I got word from interlibrary loan today that my request is on its way. This is a dissertation about the editor of the paper that Mathew Franklin Whittier (my past-life self) appears to have been working on for a little over a year, from 1834-1835. My hope is that there will be a direct mention of Mathew reporting for the paper during that time.
When I first stumbled on Mathew's proposed work for this paper a few weeks ago, it didn't seem very significant. Mostly, he was covering the "police office" arraignment hearings for this New York City daily penny paper. But there were a handful of essays, humorous sketches, and the like scattered through these editions. I began to realize that here, I had evidence that he was writing at a very high level at age 22, in 1834. I did already have a few even earlier samples from 1831/32, but mostly those were book reviews; and the ones that weren't book reviews, were a bit tricky to definitely attribute to him. Now, suddenly, I had a huge body of work which I can more definitely say was his.
You may be familiar with my claim--made in year 2006, before I had studied the historical record--that Mathew and his first wife, Abby, were the real and original writers of the story that Charles Dickens modified into "A Christmas Carol," which he self-published in time for the holiday season in 1843.* For several years, I have been able to point to work that Mathew did as early as 1842, which was of very high quality. But now, I can point to work of similar quality (because Mathew's talents didn't really so much develop, as they "hatched") in 1834. Charles Dickens hit the literary scene with "The Pickwick Papers" in 1836.
Let that sink in a minute. The person who I claim wrote that book, "A Christmas Carol," was publishing work at a similar level of competence before Dickens. Admittedly, it always seemed a bit unlikely to me that a rural farmer would have been able to set a story convincingly in London. But maybe it originally wasn't London...maybe it was New York City.
This simply means that one more leg of "proposterousness" has been knocked out from the skeptic's reaction. That's a backwards way to put it, but I think that's the way we must look at it. The thing is preposterous on the face of it, because we all know that Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol." I think he really would not be nearly as famous, today, if his name wasn't associated with it. Suppose we lift that book out of his legacy. Now, what else does the general public know, of his? I don't mean what you were forced to read in English Lit class. I mean what everybody knows. Well, they probably know Oliver Twist, and "Please, sir, I want some more." They may know David Copperfield--but wait, I ran across some pretty strong evidence that Dickens plagiarized that one, as well. So you have to lift Copperfield out, too.
In my book, "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own words," I have ended up addressing this question in three distinct sections. I didn't plan it that way, obviously, but that's what I ended up with. In one section, I show that there was definitely contact between Dickens and Mathew; and that a meeting in Boston, in 1842, is very plausible. In another section, I analyze the work, itself. You can get high-res scans of the original hand-written draft, and despite the fact that Dickens scribbled out what was there before very heavily (and uniformly so), you can tease out quite a bit of it. The entire draft is in his handwriting, of course. But what was there before sounds a great deal more like Mathew Franklin Whittier's prose, than Dickens', which suggests that the first thing he did was to copy over the entire manuscript. Of particular interest to me, beyond overall writing style, are any colloquialisms, and especially those which were scratched out by Dickens.
I am still typing up those copious "Police Office" reports. Recently, I found two idioms in Mathew's 1834 writing, which appear in the "Carol." One of them was retained, and one--if I interpret correctly--was scratched out. This isn't proof (unless some of these turn out to have been specific to New England), but they contribute to the weight of the evidence. Also, the style--especially the introduction to the "Carol"--is right down the line consistent with Mathew's style. Well, up until now, I would have to admit that Mathew could have been influenced by Dickens. But here we have Mathew writing, in this same style, before Dickens ever published. So I think it's clear which came first. Coming first doesn't equate to influence, but if you just want to go by chronology, Mathew was writing in the same style which is seen in the introduction to "A Christmas Carol," two years before Dickens came on the literary scene, and nine years before that book, itself, was published.
For now, I have enough evidence to prove Mathew's authorship of this body of work for the New York paper, beyond a reasonable doubt. If, however, this dissertation contains a direct reference to his having worked on it, then I will have clinched that part of it.
Oh, I forgot to mention what the third section in my book, about Dickens, focuses on. There is overlap in these three separate sections, but in the third, I turn my attention to his character. It appears to me that he was a plagiarist, a hypocrite, and an egotist. He was unfeeling toward both animals and children. His work only superficially appears to be an expression of his social conscience--it is actually sensationalism in the guise of social conscience. And that is not just my opinion. He had no belief in, nor respect for, the paranormal; and, in fact, the original subtitle of "A Christmas Carol" was "A Ghost Story of Christmas." But "A Christmas Carol," even with his modifications from Abby's original, contains genuine metaphysics and occult knowledge. It could no more have originated in the mind of Dickens (and that, inside of six weeks), than a donkey could sport an elephant's head.
