So much to share, and so few to share it with...
I continue to go through the nuggets I photographed at the historical library, from the 1846-1849 run of the Boston Weekly "Chronotype." Here are two examples of pieces I've discovered, not related to the letters to the editor I described in yesterday's entry. These are one-offs, and I want to demonstrate that I can pick out Mathew Franklin Whittier's works in this newspaper, based on intuition, and also on several years of studying his works. I can't always prove it, though I could if I had you here for four or five hours, and we could pour through the roughly 1,200 pieces of Mathew's work that I have digitized and archived.
The first is a one-off pseudonym, a character created out of whole cloth so that Mathew can make an editorial comment. He has been to the ballet in Boston. Having been raised Quaker, he is not entirely comfortable with the costume, but he has come to accept it. He is familiar with classical dance, inasmuch as his first wife, Abby, had apparently been tutored privately in dancing, probably by a French instructor (her father having been a French marquis). But what disturbs Mathew is the audience, and specifically, the male audience, who are applauding as though they were at a dance hall. I'll reproduce both of these short pieces, below. There is no question that this is Mathew's work. It is 100% his MO, as well as his style.
The second is a letter to Elizur Wright, the editor, introducing Prof. Louis Agassiz to his readers. I have other indications that Mathew attended lectures by Prof. Agassiz, and I have mentioned, before, that Mathew was very much interested in, and supportive of, science--especially science which did not assume philosophical Materialism. But it is the back-story of this letter which is revealing, and which I'd like to share. Some of this is a result of past-life impressions; some is scholarship; and some is speculation. But at this point, I am almost certain I'm right about it.
First of all, I have proven well beyond a reasonable doubt, that where a single asterisk signature appears in a newspaper that Mathew regularly contributed to, this is he. Mathew used it occasionally throughout his career (the latest occurrence I discovered was in 1868--a eulogy for a young lady whose personal qualities seem to have reminded him very much of Abby). The asterisk stands for a star; the star stands for his soul; and he adopted it in tribute to Abby, because she believed that souls were represented by the stars in heaven. She apparently had picked out two, which represented their own souls, together. Remember this, because I've just decided to bring in something else that's pertinent.
I first felt--then found evidence suggesting--that Abby tutored Mathew when she was 14 and he 18. There is a long back-story to this, which I have given in previous entries. Being a farm boy, he was desperate for an education, but was denied same by his father (who presumably needed him around the farm). Abby, being upper-class, had received a formal French (all-round) education via private tutoring. Somehow, it was arranged for her to tutor him. One of the subjects she taught him was probably French--and I remembered that the way she did it, was to have him translate the fables of La Fontaine into English verse. Abby knew Mathew loved the fables; and, she was also trying to teach him how to write poetry (she was a prodigy, and I have very sophisticated poems written by her at age 14).
So she could get both accomplished at once, by having him translate La Fontaine. Notice I did not say, "kill two birds with one stone." I feel that neither Abby nor Mathew liked this colloquialism, and so I have stopped using it.
My first inkling of this, was finding a brief reference to "Reynard the Fox" in Mathew's writing. Upon looking it up, I discovered that none other than Elizur Wright published his own translation of these fables in English verse in 1841--the year of Abby's death. Subsequently, I found a few more of these references in Mathew's works. But when I read the poems, themselves, I knew immediately that these were Mathew's homework assignments. Which is to say, they reflect Mathew's wit and talent; but they also reflect Abby's input, as his teacher. I knew that Mathew must have turned these over to Wright, after Abby's death in March of 1841, to publish them if he wished.
The reason was that when Abby gave Mathew the ancient Greek philosophers to study, he had resonated most strongly with the Stoics. After she died, he invoked that philosophy as his faith to weather the crisis; and in this frame of mind, he must have given away everything that reminded him of her. Her miniature portrait, which is, today, attributed to his cousin, Ruth Whittier Shute, ended up for sale online. Had I had $4,000 handy, I could have purchased it--as it is, I have a good digital image of it. The girl in the portrait is unidentified--I have (as you might expect) gone to great lengths to confirm that it is Abby.
Elizur Wright didn't steal these poems--what he did, per Mathew's request, is to publish them under his own name. It was understood between them, as friends. It's possible that Wright added some of his own, to fill out the book.
Mathew may very well have done the same thing with the original manuscript--which he had co-authored with Abby--from which Charles Dickens fashioned "A Christmas Carol." But Dickens took advantage; and he turned out not to be of the personal character that Mathew had thought he was. Mathew must have deeply regretted giving over Abby's work to such a person. But he only hinted at it, occasionally.
So look at the way he closes this letter to Elizur Wright, about Prof. Agassiz. Definitely, Mathew is aware of Wright's translation. Definitely, he admires it; definitely, he is familiar with its contents, because occasionally he makes references to those fables in other pieces. But I think it's something more. I think it's an inside joke between the two of them. Mathew would occasionally praise his own work, by praising the work of the go-between (Wright) or thief (Poe). That is why he called Poe, the author of "The Raven," "this greatest of American poets," as I have recently indicated. He is calling himself, in full irony, the greatest of American poets. In other words, if you can say that Poe is the greatest of American poets, based on "The Raven," well, Mathew was the real author. Likewise this reference to the English translation of La Fontaine's fables, in verse. None but Mathew and Wright know what he's referring to, and none would ever know--until I remembered it.
