Shall I keep on writing these entries? Unique daily visits of this website are down about a fourth, from as high as 400, down to the high 200's or low 300's. If it is a temporary dip, it is becoming an extended one. And I am convinced from a recent experience of trying to participate in an online group, that nobody--from the public experts and advocates, on down--is going to appreciate what I'm doing, today. It's going to have to wait for another generation, if I can find a way to preserve my work and push it forward to that time.
Given that these entries may be preserved along with the rest, and be of interest to that generation, if not to this one, I think I will keep on writing as long as I enjoy doing so.
As I was proofreading my early past-life work, written as a 17-year-old Mathew Franklin Whittier for the New York "Constellation" in 1830/31, I came across another humorous sketch I'd like to share. This one is brief, but significant on a couple of different counts.
But first I wanted to comment briefly on the case and sentencing of Michelle Carter, which I stumbled upon on TV yesterday. I have been toyed with by mentally ill women in romantic relationships. As it happened, I reacted to them, subconsciously, as though they were all my past-life soul-mate, Abby. I formed that immediate, deep attachment, expecting them to reciprocate even though they only play-acted the part. They became quickly and easily disillusioned (or were never "illusioned" to begin with), and I felt deeply betrayed, just as though I had lost Abby; or as though it was she who had treated me thus. Now, I understand it, and will never be drawn into such a thing, again. In fairness, several of them tried to give me the feedback that they didn't feel it was themselves that I was reacting to, though of course they put a standard psychological explanation on it (as, for example, that I was "in love with love," or that I was "putting too much emotional pressure on them"). But the fact that they continued in the role when and as it suited them, and only for as long as it suited them, is bad news for them, ethically. In hindsight, I realize that by trying subconsciously to replicate my dimly-remembered soul-mate relationship with Abby, I was inadvertently selecting for those women who were so deficient in personal ethics, that they would continue to play-act what I wanted; whereas the healthier women simply passed me by. Not only was it not as much of a coincidence as it seemed that I was replicating this pattern; it would actually be the predicted and expected outcome.
My reaction, at each rejection, was mainly to take long walks and journal compulsively. But these experiences made me aware that it would be possible to commit the perfect murder, by manipulating a vulnerable person's affections to such an extent that one induces them to commit suicide. And the law can't touch you--or, it couldn't until this case. This opens the door to making such people accountable (and I noticed that the judge discounted mental illness as a relevant factor). I'll tell you when this question came into focus for me. I heard a story of a Jewish violinist, who was forced to play in a quartette, I think it was, for a group of young Nazi soldiers--say, at a restaurant, or social gathering of some kind. The violinist noticed that one of them seemed nostalgic, then sad--and he deliberately played as sad a tune as he possibly could, until the soldier excused himself, walked out onto the balcony, and blew his brains out.
Was it justified? Was it an act of war? I won't attempt to wrestle with the ethics. Typically, when one gets revenge on a group, one succeeds with precisely the one person who might not have deserved it. Perhaps the soldier was drafted; perhaps he missed his family, or his sweetheart; perhaps they had been killed. I don't know. But what it did graphically illustrate, is that you can murder someone with music. Likewise, you can murder them by toying with their romantic affections, if the person happens to be vulnerable.
Now, I ran across this little "filler" in the Jan. 1, 1831 edition of the New York "Constellation." It is among several pieces signed "D.," one of which is cross-signed as the philosophical commentator, "Israel Icicle." There is no question that this is Mathew, and not, as one historian assumed, the editor, Asa Greene. For one thing, this story expresses Mathew's trademark sympathy for the underdog. Secondly, one of his wife's short stories portrays a similar character. My third clue is the ending. Mathew has many times used variations on the expression, "an original genius." Writing as "Quails," when he meets his own character, "Ethan Spike" (years before he was outed as "Spike's" originator), he referred to himself as "that most original of all geniuses."*
In an earlier Update, I reproduced Samuel Clemens' first attempt at a humorous anecdote, published in the "Carpet-Bag" of 1852. (You can probably find it online--I think it was published in the May 1, 1852 edition.) I compared it with the earliest piece by Mathew which I had found at that time, published in September of 1831. This one is from January 1831, when he was 18 years old. And it is hardly the first--I can take his work back, now, to December of 1829, as you have seen if you have been keeping up with these entries. At that time, I opined that while the 16-year-old Clemens could certain write competently, he couldn't tell a joke. But at 18 years old, Mathew can. Furthermore, while Clemens is sticking to the tried-and-true theme of Dandies and Squatters, i.e., class distinctions, with the lower class coming out on top in a physical confrontation, Mathew is taking the part of a disabled person. Mathew is doing this in 1831--Clemens, being younger, submits his effort in 1852, or more than 20 years later.
I say these things, because my conclusions are not as far-fetched as they will initially seem. I am convinced, now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was Mathew who wrote the dinner speech which got Clemens in such hot water, when he read it at Mathew's brother's birthday party in 1877. There are multiple clues; but this is clearly a story that Mathew wrote, and which Clemens, perchance, edited slightly before delivering it to the assembly.
We know of Clemens as practically a god--the great father of comedy. But to Mathew, he was a member of the next generation, who started out a bit awkward but eventually found his style and became famous.
This brings us to the great misconception that I keep hammering away at in this blog. One has to understand the sociology of fame. One becomes famous because one has taken something of high quality, and adulterated it so as to appeal to the masses. Because it is precisely the nod of the masses which defines fame. Nobody is considered famous because their work appeals to some knowledgeable group of literati. Fame means numbers.
The trick is that the greatest proportion of the masses are ignorant. Just look at the lowest common denominator which drives the television production market. Even PBS is having to bow to it, now. PBS is no-longer driving any higher consciousness, as it once did--it is catering to numbers, in order to stay afloat financially, in competition with cable channels like the History Channel and Discovery Channel. And they, in turn, are a mess, appealing to the very lowest of the low, these days--having, themselves, to compete with YouTube, I suppose.
So Samuel Clemens was no exception. He became famous because he did what Mathew refused to do. As near as I can tell, he was a cynic, whereas Mathew remained a man of faith (albeit, esoteric faith) all his life. Mathew refused to express cynicism, nor would he poke fun at things sacred.** He used his humor as a moral and ethical platform. The only reason he achieved any grassroots fame at all, through his "Ethan Spike" character, is that he wrote in levels, and the masses, mistaking what he was doing, were drawn to the most superficial level. Even a historian, specializing in 19th century American humorists, thought Mathew was a "nihilist." No. It was Clemens who was the nihilist, and who became famous thereby. At least, that is my personal assessment and intuitive appraisal of him.
What debt Clemens might have owed to Mathew's work is unknown. I only found one brief reference, until I realized that his travelogues were strongly reminiscent of those Mathew had written in the early 1850's, under the pseudonym of "Quails." First, I had to definitely wrest that pseudonym from the man it is historically claimed for, an entertainer named Ossian Dodge. That done, I could then compare "Quails" with Clemens' travelogue work. It is similar, except that Mathew was a deeply spiritual man, while Clemens was a cynic, i.e., a worldly man. The world, naturally, resonates far better with one of its own--hence, fame.
To give a sense of the professional relationship between Mathew and Samuel Clemens, at least from Mathew's side of the equation, I found a Jan. 1, 1870 review by Mathew of one of Clemens' lectures: "Our Fellow Savages of the Sandwich Islands." It's a very favorable review, but I found Mathew's characterization of Clemens' style interesting. Note his generous comment regarding Dickens, who had claimed Mathew and Abby's story, "A Christmas Carol," for himself:
The Portland Band wiled away the waiting half hour with delicious music; John Henry Murray, Esq., the British Consul, read Dickens' child romance, of "Boots at the Holly Tree Inn," with fine expression of its mingled tenderness and drollery, and Mark Twain, the great humorist of the day, entertained the audience with a comical mingling of sense and nonsense about our fellow savages of the Sandwich Islands and matters in general. Mark is a young man of very innocent appearance; he evidently don't mean to say anything funny if he can help it, but people will laugh at what he says in spite of his solemn air and embarrassed manner. He walks about the stage, rubbing his hands together in a doleful way, drawling out his sentences with many a hitch and repetition as if he were uncertain what he is going to say and how to say it. His manner is that of a natural droll, who innocently wonders what you see to laugh at in his remarks, and the effect is heightened by his affected awkwardness and diffidence. He kept the audience in good humor by the dryness of his remarks, in which fun was mingled with shrewd sense. It was the best humorous lecture we have listened to, surpassing those of Artemus Ward in many respects.
The back story here, is that Artemus Ward, aka Charles Farrar Browne, had gotten his start by rewriting one of Mathew's humorous sketches, and inserting it, unbeknownst to B.P. Shillaber, editor of the "Carpet-Bag," into the paper when Browne was a printer's apprentice. He then became famous with the "Ward" character, which was a blatant imitation of "Ethan Spike" in many respects (only without the spiritual basis--and Browne, himself, was racist). A second irony has to do with Mathew's characterization of Clemens as the "great humorist of the day." I know his language--this is a very, very subtle left-handed compliment. He means precisely what I am saying in this blog--that he is "great" in the sense of having public acclaim.
Then on Jan. 30, 1875--two years before the dinner speech--Mathew publishes a tribute to Clemens, in-character as "Ethan Spike" of "Hornby." Remember that "Spike" is a 19th-century Archie Bunker, an ignorant arch-conservative (Democrats were conservatives at this time).
His imperious majesty King Kernacker, emperor of all the Sandwiches, defender of the faith and a near relation of most of the hevingly bodies, has been graciously pleased to let the light of his countenance shine upon us, and our faces is still a shinin with the reflected glory. We have heretofore bin noted for our intense dimocracy and hatred of the pomps and conventooalities of the old world, but we are a changed people, dimocrats is more skaser in our streets today than blackberries in our pasters. We feels that we hev bin sittin into darkness but are emergin to a belief in the divine rights of pottentates. We shall probably gradooally withdraw ourselves from dimocratic institootions and turn our attention to the culture of Kings and royal perogatives.
Yesterday was a proud day for Hornby--I belive I made a similar remark before. We had made due preparations for the reception of our illustrious guest, speshally in the way of eating and drinking. I do believ there's not a head of poultry alive in town, and we must import the base of our futer stock, though it is reported that one setten hin and a bob-tail rooster managed to hide in a hay-mow. At first, in delicate compliment to our visitor, we thought of gittin up a cold boiled missionary and a fry of piccaninnies, but as we could not come nearer to the former dish than the only minister in town, and he is conscientiously scrupulous about servin in that capacity--and as no one volunteered any babies, we reluctantly gin up the idee. I felt sorry for this, as I am afraid his majesty has not gone away with a proper impression of our hospitality. I never shall respect our minister as I used to. He's ollers talkin about the beauty of self-sacrifice, and yet utterly refused to go into the pot for the glory of his feller critters! He even went so fur as to suggest if somebody must be biled, that I should volunteer, and I faild to convince him that I was differently sitooated, and couldnt be spared.
Note that in an earlier sketch, he got away with spelling "hevingly" as "heavingly"; but only that one time. After that, he had to be content to fudge it as "hevingly."
The equation of fame with greatness has to be severed completely, like a malignant tumor. The two have very little actual correspondence--except where someone steals or borrows greatness, and waters it down. I strongly suspect that this dynamic accounts for a very high percentage of famous persons. But perhaps I won't delve any further into this idea. You either see it immediately, or you don't; and if you don't, it would be useless to try to convince you.
On second thought, I can at least state the rationale behind this view. Genius is channeled from higher vibrational realms of thought. Only those with sufficient spiritual preparation are capable of tuning in to it and receiving it. Others, however intelligent and talented they may be, if they are of a worldly temperament, cannot do this. They can, however, and often do, imitate the true genius--where "genius" means, specifically, a human conduit--and mix in with it their own worldliness, which adulterated mixture is then attractive to the worldly masses. Only other people who are, themselves, attuned to the high vibrational levels can discern the difference.
Below, is Mathew Franklin Whittier with a brief, ironic humorous sketch, writing for a New York newspaper at age 18. Rather than being an isolated instance, during this period, in early 1831, he is writing a great deal of the creative material for this paper--as many as three "D."-signed pieces per page, actually, in the editions I had purchased. As he will for future newspapers he becomes associated with, it is his talent--even at this young age--which is driving the paper's success. And yet, he keeps his name out of it. He deliberately avoided fame. So much so, that I think he reincarnated as myself to set the record straight, realizing that he had actually hidden his light under a bushel when he should have simply let matters take their natural course. Because had he not hidden himself, eventually the cream would have risen to the top. Instead, what rose to the top was the works that various people stole from him and claimed as their own--"A Christmas Carol" (co-authored with Abby); "The Raven"; "The Vulture," which is one of the most popular parodies of "The Raven"; all the travelogues written by "Quails"; all the work for the "Carpet-Bag" written under "Trismegistus" and its spin-offs; most (not all) of the short stories written under the name "The Old 'Un" which were claimed by Francis Durivage, plus his book, "Mike Martin"; and more.
Incidentally, that Mathew chose the name "Stephen" for his character, is simply a coincidence--except that he seems to have liked that name, and used it a number of times in various contexts. Not enough that I can make a proper case for it; but enough that it becomes a bit of a red flag. Beyond that, I can't say, though I do know that some people claim that when you reincarnate, you can make some choices about your upcoming life.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*It was an inside joke. Nobody knew who "Quails" was; and at this time, nobody knew who wrote "Ethan Spike," either. So "Quails" reports meeting "Spike," and calls him that "most original of all geniuses," but nobody knew that both characters were written by Mathew Franklin Whittier. Note that Spike was a scathing satire on conservatives and racist bigots; while the man "Quails" was falsely attributed to, Ossian Dodge, actually was racist. So Dodge would never have singled out "Ethan Spike" to be the one celebrity he wished to meet on his first visit to Portland, Maine.
**With rare exceptions, primarily occurring at times when he, himself, had been taken for a ride; or when his ex-wife was making it difficult to visit with his children. Mathew often lampooned hypocrisy, including religious hypocrisy, but that was quite the opposite of lampooning spirituality, itself.
The New York "Constellation"
January 1, 1831
The Biter Bit.--Stephen Revery was a little fellow, who in his childhood had been stunted, partly by rickets, partly by rum, and partly by hard rubbers. His eye appeared to be always gazing on vacancy. He would often when alone throw down his axe or hoe, and clapping his hands on his sides, burst into an almost uncontrollable fit of laughter. Withal he was extremely poor, shiftless, friendless and generally very simple. What this being could find in his own thoughts to afford such keen amusement, was a matter of no little wonder to those who judged of him only from his appearance and general deportment. But some, who had regarded him more narrowly, found in him a singular original.
One day as he was, with his weak and hobbling gait, shuffling along through the dust of a highway, a neighbor happened to meet him and thought he would crack a joke over the head of the supposed simpleton.
"News," said Stephen, "what is it?"
"Why the devil's dead--is'nt that news?"
"I declare then, how I pity you!" replied Stephen, "what a poor fatherless child you must be!"
Music opening this page: "The Great Historical Bum" performed by the Chad Mitchell Trio,
from the album, At the Bitter End