I have the whim, this morning, to play a game of "connect the dots." I will be leaving large gaps, which the skeptic will scoff at--but I have already filled in all those gaps, in my two books. I wrote those books essentially in the order of the research--they are the story of the research, and were written as I conducted it--except that where I found new evidence, I had to plug it in where it was relevant. As these books mushroomed to an absurd length, I often thought of condensing them into a presentation of the material based on the chronology of Mathew's life; or, perhaps, organized by topic. For example, I could conceivably organize it by paranormal source--all the evidence which supports the two psychic readings; all the evidence which supports the memories I had under hypnosis; all the evidence which supports what the Stevensonians call "spontaneous" (or unaided) memories, and so-on. I never reorganized the material that way, because I want people to see what I knew when. Besides, every piece of evidence is relevant. It's a tapestry, and I still may not have consciously made all the connections. I want posterity to have it all, so they can draw their own conclusions.
But today, I'm going to take us from a psychic reading, to a memory experienced under hypnosis, to evidence for one of my outrageous literary claims. Just remember, as we go--if I can pull this off, that is--that I can fill in all the evidence gaps. Where I am speculating, I'll tell you. If I don't tell you I'm speculating, I could substantiate all of these assertions with gobs of additional evidence.
Now, I'm going to assume you've read the last three or four entries, because this is where I'm starting from. My second psychic medium, contacting Abby Poyen Whittier in the astral realm, says "I hear M, M, M, Mathew, Methuen," with no prior information (assuming he wasn't cheating on the internet during the phone session). I did check on that--he's Lily Dale certified, and I found a colleague who vouched for his integrity. In any case, neither he, nor I, had any idea that Mathew and Abby had ever lived in Methuen, Mass. (there is only one "Methuen" in the United States). So he could have had today's internet (this was 2010), and he wouldn't have found it. This was no accident--it would have been intentional on Abby's part. There is lots of precedent in the Spiritualist and Parapsychology literature, for spirits deliberately giving strong evidence, as for example in the famous "cross-correspondence" studies. In this case, you still can't find any obvious link between Mathew Franklin Whittier and Methuen, today (unless it's on this website). The only other documentation may be in Richard Whittier's diary, but I was never able to contact the man who supposedly has it, today.
So we've brought it that far. Yesterday I shared with you a piece written by Mathew, signed "G.T.S.," which I surmised may have stood for "Great Thundering Scott" in the fall of 1852. But that short series had begun with Mathew's long-time secret pseudonym, a "star" or single asterisk. Because I have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mathew used this pseudonym, and because we are in the Boston "Carpet-Bag," which he contributed to heavily, we can be confident that this was indeed his work. Here, in the course of explaning how not to write a novel (or, how to write a cheap, financially successful novel), he pokes fun at the Fitchburg Depot in Boston. When I looked it up yesterday, I found that because of the medieval-style castle turrets rising from the corners, some people called it "Crocker's Folly," after the name of the president of that railroad, Alvah Crocker.
I have several articles by Mathew in which he evinces a keen sense of, and interest in, architecture. It came up a few times in my subjective impressions--first when, under hypnosis, I felt that he was ridiculing the physical building of the Boston Custom House, where I knew he had worked for the last 20 years of his life as a clerk. (Actually, I described it fairly accurately before I had ever seen a picture of it--long, two stories and ugly--the only contra-indication being that I said it was "plain.") I also felt that he compared it unfavorably to the little city hall in Portland--the first one, which looked like a small Greek temple, and which he and Abby loved, accordingly (as both loved all things from ancient Greece). So, you can see that any part of Mathew's cherished, personal history with Abby was held sacred, and nothing could ever compare with it, afterwards. But Mathew's objection to the Custom House was that it was fake--the columns on the outside perimeter were fake half-columns pasted on, the dome was squat and clunky, etc. It was a huge, plain, government building which someone had tried to make look neo-classical, by pasting certain Greek accoutrements onto it. I'm just saying what I think Mathew felt about it. But it could never have competed with his and Abby's favorite litle City Hall building, in any case.
