The difficulty in substantiating my past-life memories and impressions (including emotional and cognitive impressions) by resorting to Mathew Franklin Whittier's published works, is that with very few exceptions, he wrote everything under dozens and dozens of pseudonyms. He would create characters, and these characters--often, parts of himself, or at least of his "shadow"--would answer each other's letters, and comment on each other's stories. I stopped counting at about a thousand for Mathew's lifetime, discovered output, and am probably up around 1,200 by now, if one counted fillers and such. This, from a literary figure whom the historians only credit with one character, and about 64 published works.
I have all this work digitized, searchable and cross-referenced. But one has to read my entire book, "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own words," to see how strongly I've established these works as Mathew's own. Trying to present just a tiny piece of this evidence, leaves the hearer with the "is that all you've got?" reaction.
However, there is one fortunate tendency of Mathew, as a writer, which makes my job easier, and that is his habit of rehashing, or re-using, some of his best ideas. This includes jokes, but also styles, since he did quite a bit of experimenting. I've presented a few of these comparisons over the last couple of years, including in my previous entry. Did you notice that when he re-used his theme of complaining about clubs and associations, he used almost an identical lead-in? That's relatively rare. But I just ran across another one. I happened to see one edition of The Carpet-Bag for sale on Ebay. Well, this is from Volume I, and I actually have that entire first volume. But I was curious to see whether it contained any of Mathew's work in it. It didn't have any that I had previous logged and digitized--but wait, it has a report of attending a country fair, signed "Peter Petro, Jr." Now, I have mentioned in this blog, before, that Mathew frequently used variations on a double-P name, usually starting with Peter (as, for example, "Peter Pendergrass," and "Peter Pumple"). So given that Mathew was a silent financial partner in The Carpet-Bag, and given that he would contribute as many as four pieces per edition, under different pseudonyms, this one was almost certainly his. I recognize the writing style (I even vaguely remember writing favorite lines in it); but let's assume, for the sake of argument, that this one is verified. Trust me (if anybody trusted me, actually, they would immediately purchase my book), it is.
But Mathew has clearly re-introduced a stream-of-consciousness style that he first used while writing the "blotter," or what they called the "Police Office" report, for the New York "Transcript" of 1834/35. I had already determined that he wrote for this paper, and have digitized a large number of his pieces from it. But I was struck by the similarity in style, between this 1851 piece for the Sept. 13, 1851 edition of The Carpet-Bag, and the Police Office Report in the New York Transcript of July 23, 1835.
This one is stronger evidence, because I think this style was relatively rare (if known, at all) in the early-to-mid 19th century. If you are a scholar, do you know of any other reporters who used this style in their reports? I think this is a far stronger indication that the author is the same person, than some of the other examples I've presented in this blog.
But if Mathew is identified as the writer of the "blotter" for the New York "Transcript" in 1835, the implications radiate out from this one conclusion. It means--not to connect all the dots here--although I have done so, in my book--it means that he was the junior and acting editor for the paper, for many of its editions, under editor Asa Greene. This means that he took charge of the editorial pages for those editions. This means that he did the same, also under Asa Greene, for Greene's earlier paper, the New York Constellation. That means that he was the author of the character, "Enoch Timbertoes." That means he was the author of similar, earlier works, in the Boston New-England Galaxy. That means that he was probably the originator, in the United States, of the faux letter-in-dialect style (not Seba Smith, as the historians generally assert), because Mathew's letters and dialect writing precede Smith's "Major Jack Downing" character. That means that, late in life, when Carpet-Bag editor B.P. Shillaber says that Mathew was a genius, and that he originated that style and had many imitators, he was not being sloppy, he was being quite accurate. That means, in turn, that Mathew must have shared his full history with Shillaber, as a personal friend, but swore him (and everybody else) to secrecy. That--skipping several steps--means that he also told Shillaber that he had been the real author of "The Raven," not Edgar Allan Poe.
Each dot connects to several others. I deliberately skipped several steps to get to my final conclusion, because there are too many of them, interconnecting, and because it's all in my book. But given everything else--with everything else in place--there is a very strong clue in a work that Shillaber wrote, drawing on Mathew's actual personal history to create a humorous character, which makes it clear. If I just gave it to you, it wouldn't mean anything. Your reaction would be, "So?" But with all the dots properly connected...
Here are the two pieces, back-to-back, which show that Mathew has returned to the stream-of-consciousness style he tried out in 1835. He was, undoubtedly, bored with his usual treatment of the Police Office reports (which he had raised to an art form), and felt he was able to get away with essentially turning one of them into prose poetry. When I started keying this in, last year, I thought for sure he was just going to introduce the piece this way--but he keeps right on with it to the end. In 1851, he simply draws upon it toward the end of that piece. But given all the other identifiers I have for Mathew in these two papers, I think I can confidently say I have proven him as the author of both works. And again, the implications are legion...
