Tomorrow my researcher plans to go back into the historical library, to obtain addition digital copies of the 1830/31 newspaper which I believe I contributed to in my 19th-century lifetime, as Mathew Franklin Whittier. If prediction is a significant element of true science, then this provides an opportunity to predict.
I have identified several editorial pages in this newspaper, the New York "Constellation," which I believe were handled entirely by myself in that lifetime. All the editorials, all the humorous sketches, all the fillers, etc. I have obtained up to the third week of August, 1830. If my theory is correct, these should drop off in the fall of 1830, to resume only in mid-December, and on into the following year. (To be fair, Mathew already seems to have stopped acting as substitute editor by the first edition in August--the question is whether or not he resumes before mid-December.)
The reasons behind this prediction are manifold, some having to do with past-life intuition, recognition, and the like; and some having to do with ordinary scholarship. But I will briefly describe the scenario which I believe was taking place during this hiatus. Mathew would have returned to his family farm in Haverhill, Mass., to help with the harvest. While there, he would have begun being tutored by his future wife, Abby, in the classics--perhaps in exchange for helping with her father's horses, or some other work around their property. But then he would have cut short these sessions, and returned to work for the "Constellation" in New York, because he wanted to pursue a career other than farming. In this case, he may have been combining newspaper work with some kind of mercantile activity, perhaps acting as a sales agent for one of the shoe manufacturers in Haverhill (an area known for shoes).
Abby was 14, and Mathew was 18. Abby appears (by the poetry I assign to her authorship) to have fallen in love with Mathew; but Mathew, being rejected by the town beauty, who was two years older than he, had angrily adopted the philosophy of bachelorhood; and besides, at 14, Abby was too young for him to think of her in romantic terms. Her poetry suggests she believed they were destined to be together, and that she initially took his leaving for New York in December, as an act of betrayal; but then reconciled herself to being friends.
How I obtained her poetry, and identified it as hers, is a story I don't want to get into, here. The point is that this could easily be disproved, if I find that Mathew continues to have control of the editorial page of the "Constellation" during the crucial period when, according to my theory, he should be back in his hometown.
If I find that, one of two things must go. Either it is not, in fact, Mathew who has charge of the editorial page of the "Constellation"; or he has not, in fact, returned home to help with the harvest, meaning he could not have been tutored by Abby during this period.
So I thought I'd write this out ahead of time, before I obtain the evidence. I'm writing at the end of my caretaking day, when I'm always exhausted, and so I won't elaborate, or try to make this entertaining. I just wanted to set it forth. Once I get in the evidence, and get a sense of what's going on, I'll report back. If this is Mathew--and I'm 99.9% certain, by dint of idiosyncratic elements in the writing style, that it is--then it is a no-brainer that he would return home to help with the harvest, though it still wouldn't tell us that Abby tutored him during this period. So I think I'm on pretty safe ground. Mathew's brother was unable to do heavy farm work. His father had died in June of this year, 1830. And there were his younger sister, his mother, and his aunt. It was already a matter of some contention in the family, apparently, that he left the farm to pursue his career, at all. Almost certainly, he would have to return for the harvest.
So if we see this writer, whom I have identified as Mathew, continuing as he had been, putting together the entire editorial page and making local references, it will bring my theory of his authorship into serious question. On the other hand, we may expect him to continue to submit some pieces to the paper--either directly, or to send along clippings of things he had gotten published in other papers (as, for example, in Boston or Portsmouth). I do have five physical editions from early 1831, plus a couple of pieces reprinted in a Philadelphia paper from this same period. So it's really only this gap in fall of 1830 that I'm nervous about. And I am nervous--so much is at stake. Darn this 19th-century habit of signing with initials and pseudonyms!!! It has caused me no end of headaches. I can point to Mathew's authorship with dozens of style indicators--but I can't nail it. I have found no official trace of him in New York City during this time. There were two possible leads--the city directory, and the membership of the Typographical Association. The former turned out to be a listing of people with trades, like a business listing; and the latter membership list, if it ever existed, has been lost to time.
But the clues are there. Mathew has been living in a boarding house on Water Street, near the Battery; and he takes frequent walks on Broadway. I've got it that close, from clues within some of the articles, themselves.
Time to wrap this up for the night. I'll report back. Sorry if this one is dull. I guess nobody else knows how much is riding on this question, except myself. I've been through this before. It may not come out quite like I expected, but if there is a discrepancy, it turns out to be educational; and the new evidence never really disproves my main theory. It just causes me to shift some of my assumptions around, a bit.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
I just realized I have another clue in my possession, before I obtain the new evidence. Reprinted in the Jan. 22, 1830 edition of the Philadelphia "Album and Ladies Literary Port Folio," is a letter written in-character by Mathew (as I believe), signed "Enoch Timbertoes." This is a series he had begun in 1830, prefiguring in many respects his known characer "Ethan Spike." When I have all of the New York "Constellation" from Aug. 1830 through the end of the year, I will know precisely how large the time-gap is between this letter, which "Timbertoes" has dated as Jan. 3, 1831, and the previous one. But he opens it with a device which Mathew later used in "Ethan Spike"--he mentions the a long hiatus, in-character, without giving the real reason for it. Here, he says: "Dear Tim,--It is a pretty considerable time since I wrote you, but you cant say of my pistolary correspondence as one of our New York editors said the other day of the President's Message. What do you think that was? Why he said as how "The great vica [sic]" of that popular document was its length. I wonder what he'd say to old malachi nolton's barn which was 100 and 40 feet long the last time I saw it. I guess the old man would hop up a bit, if the king himself was to tell him it was a great vice in his barn 'cause he could stow more hay in't than in two common sized barns, and have room enuff for his stalks and his salt hay besides. That's my idea of messages--I say let 'em be long enuff to hold all the President has got to say and not leave any thing to be stacked out over winter."
Here, you see that there are two voices, one behind the other--an astute young writer and philosopher, speaking through the adopted character of a country hayseed--very much like "Ethan Spike," except that "Spike" was deliberately made more aggressive and more ignorant, as an example. From what I saw in a dissertation I obtained about Asa Greene, the editor of the "Constellation," there is disagreement among scholars as to who the author of this series may have been, with the dissertation author claiming it for Greene. I can point to numerous specific parallels between "Timbertoes" and "Spike," and hence am almost certain of its authorship. Incidentally, where you see "vica" in the quote, I'm unsure whether this was a typo, or an obscure 19th-century term. I was unable to find it in the dictionary, so it's possible the word should have been "vice." What I can sense, emotionally, is Mathew's frustration at writing excellent pieces only to have them ruined by some careless compositor. When I get a digital copy of the original in the "Constellation," I will look for it, there.
"Enoch Timbertoes" goes on to explain that since he had last written, he has been exploring New York City. This, however, is typical of Mathew's modus operandi. He had already lived in the city for some months in 1830, and so had already explored "...almost every hole and corner in the city, all the museums, the circusses, theatres and every other place but the jale." He adds, "I've managed to keep out of that, though one feller tried plagy hard to put me in." Mathew often embeded autobiography in his humorous works, and there is another piece which describes a close shave with the law--so it is quite possible that Mathew, having tied on one, did, in fact, come very close to being jailed. Such is the fascination (for me, at least) of delving into his works, and attempting to ferret out the personal references from them.
Music opening this page: "The Inspector" by Wally Badarou, from the album, Echoes