Sometimes it is only in the digitizing process, when I key in entire articles I suspect of having been written by my past-life personality, Mathew Franklin Whittier, that I run into the strongest evidence. I just did that, this morning. But because I am writing almost every day--and I would doubt anyone keeps up with all of these--I will have to recap as briefly as possible.
A trail of clues led me to the 1834 Dover, New Hampshire "Enquirer," which I was perusing for any sign of Mathew's work. I had really only wanted microfilm copies of 1836/37, but 1833-37 were all on the same reel, so I got the earlier years gratis.
While in year 1834, I started noticing police office reports copied from a paper called the New York "Transcript." These struck me distinctly as being in Mathew's style. I knew that he had covered the police office in New Orleans, in year 1846; but I had no evidence that he had been in New York in 1834. I did, however, know that he began pursuing the mercantile business in 1831. I also knew that one short story, written in his style for a paper I knew he was contributing to frequently in the early 1850's (the Boston "Carpet-Bag"), seemed to tell, in typical disguised form, the story of working on a big-city paper as a young man. So from Mathew's own personal correspondence, and the biography of his brother, John Greenleaf Whittier, I had that he went into the mercantile business; but from this seemingly autobiographical story, I had that he got on with a big city newspaper. There didn't seem to be any way to reconcile the two.
On a hunch, I gained access to the New York "Transcript," and I found that many of these police office reports appeared to have been written by Mathew, in his unique style. I learned that the editor was one Asa Greene, a former medical doctor, who was quite a bit older than Mathew, and who had grown up in the same region. I also learned that Greene wrote several books, one of which seemed, to my eye, to have been written (or ghost written) by Mathew, however implausible that appeared to be. Then, I found there was an 1953 doctoral dissertation on Asa Greene. I was able to procure that via interlibrary loan, and the author, Arthur L. Reed, insisted that the police office reports--which did, in fact, become quite popular, and drove sales for the paper--were written by another reporter, William H. Attree, a former typesetter. I knew, from perusing the "Transcript," that there must have been two reporters--Mathew, and another who reported in meat-and-potatoes style.
Yesterday, I wrote of what I believe to be Mathew's earlier work for Asa Greene, writing for his earlier paper, the New York "Constellation." But all of this remains speculation, to some extent, unless I can prove that Mathew Franklin Whittier was, in fact, associated with one of these two papers.
I did it, this morning. Mathew's last day on the New York "Transcript" (though I am exploring the possibility that he came back periodically, or submitted some pieces to the paper from home), was June 1, 1834. That was one day before his young beloved, Abby's, birthday. Here, on the front page, I found a translation, from the French, of a story by the Persian mystical poet, Hafiz. I had a hunch that either this was Abby's translation, or, she had had him translate it as part of their earlier tutoring sessions. Abby was a mystic, and a brilliant, if eccentric, young lady; so this would have been a birthday present to her. That's speculation--be patient ;-).
But the police office report for that same edition, contains an account of a rustic Yankee, in full-blown dialect. It prefigures Mathew's "Ethan Spike" series, which Mathew launched in 1846, precisely. "Ethan Spike" is the one series which historians confirm as Mathew's work--this, because he was "outed" as the author in 1857.
The comparison isn't "similar," and it isn't "close." It is precise--precise enough, that I claim proof, and victory, on this one. I won't demonstrate, here. For that, you have to buy my book. (And if you aren't interested enough to buy my book, then I feel no particular obligation to prove anything to you, here, by definition.)
A great many implications flow from this "anchor." First, it confirms that I can recognize my past-life writing. What I had to go on, when I recognized those police office reports in the "Enquirer," was style, plus the fact that a little humorous sketch entitled "The Parson's Boots" showed up, also reprinted from the New York "Transcript." Although it was unsigned, I had identified it as Mathew's writing a year or more ago, when I first discovered it reprinted in a Portland, Maine paper in 1842.
Some of the material in these police office reports, and in particular the ones which ended up being reprinted in the "Enquirer," have bearing on Mathew's relationship with Abby. There is nothing about that relationship in the official historical record, except for their marriage in 1836, and their subsequent residence in Dover. I have extrapolated a great deal more over eight years of researching; and this new evidence supports and adds to it. The reason is that it appears they had been separated, and were not permitted to correspond--the agreement having been reached that he would try to make something of himself in the world, as a condition of asking for her hand, once she had grown up a bit (they were 16, and he 20, when they first started courting). So he would communicate to her through these newspaper articles, and in particular, through the ones he sent to the editor of the "Enquirer." Or so it appears.*
Thirdly, this makes plausible Mathew's authorship of pieces in the still-earlier New York "Constellation," as I have recently described in this blog. Now, I know that he was writing for Asa Green in 1834--why not in mid-1830? Why might he not have been invited to join the staff, for 1831? So my researcher will soon be accessing all of these volumes, in a historical library. But I just got in (as you know, if you keep up with this blog), five physical copies of that paper, starting with Jan. 1, 1831. They contain quite a few pieces which I am convinced were written by Mathew. This means I now have work done by him at age 17, as he was born on July 18, 1812. On Jan. 1, 1831, he would have been 17 years old.
You may have caught my entry in which I compared Mathew's work, at age 20 (I think it was), with Samuel Clemens' work at age 16, his first published humorous work. Now, I could compare Mathew's work at age 17 with Clemens at 16. And it compares very favorably.
