I'm in the process of spell-checking the latest "haul" of my past-life works, and ran across one I'd like to share with anybody who may be reading this blog (i.e., either regularly, or sort of by accident). I have said that I can intuitively recognize my own past-life literary "children," and this is a good example. That's as good an excuse as any, I suppose, to share this one. Truthfully, I'm not going to try to fit it in my book; but I hate for it to just go into an archive and never be read again. So maybe I can share it with one or two people, anyway.
As to proving that this unsigned piece is Mathew's work, it's a no-brainer. I know he's in New Orleans in 1846, writing for the "Daily Delta" under his middle initial (but still probably going under an alias), and that he is assigned to the police station. Meanwhile, there are basically only one or two writers who have mastered this style, in 1846 (Mathew's imitators, like Charles Farrar Browne, and, to a lesser extent, Samuel Clemens, are too young at this point to be on the scene). So who else covering the New Orleans police station could it be?
I could also show you an excerpt from some of Mathew's personal correspondence to his brother, which reads exactly like this one. In addition, this is a typical "Mathewsian" character name--he will later use "Peter Popkins," "Peter Pumple," "Patty Pumple," and so-on. Plus, Mathew is a master of dialect, and has already demonstrated his proficiency in this style (which he did not invent) well before 1846.
All that to say, when I claim a piece for Mathew's pen, I am not being sloppy or indulging in wishful thinking, as the skeptic might imagine. I have done my homework diligently.
I won't interpret or comment on this one, because I think it speaks for itself. One should never over-analyze art. I will say, that Mathew was anti-war in general, and against the Mexican-American war, which he saw as imperialism, in particular; but he was under cover in New Orleans as an Abolitionist, and this is as close as he could come to lampooning it. These are, apparently, real persons and real cases he is reporting on. Mathew delighted in bringing out the humor of real-life situations.
I have discovered over 650 of his published works (all now digitized, organized and searchable). This work is liberally peppered throughout my book, which makes for very entertaining reading. People who think that I have written a 1,900-page tome of exquisite tedium, have no idea what they are missing. That's even without the inherit interest of the detective work, and the fact that by the time you finish, reincarnation has been proven about 300 times over.
Here's a sample of Mathew's work, written while he was under cover as a radical Abolitionist in the South:
The "Daily Delta"
July 22, 1846
A Tailor in Trouble:
OR, A COCKNEY BETWEEN TWO FIRES.
"If I had a beau for a soldier would go,
Do you think that I'd say no, no, no!"
Peter Perkins, a little dyspeptic-looking man, with short hair, long beard, codfish eyes, contracted shoulders, ace-of-diamond looking legs, and feet as flat as a pancake, was yesterday brought up before the Recorder, on the charge of having entered his name as a volunteer for service on the Rio Grande, or any where there was fighting to be done, and of having never made his appearance to be enrolled afterwards. Poor Peter was in a state of nervous excitability: from his peculiar patois, we could see that cockneydom might legitimately claim him as its own; for in his pronunciation he took a liberty with the letter h, that none but a cockney would take--passing it over in utter silence when it rightly should be named, and thrusting it forward in places where it was altogether out of place.
Besides a rough-looking Irishman, who acted guard over Perkins, and on whose charge he was arrested for desertion, he was accompanied by a plump, pretty little woman, with a full bust and a fine blue eye; and she was accompanied by a tall, slender individual, in a fashionable but seedy suit, a profusion of fair hair falling down over his shoulders, and an inkling of a moustache struggling into existence on his upper lip. Peter seemed to regard the Irishman with horror, and the owner of the apology for a moustache with hate. The pretty little woman, on the contrary, seemed not only to admire the stunted moustache, but the owner of it, whilst for Peter, prisoner as he was, she seemed not to be overburdened with sympathy, although, to use his own words, he was "her lawfully wedded 'usband."
They had not been very long in Court, when the Recorder announced that he was ready to proceed with the case of Perkins--Mulrey affiant. "So am I," said the Irishman. "I'm----" "Silence," said the police-officer, interrupting him and giving him a contemptuous look in exchange for the too familiar manner in which he addressed the Court. "O, Misther consequence," said the Irishman, "its yerself that's kickin' up all the shindy. Sure if I howld me tongue, I can't spayk, barin like the deaf and dumb people, wid me fingers."
