Yesterday I shared something of my past-life literary history, clearing up a number of historians' errors and filling in a lot of the blanks. I don't know who might find this sort of thing interesting--presumably academcians would never bother with this sort of presentation, which leaves everybody else, who are bored to tears by academic subjects. Still, I continue to write what interests me. This is a blog, after all, not a technique for drawing site visitors who will then purchase my product. (Trust me, if I wanted to, I could do that, and it would be a totally different presentation.)
You see, this is the only kind of person you could trust to be giving you accurate information about a subject like reincarnation. That's the Catch-22--if you are unconsciously addicted to hype, you will never feel drawn to purchase my product, because I don't use hype. But by definition, people like me are the only ones giving you real, unadulterated information. So when you are drawn to the hype, and you find the information unreliable, you then assume that's all there is and throw the baby out with the bathwater in unfair skepticism. But a wise man once told me, regarding a girl who I felt had betrayed me, "If you marry a chorus girl, you have to expect her to run away with the piano player."
So this morning, I keyed in another of Mathew's literary productions I find interesting, from the historical point of view. This appears in the March 19, 1831 edition of the New York "Constellation." I'll try to summarize this as briefly as possible, and then present the story in its entirety.
This, to my practiced eye, appears on an editorial page that Mathew had entire control of, as junior editor. He has been permitted this privilege before, and I feel comfortable asserting it as fact, that everything on this page was either written, or garnered, by him. For one thing, this, and the faux letter to the editor which immediately follows, both have character names typical of those Mathew will use throughout his career. I also see one of his favorite words: "sublunary," and many other clues of writing style. You may accept my conclusions about authorship, based on eight years of studying hundreds of his works, or not, as you wish.
So forging ahead on that premise, here we have a farcical science fiction presentation of the first man to fly to the moon. I immediately could sense the back story of this piece (as I often can). Mathew's future wife, Abby, now only 14 years old, had begun the first of her tutoring sessions with him before he came back to New York City, on the first of Jan., 1831. She believed that heaven was contained in the actual heavenly bodies, themselves; or else, she believed that the physical stars and planets we see have their spiritual counterparts. If she did understand that nuanced teaching, it was lost on Mathew, and what he is doing, here, is lampooning the whole idea. That is what sparked it, for him.
But I vaguely recalled that there was a history of "moon hoaxes" and science fiction renderings on this theme, and I looked it up on Wikipedia, to refresh my memory. We see that Edgar Allan Poe began a series, published in the "Southern Literary Messenger" of June, 1835, entitled "The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall." That piece was reprinted in, of all newspapers, the New York "Transcript," in September of that year. Now, the "Constellation's" editor, Asa Greene, launched the "Transcript" as a penny paper in 1834, after the demise of the "Constellation." Mathew worked for that paper, as well, and also acted as editor pro tem at times. I haven't yet gotten into the "Transcript" for September, so I don't know whether these pieces were reprinted under Mathew's editorship, or Greene's.
But two months after the initial appearance of Poe's sci-fi piece, comes a farcical "life on the moon" hoax in the "Constellation's" rival, the "Sun." That is the one that is best known, historically. You can see the Wiki page, here:
I haven't researched this in any great depth. So far as I know, there may have been previous treatments of this subject by still-earlier authors. Jules Verne wouldn't come around until much later, but there might have been British authors (it probably owes a significant debt, for example, to "Gulliver's Travels"). Still, I'm pretty sure Mathew got this idea, not from any other writer or writers, but from the metaphysics that Abby had started teaching him. It would just be too much like him, at this age, to respond with a caricature.
As you will see, below, Mathew made no attempt to render his moon journey scientifically believable; nor was it an attempt at a public hoax. Still, these authors may have stumbled upon this article four years later, in bound editions of the "Constellation" at a library or reading room somewhere. Who comes first, who is inspired by whom, and who steals from whom, is always difficult to determine. Here, however, it appears that Mathew was first with this idea. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
This series continues with a second letter, which I may reproduce another time. Glancing at it briefly, it strikes me that by the second letter Mathew is warming to his subject--like the old men he had listened to as a boy, after their stories had passed the 10-minute mark. Thus, not only does Mathew appear to be first with the concept itself, he appears to be the first to make it a series. The second letter opens with a poem, woven into the fabric of the plot (he has been given a copy of the sonnet which killed one of the Mayor's daughters, and which had thus sent her to the moon as a spirit). This, also, would be typical of Mathew's style. At present I have only these two physical copies, which I purchased on Ebay. I will be accessing the entire run digitally, very soon.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
The New York "Constellation"
March 19, 1831
Fumfum, The Moon, 11th Glimdong,
SIR,--Agreeably to my promise, before I left the earth, I sit down to give you some account of the principal occurrences of my journey, as well as my observations on men and things in this part of the universe. I am the first being, of flesh and blood, as you are aware, who has journeyed from the earth to the moon, with the solitary exception of that distinguished traveller, Jack, who many years ago, clomb up hither on a bean-stalk. The mode of travelling since his time has been amazingly improved; and to one accustomed to the rapid conveyances of the present day, it is marvellous how he could endure the fatigue of so long and so steep a journey, performed by such extraordinary means.