I think I have shared Mathew's remarks about Trinity Church in New York, when it was under construction; and there are many other examples. Mathew was also raised Quaker, and was anti-military all his life. He had, for example, lampooned military "musters" on many occasions (one of which was reworked by the famous humorist, Charles Farrar Browne, for the "Carpet-Bag" when Browne was a printer's assistant). Mathew evidently took a dim view of the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston. Again, many people ridiculed it, at the time, especially when the project was stalled for some years (as I recall reading) for lack of funding. Mathew lampooned this Monument, also, in the "Carpet-Bag," in this piece.*
Here, he is using inline illustrations, much as was often done in "Punch" and "Cruikshank's Comic Almanack," in London. But this is one of a series in which he was adopting this style. In the "Carpet-Bag," there are several of these. One of them was done by a pesky imitator, John C. Moore, who signed as "Peter Snooks." But all the others bear certain marks of Mathew's authorship, and this one about the Monument is no exception.
With me so far?
Now, if you look up parodies of "The Raven," you will find that one of the most celebrated was a piece entitled "The Vulture," about a bore, or moocher, who won't leave. Historians have found it in "Graham's Magazine" (the same that Poe once edited) in December of 1853; but other historians have found it even earlier, in the 1853 edition of the "Comic Almanack." They speculate as to its author, because it was unsigned, but many of them seem to have settled on British writer Robert Barnabas Brough. I'm not certain, but I think that the style of the illustrations is one of the clues which points them in that direction.
What they don't seem to know, is that this piece was originally published in the Dec. 18, 1852 edition of the "Carpet-Bag." I've shared it, before. Mathew had been in Europe--including in London--in summer/fall of 1851. I have many instances of him making it a point to visit with the editors of various publications, as well as with authors, and artists. Very likely he visited the offices of "Punch," for example. I actually found one of Mathew's poems in an 1850 edition of "Punch," entitled "The Groans of Wren's Ghost." It, too, is unsigned, but I'm about 99% certain of it. I can definitely say that he published "Ethan Spike" in "Jerrold Douglas's Newspaper," there in London, in 1848. It is entirely possible he visited with George Cruikshank, and perhaps even suggested a collaboration with him, or another London illustrator.
Another of this series is about "Mr. Spoon,"** who trains, as it were, for conditions in the California gold mines, but thinks better of it after seeing a panorama. Again, all of these pieces (excepting Moore's imitation) comprise a series by the same author (Mathew), but one of them--the one about the Bunker Hill Monument--is definitely set in Boston. (The writer can see it from his window, and gives us his view.)
That means that both "The Vulture" and "Mr. Spoon" were written by a Bostonian, whatever the style of the illustrations, and whoever drew them.
"Mr. Spoon" also shows up in "Cruikshank's Comic Almanack"--but it is a truncated version, which has him preparing to mine gold in Australia, not California. Not only that, where its companion piece, "The Vulture" appears in the Almanack in 1853, the inline illustrations are all cleverly redrawn, but one of them is missing. Definitely, these both appeared in the "Carpet-Bag" first, and were copied into Cruikshank's "Almanack." (There is no point arguing about "The Vulture" in "Graham's"--the "Carpet-Bag" was defunct, except as an occasional "pocket" version, by the time "Graham's" copied this piece, sans attribution, wholesale in Dec. 1853.)
That means that Mathew Franklin Whittier--whom John Greenleaf Whittier's unofficial biographer, William Sloan Kennedy, disparaged as being "also a versifier"--wrote what is arguably the best parody of "The Raven." He could do it because this was his natural and preferred style of poetry, and because he had been writing highly sophisticated humorous poetry since age 14, when he published in the "New-England Galaxy" in 1827. I have shared that piece, the double-layered doggerel about cabinet making, recently.
The reason he could write the best parody of "The Raven," is that he had written the original. I have proven, with about 20 pieces of evidence, that Mathew charged Poe with having stolen that poem. But I've been over all that evidence here, before. It strongly suggests that Mathew wrote "The Raven" while in fresh grief for Abby, sometime between March 27, 1841 when she died, and the end of 1842, or very early 1843, when he would have privately shared it, plus a few other pieces, with Poe. He also must have sent copies of "The Lost Bower" and "Lady Geraldine's Courtship" to Elizabeth Barrett. He had earlier given Charles Dickens his and Abby's manuscript of "A Christmas Carol" when his friend, Oliver Wendell Holmes, got him into the inner circle around Dickens during the latter's visit to Boston in Feb. of 1842. So this was a period when Mathew was sharing the work he and Abby had done together, and his tribute poetry to her, with some famous literati. Remember that Mathew would have moved in the same social circles as his more successful brother, John Greenleaf Whittier. One or two of them he would have "clicked" with, and become personal friends with--in this case, Oliver Wendell Holmes, who also wrote humorous poetry. Mathew's daughter, Elizabeth, once characterized her father as a "brilliant conversationalist." So he and Holmes would have very likely become friends.