Oh, in case anyone is offended by the "n" word (aside from Google, whose algorithm probably isn't paying any attention to this explanation), Mathew was an abolitionist who risked his neck attending a slave auction undercover in New Orleans as an investigative reporter, and at least on one occasion escorted an escaping slave across the border to Canada. But he would use the language of the people he was representing, in his parodies and humorous sketches.
When Mathew wrote this first piece, below, he had just turned 23 years old. As to the question of whether either of these are Mathew's work, I could append his report of attending a Millerite meeting in 1845--one of the very few signed with his own name--to show you that this is, indeed, his style and his writing. But perhaps this is enough work for one day, for people who have yet to purchase my book. (I would work twice as hard to write for people who had read it and studied it carefully.) You can find a brief online reference to that article by the Seventh Day Adventists, but I have the original. I also have his report--written about six years later under "Quails," which historians mistakenly claim for Ossian Dodge--of visiting a Shaker service, which is clearly a done in the same style as the earlier report. Actually, search "Millerites, M.F. Whittier," and you should get the entire piece, which I posted in an earlier blog entry. To find the reference, search "Adventists, M.F. Whittier."
The New York "Transcript"
July 23, 1835
[Reported for the Transcript.]
"Silence here!" "Silence there!" "Silence all and every where!" "Except yourself, old codger." "Who's that person, personally insulting me?" "Hats off--sit down--stnad up to the bar--come up here--go back there--order!" These phrases met our ears, in one continuous and confused stream, as we entered the police precincts this morning, as they were uttered by the Judge, Captains of the Watch, Deputy Captains, semi-deputies, semi-deputy-assistants, and subsidiaries. 'Keep close the door--clear the floor; take off your hat--come here, you Pat;' 'Don't let that man go--he's trod on my toe.' 'Who committed this assault?' 'If you please, 'twant my fault.' 'How long have you been in the city?' 'Three years--more's the pity!' 'Who makes the next complaint?' 'He swore I was no saint.''Who'll give me a drop of water!' 'Twas with a black chap that I caught her!' 'Did you find these folks in a sand-box?' 'Please Judge, they have stole my band-box.' Bow! wow! wow! 'Who makes that dreadful row?' 'Please yer worship, here's a dog!' 'Then is there nobody to flog?' 'Turn the dog out--give him a clout; silence once more--who's got the door? Come here John Jones--who broke your bones?' 'I was beat at half past ten.' 'By one, or two?'--'By three!' 'What then?'--'Why in my hat they blow'd their nose! and that 'ere blowing turn'd to blows.' 'Who then about this business knows?' 'Judge, listen to my tale of woes!' 'I must have silence in the place!' 'This rip robbed me at the boat race.' 'Will no one stop that fellow's tongue?--'twould sarve him right if he was hung!''This chap called me a crusty codger--he's got no name, he's but a lodger--he loafs all round, and does but little--'sides stealing drink and betting whittle!' 'Commit him--bring the next before me!' 'That man, sir, swore that he would score me--and slit my mouth from here to here--and put my soul in bodily fear!' 'Step up and make your affidavit.' ''Twill cost six shillngs--better save it!' 'Who is the next to Fisher's watch?' 'This here's the chap that them ere cotch; he is the wag wot wops his wife--and raises such a stir and strife!' 'What he's just said is all a lie!' 'He hit me, Judge, in my left eye.' 'Why can't you live in love and bliss!'--'Why judge it all comes out of this: I went to tea at half-past seven, and she wish'd I was safe in heaven! and then I got all of a rile--besides the kettle didn't bile; and then when I went up to bed, I see'd a hat off some man's head; I didn't know who, but 'twasnt mine--I ask'd why she cut up that shine!--she said she'd have a woman's right--and then begun for to show fight! I see'd a body underneath the bed, which made me grind my teeth: 'twas dressed in breeches, boots and shirt--and then I know' she' play'd the flirt! and then my head begun to ache--cause why, my honor was at stake; first I giv her a gentle lick, then arter I began to kick her other sweetheart down the stairs, and she give herself all these airs; she called the watch who tuck me up, and that's made mine a bitter cup; I've play'd a losing game, not winning, and been more sinn'd against than sinning; what think ye, Judge?' 'I think so too, and therefore without more to do, discharge you all though it want right--not by the law, to flog or fight your wife, because of her crim. con., for now you know it's quite the ton, to bring an action in a law-court.' 