I'm starting out the day with over 400 hits on this website, and almost 100 for the month on this blog, alone (some are my own hits, and so must be subtracted). But there's also a back entry showing up prominently in the stats--from 6/18/18. That suggests, to me, that the word is getting around among academicians, and some of them do, in fact, know that I'm right. The question is, what to do about it????
I threw the bulk of my evidence that Mathew Franklin Whittier was the real author of "The Raven" at my readership, in yesterday's blog entry. Not all of it. For example, in the same edition of the Portland "Transcript" which features Mathew's "Libbeyville" sketch--and the revealing quote by Francis Quarles deliberately placed directly underneath it--both of which comprised a personal response to Edgar Allan Poe, after he had published his ridiculous "Essay on Composition" some months earlier--there is an enigmatic note from the editor in his "To Correspondents" section:
“Aristo” could hardly have digested his Thanksgiving Turkey when he penned the lines “To ——.”
As much of the back-story as I knew, before I figured out "Libbeyville" and "Quarles," was that Mathew had previously signed, once, as "Aristo" in the Oct. 9, 1841 edition. Aristo of Chios was one of the ancient Greek Stoic philosophers that Mathew had identified with, when Abby, his young tutor and future wife, had included them in her curriculum (another being "Stilpo"). The Oct. 9 piece appeared to be an essay written by, or summarizing, Abby's own philosophy--the name being a play on "aristocrat," because Abby's father was a marquis. Therefore, I would hazard a guess that Mathew took something Abby had written--probably, on the subject of hypocrisy--as her posthumous message to Poe, which Ilsley rejected for publication. Unfortunately, we will never see it. Too bad--she would have sliced him to pieces with a few choice words. (If you think Mathew was good, you should see his teacher.)
Mathew and Charles P. Ilsley, then-editor of the Portland "Transcript," were personal friends. So this was a personal note to Mathew, from Charles, who was uncharacteristically rejecting his submission. The only other time I know of, when Charles rejected one of Mathew's pieces, was when he wrote a black-humor epic ballad about Abby's death. It was in such bad taste, that Charles only quoted one stanza of it--and that stanza confirmed, along with other evidence, that Abby had been sent back to her father's house shortly before she died (as one sees depicted in "Anabel Lee"). Mathew was probably crazed from grief at the time he wrote this, a mere six months after her death in the fall of 1841, and humor was the only defense that was still holding:
A few evenings after she went up to bed,
And early next morning poor Sally was dead,
And when they looked arter the Leftenant’s darter
They found a dead gall.
So now, with this new information included in the puzzle, I am thinking that Mathew must have sarcastically aimed a barb, in Abby's own words, directly at Poe--in such a way that its target could be specifically identified. Ilsley must have though that, as the editor of a paper which he knew Poe read, discretion was the better part of valor.
But while I was typing in yet more of Mathew's casual letters from New York City as "X.F.W.," to his friend Elizur Wright, editor of the Boston "Chronotype," I came upon something else. I know, from reading so many of Mathew's letters, that when he waxes especially eloquent about some piece of writing, artwork, or performance, that it has touched him personally. But this isn't just the logic of familiarity. I also feel it, intuitively, subliminally. This research I'm doing takes a two-pronged approach, in what amounts to a sort of triangulation. The thing may look familiar based on what I've seen of Mathew's work; but I also viscerally remember it--it sets off my internal Geiger counter. Thus, I am able to home in. Here's what I just typed, a few minutes ago:
Perhaps the most brilliant novelty we have had here since my last is the new ballet at the Broadway Theatre. It is called L'Almee, an Oriental Vision, and is put upon the stage with lavish elegance. The story is of a young Sultan who sees in his dreams the form of a woman which haunts him when awake. At least he meets with a dancing girl who corresponds to this long cherished image; he fals violently in love with her of course, has her carried off and conveyed to his palace; here he becomes more and more enchanted with her but she modestly rejects his advances though still betraying an attachment for him. Once more she visits his dreams and this gives occasion for the most beautiful scene in the ballet. Finally he makes her his wife; they are both plotted against, however, in the meanwhile by his vizier and the favorite supplanted by L'Almee. The palace is at last set on fire but the happy pair escape from the blazing ruins, the guilty parties are punished and matters settle down in a very pleasing and satisfactory way.
I notice, immediately, that this story deals with visitation dreams (which can occur when a person leaves their physical body during sleep, as we all do); and it holds a symbolic parallel to Mathew's soul-mate relationship with Abby, which suffered a great deal of opposition from both sets of parents, townsfolk, pro-slavery forces, and others.
Mathew gives the date of his letter as Saturday, October 29, 1847, which is one day off. Saturday of that year was Oct. 30. This is unusual for him; it wouldn't, however, be too surprising for me. The only reason I caught it, is that he wrote a second letter on the real Saturday, Oct. 30th, so I had to figure out which one was correct.
But then, it suddenly occurred to me--I have recently keyed in (and I think I shared it in a previous entry), Mathew's poem describing spirit contact with Abby, and intimating that instead of grieving joys past, he could have those same joys with her in the present. I wondered--do the dates correspond?
