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4/21/19

I had already gone carefully through all of the 1833/34 books supposedly written by Asa Greene, which were actually written by his junior editor on the New York "Constellation," Mathew Franklin Whittier. The first one I ever found, "The Life and Adventures of Dr. Dodimus Duckworth," I had recognized as Mathew's work and had touched on in my first book. But yesterday I had a little time to kill on the job, and having put a pdf of that book into my Kindle Fire, I started reading it. It's in two volumes, and I had only skimmed the second volume, in which "Dr. Duckworth" develops his practice in quack medicine.

But this is written as though it is a serious biography--entirely tongue-in-cheek, of course--and it begins with his parents, his birth, his childhood, and so-on. It also talks about some of the folklore of New England, and the typical traits of Yankees. There, I found a page-long paean to pumpkins! Which I will link to, in a minute.

This is a good opportunity to talk about the skeptical objection of chance, or the charge that a clue is merely generic. And note that word "merely"--usually, it is implied, rather than brought honestly out in the open. It's the reductionist habit of skeptics, to view a piece of evidence as merely this or that.

But this charge that evidence is merely generic, is usually predicated on the principle of "divide and conquer." Each piece of evidence is taken piecemeal, in other words, and individually pronounced "generic." Not only is it taken piecemeal, but the "straw man" principle is applied, such that the worst piece of evidence is chosen. I saw this recently in a skeptical YouTube presentation of reincarnation, giving, as the sole example, a girl who claimed to remember something like 12 past lives. They made sure to include the one in which she remembered being a caveman living with the dinosaurs, which, of course, we know is impossible.

Or do we? Because it seems that mainstream archeology has been suppressing man-made artifacts which have surfaced, embedded in stone or coal that dates back some 300 million years...

But that's neither here nor there (or I should say, neither now nor then). The point is, they made sure to poison the well with what they took to be bad evidence, and isolate it from all the rest. Had they included one of Dr. Ian Stevenson's best cases; had they also included, say, Capt. Robert Snow's case; then it would have left the viewer with a very different conclusion. Had the narrator then insisted, "Reincarnation can never be proven," after having presented those cases, it would have sounded pretty weak. The viewer would have been thinking, "Sheesh, man, what more do you want?

So this sort of thing is skeptical propaganda. Of course reincarnation can be proven.

Now, as regards the pumpkins, this reference came up gradually in the course of several years' research. I didn't remember it--this is straight research, not past-life memory. To recap briefly, I found that Mathew frequently used double-P names, both as characters, and as pseudonyms. Without looking it up, I am talking perhaps 20 of them. Many of these had the first name, "Peter," like "Peter Pumple" and "Peter Pendergrass." And he also used the initials, "P.P.," or just "P." This habit was so common in Mathew's writing, that three of them coincidentally ended up as samples in the appendix of my sequel: Peter Pico, Jr., Phinehas Pica, and Paul Pickle.

That's clue number one. Then, I noticed that during a certain phase of his career, the colloquialism "some pumpkins," as in, "he was some pumpkins!" kept showing up. This wasn't a sexual reference (as one friend suggested), but rather, it was the rough equivalent of "he was really a pistol!" We see it here, in this story representing the "apple paring" or "paring bee" at which Mathew first danced with his future wife, Abby.

I could search on how many times Mathew used this phrase, but I'd have to search on the word "pumpkins," then look at them all to separate out the ones which just mention pumpkins, and I'm trying to cut down on the amount of work that these entries take. Let me see how many instances come up with a digital search, before I think about opening them all...

Nineteen. Okay, okay, I'll do it...

Eleven out of 19, with one of them "he was a leetle more pumpkins" (same thing). Some of the other references are relevant, of course, but they don't use this particular slang.

So that's another piece of evidence. Mathew is known from various sources to have been a high-spirited, somewhat rebellious child (including by his own anecdotes), and so it's very likely he was called "some pumpkins!"

Then there is a poem, which would take a lengthy entry in itself to analyze. The gist of it is that he must have been invited to Thanksgiving dinner, in Boston, with the family of his friend and editor, Elizur Wright. He must have been so enthusiastic about the pumpkin pie, that Mrs. Wright gave him one to take home with him. His response was to write her a poem, which then was published in Wright's paper, the "Chronotype." Although signed "A Yankee*," it ended up in a compilation of his brother's poetry. John Greenleaf Whittier (with one possible exception) always signed his name to his poetry, and never used pseudonyms. The only explanation I can see is that someone else created this compilation out of the newspapers, without JGW's knowledge or permission. They were told that this poem was written "by Whittier," and they erroneously assumed it had to be John, rather than Mathew. I've seemingly lost the photographic copy of this one, but to give you a flavor of it (and because modern people have short attention spans when it comes to poetry), here is the title, and the concluding stanzas:

Song of the Pumpin.
[Written on receiving the gift of a Pumpkin Pie.]
By A Yankee.

* * * 

Oh!--fruit loved of boyhood!--the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heaps, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin--our lantern the moon,
Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam,
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!

Then thanks for thy present!--none sweeter or better
E'er smoked from an oven or circled a platter!
Fairer hands ne'er wrought at a pastry more fine,
Brighter eyes never watched o'er its baking than thine!
And the prayer which my mouth is too full to express,
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less;
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky,
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin Pie!

The colloquialism, "some pumpkins," does not appear in "The Life and Adventures of Dr. Dodimus Duckworth." However, we do find this. (And note the playful suggestion that some say Duckworth, as a child, was a "mischievous, troublesome sort of fellow," which leads into his praise of pumpkins).

There's probably more I could bring in, here, but that's enough. Mathew loved pumpkin pie from childhood--his nickname was "Peter Pumpkin"--he was called "some pumpkins," which phrase he particularly enjoyed, and used in his various writings. And he wrote the 1833-34 books which scholars have attributed to his editor, Asa Greene, as well as the "Enoch Timbertoes" letters which they have tentatively attributed to the same source.

Best regards,

Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.

P.S. Before I go off to my work assignment, here is a little bonus, which I was just proofreading--a sample of Mathew's reporting for the New Orleans "Daily Delta," covering the courts, in 1847. I captured the piece below it because it looks like it is signed with an asterisk, which would make it Mathew's, as well. None of his police reporting for this paper, during 1847, is signed. The previous summer, when he first did this stint in New Orleans, he signed with his middle initial, "F."

 

Music opening this page: "Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater," from Mother Goose's Playhouse

*The signature may have been created by Wright, himself, when he decided to publish it, as it was probably sent to him and his wife in a personal note.

 

   

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