No wonder Abby arranged for three editions of "The Odd Fellow" to show up on Ebay, and for me to win them with no competition; and then urged me to go through the run of that paper at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Mass. While I was there, I noticed a seven-part series in the volume for late 1846/early 1847, entitled "Pickings and Pencillings," signed "Dickens, Jr." It seemed familiar, and I photographed all seven entries, piecemeal (as I have to, to get a readable copy). I figured I'd look at it when I got home.
It's definitely Mathew. There are dozens of clues, strong clues. First of all, it's like the title Mathew was using earlier that year for the New Orleans "Daily Delta." There, he wrote very similar essays under the heading, "Pickings from my Safety Office." "Dickens, Jr." is writing from Syracuse, New York, in November and early December of 1846. Mathew had left the New York "Tribune" in July of that year, after having written the "asterisk"-signed reviews since late 1844. Margaret Fuller, the literary editor of that paper, who claimed all of the asterisk-signed work (taking advantage of a rumor that she was the author), embarked for Europe as the "Tribune's" foreign correspondent at about the same time. Mathew worked for the "Delta" for 2-3 months, and then his whereabouts are unknown for the rest of 1846. In the Portland "Transcript," in which he published off-and-on throughout his career, there are only two pieces during this period. The first is a one-off sketch based on his known "Ethan Spike" series. "Ethan Spike" hails from the fictional town of "Hornby," in Oxford County, Maine; but this story is about "Libbeyville," the only one he ever wrote. It is, apparently, intended as an allegory to protest Edgar Allan Poe's theft of his poem, "The Raven," in Jan. 1845; and more specifically, as a response to Poe's "Essay on Composition" in which Poe pretends to explain how he wrote it, published in "Graham's Magazine" earlier that year. I can confirm that because of the pointed quote by Francis Quarles about ethics, which Mathew caused to be printed directly below that sketch. But I've gone over that, before. The "Libbeyville" sketch appears in the Dec. 5, 1846 edition of the "Transcript."
Then there is an adventure story entitled "The Fall of Bagdad," appearing on the front page of the Feb. 13, 1847 edition of the "Transcript." This one is, uncharacteristically, signed with Mathew's real name, as "M.F. Whittier" (his usual personal signature).
So there are no logical contra-indications for Mathew being in Syracuse at this time.
Apparently, it was a convention for an author to add "Junior" after the name of a famous writer whom he admired. Mathew had done the same, while praising Francis Quarles' poetry in the 1831/32 Boston young man's magazine, "The Essayist," when he signed as "Franklin, Jr." ("The Raven" was published over the signature of "---- Quarles.")
So this indicates that Mathew strongly admired the writing of Charles Dickens at this time--a mere three years since Dickens had self-published "A Christmas Carol," and four years after Dickens' visit to Boston.
This confirms my feeling that Mathew gave his and Abby's manuscript to Dickens in admiration (as many did during Dickens' American tour); except that we now know that Mathew had direct access to Dickens, being personal friends with Oliver Wendell Holmes.
It only remains to confirm that "Dickens, Jr." in the 1846 "Odd Fellow" is, in fact, Mathew Franklin Whittier. For that, you have to have read over 1,500 of Mathew's works, as I have. But there are some style clues I can point to. I'm not going to present a complete case, here, because I have to add this to my sequel, and I don't want to do the work twice. But Mathew adds humorous stories from real life, into this series (as he typically did), and where he does so, he uses Yankee dialect. In his known "Ethan Spike" series, he uses his own particular spelling. Other authors imitating his style didn't necessarily copy his unique misspellings (though sometimes they did). It's one way I can discern an imitation from Mathew's work. So here, we see at least three examples that I picked out for my notes: "airth" for earth, "tew" for two, and "sartain" for certain. These, one will find in the "Ethan Spike" series. I could search for them and count them, but I don't want to go to that trouble right now. I know from experience, they are used frequently.
Okay, let's do one--let's search for the word "airth."
I find it in 17 "Ethan Spike" sketches; two sketches signed "Poins" (a proven pseudonym for Mathew); and one in Mathew's story of how he first danced with Abby at a "Parin' Bee."
Shall we try "sartain?" Statistically, two is always better than one.