Indeed. That poem was published in the October 18, 1847 edition of the Weekly "Chronotype," which means that it appeared in the Daily edition sometime the previous week. Mathew doesn't tell us exactly when he saw this performance, though he specifically says it was "since his last." His most-recent letter previous to Oct. 29, was dated Oct. 19, and he didn't mention it, there. This indicates he wrote the poem first, and then went to see the ballet, afterwards. He would have known the plot, and perhaps have chosen it for that reason. The evidence suggests that he didn't write the poem as a result of seeing the opera, as a skeptic might assume. He was having visitation dreams and perhaps other types of spirit contact from Abby, had begun to realize that the relationship could be continued on that basis, and he had chosen to see this ballet because it had a similar story-line. This, in turn, suggests to me that he had made the definite decision to end his second marriage by this time, because now Abby felt ethically free to contact him in this way. (This is about a year and a half before I had previously surmised, though he might not have yet made it official.)
I'll reproduce the poem again, in a minute. This is signed with a double asterisk, reflecting Abby's conception of their souls as twin stars. A single asterisk (i.e., the star left behind) became Mathew's go-to secret pseudonym throughout his literary career, at least up to 1868. He had used the double-asterisk at least once before, when he first launched it, apparently for the purpose of presenting something they had written together. There's no question, in this newspaper which he contributes to heavily, that it's his poem.
What I wanted to impress on you, is what a difference it makes for me to have this added intuitive advantage, in my historical research. Researchers are constantly being faced with interpreting the record. Depending on that interpretation, they are led down this path, or that one--and once you take a path, you eventually stop seeing clues that would take you to an alternative conclusion. Look at the absurd interpretations made by literary historians, just to maintain the illusion that Edgar Allan Poe was the author of "The Raven"! For example, they would have us believe, if I am not mistaken, that the editor of "American Review" permitted the editor of the "New Evening Mirror" to scoop him--and with a different signature, no less. They would certainly have us believe that George Graham, editor of Graham's Magazine, one of the most prominent literary magazines in the country, was too stupid to recognize the quality of "The Raven"--so much so, that he rejected it when presented by his former editor. But that seeing Poe was destitute, he just had the whim to pay him $15 in lieu of publishing his substandard poem.
No, Graham obviously knew very well how good the poem was. He also knew that Poe was attempting to survive by plagiarism. There was no way he was going to participate in that, or be fooled by it--but he took pity on his former editor, and gave him a handout, specifically to try to prevent him from committing this criminal act.
In other words, "Don't commit a crime, or try to trick me into committing one along with you! It's not your poem--here, take $15, and 'sin no more.'"
These things, and many more, are obvious in hindsight. But the a priori assumption that Poe was the author, has forced generations of scholars into these absurdities.
Whereas, I knew, not only from a familiarity with Mathew's style, but deep in my gut, that this was his poem. I also knew that its most popular parody, "The Vulture," was also Mathew's, by both methods.* Logically, it is part of a series that Mathew wrote for the Boston "Carpet-Bag," and it appears there, complete, before any other partial or full instances cited by historians. They simply missed it. What they don't know is the deep back-story, or context, behind Mathew writing it. Mathew wrote satires about bores throughout his literary career--the theme even shows up as an anecdote, in a British obituary of his brother, John Greenleaf Whittier. Mathew wrote in a very similar vein about a bore as "Quails" for the Boston "Weekly Museum" (in the letter where "Quails" visits "Ethan Spike"); he writes of the treatment of "acute and chronic bore" as the academic parody, "Dr. E. Goethe Digg," for the "Carpet-Bag"--and he had written on the topic much, much earlier, for the Nov. 16, 1827 "New-England Galaxy," at age 15, in a piece entitled "Thoughts on Bores."
So when you read my presentations and conclusions, you are dealing with someone who has researched a very narrow topic extensively; and at the same time, someone who dimly remembers being this person. My state, as regards my 19th-century lifetime, is like a man with severe amnesia. Only occasionally will something seem familiar, unless there was very strong emotion connected with it. But it is enough to occasionally push me in the right direction--and in research, that can be everything.
Oh, that's my ending, but I forgot to copy the poem. This is from the Oct. 18, 1847 Boston "Weekly Chronotype," and is definitely the work of Mathew Franklin Whittier. "Thee" in this poem is his late wife, his true love, Abby, whose portrait I shared with you in yesterday's entry.
T O * * *.
In the bright and sunny days of youth,
When the heart with hope beats high,
When rarest visions of joy and truth
Fill the soul with ecstacy,
O then is the time, the happiest of life,
Ere the sunshine is darkened by worldly strife,
Then is the time for the spirit to move,
Which shall weave us a spell of friendship and love.
In the soft and witching time of night,
When sloumber and silence reign,
When books no longer yield delight
To the faint and weary brain,
Oh then comes the thought with its magic power,
Weaving golden fancies round the hour,
Oh then thrills my heart with a mystic feeling,
As o'er it come thoughts of thee sweetly stealing.
In the book of Life which we are reading,
We search for the gems of Truth—
In the path through the world which we all are treading,
We gather the friends of youth;
Then now is the time, the happiest of life,
Ere the sunshine is darkened by worldly strife,
Now is the time for the spirit to move,
Which shall weave us a spell of friendship and love.
Boston, October, 1847. * *
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*Actually, I recognized a thumbnail image of the entire page, just from the layout of the illustrations, before I even zoomed in to read the text.
Music opening this page: "Starlight," by The Free Design,
from the album, "Stars/Time/Bubbles/Love"