When I have a little time on my hands, I proofread the articles written by my past-life self, Mathew Franklin Whittier, which I had earlier digitized. This morning, I was into his work at age 16, for the Boston-based "New-England Galaxy" of 1829. If my attribution is correct, he used one pseudonym in particular--the initials "N.N.K." Now, recently, I suspected him of writing in 1846 under the initials "G.W.K." for the New Orleans "Picayune," from Texas (because I had evidence suggesting he had been in Texas, as a reporter, during roughly this same time); but I disproved it as Mathew's work. This writer, who was very competent, was submitting to the "Picayune," whereas Mathew wrote, while he was reporting in New Orleans, for its competitor, the "Daily Delta."
I have seven examples of articles written by "N.N.K.," and they dovetail precisely with the work that Mathew did under other pen names, later in his career. One of them is on the same topic (he would return to certain themes), and another is in precisely the same style. Need I provide examples? This is a lot of work for two or three serious readers! But then, we don't know who may be interested 20, 30 or 300 years from now.
Alright. There are actually more cross-correspondences between N.N.K. and other work I have identified as Mathew's. For one thing, during this period of his life he identified himself as a bachelor, and there is a piece by N.N.K. defending bachelors, as a class, against a proposed tax which would adversely affect them. But we will bypass that, and go to stronger evidence. In the April 10, 1829 edition of the "Galaxy," is a piece by N.N.K. entitled "Club Mania," decrying the tendency, at that time, to senselessly and gratuitously form associations for any and every purpose. Now, I have to find the article in which Mathew rehashed this very theme, for another newspaper, a year or so later...(see how much work is required for these entries, which hardly anyone reads?).
Okay, I found it in 2-3 minutes. It appears in the newspaper that Mathew went to work for at the end of 1829, the New York "Constellation." Here, it appears that he quickly became the acting junior editor (in duties, if not in title). This is an unsigned editorial entitled "Societies for Every Thing." I will simply run the introductory paragraphs for each article back-to-back, for the sake of comparison:
The "New-England Galaxy"
April 10, 1829
[For the New England Galaxy.]
Messrs Editors--This is the age of Societies, Associations, Fraternities and Clubs. The learned body of Phrenologists, we doubt not, could discover in the heads of the present generation an amazing developement of the organ of gregariousness. (Alphabets and horn-books, what a word!) The republican antipathy to titles, which was near making an auto de fe of the revolutionary worthies who proposed the society of the Cincinnati, had gone completely out of vogue;--and now, if ten men happen to congregate, one must be dubbed Mr President;--and a collection of twenty constitute a quorum empowered to stick as many capitals at the end of their names, as Dr W-----e claims in the college catalogue.
The New York "Constellation"
June 19, 1830
SOCIETIES FOR EVERY THING
This is emphatically the age of Societies, and this is the country where they flourish with the most remarkable vigor, and to the widest extent.
"Hail Columbia! happy land,"
where every thing is accomplished by Associations of men and Associations of women--where Combinations are formed and forming, for every thing under heaven--where it is the fashion to move in a solid phalanx for the accomplishment of all sorts of purposes, whatever may be their nature, object or magnitude--where individual exertion has, or will soon have, nothing left to do--where Societies have taken every thing out of its hands.
Also written for the "Galaxy," by N.N.K., is a parody of a Frenchman who is trying to learn the English language, in the form of a faux letter to the editor. Letters like this would become Mathew's trademark, with his only publicly identified work, when he wrote as the backwoods Yankee bigot, "Ethan Spike." But I have examples of Mathew parodying other ethnic groups, and their respective dialects, as well, including Frenchmen. What is clearly a sequel to this letter is reprinted in the Feb. 27, 1830 edition of the "Constellation," from the Providence "Journal." I was, in fact, able to trace the original article, but this one is signed only with the character's name, as though it was a real letter. Meanwhile, Mathew, writing his signature character, "Ethan Spike," in January of 1857, draws upon this early work briefly in what is recognizably the same style. I'll provide brief examples of each--N.N.K. writing as though he was a Frenchman confused about the English Language, in the Nov. 1829 "New-England Galaxy"; an anonymous letter which is obviously part of the same ongoing series, republished in the Feb. 1830 NY "Constellation" from the Providence "Journal"; and then, "Ethan Spike" in Canada, in 1857.
