I edited my previous entry this morning, including adding a nice piece of evidence. Unfortunately, as I posted this one, I realized that I've completely erased it.* The new evidence I discovered went into my first book, because it confirms that Mathew Franklin Whittier was the real author of the "Quails" series in the 1849-52 Boston "Weekly Museum," not Ossian Dodge. Although I had already proved that several times over. Everything in that entry, about my use of psychic mediums and how accurate they were, is in the books, so it isn't lost. What I discovered, briefly, is that above the very first "Quails" story I ever found, previously unnoticed by me, sits a poem. Mathew often arranged for relevant poems to sit atop, or underneath--or on top and underneath--any story which secretly told about his life with his first wife, Abby. This was another instance. The poem, by well-known 19th-century author, Mrs. Sigourney, was written as a tribute to famous Swedish singer Jenny Lind. But it fits Abby perfectly, including how she would be (i.e., would have been) greeted by the angels upon her passing. Abby, also, appears to have had a fine singing voice. (Among other references, it is mentioned in one of the two poems written by Mathew that Elizabeth Barrett published, "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," which was also a tribute to Abby.) That simply means that not only did Mathew write as "Quails," but he wrote that particular story about a phase of his life with Abby--which means the second psychic medium I used was spot-on when he mentioned the obscure town name, in conjunction with Mathew's first name, out of the blue.
By way of salvaging at least one bit from yesterday's lost entry, here is the graphic that I discovered, sitting just above the story, "How the Cows Were Won," which places Mathew and Abby in the town of Methuen, Mass., just as the psychic medium inferred by saying Mathew's first name, and the town name, together. Oh, I can throw in the story, as well.
"M----" is Methuen; "P----" is Poyen, Abby's last name; "W----" is Whittier; and there is a back story, having to do with Mathew not feeling he could leave Abby alone, after their son had died of scarlet fever, and they had graciously been offered a refuge in the farm house of Mathew's cousin, Richard Whittier, in Methuen, Mass. The townsfolk must have gossiped that they were lazy, because they didn't work during this period. So Mathew wrote this story--retaining the real initials so the intended victims would know it was for them--as a way of getting literary revenge on these people.
Toward the end of the psychic reading, conducted in Dec. 2010, the medium had suddenly said, "I hear M, M, M, Mathew, Messuen." Or that is how I wrote it in my notes, because he trailed off on the second word. Now I think he trailed off, because he worked out of a Spiritualist church in nearby Swampscott, and he figured he must be imagining that part. There is only one Methuen in America, and it's a small town. I didn't know anything about Methuen, and I had not told the medium that the people he was reading about came from nearby Haverhill. (Nor did I know that he worked out of Swampscott--I knew he was certified by the Lily Dale community in New York.) I asked him to "repeat what you just said," and he repeated it precisely the same way, dropping his voice on the second word. Later, looking at the map, I realized he might have meant "Methuen," but at that time, I had no proof. Then I found this story--but historians say that "Quails" was written by an entertainer named Ossian Dodge. So I was off to the research races. It wasn't Dodge. It was Mathew Franklin Whittier.
It's amazing how much the historians have been wrong about. I'm just telling you.
Now. How to get into today's topic neatly...every day, I read aloud to Abby another poem from the Fables of La Fontaine, which I believe Mathew wrote as French homework assignments, when Abby was tutoring him. They were published by Mathew's friend, fellow-Abolitionist and future editor, Elizur Wright, the year of Abby's death (though a children's version, an admitted trial balloon, was published while she was still alive). Anyway, I read them to her, and I ran across one which triggered an "A Hah" moment.
We'll work it backwards, rather than in chronological order of discoveries. Here is the poem with its illustration (and here is the second page--sorry, I don't think I have the requisite software to stitch them together as one pdf file). I'm guessing all of you can relate to the moral. My intuitive past-life recognition memory tells me that Mathew definitely wrote this poem, i.e., the English verse translation of La Fontaine's French. And that it both impressed him, and tickled him. In particular, he may have seen this illustration, in the 1841 edition that I have recently purchased of this, the second volume. Wright tells us in the introduction, that to save money, he had copied the original French artwork along with the French captions.
Now, some years ago, I managed to find an edition of the Boston "Carpet-Bag" for sale, and purchased it. This paper is extremely rare. Later, I actually purchased the entire Vol. I, the first year. But at this time, I felt lucky to find just the one edition. I'll share the fifth page, with Mathew's story, in a minute, but I don't want you to get into it until I provide a little background.