I wonder--what if I could 100% prove that it was Mathew Franklin Whittier, collaborating with his wife, Abby Poyen Whittier, who were the real and original authors of "A Christmas Carol?" Basically, by a preponderance of the evidence, I have done so, already. But what if I could find, say, a secret admission by Dickens in a newly-discovered letter? Or a revelation by an associate? If I found such a thing, would anybody pay any attention to me? Because it came from me, even if I had definite proof, I think I would simply be ignored. And isn't it interesting, what it takes to establish something as real. Just proving it isn't enough. You have to get the Wizard of Oz, or someone, to sign off on it. If that high muckity-muck doesn't sign off on it, it doesn't exist.
I am also wondering whether anybody would care, period. That work is supposed to be famous, but there have been so many artless spin-offs from it, lately, that I think it is watered down in the public's mind. I haven't seen the film on TV during the Christmas season for years--except for a 3D Disney version, which looked truly awful. Meaning, from the spiritual perspective. All renderings of it lose something of what Abby and Mathew embedded into it, spiritually--but as near as I could tell from the preview, Disney managed to entirely destroy it. The best, in many respects, was the Mr. Magoo version (an excerpt of which I'm going to use for the audio opening this page).
Mathew and Abby were burning with idealism. They wanted to transform the world by putting those who saw their play--and I do think Abby had in mind for it to be a play, originally--through a spiritual conversion experience. But it wasn't just Christian. Abby had studied Hermeticism, Alchemy, and esoteric Christianity, as well as the occult. This was no ghost story, when she wrote it. If you want to see her prose, look at the soliloquies given by the ghosts. If you want to see Mathew's contribution, look at the jocular puns in the introduction. These are two different writers--a brilliant young Victorian woman writing in deadly earnest, and her husband and protege, a natural humorist. That is the charm of the "Carol." Dickens, as near as I can tell from a close scrutiny of the original draft, "pontificated" it, stretched it out, and watered it down. You would have to study Abby's own short stories (which frequently include all of these same elements of mysticism, spirituality and the occult), and Mathew's stories (which are both philosophical and hilarious), and their handful of collaborations. You would see all the elements, there.
As for the absurdity that Charles Dickens could have written "A Christmas Carol," a teaching story by Rumi comes to mind. But as I read it, maybe it tells me, "Let it go." Or maybe it says, "Don't waste your breath on these people." But definitely, it says, as regards Dickens, "Be not misguided enough to believe foolish assertions."
I'm telling you, he could not possibly have written "A Christmas Carol"--not within six weeks, not within six years.
The Counsels of the Bird (trans. E.H. Whinfield)
A man captured a bird by wiles and snares;
The bird said to him, "O noble sir,
In your time you have eaten many oxen and sheep,
And likewise sacrificed many camels;
You have never been satisfied with their meat,
So you will not be satisfied with my flesh.
Let me go, that I may give you three counsels,
Whence you will see whether I am wise or foolish.
The first of my counsels shall be given on your wrist,
The second on your well-plastered roof,
And the third I will give you from the top of a tree.
On hearing all three you will deem yourself happy.
As regards the counsel on your wrist, 'tis this,--
'Believe not foolish assertions of any one!'"
When he had spoken this counsel on his wrist, he flew
Up to the top of the roof, entirely free.
Then he said, "Do not grieve for what is past;
When a thing is done, vex not yourself about it."
He continued, "Hidden inside this body of mine
Is a precious pearl, ten drachms in weight.
That jewel of right belonged to you,
Wealth for yourself and prosperity for your children.
You have lost it, as it was not fated you should get it,
That pearl whose like can nowhere be found."
Thereupon the man, like a woman in her travail,
Gave vent to lamentations and weeping.
The bird said to him, "Did I not counsel you, saying,
'Beware of grieving over what is past and gone?'
When 'tis past and gone, why sorrow for it?
Either you understood not my counsel or are deaf.
The second counsel I gave you was this, namely,
'Be not misguided enough to believe foolish assertions.'
O fool, altogether I do not weigh three drachms,
How can a pearl of ten drachms be within me?"
The man recovered himself and said, "Well then,
Tell me now your third good counsel!"
The bird replied, "You have made a fine use of the others,
That I should waste my third counsel upon you!
To give counsel to a sleepy ignoramus
Is to sow seeds upon salt land.
Torn garments of folly and ignorance cannot be patched.
O counsellors, waste not the seed of counsel on them!"
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*In 2006, what I had said was, that I felt that Mathew had had something to do with writing that work.
Audio opening this page: Excerpt from "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol"