My stats indicate that I've lost half of my present-day readership, which is to say I think we are down from four to two...
Before we begin, I just learned yesterday that oh-by-the-way, inventor Nikola Tesla was personal friends with Swami Vivekananda. How absurd, that nobody mentions this, when Vivekananda was a far greater mind than Tesla. This was fairly late in Tesla's career, but still, how much understanding he gained from Vivekananda is impossible to gauge. Vivekananda wanted to bring science to the East, and mysticism to the West. Note that Chester Carlton, inventor of the Xerox process, who was (as I understand) connected with Swami Vivekananda's organization, funded Dr. Ian Stevenson's reincarnation research.
Recently, I had the whim to buy a bookshelf for my antiquarian book collection--related, of course, to Mathew Franklin Whittier and his various published works. Given that I have a limited budget, I have a pretty interesting collection, but of course one gets the "collector's bug" and wants to flesh it out. When they are priced in the $25 range, I can justify it, but when they get up into the $700 range, or higher, I have to drop out. On a few occasions, when I had more income, I purchased a few of these books or bound newspaper volumes in the hundreds.
I had identified Mathew as the junior editor and primary contributor to the New York "Constellation" in 1829-1832, under editor-in-chief Asa Greene; and then again, for Greene's next paper, the New York "Transcript" in 1834-36. I had also determined that of several books attributed to Greene, Mathew was the actual author of "The Life and Adventures of Dr. Dodimus Duckworth," despite the fact that Greene was an M.D., and that book lampoons quack medicine. I have a beat-up original of the second volume of this two-volume work, and of course I would love to have a complete set. For a cool $750, I could do it.
But while I was looking, I had the whim to see about the other books attributed to Greene, one of which is titled "A Yankee Among the Nullifiers." This one was written under a pseudonym, "Elnathan Elmwood." In my first book, I erred on the side of caution, and didn't claim it for Mathew's pen. You may think that I claim these things willy-nilly, when actually, it's just the opposite. I claim them very cautiously, and very reluctantly--including "A Christmas Carol" and "The Raven."
But not too many entries ago, I mentioned that I was into "The Three Brides, Love in a Cottage, and Other Tales," a compilation published by Francis Durivage. With a very few exceptions, all of that is Mathew's work. And in it is a story including a character named "Elnathan Spike." This is obviously a precursor to Mathew's flagship character, "Ethan Spike." But it also tells us that some time prior to 1846 (when that character was launched), Mathew also liked, and used, the name "Elnathan," which I think was not so common, even in the day. I know he very often used comical, alliterative names, like "Peter Pumple." That means that the pseudonym, "Elnathan Elmwood" is almost certainly Mathew's, not Greene's.
This opens a huge can of worms (or butterflies, if you prefer).* These books are actually assumed to have been written by Greene, because he arranged publication of them, in New York City. He was the owner of a bookstore and a newspaper, and no-doubt had contacts in the printing business. Mathew, meanwhile, even in 1833, appears to have insisted on anonymity--this, at a time when he wasn't yet involved in the Abolition movement. He was, in this early stage, in favor of "Colonization," chiefly because he thought Abolitionism would lead to slave insurrections and a general bloodbath (and Mathew, at this time of his life, was still a Quaker). I haven't read it yet, but a synopsis of "A Yankee Among the Nullifiers" tells me that the main character, a Yankee living in South Carolina, runs for Congress, and one of his speeches incites a slave insurrection. The little bit I read last night, as I was skimming an online pdf copy, has him challenged to a duel. When Mathew published his own short-lived newspaper, the Salisbury "Monitor," he wrote a faux letter to the editor (i.e., himself) about dueling, and it was reprinted by William Lloyd Garrison in "The Liberator" (where I discovered it).
And there's a third clue. Another of Greene's books is entitled "The Perils of Pearl Street." I determined, from one of Mathew's pieces in the "Constellation," that he must have boarded, when living in New York City in 1831, near the intersection of Water and Pearl Streets. Asa Greene would not have lived in a boarding house, so this wasn't him. Probably, there are personal clues in that book, as well. Always, one thing leads to another.
