In December of 2010, I had a psychic reading with Lily Dale certified psychic artist, Joseph Shiel, which I've recently gone through point-for-point. Joseph was using a cell phone in a motel at the Boston airport, and initially, the call was dropped five or six times--to the point that he was about to refund my money and give up on it. I encouraged him to persist, and finally we got a stable connection, which only dropped once more during the session. That session, as I have demonstrated objectively, yielded some strongly evidential material, including material which precluded an explanation of ESP. (I was about to write a "normal" explanation, but if skeptics are forced back to the point that they take ESP as a normal explanation, they should simply concede defeat and have done with it.)
Yesterday evening, I had a scheduled three-way Skype chat with the co-hosts who are considering interviewing me on their radio show. One of them couldn't launch Skype, and after about half an hour, the other decided to reschedule. Since these folks used to run a paranormal talk show on community access TV in Haverhill--Mathew and Abby's hometown--I'm thinking there's something powerful afoot, i.e., both in the interview, and in the obstacles.
It's going to be a live interview from 10:00 to 11:00, which is late for me. I haven't done a live interview in a long time. That suggests, though I haven't looked into it yet, that this means it's real radio, not internet "radio."
I am still going through and keying in stories from the 1849 "Flag of Our Union" which were published by Francis Durivage. So far, I've determined that two of the adventure stories were probably written by him, and the rest by Mathew. Durivage's are pro-military, essentially humorless, and seem to express no moral except the consevative values of achieving worldly (or military) success. It's not even an attempt to imitate what Mathew's doing, no less his style. And when Mathew writes a moral tale warning against con-artists, Durivage--being precisely that sort, himself--simply publishes it verbatim. I think, to him, it was strictly a source of income.
Yesterday, I keyed in a story which I'm certain was Mathew's work, and its heroine is clearly modeled after Abby. What befalls her--being seduced by her Italian music teacher--was strictly something out of Mathew's young nightmares, probably when he was living in New York City. Abby was equally terrified that Mathew would be seduced by a New York girl, and he reassured her by way of his "Enoch Timbertoes" series, so probably she reassured him, as well. (Even in the story, "May" falls in love and, on the basis of the music master's false proposal, elopes with him to Paris, but remains virtuous.)
But it is the description which interested me, because I am always on the lookout for historical information on Abby, of which there is so little. I have several examples, now, which can be cross-referenced, giving us the picture of a musical prodigy. This particular story also contains a description which closely matches a past-life memory I recorded back in 2010--after my first psychic reading, but before the one with Joseph Shiel.
I thought I'd just string these together. It so happens that one of them is in the poem, "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," published by Elizabeth Barrett in 1840 (along with "The Lost Bower," also Mathew's work). Mathew was ripped off left and right, by people who gained some degree of fame with his work. You may theorize that I am claiming these things "conveniently," but I can demonstrate that I'm being extremely careful. If you assume that I'm just grasping at various people's work spuriously, but you don't look at my evidence with a truly open mind, then you are taking the "convenient" path, yourself.
Don't project that onto me.
With that out of the way, I'm not sharing these as proof. They are proof only in the larger context of the rest of my results. Isolated, like this, they could be coincidence. I can tie them in with that larger body of results, if you have three or four weeks to spend with me. Otherwise, you can take that three or four weeks and read my books.
Sorry, I don't mean to always take that attitude. I really think it's like John Edward getting brassy with people, when he conveys a message he's being given, and they don't "take" it. I suspect that there are "plants" in his audience, sometimes, but not the kind he hires. Rather, they are the kind the skeptics hire, whose job it is to deny everything he says, no matter how correct he is. And he gets annoyed with such people.
Most of the time, I don't think that's organized--I think it's just individual cases of adamant skeptics. But I wouldn't put it past those who are trying to discredit the afterlife studies field to send in a few such people of their own. Then, somebody collects all the worst examples, and makes a video of them, advertising that John Edward (or whichever medium) is "debunked."