And there is a great deal of background! How to condense it... Mathew already had a working relationship with Benjamin Penhallow Shillaber--creator of the "Mrs. Partington" character--before Shillaber became editor of the "Carpet-Bag." Mathew had written a faux biography of "Mrs. Partington" for Shillaber, which appeared in the "Bag," and years later, in book form, in "The Life and Sayings of Mrs. Partington." It was Mathew who wrote the "Life," while Shillaber himself contributed the "Sayings." This is why Shillaber--who had enough integrity to refuse to take advantage of Mathew, despite Mathew's obsession about remaining anonymous--lists himself, not as the author, but as the "editor." The biography first appeared in the Boston "Pathfinder," a free (advertisement-driven) paper which Shillaber was editing. I never found that edition--the "Pathfinder" is extremely rare, you can barely find a reference to it. I did purchase one edition. But then the biography was reprinted, along with the picture of Mrs. Partington you see below, in the "Carpet-Bag," where Shillaber mentions it had first appeared in the "Pathfinder."
This is the portrait and biography, as they appeared on the front page of the June 28, 1851 edition of the "Carpet-Bag." Note that the poem entitled "Cheerfulness in Old Age," signed "Trismegistus," was written by Mathew, and this is not the first time he had used that pseuydonym. In this poem, the old man's wife and children are all gone. This was literally true for Mathew's first family, but it would be uncharacteristic of most old men, who normally are survived by their children. This, again, was a veiled reference to Abby. It was not written by career academician Benjamin Drew, as Shillaber inextricably claimed, in his memoirs. (Nor had Drew lost a family.) I dug into that false attribution in some depth, in my book. Note also the brief reprinted article about Quaker meetings (Mathew had been "disowned" by the Quakers for marrying outside the faith.) Could the writer for the Providence "Mirror" possibly be inferring that he wears a "steel waistcoat" to avoid his erections being seen, when in the presence of the attractive Quaker women?????? (If so, Mathew must have contributed the clipping, such that naive Shillaber never picked up on it--nor did I, until just now.)
By the way, note that there are subtle differences between the two portraits of Mrs. Partington. Apparently, it was re-drawn from the "Carpet-Bag," for the book. I used such a comparison to prove that one of Mathew's pieces for the "Carpet-Bag" had not appeared first in Britain's "Cruikshank's" humor magazine, as well.
I first became aware of this faux biography because Mathew, writing as "Quails," says he accosted someone coming the other way in the wilds of Canada, on a sleigh, and insisted on buying that fellow's copy of the (free) "Pathfinder" for a quarter, in order to see the portrait of Mrs. Partington which he somehow knew would be in it. He says the man told him, but don't believe it, he already knew. In fact, the entire story is implausible, because you can't tell what newspaper someone is reading as they pass you in a sleigh, even if you have to slow down to get by him. So we don't know what the actual situation was, sans obfuscations and embellishments, but it dawned on me, forcibly, that Mathew wanted to see it not for the portrait, but to see how his own writing of the biography had come out. Here's that page of the "Weekly Museum," if you want to see the original. Mathew's estranged second wife was from St. John, and he frequently visited their three children, there. He had just visited them before going to Europe for an extended trip, which he had contracted to write a travelogue about as "Quails." It is this European tour which historians claim for Ossian Dodge, and which Dodge claimed for himself all his life. Dodge was there in London at the time, alright, but he was promoting his singing career after a recent flop in New York, not writing long travelogues which required extensive research every few days, and traveling about Europe. He wouldn't have had time for it, nor did he have the talent for it, nor would he have had any conceivable reason to be invited to the home of Victor Hugo in Paris, nor...but don't get me started.
Never mind how I know these things. It took me nine years and 2-1/2 thousand pages to prove them. If I'm uncertain about anything, I'll tell you.
Mathew, being already a personal friend and secret collaborator with Shillaber, became a silent financial investor in the "Carpet-Bag" venture. What I take to have been a collaboration between Mathew and Abby led out the paper, on the front page of the first edition, as a tribute to her. Of course this was done anonymously, and no scholars have ever guessed it, nor did any of their readers. It was, presumably, a secret between Mathew and Shillaber. Scholars may have justly assumed it was written by Shillaber, himself, though he usually signed his work in this paper. And if he didn't write it (typically, he only wrote anecdotes about his own standard characters, and these were not his characters), isn't it strange that the entire venture leads off with a three page, unsigned story? But there are many internal content and style clues, as well.
