Today, I have been keying in the rest of the travelogue series by "J.O.B." in the 1851 Portland "Transcript." I added, in real time, my discoveries and conclusions, while I was keying this in, to the end of my previous entry. This way, you can see my thought-processes, and the progress of my research. I have had to go through these challenges many times in the course of this work. Generally, things come out in my favor, i.e., in favor of my speculations and theories. Only occasionally has such a conundrum gone against me. Not nearly as much as it should have, if I was substantially wrong.
In this case, with all the evidence in, here are my tentative conclusions. Mathew Franklin Whittier, who has for some time been writing a travelogue under "Quails" for the Boston "Weekly Museum" (permitting the public to imagine that it is written by entertainer Ossian Dodge) is poised to travel to Europe, leaving by steamboat on July 2, 1851. He takes the oft-traveled route up to St. John, to visit his children, before he leaves. They are in the custody of his estranged wife, Jane, and she is living with her family there.
He contracts with Edward Elwell, his long-time editor at the Portland "Transcript," for two series of travelogues about the towns en route, to be written under the pseudonym "J.O.B." These he writes largely from copious notes he has taken on previous trips. But he isn't able to complete the second series on time. To honor his contract, he subcontracts out this second series to a competent fellow-writer.
This writer, while mimicking Mathew's style, is not a precise match. He writes in first person, or rather, reverts to first person within the same piece (something Mathew would never do). He is less socially conscious, less of a genuine appreciator of Nature, and more worldly than Mathew--being concerned primarily with the industry and economics of each town. He also signs "J.O.B." in small capital letters--whether intentionally, to indicate to the knowing that he is a substitute, or by habit.
All the discrepancies I noted, when I looked up these travelogue letters at the Portland Public Library, pertain to this second series. And in one of them, comes what would be damning evidence--the second writer refers to an obscure event, at the school of one small town, occurring on July 5th. Mathew left for Liverpool on July 2nd, so there is no possible way he could have reported on this. Then there are other discrepancies, as for example that the second "J.O.B." lives in his hometown of Canaan, Maine, and has a late sister; whereas Mathew was born and raised in Haverhill, Mass., and both of his sisters are living.
I was prepared to explain this as Mathew deliberately obscuring his identity; and indeed, he has done so with "Quails," and will do so again when he picks up "J.O.B." in 1856 and 1857. But it wasn't necessary to invoke that explanation, because the writer for the second series isn't him, at all.
Thus does my research sometimes look as though it is going against me, but then turns out to confirm my theories after all. The same thing has happened multiple times as regards confirming my past-life impressions--this one simply happens to concern a point of authorship.
There is one possible point of contention, which I must report here. The first travelogue series is completed by the June 7, 1851 edition, Then, in the June 21, 1851 edition comes a poem by "J.O.B.," written from Canaan, about his childhood, which includes a mention of his late sister. Here, "J.O.B." is signed in small caps--but then, the entire poem is set in smaller type, so the signature looks the same size. Subsequent signatures all look comparatively smaller, as the type for prose articles is larger. The second series begins with the July 19, 1851 edition, which does not give a date in with the signature (some do, and some do not). This means that Mathew would have had to hand over charge of the second series sometime in June, before he left on July 2nd; and the very first thing we see from the new author, is the poem about his childhood (perhaps he had written it previously, and offered it to the impatient editor in lieu of his first installment). The overlap is actually what we would expect, if Mathew was very busy getting ready for his trip, and realized he would not be able to fulfill his contractual obligations for the second series.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Audio opening this page: "Trademark,"
by Eric Johnson, from the album, "Ah Via Musicom"