Okay, this morning I wrote of a letter written by Mathew Franklin Whittier (myself in the 19th century), under the signature "Rusticus," to the editor of the Boston "Weekly Museum," dated March 1, 1849, from Portland, Maine. He mentions seeing a lyceum speaker named "Giles," and I knew that Mathew--when he was in Portland--covered these lyceum talks for the Portland "Transcript." I thought I'd go in to the "Portland Room" of the Portland Public Library, where they have the "Transcript" available on microfilm, and see if there was a published review in the next paper of Sat., March 3, 1849.
It appeared in the "Transcript" of the following week, the 10th; and there were reports for a few more lectures thereafter, until the close of the series, including a talk by Henry David Thoreau and another by Ralph Waldo Emerson. This doesn't prove that Mathew was the author, absolutely. It proves that the writer signing "Rusticus" attended the Giles lecture. All of these lecture reviews are unsigned; but I have gone to great lengths to prove, inasmuch as it is possible, that Mathew was the reporter for them.
So then, I kept on looking through the "Transcript," and I found numerous submissions by Mathew--signing as his single "asterisk" (or star), as "Caleb Leathers," and other pseudonyms.
One poem signed with the asterisk is written in a style entirely unlike anything Mathew has written before--and it's not very good. It's a student who has flunked out of college, saying goodbye to his alma mater.
The other poems and pieces signed this way, around the same time, look like Mathew's typical work. So I'm thinking, "Oh, darn, someone else must be signing this way, too." But the editor would never allow it. Then it dawned on me...Mathew is up to his old tricks, again. He has been submitting asterisk-signed pieces at a much higher rate than usual. Most of the time, he might use that pseudonym every few months--but lately, he has been using it every issue, or sometimes twice in the same issue. Someone is getting suspicious. To throw people off his trail, Mathew would occasionally insert a huge whopper, a big decoy of some kind. (I've forgotten to mention that he did this once with his "X.F.W." letters, too, even though these were obviously his.) It has even worked on me, until I finally caught on to what he was doing. As soon as people who think they know who this might be, see that it's a student flunking out of college, they dismiss their theory entirely. "Nope, can't be that brother of the Poet."
But that's not the most interesting thing I found. I just loaded these from my cell phone (which I used for photographing the microfilm reader). I haven't even had a chance to process them, no less key them in.
First, let's see if I can determine what Mathew was doing at this time--from March of 1849 until end August, which is when his copious submissions seem to dry up.
In March of 1849, Mathew is, as we know, writing as both "Rusticus" and "Down East," from Portland. He is traveling the New England states. He visits his children in Portland--and presumably has a place to stay there. But he has been living in New York City. As of March 24, 1849, he begins writing to Elizur Wright, editor of the Boston "Chronotype," under the heading "Gossip from Gotham." He signs only one of these letters, with the single initial "B." He brazenly describes attending meetings of the American Anti-Slavery Society and other radical societies, seeing speeches by the leaders of these movements. In mid-May of 1849, it appears that he moves his home-base from New York City to Philadelphia, while continuing to travel, and to visit his children in Portland. Apparently, he adjusts his schedule so as to be able to report on the Portland lyceum series. He must be traveling, and writing, almost continually during this period, whatever other kind of work he is performing.
Now we return to the Portland "Transcript." I can't go into what all the other pseudonyms are saying, at this point. Let's focus on his attack on Edgar Allan Poe.
Now I have to find the photographs of these pieces, taken directly off the microfilm reader, reflections and all...
Incidentally, you might want to know how I knew that I was seeing Mathew Franklin Whittier's work in the "Transcript" of this period. The first thing I stumbled upon, in the August 12, 1848 edition (as I was winding the reel in seach of March 3, 1849), was an asterisk-signed essay entitled "A Chapter on Bores." This was one of Mathew's favorite subjects--as seen in "Dr. Digg" in the "Carpet-Bag," and also as seen in his parody of "The Raven," called "The Vulture" (who was a dreaded bore), in that same paper.
The avid readers of this blog--if any such critters there be--may recall that Mathew adoped the persona of a historical personage, Ferdinand Mendez Pinto, when he wanted to bullshit--which is to say, when he wanted to adopt the persona of a bullshitter. He used it as faux foreign correspondence, to lampoon those newspapers which he suspected of creating their own fake foreign letters, in the New York "Evening Mirror" of Nov. 8, 1847; then again, he adopted it for the Boston "Carpet-Bag," to lambaste a fellow-contributor who was persistently imitating him in that paper. (Technically, Mathew's character lambasted the other writer's character, i.e., his persona in the paper.) The reason he adopted this pseudonym for that purpose, is that the original Pinto is thought to have made up a great many of his recorded exploits. Just keep in mind, here, that this is what Pinto stood for in the minds of people with a liberal education.