'Yes, but you see Judge that's not my forte; he's got no money, goods nor house--"who sues a beggar gets a louse!' 'That's very true and very clear--these things will have no end I fear; girls will be girls, proud and malicious--and them wot's wanton, wild and vicious, "Will when they will, you may depend on't"--the world's end'll be the only end on't. You both can go--bring up the next--keep silence there, I am so vext! Why do you let those hackmen wrangle, creating such a jar and jangle, as if this court was only made, for them to show their tricks of trade. Come up here you two bullying boys, and tell us why you made that noise." 'Please Judge!' 'I dont please, I'm quite mad--to have that row, it is too bad. What brought you here, who's the complainant?' 'My kracter's not go no stain on't!' 'But your face has, 'tis ting'd with blood.' 'He pelted me with gutter mud!' 'Why did you this assault commit?' 'Hear my tale, Judge!' 'When I think fit! When is these rows a going to cease? How came you chaps to break the peace?' 'Please Judge I was about to state'--'Spin no long yarns, for them I hate.' 'Vell then I'll cut it short and shorter--I vent to get a glass of water, at Mr. Cronly's in Park Row, and see'd this chap "how come you so;" says he, look at tht temperance hackman, a drinking water, he's no crackman; I lay that [?e], like Tom Fool's brother, ven smit on von cheek turns the tother; I said not nothing, turn'd my back, and arter that drive off my hack; and that chap there begun to follow, with his big buss, my hack, and hollow--"Stop and take something, hackman, spooney--tell us if your name's not Pat Rooney?" I still druv on and he druv arter--you'll see that I've been quite a martyr? He druv his buss into my hack, and left it such a precious wrack; and then he wanted me to fight, and I'll be blow'd if that ere's right!' 'Have you got bail?' 'I arnt, old square toes! you know no law no more nor I knows! You ax for bail from me, my hearty, afore you've heard both sides, hax party.' 'Vy vat does that hax party mean? it's werry plainly to be seen, the English is to hax of both folks, because that there should not be no hoax.' 'The case is clear, I have decided--I will not have the law derided.' 'Oh you needn't get in such a fury, for if you're Judge you arnt the Jury!' 'Commit him! take him over! silence! who spoke to me a little while hence?' 'Mr. Speaker! my wife's run off, help me to seek her.' 'I'm sorry, but when I've got through this business, I'll attend to you.--Where's this last prisoner?' 'He has run off.' 'So much the better! bless, bless my cough! Throw up that window, what a smell! Tom, this here's much more hot nor hell! That's the last, then there's not no more. Watchmen clear out and shut that there door!'
Sept. 13, 1851
Written for the Carpet-Bag.
LEAVES FROM A DIARY.
BY PETER PICO, JR.
Monday, August, 1851.
Left the feathers early, and having supplied myself with a sufficient quantity of granitular substances, or "rocks," started for taown in company with friend S-----, to see the caravan; both being desirous of observing how such exhibitions astonish the inhabitants of the interior. It was very amusing, as we sauntered along the road, to notice the teams and their loads of men, woman and children, hurrying to the show. The farmer had forsaken his hay and donned his claw-hammer coat and bell-crowned hat; the housewife had left her butter, and shone resplendent in her new gown and bright ribbons; and even the very deacons had laid aside their gravity to join the rush.
After arriving at the village, we strolled down the main street to gaze at the different specimens of humanity congregated to see the elephant. The sidewalks were filled with greenhorns of all shapes and sizes, wearing all sorts of hats and coats, and had any of our Boston tailors or hatters been present, they would immediately have gone crazy had they given but one glance at the assembled group. Drawn near the curb-stones were pedlers' carts in rows, with Connecticut looking occupants disposing of their wares to the innocent verdants. "Walk up, gentlemen," bawled one individual, "and buy a pair of double-action, patent 'galowses,' for lazy men. When ye stoop, it'll fetch yet right up standing, it's so 'lastic. Why, one man bought a pair of 'em and went tew diggin' taters, and when he stooped down to dig one hill, them gallowses gin him a hoist tew the next one, and so you see he had to larn to dig considerable supple." "Here's a valuable gold lever watch, gentlemen," said another, "fourteen holes for jewels, rackniopinion-escapement, runs on three brick bats and a crust of bread, and winds up with a cob. Walk up, gentlemen."
