In the previous entry, I offered to take the reader along with me on what may be my last major research foray, in real time. I have discovered one more source of my literary work, as author Mathew Franklin Whittier, in the 19th century. In this case, it's a Portland, Maine literary newspaper which was launched in 1841, just after Mathew's soul-mate and first wife, Abby, had died of "consumption." Their 8-month-old daughter, Sarah, had died of causes which I have yet to determine, only two weeks prior--so this was a terrible time for Mathew. Not surprisingly, in the historical library which I am accessing via researchers, even though their copies begin in June, I found nothing from Mathew until August--and then, as reported in the previous entry, it was a brief essay, expressing his Spiritualist beliefs, entitled, simply, "Death."
But there is a synchronistic element to my research, and I have an example of that to share with you, this morning. I have the habit of haunting Ebay for anything which might relate to Mathew or have a bearing on the case. I've found some incredible pieces of evidence there. One or two evidential elements still elude me, and there are a few dark holes remaining in Mathew's life story. When I get on Ebay, I typically enter keywords relating to the physical items I haven't been able to find; but on rare occasions, I will have the whim to try to fill in those biographical gaps. One of the periods of his life for which I still have little information, is late 1838. They had eloped in August of 1836 from East Haverhill, Mass., across the border to the little town of Dover, New Hampshire. There, Mathew had attempted to set up a business, probably with relatively meagre capital and some loans. That business failed in, I think it was, February or March of 1837. I don't know where the couple was, or what they were doing, from this time (when Mathew was also "disowned" by the Quakers, for having married Abby, who presumably was a Catholic). I know that they end up back in Amesbury Mills, which is adjacent to their hometown of East Haverhill, by December, where Mathew is working as a clerk for the "News and Courier." I have a couple of items Mathew wrote for that paper; then, in February, 1838, he launches his own paper, the Salisbury "Monitor." Perhaps the only surviving volume of that paper sold on Ebay--before I knew how to use it properly--for about $100, and then resold through a major auction house for some $7,000, and has disappeared into the hands of a private collector. I don't know who would pay that kind of money for a tiny old obscure newspaper, except that it had some of his famous brother's poems in it, and I gather the phrasing in some of them is just a little bit different than in the known versions (possibly, Mathew, as the editor, revised them slightly?). Who would be enough of a John Greenleaf Whittier fanatic to pay $7,000 for it, for that reason? Meanwhile, I don't expect the buyer to identify himself and hand it over because it's mine from a past life, but I think it's unfair and unethical for him to bar me from the content. But, I digress...
On Ebay, yesterday, I had the whim to search for the Dover "Enquirer," the local paper in which I knew Mathew had advertised his business. Just to give an idea of the synchronicity which may or may not be involved, I think it has been several weeks, or even months, since I last searched for that paper on Ebay. I came up with an edition of Oct. 31, 1837 for sale. This would be less than two months earlier than the poem published in the "News and Courier" which indicated (by its presence, and also by its content) that they had moved back to Amesbury. So it is within my target range.
Am I boring you? Hold on a minute. I had to set the scene.
Sometimes, I am pretty-darned sure that Abby--my wife, now, in the astral realm--"prompts" or nudges me to look for certain things. Once, I was able to prove it. I won't go into that, now, that's another long story. Was it her "nudge" that caused me to look for the "Enquirer" this time? I can't really tell. I have written, in my book, about this period, that I think Mathew's business failed largely because they were shunned; and a major reason they were shunned, was the stance they both took against slavery.* I have also expressed the opinion, based partly on past-life intuitive impressions, that Mathew ghost-wrote an anti-slavery sermon by one of the local Dover pastors, Rev. David Root, which was given by him in Haverhill a few days before Mathew and Abby eloped.
Now, I have some anti-slavery writings by Mathew from 1832; but at that time, he was among the group who felt that the slaves should be gradually deported back to Africa. He apparently admired William Lloyd Garrison, but thought his views a bit extreme. The auction house's description of the Salisbury "Monitor," however, indicates that as of 1838, Mathew had become more radical, perhaps being influenced, in part, by Abby.
So in the sample photographs for this newspaper, being sold on Ebay, was the following image:
What actually works for us, here, in this "Updates" series, is that I don't have the signature. I'll get the whole article from my researcher, when he goes into the library tomorrow, and I did, in fact, purchase the edition. (Someone else was watching it, and I didn't want to risk losing it.)