Anyway, I didn't mean to share the following in that spirit. It's just that I loath to share these cherished discoveries, describing Abby's musical talent, with an audience which may be partly skeptical, or even cynical. And yet, I feel the urge to share them, when actually, I have so much typing to do.
So, here goes. The point is, when I say Abby was a musical prodigy, that's not just a fond speculation. I have plenty of triangulating evidence which confirms it.
Let's go chronologically, not by publication date--because Mathew was reminiscing in all cases, and published his references at various stages of his career--but by Abby's own life. Some of this I've shared before, but I want it, now, all in one place. We begin with Abby as a girl of, probably, about 10 years old, singing a complicated solo for her church choir. In all likelihood, this occurs at the East Parish Congregational Meeting House, in East Haverhill, Mass. That little church stands, today (having been restored), but unfortunately it is not the building that Abby would have sung in--the one in existence now, was built, I think it was, in 1838. This account would have transpired about 1826. It comes from an unsigned humorous story entitled "Deacon Goodman: the Man that would Sing in Meeting. Never mind how know it's Mathew's story. He says, by way of introduction, that someone else has claimed it, but he questions that fellow's authorship as tactfully and succinctly as possible. It's clearly Mathew's work.
All who attended the rehearsals were perfectly delighted with the solo as sung by "little Mary." It was very difficult. It was marked from beginning to end, "Andantino," "Dolce," "Affetuoso," "Crescendo," "Pianissimo," with changing keys and flats and sharps springing out from unexpected places; but she had conquered it all. Three or four accomplished singers who had come from Boston to pass Thanksgiving in the country, and who attended the last rehearsal, were in raptures with little Mary's singing. They had heard Tedesco, and Biscacianti, and Madam Bishop, and yet they say, "for a country girl she is a prodigy."
I don't suppose I need to point out the left-handed compliment.
The rest of these, actually, have to do with Abby as a young woman, so I must abandon my "chronological" presentation. The first piece I came across which gives us personal information about Abby, was an asterisk-signed poem, reprinted, as it says, from the New York "New Mirror" in the Portland (Maine) "Transcript" of Jan. 17, 1846. Among other references to her artistic talents, we see:
Play thy golden harp, lady,
Let its thrilling tone
Echo every heart-throb—
Echoing thine own.
That brings us to "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," where the poor poet is courting the aristocratic English lady, in the countryside:
And no, this is not coincidence, or generic. This poem is Mathew's, and there is good evidence tying it in with his life and the remaining body of his work. But I have been through all that, before. One must shake off the thraldom of fame. Artists are not good because they are famous; and they are not necessarily famous because they are good. There are a certain percentage who falsely gain fame by stealing obscure artists' work; and there are artists out there far better than the famous ones, whom you never hear about. In classical music, plagiarism is still considered normal. They hear a strain from a rustic folk tune, and they claim it for their own because they incorporated it into a symphony. In actuality, what they have done is to steal an inspired idea from an unknown peasant, and fancy it up. But, I digress again...
In this case, as with Francis Durivage, I think the poem is more-or-less verbatim as Mathew wrote it. The only question is whether he set it in England (I think he probably did), or whether she "personalized" it for her own country and locale. It may be some of both.
After, when we were grown
tired of books, the silence
round us flinging
A slow arm of sweet compression,
felt with beatings at the breast,
She would break out on a sudden in a
gush of woodland singing,
Like a child's emotion in a god,—a naiad
tired of rest.
