My friend and researcher is poised to go into the historical library today, and I'm still trying to catch up with digitizing the last batch. I have about nine more pieces from the newspaper that Mathew wrote for in 1834/35, the New York "Transcript," to key in. I have two folders--one for pieces that I'm relatively certain he wrote, and another for "possibles." I always try to err on the side of caution when it comes to attributing any published work to his pen.
I have occasionally described Mathew as a "dark planet" circling the 19th century literary skies. Quite a few people became famous, or at least launched their careers and came to the public's admiring attention, by claiming his work. This becomes more complicated, because Mathew, himself, preferred to remain in the background. Some of this work, I think, was actually ghost written by him; and so, in a sense, might rightfully belong to those who had paid for it. Some of this was outright theft; and some was trickery, I think. Meaning, the person claiming Mathew's work found some rationale, which Mathew, in his naivete, bought. Mathew didn't realize just how good a writer he was; but the person claiming it did recognize his talent. So in certain cases, Mathew felt, "Who am I to resent this great man using my work?"
While in the back of his mind, some part of him knew that the man in question was not even his literary equal. What Mathew didn't realize is that such a person might have gained his fame through connections, or imitation, or by subtly appealing to the base side of human nature, while pretending to write with an elevating motive. Gradually, it would dawn on him, though he would try to dismiss such thoughts, that he had been "had."
I thought, as I am taking a break from keying in these newspaper articles, that I'd just run through the list of the work Mathew did throughout his life, which was claimed for, or became attributed to, other writers. I have done due diligence in trying to establish that this is accurate. If you wish to dispute my findings, you would have to read my book, where I give the evidence. If you wish to dismiss my findings out-of-hand, of course, this is a free country (barely), but such a snap judgement would be worth $0.00.
As a young man of 17-19, in 1830/31, Mathew appears to have written for the New York "Constellation," both by submission, and later on by contract there in New York (this is what I am researching, today). That work is attributed by historians to his editor, Dr. Asa Greene.
In 1833, Mathew ghost wrote a book for Asa Greene, entitled "The Life and Adventures of Dr. Dodimus Duckworth."
In 1834/35, Mathew worked for another of Greene's papers, the New York "Transcript." He wrote the Police Office reports which made the paper popular; he occasionally substituted as editor pro tem (as near as I can tell), and wrote other humorous sketches, fillers, faux letters to the editor, and so-on. The Police Office reports are officially attributed to another reporter, William H. Attree; and the rest, to the editor, Asa Greene.
In 1836, Mathew ghost wrote an anti-slavery, pro-Abolition sermon for Rev. David Root of Dover, NH, which gained Root some notoriety.
In 1842, after the death of his wife, Abby, the previous year, Mathew shared with Charles Dickens (who was touring the U.S., and stayed for a couple of weeks in Boston), a manuscript that he and Abby had collaborated on. Dickens published it the following year under the title, "A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas."
In 1845, Mathew's poem, "The Raven," written as a tribute to his late wife, Abby, under the pseudonym "------ Quarles," was claimed by Edgar Allan Poe.
In 1845, Mathew apparently ghost wrote a book entitled "Mike Martin, or, the last of the highwaymen: A romance of reality," for Francis A. Durivage. Either that, or Durivage (who was later exposed as a plagiarist), stole it.
In 1846, Mathew launched his "Ethan Spike" series, in open tribute to Seba Smith's "Major Jack Downing" series, which Smith appeared to have stopped writing about a decade earlier. This is the only series which is attributed, by historians, to Mathew.
In 1848, Mathew began contributing extensively to a new "incarnation" of the "Weekly Museum" in Boston. He may have been on-staff, as well. He wrote under a variety of pseudonyms, adopting various characters (some of whom wrote faux letters to the editor). None of these, so far as I know, were claimed by any other authors, except the most popular one--a travelogue written under "Quails." This, both the editor, and historians, attribute to a singer and entertainer named Ossian Dodge.
