I'm taking a quick break from reading my sequel, "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own world," for one final editing and proofreading pass. This is the kind of tweaking which will make it more comfortable to read. I started at 5:00 a.m., and am perhaps a quarter of the way through.
The thought occurred to me that there is one type of proof in my study, which is extremely strong--but it is not the kind you can whip out and use to convince a skeptic on the spot. Apropos to this kind of evidence, I ran across yet another psychic medium online--a striking young woman named "Fleur." Abby joked that she reminds her of the "Good Witch of the North." (I can rarely catch Abby's jokes, as our communication isn't that good, but I think this one was from her.) Anyway, what struck me is that she is blazingly accurate. Her accuracy is about up there with Gordon Smith, and that's saying something. She can give a reading, with two or three accurate names, and obscure details, and never miss once.
Well, the evidence I was thinking of, this morning, is just as powerful--but not as obvious. That is, that I have been able to interpret the hidden meanings and messages in Mathew's written works, with amazing accuracy. The problem is, that you can only see this if you read the entire study. If you read both of my books, by the time you get to the end, you will understand what I mean. And the proof is, that nobody else has ever gotten it--nor would people get it, today. In other words, I am privy to Mathew's secret meanings, because I still have the same higher mind. I know exactly what he was feeling when he wrote these pieces; and I know his intentions.
This stood out clearly when I would disagree with my researchers about what Mathew was driving at, in a particular piece. The researcher was making intellectual best-guesses; I was remembering it, and feeling it. My interpretation was invariably confirmed, as the study progressed.
I must add a caveat, that sometimes my assumptions prevented me from recognizing a piece of Mathew's work--including assumptions gained by historians' erroneous conclusions. Eventually I would come around. But then, my second regular researcher may have once been Abby's younger sister, and is quite intuitive, herself. So on a few occasions, she would photograph something as a "possible," which I would dismiss, at first, only to realize she had been right.
But none of the historians who have analyzed Mathew's work--whether cursorily, or in depth--have understood him properly. For example, his student biographer, Lloyd W. Griffin, states:
Whittier's humor is, like most of the wit of the period, the rather superficial humor of discomfiture.
That's kind of condescending, don't you think? I was pausing to think of modern examples of famous comedians using the "humor of discomfiture," and so many examples came to mind, that I decided to try to think of one who didn't use it...and I'm still trying. They all use it, and use it prominently. I suppose there are examples of comedians who didn't--the Smothers Brothers have their own running gag regarding Tommy's sly idiocy; Pat Paulsen had his deadpan irony, as he ran for President. But just about all of them present some fix or other they've gotten into, or the kinds of annoyances we all have.
Much like Tommy Smothers, Mathew's characters were a kind of idiot/savant; an idiot with Mathew's genius behind him. But that was just the surface layer. By definition, it was superficial, because it was the surface layer. Apparently, Griffin--Mathew's only biographer, not counting a biographical sketch written by a French professor--missed the depth of it altogether. And there were several deeper layers, one on top of the other--political, psychological, and spiritual. Perhaps one editor of another paper, who proclaimed "Ethan Spike" a "genius," saw it...but I think that very few did. I not only saw it, and understood it completely, but the instant I first picked up one of these pieces, I felt it.
In the exerpt I've opened this page with, interpreted by Maine storyteller Vernon Cox, "Ethan Spike" is clearly experiencing discomfort! This first installment, published in Jan. 1846, went around the globe during Mathew's lifetime, even showing up in an Australian newspaper. But all of them edited out the preamble, which was an essay on regional braggadocio. And then, the moral of the story is that people create their own suffering, with gluttony (i.e., greed) and pride. That's the larger principle being illustrated--regional pride, individual pride, and the tendency, through greed, to create one's own suffering--and then, to add insult to injury by committing the same mistakes as remedies! We are now at the philosophical heart of the cause of man's suffering. The alcoholic can't moderate his drinking, so he ruins his life. As it is crumbling around him, what is his solution? More alcohol. This is precisely what "Ethan Spike" is doing with food, in this sketch. And the pre-amble--missing in every reprint I've ever seen--sets it up.
The personal layer of this, is that it turns out Mathew suffered from "dyspepsia," so this is probably based, somewhat loosely, on his own experience. In "Ethan Spike," Mathew is lampooning himself, and by inference, the ignorance found lurking and justifying itself, in all.
Here is the original page whereon this piece first appeared, in the Jan. 10, 1846 edition of the Portland (Maine) "Transcript."* Note that the piece immediately to its left, signed with an asterisk, is also Mathew's. I have mentioned that he seems to have often requested that his work appear side-by-side, or one after the other, on the page--especially when one of the pieces had to do with his late wife, Abby.
It occurs to me that the skeptical mind (remember, I have one just like you do), might say that I have added all of these meanings on top of Mathew's humor, myself. But I have roughly 1,300 of his published works, including countless philosophical essays. I am not putting words in his mouth, nor ideas in his head. But I knew this long before I uncovered the evidence for it.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*Seba Smith, creator of the "Major Jack Downing" character, had previously published a story entitled "My First Visit to Portland"; presumably, this was an open tribute. But Smith did not originate the genre; he began publishing "Downing" in January of 1830, whereas Mathew had published "Joe Strickland" in the "New England Galaxy" in 1827.
Audio opening this page: "Ethan Spike's First and Last Visit to Portland"
by Mathew Franklin Whittier, interpreted by Maine storyteller Vernon Cox