Yesterday, I presented the first of a series, written by myself--Mathew Franklin Whittier--in the 19th century, as a young man of 18, for the New York "Constellation." This is a science fiction farce--possibly, so far as I know, the first story about space flight, or the first story about flying to the moon. There may be earlier ones, and I invite any readers who know of one, to bring it to my attention.
I was thinking of presenting the second installment (I don't know how many there are, I just happen to have bought physical copies which include these two), but this morning I keyed in a story about walking along Broadway in New York City. This, also, I am quite certain was written by Mathew. It--along with several other pieces in the paper--is signed with the single initial "D." Why Mathew would choose this signature is unknown, but presumably it stood for some admired literary figure, or a literary character he identified with. Later, he would sign with "P." and "Poins," a Shakespearian character.
One of these "D."-signed articles is double-signed as "Israel Icicle," to indicate the start of a new series of short essays on various subjects. Each article might briefly cover eight or nine topics. Mathew would return to this idea signing as "Paul Clifford Brick, Esq." and "Peter Popkins," in later years. I am certain, by style, that "Israel Icicle" is Mathew's; therefore, since the first one is double-signed as "D.," all the "D."-signed pieces must logically be his, as well.
Mathew appears, by various clues, to have been living in a boarding house (no surprise for a young man new to the city), and now it appears seems he is either on, or within easy walking distance of, Broadway. Broadway at that time looked like a lengthy version of what we would envision as a small town main street, today--two or three-story buildings, sidewalks, and various horse-drawn carriages and carts. This is mid-1831.
My point, here, is simply to establish Mathew's talent as a young writer. I have said I am convinced (and have evidence to show) that he co-authored, with his young wife Abby, "A Christmas Carol"; and that he was the real author of "The Raven." In order to claim such things, I have to be able to show that he had sufficient talent; preferrably, that he was a prodigy, and could write at a superior level long before either of these two works were published. Keep in mind, now, that this is a farmer boy of 18, raised outside of the small town of Haverhill, Mass., as a Quaker; he is walking the streets of New York with fresh eyes, and reporting with whimsy and insight on what he sees there. As I have reported in previous Updates, we actually have work from him going back to 1830, when he was 17. His style, to me, is unmistakable, and before I present the entire first installment, below, I want to comment briefly on my subjective experience of reading it.
There is a part of me, the lay scholar, who has read, now, some 800 of Mathew's published works. Those are the ones I'm reasonably certain of--the ones I consider more speculative, I put in a separate folder called "pos MFW." Then, there is Mathew reincarnated, reading his own works. Have you ever discovered, buried in a closet, pages of your young diary, or letters you wrote in your teens? Did you remember what you had said, or was it like reading something for the first time? Or was it some combination? Did you have a sense of what you had said, so that the emotions and feelings you were expressing--maybe even how you felt at the time you wrote it--came back to you immediately, but the content, itself, was forgotten? But as you read it, did you have a sense of where it was going? That's exactly how it is for me, when I read these works for the first time--only, magnified by the longer stretch of time since I have seen them. And not only that, but I had a different personality, with different life-experiences, and a different body. Those things put a damper on memory, as well. But, basically, it's the same experience.
You may not believe me, but maybe you will if it ever happens to you--if you ever find something you had written in a recent past life. Until then, you can dismiss my conclusions, or you can study my book and see the evidence for yourself, or you can enjoy the following essay, keeping the whole thing "under advisement."
If, on the other hand, you happen to be psychic, perhaps you can feel that it is the same higher mind in the introduction above, and in the essay, below.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
The New York "Constellation"
A RAMBLE IN BROADWAY.
Reader, have you ever taken a walk in Broadway of a pleasant morning? If you have not and will accompany us in our ramble, we will endeavor to point out some of the objects which render this the most animated and beautiful street in the country. The fashionable lounge is on the west side of the street--no lady of any pretensions to gentility, is ever seen on the opposite side--and should you now and then detect a stray female on that side of the way, depend upon it she is only a country cousin, or a servant girl, who is ignorant of this custom. Before commencing our excursion, however, we will, for a few moments, take a turn upon the Battery.
The Battery! Oh, how the pulse beat at the very mention of its name! how memory delights to retrace the pleasant hours we have passed there! It is here only, in this wide, populous city, when in the summer months every street and avenue are blazing with heat, you can inhale the cool breeze and enjoy an evening walk. Here, too, of a summer morning you may see such a scene as will make your eyes sparkle with joy and dispose you, if you are a bachelor, almost to forswear celibacy. Groups of gay and happy children are here before breakfast, sporting and frisking about with their nurses, all exuberant of spirits, while here and there may be discerned a fresh-cheeked girl who has risen betimes to breathe the sweet air of the morning and by healthful exercise to add a deeper hue to her countenance. Here, too, in summer, the friendly elms spread their deep foliage over yon seats, and the willows, swept by the sea-breeze, wave their long branches as if to captivate the beholder. But yonder comes a steam-boat, dashing like the God of the Ocean, through the waters; she moves like a thing of life; she darts by the crowd of lumbering vessels, who, with their canvass spread to the wind, seem beside her, heardly to move. Now she approaches the shore, and now she is lost from our sight in the thick forest of masts that intercepts the view on the East river.