Passing on through the open-mouthed crowd which had collected around these refined and elegant orators, we approached a spacious pavilion, covering an extent of some ten or twelve feet of ground, and were notified by a flaming bill, that a Wisconsin gentleman of considerable altitude would exhibit his corporeal functions for the small remuneration of 12 1-2 cents from each person desirous of viewing the aforesaid gentleman, a liberal deduction being made for the younger portion of the community not having inhabited this earthly sphere during the period of twelve years. Declining the honor of a visit to that personage, we walked to a tent in the immediate vicinity, which was said to contain a boa-constrictor, and having a strong desire to see that insect, S. and myself forked over the requisite fee for admission, and entered. At one end of the tent a cart was arranged to perform the office of a stage for the actors, and being hung with calico in front, in order to hide the wheels, a very convenient dressing room was formed under the body of the vehicle, in which both sexes could attend to their toilet. Three white niggers were playing violins, while an apology for a woman was throwing her clumsy shanks about the boards, much to the edification of the audience, who gave utterance to their satisfaction by sundry "O! O! O!'s," and "By Crackeys, aint she some!" &c. There were several performances and songs, among which, I was particularly interested in one concerning an individual who laments that he is emphatically a used-up man, and resolves that he will endeavor to keep his station in society, if ever he should be fortunate enough to regain his former high standing; and another, in which a man in the matrimonial state is compared to one of the canine species with an appendage of soldered sheet iron affixed to his extremity. Finally, the boa-constrictor was brought forth, and the following speech was delivered, to give the audience an idea of the powers of the slimy captive:--"This, ladies and gentlemen, (only one Irishwoman present,) is the boy-constructor; he was taken in the island of Java--historians say he has a sting; he has no sting--it is the venemous bite of the riptile that occasions the wound."
After leaving this tent, we entered the caravan. Those who have never been to a country gathering, can have no idea of the amount of fun to be enjoyed, especially by those who have a love of the ludicrous. On one side of the tent were placed the cages containing the animals, and on the opposite, as is custompary, seats were extended for the accommodation of the fair "sect." In the centre, on an elevated platform, Thomas Hunt, Esq., surrounded by staring listeners, was relieving himself of loads and jokes which for the last few years he has been trained to upset upon his hearers, while at intervals, a horrible strain of melody burst from the band, who were ably assisted by an energetic performer who labored to cave in the head of a large drum at his side. "Hooray for the caravan," bellowed a bottle-holder, who was drinking the liquor as fast as possible, that he might not be bothered with the bottle. "What's them, ma?" says a juvenile. "Them's panthers, dear, what hops off trees and eats little boys up what asks questions." Juvenile very still during the remainder of his stay. Bang, bang, goes the drum. "Oh, I should like to marry," sings Tom. "Oh, I shware, is that a mortial man any how, at all? Bedad, I belave he's the divil with them little legs of his own," exclaimed a Hibernian. "Jerusha, that air crittur is the elephant." "Why la, what a nose," replied Jerusha, "Haow does he manage to keep it clean?" "Fol-lol-diddle-lol"--"Here's a bar, Joe, and two monkeys fightin." "Boy, get down off that rope." "Ladies and gentlemen, the General will now"--"Boorar," roars the lion. "Stop, darn ye, quit shoving me." "Don't poke those monkeys, young man." "Pat, oh look, the bear has Mickey by the scruff of the head; oh, be gorra, he'll ate him intirely." "Who'll take the last of these Jenny Lind life-preservers, or French coolers?" yells a fan pedler at the top of his voice. Walking down the tent amid the deafening roar of confused sounds, I examined the wax statuary. "Does that look like Prof. Webster?" "Oh yes, gentlemen, perfect likeness." "There's old Dan that's as nateral as the hogs." "What on airth is that air?" "Them's pirates murdering their"--"Hooray for the caravan." Bang, bang--"Boorar,"--their victims at night." "Get out of there, boys; them seats is for ladies." "Gentlemen and ladies, shall I have the pleasure of introducing to your notice the (h)armless"--"fal-del-ral-dal"--"Let go of my cap, will ye? Cuss ye, aint ye gut no manners?"--"introduce you to the"--"order!"--"the armless man." "Put that man out." "Harmless? I should think he couldn't fight much without bread-kneaders." "Oh, I have got enough of this--let us go." "Bill, here's a go; somebody's hooked my watch." "Look aout, the elephant's gwine to sneeze; he'll blow ye all tew slitters."
Such were the mirth-moving sounds that greeted my ears during my visit to the caravan. After seeing the royal Ben tiger from Gall, the ring-tailed Zebra with forty-nine stripes, and the armless man play the bass viol with his toes, &c., I departed for home, and when a mile distant, the roar of the caravan reached my ears like the rumbling of the troubled sea.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "Make the Madness Stop,"
by The Free Design, from the album, "Kites Are Fun"