For my own part, though I came here in the aerial steamer, Comet, at the rate of three hundred miles an hour, I was almost killed with my journey. It should be confessed, however, that my weariness and exhaustion were not so much owing to the length of the way, as to the difficulty of keeping my breath in my body, my whole exertion being necessary to prevent its leaving me entirely. This was partly owing to the rapidity of the Comet, and partly to the scarcity of breathing materials in the Middle Region. My fellow-travellers suffered little or no inconvenience from these causes, owing to the rarer material of which their persons were composed.
We met with no accident, worth mentioning on our journey, except that an opposition Steamer, called the Whirlwind, ran foul of the Comet, and did some little damage to her machinery; but not sufficient to detain her above half an hour. As for the captain of the Whirlwind, he got well paid for his carelessness or his temerity; for being of inferior workmanship, his steamer was totally staved to pieces; and himself, his passengers, and crew, were indebted to the kindness of Captain Thundergust of the Comet, for a passage to the Moon.
As I have just said no living being, except Jack, the celebrated traveller and myself ever journeyed from the earth to the Moon, you will doubtless feel a curiosity to know for what purpose regular lines of conveyance are established, and who were my fellow passengers on the journey. In order to satisfy your doubts on this head, I shall be obliged to touch upon a point in posthumous topography--to wit, the future residence of mankind.
Know, then, that the Sun, the Moon and the Stars, become the abodes of those who have left the earth; and that they are severally divided according to the dispositions they have shown, and the characters they have sustained, while inhabiting flesh and blood. Thus: lunatics and men of genius are despatched to bask in the Sun; lovers and ladies' men are sent to the planet Venus; thieves and swindlers are appointed to dwell on the face of Mercury; Mars is allotted as the future habitation of termagants and warriors; Saturn, as the abode of persons of gloomy and unsocial habits; and so on, each of the planets and heavenly bodies being assigned as the dwelling place of some one of the many classes into which mankind are divided. With this explanation, you will be the better enabled to understand all such occurrences as may be related in the course of my correspondence.
Notwithstanding the exceeding difficulty of keeping my breath, during the passage, I arrived here in pretty good health, and am at this present writing, in excellent bodily condition, with the exception of a little remaining uneasiness of the chest, of which, however, my physician informs me I hsall be perfectly free in a few days. Mem. Next time I travel this route, to follow the example of Ulysses, and take along with me a few bladders of air for my use during the journey--and especially in traversing the Middle Passage, which, as I hinted above, has a plentiful scarcity of the materials for breathing.
The princpal town, and the seat of government here, is Fumfum. It is situated near the mouth of the river Rumflum, and is very large and regularly built. The main streets are laid out in circles, each enclosing the other like a nest of boxes. The capitol, which is a circular building, isi placed int he centre; and the palace, or residence of the chief magistrate, together with the houses of the principal officers of government occupy the first, or inner circle. These concentric streets are crossed by others, which extend every way like the radii of a wheel. The houses are mostly lofty, painted of a sea-green color, and glazed with moonshine.
But with all these external advantages, they city of Fumfum is by no means a desirable residence. Water is exceedingly scarce, and of a bad quality. There are no pumps, and the only method of obtaining water from the wells, is by descending a winding flight of stairs and dipping it up with a calabash. In justice, however, to the inhabitants of this city, it should be acknowledged that the corporation have been debating on the subject for the last seven hundred years. It is only a day or two ago that I heard the Glumbo, which officer answers to your Mayor, make an elegant speech on the subject. He was seconded by one or two of the Gumflippers, who answer to your aldermen; but the meeting broke up, pretty soon after supper, without coming to any conclusion on the matter. It is proposed to bring the water, by means of steam power, from the river Rumflum, which is pronounced to be of a very excellent quality, and perfectly free from any brackish taste. But the people say, especially those who are opposed to the present corporation, that it will never be done as long as that honorable body are provided with suppers at the public expense.
