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3/30/19

Things are moving very quickly, here. As a result of someone contacting me out of the blue, I learned that the graves of Mathew's second wife, and two of his children from that marriage--as well as several of his personal friends and editors--lie no more than a mile from my house. I also have an interview with a real radio show coming up in May; and I found evidence of Mathew in a Syracuse paper he had mentioned in "The Odd Fellow." But the fourth piece of news is really fascinating (as if what I uncovered the past couple of days isn't fascinating). I stumbled upon yet another work by Mathew--a novella, this time.

I have to get back to reading it and taking notes on it, prior to entering this new evidence into my sequel, so I'm going to introduce this quickly--with the date of discovery, of course--and probably come back to it later after I finish.

In my first book, I present a discovery in the May 10, 1850 edition of the Boston "Weekly Museum." My researcher at the time had photographed it as possibly being Mathew Franklin Whittier's work, and I concurred. It is typical of his most extreme style of deliberate misspelling, which he pioneered with a character called "Joe Strickland" at the very beginning of his career, writing for the "New-England Galaxy" in 1827. This style is not easy to write, for all that it looks like it would be, and I'm not sure that any other writer has attempted it in this extreme form. If so, it's rare. So we can be reasonably certain (since Mathew had a very strong presence in this paper), that this is him:

A Kard.

Deer Cir:--I don't think mutch of them papers as blow up my last grate rowmants--"The Bobber of the Rind." I want yew awl to understand that I think yew are "porter-hous kriticks,: and don't noe but little. I want all of you to understand that I am a gentleman that has a gude rite to maik sum litterari pretencion. Most of mi tyme has been spent in the survis of govomment, it is tru, but I have traviled konsiderable. I hav been to Kuby. The man that rote "Velasco" is down on me i cee; but I roat "The Monument Mountain" years after Bryant did. If you don't stop torkin about my knovelet, i will astonish yew all; for i am Edditur of The Flunky Phlag, a papper that cerkulaits moar larglee than the kombind cirkulation ov all the other pappers in the world. Enny of yew fellers wood of been proud to have rit "The Mistaik," but you can't rite, eny wa.

Yours, in dephiants,
ROLDOW BLOWHARD, ESQ.

I could give other examples, but suffice it to say I'm sure about Mathew's authorship. A "card" was simply an announcement or notice, being a convention at the time. I did a little historical research, and found that the editor of "Gleason's Pictorial" had paid one Waldo Howard the outrageous sum of $3,000, in 1850 dollars, to publish this story in serial form. Boston editors apparently had a field day making fun of this huge royalty figure, given to an unknown author. I accessed the story, and in a cursory examination, decided (based on my preconceptions) that it was very poorly written. My assumption was that the editors were lampooning the work, itself, and that Mathew had joined in the fray.

And there the matter stood, in my first book, until I came across this asterisk-signed book review in "The Odd Fellow," found in the April 17, 1850 edition--three weeks after he published the "card" in the "Weekly Museum."

A New Romance.--We have received from the publisher, F. Gleason, Boston, a new and brilliant tale, entitled, 'The Mistake of a Lifetime; or, the Robber of the Rhine Valley.'--It is a story of the mysteries of the shore and the vicissitudes of the sea--embracing in its field an almost boundless extent of romance--depicting with a faithful and vivid pen the peculiarities of robber life, piracies upon the high sea, the influences of the gaming table, the power of jealousy, the absorbing interest of mystery, and the power of love and beauty.--The interesting period of the story has enabled the author to produce some delightful specimens of the legends of the Rhine, as well as to give the reader some startling characters among the actors of his tale, taken from life, and the events of every day occurrence. The story opens in a tap-room in London, and the first female character introduced is one of such surpassing loveliness, and under circumstances so peculiar and interesting, that the reader becomes at once absorbed in her history and fate; altogether the work is one of remarkable and intense interest.

But we will not anticipate the pleasure that the readers of the book must realize. Let no one fail to procure "The Mistake of a Lifetime." It is for sale at all the periodical depots and bookstores, at the extraordinary low price of 12-1/2 cents, though gotten up in the very best style of publication. It is destined to find an immense sale, paramount to that of any work published for many years. *

I had already confirmed that Mathew is the asterisk-signing writer in "The Odd Fellow." And note that here we have the asterisk reviewing a book in Boston, just as he had done in 1844-1846 for the New York "Tribune," which work has been wrongly attributed to Margaret Fuller, the literary editor of that paper.

But this is a glowing review--in fact, it may be the most enthusiastically positive review I've ever seen Mathew write, albeit I notice that the author's name is never mentioned. Logically, he is unlikely to have changed his opinion so drastically. Then the explanation hit me. Francis Durivage, who had stolen a large body of work from Mathew--and who also lived in Boston, and submitted quite a bit of that stolen work to "Gleason's Pictorial"--had sold the rights of this longer work to Howard. Howard, wishing to make a profit, then sold it to "Gleason's" for an even higher price. Mathew's lampoon was protesting the theft, not disparaging the book, itself. He was as much as saying, "This idiot could not possibly have authored this book.