This is five years before Charles Dickens began publishing. Now, when I say that I believe Mathew and Abby were the original authors of "A Christmas Carol," I am citing the work of someone who was writing arguably at a high level, and publishing, well before Dickens arrived on the scene. In short, Mathew is the senior writer to Dickens
I also found something else interesting. In one of these five editions I purchased, 2-1/2 columns of the front page is taken up with an excerpt from John Greenleaf Whittier's first book, "Legends of New England." John Greenleaf was hardly famous at this early point of his career. The book had been serialized in his hometown paper. He was simply an up-and-coming writer. It is possible that Asa Greene, being also from Massachusetts, had a soft spot for local talent; but since we know that Mathew, John's brother, was associated with the paper, it's more likely that the excerpt appears there by Mathew's influence.
That, in turn, means that Mathew, who was working for a New York newspaper (admittedly, not one of the larger ones), was giving his brother a literary leg-up. This may not impress you very much, but it would be scandalous to those people who maintain the official Whittier legacy. Because John Greenleaf Whittier was a literary hero, and his brother was a hack, in their eyes.
There are many other subtle implications flowing from this one proof I found, today. One is that academia isn't always right; a lay historian like myself, who has made a diligent eight-year study of a historical figure, may be correct, where a doctoral student in Philosophy--and his adviser, and his committee--may be flat wrong. Dr. Lachlan had it exactly backwards--William H. Attree was the reporter who wrote the "meat-and-potatoes" police office reports, while Mathew Franklin Whittier--whom he doesn't even know by name--wrote the ones that became so popular and drove sales for the paper. And a large percentage of the pieces which Dr. Lachlan tentatively assigns to the editor, Asa Greene, were written by Mathew, as well. Remember this when I suggest other things about Mathew Franklin Whittier's history, which historians would scoff at.
I was going to close here, but as a treat for those of you who actually read to the bottom of the page, I thought I'd reproduce the following, from the April 9, 1831 edition of the New York "Constellation." Since Asa Greene appears to have been more aggressively prejudiced than Mathew was (and Mathew shows some signs of "normal" 1800's prejudice at this young age), I would have to guess that not only the excerpt from his brother's new book, but also this message from the Indian chiefs got printed by his suggestion:
From the Washington Globe.
We, the Chiefs and Sacchems of the Seneca Nation of Indians at Sandusky, Ohio, have often heard of the goodness of our white Brothers and Sisters in the United States, and that they have given and sent many presents of money, cloth and clothing to us, to relieve the distress of women and children.--We thank them for their charity and good will: but we solemnly say to them that we have never received from them a cent of money nor cloth or clothing.
Brothers and Sisters--We speak the truth to you as it is given to us by the Great Spirit, in whom we trust and believe, and wish you to listen to us that you may no onger be in the dark. We hear that collections have often been made in all your churches for us, have entrusted them to Missionaries, whom we call Black-coats, to present to us.
Brothers and Sisters--We ask you all in the name of the Good Spirit, in whom red and white men believe, not to send any thing to be given us by the Black-coats.
Brothers and Sisters--We ask you to hear what we say, for tis true. We have found the Black-coats treacherous, and they deceive us. They come among us and ask us to give them our property for saving our souls ater we die. We do not like it, for they know no more about the enxt world than we do. We think the Great Spirit will svae our souls and tha the Black-coats cannot.
Brothers and Sisters--How can we have confidence in men who deceive both you and us? We feel friendship and affection for you, and we know you feel the same for us. We wish you to know the truth, and we tell it to you. If you send us any more presents, we hope you will send them by honest men, who do not pretend to such goodness.
Christian rothers and Sisters--We the red children of Nawoneti, whom we call the Great and Good Spirit, who is present every where, now give you a talk which we hope will be long remembered by you all. Do not be deceived by the black coats. We believe they are sent out by the Bad Spirit to make talk to us. If the Good Spirit had sent them out, they would have given us your presents, and their talk would have made us better; but their talks do us no good, and we hear nothing of theh presents you send us.
Brothers and Sisters--the Good Spirit has but one Big Book; the Bad Spirit has many, very many books, which his white children use to deceive one another and blind one another's eyes. The Great Spirit has, ever since the world was made, and the grass grew, laid his big book open to all men of whatever color they may have been, and this book tells the truth to all, and deceives no man.
Brothers and Sisters--we do not worship the Good Spirit as you do, but our belief in him and our worship is sincere, and we think is acceptable to him. You do not think so.--If we should send out our teachers of our religion to you, you would not believe them. It is contrary to your belief, your Black-coats say we must believe yours. You have your own teachers, let us have ours. We are grateful for your kindness. We should be glad to have you send persons to us to learn us how to plough, and sow, and reap, and teach us all the arts of agriculture. This would make us happy--but the Black-coats cannot.
Brothers and Sisters--this is the truth that you have known before. We are your friends, and wish that you may not be deceived any longer.
CAPT. GOOD HUNTER X,
HARD HICKORY X,
SENECA STEEL, X
SMALL CHORD SPICER, X
GEORGE HERRING X.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*Recently, I finally wrested Abby's poetry from the clutches of one Albert Pike, who had the same initials and who claimed her work for his own, publishing it, as it seems, without her knowledge or permission under their shared initials, "A.P."
Music opening this page: "Spirit Chaser,"
by The Native Tribes United, from the album, "American Indian Chant"