Recorder.--"Enough, sir; state the grounds of your charge against Mr. Perkins, whom you accuse of deserting from the army."
Irishman.--"I beg your Honor's pardon; you're ahead of me hy-poth-e-ses, as Brien Moran, the schoolmaster, God rest his sowl! used to say. It's as plain as the nose on your Honor's face, and he must be a blind man who can't see that, that one can never desart from a body till he joins it first. Now, I niver accused this little gentleman, whose legs look as if they were made for flying a paper kite through them,, with joinin'; but I say that he enthered his name to join, and it seems that, like Ned Neal when he took the pledge, he forgot to carry out his intintions; and, besides--"
Recorder.--"Oh, stop, sir! if you are permitted to go on, this investigation will be as tedious as a suit in chancery. What have you, sir," he said, addressing Peter Perkins, who seemed as much alarmed as if sentence of death without the benefit of clergy was about to be pronounced upon him, "what have you to say to this charge?"
"Why, your 'onor," said Peter, who by a wonderful effort counterfeited a respectful smile, "why, your 'onor, it was all a lawk. 'Anner, there, my wife, and a wery lovin' little 'ooman she is too, and Mr. Mills, there, [the moustache] my journeyman--you see Hi keeps the tailorin' business a goin' on--they says to me 'you're afraid to go to the war!' yes, said 'Anner, speaking herself, 'you is afraid to go to the war--Hi knows you is. You're a coward, Peter,' says she, and she and Mr. Mills begins to laugh at me! Hi be'nt no coward,' says Hi, 'and if it wa'nt for you and young Peter, who is the only heir to his grandfather's property in Lun'un, Hi would to.' Well, your 'onor, she and Mr. Mills kept on at me till Hi puts down my name, and since then Hi do'nt hawlf like their carryings on; so Hi do'nt mean to go."
Recorder.--"but having put down your name as a volunteer, on what ground do you decline going?"
"Hi declines," said Peter, "on the ground that General Scott declines; because," looking significantly over at Mrs. Perkins and Mr. Mills, "be cause, you see if Hi was to go Hi'd 'have a fire in my front and a fire in my rear;' besides, my father was a freeman of the city of Lun'un, and belonged to the Tailors' Guild. That being the case, Hi ca'nt be deprived of my wested rights and forced to join the army--Hi claims the right of a British subject."
Irishman.--"O, there it is--I knew the butther would brake out of the stirabout--begor I believe that St. Patrick, aided by St. Columkill--and either o' them, bein' both ould Milesian Irish saints, without a dhrop of Sassanagh blood in their vaynes--could work more miracles than all the saints in the calandher together--I believe, I say, that both o' them, together, could not make a good native American of an Inglishman; while it comes by nathur to an Irishman--and"--
The Recorder.--"Sir, your speculations may be all very correct, but the Court cannot suffer you to indulge in them now. Apart from the fact that Mr. Perkins not being a citizen of the United States I am inclined to deal leniently with him, inasmuch as he has a wife and family to support. Therefore"--
Mrs. Perkins, interrupting the Recorder, rises, and with amiable simplicity says:--"O, sir, Mr. Mills can carry on the business in Perky's absence--I always calls him, dear little Perky--Mr. Mills does cut and fit so nicely!"
"Your 'onor sees there's a conspiracy against me to destroy my domestic 'appiness," said Perkins, "you wouldn't ask me to go to the wars under such circumstances--would you?--I ain't afraid though--not a bit of it."
The Recorder said, that as he before remarked, he was disposed to deal leniently with Peter, he should therefore postpone his decision till Saturday--Mr. Perkins would be in the mean time discharged on his own recognizance. Peter seemed overjoyed at the result. Mills and Mrs. Perkins seemed to think that Peter should be a soldier, whether he would or not. The Irishman left the Court with the evident impression on his mind that there was none of them "any great shakes."
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "The Eighth of January,"
traditional fiddle tune performed Vi Wickam and friends