Oh--there is a bit more background I should throw in. The editor for this paper, the Portland "Transcript," was Charles P. Ilsley, back in the early 40's, when Mathew was submitting work under the pseudonym, "Poins." They were personal friends, as I know from a reference in Mathew's correspondence with his brother. Charles was an amateur cryptographer, and while he was very modest about it, he handily deciphered something that a reader sent in to baffle him, so he must have been fairly skilled. Past-life memory impressions have suggested, to me, that Charles taught at least some of what he knew to Mathew. In any case, Charles was there in Portland in 1849--in fact, he submitted at least one article of his own to the "Transcript" during this period. So Mathew could easily have run any encrypted piece by Charles, if he couldn't figure it out, himself.
You'll need that background, for the following article which appears in the Portland "Transcript" of March 3, 1849--roughly the time that Mathew was in Portland, writing as "Rusticus."
Written for the Portland Transcript.
MR. POE'S VALENTINE.
In Sartain's Union Magazine for the present month, is "A Valentine" by Edgar A. Poe,--in which the author, after telling his story--very kindly warns off all readers from the attempt to unravel his enigma, since they will merely have their labor for their pains. The editor of the Magazine, also calls the article a "most provoking puzzle." We take this notice of the matter only because we are not quite willing to take a challenge from both the author and his editor. The missive follows:
"For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes,
Brightly expressive as the twins of Loeda,
Shall find her own sweet name, that, nestling lies
Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader
Search narrowly the lines!—they hold a treasure
Divine—a talisman—an amulet
That must be worn at heart Search well the measure—
The words—the syllables! Do not forget
The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor!
And yet there is in this no Gordian knot
Which one might not undo without a sabre,
If she could merely comprehend the plot.
Enwritten upon the leaf where now are peering
Eyes scintillating soul, there lie perdu
Three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing
of poets, by poets—as the name is a poet's too.
Its letters, though naturally lying
Like the knight Pinto—Mendez Ferdinando—
Still form a synonym for Truth.—Cease trying!
You will not read the riddle, though you do the
best you can do."
The reader will please note the initial letter of the opening line: the second letter of the second line: the third, of the third, and thus advancing through the entire twenty, and he will make out the name of Frances Sargent Osgood.
About a year since, Mr. Poe furnished for the same Magazine, a sonnet, enveloping in the same profound mystery that attaches to the above, the name of another gifted poetess. We read the riddle at the time, without hurting ourself in the least. Here it is:
"Seldom we find," says Solomon Don Dunce,
"Half an idea in the profoundest sonnet.
Through all the flimsy things we see at once
As easily as through a Naples bonnet,—
Trash of all trash!—how can a lady don it?
Yet heavier far than your Petrarchan stuff—
Owl-downy nonsense that the faintest puff
Twirls into trunk-paper the while you can it."
And, veritably, Sol is right enough.
The general Petrarchanities are arrant
Bubbles—ephemeral and so transparent—
But this is, now,—you may depend upon it—
Stable, opaque, immortal—all by dint
Of the dear names that lie concealed within 't.
By running through this according to the rule given for the first, the reader will discover the name of Sarah Anna Lewis. If Mr. Poe really wishes to puzzle his readers, let him attempt something in the periphrastic manner of the Troubadours of Provence, "in days of old romance," and possibly he may succeed. But such trifling as the above, is hardly worthy the ingenuity of the author of "The Gold Bug." Polonius.
I say this is Mathew Franklin Whittier; and that Poe's reference to Mendez Ferdinando Pinto is no coincidence. "Polonius" would be a deliberate one-off pseudonym for Mathew; but his signatures always held a meaning. Let's see what this one is--I don't know who "Polonius" was, myself.
(And remember, when I do these "real time" things with you, I really am doing them in real time.)
Here is Wikipedia, as of this date:
Polonius is a character in William Shakespeare's Hamlet. He is chief counsellor of the king, and the father of Laertes and Ophelia. Generally regarded as wrong in every judgment he makes over the course of the play, Polonius is described by William Hazlitt as a "sincere" father, but also "a busy-body, [who] is accordingly officious, garrulous, and impertinent". In Act II Hamlet refers to Polonius as a "tedious old fool" and taunts him as a latter day "Jeptha".
As I mentioned above, for 2-3 years Mathew signed as "Poins"--another Shakespearian character--for the Portland "Transcript" of the early 1840's. Why he would style himself as this character, I'm not immediately certain, except I'm certain this is Mathew. Nobody else would take on a self-deprecating name like that.
Oh, I just got a "hit"--and I think it was a past-life memory hit. Poe must have called him by this same name; or, Poe accused him of being this kind of person, i.e., both wrong, and annoying. But my money is on Poe having actually called him "a Polonius," or simply "Polonius," for harrassing him privately about his theft of "The Raven."
