When I have research to do, I often get up at 4:30 a.m., or even 3:30, to get some work done before I have to start my caretaking duties at 10:30. Then, when the research is pending, as it is, now, I try to sleep in as late as 6:00. I managed to do that last night, so today I feel uncharacteristically fresh.
Any day now, my scans of the 1833-1837 Dover, NH "Enquirer" should arrive in the mail; and then I get to work. I will be looking at the entire run, since in the 19th century, as the young Mathew Franklin Whittier, it appears that I would occasionally submit something to it (Dover is about only about 40 miles north of Mathew's hometown of Haverhill, Mass.). But in particular, I'll be scrutinizing from Aug. 1836 to Dec. 1837, when I know that Mathew and his wife, Abby, were living there.
Past-life memory, and the natural amnesia barrier attending it, are tricky. My study seems to shed some light on how it works (perhaps, for the more receptive investigators of the future), inasmuch as I can report how I recognized things which I later confirmed in the historical record. As I recall, there is a brief mention that Mathew had lived in Dover, in his biography (a 1941 student thesis). Initially, I was like any historical researcher, which is to say, it didn't mean anything to me--it was just data.
Gradually, as I began to discover more information, feelings and intuitions began to arise. At certain points, I felt that some of what I was learning wasn't right. I did have two psychic readings to go on, which shaped my thinking. So actually, I was getting information from three sources--the historical record, my own dimly-felt past-life memory, and the two psychic readings. This enabled me to "triangulate," to home in on the historical truth. All three sources are susceptible to error--perhaps, one might say, equally susceptible. I really don't think the historical record is any more reliable than the genuine psychics, for example. In hindsight, they had a very good track record. And the historical record was way, way off in spots.
I have mentioned that it is a great deal easier to prove something to oneself, than to prove it to anyone else. I am taking aside, here, magical thinking. I mean, to accurately prove something to oneself, is still much easier than proving it to anyone else. In the course of eight years of research, I have come to enjoy the process of rigorously proving my case to a standard that would--or should--convince others. But when no-one will take my study seriously enough to even read it, that puts a damper on it. Still, there is the fascinating process of proving it to myself.
The way this process seemed to work, is that as I was gradually exposed to the historical information, and the information provided by the psychics, my own past-life memory began to stir. First come the feelings and intuitions, which boil up or seep up from the subconscious mind. Then come recognitions--looking at the steps leading up to the church they must certainly have attended, a memory arises suddenly of walking Abby up those steps with her white gloved hand resting on my left arm. I feel confident, but she seems nervous. This memory is so generic, that even if I could find a reference to it in a diary or in correspondence, it still wouldn't stand as proof for anyone else. Later, however, I could show that she had reason for being nervous, long after I had that intuition, which had made no particular sense at the time.
The historical record tells me that the couple was married by the local East Haverhill Congregationalist minister; and the listing shows, by an asterisk, that it was "announced" ahead of time. One psychic reading told me that both families were against the marriage; while my feelings told me that the couple eloped. Gradually, as I ferreted out Mathew's short stories, written under pseudonyms, from the literary newspapers he submitted to, a clear picture of elopement emerged. This one begins to take on some of the traits of a memory that can be proven to others. Once you see this theme of elopement come up in several of Mathew's humorous works; and once you realize just how much veiled autobiography he typically embedded in them (especially about his years with Abby); you see that I was probably right. Absolute proof of an elopement escapes me, so far, in the historical record. There are a dozen signs pointing to it.
I knew, somehow, that both Mathew and Abby were strongly in favor of Abolition. The historical record tells us that Mathew wrote for that cause later in his career. We know his older brother was famously involved in it, and that his family was anti-slavery. Abby, on the other hand, came from an upper-class French background, her father being a marquis. Her grandfather had owned a plantation, before being forced to flee due to a slave uprising on Guadeloupe. So she actually came from slavery money. I knew she had renounced it. The first historical indication came when I found a record of the newspaper they had briefly published, together, the Salisbury "Monitor." There, the auction house mentions that there is a poem about a slave girl in Guadeloupe committing suicide; so that Abby must have shared the story with Mathew, suggesting her own sympathies in the matter. (Later, having found some of her own poetry, I began to suspect it was not Mathew's poem, as the auction house's historian had assumed, but rather her poem.)
