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6/15/18

I don't have time to recap what I wrote yesterday--I will simply refer you to those two previous entries, accessible through the Archives link at the bottom of the page.

The 1852 mention, by publisher and editor Joseph T. Buckingham, that Mathew Franklin Whittier (myself in the 19th century) wrote for his paper as a boy, is beyond dispute in my opinion. For one thing, he mentions that "Whitney" used to write under various pseudonyms, as though this was a common practice. But as near as I can tell, it was a very uncommon practice--so much so, that Mathew may have been the only one who did it. A few writers would create a main character, and have him interact with his immediate circle of friends and family. B.P. Shillaber did this with "Mrs. Partington," where his stories would feature her husband, her nephew, and a few other members of her extended family. But what Mathew did is far more radical. He created dozens of characters--many of them having their own intimate circle--and also wrote essays, poems, stories, travelogues, etc. under various pen names. He would create a new pseudonym for a brief series, or a one-off, at the drop of a hat. Therefore, just that Buckingham mentions this one detail, comes very close to proving Mathew's authorship, inasmuch as it can't be anybody else, because nobody else did this. I can easily demonstrate how rare this was, because you can find lists of 19th century literary pseudonyms, and for every writer in the list, from A to Z, there is a one-to-one correspondence. But where you see Mathew Franklin Whittier, and he is paired up with the one character, "Ethan Spike," this is a very serious mistake. The only reason that Mathew became known as the author of "Ethan Spike," is that he was outed as the author of that series in 1857. So far as I know, this is not the case for any other writers of the period.

There are contra-indications in Buckingham's description, but these are deliberate ruses to hide Mathew's identity. Meanwhile, in creating a false name, he has retained Mathew's initials--"M.W."--and he has even gone so far as to retain the first four letters of Mathew's last name, i.e., "Whitney" for "Whittier." There's more, if you scrutinize it carefully. For example, it's clear enough that the main reason he cites the author of "Trismegistus" in his paper, in 1828, is that this same pseudonym is now gaining a great deal of attention (positive and negative) in the Boston "Carpet-Bag," in 1852, when Buckingham's memoirs are published. He can't resist bragging that "Trismegistus" first wrote for his own paper. But then, he says that "Whitney" is dead. But if Whitney is dead, the popular one in the "Carpet-Bag" must be a different author. If he's a different author, why brag on it in the first place? Not only that, if he's a different author, Buckingham would then be obligated to point this out.

Keep in mind that I found two poems under this same signature, which in my estimation, given the context and style, were almost certainly Mathew's work, in the 1835 New York "Transcript" (reprinted from the New Haven "Herald"). I have established beyond a reasonable doubt that Mathew was contributing heavily to the "Transcript," and may have been acting as its junior editor, at this time. I have evidence suggesting that Mathew would occsionally submit to other papers when he was on leave, and then, as the junior editor, insert the pieces into his own paper when he got back on the job in New York.

No, it's Mathew, alright, and Buckingham is compromising on his promise to keep mum, because it's his memoirs, and he can't resist mentioning it.

Now. What occurs to me is that historians must be a very naive lot. Either that, or they are lazy. They take what any Tom, Dick or Harry asserts, and repeat it as fact. Once one or two of them have done this, the rest just copy. And when the mistake finds its way into textbooks it's a done deal. Nobody dares question it, after that.

So when Buckingham says, in his memoirs, that "Trismegistus" first wrote for his paper in 1828, and that was "Moses Whitney"--who, by the way, died some years ago--that becomes fact. And when B.P. Shillaber comes out with his memoirs, and asserts that the "Trismegistus" writing for his paper was Benjamin Drew, that is also historical fact.

In the same way, even though Charles Dickens has been caught out plagiarizing, and lying about his long-time affair, still, when he claims that he wrote "A Christmas Carol" as a potboiler, to avoid going into debt, inside of six weeks, that is fact. And when Edgar Allan Poe (who has also been suspected of plagiarism) claims "The Raven," which was first submitted under the pseudonym "----- Quarls," despite the fact that Poe never used pseudonyms like this, and had not written poetry like this, that, also, becomes fact.

Keep in mind that, logically, a plagiarizer will typically be found to have plagiarized his best works, and hence his major works--because these are precisely those works he was incapable of producing by himself.

But nobody believes me. It's exasperating. (I was going to write, "disgusting.")

Well, I have been naive (especially about women) in my life, as well. All I can say is, that when you look more deeply into these things, all is not as it seems. People still believe that dramatic, fantastical story that Paul told about his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, too. (I'm sure he and his fellow-Pharisees must have chuckled over how guillible the Christians were--i.e., the bulk of them.) It's an uphill battle trying to set these things straight.

On an entirely different topic--or, perhaps not--studying Mathew's earliest works, I am really getting a clear sense of just how much his true love, Abby, influenced his philosophy of life. When he starts out, he has only ridicule for anything which smacks of the occult or of metaphysics; likewise, vegetarianism. And he is in favor of the "colonization" solution for black slaves, i.e., sending them back to Africa. He is against abolition, for the reason that he thinks it will only incite insurrections, which violence will rebound on them and create horrific suffering all-around.

Some few years later, he is secretly co-authoring, with Abby, a series of devastatingly logical letters to the editor, defending the abolitionist position against the pro-colonization contingent. Still later, one finds him defending Swedenborg's teachings, and then, in the mid-1850's, he is advocating for Spiritualism and vegetarianism. Abby had died in 1841, but her influence on Mathew extended far beyond her lifetime. Only after the Civil War, in the 1860's, do we find Mathew reverting to a philosophy of cynical practicality. At this time he is an aging has-been, stuck in a repetitive clerical job, in a practical marriage to someone he has little substantially in common with, and he has begun drinking again.

In this life, I started out as an atheist, raised by atheistic parents, though having all of Mathew's insights just under the surface of my consciousness, struggling to surface. I finally did an aburpt turn-around in my late teens, and once again embraced the spiritual point of view. Then, in 2010, I reconnected with Abby, herself.

I think it makes an interesting story. Perhaps someone else will think so too, someday. Perhaps that will happen when Society as a whole is going through the same shift that I have gone through, and people can relate to it better.

Best regards,

Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.

 

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