I just discovered something significant. Do you recall yesterday's entry, wherein I demonstrated how Mathew would hint at things? It's a very distinctive style, once you see enough of it and get familiar with it. Writing as "Quails" for the Boston "Weekly Museum" of March 2, 1850, he says: "...but that which makes it doubly dear to us, our friend O.W. Holmes, the scholar, poet and wit, was for a number of years one of the Dartmouth Professors in the medical department, and he was then, as now, universally respected by all who were so fortunate as to share his acquaintance." Holmes taught at Dartmouth from 1838-1841, so if, as I think is clearly implied here, Mathew was friends with Holmes during this period, he would have been friends with him when Dickens came to Boston in 1842. (I have a bit more evidence, including an inference that Mathew was with Holmes during Holmes' graduation ceremony; and the fact that Mathew did both Holmes and his own brother a favor by publishing their poems in the New York papers he edited for, in the early 1830's.) In fact, as I think about it, if Mathew were friends with Holmes in 1842, there's no way he wouldn't have accompanied him to meet Dickens, unless for some reason he was prevented from doing so. Under the circumstances, given that he had 15 years publishing experience at that point, and was a gifted conversationalist--and given that there were several young men from the Boston literati around Dickens--I think it's almost a given he was invited.
The only photographic copy I have of this edition of the "Museum" is very blurry, but because it's so important, I'll reproduce it here, anyway:
This will have to go into my book, because I missed it, earlier. It's perhaps the strongest evidence I have that Mathew Franklin Whittier could easily have been among the unnamed inner circle of Boston writers, who were around Charles Dickens in 1842. Which gives him the opportunity to hand Dickens his and Abby's manuscript, personally. Note that there is a reference to a form letter signed by Dickens, in Dickens' published correspondence, thanking Mathew for a letter. It also showed up in a list of Whittier items which were sold at auction to help finance the Whittier museum, so perhaps it is still hiding in someone's collection out there:
I recorded my impression in this very blog, in 2006, that for some reason I felt Mathew had had something to do with the writing of "A Christmas Carol." I had done no research on the history of that book, nor on Dickens, himself, at that time. That blog entry is preserved by Archive.org's "Wayback Machine," so I couldn't have tampered with it. (And isn't it interesting, that some day, if I am not mistaken, this letter will be valuable because of Mathew Franklin Whittier, not because of Charles Dickens...)
I am keenly aware, by the way, that the first reaction of an academic historian to my presentation is going to be, "He's a fool." And the second reaction is going to be, "OMG, how do I steal this?"
In Feb. 16, 2019, I had the second of two hypnotic regression sessions. This time, I seemingly remembered a visit with Edgar Allan Poe. As a child in, I think it was, sixth grade, I had been unable to finish reading "The Raven," because of the profound feelings of grief for a lost love, which it seemed to trigger. (I did not even think of it as a horror poem--I immediately perceived it as a grief poem.) But other than that, I had no particular thoughts about Poe, nor did I know anything of his history or the history of that poem. It came out of the blue in that regression session. What I said was, we were kind of feeling each other out--"Who is this fellow?" It wasn't a friendship--it was a sort of cautious sparring, a matter of curiosity, of matching wits, though it was cordial. I did not remember anything about sharing any manuscripts with him, though it would be natural for writers to compare notes.
We also know, from Mathew's biography, that he was gullible. It would take a very gullible young man to give another writer copies of unpublished manuscripts. But Mathew had always been marginalized. His brother John, five years older, was the "man of letters" in the household, the friend of all these famous people. Mathew "tagged along" as the little brother. He knew, inside, that he was a literary genius, but since nobody validated it, he couldn't quite believe it. Therefore, his self-confidence was low. Dickens, for example, couldn't possibly have written "A Christmas Carol," but Mathew must have felt elated that the great "Boz" had deigned to use his and Abby's manuscript. It was in this context, and during this period, that Mathew would have shared unpublished work with Poe, who was a rising star at the time.