The want of water however is not the only inconvenience at Fumfum. The mode of cleaning the streets is both very troublesome and very inefficient. There are no scavengers--or rtaher every man is his own scavenger, and is obliged to walk, either personally or by proxy, through at least a mile of the streets every day; and whatever filth and mud he gathers on his feet and legs by this process, he is obliged to consign by ablution to the river Rumflum.
The government of the Moon is elective, the chief magistrate, who is called the Man in the Moon, being chosen once in fifty years. His power is very comprehensive, including not only the executive, but the legislative and judicial departments. When once elected, he is absolute, and no man dare say, why do ye so? He is, however, in some measure held in check by the prevalence of party, and usually does his brest to make himself popular just before an election. The present Man in the Moon is now endeavoring to ingratiate himself with the people as much as he can, in order to secure the chair for another term. The next election is to take plce in about fifteen years; and as there are only fourteen candidates in the field, his Potency is believed to stand a very fair chance for re-election.
The present Man in the Moon had an uncommonly rapid rise. He was sent hither from the earth in consequence of having spent forty years in attempting to invent the Perpetual Motion. He was looked at by the inhabitants of your planet, as a visionary and a madman; and is believed finally to have died of chagrin for the ill success of his favorite plan. But what was the matter of opprobrium on the earth, became his highest recommendation here. His name had preceded him; he was talked of as a lunatic of no ordinary capactiy; and was chosen Glumbo of the city of Fumfum the day after his arrival. But this served only to awaken, not to satisfy, his ambition. He took up on the side of the people, as every man does who is desirous of power; and at the next election, was chosen Man in the Moon by a very handsome majority.
About a week after my arrival, I was honored by his Potency with an invitation to dinner. He is a man above the middling stature, of round physiognomy, light blue eyes, medium nose, a tolerable set of teeth, and the most expressive lips I ever beheld. He is at present rather inclined to corpulency, and is exceedingly bald--for which last misfortune he wears a wig. He still talks with great enthusiasm of his favorite project of the Perpetual Motion; and says he has no manner of doubt but that in a few thousand years it will be found out.
He introduced me to his three daughters, who, as lunacy is hereditary in the family, have one after another followed the old gentleman hither. One had died of a sonnet to the Moon, which an ungallant and cruel editor had refused a place in his poet's corner. The second had fallen a victim to a pair of whiskers of which she had failed to secure the possession accompanied by their owner. And the third died of mortification at being outdone in the size of her bonnet.
The company at the house of his Potency was very select, consisting only of such persons as had distinguished themselves for some extraordinary bearing while inhabitants of the earth; or those in whose families a long line of lunacy could be most unequivocally traced. His Potency did the honors of the table with uncommon grace; and as he helped mem to a piece of a fine flutterbuck, a bird in outward appearance much resembling your canvass-backs, he could not avoid recurring to his grand topic, the Perpetual Motion; and he assured me, that, had he succeeded to his wish, he had no doubt the aid of servants, and even the manual operation of carving, might now be entirely dispensed with--for that the machine itself would divide the meats, help the guests, change the plates, and perform all the services requisite on such occasions.
The dinner was excellent, and rendered still more delicious by the fine flavored conversation of the three daughters, between the two oldest of whom I had the honor of being seated. They seemed to vie with each other in their endeavors to entertain me; and between talking and eating, I had as much as I could well attend to. The drink consisted of a small liquor, called lac lunae, or milk of the mon, which I think might among you be advantaeously substituted for the A.T. burgundy, as instead of containing fourteen per cent of alcohol, it is perfectly free from the least mixture of that destructive principle. I wish you would mention this to the liquor dealers in New York, and should they be in favor of the speculation, I have no doubt I could purchase a cargo on such terms that they could clear a hundred per cent.; and I should charge but a trifling commission.
The lac lunae has a delicious aromatic flavor, and is drank equally by both sexes. It is likewise used as a cosmetic by the fair, and as a wash by the gentlemen to promote the growth of whiskers; for though it removes all superfluous hairs from the face of the softer sex, it is at the same time abundantly efficacious in promoting the growth of beard on those of our own.
Dear sir, I have a thousand things to tell you, but the mail steamer is this moment ready to start, and I have only time to assure you that I am, as ever,
Music opening this page: "The Great Beyond," by REM,
from the film, "Man on the Moon"