Finally, the thesis I had on order through interlibrary loan arrived yesterday. I had the gut feeling that it would not be entirely to my liking; but I extrapolated from that feeling, that it might confirm my past-life involvement with the 1834/35 New York "Transcript," as Mathew Franklin Whittier, but it might say something unflattering about him.
As has happened over and over in the course of my research, the gut feeling was right, but the extrapolation was off.
Per usual in these Updates, I'm not going to be precise in my citations, here. Don't be fooled into thinking I am a sloppy researcher--it is all nailed down in my book. I'm just speaking in a general way, here. When I obtained this thesis, written at the University of Minnesota for a doctorate in philosophy (of all things), I learned that the author attributed the Police Office reports, which I had been certain were Mathew's work, to a former typesetter named William H. Attree. I was able to trace this attribution as far back as 1855, where it appears in a biography of someone else.
But this is a typical pattern. Mathew, being a natural literary genius, would add his particular unique spark to a fledgling paper. His work would become popular, and the paper would begin to grow, accordingly. But Mathew didn't fit in, being more spiritual and more liberal than his co-workers and employers; and the radical, sarcastic bite in his work (think, Jon Stewart or Lee Camp) would eventually cause him to leave the paper--after which it would decline into mediocrity.
Meanwhile, there always appears to have been someone who had enough talent, and few-enough scruples, to claim Mathew's work after the fact. This person would make a career on that claim; and their supposed authorship of the material would then find its way down to posterity, such that I find it that way, today.
I know full-well that this sounds self-serving. But there is a lot of background to this, in my book. I can match up pieces in the "Transcript" point-for-point with pieces Mathew wrote later in life, where he would re-use the same gags and ideas. He would even re-use variations on favorite names--or in a few cases, the exact name, intact. He would also use favorite words and expressions; and since I have hundreds of his works digitized now, with a simple search I can tell you how many instances of a particular colloquialism appear in his writing. Thus, I could actually give you raw statistical data, linking this work for the "Transcript" to Mathew's later writing.
As an example, how often do you find the word "sublunary," in the 19th century or in any century? The writer I believe to be Mathew, uses it in two different pieces in the "Transcript"; while Mathew used it twelve times in his later work. And there are many more such correspondences.
So much for positive identification--could I shoot down the claimed attribution for Attree? Indeed, on two counts. The less-strong of the two, is that Attree is prejudiced, whereas Mathew, at age 23/24, is not nearly so much so. One can never say that a white man in America isn't prejudiced, because of how deeply-ingrained these things are. I find it annoyingly in myself at times. Perhaps I will need to incarnate black before I really get rid of it. But Mathew primarily took people as he found them, giving them the benefit of the doubt and siding with the underdog, whoever that happened to be. Everything was grist for the mill, for his humor--albeit his humor had a moral and spiritual undergirding. So if he could find humor in a situation involving blacks, or Irish, or Dutch, or Yankees, or anybody else, he would render them all in dialect, with their peculiarities--but it wasn't mean-spirited. Attree, on the other hand, does seem to have been both prejudiced, and subtly mean-spirited. Where he wrote of social ills, there was a sense of the gratiuitous about it; while when Mathew wrote of them, it was as I've portrayed it, above. Grist for the humor mill--a sense of the ludicrous, a hint of moralizing, a sense of sympathy for the underdog. Very different vibe, in other words--very different personality, and very different spiritual essence.
Fortunately, there were two poems that I think we can almost certainly assign to Attree's pen--being signed "Willy from Wallstreet." The almanac directory for 1835 doesn't list either man (presumably, because listings were only for men with trades, who wanted their clientele to be able to find them). So we don't know whether Attree actually lived on Wall Street. But I think we can be comfortable in assuming that these poems were his. They give us a clear sense of his voice--and it is not, in my estimation, the voice that one sees in the Police Reports.
Where I have inserted this new information into my book, "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own words," I have quoted both poems by way of illustration. I won't do so, here. Again, this is meant to be conversational and descriptive, not the actual presentation of evidence. For that you would have to part with $12, to purchase my e-book. (And for this particular information, you would have to wait a couple of days for me to tweak it and upload it.)
But I will tell you what the stronger piece of evidence is, discrediting the claim for Attree. In another text, published in the early 20th century, is an anecdote concerning him, during his tenure on another paper, the "Herald." Here, it is said, he would often brag that he never took notes, having what we would now call an eidetic memory. He simply attended the proceedings, went home, and wrote it all out verbatim, from memory. When challenged, he demonstrated this ability to the narrator. They attended a talk, and Attree sat the entire time with his hands in his pockets. He then went home and wrote it all out verbatim, which matched up very closely with the transcription of the talk which was published by someone else.
