I have now gone through Arthur Lachlan Reed's 1953 dissertation on writer and editor Asa Greene, to my satisfaction. The next step is to wait for my researcher to access the New York "Constellation"--a newspaper that Greene edited, before he was editor of the "Transcript"--to glean Mathew's submitted works from that paper. Reed would wish to attribute everything I take to be Mathew's work, to Greene--though I will say, he is honest and rigorous enough to admit when the attributions aren't certain.
So I am now back to digitizing pieces from the New York "Transcript" which I believe came from Mathew's pen, in 1834/35. This morning, I keyed one from May 1, 1834, when Mathew would have been only 21 years old. Where he got this talent from, nobody knows. His older brother was a scintillating poet, in the ballad-telling style, but could hardly tell a story in prose as well as Mathew. I would guess Mathew got it from the old bearded fellows who came through the Whittier farm as vagabonds; or the ancients who sat in front of the general store. In short, he got it from the best of the best, who will never appear in any history books.
I'm going to reproduce this story in full, below. I am certain this is Mathew's work--he even revisits the theme many years later, retaining certain plot elements. But I wanted to return to the issue of my being a nutcase because I dare suggest that Mathew co-wrote the original of "A Christmas Carol," which was subsequently plagiarized by Charles Dickens.
I am beginning to understand Mathew as a prodigy who had little confidence in his own abilities. His brother, five years older, was rapidly becoming famous, and was considered to be the family's "man of letters." Mathew, however, was needed on the farm, and unlike his brother, who couldn't do manual labor, he was discouraged (probably, prevented) from pursuing a higher education. No-one encouraged him, despite the fact that with a different set of talents, he was as much a natural literary genius as his brother was. So he hired himself out, and let more established writers, and wannabe writers, take advantage of him. He ghost wrote, and made other people's careers thereby, like a studio musician who makes the star look good. He even let other people claim his work (or found himself helpless to challenge their claims, once he had foolishly published anonymously). I think I am up to 12 examples, now, some of them famous.
We will pause, here, to (largely) exempt B.P. Shillaber, creator of the character, "Mrs. Partington," from this unholy list. Mathew ghost wrote and/or collaborated with Shillaber, of this I have no doubt--but Shillaber was a decent-enough fellow not to claim Mathew's work outright. You will see, for example, that in Shillaber's book, "Life and Sayings of Mrs. Partington," Shillaber lists himself as the editor. That's because Mathew wrote the entire introductory faux biography of the character.
Shillaber is also the only one who broke ranks (despite Mathew probably swearing all his associates to silence), and declared in his later years that Mathew had been a genius.
I can back up this theory about Shillaber and Mathew with a great many clues, gleaned from several years of research, all of it laid out in my book. But in 2006, when I made a note in this very blog that I felt Mathew had something to do with the writing of "A Christmas Carol," I had studied very little of Mathew's personal and literary history.
What's infuriating to me, is the stony silence I am greeted with when I not only announce these seemingly-improbable things, but proceed to back them up with facts and examples. Has everybody watched too much of the "Interstellar Bean Show," to the point that they have chucked the baby out with the bathwater, being surfeited with rampant speculation? Sometimes I wonder whether or not that is the real reason the "Ancient Alien" series is allowed on TV. It actually tends to innoculate the public against alternative explanations for history, because the research and the logic is so sloppy. By "sloppy," I mean a few pieces of evidence and a great deal of wild, unsupported speculation.
That is not what I'm doing.
Here, in mid-1834, when Mathew is 21 years old, he is writing at a very, very sophisticated level. And he knows how to tell a tall-tale, with an unsuspected punch line. Actually, as I read this story, I sensed it was coming. I'd be curious to know whether anybody else does. Because I had a strong past-life "hit" on this one--I felt as though I remembered the creative process of writing it, and that I was particularly pleased with it. And I knew how it would end.
If I read my history correctly, Charles Dickens had not even appeared on the literary scene, yet. He would come to the public's attention with his "Pickwick Papers" in 1836. Mathew was already writing at the level you see, below, in 1834. If he did, indeed, write for Asa Greene's earlier paper, the New York "Constellation," then the earliest work I have found for him would extend back to mid-1830. And that appears to be of excellent quality, as well. In fact, there seems to be little progression in Mathew's work. It seems that he sat at the feet of these unknown giants, while reading all of the great British humorists of the previous centuries, and then hit the ground running.
That Mathew Franklin Whittier could have co-authored "A Christmas Carol" with his wife, Abby, is not implausible, nor is it grandiose on my part. It is what I felt in 2006, and what I have obtained a great deal of supporting evidence for, in 2017.
Meanwhile, the Ancient Alien series blithely suggests that the Star in the East was an alien space craft, showing the Magi where to find the infant Jesus.
Well, maybe it was, and maybe it wasn't. It's an irresponsible thing to suggest without being able to back it up. It's clear enough that they would speculate that Jesus, himself, was an alien who did His miracles through advanced technology, but they probably couldn't sell that episode to the History Channel. (They weren't worried so much about backlash from the Hindus, so they could speculate that Shiva was an alien with relative impunity.) The esoteric explanation for the Star in the East, by the way, is that it is a symbolic representation of the third-eye chakra, which is what the Magi--who were spiritually advanced masters from the East--used to find Jesus. The deeper symbolism is clear, that if one wants to find the Christ within, one awakens this chakra of spiritual vision and discernment. That interpretation has far more depth and internal consistency than the reductionistic theory thrown off by the ancient astronaut theorists.