Here are the relevant pages of that first edition. The poem, by Coleridge, was no-doubt chosen by Mathew as a tribute to his courtship with Abby, and roughly parallels his poem, "My Love and I" (which I think I shared recently). In fact "My Love and I" seems so clearly influenced by Coleridge's poem, that it is one of the few instances where one might justly accuse Mathew of plagiarism--but I think Mathew's is actually better. Since it was a love poem to Abby, perhaps they were both aware of it, and this was understood between them. The article by N.P. Willis, about women proposing marriage, was probably chosen by Mathew, as well, to signify that secret aspect of their courtship. I feel that the extended story about the "Wags" was a joint venture with Abby, because it contains clear elements of both their respective styles. You may notice that it is a little bit old-fashioned and Victorian for 1851--that's because it was probably written about 15 years earlier, effectively in a different era. Mathew had previously used a variation on that name, "Wagtail," for a humorous sketch, in the July 3, 1830 New York "Constellation." It's a story nested within a series, which if you so inclined, you can see, here. The letter from "Annabella Ballywhack" is also written by Mathew (who at this point was not quite 18 years old), probably in open imitation of British humorist Theodore Hook's "Mrs. Ramsbottom" letters (except Mathew's were better). As said many times, he was the acting junior editor of the "Constellation," and wrote most of the editorials, as well.
Mathew went on to contribute as many as eight pieces per weekly edition of the "Carpet-Bag," until he was forced out, or rather, asked to tone down his liberal views (Shillaber was a conservative). There was also a great deal of power politics going on behind the scenes, among the editors and other contributors. Because Shillaber was committed to a policy of publishing only (or almost only) original material, written for the paper, he had trouble filling up eight pages every week. Therefore, he permitted the other writers to imitate Mathew's style, much to Mathew's personal frustration as an artist. Mathew actually wrote at least one satire on the internal politics at the paper, disguised as an "agricultural meeting," which I think nobody else picked up on. But that's in my book.
Mathew, as I have said recently, always wrote in layers, and the people who recognized the deeper layers were few and far between. Probably the editor who called Mathew's "Ethan Spike" a "genius" was one of them.
But, I digress. The copy I purchased on Ebay, was the May 3, 1851 edition. Immediately, I felt that Mathew was the author of the unsigned story about the "Indignation Meeting," which appears on the fifth page. The meeting, of human-like dogs, is being held about the proposed leash law. Indeed, as my work progressed, I felt convinced that Mathew had written this piece, as he had many unsigned pieces in the "Carpet-Bag"--including the famous parody of "The Raven," entitled "The Vulture," which appears in the December 18, 1852 edition (and which has been overlooked by all historians who have incorrectly guessed its authorship). I've presented that in earlier entries. Here is the "Indignation Meeting."
As Mathew, being a reporter, knew shorthand, the white dog on the right taking notes is probably his own representation. I would guess that he often took this role in anti-slavery meetings; and "Quails" tells us he did so, in London, for the 1851 World Peace Congress, where we can see him at the reporter's table in an etching for the Illustrated London News that depicts a view of Exeter Hall, during the opening speech--but that, also, is in the book. With a little digging, you can find that image online, and if you zoom in on the reporter's table, you will see Mathew at age 39, the only one at the table looking at the speaker. You can clearly see it is Mathew, and not Ossian Dodge. Their facial features were somewhat similar, but their hair styles were completely different, and this is Mathew's hair, even down to a characteristic "loop" of hair sticking out on one side, which is also seen in his later portrait.
Note the star-signed piece which immediately follows the "Indignation Meeting" in the "Carpet-Bag," entitled "Old Times." This one is typical of Mathew's stories which relate true accounts of ministers, deacons, parishioners and churches (including at least two signed as "Quails"). I have recently gone into some depth about Mathew's star-signed reviews and essays, written for the 1844-46 New York "Tribune," which work is wrongly attributed by historians to Margaret Fuller. This appears only five years later, where Mathew now has his home base, in Boston. Mathew used the star, on occasion, all his life from 1831 onwards, and this is one example. His pieces, signed with different pseudnoyms, often appeared back-to-back or side-by-side on the page. But I have written about this, before.
The first instance I've found of Mathew referring to an association of dogs meeting to discuss a crisis, was when he was the acting junior editor of the New York "Constellation." In an unsigned editorial in the June 19, 1830 edition entitled "Societies for Everything" (a theme he returned to periodically over the course of his career), he states:
But it is said the disposition to combine for all sorts of purposes is not confined to the human race but that the brute creation are beginning to treat in the steps of their betters. Combinations of dogs may occasionally be seen in close consultation at the corners of the streets; and it is hinted that a canine association is about being formed, to be called the Anti-Curtailing Society, the object of which, as its name implies, is to put an end to cutting off the tails of dogs, which, contrary both to good taste and humanity, has hitherto been the prevailing custom. At a preparatory meeting, among other spirited resolutions, the following, introduced by Snapping Jowler at the close of an eloquent specimen of barking, was carried by an unanimous growl.