I just now noticed that this is the only clue Mathew leaves us, that the real girl the poem is based on was only 15 years old at the time. It appears within the same sentence as his secret identification of Abby as a "naiad." (That will have to go in the book!) I have mentioned, before, that there are several references to Abby as a river sprite. Below, we will see another. This is a poem in the Boston "Carpet-Bag." Mathew has morphed his "Ensign Stebbing" character into Stebbing's nephew, a reporter in Washington (where Mathew was presumably freelancing in that capacity); and he has then morphed that reporter, into one who reports on local Boston events, in verse, signing "A. Trunk." He is attending a "panorama" (like a painting on a huge scroll which is moved across the stage in front of the seated audience), of the London World's Fair, in the "Crystal Palace." There, he is suddenly confronted with the statue of the "Nymph of Lurleiberg," i.e. a water sprite, dejectedly seated in a stream, holding a lyre. In poetic license, he terms it a "lute," but the actual statue (which I located, and included in my book--the "Nymph" does look remarkably like Abby's historical portrait) has her with a lyre. This was apparently an arranged sign from Abby in the astral realm. I have also pointed out Mathew's penchant for mixing whimsical humor in his darkest subjects, i.e., grief (in this case, unlike "The Raven," not fresh grief but decade-old grief). But what concerns us, here, is that it contains another reference to her playing the harp, which can be triangulated with the poem, "To A Bright Lady":
In one side scene, withdrawn from sight,
The "Nymph of Lurleibergh" is sitting,
I think you'll find her on the right,
She holds a lute, and not her knitting,
And in her wild, dejected air
I seemed to read a fixed despair,
That blinded me to all the glare
Of pomp and pride that glistened there.
Mathew is here reminded of Abby as she was after they had lost their second child, only two weeks before Abby's own death. There is also a poem signed with Mathew's "star," or asterisk, called "The Spirit Lyre," which I've shared with you, before, found in the June 15, 1844 Portland "Transcript." It opens:
THE SPIRIT LYRE.
'T'was morn to earth's fair child, the morn of life,
The spirit lyre with joyous strains was rife;
They knew it by the quick and graceful mien,
They knew it by the eyes' full gladsome beam,
By that exuberance of happiness
Which only youth's first hours can e'er possess.
Now let's look at my past-life memory. This is the earliest recorded instance I can find of it, and keep in mind that this was long before I found any of these other discoveries. By e-mail of March 29, 2010--only 19 days after my first psychic reading--I write:
And then I remembered something else, while I was listening to piano music today in the car. She played piano for him. She must have come from a wealthier family—they had a piano, and she had, I think, been taught the social graces that young ladies were taught in those days (for her to be suitable for a wealthy man—no wonder the family wasn't in favor of the match—they had given her all that training, and now she was falling in love with a poor farm boy, and a Quaker at that!)—but she played piano for him, and I told her, I remember that Matthew felt in awe of her, how wonderful she was—this was early on in their courtship. He was wondering--is she available? She's wonderful!!!
The issue of whether she was available was a moot point, at that age. I had translated a correct feeling, incorrectly. What the feeling referred to was the fact that she was upper class, while Mathew was a poor farm boy--that she was Catholic, and he was Quaker--and that she was underage at the time. So winning this girl's hand was going to be a long, up-hill battle. These impressions are non-verbal, and have to be translated. I generally translate them based on what I cognitively know at the time--based on that set of assumptions. If my assumptions are off (including those based on an inaccurate historical record), they color my interpretation. One cannot count this as an "error," per se, any more than John Edward mis-translating the symbols he is being shown, and the feelings he is being impressed with, can be fairly counted against him as a "miss."
Next, we turn to one of Abby's own stories, entitled "Nora," which Mathew published for her posthumously in the October 27, 1849 Boston "Weekly Museum." The series is signed with Abby's maiden initials, "A.P." The poems with this signature are taken by historians to have been written by Albert Pike--but Pike stole a number of Abby's poems and published them under their shared initials, presumably without her knowledge.* This was when she was only 14 years old. Now, some eight years after her death, Mathew has nested this story within a supposed letter from an elderly man to his young niece, by way of giving it an introduction. Perhaps it was unfinished; or more likely, Abby originally wrote it as a play. I have conjectured about that, in my book, where I present it. Nora, whose upper-class rural family fell on hard times, has been sent to live with a wealthy couple in the city, where she is not respected. But she surprises them with her musicianship (much as we have seen with "little Mary"):
What was the astonishment of Mrs. Harwood and daughters, to behold Nora, the poor, despised shop girl, Nora, of whom they had given every one to understand the same particulars just explained, and of whose residing in the house they all felt keenly the disgrace, seat herself composedly beside their rich piano, and elicit from it tunes of such exquisite melody, accompanied by a voice so rich and highly cultivated, the very respiration of the audience was hushed to listen.