But, I digress. Below, I reproduce in full Mathew's sketch, which took the lead editorial position in the May 1, 1834 edition of the New York "Transcript," under editor Asa Greene.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
This day is moving day, in more senses of the word than one. In the first place, it is the day on which a large part of the population of New York shift their places of residence. An annual revolution in household matters takes place--a revolution more appalling and disastrous than almost any of a political nature on record--attended with more abrasions and fractures, if not with so much bloodshed, as the famous three days of Paris, or the late scarecely less remarkable three days in this city. It is a revolution in every thing which quiet, domestic sort of people hold dear. From the cellar to the garret, every thing is turned topsy-turvy. The household gods are disturbed. The quiet-loving husband is routed from the favorite corner, where he was daily accustomed to sit and read his morning's paper, smoke his after-dinner pipe, and chat away the evening with his family and friends. The good grandmother is disturbed also in her quiet nook, where she was wont to sit in her armed chair, "with spectacles on nose," engaged with her Bible or her knitting--preparing for the other world, or industriously discharging her duties in this. In a word, all the members of the family, who are not absolutely affected with the figits, and a desire of perpetual motion, are completely thrown out of sorts by the changes and disburbances of this annual moving day.
The first of May in New York may very properly be called the anniversary of ruined furniture. More smashed looking-glasses, more dislocated tables, more cracked china, more broken chairs, more abraded varnish, more damage to all manner of household goods, takes place this day, than would happen in twenty years of an ordinary stay-at-home life.
Hark! what crash was that? Ah, I perceive now--it is Mrs. Figit's man-servant run against the maid-servant of Mrs. Crackenthorp. The former carried on his shoulder a fine large looking glass, which Mrs. Figit was too prudent to trust along with the rest of the furniture on the cart; while the latter was loaded with a beautiful set of China, which the equally prudent Mrs. Crackenthorp would not, to ensure her own salvation, have trusted to the tender mercies of the rough and careless carman.
"Oh thoughtless mortals blind to fate!"
as some poet pathetically says, the very means which those good ladies took to secure those precious articles, on which they set so much value, proved the destruction of both. The man-servant was looking at a buxom girl across the street, and therefore could not see straight before him; while the maid-servant, just at that critical moment, was turning her head towards a shop window, where a new-fashioned bonnet attracted her attention, and of course could not have been looking out, as she ought to have been, for breakers.
They ran foul, therefore, the man-servant of Mrs. Figit and the maid-servant of Mrs. Crackenthorp, with a prodigious shock--and, oh shocking to relat! the looking glass was thrown from the shoulder of the one, while at the very same disastrous moment, the set of China was dashed from the hands of the other. Both were smashed--the looking glass into a thousand pieces, and the China into ten thousand flinters.
"You careless toad you!" exclaimed the maid-servant, as soon as her astonishment would let her.
"You rude rip you!" said the man-servant, pretty soon after.
"My conscience!" screamed Dolly, "what do you think Mrs. Crackenthorp will say to you now?"
"My soul and body!" roared John, "what do you think Mrs. Figit will do to you now?"
"You're altogether to blame," said Dolly.
"It's every d----d bit of it your fault," said John.
"Why need you run your nasty self against me, when you knew I was carrying Mrs. Crackenthorp's best set of China?"
"And why need you come smash against me, when you saw I had Mrs. Figit's fine looking glass on my shoulder?"
"It's false," screamed the maid-servant.
"It's a lie!" roared the man-servant.
"I take a lie from no man," said Dolly, plumply. And with that, she was about falling upon him, tooth and nail, when John, thinking, like another of the same name, that discretion was the better part of valor, managed to whisper something in her ear, which, like oil thrown upon the waters, quieted her in a moment.
The truth is, John began on the spot to make love to her. Perceiving that he was himself "as deep in the mud as she was in the mire," and believing that neither of them had any thing to gain by returning to their respective employers, (having each just received their last month's wages,) he proposed to settle the matter by an immediate elopement. Dolly approved of the plan, which was forthwith executed, leaving Mrs. Figit and Mrs. Crackenthorp to settle the matter of the looking-glass and the China in the best manner they could.
This is but one of a thousand incidents of this moving day. But, in the second place, it may be justly considered a moving day, because it not only moves to broken rest, broken bones, and broken China, but it also moves to sighs, to groans, and to tears. It is rent-day as well as moving-day. Money must be picked up. Shinning must be done. The needful must be got, at any rate. Otherwise, even the most quiet body--the most determined enemy of moving--will be obliged to move; aye, and move at the will of another.
Thank heaven, that the first of May comes only once a year. People will, after a while, settle down quietly again; the city will become comosed; and then we may expect some little quiet, at least until the annual period of house-hunting and moving comes again.
Audio opening this page: excerpt from "Ethan Spike's First and Last Visit to Portland"
by Mathew Franklin Whittier, told and adapted by Maine storyteller Vernon Cox