A great deal, in my research, is riding on whether Mathew Franklin Whittier (myself in the 19th century) was the acting editor of the New York "Constellation," as a young man in 1829-32. Mathew is known only for writing letters as a back-woods resident of the town of "Hornby" in the real county of Oxford, Maine, which series began in January of 1846. Seba Smith, who introduced his "Major Jack Downing" character in his own paper, the Portland "Courier" in 1830, is considered by historians as the originator of this genre, writing in local dialect.
Most of the original material in the New York "Constellation," meanwhile, is attributed to its editor-in-chief, one Asa Greene. Mathew's participation in that paper is unknown by historians. I have had to ferret it out by a series of interlocking clues.
To recap, it appears, from my research, that Mathew obtained a job as a printer's "devil," or assistant, on the Boston "Courier" when only 16 years old, in 1829. At this time, he began publishing creative work in the "Courier's" sister paper, the New-England "Galaxy." As of December, 1829, however, Mathew has moved to New York City--probably, attempting to launch a career in merchandizing, by obtaining a job as a shop clerk--while writing, for extra income, for Greene's paper, the New York "Constellation." Because Mathew is a literary prodigy, he quickly rises in the editor's estimation, until soon he is the acting editor. He writes anonymously, either as the editor, or under various pseudonyms. By mid-1830, it appears that Greene has basically turned the editorial duties over to young Mathew, to devote more time to his bookstore. Entire editorial pages are filled with Mathew's work on this paper. I have occasionally shared images of these pages from the original paper.
But how to prove these suppositions? Generally, one can't find a single "smoking gun" to do the job. As in a court of law, one must turn to a series of little clues.
In the June 26, 1830 edition, the editor casually admits, in passing (as I interpret it), that he writes much of the material, himself. Here, as he often does, he is taking the persona of a reader who is writing in to the editor. The only question is whether this is the editor-in-chief, or Mathew Franklin Whittier, the acting editor, speaking:
We do not think it prudent to relate all the marvellous accounts handed down to show the astonishing effects of this medicine, as we do not wish to surprise our readers out of their intellects; neither do we conceive it necessary to exhibit all the certificates of its miraculous performances, since we do not care to disoblige our friend, the Editor of the Constellation, by crowding all the matter out of his paper, for four or five successive weeks, especially as it is always filled by himself, with every thing the best of its kind.
I have demonstrated that Mathew began working in this genre in 1829, a year before Seba Smith launched "Major Jack Downing." Mathew was exaggerating the style of British humorist Theodore Hook, who wrote letters as the character, "Mrs. Ramsbottom." In later years, Mathew acknowledged and praised the "Major Jack Downing" series, though I have found no record of a personal relationship between Mathew and Smith, even though for some 20 years they both lived in Portland, Maine. Mathew was both gallant and generous with writers who imitated his style, or who wrote in a similar style. That doesn't mean that he didn't privately feel the competition. He would occasionally express it "around the corner" with his pen.
Mathew was also scrupulously honest as regards originality and attribution. Here, in 1850, writing as "Quails" for the Boston "Weekly Museum" (a series wrongly attributed by historians to entertainer Ossian Dodge), Mathew begins his story by giving due credit to the originator of the character:
There are many good anecdotes related at the expense of that somewhat noted individual known as "Mose" which are no doubt the production of some fertile genius engaged as a "penny-a-liner;" but as the one which we are about to relate actually occurred in this city, in the presence of nearly a hundred persons, we will simply relate the story and leave the embellishments for Chaufrau, the original representative of the character.
Mathew is referring to actor Frank Chaufrau, who played the part of "Mose." There are other examples, as when Mathew writes a poem in imitation of another poet's work, and includes a disclaimer in the subtitle. So all that to establish that if Mathew had been imitating Seba Smith's "Major Jack Downing" character, or was even influenced by it, he certainly would have made a respectful reference to same. On the other hand, if Smith was imitating Mathew, Mathew wouldn't have said anything--but he would have gotten his revenge some other way.
Consider, now, this anecdote, undoubtely written by Mathew in his capacity as acting editor of the New York "Constellation," which is found in the July 24, 1830 edition. Just enough time has passed for Smith's "Downing" letters to have come to Mathew's attention; and enough to wait for Smith to give Mathew some kind of acknowledgment--which had never come. Smith is not mentioned by name, but he is, in fact, the proprietor and editor of the Portland "Courier."