If you think all this is a personal indulgence on my part, keep in mind that we are talking about the original co-authors of "A Christmas Carol," which attribution I have made a robust case for, in my books.
Finally, we come to the story I keyed in, yesterday, claimed by Francis Durivage, which is entitled "Five Years: or, the Story of Linden Lodge." Sixteen-year-old May Melton lives in the country with her father, mother, and brother:
It was amid the happiness and most healthful influence that May Melton grew up to womanhood. Her education was domestic and conducted under the superintendence of her father, who found in it a relaxation from the manual toil exacted by his farm. In her idler hours, she ranged the woods and fields with the freedom of a bird, pausing now and then to gather a wild-wood flower, or to sketch some pleasing features of the landscape. But her favorite art was music, for which she had an undoubted talent. She played well on the piano, but she used that instrument chiefly as an accompaniment to her fine voice.
So far, so good. We now have a description roughly parallel to that found in "Lady Geraldine's Courtship." But she encounters an Italian professional musician in the woods, and upon inviting him to the house, she plays piano and sings for him, much as we see in "Nora." Here, Mathew appears to have grafted his own experience of first hearing Abby play, onto his villain! First, the professional has obliged the family by playing and singing, and then it is May's turn. This is very close to what I remembered back in 2010.
After he had concluded, he begged May to replace him at the piano, and though she would fain have excused herself, her father insisted on her compliance with the wishes of the stranger. She sang one or two of her favorite ballads. The stranger listened in wrapt admiration, tears gushed freely from his eyes, and when she had concluded her peformance he thanked her with a fervor which attested his sincerity.
I know how the skeptical mind works. First, one says these are all generic references for the period. Then, one grudgingly admits they may refer to the same girl, but so what? They don't prove reincarnation. But, they do, when all taken together in the 2,400-page tapestry of my first book, and the now-over-400-page tapestry of its sequel.
Incidentally, whereas I remembered being "blown away" by Abby's piano-playing, there are two separate instances in which Mathew seemingly denegrates the piano as merely an instrument of accompaniment, and instead praises Abby's singing. My past-life flashback did not include her singing, at all. In fact I have had only one memory of her singing, and that was seeing her sing a lullaby to our infant daughter. Even in that memory, it was not the quality of her voice that struck me, so much as the tender beauty of the scene. I report all this as it comes, and try very hard not to twist, embellish, or otherwise prejudice any of it. So much so, that I had to include that in this memory, Abby was singing the melody of "Brahms' Lullaby"--despite the fact that upon looking it up, I found that Brahms published that song (I think it was) in 1868, whereas this memory would have occurred in 1840. However, I also found that "Brahms' Lullaby" was based on a pre-existing Austrian folk tune. Where I reported this in my book, I could only add that Abby's father, a marquis, would have had visiting foreign dignitaries. The point is, I don't embellish the evidence to make it look good. When it looks good--as in today's blog entry--that's because it really is compelling, in its own right.
Oh, I had earlier reported a memory of Abby using purple silk wall-hangings (being colorblind in this life, I only dared call them "deep blue") in our first Portland apartment. In the story, when "May" arrives in Paris, they are using silk wall-hangings like that. I may or may not have read about such a thing, or seen it on TV, and forgotten it. I wasn't consciously aware that this was actually a tradition (no less a French tradition) in the 19th century. I only knew about tapestries in old English castles, with scenes of deer, and gardens, and such. If this was a real memory, then it stands to reason that Mathew might have had the the silk wall hangings converted into curtains after Abby's death, which fond reference then shows up both in "The Raven" and "Lady Geraldine's Courtship."
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*There is also a mention, in Mathew's tribute poem, "To A Bright Lady," of her "poet-fire."
Music opening this page: "Things With Wings," by Liz Story,
from the film, "Solid Colors"