I have had a chance, now, to go through and take notes from the New York "Constellation," covering the fall of 1830 until New Year's, 1831. This is the paper which I worked on, as an 18-year-old, in my past life as Mathew Franklin Whittier. All of my speculations were confirmed, except that I had reasoned that Mathew was back in his hometown of Haverhill, Mass. through some portion of the winter of 1830, because this is the year I believed that his future wife, Abby (now only 14) had begun tutoring him, primarily in the classics, and in esotericism. I believed she did this each winter for several years, because winter was the time when a farm boy wouldn't be needed as much on the farm.
Now, it appears that he went home to help with the harvest in August, and stayed until about Thanksgiving. Then, he went home for a week or so, for the Christmas holiday. But there is also some evidence suggesting that Abby did, indeed, begin tutoring him. References to philosophers of ancient Greece, for example, begin showing up in his written pieces about this time. His work will be replete with such references throughout his life; but they have been largely absent until now.
There were many more fascinating clues that popped up, which I won't share, here, for lack of time and energy to give the back-story. One of them would be fascinating to the people who preserve the legacy of poet John Greenleaf Whittier--that is, if they could believe me. Mathew tells a story of his "Uncle Toby," which, in context, is almost certainly a story of Mathew and John Greenleaf's bachelor uncle, Moses. He says that "Uncle Toby" caught a fly, and instead of crushing it, took it outside. How precious this tiny anecdote would be to those people, who run the museums connected with John Greenleaf Whittier! But they will hardly give me the time of day, and they certainly wouldn't be open-minded regarding my evidence that it is Mathew who told this story, and that it is almost certainly autobiographical, for him.
I have run across a handful of Mathew's anecdotes about his own childhood, in another paper. I would gladly share all these things, if they would let me use Mathew's young portrait in my book. I have never dared ask them, being almost certain of a rejection. (How I get around it, is I tell my readers precisely where to find the portrait in another book.)
There was another fascinating bit of evidence. I have said that it was Mathew, not Benjamin Drew, who created all the characters for the Boston "Carpet-Bag" in 1851-1853, under the umbrella pseudonym, "Trismegistus." I had already found an instance of Mathew using this pseudonym in 1834 (I think it was, or 1835), for two poems. Now, in 1830, I found a very clear precursor to the "Carpet-Bag" character, "Dr. E. Goethe Digg." It is so close, by style, that you could literally insert this piece into the "Carpet-Bag" along with the other "Dr. Digg" sketches, and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Not only that, but in 1830, Mathew's character uses the same hi-falutin' name for the newspaper--a hebdominal--except that he misspells it. He has "Dr. Digg" in the "Carpet-Bag" using the word "hebdomanal" three times. And, there is one of Mathew's favorite words (used, I think at last count, 12 times by Mathew's known character, "Ethan Spike"), "sublunary."
It means I have essentially proved what I already knew--Mathew wrote the most brilliant, and most popular, characters for the "Carpet-Bag," being a silent partner in the venture, and driving the look and tone of the humor in it. Just as he was doing for the New York "Constellation," at age 18.
He did the same thing at the Boston "Weekly Museum"; but he never took over the Portland "Transcript" that way. The editor of that paper, Edward Elwell, was a shrewd man. He used Mathew's talents to build his paper--chiefly with "Ethan Spike"--but he never let Mathew's work get too far out, nor too numerous.
Mathew was the most radical political edge in the Boston "Chronotype," too. But that editor, Elizur Wright, didn't care. He gave Mathew the most freedom of any editor he ever worked for. Only when Mathew wrote an essay in favor of "disunion" (in alignment with William Lloyd Garrison's philosophy), did Wright protest, adding his comments afterwards. But he printed Mathew's essay, so far as I can tell, unedited. Most editors wouldn't touch that topic.
I confirmed one tiny past-life impression with this most recent research foray. As I was going through this early material, I had the feeling that the editor of the "Constellation," Asa Greene, really didn't like being an editor. He was, I seemed to remember, only too glad to hand the reins of the editorial page over to Mathew. This impression was borne out by the evidence. On two separate occasions, when Mathew wasn't in town, Greene complains about how difficult it is to come up with enough material for a newspaper; meaning, he had flat run out of ideas. Mathew never ran out of ideas. He was an inexhaustible font for them; though, as I perused this early work, I realized how often he returned to his own. He never borrowed from others; but it turns out he rehashed his own ideas many times throughout his literary career. I was aware of this tendency, but hadn't realized it was so marked.
This confirmed past-life memory--just an impression, really--is very difficult to really prove. I had hundreds of these impressions, which turned out to be correct. I don't make a big deal about them in my book, for that very reason. What I was always on the lookout for, was a clear-cut case in which I had had a strong impression, before I had any possibility of knowing it by normal means. It had to be very specific, and ideally, idiosyncratic, which eliminates chance. And I had to document it in some way that I could show I had documented it (and not fudged it after the fact). Then, I had to find clear evidence--evidence which I had never seen before, and could never have seen before--that the memory was historically accurate.
That's a tall order. And that's the difference between proving the validity of past-life memory to myself, and proving it to anyone else. The fact that Asa Greene was only too happy to let Mathew run the editorial page, when I had felt that before I saw all of the evidence, is proof to me. But it is hardly proof to you.
I have provided more than enough evidence, now, which stands in the second category, i.e., proof to anyone else. But that requires sincere interest and open-mindedness on the part of the other. That, I have not yet seen. But I think it will come someday.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "The Great Beyond" by REM, from the film, "Man on the Moon"