A smaller yield, here, but an interesting one. We have one "Ethan Spike" (in 1860); and an unsigned story I am certain is Mathew's, called "The Parson's Boots." I thought there were more, but it might be a slight spelling variation I'm thinking of. Oh, here it is, it's usually "sartin." Twenty-three in "Ethan Spike," one in "Enoch Timbertoes" (also Mathew's, for you scholars), one under Mathew's own name (another adventure story called "The Cousins"), and a number of others, including "Joshua Greening" (basically, a rehashed "Enoch Timbertoes"). Also the "Parin' Bee" story, once again. And two for "Quails" (claimed by historians for Ossian Dodge).
There should be a whole bunch for "tew"...
Yeah, 21 "Ethan Spike," one "Poins," and one I'm certain is Mathew, by style--one of his letters in extremely, absurdly poor spelling, in a style he pioneered as a boy of 15, with "Joe Strickland," in the 1827 "New-England Galaxy." He would return to it, briefly, on rare occasions. These are extremely hard to read, so he made them shorter, later on in his career, but I think it still amused him to write as poorly as he possibly could, to a ludicrous extent. I could show you comparisons of this one, from June 30, 1849, with his 1827 productions as "Joe Strickland," but we are getting too far afield.
Dickens still had Mathew fooled as of 1846--and he would, for some years to come, back-and-forth. Dickens' works are very difficult to evaluate for hypocrisy, because you don't know for sure which ones he plagiarized. It appears he stole "David Copperfield" from yet another American author, around the same time. So you can't use that one. Nor can you use the chapter dealing with slavery in "American Notes," because scholars say he definitely lifted that, almost verbatim, from someone else (I forget who, now, but it's a matter of record I could look up.) Oh, heck...hold on a minute...there it is, he took it from Theodore Weld's "American Slavery as it Is."
The reaction of American editors--and Mathew, himself--to "American Notes" was mixed. Perhaps it was mixed because they liked the parts Dickens plagiarized, but not the parts he actually wrote, himself. There's more evidence on this, but the point is, you can't evaluate Dickens, because some significant part of it isn't actually Dickens. That's why I keep saying, you have to evaluate a plagiarist by his worst work. That shows his actual level of skill. A plagiarist's best work is, by definition, always going to be something he stole. If he could write like that, he would never steal anything.
This is somewhat less true, I think, of Dickens than it is of writers like Poe, especially in Poe's attempts at poetry. It seems to me that Dickens could write--but he couldn't write from the heart. He was a sensationalist, as psychic Andrew Jackson Davis charged. Where he seems to write from the heart, he is either faking it, or he has stolen someone else's work. This was also true of Albert Pike, who stole Abby Poyen's young poetry when she was a student in his class. One can clearly tell which portions he wrote, and which portions Abby wrote; as well as which poems he wrote entirely, and which were hers. We have a boorish, prejudiced man's-man, claiming the poetry of a brilliant, sensitive female prodigy. This guy fought as a general for the South in the civil war, and ended up teaching Luciferianism as a high-level Mason. He didn't write the delicate, piercingly beautiful poem to the stars, signed "A.P." That was Abby. (Come on--if I showed you a stuffed zebra with a mule's head, where the stripes are rather amateurishly painted on, would you believe that?)
But people aren't attuned to recognizing discrepancies of character, or discrepancies of the heart; or of spirituality. Poe did not have the spirituality to write "The Raven"; Charles Dickens did not have the spirituality to write "A Christmas Carol." Any more than Albert Pike had the spirituality to write Abby's poems. It's obvious to those who have a spiritual basis, themselves. It's invisible to people who are not, themselves, developed spiritually--which is to say, most of our academics. And because the academics are the authorities, we have the authoritative opinion that Poe wrote "The Raven," and Dickens wrote the "Carol." But they are not experts where it counts, in these instances.
I digress again. This is very strong evidence, when added to the rest that I have. In this series, writing as "Dickens, Jr.," Mathew is writing far better than Dickens ever did--and with full sincerity, as opposed to Dickens' hypocrisy. He is far better both technically, and spiritually, than his namesake. It is there for posterity, in black and white. It only takes discerning viewers.
Examples will be in my book; or you can drive to Wochester, and see them for yourself. Here, I will give you the dates: Dec. 9, 1846; Dec. 30, 1846; Jan. 6, 1847; Jan. 13 (two installments--?), Feb. 3, and March 10, for a total of seven parts. You can pay the Society to copy them for you. (This is only for people who are serious enough about it to go to a little trouble--now, or in the future.)
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: from the TV special, "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol"