I hesitate to write this entry for two reasons: first of all, I'm not sure anybody read the previous entry, and it was a relatively good one; and secondly, the political climate is getting so conservative, with such dark clouds looming, I'm not sure I should even talk about the subject I'm going to broach, here. But that may be past-life emotions talking. At any rate, consider this an addendum; and if you have time to read this one--which I'll try to keep mercifully brief, as they say--I'd suggest taking time to go back and catch the last one.
I was giving an example, last time, of how my study is so deeply interconnected; and of how my detective work has proceeded. But then, just the last couple of days, I stumbled upon something else, in this wise...
I knew that Mathew had submitted extensively to a particular Boston newspaper; but when I poked into its 1846 predecessor--having found an earlier printing of one of his 1852 pieces there--I didn't see very much else. Certainly, nothing like the massive amount of material he submitted to that paper from 1848-1852. (I'm going to withhold some of the details, in this account--but all of these specifics are nailed down in the book.) Still, I felt that so long as I had a pdf file of the entire volume, representing year 1846, I might as well scan through it. I found, in the same month of April, one unsigned story which looks to be written by Mathew's first wife, Abby, who died in 1841. Mathew would have submitted it posthumously; or the editor might have picked it up from an earlier publication of some other paper. It's a genre in which Mathew frequently wrote--the dramatic retelling of some event from European history, often involving nobility. But this one features a palm-reading witch, as well as other elements that look far more like her known stories, than his. So I think it is probably an example of them writing together, which I already had evidence for in other pieces.
Then, nothing until September, when I find, in the same edition, two humorous sketches that have Mathew all over them. Based on style, I can assert with 99.9% certainty that this is Mathew's work. Actually, 100%, I just like to leave that 1/10th of a percent for safety, but there's no question.* These are unsigned, but as per the custom of the time, the newspaper they were drawn from is cited--and it's in New Orleans.
Now, I already had evidence that Mathew spent some time in New Orleans two years later, in 1848. While there, he witnessed a slave auction, and wrote scathingly about it--not for a New Orleans paper, of course, but for a liberal Boston paper. I knew, from many clues I had run into over the course of my research, that Mathew--a radical abolitionist--was probably working under cover for that cause. I also knew that he occasionally worked as a reporter; and that in 1852, at some point he must have been assigned the police station beat. Apparently, the reporter would literally hang out at the police station and get stories about the people being brought in.
I had also had past-life memories of being undercover in the South, in an exploratory hypnotic regression session in 2013; but that seemed to be covering a later period.
So I had all these pieces, but nothing definite. Not until now, that is. Because one of these two humorous sketches, written by Mathew, for a New Orleans paper, had him working the police station as a reporter. That means he was living and working there. Now, the logic is inescapable. Mathew, the radical abolitionist, would not be living and working in the South by choice. Even if he was hard up for a job, he wouldn't be there unless he was under cover for the cause of abolition. Furthermore, he had to have been using an assumed name. Why? Because his older brother, John Greenleaf Whittier, an abolitionist and liberal editor, was already well-known in that regard. In short, the Whittier name was famous, and if he used his own name, people would immediately realize his family connection, and his own likely sympathies.**
Therefore, while I may not have a letter or diary entry saying, "I was a spy for the anti-slavery cause," I might as well. The logic, once again, is inescapable.
Because my realization that Mathew worked undercover has come bit-by-bit, organically, I cannot point to a particular statement which preceded all the clues, as I can with some of my other discoveries. The first that it occurred to me, was upon seeing Mathew's name listed in "The Liberator," William Lloyd Garrison's newspaper, in 1857, as an attendee of his upcoming convention in Cleveland. Soon afterwards, I came across a private letter from Garrison to Samuel May, saying that due to the economy, the heavy-hitters like himself and Theodore Parker weren't going to be attending, but that their "agents" would still be speaking and would make it worthwhile. Something clicked--if Mathew's name was among about 10 listed for the State of Maine as an attendee, and if Garrison had "agents," could Mathew have been one of those agents?
Then came dozens of little clues which suggested he was, and finally, the clincher, that he was living and working as a reporter in New Orleans in 1846. Looking at the dates of the pieces he published in a liberal Boston paper during the latter half of 1846, there is a gap from around September to December of that year--with a faux apology for his absence, through one of his characters, at the end! I have two other instances of him covering an absence like this, in a humorous vein, so definitely he was out of town during this period.
Well, I checked my stats this morning (always a day late), showing what pages of this website were visited on the first of the month. This page doesn't show up at all, so nobody read it yesterday. I don't know but what I'm just writing for myself, here, though of course I keep them in the Archives, which is linked at the bottom of the page, so perhaps more people will read them at some future time. Right now, perhaps it is best to fly under the radar, anyway. It's hard to tell if that cautionary emotion I'm feeling (I almost didn't write this one) is from Mathew's life, or this one.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*Especially since one of them is a very clear precursor to an 1852 humorous sketch in a different newspaper, which I have definitely identified as Mathew's work. Mathew would occasionally revisit a gag or a concept that he had been particularly pleased with, years later.
**This sort of thing is one reason Mathew, himself, never became famous. Even his brother, apparently, had no idea how much high-quality work he was publishing anonymously. There are even one or two instances where John Greenleaf, as the editor of the "The National Era," may have accepted Mathew and Abby's poetry for publication without realizing their authorship.
Music opening this page: "Follow the Drinkin Gourd" by Richie Havens,
from the album, "Songs of the Civil War"