my first impression; later, questioning it, I revised the book to say this was unlikely, and that he would have taken a ferry. Today I was told that people swim to it, so I was correct the first time about the plausibility of rowing. Secondly, the Western Promenade is a dim shadow of its former self, owing to it now being "civilized," and to the "hand of man" marring the scene so severely. Finally, seeing all of the mansions along Danforth, I do think that one of my former speculations is correct--Mathew took Abby on this walk because at that time, he was hoping to be able to buy her a large house. They were not only walking to the Promenade, they were looking at houses. But I have said something to this effect in the book. Perhaps my strongest "jolt" was in seeing the "Clapp House." This was the private residence of one Charles Q. Clapp, who, being enamoured of the Greek Revival style, designed many of the early buildings in Portland (including Mathew and Abby's favorite, the little City Hall). It struck me--perhaps from Abby--this evening, that we used to say of the Clapp House, it was "all columns, and no house." The house would have been about seven years old when Mathew and Abby moved to Portland in 1839.
Music opening this page, "On The Street Where You Live"
from "My Fair Lady"