Did you read the Christmas portion of Abby's story, which I posted, in its entirety, in yesterday's second entry? I had in mind to compare that section with that part of "A Christmas Carol" which occurs the morning after, on Christmas Day. There is no precise parallel, but you can see, if you are intuitive, that it was the the same author. If you're not intuitive, it is at least intellectually plausible.
Now, throughout my study, I have tried to be my toughest skeptic. I always try my best to come up with normal explanations. Let's go through them one at a time, here.
First is chance. Victorian writers of that era all sounded the same. But while I haven't made a deep study of Dickens' works, I don't think he generally sounded like this. Nor did he sound like the portion of the "Carol" originally written by Mathew. A careful study of his handwritten manuscript, indicates that most of the changes had to do with making Mathew's crisp writing style more verbose. But it is Mathew's sense of humor one sees flashing in that work, from time to time, including the slightly off-color quip about Marley having no bowels.
However, let's focus on Abby, the first co-author, this morning.
So we have "chance." It doesn't wash--especially if you look at Dickens' other works (if you can determine which are original--forget "Copperfield," and the chapter on slavery in "American Notes"), and then look, as I have, at all of Abby's stories. It's pretty clear which author is seen in the "Carpet-Bag," and at this point in the "Carol."
I would have to dip into Abby's other works for more evidence, to substantiate this conclusion. I think I'll move on--it's all in my book, "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own words."
The second normal explanation that immediately jumps to mind, is that whoever the author is of the piece which leads out the first edition of the "Carpet-Bag," on May 29, 1851, he or she was imitating the "Carol." It was a point of pride, for Mathew, to be original. So much so, that in the concluding paragraph, which he wrote as an addendum, he admits he wasn't the author. Except he tells us that's because it was based on a real story, which doesn't make sense (unless he had copied a newspaper article verbatim). He's tacitly admitting that Abby wrote it--but he's giving us a phony reason. That's because, ethically, he must provide some disclaimer.
So, Mathew would not have imitated "A Christmas Carol," if he hadn't written it, i.e., that portion of it.
Then there is the possibility it was written by someone else. Note that it is unsigned; and yet, it is the very first story of the newly-launched paper. Doesn't that strike you as odd? Who would do that? Only someone who is very strongly motivated to hide his or her authorship, would ever do such a thing. Not even a pseudonym--nothing. This was sometimes done, of course. But in the leading story? And this, in a paper which prides itself on printing only original work.
The reason it's unsigned, is, first of all, that Abby did not want her name known. She had Victorian ideals about avoiding the sin of pride. Secondly, Mathew doesn't want to admit that this story was written as much as 20 years earlier. It actually comes from an earlier era, and it reads that way. Mathew mitigates the fact that the style is outdated, by pretending that it was based on a real-life situation. Because if it's a fictional plot, it's an 1830's fiction plot, not an 1850's one. As I said in the previous entry, in early Victorian literature, I take it that the discovery of a long-lost family member was, in itself, high drama. Likewise a genteel girl forced to work for her living and to take a boarding situation, who, on the basis of her character and piano playing skills, gets adopted by a wealthy family and rises to her proper station in life, once more. (This was another of Abby's plots.)
By 1851, I think people wanted something a little more worldly, and a little spicier.
As for it being another author, I have laboriously demonstrated, in my book, that Mathew was a very prominent, unseen presence in this paper. He was personal friends with B.P. Shillaber, the editor; had ghost-written the faux biography of Shillaber's character, "Mrs. Partington," for the Boston "Pathfinder," before the "Carpet-Bag" was launched; and had been the junior editor of two New York City newspapers in his youth. He was the best writer of the hand-picked group, who would be contributing to the "Carpet-Bag"--and he actually had much more experience as an editor, than Shillaber did. Mathew is probably starting out as the defacto editor of this paper, until Shillaber and others take over. I say that because it appears to me that Mathew choose everything on the front page of the first edition.
So there's a great deal of depth to my conclusion that it was Mathew who placed this story there.
But this is not Mathew's style--it's Abby's style. By this time, Mathew has already had several of Abby's stories published in the Boston "Weekly Museum." So he has pulled out another for the first edition of the "Carpet-Bag," and as he did for some of the stories published in the "Museum," he has added a bit of his own writing at the close.
Therefore, we know that this story was written before Dickens published "A Christmas Carol," in 1843. Probably, this one goes back to 1839, I would guess. Or, it could be even earlier.
Now, it is up to you to pull up "A Christmas Carol" online, then pull up yesterday's entry, which includes that story by Abby, and compare them. You can easily find a text version of the "Carol" through the Gutenberg Project. You can search, for example, on the word "giddy," and you will be taken right to the relevant section, depicting Scrooge on Christmas Day. Then, you can search keyword (I have to find it) "Christmas" in Abby's story. Again, you won't see any point-for-point phrase comparsions (at least, I didn't notice any), but you will see Abby's style clearly reflected in both.
Abby could not have imitated "A Christmas Carol"--except inasmuch as she was re-using some of her own ideas. But Dickens is a known plagiarist--he most certainly could have modified Mathew and Abby's manuscript to produce his version of the "Carol."
As I pointed out previously, this story also has a deep context in Mathew and Abby's personal history. It's essentially a story of what Mathew could have accomplished, as a merchant (and what they could have been, as a family with surviving children) had any of her wealthy relatives seen fit to help them out financially. In her "alternative history" story, the hero becomes so successful at business, that he deals wholesale and has to expand his store and hire additional employees; while the wife bears 10 children, who are able to attend college!
Then you have to deal with the possibility that Mathew had contact with Dickens, and I've connected all those dots in my book. Given that Dickens acknowledged a letter from Mathew, that Mathew was said to have been a brilliant conversationalist, that he appears to have been personal friends with Oliver Wendell Holmes (one of the young men around Dickens in Boston, in 1842); and given that he appears to have personally visited William Makepeace Thackeray, Samuel Rogers, and Victor Hugo, later in the year 1851 (the same year as the "Carpet-Bag's" launch), that possibility checks out.
By the way, did you look closely at the non-natural artifact on the Martian surface, which I shared in yesterday's first entry? It actually extends further back to the left than I had originally perceived. In a continuous curve, it seems to branch into two pieces--like supports, if my eyes aren't deceiving me. I can imagine the different-colored tip on the ground, with the two branching pieces supporting a roof of some kind. It is not a rock, and as I said last time, it did not come off the damn Rover. All I can say is, if this is a Photoshop gag, it didn't originate with me, and the guy presenting that photograph didn't even notice it.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page, from "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol"