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8/22/18

Sometimes you have to put the actual, physical thing in a person's hands, before he will believe you. I'm going to do the next-best thing, here, by providing links to downloadable pdf pages of 19th-century originals.

The first version of "The Raven" was published under the pseudonym "---- Quarles" in the "American Review." It is implausible that Edgar Allan Poe would have had much to do with Quarles' poetry, because Poe was a worldly man, and Quarles was a deeply-committed Christian, whose poetry is all profoundly faith-based. Furthermore, as you will see, it is heavily painted with the colors of spiritual renunciation. If Poe was aware of it, academically, he definitely wouldn't have identified with it, to the extent of adopting it as a pseudonym. Neither was Poe in the habit of adopting such pseudonyms, in the first place. The whole thing is extremely unlikely, for him. To believe that Poe published under this pseudonym, one has to indulge in magical thinking--one has to cram the round peg of the theory, into the square hole of the evidence.

Not so with Mathew Franklin Whittier. It fits perfectly on all counts. And one of those counts, is that Mathew tells us he had (or had access to) an original copy of Quarles' poetry, in 1831. And here's the evidence, for you to hold, as it were, in your virtual hands.

Mathew was submitting frequently, in 1831 and 1832, to a Boston young men's magazine called "The Essayist." As he usually did, he adopted several pseudonyms--including his asterisk, as mentioned in yesterday's entry, which he used, in this case, for book reviews--but also "Franklin, Jr." As near as I can tell, people (or maybe just Mathew) would add "Jr." after a famous name, to indicate that the writer was a follower, or an admirer, of that person. So "Franklin, Jr." means an admirer of Benjamin Franklin. But Mathew's middle name was Franklin--Benjamin Franklin was, in fact, his namesake, and there is abundant evidence to indicate that Mathew admired him a great deal.

By style and content, also, it is clear that this is young Mathew's work, at age 19. I have a great deal of it to compare to, because by this time he had been publishing in newspapers in Boston and New York for some four years, since 1827. So you can believe me or not, but I'm certain that "Franklin, Jr." is Mathew.

Now, I am going to provide you with links to five pages from "The Essayist." The first appears in the first edition of Sept. 1831. There is a large gap in this publication--it surfaces again in April 1832. In that edition, there are four more pages. They speak for themselves, and whatever else one might take away from them, as regards Mathew's intelligence and (self-obtained) education, it is clear that Mathew was well-acquainted with the poetry of Francis Quarles, and that he appreciated it. That, plus his penchant for using one-off pseudonyms, which held private meanings for him, make him a far, far more plausible candidate to have submitted "The Raven" under "---- Quarles," than Edgar Allan Poe.

If the full-length recording I've used to open this page annoyed you, and you had to shut it off before it finished, would you ever think of using, as a pseudonym, the name of a deeply committed Christian poet? On the other hand, if it stirred you deeply as it does me, and you listened right on through until the applause faded out, you might be far more likely to do so.

I own an original volume of "The Essayist." It set me back $500. I guess once you get the habit of collecting antique books, it sticks with you. This one will go into the little museum I envision being built someday, to hold the artifacts connected with Mathew's life and work.

Oh, I had a sudden "hit" or "ahah" experience yesterday. I don't remember if I recorded it in that entry, or not. But you know how "The Raven" opens with the poet studying an old, mysterious tome of some kind? I think I know why Mathew signed "The Raven" as "---- Quarles." I think that was the book he was reading. My hunch is that it was one of his late wife, Abby's, favorites. Perhaps it had originally been hers, as her family had money and could afford such things. In 1831, she would have lent it to him; after her death, Mathew would have been reaching back to the poems she loved, for faith and guidance to meet the overwhelming crush of grief. I do know that there had to have been some private meaning for him. He never used a pseudonym without it meaning something.