I can't quite explain the poignancy I feel, when I see the scholars evaluate Mathew's work, whether pro or con, while taking it to be the work of some other author. I suppose it's about what you'd expect, but what I can't explain is the thing itself--that the emotions are neither manufactured, nor forced. I am pleased when they praise it, and defensive when they pan it or dismiss it lightly. But some part of me wants to set the matter straight. The people these works are claimed for, were not capable of writing at that level. They were either friends of Mathew, doing him a favor--like Asa Greene, or Elizur Wright (who published the English translation of "La Fontaine's Fables"); or they were plagiarists who took advantage of Mathew's naivete.
That the list of mistaken attributions for Mathew's hidden body of work is so long, is not a result of magical thinking, or wishful thinking, on my part. Again, it's quite the reverse. It's because Mathew was that talented, and because he was extremely prolific over the course of a 45-year career. I'm quite sure I don't have it all, but I thought I'd give you an idea of what we're dealing with, in chronological order. All of this has been through the acid bath of careful analysis.
In 1827, Mathew, at age 14, having returned from running away to sea, and living now in Boston, takes a job in the printing office of the "New-England Galaxy," under editor Joseph Buckingham. His work begins appearing there, and becomes quite frequent, until he moves to New York City in December of 1829.
There, he writes for the "Constellation" under Asa Greene, simultaneously persuing a mercantile career. Before long, he assumes the duties of the editor, while Greene concentrates on running his bookstore. In 1832, he returns (as I gather) to his native Haverhill, Mass., but he is writing books which Greene publishes for him in New York, beginning with "The Life and Adventures of Dr. Dodimus Duckworth."
In 1834 he returns to New York City, to write for Greene's new paper, the New York "Transcript." This he continues to do until 1836, when he returns to Haverhill again. There, in August, he elopes with his long-time sweetheart, Abby Poyen. But not before they co-author a speech, "The Abolition Cause Eventually Triumphant," which is delivered in their hometown by Dover, NH Congregational minister David Root.
They, themselves, have eloped to Dover. There, Mathew becomes associated with the editor of the Dover "Enquirer." Mathew has, by this time, become a convert to Abolitionism. He and Abby, signing as "Kappa, Lambda and Mu," answer a 10-part pro-Colonization article by "Alpha and Beta," until they are identified as the authors. At that point they flee Dover for Amesbury, Mass., near their hometown of East Haverhill.
In Feb. 1838, Mathew launches his own paper, the Salisbury "Monitor." Two or three pieces from that paper are picked up by William Lloyd Garrison, in his paper, "The Liberator." It ceases publication in May of that year. The couple have, once again, become the target of shunning and persecution.
I'm going from memory--I may miss something. But we are just beginning, here. Remember that I have scrutinized all of these claims very carefully, and have presented all the evidence in my book and its sequel.
Abby dies in March of 1841. About this time, Mathew's friend, fellow-Abolitionist and future editor for the Boston "Chronotype," Elizur Wright, publishes an English translation of "La Fontaine's Fables." These were originally homework assignments, which Abby gave Mathew when she was teaching him French and poetry composition. The first of these, a trial balloon version for children, was published during Abby's lifetime; but the full edition for adults was published the year of her death, under Wright's name. He even gives us a story as to how he came to write them, which must have been done with Mathew's approval. If Mathew preferred to remain anonymous, it appears that Abby, with her strict Victorian sensibilities, insisted on it.
In 1845, Francis Durivage publishes "Mike Martin: or, the Last of the Highwaymen. A Romance of Reality." This was also Mathew's work, but the arrangement between them, if any, is unknown.
I have missed a couple--Mathew also wrote for a Boston young man's magazine, called "The Essayist," in 1831-33. This publication was edited by George W. Light. Meanwhile, Abby Poyen's poetry was being plagiarized and published, probably without her knowledge or consent, by her classroom teacher in Newburyport, Mass., Albert Pike. That's right, the same Albert Pike who became a high-ranking Mason in Boston, and who figures in some conspiracy theories. Abby was only 14 years old at the time. Unfortunately, Pike added his own inept touches to some of this poetry, and even wrote a few of his own (far inferior) pieces. He and Abby had the same initials, and these poems were published under "A.P." I have caught him telling a biographer he wrote one of them in 1834, a "couple of days after his wedding," when actually the original (which he had heavily modified) appeared in "The Essayist" in 1832.