I have numerous examples of Mathew's style of debating. Of course there were other people who could think and write like this; but I'm saying this is Mathew. We may or may not be able to clinch it, depending on the pseudonym used. If, for example, this is Rev. Root, he may very well sign with his own name. If it is, say, something like "One Who Knows," which I believe Mathew used in a brief political comment, in this paper, in 1832; or a Latin phrase like "Libertatis Vindex," which I believe Mathew used (among others) for the ultra-liberal Boston "Chronotype" in the 1840's, then I will only be able to make an educated guess. If, however, it is signed with some variation of his initials, such as "M.F. Whittier," "Franklin," or "F."; or, if he uses his single asterisk (as per the previous entry); then I will know it is he.
If Rev. Root has signed the letter, the logical assumption is that he probably also wrote his own sermon (because Mathew is unlikely to be ghost-writing Root's correspondence, as well). On the other hand, if the letter is signed with Mathew's name or initials, my impression that he was the ghost-writer of Rev. Root's sermon will be that much more plausible; and other than that sermon, this will be the earliest example of Mathew's public anti-slavery writing I have found. The next-earliest is a brief review of an anti-slavery lecture, written for his own paper, the "Monitor," and reprinted in William Lloyd Garrison's paper, the "Liberator," which I have shared in an earlier Update:
So even though someone with deep pockets is preventing me from accessing what may be the only copies of Mathew's paper--my own past-life work--still, I can get hits all around it, as it were. And this one, if it turns out to be Mathew's, is close. I have several examples, by the way, of Mathew crossing swords with conservatives via these letters to the editor, precisely as one might argue with a troll on Facebook, today. The technology really matters little. People find a way to do the same things.
There is not much here that helps prove my reincarnation case. Except, a year or two ago, I agreed to a test with Dr. Jim Tucker, Dr. Ian Stevenson's successor. I told him that I had located the only known portrait of Rev. Root, and would he like to test me by sending it to me amongst a few decoy portraits, to see whether I could recognize it? He graciously agreed, and complied--and I failed the test. I didn't recognize Root; I tentatively chose a French mathematician from a previous generation, and also felt I recognized a third man, a British ornothologist, as I recall.
But I was looking for a visionary, because I believed, at that time, that Root had written the anti-slavery sermon I so admired. The mathematician had been a visionary, and looked rather too much like Root for test purposes. Meanwhile, I didn't know that Mathew had, in fact, been in London, and as he was an avid attendee and reporter of lyceum lectures, he could have met the ornothologist, or seen him give a talk, there. Were such a test to be run again, it should be with obscure men as the decoys, not prominent ones, because Mathew saw any number of prominent men of his century give talks.
One clue, which I have already incorporated into my book, is that Root's own native style is far more pedantic--which fits with his portrait. We know this because I have other sermons he wrote, including a lengthy one, which I also purchased on Ebay, for the 1839 bicentennial of Root's church. So there is an apparent mis-match of styles, there, for Root. Now, if I can show that Mathew wrote in the same style as the sermon, in Dover, in 1837, I can plausibly hypothesize that my past-life intuitive impression is, in fact, correct, that Mathew ghost-wrote Root's 1836 sermon. See how it fits together? In other words, in the test, I would have been thrown off by my expectations, because Root actually wasn't the visionary I thought he was. It was myself, in that lifetime, who was the visionary behind the speaker. I have shown, by several examples, that Mathew had a habit of "laundering" his own work through other writers, to keep himself hidden. He would use more prominent mouthpieces, in other words. If you look up an interesting episode in Mark Twain's (Samuel Clemens') life, for example, you will see that he got in hot water reading a saucy story at John Greenleaf Whittier's 70th birthday party. That wasn't Clemens' work, folks. That was Mathew's story, given to him to read for the occasion, and perhaps edited a bit by Clemens.
So that's why I failed Dr. Tucker's test (that, and the fact that it's a very poorly-executed portrait, which appears to have been pulled before it was completed, and hence hidden away).
As of this writing, I do not know how this article is signed. I may have egg on my face, if it's clearly some other local writer. But all through my book, and in this blog, I am quite willing to stick my neck out. If only my readers would stick theirs out, as well, we might get somewhere, and I might sell a few e-books.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*The economic crash, or "Panic" of 1837, resulting from President Andrew Jackson's policies, had not struck yet this early in the year.
Music opening this page: "Nerve Up" by Billy Goodrum, from the album, "Weightless"