Now, since I have brought in one more piece, let's look at it--but as I have not yet digitized it, I have to locate it.
So much to share--have you been reading this blog, and do you remember me saying that I thought Mathew had been nicknamed "Peter Pumpkin" because he loved pumpkin pie, as a boy? That was a bit of speculation (perhaps with some intuition thrown in)--I had already figured out he used variations on a double-P signature for many years. But now I have it. Here is a poem in the Chronotype, unsigned except that it is written "By a Yankee" "on receiving the gift of a Pumpkin Pie." I may see more clues in it pointing to Mathew, but for now--since I am just passing through--I will simply quote these lines:
Oh!--fruit loved of boyhood!--the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin--our lantern the moon,
Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam,
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!
Kind of makes you think of Dr. Seuss, doesn't it? I realized, at some point, that Dr. Seuss basically wrote in doggerel style, for children. I have a couple of doggerels written by Mathew. But where is the poem I wanted to show you?...
Here it is: October 28, 1847. This is signed with two asterisks. It isn't the first time. Mathew signed that way in 1831, for a story that he and Abby appear to have collaborated on, about trying to get to sleep in the hot New York summer nights. I am just now keying in this poem for this blog entry. I remember skimming it, earlier. But this will definitely have something to do with he and Abby being soul-mates. So let's see what we have... (When I do this, I really am writing to you in real time, it's not just literary license.)
T O * * *.
In the bright and sunny days of youth,
When the heart with hope beats high,
When rarest visions of joy and truth
Fill the soul with ecstacy,
O then is the time, the happiest of life,
Ere the sunshine is darkened by worldly strife,
Then is the time for the spirit to move,
Which shall weave us a spell of friendship and love.
In the soft and witching time of night,
When sloumber and silence reign,
When books no longer yield delight
To the faint and weary brain,
Oh then comes the thought with its magic power,
Weaving golden fancies round the hour,
Oh then thrills my heart with a mystic feeling,
As o'er it come thoughts of thee sweetly stealing.
In the book of Life which we are reading,
We search for the gems of Truth—
In the path through the world which we all are treading,
We gather the friends of youth;
Then now is the time, the happiest of life,
Ere the sunshine is darkened by worldly strife,
Now is the time for the spirit to move,
Which shall weave us a spell of friendship and love.
Boston, October, 1847. * *
I have many indications that by 1851, Mathew was attempting to continue his relationship with Abby across the Great Divide, much as I do, today. I have recently showed you the "Over the Way" series in the Boston "Carpet-Bag," for example. But this is the earliest. This is just before Mathew was visited by two of Abby's sisters, over the Christmas holiday. October is also the earliest that I have found the "X.F.W."-signed letters from New York (I may find earlier ones in the library, tomorrow). Mathew may have moved his home-base back to Boston; or, he may not have yet moved to New York City; or, he may simply be visiting. In any case, the meaning is clear enough, to me. He has realized he doesn't have to live in the past, where this soul-mate relationship is concerned. He can pick it up, in spirit, in the present. And accordingly, he signs the poem with their two stars. Of course, the asterisks in the heading represent her name, "Abby Poyen Whittier," or possibly her maiden name, "Abby Rochemont Poyen."*
Note that by "plot," as it were, or by content, this is "The Raven" resolved in favor of survival after death, the possibility of spirit contact, and continuing relationship. Mathew, being a voracious reader, is reading late into the evening, in his room, as he was doing when "The Raven" commences; but this time, he is contacted by Abby in spirit. It has taken him seven years to get to this point.
When you have a genuine case, every time you poke into it, you find the truth. Everything is tied in with everything else. I could go on and on and on--and I do go on and on and on--precisely because it is a real case. When you have a jig-saw puzzle, where all the pieces are from the same box, then they all fit together. If you take 20 puzzle boxes, and mix up the pieces, and randomly take out 500 of them, they won't fit together. You will find yourself trying to jam the pieces together, but it won't work. Even when they are all from the same box, you may occasionally find yourself trying to jam two pieces together, but you will quickly figure it out and find the right piece. If you find me trying to jam two pieces together--and I admit it--this doesn't mean I have a random box. It means I have a complete puzzle, but I just made a mistake on those two pieces. The fact that 99% of the time, the pieces I pick up fit together with the whole, shows that it's a complete puzzle--i.e., a genuine past-life match.
I keep on, and on, and on, because the fact that nobody purchases my books means that some people are reading this blog, but they don't get it. Word of mouth is all I've got. I don't advertise. Somebody is going to have to get it, and be so deeply impressed, that he or she recommends it to other people. And so-on. Otherwise, the entire project dies with me--and at age 64, I have maybe 20-25 years max. So this situation where nobody gets it, is unnerving.