Meanwhile, George Light would publish a compilation of Mathew and Abby's early poetry, along with a few of his own pieces, in (I think it was) 1853, all under his own name, in a book entitled "Keep Cool, Go Ahead, and a Few Other Poems." There was, in short, a sort of feeding frenzy to take advantage of this unknown, brilliant 14-year-old girl. In "The Essayist," some of Abby's poetry is published anonymously; some under George Light's initials; and some under "A.P." Mathew signs "Franklin, Jr.," and writes brief book reviews signing with a single asterisk, or star.
In 1849, Francis Durivage begins submitting a huge body of Mathew's work to the Boston-based "Flag of Our Union." These include foreign adventure tales, and humorous sketches signed "The Old 'Un." Later, Durivage teamed up with one George P. Burnham to co-publish a compilation by "The Old 'Un" and "The Young 'Un." He also published Mathew's work under his own name, including in "The Three Brides, Love in a Cottage, and Other Tales."
In 1850, Mathew publishes "The Mistake of a Lifetime: or, the Robber of the Rhine Valley," under the pseudonym of "Waldo Howard," in the "Flag of Our Union." Frederick Gleason, the owner of that paper (and of "Gleason's Pictorial"), pays him the whopping sum of $3,000 plus a percentage of sales, which transaction is ridiculed by the press. No-one seems to have realized that "Waldo Howard" was a pseudonym--in any case, no more works by this author seem to have appeared. The book is a huge hit with the public, but not with the critics who, again, simply mock the amount this unknown writer was paid for it.
From 1846 through 1853, Mathew wrote prolifically for the "Chronotype," the "Weekly Museum," and the "Carpet-Bag," all under dozens of pseudonyms. He even wrote travelogues concurrently under different signatures. He was a silent financial partner in the "Carpet-Bag," and collaborated with editor B.P. Shillaber. One of his contributions was to write the faux biography of Shillaber's character, "Mrs. Partington." If you read the first volume of "The Life and Adventures of Dr. Dodimus Duckworth," where the early life of that character is given; and then you read the biography of "Mrs. Partington" in "The Life and Sayings of Mrs. Partington," you will see that these humorous, fictional biographies were written by the same author.
From the early 1840's until very late in his career, Mathew also wrote for the Portland (Maine) "Transcript." Although he wrote his flagship character, "Ethan Spike," primarily for the "Chronotype" in the 1840's, when that paper folded "Spike" appeared exclusively in the "Transcript." He would, however, write spin-offs (as, for example, by "Spike's" relatives) for other papers. He also had a great many imitators, several of whom became famous thereby. One of these was Charles Farrar Browne, with his "Artimus Ward." Another was James Russell Lowell, with his "Biglow Papers." (Check it out--"Bigelow Papers," appearing in the Boston "Courier," was a response to Mathew's "Ethan Spike" in the "Chronotype," and there, "Spike" responds directly to "Biglow.")
I'm not going to go back and insert these omissions, I'll just add them as they occur to me. From late 1844 to mid 1846, Mathew wrote reviews, reports and essays for the New York "Tribune" under his long-time secret pseudonym, the "star." The rumor developed that they were written by Margaret Fuller, the official literary editor. Mathew hinted, in his column, that it wasn't, but did not openly claim his authorship of the series, and scholars have assumed she was the author. When she left for Europe to write as the paper's foreign correspondent, she took up the "star" signature; but Mathew didn't stop using it, either. He signed as the "star" in the Boston "Odd Fellow," after a stint writing for the New Orleans "Daily Delta" in the summer of 1846. There may even be an instance of him using it there--I can't tell because these pdf copies you can find online are too fuzzy to be certain.
Mathew had a generous habit of submitting an especially good piece to new publications, to help them get launched. He did this, for example, for his former editor, Joseph Buckingham, in Buckingham's new venture, the "New-England Magazine," in 1831. (There, he pretends to be the editor's printer, taking the name "Phinehas Pica.") He must have done the same for "American Review" in 1845, by sending them "The Raven," signed "---- Quarles." Mathew was writing as a critic for the "Tribune" at this time. Edgar Allan Poe, a critic for the rival "Mirror," must have gotten an advance copy of the "Review." Meanwhile, Mathew had gone through a phase of sending his work to various literati after Abby's death, in 1842; and he must have shared with Poe at least three pieces--"The Raven," "Some Words with a Mummy" and "Annabel Lee." Seizing his opportunity, Poe scooped Mathew by arranging for "The Raven" to be published in his own paper, the "Mirror," under his own name.
Have I forgotten "A Christmas Carol"? Apparently so. Mathew and Abby had co-authored this story, starting with some prototypes Mathew had written earlier, after the death of their first child, in 1838. After her death, Mathew met with Charles Dickens when the latter visited Boston, in February of 1842, being invited by his friend, Oliver Wendell Holmes. (This much, I have extrapolated from a great many pieces of evidence.) Like many authors, Mathew handed Dickens the manuscript, when lo and behold, Dickens actually used it in 1843. Mathew, a fan of Dickens, wrote under "Dickens, Jr." for "The Odd Fellow" and the Onondaga "Standard" in 1847; and praised Dickens' public reading in New York City, in 1867. I don't know whether he ever realized how Dickens had taken advantage of him, or not.
Mathew also wrote for the New York humor magazine, "Yankee Doodle," in 1847. His primary contribution was a serial about a green country boy coming to New York, where he is taken advantage of repeatedly. That character was named "Joshua Greening," and it was essentially a rehash of an earlier character, "Enoch Timbertoes." Mathew seems to have originated this genre with "Joe Strickland," in the "New-England Galaxy," in 1827.
Okay, now I'm back to the 1850's... After the collapse of the "Carpet-Bag" in 1853 (which Mathew was essentially forced out of because of his radical views), I don't know of any other major literary efforts. He did apparently attempt to publish a compilation in 1864, and again in 1867, but if he was successful, I have never discovered what those books might have been. He continued to submit work to the Portland "Transcript" over the years, but primarily only as "Ethan Spike," and occasionally as the "star."
There is one exception. Mathew knew shorthand, and made extra money reporting on lyceum talks. There is an example of a speech review in the "Monitor," reprinted in the "Liberator," in 1838, and there are some going back even earlier, to his days in New York City. For many years, Mathew reported on a series of lectures sponsored by the Mercantile Library Association, in Portland, for the "Transcript." Among this body of work are found what scholars tout as some of the best reviews of talks by such famous people as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Scholars love these reviews, and quote them, but have no idea who wrote them.
From fall of 1849, until mid-1852, Mathew wrote a travelogue under "Quails" (and note the similarity to "Quarles"), for the Boston "Weekly Museum," which became quite popular. Again, because of an unchecked rumor which Mathew could only counter by giving broad hints, this body of work was attributed to a singer/entertainer named Ossian Dodge. "Quails" writes of being a reporter at the World Peace Congress at Exeter Hall, London, in 1851. An exquisitely detailed etching of the opening speech was published in the London "Illustrated News" (I believe it's the Aug. 2, 1851 edition), and if you zoom way, way in to the reporter's table, where "Quails" says he's sitting, you can see Mathew there, looking up at the speaker. He even has the same loop of hair on one side, that appears in his known middle-aged portrait.
As my friend Jeff Keene says, "What would be 'proof' to you?"
Oh, it appears Mathew may have written several reviews and essays under his middle initial "F.," in the Transcendentalist publication, "The Dial." These are erroneously attributed by scholars to the editor, Margaret Fuller. (The "star" writer in the "Tribune" casually mentions that he wrote one of these pieces in the "Dial." And Mathew is definitely the "star" in the "Tribune.")
Where scholars report that Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) got himself in hot water reading a satirical sketch for John Greenleaf Whittier's birthday party in 1877, that story was written by Mathew. Clemens appears to have re-worked it, so as to set it in California, substituting Western slang for Mathew's Yankee dialect. This one is a no-brainer--it was a practical joke on the Boston literati--who Mathew knew socially--who didn't take him seriously as an author--and simultaneously, it would have been his disguised birthday present to his brother. Mathew is the unnamed lone person in the audience said to have been laughing maniacally, while an offended hush fell on the rest. Laughing, you see, not at the story, as historians assume, but at the joke. Mathew is known to have been a practical joker.
