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8/19/18

The more I think about the new discoveries I shared yesterday, the more I realize how strong they are, as evidence that Mathew Franklin Whittier was plagiarized by Edgar Allan Poe; and that his first wife, Abby Poyen, was plagiarized by Albert Pike. The alternative explanations are untenable; and the correct conclusion is obvious, if you know the full back-story and context. That's a big "if," when it comes to convincing anyone else. It would take time to present this extensive context to an open-minded person; forget trying to cram it down the throat of an unwilling one.

This professor of Poe, who deigned to write me back briefly not once, but twice (the second being his sign-off letter), did me a giant favor, by reminding me of the 1831 New England Magazine. It's there, in the first volume, that I found Abby's poem. But as for his attitude--which, you understand, was superficially polite but substantially dismissive--here is a detail from the cartoon which accompanied Mathew's introduction of a character representing Academia, "Dr. E. Goethe Digg":

You may be able to see that one of his diplomas, on the wall, certifies him as "Dr. Digg A.S.S."

Let me see if I can "dig" up a representative sample of that parody series, which might be apropos. But first, this is a good example of why I can't simply write an article, as my professor friend suggested. Historians--based on the memoirs of "Carpet-Bag's" editor, B.P. Shillaber--assign this series to a career teacher and school principal named Benjamin Drew. It took me, I don't know, 30 pages or so, in my book, just to set this attribution straight.* If I simply assert this as fact in an article, skeptics will dismiss it outright. That's because if anything is asserted in black-and-white in a history text somewhere, most historians just accept it as fact. From what I can tell, they have very little imagination. But the historical record is littered with falsehoods, primarily because history was written, not only by the victors, but by the liars (just as the news is being reported, today). In this case, Mathew appears to have sworn everyone to secrecy, so it was not only his enemies who were lying about him, but his friends, as well.

Anyway, I want to get back to all the keying I still have to do of Mathew's 1849 travelogue work, so let's see if I can close with an appropriate quote from Dr. Digg:

Messrs. Eds.:--A correspondent of yours propounds for my solution, the question:--"Who is Lo, the poor Indian?" To say that Lo is the poor Indian, would, to most minds, be a satisfactory answer; but if X. wishes to know the tribe, I inform him that he belongs to the Esquimaux, their stature, compared with that of other tribes, being very low indeed;--as says Charlevaux, Am. Ant. et Perambulationes apudeos.

E. Goethe Digg.

P.S.--I am also asked by the Cor. Sec. of the S.W. Conundrumical Association, of which I am a life-member, "Why the Mississippi should be called the Father of Waters?" I suppose the name was given by the Spaniards, as we frequently find that they give feminine names to hombres, thus:--Don Maria de los Velos, Santa Anna, &c.--otherwise, the difficulty were indeed inexplicable.

Yours, E.G.D.

Best regards,

Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.

*This involved sending a researcher in to pour through Drew's personal papers, including his diary and unpublished autobiography. There is no mention of the years during which the "Carpet-Bag" was published, and Drew, himself, emerged as a very unlikely candidate for this series. However, he did have two poems, for which he claimed authorship, in his diary, which later appeared in that paper (but not in the diary) under the umbrella signature, "Trismegistus." Inasmuch as Mathew had used this signature many years earlier, it appears that--as often happened--Mathew had shared a couple of his poems with Drew, who had then claimed them as his own. People shared their diaries with family in the 19th century, and he must have wanted to impress his wife or children with them. Perhaps he had showed his diary to Shillaber in later years, convincing him that he, Drew, must have been the author of everything under the umbrella signature. All I know is that the work was Mathew's, and that he often got in trouble by naively sharing his unpublished poetry with other authors and aspiring authors--as he must have done with Poe.

P.S. Okay, I might as well open this up again, on re-read. I was just checking my researcher-taken photographs of Benjamin Drew's diary, to double-check on the dates. Mathew and Drew were the same age, born in 1812. In his diary of 1841 (the date not being entirely clear, as these pages were recopied by someone), appears a poem entitled "Light in Darkness," as we see, below. I can't even say for sure that the person copying them didn't assume it was Drew's, and place his signature beneath it. His authorship is recorded, by this lay biographer, for his wedding poem; but not, as far as I could see, for this one:

And here is the poem as it appears in the Jan. 2, 1852 edition of "The Carpet-Bag":

Done deal, right? Most historians would stop here. But this is part of a series of "Juvenile Poems of Dr. Digg." If Drew wrote this poem in 1841, he would have been roughly 29 years old--far beyond the age that anyone would designate as "juvenile," even when loosely defined. So that can't be literal, for him.

To be complete, there is yet another poem, signed as "Trismegistus," which appears in Drew's diary for 1849, and this one is in his own hand, with his introduction saying he wrote it, and giving a context. The title is different--"The Question," instead of "Cheerfulness in Old Age: The Young Man's Question," as it appears in the "Carpet-Bag." The second title is far more apropos. The poem opens:

Old man, how canst thou cheerful be--
  A smile how canst thou wear?
Dead are the childen dear to thee,
  Dead, she who did them bear.

Drew's supposed context for this poem, is the death of an aunt (though from the note in his diary, it doesn't sound like they were very close). But he had lost neither wife nor children, to my knowledge. Mathew had lost his entire first family--and this is published late in Abby's birth-month, on June 28, 1851. After Abby's death, Mathew felt old before his time, and often adopted the persona of an old man (as in his series of sketches written under "The Old 'Un," stolen by Francis Durivage). Drew would have eliminated the title, "Cheerfulness in Old Age," because it wouldn't seem appropriate to his aunt's passing. But it sort of vaguely had to do with death, so he copied it over and made it out to be his own, written on the occasion.

Here, the old man's answer to the question the poem poses is far too deep for Drew, in my opinion:

Tall are the trees with leaves bedight,--
  In summer's garb arrayed--
Their small horizon bounds my sight,
  And wraps my cot in shade.

But when in winter's withering air,
  Their leaves with dust shall blend,
I see the stars, through branches bare,
  From heaven their glories send.

Thus when our earthly joys decay
  And perish in the tomb--
From heaven an unobstructed ray
  Illumes our pathway home.

Trismegistus.

My conclusion? As far-fetched as it seems, I think Drew wanted to show his wife that he was a real poet; and perhaps, to give her some proof that he was grieving; so he took a sample of poetry that Mathew had shared with him, claimed it in his diary, and then showed the diary to her per standard procedure.

Meanwhile, as I have pointed out recently, almost all of Mathew's work was deeply autobiographical. For example, in the case of this poem, Abby loved the stars, and thought of them as souls in heaven--so he used her analogy. He would simply alter his personal history somewhat, in-character. Again, he feels like an old man, and so takes the part of one for the poem, but the rest is literal.

 

Now let's throw some additional facts in here. Drew was not a deep guy. He was a sort of reformed Calvinist, inasmuch as one parent (his mother, I think) was traditionally religious, while the other took it casually; and he patterned himself after the casual one. But he was no mystic, and no philsopher. He was a sort of milktoast fellow, as near as one can tell from his personal writings. Erudite enough, and well-enough educated, to be a school principal, but no genius. He may have had dreams of being something more--and he very likely wanted his wife to see him that way.

Mathew was, in fact, an unsung literary genius. He was quite aware of the fact, and occasionally would protest his lack of public recognition--usually, in-character, as part of a humorous sketch.

All of this work in the "Carpet-Bag," including Dr. Digg, was spawned under the umbrella signature of "Trismegistus." There is no context for Drew adopting this signature, and it is not mentioned (nor is the entire "Carpet-Bag") in his diary or autobiography. There is a deep back-story for Mathew adopting it, and that is, that Abby taught him esoteric traditions, including, probably, Hermeticism, when she was tutoring him. She probably started tutoring him at least by age 14, when he was 18; and quite possibly earlier, when she was 11 or 12. Mathew was publishing frequently in the Boston "New-England Galaxy" as early as age 15, including humorous poetry. Abby, herself, was a poetic prodigy (her work having made plagiarist Albert Pike famous). Therefore, Mathew probably did write poetry like this as a boy.

I have seen no indication that Drew was publishing, as a boy in his teens. There are one or two examples of his early poetry in his papers--one of them, as I recall, was a clever but rather macabre parody of "Winkin, Blinkin, and Nod," in which they die of thirst on the open ocean.

Mathew's modus operandi was to launch a series or a concept, get bored with it, and launch a spin-off. "Trismegistus" became "Dr. Digg," "Ensign Stebbings," the Ensign's nephew (a Washington reporter, when Mathew was, in fact, freelancing as a reporter in Washington), and a Boston reporter signing as "A. Trunk," who wrote his assignments in verse. The "juvenile poems of Dr. Digg" was yet another series.

I saw no indication in Drew's diary or autobiography that he had this kind of inexhaustible well of restless creativity, such as I know Mathew had.

Mathew wrote, signing as "Trismegistus," in the 1828 "New-England Galaxy," and again in the 1835 New York "Transcript" (reprinted from the New Haven "Herald"). Joseph T. Buckingham, the editor of the "Galaxy," says Mathew wrote "Trismegistus" for his paper, in his 1852 memoirs--except that he calls him "Moses Whitney" (retaining his initials and the first four letters of his last name), while claiming that he had died some years ago! Still, there's no question, given style and content, that these are all Mathew's works.

In the "A. Trunk" series, Mathew describes seeing a representation of a statue, while viewing a "panorama" of the Crystal Palace in London, which reminds him so vividly of Abby during her last days, after they had lost their second child, that he experiences a direct spirit contact from her on-the-spot, and then has a vistation dream of her that night. There's no question it is him writing this spin-off. Identifying the statue, I found that it even looks very much like Abby's miniature portrait.

And yet, here is a photograph, in living color, of a "Dr. Digg" poem in Drew's 1841 diary.

But I have several examples of Mathew and Abby's work ending up in other people's memoirs, claimed for those other people. One of Mathew's early grief poems--sounding rather like "The Raven"--shows up in a tribute to one Charles Carroll Loring, who wrote for the Portland "Transcript" under "Oxford." There was evidently some kind of friendship and mentoring relationship there, with the younger Loring, as indicated by other clues; but in any case, this poem looks nothing like Loring's published work, and everything like Mathew's. It was probably written in the early months of 1840, when Abby was away for several months, convalescing from consumption:

The Beating of the Rain.

I often think of thee,
 As the hours so slowly wane,
Dost thou listen now like me
 To the beating of the rain?

Though from me thou art gone,
 Thy pleasant looks remain;
Still I hear thy tender tone
 In the beating of the rain.

The day will shortly end,
 For the twilight shadows gain,
Yet the river’s murmurs blend
 With the beating of the rain.

And the notes of yonder bell,
 From the steeple of the fane,
For vespers lapse and swell
 ‘Midst the beating of the rain.

Poe's poem, "The Bells," was not published until after his death in 1849. Keep in mind this is Mathew's preferred style, and that I have multiple examples running from the early 1840's, before "The Raven" was published, on into the 1860's. I seriously doubt, in this case, that Loring tried to claim it. I think it was found in his papers, along with his own poetry, and assumed to be his.

With Mathew's legacy so smothered in secrecy and mistaken attributions, you can see why I couldn't simply write an article and submit it to a journal. Without having room for the back-story on each of these pieces of evidence, I would simply have to assert them. I would have to assert that Mathew wrote "Trismegistus" and its spin-offs; I would have to assert that Mathew wrote "The Beating of the Rain." But when historians looked into these things, they would find that B.P. Shillaber attributed "Trismegistus" to Benjamin Drew. They would likewise find that "The Beating of the Rain" is attributed to Charles Carroll Loring. And they would assume I am just making it all up.

They'd be wrong, but given that the academician who has, so far, been the most generous with his time could only spare me two dismissive e-mails, I think the other historians wouldn't give me the time of day.

And that's probably how it's supposed to be, for now...

--SS

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