This study is so beautiful--so intricate--so powerful. If anybody really got that, they would have to take the phone off the hook, take two weeks' vacation, put the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door, and plunge into my book, and into its sequel. There would be no resisting it. This isn't egotism on my part. I just know it. Again, the fact that people don't do this, means they don't get it. Maybe they are veiled from it, somehow.
Here's the first two articles I mentioned. Tomorrow, I'll be at the library again, seeing how far back I can trace "X.F.W."** before October of 1847.
The Boston "Weekly Chronotype"
October 22, 1846
For the Chronotype.
Dear Chron:--I have sojourning with me a young nephew from the country, who has come to town from Vermont to spend a few weeks and see lions. He is an amiable fellow, and unsophisticated with all. Having caught a letter of his to his mother, I cannot refrain from stealing it for your columsn, omitting names.
Boston, Oct. 1846.
Dear Mama,--You told me to go and see all I could, only always to get my uncle to go with me. Well, uncle has been as kind as could be, and has gone with me to some show or concert or something every night. Last night we went to see the Ballet at the Howard Athenaeum. I don't think you can guess what a ballet is, M'a, I'm sure I could'nt. It is dancing by a danseuse. And I am sure she must have been used to it. I thought it very odd that a lady should cut such a figure as she did sometimes, and in fact pretty often. But uncle told me I was wrong in supposing her a lady. She was a fairy or some semi-angelic being, and her dancing was the "poetry of motion." Welll, I confess, if that is the poetry of motion, I do not like the rhyme. I could very easy get into the notion of the angelic nature of the danseuse, if it were not for the said--what shall I call it?--rhyme. M'a, do angels ever raise one leg half way to their heads when they walk? Do angels ever kick up? Did even the graces of ancient Greece ever kick up? I know what you will say. You will slap your hand on my mouth and say, "Hush, you chatter-box."
Well, dear M'a, you would be right. But, to tell you the truth, the dancing was the prettiest I ever did see, except the----the rhyme. I wished they had left that out. If I am to have the poetry of motion, let me have it in blank verse. But the Boston people differ from me; at least those who were there did, for they clapped nothing but the rhyme. Why, the most beautiful stepping, and bounding, and when she glided along almost without touching the floor, they never applauded at all! But when she undertook to kick the chamber-floor and could n't--then what a thumping of canes! M'a, I conclude that good taste is not all in Boston, after all. I wont say anything about the dress, at least, I wont dispute about it. I do n't think that so very indecent. It seemed perfectly convenient, which you say is a good rule; but the more I see the kicking up, which they call tours de force, the more I am sick of it.
Your affectionate son,
The Boston "Chronotype"
October 29, 1846
For the Chronotype.
Dear Mr. Wright:--I have not seen in the Chronotype any notice of the arrival of Professor Agassiz in Boston, and thinking that perhaps you may not be duly informed either of his arrival or who he is, I will give you the benefit of what little information I have on the subject.
Professor Agassiz was born at Neufchatel, in Switzerland, about 35 years ago, and very early manifested a taste for the investigation of the habits, anatomy, &c. of various living creatures. He used, when a boy, to take his rod to the neighboring streams, and what fish he caught he would open for examination, for he was curious in respect to the food of each species.
When Cuvier was no longer able to fulfil the duties of his chair in the Academy of science, he was asked to name the person most suitable to succeed him in it, and he named Agassiz, then a very young man, as the only person he thought fitted for it.--He was accordingly appointed to it, and is now Professor in Cuvier's place, and is the most eminent Zoologist and most skilful investigator of fossil remains, living.
He has come to this country on a visit of two years, partly for the object of scientific research, and partly to fulfil a promise of delivering lectures before the Lowell Institute. Those who have listened to Spurzheim or Follen, will find the same charm of speech and manner which won all hearts to them, in Mr. Agassiz;--the same modesty and the same enthusiasm of character.
He seems to understand our nationality, and to treat it with love and respect. He makes no invidious comparisons of the science of America with that of older communities.
Some may think more of him to know that when he was in England he resided, by Queen Victoria's invitation, at Windsor Palace; and that when he was in Russia, the Emperor Nicholas treated him with the utmost respect and attention. You, I think, will be more impressed by the way in which he can make the bones of animals which perished thousands of years ago tell of the history of the Earth as it was then. I cannot say positively that he can make them talk in rhyme as good and as beautiful as LaFontaine's Fables, American translation--but he can make them speak wisely and well.
Very truly your friend, *
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*I get the impression that Abby would have preferred to retain her own name, though she bowed to social expectations in taking Mathew's surname officially. Even her two published poems which contain three initials use her maiden name, "A.R.P." The rest--including those poems and stories which Mathew published for her posthumously--are signed "A.P."
**I have also found one letter from Mathew signed "W.M.F."
Music opening this page, "Starlight," by The Free Design,
from the album, "Stars/Time/Bubbles/Love"