Suddenly, with the evidence that Mathew charged Poe with having stolen "The Raven," we have confirmation of that memory under hypnosis. We also have confirmation of my first psychic's prediction, that I could confirm it but I would have to dig very deeply into the historical record.
That takes us all the way from the second psychic's sudden announcement, "I hear M, M, M, Mathew, Methuen" to my memory, under hypnosis, of having met Edgar Allan Poe; which is tied in with my subjective reaction to that poem in sixth grade.
The difference between reading this blog--where you see some of the prominent dots connected--and reading my books, where you see the entire evolution of the thing--is something like viewing a place in Google Maps in map mode, and then switching to satellite mode. The books are well worth the trifling expense and the trouble of taking the time to immerse oneself in an extended treatment. Should anyone ever bother to speak with me personally--as for example in a radio interview, or hearing me give a talk--it would be like actually flying over the area in a plane.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*The poem which follows is one of Mathew's tributes to Abby in spirit. The series is called "Over the Way," but the introductory text may have been written by his friend, the editor, B.P. Shillaber. Shillaber was also a Spiritualist--perhaps, convinced by Mathew--but he still seems to have poked gentle fun at what he saw as Mathew's eccentricities. Here, Mathew is called the "Sensitive Man." Mathew seems to have good-naturedly (and naively) gone along with it--I say "naively," because I don't think Shillaber's humor was quite as gentle as it appears. Mathew may also have written the text for some of these, himself, in self-deprecating humor. But the poems were in earnest, and represented Mathew's yearning to contact Abby in the spirit world. In this first of the series, he sets it up by praising all on the other side--but in subsequent installments, he focuses specifically on Abby, whom he calls "The Absent One." There is a direct tie-in to Mathew's authorship of "The Raven," inasmuch as Shillaber appears to have based a humorous series about "Blifkins the Martyr" on stories Mathew had told him about his second, arranged marriage, where Shillaber lampoons Mathew's attempt to communicate with Abby, in spirit. In this story, "Blifkins" attempts to communicate telepathically with the figure who visited him his dream, the "Widow Thompson," through the "bust of Pallas," who looks somewhat like her. Abby, in fact, did look somewhat like the bust of Pallas (Athena) found in the Herculaneum.
**The piece which follows on this page, "The Parting Word," is probably also Mathew's, but B.P. Shillaber, the editor and Mathew's personal friend, appears to have changed whatever Mathew's cartoonish name for the female character originally was, to "Susan Bray." "Bray" was, as I have determined, probably the last name of Mathew's first love, who had treated him casually. (Abby, in one of her short stories, refers to her as "the coquette of Frank's old idolatry.") He may have told Shillaber about this experience in confidence, and Shillaber, who didn't like the cartoonish name Mathew came up with, substituted the actual last name of this girl, thinking the story was about her, when it was actually about his courtship with Abby. Either that or it isn't Mathew's story, because he never would have used this girl's actual last name--which would make it Shillaber's story, and a mere coincidence. But there are a great many other clues which point to Mathew's authorship. In the Whittier legacy, it is speculated that John Greenleaf Whittier may have half-heartedly courted one Evelina Bray. But the instant I saw her young portrait--very early in my research process--I couldn't shake the feeling that Mathew had once been deeply in love with her. It would appear that JGW's one recorded meeting with her, in Marble Head, Mass., was probably to ascertain her intentions toward Mathew, and not for the purpose of courting. Mathew, at this time, would have been in Cuba, where he had presumably ended up after (presumably) running away to sea at age 14. Mathew didn't use normal names in his humorous sketches, unless he was secretly portraying Abby, in which case he would sometimes (not always) use a variation of her (presumed) favorite names, "Juliana" or "Adeline." He would never have used "Susan Bray," but there is precedent for Shillaber revising Mathew's cartoonish names to more realistic ones. He did this with the town name, as I recall, when he reprinted Mathew's faux biography of the "Mrs. Partington" character, in "The Life and Sayings of Mrs. Partington," where Mathew had originally written the "Life" for the Boston "Pathfinder." I can't remember the exact sequence of events, as I write this--Mathew re-used the cartoonish town name in a piece that is obviously his, but Shillaber opted for something more normal-sounding.
Music opening this page: "Unaccountable Effect," by Liz Story,
from the album, "Unaccountable Effect"