Really, I am only writing entries, now, when I have new discoveries to report.
For the past several months, I have been seeing an issue of the "New-England Galaxy" from Dec. 16, 1825, on E-bay. That was two years too early for it to have anything of Mathew's; he would have been only 13 years old, and still at home in his native Haverhill, Mass., so far as I knew. In the sample photographs for the listing, was a poem which I intuitively recognized as Mathew's work. But it couldn't be, because this was written to a family member in New York City, asking him to buy different articles at various stores. Mathew would not have been in New York at age 13...would he?
He most certainly would, and I just bought the edition, this morning. At the very least, it's a response to "Joe Strickland" and his references to winning the lottery at George W. Arnold's store. Allen Walker Read--author of the article I discovered this early work of Mathew's in--would interpret that it's written by a rival store, in competition. But, no. Mathew never intended to "puff" Arnold's store, at all. Being a young Quaker, he was using the lottery as an example of big-city vice. So since everybody thinks he was puffing Arnold's, now he decides to have a little fun by appearing to puff "Clark's." But these pieces can't possibly be written by the respective store owners, because we now have, triangulated, two pieces written precisely in two of Mathew's typical styles--faux letters to the editor, as caricatures of country spelling and grammar--and humorous letters-in-verse between family members, especially when one of them is visiting the city.
Read, the former Rhode's scholar at Oxford, the Great Expert etymologist and lexicographer, totally missed that these are moral satires written by a 13-year-old Quaker genius. He had a celebrated career, whereas the author's reincarnation (i.e., yours truly) is slowly slipping financially while trying to supplement his Social Security, and can't get a single person in academia to listen to him longer than two e-mails.
So for my money, Mathew, at age 13, is definitely living in New York City--and he seems to have a relationship with "Galaxy" editor Joseph T. Buckingham which goes back considerably further than Read had guessed. The unsigned poem reads as follows:
Interesting letter from a lady in the country to her friend in New-York.
Dear cousin, I write you in haste,
To beg you will get for mamma,
A pot of best Jessamine paste,
And a silver-wire tooth-brush for pa,
At Prentess's store; then just pop
Into Bliss's for 'Fancy,' and mark;
While you are so near, you can stop
And buy me a Ticket of Clark.
George wants a new razar strop;
Annette wants a Chinchilla muff;
Little Bobby's in want of a top,
And Aunt wants six ounces of snuff.
Then call at Dubois's and get,
Some music Louisa remarks;
And while you are there, don't forget,
The Lottery Ticket at Clark's.
And while you are there, 'twere as well,
If you'd call at St. John's just below,
For Will's beaver; then go for my veil,
In Courtlandt st., 'Cuming's' you know.
And while you are there you can go,
And see those dear girls, the Miss Parks,
But this you can easily do,
When you've bought the Ticket at Clark's.
I send in this parcel from Bet,
Her common-place book to be bound;
A cornelian broach to be set,
And some razors of pa's to be ground.
Oh dear, what a memory have I!
A lottery ticket at Clark's
Note the passing reference to "Bets"--in his first "Joe Strickland" letter, he mentions having "gotten the bag" from "Betty Webster." Again, there's no question this is related to "Joe Strickland"--it's just a matter of how you interpret its probable authorship.
For comparison (as I have also done where I added this to my sequel), here are the opening lines of an unsigned poem by Mathew in the June 29, 1827 "Galaxy"--what I had formerly thought was my earliest example of Mathew's humorous poetry. This is entitled "To My Cousin Dick at Buxton," and it is likewise a humorous letter-in-verse:
You ask me, dear Dick, what we're doing in town?
Tho' for ten that are doing, there's seven 'done brown.'
But, doing or done, we are all of us taking
A wonderful interest in Cabinet-making.
I don't know how much more evidence I would have to bring to bear on this, to prove my hypothesis that Mathew was the real author. Or who I bring it to the attention of; or who would take me seriously. Because this trail leads to Poe, and to Dickens, and to Margaret Fuller, and to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. It leads, finallly, to an unknown child prodigy who would shake the literary world of the 19th century--and never be recognized.
Incidentally, did you catch the song opening this page, "McCarren Airport," by the Free Design? I would bet dollars-to-donuts that Canadian composer Chris Dedrick, a musical genius, wrote it intentionally hoping for a hit. It should have been, except it carries a very high vibe--and a high psychic vibration is death to popularity in a low-vibration culture. It is somehow distasteful to the masses; it repels them, unconsciously. They think it's trite--as one high school friend put it when I shared one of their songs with him, "It sounds like a commercial." I, meanwhile, can feel it--it practically sends me through the roof. Mathew several times writes of having had a similar sensitivity to music, and to other inspired works in the fine arts.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
P.S. I thought it might be interesting to compare Mathew Franklin Whittier's very first faux letter to the editor, originally published on July 15, 1825, with his last (i.e., the last I have found), published on June 26, 1875. When he wrote the former he was just three days shy of his 13th birthday; when he wrote the last, he was 63--just two years younger than I am, today. Here is the 1825 letter; and here are page one and page two of the 1875 letter. That's an even 50-year spread, and the first effort doesn't suffer much in comparison. This is the sign of someone who has brought in his skills from a still-earlier lifetime.
Music opening this page: "McCarran Airport," by The Free Design,
from the album, "Cosmic Peekaboo"