The "New-England Galaxy and Boston Mercury"
November 6, 1829
For the Galaxy and Mercury.
"As runs the Glass."--Primer.
Messieurs Editors,--I am a poor Frenchman, and it is now six months that I am arrived in this country. I have a grand difficulty of which I will make you to be informed.--Some time since I embarked in the vapor-ship, and made voyage from my native soil to England. I wished to learn the little idioms of the English language, and I study the conversations that I hear seriously. But against the will of all my endeavours the Englishman makes himself sport of my little follies of language, even after I had made myself perfect as you see.
Well, Messieurs, I took a resolution to come to this country, and made sail from Liverpool. After some days of navigation, I feel myself better, and go upon deck, and again put myself to watch the conversations that I hear. Presently the captain, who make me many civilities, call to the little boy for his glass. I take guard to that which he bring, and I observe with myself that it was a telescope. Very well, I think to myself, glass is a telescope. Well, the ship makes route many days, and presently I hear two of our company speak by themselves of one very pretty little lady, who was our companion of the voyage; and one say to the other--"She is very handsome, but she consults her glass too much." Aha, I thought to myself, I comprehend what you express; she is a philosopher, and regards much with her telescope. Ah, poor unfortunate, I was all wrong; her glass meant her miroir. And I plunge myself into grand contemplation, that so many things express themselves by one word.
The New York "Constellation"
February 27, 1830
From the Providence Journal.
Mr. Miller,--The following letter was handed me by a French gentleman, with a request that I would prepare it for the press, but prefer letting the gentleman tell his own story in his own way, and in his own language.
Monsieur Le Prentair,
Sair--I am one member of the Institute National, and travel through the United States for information. I was embarque in Havre de Grace, on one paquebot de Nouvelle York, and leave la France for visit this country of la liberte. Three, four, six days I was confine avec une maladie de mer, one sickness of the sea; but when I walk on the deck, I see one sailor man have one wheel, which he turn round, first au droit, to the right, and then turn him to the left, and I speak him, 'Why for what you so much labor always?'--and he say 'Sair, the dam ship steer like Sam Hill.' Well I not can understand, and then I go down to my chamber cabin, and I look in the dictionaire of Johnson and Valker and I not find Sam, but I ask the captain, and he laugh and say, 'Sam one man's name;' so I look and find Hill, one little mountain, but still I not understand what was Sam Hill.
Well, in three four day more, one night, the ship rock very much, and the captain ask our officer, 'What weather is on deck?' and he say, 'it blow like Sam Hill.' Some four day more the ship go into New York, and I walk on the land and stay for a short time, and go in one batiment de vapeur, one steamboat, and go at Providence. By and by one man what was not never been before in one steamboat, he was look in the water, and he say, 'I swure, she foam at the mouth like Sam Hill.' Ma foi! more Sam Hill. Presently the ship go in one place what was call Hell Gate, and I say to the pilot, 'What for is the ship go no more faster?' and he say, 'The tide run always here like Sam Hill.' Eh bien! I very much perplex.
The Portland Transcript and Eclectic
January 1, 1857 (excerpt)
Fust I thought I'd walk, but then, it want ezzagtly the thing for a dillegate an plenypertenshary. So I stepped up to a meek lookin cab man an says I "do you know where the Emperor of Novy Skoshy lives? says I."-- "Bone show mucher," says he, bobbin his head like a streaked monkey. "Darn your bone shows, mucher or lesser," says I, "its the Emperor, Governor or Seelick men of this here aoutlandish Kendentry I want. You infernal sucker," says I. "Ah, bone-bone," says he, "pardonez, mon dew! I sall mak ze grand mistak," an afore I could say ither aye yes or no, the greasy divil bundled me neck an crop into his darned little box, an shot me in. I tried to get aout but twas no use. "Let me aout, you yaller cuss or I'll lick you aout of your skin!" I bawled. "We, we," says he, climbing onto his seat. "Ze grand market, ze Bone Sucker," an away we went, the cab rattlin an creakin like an onharmonized Winner-in-mill, the driver screamin "hi, hi!" and I kickin at the door an swearin with all my might. "Wasn't this a pooty dish to set afore a king?" Want it a likely sort of way for a suvrin plennypertenshary to enter the pre-sinks of a furrin pottingtate!
Clearly, Mathew was not politically correct by 21st-century standards--but he poked fun at everybody equally, including, and especially, himself. He particularly enjoyed idioms and dialect for its own sake, and represented Dutch, French, Yankee, English, Irish, Scottish, black, and sailor dialects. That's from memory--probably I missed some. Frequently, he would have them interacting with each other, as you see, above.
All of that was to establish that I have good reason to believe, as implausible as it seems given the writer's sophistication and intellect, that N.N.K. was Mathew Franklin Whittier at age 16/17, writing for the New-England Galaxy, at a time when he was probably working as a printer's apprentice for the Galaxy's sister paper, the Boston "Courier." Keep in mind that, as near as I can determine, it was not unusual for an exceptionally bright young person to enter into the work force, or the literary field. One started as a printer's apprentice, and then, if one could write, one could get published in one or more newspapers. Samuel Clemens did this at age 16, as well (in a paper that Mathew contributed to heavily, and in a style reminiscent of Mathew's work).
Now, we get to the real meat of the discussion. Let's look, as we did recently in my entry of 3/1, at my response to the hypnotist's question about Mathew's workplace in his latter years, the Boston Custom House. I had never seen an image of it at this time, in 2008:
T: And so, how about you see yourself going into work, and tell me what that was like?
S: (big sigh) I think I'm seeing a picture of this thing, but I think it was a big, very ugly, very plain, long, two-story building. That's what I'm seeing. (laughs) It was ugly.
This matches the actual Custom House in all respects, except for the apparently glaring error of "plain." But up-close, the building looks like a plain granite block structure, with half-columns pasted on, and ordinary government-issue windows. I realized this before I moved to New England, but once I was directly face-to-face with this monster, I saw just how true it is:
The question then becomes, would Mathew have disparaged the building, including the fake columns? I had long felt that he and his first wife, Abby, loved the little Portland city hall, a 3/4-sized replica of a Greek temple. But would Mathew have felt so passionately about architecture, and would he have, in fact, disparaged the Custom House in comparison with the Portland City Hall, as I felt, today?
I have done my best, on short notice, to provide evidence that N.N.K. was none other than Mathew Franklin Whittier. My best guess is that the initials stood for "Never, Never Know," which would be precisely in-line with his lifelong, inordinate compulsion to remain hidden. For one thing, he didn't want to openly compete with his older brother, who was also trying to make a name for himself in the literary profession, and who apparently had Asbergers (and who, being in poor health, would not have been able to make a living in any other way). Mathew, when acting as junior editor for the NY "Constellation," used to insert his brother's poems and prose works into that big-city paper, at a time when they were getting published primarily in the local Haverhill, Mass. "Essex Gazette." Here is a poem entitled "The Warning," reprinted from that paper which I believe that Mathew, as acting associate editor of the New York "Constellation," inserted into the Sept. 25, 1830 edition, after he had been working for that paper almost a year.
Below, is N.N.K. commenting on the architecture of Boston, in the "New-England Galaxy." If we take N.N.K. to be Mathew, then I think we can say that my reactions to the Boston Custom House were entirely consistent with Mathew's views and personality. I rest my case, but you see how difficult this is. One has to dot 5,000 "i's" and twice as many "t's" in order to establish the plausibility of past-life memories being historically genuine. People say they want proof--but this is "proof by a thousand cuts." Since cynics don't really want the proof they pretend to demand, of course they don't stick around for a thousand cuts, hypocrites that they are.
What I'm waiting for, is the audience who understands that all this is well worth the trouble. As an aside, these are the kinds of things one can prove, to at least a standard of plausibility (what I've presented here is not the only evidence I could bring to bear on "N.N.K."). But last night, I was going through a little book of songs which I believe Mathew and Abby would sing together. I remembered I had found one near the front of the book, but had forgotten which one it was. So I started at the beginning, and they all sounded kind of trite, and very much the same...until suddenly I hit the one I recognized. There was no question. It was all on a feeling level; I could remember the feeling of singing this one enthusiastically with Abby, enjoying various nuances in the musical phrasing with her, as she played it on the piano. It's entitled "Come O'er the Moonlit Sea," and the lyrics go:
Come o'er the moonlit sea,
The waves are brightly glowing;
The winds have sunk to their evening rest,
And the waves are brightly glowing.
Yes, I'll roam o'er the moonlit sea,
For the waves are brightly glowing,
The winds have sunk to their evening rest,
And the tide is gently flowing.
The barque is in the bay,
And it only waits for me,
Its sails will throw their shadow o'er the sea,
I'll come o'er the moonlit sea...
Compare to one of Abby's poems, written when she was only 14 years old (I have discussed the attribution of this poem, earlier). This would simply indicate that she might especially like the song:
Look on the broad, still-breasted Merrimac.
The stars are sleeping in its silent blue,
The Moon has wandered down, and now looks back
With fearful eye upon her former track,
A sky-throned ghost. Look, love, the moonlight through!
And lo! above the bounding of the sea
A bright mist wavers, of a beauteous hue—
Like pearl sublimed to vapour; and above,
A white sail sleeps. Look again with me,
Where farther up the river hides away,
With curving banks; and there, like pale-eyed love,
The moonlight sits upon the eddies' top
With tremulous motion, as thine eye doth play—
Which of its clear delight doth never stop.
If one wanted to speculate further, the tune of "Come O'er the Moonlit Sea" strikes me as being distinctly Irish. Abby's mother, who is said to have been "brilliant" and who presumably taught her to play piano, was Scottish.
All this will hardly prove the reality of past-life memory to any aggressively skeptical person. In fact, I am somewhat loath even to share something so personal, publicly. Don't you understand that I am honestly sharing my work, and that, inasmuch as I am a single person without funding and without formal training in the scientific method, I am being as rigorous, honest and scientific as I know how to be? If you have a disparaging theory (read, snap judgment) about what I'm doing, here, remember that it is, first and foremost, a theory. It's fine to have a theory--but watch out for the trap of letting theories turn into unjustified prejudices. You may have left the realm of rationality altogether, and not even know it. It's easy to project that on me, as an ego defense. All too easy, in fact.
The following is N.N.K. in the November 1829 "New-England Galaxy," writing about Boston architecture, when Mathew (who I presume to be the author) had just recently turned 17 years old.
The "New-England Galaxy"
July 31, 1829
For the New-England Galaxy.
"Brave columns of brick and fair temples of wood,
"That here in the days of our forefathers stood,
"The school-houses--churches, and tollbooths are gone,--
"We whip--pray and cheat in grand buildings of stone."
--Epilogue to "Much ado about something."
Who could doubt the truth of the old adage, that Boston folks are full of notions, were he to look at our public buildings? I do not quarrel with our crooked streets for it is vastly annoying to meet an acquaintance in one of your broad, straight streets, and amuse yourself for a rod or two by grinning at him, until you are near enough to bow. Besides our crooked streets could not be helped. Our honest ancestors as little thought that they were laying the foundation of a great city, as the old gentleman, who made a fortune in the tan yard, which stood where Concert Hall now stands, dreamed of the jolly times posterity would have on his premises. The shore was crooked, and the hills steep; and our ancestors wound along the one, and around the other, as the cows had done before them, and as we must do after them, unless a conflagration or a deluge gives us a chance to "call all this nothing and begin again." However, there was some strange magic in the word City. No sooner were we dignified with this sounding title, than the business of tearing down and building up, of making straight and filling up began in good earnest, and the ever busy brains of our good citizens were filled with the jargon of entablature and pediment,--of architrave, grieze and cornice.--Goodly rows of brick stores, with white "pots" on the chimney tops, or fair blocks of brick dwelling houses, with nice wooden pillars in front, painted white and supporting nothing, were soon found to be quite plebeian, and granite, siennite and pudding stone are found none too good to hold beef, pork and 'lasses.
We have done wonders, to be sure, but like all wonderful things, it is rather difficult to get a sight at them. Our public buildings are all stuck in corners; or with a block of buildings like a wing hung on one side, and a narrow lane on the other; or cooped up, so that we can only see the front and face and leave the rest to the imagination, like the little wooden cherubim heads in a church.
