My research has used both traditional scholarship (including the internet), and paranormal methods, to "triangulate" on clues. This has enabled me to keep from getting sidetracked into dead allies; or, if I do get sidetracked, I sooner or later I get back on track again. The way this works, in practice, is that I both know, and sense the context, or deep back-story, of any piece of evidence I am presented with, regarding my past-life self, Mathew Franklin Whittier. Usually these two methods work in tandem, but occasionally they are at odds. Sooner or later, however, they bring me to the truth of the matter. In my opinion, this is the historical research of the future. Historians will use eye-witness accounts from reincarnated persons who lived in the era they are studying.
It's a very long story as to how I learned that Mathew (not Ossian Dodge, as historians claim) was writing a popular travelogue under the name "Quails" for the Boston "Weekly Museum," beginning in the fall of 1849, and running until mid-1852. I am going to pick up the story at the point I gained access to the volumes of this paper, and began going through it.
In the March 10, 1849 edition--some five months before "Quails" first appears--I found two travelogue letters; one from "Rusticus," and the other from "Down East." The phrase "down east" generally refers to Maine. I intuitive felt that both letters were Mathew's; and there were objective clues tending to substantiate this feeling, as well. Mathew liked that phrase; and he was raised a farmer, and was self-educated. Both of these letters were written from Portland, Maine. At this time, Mathew had lived in Portland for many years; though now, he was traveling the New England states, and had a home-base in New York City. He was separated from his second wife (an ill-suited, family-arranged marriage), but he supported her and his three children. He would come to Portland to visit the children. There are many other clues, in the text of both pieces, as well.
That was the only letter written by "Rusticus," but "Down East" continued--and the clues pointing to Mathew were legion. However, once "Quails'" letters began, I carefully mapped out their respective itineraries, hoping to support the theory that they were both written by Mathew. I gave up at the point that their destinations diverged so completely, that I couldn't sustain that theory. However, I did admit it was barely possible that he had handed the popular "Down East" series off to another writer.
Later, I learned that he had, in fact, done precisely this with yet another travelogue, being written for the Portland "Transcript" under the signature "J.O.B." I've described all this in an earlier entry, and so won't go into it, here. The point is, Mathew established different personas, with different signatures, and at times they co-existed. He didn't change much from autobiographical reality--he only fudged them enough to keep his identity hidden. This, because he was doing dangerous undercover work for the cause of Abolition.
So in this edition of the Boston "Museum" of March 10, 1849, there are two different travelogues, both written by Mathew from Portland. But sometime in May of that year, Mathew moved his home base from New York City, to Philadelphia. Apparently, he was submitting work to local papers there (as he had in New York City), and he started sending these clippings to the editor of the "Museum" for reprinting. In this same edition, and all on the same page, are no less than four of his Philadelphia pieces, reprinted from different papers, back-to-back. (Intuition wants to claim a fifth, but I have no logical reason to claim it, so I will leave it out.)
I'm going to link to the pdf pages, here; first, the page with the articles from Philadelphia, and the travelogues, Rusticus and Down East. So now you can open up a copy of the originals, yourself. I'm going to go through the Philadelphia articles and demonstrate my method. Then, if I feel like I haven't burned you all out, I'll take the same approach with the two travelogues.
The caveat, here, is that while I can report that my intuition went off, like a Geiger counter, upon seeing a certain line, I can't describe that experience adequately. If someone dug up your college essay exams, digitized them, and presented you a folder with your exams mixed in with a hundred other people's exams, do you think you could go through and pick yours out? Even if you don't remember having written it? That may not be a fair example, because you would remember them--but that will give you an idea of what it feels like, for me, discovering one of Mathew's articles. Of course, there are objective clues, which I know to look for because I've seen so much of his work. But even taking that aside, there is still something else.
Okay, let's start with the first one, entitled "Jenks Tries Poetry." On the objective side, I already know that Mathew has written parodies on "trash" poetry, as it appears in compilations, "albums," and even magazines. Poetry that was hobbled together, on the basis of some method or other, without inspiration. I also know that very soon, in the "Museum," he will create a series peopled by members of the "Simpkins" family. And that he likes comical names, like "Jinks." Finally, I know that Mathew must have told a great many stories of his unfortunate second marriage to his friend and editor, B.P. Shillaber, who created a comical series out of them entitled "Blifkins, the Martyr." And that this piece reads rather like a precursor to "Blifkins."
On the intuitive side, there is more. This is inspired by (if not an actual rendering of), an event in his second marriage. He felt affection for his second wife, at least during some portion of their marriage, but he could not truly give his heart to her, because he was still mourning, and longing for, his first wife, who had been his true love and deeply compatible companion. He would still write poetry to her, or about her, and hide it from his second wife. (This is why he couldn't publicly challenge Poe's plagiarism of "The Raven.")
I think this story is really about an incident in which his second wife found a poem he had started to his first wife. He now has to lie to save her feelings, pretending he was writing it for some girl's "album," and that he, himself, is a hack poet. But a snippet of the real, original poem is embedded in this comical sketch. Can you guess which it is? I immediately recognized it. In fairness, I did know that this was Mathew's MO--I've seen him do it before. He pretends he can't write poetry, and then suddenly out comes the real thing (or at least some version thereof).
The snippet he had written to Abby, his first wife (which echoes, in several details, other poetry he has written about her), is:
Good night, my love, good night,
So mild and good and fair,
With cheeks so soft and eyes of light,
And wildly curling hair.
His second wife, who is worldly and practical, thinks it's nonsense--and he's just as glad to let her think so.
I also have a poem Mathew must have written to Abby about watching her sleep, publishing it after her death. Mathew had insomnia, and he would watch her sleeping in the moonlight, overwhelmed with love and longing. She had auburn, curly hair. This sketch about "Jinks," as you see, is reprinted from the Philadelphia "City Item."
Alright, we will move on. The next article, directly beneath it, is entitled "Coming Down." Mathew is accosted by a Jewish eyeglasses salesman who presses him to buy a pair of glasses, at an inflated price. The peddler plays on his sympathy, saying that his family is starving and he hasn't sold anything all day. Mathew has a soft spot for anyone in trouble; but he hates being lied to. So he keeps refusing (as he actually doesn't need the glasses), until finally he promises to buy them at a much-reduced price, on the condition that the peddler tell him honestly what his profit will be. I don't know how to convert shillings and pence to 1849 dollars, but my sense of it is that he was still making a pretty hefty profit (especially when 1849 money is inflation-adjusted to 2018 prices).
Objectively, I know that Mathew has written, two years earlier, of being taken advantage of by a tailor in New York City (as his greenhorn character, "Joshua Greening"). So he is rehashing the same material, to some degree, except that here, I think his rendering of the peddler's dialect is more accurate. But what I know, from intuition, is that he actually wanted to help the fellow out, but absolutely refused to be lied to and taken advantage of. So if he could figure out a way to make him be honest, he would try to help his family. I did already have other examples of Mathew's compassion toward strangers, so this wasn't a stretch to figure out.
Next, as you see, is "A 'Charcoal Sketch.'" This is attributed as though another reporter for the "Spirit of the Times" had written it. But I know that in 1834/35, Mathew wrote this sort of comical dialogue for the blotter, or "Police Office" report, for the New York "Transcript"; and that he had done the same, in New Orleans, in 1846 for the "Daily Delta." Therefore, I am guessing that Mathew was freelancing in the same capacity in Phildelphia when he was in town, for extra cash. Vague past-life memory tells me this was the lowest job on the paper, and thus, the easiest to get as a freelancer.
Mathew loved to write about eccentric characters. He sort of "collected" them, as it were, which is why he was glad to have a copy of the "Ultima Thule" photograph of Edgar Allan Poe, when the photographer, Samuel Masury, gifted it to him. Not because he was a fan of Poe--he called Poe, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, "this greatest of American poets." But Poe was indeed an eccentric character, and Mathew would add the photograph to his collection.
Mathew's method of telling a story was to lead up to an unsuspected punchline. Here, the punchline is "Squeels'" defiant response to the judge, and the rest is the denouement. Have you read the short story which I wrote for this blog, on the spot, by way of challenging myself to write in Mathew's style? It revolves around precisely the same plot device, inasmuch as the punchline is a saucy comeback. I had not read this piece when I wrote that.
Last but not least, is a short essay on garrets (attics). This subject had come up several times, in connection with Mathew's move to Philadelphia, so it's clear enough that Mathew rented one, there. For what it's worth, I live in one, today. Not because I was trying to copy Mathew's life--but for the same reason he rented them, because it's relatively inexpensive. (Mine is probably much more pleasant than his was.)
Mathew disliked snooty aristocracy. I have other works by Mathew in which he points out that the ancestors of such people probably had humble beginnings. Mathew knows he is a genius--I say this matter-of-factly, because he was. So he compares himself, and his situation, to historical geniuses.
Abby had given Mathew a formal, tutored education on the Greek classics; and Mathew paid special attention to the satirists, being one, himself.
As to the intuitive part, I simply recognize Mathew's writing in this essay as though I had written it yesterday. It feels that deeply familiar, even though I don't actually remember it cognitively. This is very difficult to explain. Having the same higher mind, it is precisely as I would write it; but that only expresses a part of it. I intuitively remember the creative process of writing it, the turns of my mind, even when I don't remember the actual act of writing it. No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to explain this adequately. I know my own past-life mind like the back of my hand. If someone else had written it, it wouldn't feel right. I can sort of feel each thought "echo" in my mind, as a confirmation--yep, yep, that's mine, that's mine..."
Okay, I'll give you an example, but it might make you feel sick. If you spit into your food, you could still eat it, because it's your spit. But if anyone else spit in your food, you would have to throw it out.
This is what it feels like to recognize the actions of my own higher mind, in this essay. I can't explain it any better than that.
You know, I think that's enough. Perhaps I'll deal with the travelogues another day. I'll post both of them, however, and you're welcome to read them.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "Brilliant Room," by Eric Johnson,
from the album, "Up Close"