Mathew must have tried to do something about it, privately, and been scornfully rebuffed by Poe, as a "Polonius."
So Mathew is signing this with a signature that nobody else will understand; but which Poe will immediately understand. He is saying, "Polonius this, asshole."
Let's stop for a minute to see what Edward Elwell, the current editor of the "Transcript," has to say on the subject of plagiarism, in the Oct. 6, 1849 edition:
IS IT PLAGIARISM?
Many striking instances of coincidence of thought and expression are to be found among the writings of the Poets--perhaps none more striking than the following:
From Waller, the poet—
"That eagle's fate and mine are one,
Which, on the shaft that made him die,
Espied a feather of his own,
Wherewith he wont to soar on high."
From Byron, the poet—
"So the struck eagle, stretched upon the plain,
No more through rolling clouds to soar again,
View'd his new feather on the fatal dart,
And wing'd the shaft that quiver'd in his heart!"
A more modern and amusing instance we give below. A child eight years of age is said to have written an epigraph upon Gen. Gaines, which has been much praised. It bears so close a resemblance to one written by Burns as almost to induce one to believe in the doctrine of transmigration of souls!
By the child,
"A brave old man lies here at rest
As ever God with his image blest,
The friend of man, the friend of truth,
The friend of age and guide of youth.
"An honest man lies here at rest
As e'er God with his image blest;
The friend of man, the friend of truth,
The friend of age, and guide of youth."
But an instance of gross plagiarism is before us in a contribution to that excellent journal, the National Era. Some numbskull, who signs himself "Oriole," has appropriated a portion of Mr. F.S. Osgood's beautiful poem on "Labor," and sent it to the editor as his own production! Such aspirants for literary fame are to be pited.
The associate editor of the "National Era" was Mathew's brother, poet John Greenleaf Whittier. JGW's work would occasionally be published in the "Transcript," but very likely, Mathew learned of this through John Greenleaf, and then told Elwell about it, who saw fit to comment in his paper. Mathew is using Elwell--knowingly or unknowingly--to send his messages through the "Transcript."
We are now in September 8, 1849. This is toward the end of when Mathew will be contributing to this paper so heavily. He has recently begun writing as "Quails" for the Boston "Weekly Museum," and is traveling extensively. So in this edition of the "Transcript," there is a meat-and-potatoes article, signed with Mathew's asterisk, about whether the Legislature should meet for summer or winter sessions. This just establishes that his presence is here, in this issue. There is no question about the asterisk--I've researched it carefully for years, and it's about as strongly proven for Mathew as anything could be, without a specific statement in black and white.
So next, we have a poem by Edgar Allan Poe, introduced by Edward Elwell. Honestly, I took it as a parody, but it is, apparently, Poe's actual attempt to sound as though he could have written "The Raven." And it's awful. I mean, how could anybody get this confused? Edward Elwell was nobody's fool, and yet, unless he has his tongue in his cheek, he seems to be taken in along with everybody else. Except, I note someone has misspelled the title! It should read "Ulalume," and here, it reads "Ulaulme," with the letters "u" and "a" transposed. That's pretty rare in a big paper like the "Transcript."* Here's Elwell's introduction--I'll let you look up the poem itself.
[Hand-pointing symbol] We think our readers will agree with us that the following unique and felicitous piece of word-painting, which recently appeared in the American Review, could come from no pen but that of the Author of the "Raven"--Edgar A. Poe. It is a most exquisite exercise of skill in the use of language.--Ed. Transcript.
I swear, I thought it was a parody. Oh, well. You just can't make this shit up, as they say.
The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere—
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year:
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir—
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
Well, which were the leaves, crisped, or withering? How about we just repeat some lines and sound Raven-like?
Now, if I was Lee Camp, and I wasn't so tired from waking up too early last night, I could give you a proper analogy. This is about as much like the sincere genius that went into the writing of "The Raven," as, as...as the little round cardboard ice creams we got for school lunch, were like Hagan Dass. As my tennis game is to Roger Federer's. As Donald Trump is to a man fit to be President of the United States...**
"Ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir?"
I think I posed the question, awhile back, what if people were told that the "Lord of the Rings" series was written by Stephen King? Here, we have the reverse--"Christine" is being attributed to J.R.R. Tolkien...
But there's one more "find" in here, and as I recall it's rather ominous (you know, as in ghoul-haunted woodlands). Let me go hunt for it...
In the March 24, 1849 edition--the same month as the article by "Polonius" on Poe's coded poetry--is a poem by Francis Quarles, entitled, "Time." Actually, the full title is "On Time," but when you look it up online via its interior lines, you get instances which are unattributed, and at least one that is wrongly attributed. I had to search by title and author, to find it under Quarles' work. So whoever chose this for the Portland "Transcript," must have taken it from the original source. I do know (because he had mentioned it) that he owned an original volume of Quarles' poetry; and I also know that Mathew would send things in to editors he knew personally, asking them to print this or that, which had some personal meaning for him. Usually, it had to do with his first wife, Abby (the one he wrote "The Raven" for). That's as much as I can claim, here. It could have been chosen by the editor, Edward Elwell. But we know Mathew Franklin Whittier was well-acquainted with the poetry of Francis Quarles, while we don't actually know that about Edward Elwell--so chalk one up for Mathew.