I beg pardon, sir, there are some buildings, which you can see by taking a little pains, and some that will be seen whether you will or no. The State House you can see almost anywhere;--that goodly structure, with a row of brick arches, copied from the old Roman aqueducts, and ornamented above, as a foreign gentleman once observed, with a representation of the Yankee staple commodity.--Many a Boston boy returning from a weary cruise, hails with rapture this well known object, and his heart yearns within him, at the thoughts of home, fireside, and Indian pudding. I have little doubt from an inspection of this pile of material, that it was built by bill regularly brought in and passed through the House of Representatives. In my mind's eye and ear I can see and hear the whole debate. The gentlemen from Boston propose the plan, in hopes it will ornament the city and employ Boston workmen. The gentlemen from Medford and Charlestown move to amend by inserting the brick arches, for it may benefit their brick-kilns. The gentlemen from up-country introduce a second amendment in favour of the wooden pillars, that logs may bring a better price;--and the gentleman from Quincy, having just discovered the riches of his native town, has advocated an act in addition to an act, for taking down the wooden fence, and putting up granite. A fair specimen of disinterested legislation.
But to return to our buildings. There is the new City Market, consecrated in the recollections of Aldermen, not only for what it cost, but for what it holds. You can obtain a very good view of this, by getting on board any of the Mackerel smacks off of the T wharf; but even this will soon be interrupted by new improvements. The new Tremont Theatre I take to be a very beautiful specimen of Mosaic workmanship. Here a little granite and there a little siennite to please the sturdy supporters of both species. It is a burning shame, that this exquisite facsimile of the stern of a three decker can only be seen with a sidelong glance from the Granary burying ground; and the superb wooden wreath in basso relieve, with which the pediment is to be decorated, will be entirely lost to all the good people, who have no particular occasion to visit a grave yard.
All the world talk about our new Hotel, its beauty and proportions, its portico and columns. Where they stand to get a view of it is past comprehension. Place yourself right in front of it, and you can gain about as perfect an idea of its beauty, as you would have of the majesty of an elephant by crawling into his mouth. Survey it at either angle, and you will see a great staring brick rear to a grand stone front, starting off on the south by an angle of 160 degrees, and on the north by an angle of 45 degrees.
By the way, did you happen to pass, while they were constructing the wood cellars under the sidewalks of the Hotel? Ods arches and rattle traps?--cross arches, pillars and scuttles, what a snarl!--'with all due deference to the Morgan mystery, this beats all the Masonic puzzles we ever saw.
Now take a glance at the South end, and you will find the prettiest, neatest little model of a temple of Mammon, that our city can boast of. Let your eye rest on the Washington Bank, and it will be refreshed, as by a green spot in the wilderness. What proportions,--what symmetry!--All solidity, all of a piece. No wooden porches to a stone building, like the new South Church or the Stone Chapel. No rough stone uncarved pediment like St. Paul's, which to use an Irishism, might safely be called a "memento mori of what is to be." No mixture of Grecian and Turkish,--pillared front and a dome above, like the Branch Bank,--but all neat, proper and tasteful. Here too, you could have a fair view of front and side, and a fortnight since, there was nothing to mar the satisfaction with which one might gaze on this beautiful piece of architecture. To be sure there was a brick building hung on to one side, but you could forget even that if you tried hard. But you can shut it out of sight no longer. On the very corner of this brick building, almost in the very front of the unfortunate Bank, the good taste of some classic mind has erected a Martin House;--'tis truth, sir, a Martin House;--and that too on no small or unpretending scale. It stands out in bold relief, a sort of juvenile, half-fledged Nahant Hotel. There's no such thing as winking it out of the way. Look at the pediment, and you'll see the Martin House.--Walk over to the corner of La Grange place, and take a view of the whole, or glance your eye down Beach street, still the Martin House. Mr. Editor, I should think it would give the architect of the Washington Bank the nightmare. N.N.K.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*It is often repeated, in the official Whittier lore, that their older sister, Mary, helped John Greenleaf Whittier get his first poem published by submitting it to William Lloyd Garrison's newspaper. But it is not even suspected that his younger brother helped him get his early poems published in New York City, which arguably would have been even more helpful to his future career.
Music opening this page: "Children's Waltz,"
by The Free Design, from the album, "Sing For Very Important People"