Mathew more fully developed this concept when he was under cover (as an Abolitionist agent) in New Orleans, working as a reporter for the "Daily Delta," in mid-1846. I discovered it by finding a reprint of it here in the Sept. 19, 1846 edition of the Boston "Literary Museum"--a predecessor to the "Weekly Museum," for which Mathew wrote "Quails." It is credited to the "Delta," and having recognized it by style as Mathew's work, from there I found that he was writing the police blotter for that paper, along with some additional reports and essays, signing as "F." (for his middle name, "Franklin"). This would have been immediately after his year-and-a-half long freelance stint as the star-signing reviewer for the New York "Tribune" (which work, again, was attributed to Margaret Fuller). I have mentioned that Mathew liked to re-use his best ideas, sometimes several years hence, and usually in a different publication. Mathew was an animal rights advocate before it was popular--in fact, a man was likely to be charged with being effeminate if he expressed these opinions openly. "Quails" also speaks in this vein, as Mathew had in years past, writing for other papers.
Are you getting a sense of how interconnected all these clues are? Perhaps you think I am claiming all these differently-signed pieces on the same pages, willy-nilly. But it's not that, it's that he was incredibly prolific. Note that I can identify Mathew's involvement with these various newspapers by cross-referencing these similar works (not just about dog meetings) by subject, style, favorite expressions and favorite deliberate mispellings. And when necessary I can quantify these things, as this entire body of work has been digitized, and is hence searchable. That means it is not simply my fond imagination when I say that Mathew was writing for this or that paper, or had authored this or that unsigned work. This is not to be wondered at, because exceptional, anonymous work rarely went unclaimed for long. If the piece achieved any public acclaim, people would begin to guess whose it was. Every ethical writer would demur, until an unethical one stepped up to claim it--it was almost inevitable, that someone would. In the few cases where nobody did, the scholars would argue amongst themselves until someone's wild guess prevailed in the history books. So this was not always a case of some plagiarist scouring through back issues for good, unprotected material, though that also happened. Admittedly, I am wrong once in awhile, and when that happens, I freely admit it. More often, I find that Mathew's best work has been mistakenly (or nefariously) claimed for another author, and then I have to jump through hoops to reclaim it for Mathew through detective work.
Now, compare the "Indignation Meeting," and its illustration, with La Fontaine's "Council of the Rats"! Clearly, in my opinion, Mathew's story of the "Indignation Meeting," with its accompanying illustration, was fondly inspired by the fable; and in particular, by this edition with its French illustration.
The story doesn't end, here--and this is where we see that deep impressions carry on, bouncing from one's early years, to one's later years--and they keep right on bouncing into a future lifetime's childhood. Because subconsciously, I remembered this drawing. That's why, when my parents would take me to a restaurant called the "English Pub" in Key Biscayne, Florida, and I used the men's room, I was spell-bound by a print from Boris O'Klein's "Dirty Dogs of Paris" series, hung above the urinals:
I desperately wanted a copy of this print, which a note on the bottom said you could order, but I never got one. However, a few years ago, I saw the actual original (i.e., from the now-defunct English Pub) for sale on Ebay, precisely as I remembered it from my childhood. When I wrote the seller, she cut the price in half for me, if I would promise never to sell it. I promised I wouldn't, except in dire need. It hangs above my toilet, today--and to its left, hangs a print-out of the dogs from the "Carpet-Bag." We are talking, perhaps, a year or two from the "Council of the Rats" to the "Anti-Curtailing Society"; 16 years from the "Anti-Curtailing Society" to the "Great Canine Caucus"; 5 years from the "Caucus" to the "Indignation Meeting"; roughly 112 years from the "Indignation Meeting" to the English Pub; and roughly 55 years from the English Pub to my bathroom here, in Portland. And then, in Portland, I rediscover the "Council of the Rats." Full circle.
The point is, this dynamic is also true for you, and you, and you. (I presently have three readers for this blog.)
Clearly, O'Klein had a wicked sense of humor, which I think Mathew would have appreciated. Here's one I'd never seen before, called "The Sniff Parade," which I ran into while checking on the spelling of the author's name:
Anyway, I just can't keep on adding new connections like this to my books. That's one thing that made them so large. It's a real study, and a genuine past-life match. One can take any real lifetime, and make hundreds, thousands, millions of connections, because every element in that lifetime is interconnected.
This one was too good to let go without mentioning it, somewhere, so I figured this blog was as good a place as any. But now I really have to stop writing daily entries.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*The gist was how much of Abby's personality was correctly revealed by the two psychic mediums who contacted her for me in 2010; and how the corroborating evidence gradually emerged, in the form of Mathew and Abby's poetry and short stories.
Music opening this page, "You Look Like A Memory," by Fat City,
from the album, "Reincarnation"