Lieutenant vs. Editor. We learn from the Portland Courier, that Lieutenant R.W. Meade, a few days since, taking in high dudgeon a certain paragraph in that paper, made an assault upon the editor, as he was walking the street. The latter, who, though conducting a Lilliputian sheet, seems to be a fellow of a Brobdingnagian spirit, warded off the attack with his cane, which he played nimbly in the face of the assailant; retreating to avoid a broil, and like Xenophon, fighting as he retreated. But alas! that a brave man cannot see behind and before him at the same time. The heel of the editor came in contact with a stone, or some other impediment, (doubtless placed there by the opposing gods,) and down he went, flat on his back, in the middle of the street! Now have at you, said the Lieutenant. But the heels of the editor, which had just played him so scurvy a trick, now proved his best friends; for drawing them up with great presence of mind, he kicked lustily and kept his antagonist at bay. Rendered furious by this unexpected mode of defence, the Lieutenant pulled off his beaver, and, like a boy fighting bumble-bees, beat the feet and legs of the editor, and, had he not been laid hold of by the citizens, would have utterly demolished a bran-fire new chapeau.
I have not looked up the original report, by Smith, of his attack--but I would guess his account wasn't quite as wry as Mathew's version.
You might question whether junior editors were ever permitted to write editorials on their own. This passage, in a Jan. 1, 1831 editorial defending bachelors as a class, shows that they were:
The persecution, that from time immemorial, has pursued this harmless and innocent race of men, has arisen to a pitch as scandalous as it is undeserving.--Not a day passes without innumerable ill-natured jokes cracked at their expense and they seem to have become the target for all manner of sarcasm, ridicule, and abuse. They are hooted as selfish and unsocial, and derided as poor misrerable creatures, without any of the genuine comforts of life, and fit companions only for dogs and cats. They have become the standing theme of raillery with half witted junior editors--of good natured pity with the softer sex, and the very appellation of "old bachelor," is fast assuming the synonomous definition of "monster"--"bad man"--"poor creature," &c. &c.
All of this amounts to academic haggling over obscure bits of history. But if I can establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Mathew was the actual author of these works, there are many clues embedded in them which prove that Mathew was the person I knew he was, long before I had evidence to that effect. And there are clues in them which substantiate past-life memories and impressions. So I can then prove that Mathew was, in fact, very much like me temperamentally, and I can even go so far as to show profound parallels between his higher mind, and my own. But I can also show that some of my past-life glimpses were historically accurate, because Mathew embedded so much of his own personal history in his published works. What more do you want?*
I know how stubborn people are. The evidence for the continuity of life beyond the grave is nothing short of overwhelming; and yet, our Western culture as a whole resists it mightily. All I can do is keep standing on the truth, as I perceive it, and as I confirm it through my own research. Eventually, a discordant voice, standing on the truth, will come to Society's attention. What happens then, sort of depends on readiness. And readiness depends on timing; and timing, I strongly suspect, is in better hands than mine.
I'll close with a pithy observation. We have been conditioned to believe that the best research is done in academic institutions. But academicians are constrained by the desire to remain employed, and to retain the esteem of their peers. If they venture too far outside accepted parameters, they risk censure or even the loss of their position. They are therefore likely to become pioneers in their field just to the extent that they can make a name for themselves, but not enough to risk rejection. In short, very few professors in academia--in the fields of literary history, religion, philosophy, or psychology--would dare do what I'm doing. And there's another point--my work crosses all of these disciplines, whereas in academia, one must specialize. There is too much of religion, philosophy, and psychology in this study, for a historian to take it up; but there is also too much of history in it, for a professor of religion, philosophy, or psychology to embrace it--and so-on. My book faces the same difficulty with the publishers. It doesn't fit neatly into any single category--and publishers won't risk backing any book that doesn't.
So the fact that I am not doing this work under the umbrella of academia, doesn't necessarily mean it is substandard in any way. It may mean just the opposite.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*Note that the "cryptomnesia," or false memory, objection is defeated, because there is no possible way I could have seen these obscure published works, nor known that they had been written by Mathew, before I documented my past-life impressions. Of course, I have multiple examples of the working of my higher mind (as distinct from my personality) which predate my discovery of the historical Mathew Franklin Whittier.
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from the album, "Up Close"