Yesterday's entry was a good one--I gave away a lot of my strongest evidence for Mathew's historical authorship of a number of important works. Going back to look at the particular piece of evidence I shared, confirming that Mathew Franklin Whittier was the real author of "The Raven," I see just how powerful it is. You'd have to be as familiar with Mathew's personality as I am, from having studied over 1,200 of his published works; and you'd have to have seen other examples of the way he would take revenge through his pen. Not so that anyone else would guess that's what was going on. Only the intended target would get the message. And that is precisely what Mathew was doing, appending a quote by Francis Quarles about integrity, onto the end of one of his "Ethan Spike" letters (in this case, a relative, Aaron Libbey from "Libbeyville"). Mathew probably had a gentleman's agreement with Elizur Wright, editor of the Boston "Chronotype," to write "Ethan Spike," from "Hornby," exclusively for him; but he knew that Poe, a Southerner, wouldn't read Wright's politically radical paper. He did know, however, that Poe would read the Portland "Transcript." So he would have compromised, just once, by creating a spin-off character for the "Transcript."
It occurred to me, after writing the above, that if Mathew wrote his sketch in this particular frame of mind, his story would have to reflect his mood. And indeed, it does. He writes a parody of a tiny, Maine town which becomes incorporated:
Then it was that a latent spirit of ambition and pride, which, in the language of Dea. Daniel Libbey, 'had hitherto lain dormouse, began to manifest and to mightily exalt itself.'
I know that Mathew was familiar with Francis Quarles, because in 1832, he brags about having obtained an old volume of Quarles' poetry, and then proceeds to give an example and discuss it. And, once again, you would have to be as familiar as I am with Mathew's style, and the way his mind works. In other words, it's flat-out proof, to me. Trying to prove anything to anyone else is an uphill battle. I could do it, if people would read all the evidence I can bring to bear on the subject. In other words, I would have to educate someone so that they knew as much as I know about Mathew's writing, and his personality. Then, I think it would stand as absolute proof for them, as well, unless they stubbornly remained in denial.
Denial is no great accomplishment, by the way. Anyone from a school boy to Einstein can go into denial.
Yesterday, I posted a notice about that day's blog entry on my Facebook page. As of today, there have been no responses. I suspect that the first couple of times I posted anything about my past life in the 19th century, all my friends blocked my posts. I don't have very many Facebook friends--I instituted a policy some time back of only accepting friendship requests from people I actually know. And I very, very rarely post anything at all, no less pertaining to my work. But I suppose one or two posts along this line is all it took.
The stats for this website show that as of the last 2-3 months, I have lost roughly 100 visitors per month, or approximately 1/4th. Yet, a handful of silent people continue to read this blog, despite the fact that I write in it every day or two. They read, presumably they understand, and yet they don't purchase my books. They continue to get the information in dribs and drabs. If they have followed it for any length of time, they have read more verbiage than the books, themselves! And yet, seemingly, nothing convinces them.
I do sometimes wonder who this handful is. Are these just random visitors, who stumble upon my blog, read the top two paragraphs, and click on something else when their fingers get itchy? Are they regulars who have some other agenda, such that they are not, actually, interested in my content? Do they find me entertaining, but don't actually believe me, even for a second?
Yesterday, I found myself in a novel situation, as an eldercare worker. My particular charge seated himself at a table where one of our number had severe dementia. She was in full-blown psychosis, and some of the others weren't in much better shape (though they thought they were--expressing this sentiment over and over). It was really tragicomic, because this person is always in an expansive, jolly mood--but what comes out of her mouth (whether she is relating to real people, or imaginary ones) is complete nonsense.
Is this what people perceive, as they read my blog for entertainment?
I'll tell you that when I went back to the relevant section in my first book, where I present this evidence that Mathew was putting Poe privately on notice, through this "Quarles" quote he published in the Portland "Transcript," I saw that it really is very strong evidence that Mathew was the real author of "The Raven" (as I already knew he was); and that Edgar Allan Poe stole it from him--apparently, by scooping him. Because if I understand the history of that poem correctly, it was first published under "---- Quarles"--but Edgar Allan Poe gave permission for another publication to give an advance printing. Then, when it came out under "---- Quarles," it was assumed to be Poe's, because he had supposedly given permission for the "preview."