If he was the one who sent it in, this is indeed chilling--because Poe would, in fact, die in October of 1849. This is how the poem appears in the "Transcript":
Time's an hand's breadth; 'tis a tale;
'Tis a vessel under sail;
'Tis an eagle in its way,
Daring down upon its prey;
'Tis an arrow in its flight,
Mocking the pursuing sight;
'Tis a short lived fading flower;
'Tis a rainbow on a shower;
'Tis a momentary ray,
Smiling in a winter's day;
'Tis a torrent's rapid stream;
'Tis a shadow; 'tis a dream;
'Tis the closing watch of night,
Dying at the rising light;
'Tis a bubble; 'tis a sigh;
Be prepared, O man! to die.
Frances Quarles, 1634.
If this was Mathew, he would be telling Poe (who read the "Transcript"), "Okay, I give up, but you'll get yours in due time--and time is short."
I'm way too tired and, after posting this and reading it a couple of times, I need to wind down and get some dinner. It is impossible to flash a piece of evidence in front of a skeptic, and bring them to their knees in sudden belief. One or two psychic mediums have done that with skeptics, on very rare occasions, by telling the person something they couldn't possibly have known by normal means. Here, I have several clues all impinging on the fact that Mathew Franklin Whittier originally wrote "The Raven"; that Poe successfully claimed and stole it from him; and that Mathew protested--perhaps quite bluntly, in private correspondence, and obliquely, in published material which he knew Poe would see. It did no good. So Mathew let him go his own way; and the rest of the story is veiled from us, because we have no privilege to see Poe's life review after his death. Rest assured he had one.
In an age--the Kali Yuga--when people have so little artistic and spiritual discernment, as not to be able to immediately see that the author of "The Philosophy of Composition," and "Ulalume," could not possibly have written "The Raven," there is really no way to get through. I've presented enough evidence, that were it combined with discernment on the part of the recipient, it should immediately convince people. Those people should be telling other people, and so-on, until someone contacts me and says, "How can we get this public? Would you like to be a guest on my show?" And so on, and so forth.
After taking a walk, it occurred to me to see if I can't break this down intellectually. The darkness in Mathew's poem, "The Raven," came from his overpowering grief for Abby. She had taught him metaphysics, and the occult truths of life after death, but he never achieved a deep enough faith, and now he is going through a faith crisis. He is doing, in earnest, precisely what the poet says he is doing. In fact--and this just hit me--perhaps he is studying his old, original volume of Francis Quarles (hence the signature). As said, I do know that he wrote of having one, and quoted from it. The humor in the poem is Mathew's last defense, when faith fails; it was his fallback all through a very difficult childhood, in a secretly dysfunctional family. The Raven is a poem of love, faced with the seeming finality of death, which is threatening to overcome the poet's reason.
The darkness in Poe's "Ulalume" is part-and-parcel of his state of development. It is not from love, nor is it from grief. He's just a dark guy. These things may look superficially similar, but they are poles apart. There is no humor, that I can see, in Ulalume. Nor is there any faith crisis. Instead, there is "scary stuff," like ghouls. That's because this is as much of "The Raven" as he can perceive. In other words, he is imitating what he understands of it, and he "thinks he is doing it." There is about as much in common, spiritually, between the two poems as there is between a juicy orange and an orange-painted rock. But people who are in the same state of spiritual development as Poe, can't tell the difference, any more than he could. As for souls, and psyches, and all of that, it's simple--he's faking it.
For the matter of that, Francis Quarles was a deeply-committed Christian, and his poetry is all faith-based. Poe had none of this. Why, in the world, would anyone believe that Poe was even familiar with Quarles, no less that he chose "---- Quarles" as a pseudonym? Once? When he didn't even use pseudonyms like that?
As regards spirituality, despite his ability to throw around words like "soul" and "Psyche," Poe is like the stoned hippies, in my audio clip, who don't even know that Ravi Shankar is just tuning up. He thinks he's actually playing.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*I've suggested that Poe might have known some typesetters in 1846, to screw up Mathew's published protests--is it possible that Mathew knows a typesetter in 1849?
**Charles Dickens was never able to duplicate the quality of "A Christmas Carol" in his subsequent Christmas stories, either, for the same reason. Mathew wryly commented on it once, as regards his amateurish attempt at metaphysics in one of these stories, in a brief unsigned review.
Music opening this page: Ravi Shankar at the
Concert for Bangladesh