What a noble scene does the harbor before us present--surrounded on almost every side by green shores or by a mountaneous outline of country, it seems like an artificial basin purposely formed for the security of vessels. Here where we stand, meet the two great arms of the sea, the East and the North Rivers, which are constantly rolling on their bosom the treasures of the country, to be hence transported abroad. Look at yonder tow-boats, laden to the water edge by the huge piles of boxes and bales--they are borne along by a steam-boat between them--she plows her way, puffing and blowing, like some pursy old gentleman, gallanting a brace of still more pursy old ladies. But what is that circular fabric, which with yawning port-holes, is connected to the Battery by a wooden bridge? Do you imagine that within it are concealed the thundering elements of war? Once, indeed, the cannon peeped out at its sides and the drum beat the revellie within, and the star-spangled banner waved at the top of yon flagstaff--but in these piping times of peace other sounds are heard to issue from its walls--mirth and laughter--the noise of dancers and the jocund song. Come hither of a summer night, and you shall hear the soft tones of the flute and violen, in public serenade for those who walk upon the Battery--or, if you prefer, by paying your shilling at the gate, you may enter and regale yourself to a glass of ice-cream and a promenade uopn the battlements. This is the far-famed Castle-garden--the place where the illustrous La Fayette landed on his last visit to this country and received his first welcome, as the nation's guest. A few summers ago, and it was the most fashionable resort in the city, but of late, its glory has departed and mine host the bar-keeper, now exclaims with Othello, "my occupation's gone!"
But we have now reached the gate which admits us into the street at the foot of Broadway. The little grass-plot which you see in the centre of the street, surrounded by an iron railing, is the Bowling Green, in the centre of which stood a statue of George the SEcond, but in the time of the Revolution it was melted down and sent back in bullets to the army of his most gracious majesty. This was once the court end of the city, but the houses on each side of the street are now mostly occupied as boarding-houses and the fashionables have taken up their residence at the upper part of the city. These are the fashionable boarding-houses, however, and on that score the lower part of Broadway may yet have some claim to its former distinction. We have come now to the heda of Wall-street, adown which you may discern in business hours one of the liveliest scenes of busy life--a scene in which men in hundreds, aye, and thousands, are passing and re-passing in quick succession and in an ever-varying current. Wall-street is the locatin of almost all the monied institutions in the city--the Banks and the Brokers' Offices. Marine and Fire Insurance Companies, the Exchange and the Post Office.
What a contrast to this bustling scene, is presented in the grave-yard of the Trinity Church, which stands here in Broadway at the very head of Wall-street. Here, enclosed from public intrusion by this tall railing, sleep the thousands who once moved, perchance, in this very same scene. Here the money-changers and the stock-dealers, the anxious merchant and his toil-worn clerk, are at rest. Trinity Church is a noble specimen of architecture--rude, grand and sublime--its spire, unadore by any embellishments, rises in majestic simplicity and commands the admiration of those who behold it.
But come, letl us tlk no more of churches and church-yards, but resume our walk--it is now past twelve,--the Broadway loungers of both sexes are beginning to make their appearance. Here comes an exquisite--an Englishman, if one may judge by his appearance, just arrived in the city. He has cultivated a large pair of mustachoes on his passage out, and now would have us to believe that he sports the very last fashion. He may find, perhaps, a few beardless youths who will attempt to imitate them--but the great mass of the people have too much good sense to be imposed upon by so ridiculous an affair. Let him pass--both man and mustachoes--we will not disturb his self-composure. But what style of dandy is this, who gallants these ladies? He trips it upon his "light fantastic toes," as if the ground were not good enough for him to tread upon. His frock is buttoned close about his breast, though the morning is quite warm--his neck is embedded n a high-walled stock, his hat is set with a studied air on his head, and the tout essemble of the young gentleman denotes the utmost attention to his dess. Let him pass too--but have a care of the little walking-stick he twirls in his fingers--should you happen to hit it, you might break the soft string of small-talk, with which he is regaling the ears of his fair companions.
We have come now to the region of shops--what a variety of signs are here each side of the way to attract attention! There are the Lottery Offices--thick as butterflies--each spreading its gaudy signs to catch the eye of the passers. Oh that half thees gaydeceivers tell us were true!--they tell us--and in such flattering strains, too, that we can hardly disbelieve them--that they are all, all lucky offices, and that he who purchases a ticket will inevitably make his fortune. One would think there was some magic in a name, for here are no less than three "Clarks," al lvenders of Lottery tickets--the Clarks must be a fortunate race when so many of them are engaged in this business. That crowd on the corner of Liberty-street is drawn thither by the display of prints and caricatures in front of Weirkmeister's. Nobody passes this laughing corner without stopping--even the boot-black and chimney-sweep halt there regularly in their rounds, for a good caricature is as intelligible to them as to their superiors. The latest prints and the best caricatures are always to be seen at Weirkmeister's.
Somebody--blessings on his head--has lately petitioned the City Corporation to remove the obstructions in Broadway. Remove the obstructions in Broadway! remove, then, the whole body of men, women and children, dogs, beggars and hand-organs, that daily parade up and down its sidewalks--for these are obstructions, which a stranger is sure to run against. The great secret of walking so as to avoid contact with these obstructions, is to keep to the right and keep right on--straight forward, and nto turn out of your course but to let others turn out for you. But there are other obstructions, all over the city, at this season of the year, as well as in Broadway. Here, for example, the schemeing proprieter of this range of buildings has tumbled down half its front upon the sidewalk, and the remaining half now stands on stilts, threatening to overwhelm all who pass it. But yesterday this building comprised a single store--to-morrow, by the aid of a few granite columns, it wil lbe split up into some half a dozen--for each of which the landlord will charge double the rent that he received for the original.
Our friends here, the Orangemen, who stand in front of St. Paul's, are a wiser set of fellows--they pay no rents--no clerk-hire--no bills for gass light and the thousand et ceteras, which diminish the profits of the shop-keepers. Their baskets alone are their storehouses! Let us fill ouru pockets with their fruit and walk into the American and rest ourselves. We will then resume our ramble and point out to you other objects of attention.
Music opening this page: "A Leaf Has Veins," by The Free Design,
from the album, "You Could Be Born Again"