I think that might do it, at least, from memory. I suspect that there is some other major work, written in Mathew's later years, which I have not yet discovered. But this is what I've been able to find, thus far. Quite a few of these are represented, in original editions, in my bookshelf. There are also booklets Mathew authored, or ghost wrote, that I haven't mentioned, here. One is a defense of Spiritualism, written in 1856 (and published the following year), which is attributed to the president of the Portland Spiritualist Association, Jabez Woodman. The letter printed at the head of that booklet, formally requesting that it be published, includes Mathew among the signers, as an officer of that organization. Woodman is said to have delivered the speech (Mathew wrote the review of his talk) in a rather disorganized manner; but the booklet is anything but disorganized. It is precisely in Mathew's debate/essay style, and I think that most of it is his. Mathew had been a member of the Pnyxian debate club in Portland, in the early 1840's.
I think what I want to do, here, is to give anyone who's listening an idea of just who we're dealing with. This is Mathew Franklin Whittier's literary resume. And I haven't included everything, still, because the future Elizabeth Barrett Browning published two of Mathew's poems in her 1844 compilation, entitled "Poems": "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," and "The Lost Bower." So we have works by Mathew being attributed by historians to the likes of Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Margaret Fuller, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
This is not something I set out to prove, or had any vested interest in claiming. These things came up in the course of my research. All I had, from past-life memory, at the outset, were that Mathew had something to do with the writing of "A Christmas Carol," and that he met Edgar Allan Poe.
Recently, I had to hire a researcher to get into the microfilm copy of the Onondaga "Standard" in Syracuse. He finally found two of Mathew's works in that paper, including one from the "Dickens, Jr." series. It so happens he is a retired academician. He wrote, "Your existing work on MFW far surpasses the research and writing of doctoral theses at our best colleges and should enable you to receive a well deserved graduate degree for your scholarship." (There was something even more enthusiastic, but I seem to have lost track of it.) But I had only mentioned Mathew's authorship of "The Raven" in passing--and of course I made no mention of reincarnation. Still without using the "R" word, I wrote him a couple days ago to emphasize that I had over 20 pieces of evidence pointing to MFW's authorship of "The Raven," and accordingly, that if I had someone's respectful, undivided attention for a day or two, I could prove it to them. I asked him to inform any of his colleagues who might be open-minded enough to talk with me about it. I haven't heard back, yet.
You can see my problem. My work is too advanced. I am not crazy, I am not indulging in magical thinking. When I reveal 5% of what I'm doing to an academician, I am a brilliant lay scholar working beyond the Ph.D. level. But if I reveal 10%, or 20% of what I'm doing, suddenly I am cut off.
Rather like what Mathew must have experienced, which is why he lampooned academia with his character, "Dr. E. Goethe Digg, A.S.S." in the "Carpet-Bag." "Dr. Digg," and a parody of the military mentality named "Ensign Stebbings," achieved temporary fame during the 1852 election, when the "Ensign" ran for President (the way Pat Paulsen did). This body of work was attributed--by the editor, Mathew's friend, B.P. Shillaber, in his memoirs--to a career teacher and principle, Benjamin Drew. I disproved that attribution, also, by sending a researcher in to scrutinize Drew's diary and unpublished autobiography. All of that--written under the umbrella pseudonym "Trismegistus," which Mathew had used many years earlier--was Mathew Franklin Whittier.
You may have seen some of radical archaeologist Sylvie Ivanova's excellent videos about ancient civilizations, wherein she derisively refers to academicians as "penguins." Mathew beat her to it. But they're really not such a bad lot--just subject to pride of position and stubbornness, like everybody else.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*I see there are others, as well. One book about debtor's prison is definitely Mathew's. I say that, in part, because I have already established that the editorials in Greene's paper against debtor's prison, which involve the author visiting one and reporting on it, were Mathew's. Therefore, this book dedicated to that subject, must also be his. I have to go through these carefully before I can say much more--except that at the outset, I see that it remains unsigned, while Asa Greene is given only as the publisher. The narrator is an adopted persona, having a wife and family--lest one think that makes it more likely for Greene, he says at the outset that he is "no doctor" (Greene was an M.D.). Mathew has adopted such personas elsewhere, most notably for his travelogues; and almost everything Mathew writes, especially for social reforms, is anonymous. These books have, apparently, garnered some attention by historians in various specialty areas. Aside from simple scarcity, perhaps this is why originals--even second editions--are up well into three figures. All of this is no surprise--this is the younger brother of John Greenleaf Whittier, who is in no way inferior to his older brother as a writer, or as a social reformer.
Music opening this page: "School's Out for Summer," by Alice Cooper,
from the album, "A Fistful of Alice"