And indeed, I can find no indication that Waldo Howard ever published anything else in his life, after this stellar financial success.

So Mathew has, with more than a hint of secret irony, come out praising his own work to the skies.

Now, go back and look more closely at Mathew's satirical "card." There is a clear charge of plagiarism, as he takes on the identity of Howard. I thought that was just frivolous, before--but I should have known better. Mathew never inserts anything frivolously. Everything has an embedded meaning. Even his seemingly off-hand remark, "I have been to Kuby" is given by way of signing the card. I have concluded, from numerous scattered clues, that when Mathew ran away to sea at age 14, he was dropped off in Cuba because his weak stomach rendered him unfit for the open sea.

You can find this book digitized on Archive.org. No need for me to jam up my provider's server with it--you can download it, if you're interested, from there. I have just started reading it this morning, and it is right down-the-line typical of Mathew's style and talent. It is set in London, incidentally, just as "A Christmas Carol" was, and probably shows some influence from Dickens. After all, Mathew greatly admired Dickens, at least until later years, and even wrote, for "The Odd Fellow," as "Dickens, Jr." My researcher (a current one) found a piece by "Dickens, Jr." in the paper in Syracuse; I haven't seen it yet, but will be looking for clues to Mathew's authorship.

One might expect that Abby would show up in this book, as she shows up in just about all of his stories. Indeed, she does--as a young girl, just about the age when she fell in love with him, but she was too young for Mathew to openly return her affections. That phase is portrayed in Mathew's "Enoch Timbertoes" letters, where he writes from New York City to his friend "Tim," and frequently mentions "your Sally," i.e., Tim's younger sister, who evidentally has a crush on him.

Here, it looks to me that "Edith" is Abby at this same age. Mathew is quoting from Byron's "Don Juan," which I know from other pieces he admired. (So far, in the first few pages, he has quoted from Shakespeare, Byron and Oliver Goldsmith--all of these being among his favorites.) Here's the introductory description:

Once again, I could give you numerous other examples of Mathew's descriptions of female characters who represent Abby to him, i.e., privately. Given that it was a standard of beauty at the time, still, she always has a very light and beautiful complexion. We have seen her before at an even younger age, singing a solo in church:

But there is a point beyond which forbearance is no longer a virtue. Great pains had been taken by the choir in getting up a new anthem, (selected from Mozart,) for Thanksgiving day, and the very gem of a piece was a solo, which had been assigned to the sweetest voice, and the prettiest little girl in the village.

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."

Now one can understand the sharp edge of Mathew's satirical attack on Waldo Howard. It wasn't gratuitous, at all. It was justly earned, and far less than he deserved. As for Francis Durivage, I will make sure his name goes down in infamy. This project is going public, I'm pretty sure, and you have no idea just how much publicity it's going to get, in the end. As I've said before, the very things that have made people dismiss my work out-of-hand, will start working in reverse the very instant it is taken seriously.

Oh, this is kind of interesting--an ad, taken out by a New York publishing agent, in the New York magazine "The Literary World," April 13, 1850 edition, page 383. They have copied Mathew's review--sans signature--verbatim, as the text. This is from the relatively obscure Boston paper, "The Odd Fellow." No doubt it was the best review that came out on the book. I almost wonder whether Mathew threatened to sue Gleason's and Howard, such that they relented and Mathew got the rights to publish the book. No way to know, since he would have effectively used Howard's name as a pseudonym at that point. Maybe Mathew actually won one, for a change, though I do know that Francis Durivage continued to publish Mathew's shorter stories in "Gleasons" over the next couple of years, so on that basis it seems unlikely.

Best regards,

Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.

P.S. As I reach Chapter IV in this book, there's little question in my mind--having read something like 1,600 of his published works--that this is Mathew's novelette. But I find there is a character with the last name of "Howard," the protagonist's friend. This seems unlikely in either case--if it was written by Waldo Howard, he wouldn't have used his own last name as a character; but then you have to assume that it was sheer coincidence that Mathew picked the name of the man who purchased it from Francis Durivage. A third explanation comes to mind, that Mathew adopted "Waldo Howard" as a pen name--and that Mathew, himself, sold it directly to "Gleason's"--a publication he supposedly had little respect for. I would have to purchase time on Ancestry.com and try to find a real Waldo Howard who matches the little bit of information I have on him. As said, he doesn't seem to have written anything else--and if this is actually Mathew's one-off pseudonym, that might explain it. We can't say for sure, however, that it isn't someone else's pseudonym. I only know, by style and content clues, that Mathew was the original author.

 

Music opening this page: "Won't Get Fooled Again," by The Who,
from the album, "Who's Next"

 

   

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