There's one point I wanted to follow up on from yesterday's entry, without getting pulled too much into the complicated back-story. I had mentioned that I wasn't just imagining Mathew's method of disguising the locations (and persons) in his stories drawn from real life. This is pertinent, because I have given, as my evidence that Mathew and Abby lived for a time in Methune, Mass., his two stories referencing the town of "M----," set, respectively, in Massachusetts and Maine. In the first story he retained the first initials of Abby's (maiden) last name and his last name--"P----," and "W----," for "Poyen" and "Whittier." In the second story, he has given a name whose first and last initials correspond with his cousin, Richard Whitter--"Roger Weston." And he has given a tantalizingly close description of Richard's two-story farmhouse, implying that it was, in fact, of stone construction, by mentioning the honeysuckle vine growing over its south side--honeysuckle being (according to my second psychic reading) Abby's particular favorite.
But, again, in the second story, the town of "W---" is in Maine; and it is very near the shore of a large lake, while Richard Whittier's two-story stone farmhouse was within walking distance of a small river, and a large one.
There is, in short, just enough detail to get the message to those he is targeting, while throwing everyone else off the scent. I know Mathew writes this way, because he tells us--but while I remembered the passage, it was a tough one to find by searching in my archives by keyword.
I finally found it, yesterday, and as said, the back-story is nothing short of convoluted. I can't go into all that; I have to present it as fact, or rather, as assumed fact. Mathew had begun a series of parodies and satirical instructions on how to write a popular novel. He is, of course, appalled by how trash sells, while quality is ignored. I have elaborated on that theme in this blog. He begins this series signing with his secret go-to signature, a "star" or single asterisk. Remember that Mathew is a silent financial partner, and a major contributor to this newspaper, the Boston "Carpet-Bag"; but he is not an official associate editor. One of these, Charles Halpine, is a talented, worldly rival, and he immediately jumps on this series and--pretending to follow Mathew's ironic instructions--writes a story very much in imitation of Mathew's. The editor, Mathew's friend Benjamin Penhallow Shillaber, has opined in an editorial that he doesn't consider imitation to be plagiarism, and, having a weak hand on the tiller, lets his associate editors and contributors run amuck with it. So Halpine gets away with this latest imitation. Somehow, Mathew's asterisk signature morphs, during this series, into "G.T.S." My best guess is that Mathew wrote privately to Shillaber about it; or else, submitted a piece in the same series--signed "Great Thundering Scott." It would have been a reference to General Winfield Scott, the Whig nominee for President. This became shortened to the initials "G.T.S." (probably by Shillaber as editor, in an effort to keep his paper apolitical during the election), and it is under this pseudonym that we now see Mathew's followup instructions for (bad) novel writing, on this page of the Oct. 9, 1852 edition.
When I wrote my first book, I couldn't find the landmark Mathew was referring to, but I just found it this morning--the Fitchburg Depot.*
I should probably add that to my book--it's not long enough at 2,240 pages or whatever it is. It'll give me something to do, today.
Anyway, you see that Mathew is poking fun at novelists who make their references too transparent. But something else occurred to me, and I can't prove it, but I have a nagging feeling I'm right. Mathew was actively involved with the Abolitionist movement, and that, of course, was neck-deep in the Underground Railroad. I have evidence that, on occasion, Mathew participated in the Railroad. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is veiled instructions to use the Fitchburg Station.
What do you think? I was going to say we don't have a time given, but we do--the full moon would give us a particular evening. This story was published on Oct. 9, 1852--the next full moon would be (let me check) the 27th. And we have a description of the contact--a "man wrapped in a cloak" (it would be getting cool by October, but I think not everybody wore cloaks).
Oh, look, he actually gives the Fitchburg Station. Obviously I was in so much of a hurry, I didn't pay close attention the first time, or else I've forgotten that I saw it.
Now, note his concluding comment for this illustration: "The beauty of the thing lies in its apparent lies." That's an interesting phrase: "apparent lies." It means it seems like fiction, but it isn't. It seems like a parody, but it's actually serious. It seems like humor, but that's a smokescreen for the underlying message.** These are "apparent lies"--which means, they are truth.
So when Mathew says that "P---" and "W---" were famous for being lazy in the town of "M---," which might be in Massachusetts or Maine, he means that he and Abby got an unfair reputation for being lazy in Methuen, Mass., because she was emotionally struck down by the death of their 11-month-old son, and he didn't dare leave her alone long enough to do much work on his cousin's farm. And those people to whom his satire was addressed, would know who they were, because he'd left enough of the identifiers in place, like "Roger Weston" for "Richard Whittier," and the two-story farmhouse with its honeysuckle vines.
So when the psychic medium relayed Mathew's name along with the town name, "I hear M, M, M, Mathew, Methuen," Abby was putting me on notice. Then it only remained for her to arrange for a copy of the Boston "Weekly Museum" containing the first of these stories, to show up on Ebay; and for me to recognize it as Mathew's style of writing, even though I had never seen him write as "Quails," before.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*For what it's worth, I do feel a jolt of recognition for this image of the Depot.
**Something similar may be going on, here, except that I am desperately trying to be taken seriously. Instead, I am taken as a joke, which enables me to get the work done without interference, flying, as it were, completely under the radar--not by choice, so much as by karmic momentum.
Music opening this page: "Follow the Drinkin' Gourd," traditional, sung by Richie Havens,
from the album, "Songs of the Civil War"