Now, we know that Attree had an eidetic memory, that he was proud of it and bragged about it; and we also know, incidentally, that he was a braggart, or at least a show-off.
In one of the Police Office reports, purportedly written by him for the New York "Transcript"--one of the ones I feel sure was Mathew Franklin Whittier's work, by style--the reporter specifically mentions that he was taking notes. It came up because the prisoner turned to him and challenged him to report the proceedings accurately.
Logically, a man who is proud of his ability to work without note-taking, would never admit, in his own column, to taking notes.
Therefore the reporter of the Police Office series was not William H. Attree, even though it is there in black-and-white in a doctorial thesis; and even though it is given by a biographer in 1855 (which was, perhaps, the doctoral student's source).
Reed, the thesis author, goes into a great deal of detailed research, the purpose of which is to confirm that his subject, Asa Greene, was probably the author of various unsigned, clever humorous sketches published in the paper. These are sketches I would claim for Mathew Franklin Whittier, per style and per comparison with dozens of Mathew's other works. But here, too, there is evidence refuting Reed's conclusions. He presents a humorous sketch, which I know from my research is typically "Mathewsian," honestly mentioning in a footnote that it was cited, by the editor, as having been reprinted from the Cincinnati "Mirror." However, he says that he found no mention of the "Mirror" existing in 1835, and so concludes that this was some kind of inexplicable error, and that the sketch was almost certainly written by Greene.
This, in case you're interested, is an example of magical thinking in academia, i.e., to magically wish this annoying piece of evidence away, because it was inconvenient. And this fellow presumably attained a doctorate in Philosophy.
Unfortunately for Reed, records are more complete, today, and much more readily accessed. The Library of Congress shows one "Buckeye and Cincinnati Mirror" existing as of Oct. 31, 1835, their copy being from "Vol. 5, no. 1." This neatly turns the tables on Reed--because Greene would not have written a sketch, submitted it to a Cincinnati paper, and then turned around and reprinted it in his own New York paper, citing the first publication in Cincinnati. That not only eliminates that particular sketch as Greene's work--it seriously brings into question his authorship of all the other sketches, written in a similar style, found in that paper.
I had first concluded that Mathew ceased his involvement with the paper as of June 2, 1835, when his employer, James Hoyt, announced their partnership in Haverhill, Mass. At that point, Mathew's contributions appear to cease--but then, they seem to pick back up, again. Mathew was probably the traveling sales agent for Hoyt's business, retaining essentially the same duties even after their announced partnership. Perhaps he was stationed for several weeks in different cities.* Now that he was traveling, when stationed in Cincinnati he would write for a paper, there; while stationed in New York City, he would resume his work for the "Transcript," there. This is a far more plausible explanation, than that Greene would submit his work to papers in other states, and then turn around and reprint them in his own paper.
I rest my case.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
P.S. It occurs to me, later in the day (I wrote this in the early a.m. hours), that this is a very small example of what my theories will do to a great many people in academia. My work, if it is ever accepted as genuine, will, at one stroke, decimate a host of doctoral dissertations, nobel-prize-winning tomes, college texts, and reputations, to boot. I'm aware of this, and it gives me a kind of glee--because as Mathew Franklin Whittier, I lampooned the academicians who dismissed me out-of-hand, using my satirical character, "Dr. E. Goethe Digg" (which work was mis-attributed to one Benjamin Drew).
On the other hand, I suppose I feel sympathy for them all. Except that these lauds and honors are ill-gotten gains. If they had had the humility to listen, not to me, but to generations of people like me, they wouldn't have built such a house of cards, on which their reputation--living and posthumous--now rests. It's not my fault if I belatedly take back what's mine, and set the record straight. When this earthquake will take place, I don't know. Look at the earthquake which will result when St. Paul is exposed! Never mind Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe. All I know is, whether or not one feels one must protect social institutions from such disruptions, the truth will out. I strongly suggest aligning oneself with it now, regardless of cost.--SS
*Most likely what happened, is that Mathew sent Greene the clipping from the Cincinnati paper, using its common name, the "Mirror," in his cover letter; so that Greene simply cited it accordingly, not knowing its full name.
Music opening this page: theme from "Perry Mason"