By the way, as near as I can tell, nobody ever did this. No editor got permission to scoop another editor. It's an absurd explanation, based on everything I've seen about the way 19th-century newspapers and editors worked. It was not at all uncommon, however, to submit work that wasn't your own. I've found many examples of that. But I have seen no examples of advance printing by editorial permission.*
What if Mathew had previously shared this poem (a real grief poem) with Poe, in private. What if Poe got word, through the grapevine, that it was coming out, and scooped it? He had supposedly offered it to Graham's Magazine, for which he had once edited, and Graham rejected it, instead giving the down-and-out Poe a handout. Supposedly, according to the official myth, Graham rejected it because he was so stupid he couldn't recognize its literary worth. What if that's not the real reason he rejected it? If he knew that Poe wasn't the real author, but was hawking it as his own because he (Poe) was desperate, he might have taken pity on him and just offered him some money to tide him over.
Look at Poe's early poem, "Tamerlane," and then look at "The Raven." Did the author of the first (poor) poem improve that much, and change his style that radically?
The problem is that nobody properly understands "The Raven." If they did, they wouldn't suspect Poe of writing it. They would immediately cast about for the real author. And having found Mathew Franklin Whittier, and having become intimately acquainted with his life, they would immediately recognize the matching back-story, style, and talent.
Again, this was a real grief poem; and it reflected Mathew's tortured mind as he tried to apply the occult wisdom that his late wife Abby had taught him, but found himself unable to conquer his own skepticism. I have plenty of evidence for all of this, now. The reason that it would have made Mathew as angry as it did--and the reason that it kept bugging him, until he had to do something about it--is that the poem was so personal. But the reason he couldn't openly protest about it, is that he had been rushed into a family-arranged second marriage; and he couldn't let his present wife, Jane, know that he was still grieving Abby.
Abby had taught him metaphysics; Mathew was skeptical, but very, very gradually began to be convinced. However--as also reported by C.S. Lewis, in "A Grief Observed"--his intellectual understanding of such matters was overpowered by the sheer agony of grief. Only his primary bulwark--his sense of humor--was of any use in that situation. This is why we see the dark humor embedded in "The Raven."
Read Poe's explanation as to why he supposedly wrote this poem. It's about on the level of the classic excuse, "the dog ate my homework." In fact, it just now hit me--I'll bet Mathew was responding to Poe's explanation," given in an essay in Graham's Magazine entitled "The Philosophy of Composition." I haven't compared dates yet, as I write this. Okay, the essay came out in the April, 1846 edition. The "Quarles" quote, appended to the "Libbeyville" sketch, appeared in the Dec. 5, 1846 edition of the Portland "Transcript." That's just about right. It took eight months for it to come to Mathew's attention, and for it to boil inside him, before he finally acted on it.
Read Poe's commentary. It was just an intellectual exercise, to him. Clearly, he didn't even understand "The Raven," no-less write it. And no, he wasn't in grief at the time. It would be like attributing C.S. Lewis's "A Grief Observed" to another author, who himself was not in grief.
As for style, Mathew published this poem in the Portland "Transcript" in March of 1843:
A Fragment : : : By Poins.
Over Jordan, vale and mountain,
Silence gathered like a pall,
Stayed the torrent, sealed the fountain,
Boding stillness over all.
On Genassaret's waters playing
Not an idle zephyr roves,
O'er the Mount of Olives straying
Not a breeze the foliage moves.
Over Hermon slowly creeping
Giant shadows silent go,
Round his hoary summit sweeping,
Veil his coronal of snow.
Earth and air are clothed in mourning,
Sheeted dead from graves appear!
From her centre, deeply groaning,
Nature testifies her fear!
* * * * * *
Mete this general fear and sadness,—
Graves should open! mountains nod!
Mortal men are in their madness
Crucifying Nature's God!
If it makes it easier for you, by way of comparison, string the four lines in each stanza, above, into two. Or break up the lines of "The Raven," accordingly.
Do you want to know what portion of "The Crucifixion" was omitted, and why? I'm pretty sure I remember this. Abby had taught Mathew that extreme events in nature were physical reflections of the mental plane of existence (an idea we might want to take note of, today). After her death, he had accepted many of the things she had taught him, even though he had been skeptical at the time. But the editor, his personal friend Charles Ilsley, a skeptic of such matters, refused to print the relevant portion for fear of an adverse reaction from his Christian readers (Mathew, like Abby, was an esoteric Christian). Therefore, the meat of the thing, the real point of the poem, was omitted; and it appeared in print as you see it, here.
Later, writing for the "Carpet-Bag" in 1852, Mathew put posterity on-notice that he had been the author of "The Raven," by writing what has become the most popular (or, one of the most popular) parodies of "The Raven," called "The Vulture." He was demonstrating his authorship by skill. But he left it unsigned; and it, too has been tentatively claimed for somebody else. I can prove that it was published before the printing that historians cite;** and I can also demonstrate that it was part of a series in that newspaper, in which venture Mathew was a silent financial partner, and for which he wrote, under multiple pseudonyms, as many as four different pieces per issue. Knowing Mathew's humor, and his life-long dislike of bores, it's obviously his (the "Vulture" is a moocher, and a bore), as is the entire series. I could also show you other poems written by Mathew, under some of his identified pseudonyms, which are arguably of comparable quality.
For example, here's a poem that Mathew published in the 1850 Boston "Weekly Museum," under the signature, "Smike." In case you don't immediately recognize it, "Smike" is "Spike" spelled with an "M," for "Mathew." I think this one is particularly good, though it appeared on the 23rd of November, and was usefully employed wrapping fish (or, as Mathew once said of newspaper work, catching beard trimmings) on the 24th. Past-life intuitive memory has suggested to me that it may be an allegory for pesky plagiarists, so it is approps, here:
The Winds.—A Day in Autumn.
It is Autumn, chilly Autumn, and the winds are on the wing;
They’re a-whisking and a-frisking and afoul of everything!
With a whistle they salute me, and my nose they cool’y grasp;
Oh, they bite me like a serpent, and they sting me like a—wasp,
And they shrug their wicked shoulders, and they chuckle in their sleeves
At the new display of colors my poor nassal point receives!
They have teased old father Boreas till he’s given them a spree,
And they play the very dickens with everything they see;
They set the leaves a-flying o’er the grass-forsaken ground,
Like a sinful congregation when “the hat” is passing round;
And the saucy little rascals keep a-laughing in their sleeves,
At the rustling and the bustling they have made a-turning leaves!
Our old weather-cock—poor fellow!—he has had a sorry day;
He would gladly turn and face them, but he could not tell which way.
They’ve whirled him and they’ve twirled him till they’ve forced him from his roost,
And, grown giddy with excitement, he has given up the ghost!
And the wicked little wretches still are laughing in their sleeves
At his melancholy corpus, lying stark beneath the eaves.
And the rickety old building that stood nodding to the skies,
All in vain its solemn moanings, all in vain its stifled sighs!
With a crashing and a smashing that goes booming through the town,
It is openly assaulted and is rudely tumbled down!
And the devil-daring villains still keep laughing in their sleeve.—
Such a web of sad disasters ne’er an Argive loom could weave.
But the worst of all their doings with a shudder I repeat—
They have whisked my nose so often, you’d mistake it for a beet!
And my teeth, they chatter, chatter, with a hollow, deathly sound
Like a watchman’s rolling rattle as he walks his gloomy round,
Oh, the wicked little rascals! they may chuckle in their sleeves,
But all honest folks despise them as they would a band of thieves!
Where you see "...chatter, chatter, with a hollow deathly sound," Mathew is not merely imitating Poe. He's probably just so damned sick of worrying about whether someone will think he is, that he goes ahead and writes in his natural style, critics-be-damned. Either that, or perhaps he did it as a deliberate reference to Poe's "The Bells." Or both (depending on where Poe got the idea for "The Bells" in the first place).
I remember writing this, by the way. Not in the sense of cognitive memories--I mean I remember the feeling of writing it, and of being especially proud of it.
Something else just struck me, as I was putting in the HTML coding. Sometimes this happens, which is one reason I was continually revising my book, "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own words." I know that where Mathew has inserted a pun, or a double-meaning, he would put the relevant word or phrase in italics. This wasn't just Mathew, it seems to have been a literary convention. Not every single time--sometimes italics was just for emphasis. But the second or third time, watch out! Look at the line:
At the rustling and bustling they have made a-turning leaves!
"Leaves" can be taken as pages. "Turning leaves" means, reading through pages, i.e., pages of other peoples' work. Meanwhile, even now, the
...wicked little wretches still are laughing in their sleeves...
And note that "turning leaves" is not quite the verb one might expect. It fits (with a little help), but many other options come as readily to mind, like "blowing" leaves, or "as they scatter all the leaves," etc. Clearly, as a poet, he's attached to using the word "turning"; and that's because one "turns" the pages of a book.
What you don't know, because you haven't read as many of Mathew's works as I have, is how frequently Mathew wrote in allegory. He almost never wrote about any trite subject, like the autumn wind, without it having a second, hidden meaning. Usually, it was either philosophical, or deeply personal. In this case, I would guess the reason he wrote this poem in 1850, is that Francis A. Durivage had published an entire series of humorous sketches by Mathew, under Mathew's own pseudonym: "The Ol 'Un." Durivage was caught plagiarizing from an editor he worked for, so I'm not guessing about him. He also published these stories separately in the up-scale conservative "Gleason's Pictorial" (which paper probably paid quite well). My notes say that he copyrighted his book in 1848, but actually published it in 1850--but I can't find ready evidence of that online, at the moment. In any case, Durivage stole the series, and the pseudonym--then, apparently he induced a friend to put up the price of publication, by encouraging him to adopt the pseudonym, "The Young 'Un," and to collaborate with him. So the book, "Stray subjects, arrested and bound over, being the Fugitive Offspring of the 'Old 'Un' and the 'Young 'Un," contains stories under both signatures. Durivage would reproduce Mathew's works verbatim, as near as I can determine--but then, he would slip in some of his own. So you can't assume that everything written under "The Old 'Un" is Mathew's. I think about 85% of them are. He used them until he ran out.
There is a deep back-story for Mathew choosing this pseudonym. Mathew was probably told by Abby that he was an "old soul," and moreover, he seems to have believed he was the reincarnation of a Jewish high priest. He was also perpetually in grief for Abby, after her death in 1841. So he thought of himself as being old. In fact, his adopted persona for his "Quails" travelogue is an older man. Psychic Andrew Jackson Davis' description of Mathew, based on their private meeting in 1854, when Mathew was 42, reads similarly. When I encountered yogi Baba Hari Dass at a yoga retreat in 1974, he said to to the group, "Never think you are old. To God, all are children--and children always play." Then he looked straight at me.
Not surprisingly, there is no such back-story for the plagiarist, Francis Durivage. Mathew also wrote Durivage's book about Mike Martin, the last of the highwaymen, published in 1845. That might have been a ghost-writing situation; as Mathew had also ghost written a book about "Dr. Dodimus Duckworth" for his editor, Asa Greene, many years earlier. There is a ghost writer featured in one of the "Old 'Un" stories--and most of Mathew's stories were made up of disguised autobiography.
History is replete with people who were so far ahead of their time, that they were shunned, or simply misunderstood, and hence ignored. Many of them took it very badly. I refuse to follow suit. I began this website, as a supporting arm of my documentary project, in 1998. That's pretty early for the internet. When I added tiny, jerky video a couple of years later, I was one of the few people using streaming video online. That's 20 years ago, now. How many of you are old enough to remember those days? I have been doggedly putting it out there a very long time, and I am still earning just a bit above minimum wage, and living in relative poverty, and in complete obscurity--while all kinds of flaky conspiracy theorists flood the radio and internet talk shows, and sell their books.
I keep my feelings about all this in check. I won't self-destruct like so many of my predecessors have done over the centuries. I continue to write, and explain what I'm doing, to a handful of people who apparently won't tell anyone else, and won't buy my books, but will read this blog (or, some portion thereof) for entertainment, over their morning coffee and Dunkin donut.
I wrote "The Raven," and co-authored "A Christmas Carol." I'm nobody's fool. I can wait. In fact, I can out-wait you, all of you.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*I did, however, find an example of an unscrupulous editor (the same who colluded with Ossian Dodge to claim Mathew's travelogue, written under "Quails") who scooped Nathaniel Hawthorne. That's a matter of public record, and it did come to Hawthorne's attention.
**It was published, believe it or not, in Graham's Magazine almost exactly a year after Mathew published it in the "Carpet-Bag," precisely as it had originally appeared, including the illustrations--without attribution. So we have caught Graham red-handed.
Music opening this page: "Trail of Tears," by Eric Johnson,
Live performance on "Austin City Limits"
We will never hide in shame
But forever guard the flame
That's burning from Eternity.