In the late 1840's, it appears that Mathew shared his work with two people--a publisher named George W. Light, who had been Mathew's editor a decade earlier, for a Boston young man's magazine called "The Essayist"; and Francis Durivage. He shared poetry with Light (including some of his first wife's poetry), and a series of short stories written under "The Old 'Un," with Durivage. Light published the poems as his own, in a collection; Durivage published the "Old 'Un" stories serially in "Gleason's Pictorial," and then again, in book form.
In 1851, Mathew took a silent partnership in a Boston family magazine called the "Carpet-Bag." He had previously been writing in association with B.P. Shillaber, creator of the "Mrs. Partington" character, for the Boston "Pathfinder," a free paper that Shillaber had recently been appointed editor to. But when Shillaber launched the "Carpet-Bag," Mathew went in on the venture, writing as many as four different pieces for each weekly issue--again, under a slew of pseudonyms and characters. Historically, Mathew is only credited with a handful of "Ethan Spike" sketches for this paper, though a comment by Shillaber, in retrospective, that they were "fellow-sufferers" in the venture, makes it clear that Mathew had a financial interest.
Here again, the characters which were most popular with the public, were written by Mathew: "Dr. E. Goethe Digg" and "Ensign Stebbings." They were attributed both by the editor, and by historians, to one Benjamin Drew.
Famous writer and comedian Charles Farrar Browne got his start when he was an apprentice for the "Carpet-Bag." He took one of Mathew's "Old 'Un" stories (either directly from Mathew, or from "Gleason's"), re-worked it, and inserted it into the paper without the editor's permission.
The demise of the "Carpet-Bag" marked the end of Mathew's dreams of editing his own paper (which he had once done, briefly, in 1838). He had contributed frequently, also to the Boston "Chronotype," an ultra-liberal paper, and to the Portland (Maine) "Transcript," another liberal paper, both as "Ethan Spike" and under other pseudonyms, but none of this work was claimed by other authors, nor was it ever attributed to him. Mathew retired "Ethan Spike" in 1863, possibly under duress of some kind, resuming it sporadically after the war was well over, until the mid-70's. However, he wrote one piece a few months before his death, which was published posthumously about a year later, under the name of his friend and co-worker, Frank Harriman.
In 1856/57, Mathew was a member of the Portland Spiritualist Association. He ghost-wrote a pamphlet, ostensibly, taken from a series of extemporaneous talks given by the president of that organization, Jabez Woodman, in response to an anti-Spiritualist sermon by a conservative preacher. That booklet is, apparently, fairly well-known in Spiritualist circles, today. A similar anti-slavery booklet was published anonymously by Mathew around the same time. How many more such anonymous publications were written by Mathew, is unknown. These are just the ones I managed to stumble across, and felt confident identifying as his work.
Many years after Mathew's death, his long-time editor at the Portland "Transcript," Edward Elwell, gave a talk about writers whose characters spoke in genuine Yankee dialect. This was Mathew's forte, and Elwell didn't even mention him. Instead, he gave, as his foremost example, James Russell Lowell's "Biglow Papers." But the circumstantial evidence is clear, that Lowell wrote those letters in response to, and in imitation of, Mathew's early "Ethan Spike" letters in the Boston "Chronotype." Mathew's work was of better quality, I would say, than Lowell's imitation; and people had been quoted calling Spike genius-level work in the "Transcript." Why would Elwell ignore Mathew's legacy that way, years after his death?
I see only two possible explanations. Either they had a falling out, or more likely, Mathew swore everyone he had ever written for, to secrecy--committing what I have dubbed "legacy suicide."
Mathew Franklin Whittier and Benjamin Penhallow Shillaber appear to have had a long-time friendship and collaboration. Shillaber actually used Mathew's unfortunate, arranged second marriage as inspiration for a character, one "Mr. Blifkins"; and Mathew ghost wrote the faux biography of Shillaber's character, "Mrs. Partington," in "The Life and Sayings of Mrs. Partington." This work was actually done earlier, for the Boston "Pathfinder" and then for the "Carpet-Bag," but Shillaber published it in book form in 1854, the year after the "Carpet-Bag" folded. "Blifkins the Martyr" appeared in "Partingtonian Patchwork," in 1873.