This was in 1838, after they left Dover and returned to Amesbury, Mass. Only one copy of this newspaper has surfaced, which sold at auction for something over $7,000. I am told that it was a private collector, not an institution. What individual would fork out $7,000 for a tiny newspaper (it was book-size), just because it has a few of John Greenleaf Whittier's early poems worded slightly differently than one finds them in his later-published books?* I ask myself. A crazy Arab from Qatar, who has more money than he knows what to do with? Or someone directly connected with the Whittier legacy? Nobody's telling...they are not only hoarding the physical book, they are attempting to hoard history, itself, which, in my opinion, is profoundly unethical.
I was able to do an end-run around this person, by finding a few articles from the "Monitor" reprinted in other papers; and by finding material that Mathew and Abby had published immediately before, and immediately after, the run of this paper. So my book didn't suffer for this person's selfishness. Meanwhile, if they paid $7,000 for it, they will be preserving it for the future. After they die, and the little museum established to honor Mathew's legacy has been built, I'm betting it will surface, again. At that point, when I have also passed, it will prove some of my memories.
All of this is proving to other people. But there is the personal side, as well. When I sent a researcher into the historical library to go through the Dover "Enquirer," recently, I found advertisements for books being sold by the editor of the paper. My intuition had already told me that Mathew was associated, somehow, with this editor, one George Wadleigh. But here, the ad, which might list five or six books, was including titles which I knew Mathew might have been particularly interested it. It occurred to me that, if Mathew's business had folded by this time, he may have been trying to patch together an income by any means available, including selling books for the editor. He might include titles that he, himself, would have especially liked.
But then comes a listing of books, being sold by Mr. Wadleigh, that are all song books, for voice and piano. I know that Abby was musical. Could these be the books that Abby was recommending for sale? That means, these would have been the books that she, herself, played and sang to Mathew from. Because I knew that she used to entertain him privately.
Already, I had one such music book, from the period in their life when they subsequently moved to Portland, Maine. And I had recognized the songs that were their favorites. I remembered Mathew joking about one of them, and how they affected him, emotionally. Remember--this is proving it to myself, not to you.
So I thought I'd see if I could find copies of any of the music books listed in the ads. I downloaded one, which was for voice, and which I haven't had time to explore (it being a bit awkward to set a laptop on top of the digital piano); but there was another one for sale, physically, which I bought, and I've been going through it, as I slowly learn to sight-read.
Abby has been helping me, in spirit, to learn how to sight-read, via prompting. This is so far outside your everyday reality that you will immediately dismiss it. I can tell you that Dr. Gary Schwartz, who has academic credentials I'll bet you can't touch, and who has proven the reality of mediumship via the scientific method, went on to explore collaboration between physical persons and persons in the spirit realm. But, never mind.
So as I went through these little songs--and most of them are quite brief, designed to be sung by families and friends around the hearth--I recognized a few of them. One, "I Would Not Live Alway," which sounds like an Irish hymn, is so painful I really can't play it much. It was probably a favorite of Abby's, but after her death it must have opened the gaping wound of Mathew's grief every time he heard it. My feeling is he would practically have to rush from the room--and he believed in Stoicism, and kept a very manful clamp on his feelings.
Another, "The May Fly," I immediately felt Mathew and Abby both loved. I even remembered the joke Mathew used to make about the title, because it is categorized as a "Glee," so that the title page reads, "Glee. The May Fly." Mathew would call it, "Glee, the May Fly," the inference being that Glee the May Fly was about to have the best day of his whole life, having the opportunity to mate all day long! This was the tenor of their relationship--he was the mischievous one, and she the more proper one, so that he delighted in making her laugh (and blush).
You won't find this in any correspondence--but these kinds of personal details are all through Mathew's short stories, and some of it came through the two psychic readings, as well.
Remember, as I write this, today, I am free from trying to prove anything to you--no less, to skeptics or cynics. This is what I prove to myself. I am not less honest about it--I just don't need to build a case to break through anyone's skepticism, when I am doing this.
So then I ran across another song I recognized. Most of these songs strike me as trite and contrived. But I hit this one, and not only did I recognize it, I anticipated it. I knew where the music line was going to go--and it went precisely where I knew it was going. The skeptic in myself (and there is one in there) asks, "Have I ever heard this tune before, in this life?" Maybe. I doubt it. These things are really, really obscure. Nobody sings them, nobody has ever heard of them. I didn't even record which one this was...I'm not sure I can find it, again. Let me see, did I even mark it?
Yes, here it is, the paper I was marking it with had slipped down out of sight. "Quartette. Away, Away, the Morning Freshly Breaking." Even typing the title, I feel a deep thrill. We must have loved this one. It is attributed to "Auber."** Can I find it on YouTube? If there is any chance I could have ever heard it in this lifetime, it should be popular enough to end up on YouTube (as a rough-and-ready test).
No, it's not on YouTube. But my sense of recognition is so strong--even from the title, even now, as I'm typing this--that I feel as though someone is shouting in my ear--"Don't you remember this? Don't you remember????"
I can feel what I felt, as Mathew, about this song. Abby and I didn't always feel so strongly about the same songs; but this was one we liked equally. That in itself made it special, because we could sing it with equal enthusiasm. That's what my feelings seem to tell me. It goes to our lifetime just before that one--I had been a sailor, who had had to leave her. So she didn't like anything to do with sailing, while I loved sailing songs. But this one had to do with the morning, which she loved. We both loved Nature.
All of these impressions come flooding in on me, just now. But none of this is the sort of thing one can convince skeptics with. A great deal of my book was written for, and to, the skeptics. I had to logically present my material to show that there was no wiggle room, no normal explanations. That hampers you a great deal. Here, I am free to simply report. Unless this was specifically mentioned in a diary or a letter, you can't prove it against the historical record. No-one was probably around, to witness it. Unless there is indeed an Akashic Record, no-one will ever know. But I know.
So will I find any more clues in the Dover "Enquirer," that perhaps my two researchers missed? I will be looking as a researcher, to prove my memories to the skeptics; but I will also be looking as Abby's fond partner. If I find any evidence of the former variety, I will probably end up reporting it, here. Whether I report any of the latter variety--to an audience which seems to be mostly gawking--depends on what mood I'm in.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*I find this even stranger, now that for several years I have been bidding on antique newspaper volumes. Even Vol. I of "The Carpet-Bag," signed by one of the contributors, only went for something like $1,200, with me being the only competitive bidder. This tiny, obscure volume with a handful of John Greenleaf Whittier's early poems should not have gone this high, it seems to me. JGW is not a big enough name--I purchased one of his physical possessions, with no competition at all, for $100, and you can get one of his personal letters for about the same if you shop around. A first edition of "Snow-Bound," the big hit that launched his public fame, isn't all that expensive. Let me see...on AbeBooks, the most expensive first edition listed is $1,589. One of Samuel Clemens' first editions of "Huckleberry Finn," signed, is listed for $215,000, which gives you an idea of their comparative star power. And Mathew Franklin Whittier is entirely obscure. I bought one of his personal letters for $12, I think it was. So what's with this $7,000 for the "Monitor"? (It was originally listed on Ebay for about $100.) Perhaps there was a bidding war between two people...but somebody must have had a personal interest of some kind in it, because I doubt he could ever get his money back out of it.
**After completing this Update, I looked him up, and found that Daniel Auber, born 1782, was French. A little further research tells me that this is part of "The Chorus of Fishermen" from his opera, "La muette de Portici," or "Masaniello." I think it's unlikely I have ever heard it, unless the melody has been popularized in some other work I'm more familiar with.
Music opening this page: "Remembrance," by Nancee Kahler, from the album, "Midnight Over Tokyo"