As I was introducing the above into my sequel, I started to free-associate. Either my imagination got the better of me, or my past-life memories started opening up. That has happened to me at least once before, and the details I came up with (about Abby's funeral service) check out at least to the level of being plausible. So here's what came to me--Abby owned this original, antiquarian volume of Francis Quarles' poetry, in 1831, when she was 15 and Mathew was 19. Her family, being wealthy, could afford such things, whereas Mathew wouldn't have been able to. It was (as my thoughts progressed) one of her favorites; and having a very sharp mind, she was able to argue for Quarles' ideas very successfully. So much so, that Mathew dubbed her "Abby Quarles." Do you see where I'm going with this? Mathew, in unbearable grief after her death, was returning to her book of Quarles' poetry, for solace; and to touch something that was one of her favorite possessions. He was reading it, and remembering how she would convincingly argue with him about matters of faith. It was not death, per se, that he was struggling with--it was his faith, the faith that Abby had given him. The bust of Pallas represented the wisdom of the ancient Greeks, that she had also given him, in their tutoring sessions. But the reality of physical death--which in the Whittier family, was symbolized superstitiously by a raven--wouldn't go away. He couldn't conquer it, he couldn't banish it. Therefore the poem was entirely symbolic of this struggle with his faith, and what Abby had taught him. He signed the poem with the nickname he had privately given Abby: "Abby Quarles." Abby's name, per standard procedure, was represented by a blank. This was a poetic convention of the time, but the clue here is, that the blank always represented the name of an actual person. So Mathew's nickname for Abby, "Abby Quarles," was a play on the word "quarrels," because she was such a superb debater. I have remembered this, also--and there is a piece of evidence for it. This comes from one of Abby's stories, entitled "Master Palmer." Here, the father has punished his son so severely, that the boy, Charlie, has run away from home. His sister, Jane, tries to reason with their father, prevailing to the point that he has no choice but to dismiss her, having lost the argument. This story is loosely based on Mathew's childhood, and Abby has now cast herself as his sister:

"Dear papa, do you know where Charley is?"

"No, my dear little one; I fear Charley is a very naughty boy, and will make our hearts all sad."

"Oh, but, papa, don't we know what will make him good?"

"What, child?"

"Love, papa; he is always good to me, and oh, you don't know how much I love him; Charles says you put him down in school when he don't deserve it, papa, and don't treat him so kindly as you do the other boys, and--"

Hush, hush! not another word of that, Jane. Charles is m own son, and if I kept him in the highest places, other boys would think themselves put down, and their fathers would accuse me of partiality, and then I should lose their countenance; and then, perhaps, their influence might forfeit me my place; and then, then, my little darling Jane, what should we all do for bread to eat and a roof to cover us?"

For a moment Jane seemed lost in thought. "And that is what you call policy, isn't it, father? Well, it seems to me like acting what isn't truth. But now you are at home, father, do let Constant and me go and look for him."

"No, Jane; if Charles is guilty of playing truant he must not be coaxed home."

"Oh, father! but why not try coaxing once? you know you never do; who knows but it is just the thing to do him good? Why, if you hadn't always been good to me, there is no telling what a wicked, vengeful thing I should have been."

"But Charles is a boy, my little daughter, and such treatment as you receive would only make him silly and girlish. He must learn self-reliance, and not lean always on his father's love."

"But you said yesterday, father, that it was wicked to seem to reply upon ourselves; that we were leaning upon our Heavenly Father's love every moment of our lives."

"Ah, Jane, remember I am but an earthly parent, and my support may be withdrawn from him at any moment."

"Yes, but then it seems to me men are not so very independent of one another, after all," persisted Miss Jane, determined to carry the point. "Now, don't be angry, father, but haven't I heard you say that your happiness depended--oh, you could not tell how much--on those about you? Why may not Charles grow up to be like you?"

"You don't understand my meaning, Jane; you're a mere child; run away to your play, run."

Abby would have been a psychologist, if she were born in our century. She was trying to help Mathew with the emotional scars of his own dysfunctional childhood. But, I digress.

Oh, as long as I'm digressing, something else occurred to me. Did you read, in yesterday's entry, Mathew's opinion that the author of "The Gold Bug" should have been able to do much better by way of a coded poem, than to take the first letter from the first line, the second letter from the second line, etc.? It just hit me--maybe he was implying yet another plagiarism, inasmuch as he had demonstrated that Poe couldn't possibly have written that story. Hmmm... Oh well, I think the real author of that work will have to reincarnate and straighten out his own theft.

The relevant pages of Mathew's 1831/32 Quarles quotations are:

September

April, page 1

April, page 2

April, page 3

April, page 2

Best regards,

Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.

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Music opening this page: "You Can Tell the World,"
sung by the Chad Mitchell Trio, from the album, "At the Bitter End"

 

   

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