In Mathew's later years, one notable production of his was attributed to another famous author. Mathew's famous brother, John Greenleaf Whittier, was thrown an extravagant birthday party by his publisher (mainly, it seems, as a publicity stunt). At that party, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) read a humorous sketch lambasting three of the guests of honor: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. But this was Mathew's style--and I believe it was Mathew's sketch, which he must have asked Clemens to read--under a promise of secrecy--as his birthday gift to his brother. Mathew does not appear in the seating chart for this event--but one account says that as the room fell into shocked silence, one voice was heard laughing hysterically. That would be Mathew, laughing not only at the sketch he had written, but at the practical joke he had pulled, getting revenge for not being taken seriously by the literary elite of Boston. I have discovered that Mathew had long been a personal friend of Holmes; I suspect he was friends with Longfellow in his later years, in Boston. Not so, probably, with Emerson; and Clemens would have been a junior writer, to Mathew.
I have to post this and get back to my digitizing work. I may have missed a few, here. I have identified over 700 of Mathew's published works, now, not counting fillers and such he wrote on-staff of this or that newspaper. I haven't even covered all of the influential work he did--here, I'm only listing the erroneous claimants.
This will probably fall on deaf ears--being one Update of dozens and dozens that I'm churning out, now. I'm just saying, Mathew Franklin Whittier was a dark planet circling--and influencing--the literary climate of his times. A great deal of the American literary history of the 19th century will make a lot more sense, once he is put back in place.
I would only add, here, that if I'm just another weird conspiracy theorist, then of course I deserve to be dismissed. But if I'm right, this is a big deal--and that's not even touching on the proof I have that I am actually the reincarnation of this person.
I would have closed, here, but the very next piece I keyed in was priceless. This is Mathew Franklin Whittier writing as a reporter covering the Police Office (arraignment hearings) for the New York "Transcript," in the August 6, 1835 edition. He has been covering these for well over a year, and becoming somewhat bored with the job, he has turned them into humorous literature. Remember that this is the year before Charles Dickens first began publishing with "The Pickwick Papers"; and it is 17 years before a 16-year-old Samuel Clemens will publish his first humorous sketch in the "Carpet-Bag." Mathew, here, is 23 years old.
Enjoy. (Please forgive any typos, as I have just keyed this but I typically go back and spell-check them once I've finished digitizing the entire lot.)
[Reported for the Transcript.]
"Some had money, and some had none,
And that's the way the row begun."
A Hullabaloo.--Pat. O'Haran, Mike M'Naugaty, Dennis Doyle, and Terence O'Thule, were all brought up for beating each other. These hilligrant "boys," who, to judge by their names, would appear to have been any thing but natives, had been, it appears, over night a "waking" one Morgan O'Doughtery, who died "one day" in the middle of the night, and beginning of the week; after first waking Mr. Morgan, and then dacently putting him beneath the sod, they turn'd on their heels and turn'd into a porter house.--"Bring me a pint of whiskey, Mary, avourneen," said Mike, "it's dry I am wid sorrow for Morgan; oh, the salt tears of grief makes a man dreadful thirsty. Hand me the whiskey, avourneen!" He had hardly taken his seat, before Biddy, the landlady, began with "Morrow good day to you, Mike, and many of thim same; it's a cliver good man was poor dead and gone Morgan, so he was." "He was cliver enough, in his way, but he wanted to learning," replied Terence. "And now he's out of the way," says Dennis, "we'll drink his health, so we will." "It's a dreadful mistake, you mean, dirty Dennis," said Pat, "to be drinking the health of a man that lost all his own health by drinking, by the same token that he's now put under the turf!"
"I suppose his cousin Raffy was at the expense of the berrin," said Biddy. "Troth and he was that same, though Morgan didn't deserve to have a dacent boy's berrin when he was alive," says Terence, "seeing he niver remimbered Raffy's advice to him to lave the dhrink entirely (Mary, a cushla, we'll want a little more whiskey; but for all that blood's thicker than water, and it was Raffy Riley himself that waked and berrid Morgan dacently and credibully; by the same token that there was full andn lenty of as good whiskey over him as iver came from county Wicknow; and a purtier corpse, or a merrier wake, I wouldn't wish to see in a day's thravelling. And there was lots of obys and girls there, and lenty of coorting in corners. Oh, it's no wonder the world's full of people, for I believe the gossoons and girshas do nothing but coort now from the time they're the haith of my leg; and it wsa them that night that were courting agin time, and larning one another to smoke in the dark corners!" "But wasn't there candles enough to coort by, Terence?" "To be sure there was, but then some how they wint out by accidentally spilling of the whiskey over them, and the whiskey you know--the whiskey--where was I Dennis? I lost the strong pint of my discoorse." "Bring Terence another pint of whiskey; it's that I'm thinking he wants most at this present time." "Well, let him swallow his pint, and give us no more gosther," says Dennis; "Sure dont we all know there's plinty of fun and divarsion at the like of thim times; here's healths apiece, not forgetting poor dead and gone Morgan in the bargain." "Be dhe hurth, (hold your tongue) Dennis and give us a song, it's a pity you wasn't made a priest instead of a tailor." "By the powers that's a lucky thought,
For you see if I had,
It's I'd be the lad
To show all the people such larning;
And when they'd go wrong,
Instead of a song,
I'd give all this people a sarmin!
"You give them a sarmint, you varmint, why, you dont know the thriptlogicale vartues," said Pat. "May be I dont, but you're mistakin entirely; but aint they included in the four sins that cry to Heaven for vengeance; and the five carnal vartues, justice, pretence (prudence), timptation (temperance) and solicitude (fortitude); and dont I know by exparehence, the seven deadly and the eight grey attitudes"--"Grey attitudes! hear tell the murthering thief--sure and doesn't every one know that it's ray attitudes (beatitudes)--that comes of knot knowing the larnin and shyntax," said Terence. "And who was Shyntax, Terence," said Patrick--"He wa a Roman, phaddy, bekase there was a latin prayer at the tail of his book." "You're a poor scholar, Terence, do you know the Greek for tobaccy (bring me some, Mary, by the same token)--or the Latin for a gamecock, in two words!" "No, boys, but it's mesilf that can consthrue and expound Thady Bradley's name, that none of yees know how--do yees? But I needn't ax--well, 'tis Thadeus, and may be that's as much as the priest that christened him knew. Boys, ye see what it is to have the larnin--to lade the life of a gintleman, and to be able to talk deep wid the clargy. Oh! I could run down any man in argument, except the priest; and if the bishop was afther consecrathing me, I'd have more larnin nor the worst on 'em; but you see I'm not consecrathed, and so I cant consthrue, more's the pity." "But Terence," said Dennis, "can ye tell us why due ye put one foot pas the other when ye walk for? No, y ou cant; bah! dunce!" This was too much for the temper of Terence to stand; and he cried out "Have you got so much as will pay for the whiskey, Dennis? bekase if you have I'll forgive yees." "I haint a tinpenny," says Dennis. "Then take that, you poor scholar," giving him a crack on the head. The example was contagious; in an instant all five were fighting, but how each individual got himself into the affray, could not be so easily ascertained--
------------"All was so sudden,
That scarce a first man fell. One but began
To wonder, and straight fell the wonderer too;
A third, who stoop'd to raise his fallen friend,
Dropp'd in the pious act"--
until at last they had each knocked the other down, when they were taken to the watch house. In the morning they all declared they had fought for fun, and ought to be forgiven; and ultimately gave their own recognizances to keep the peace, and were discharged.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "Gem," by Eric Johnson, from the album "Up Close"