I just put my sequel through the editing acid bath--specifically, those portions which have to do with new discoveries of Mathew Franklin Whittier's published works. I have shared, piecemeal, over the last 2-3 weeks, my evidence that Edgar Allan Poe plagiarized "The Raven" and "Annabel Lee" from Mathew Franklin Whittier. But when you see the evidence presented systematically, all together, the case is far more powerful.
There were two clues which stood out, for me. These are very subtle points which you wouldn't pick up on, unless you knew the whole story. By that, I mean the entire story of Mathew's life, his literary career, and his literary idiosyncracies. They're so subtle, I'm rushing to write this, so I don't forget how I was going to explain them.
First of all, Mathew writes responding to Poe's coded challenge, "A Valentine." Poe--for the second time--has used a very amateurish code, and made a really big deal of it. Mathew breaks the code without breaking a sweat, and says it is hardly worthy of the author of "The Gold Bug." He may or may not be inferring that Poe couldn't possibly be the author of that story; but this is outside my expertise. If Poe stole three poems (two from Mathew, and "Al Aaraaf" from somebody else), then no-doubt he stole other works, as well. When I first ran across it, I immediately had the intuitive hit that "Some Words with a Mummy" was also Mathew's--but I haven't pursued the matter.*
However, the important clue is that Mathew signed this commentary "Polonius." I know nothing of Shakespeare in this lifetime, but tracing it on the internet, I see that this is a persistent, annoying character who is frequently wrong. There is only one explanation I can see--Poe had called Mathew "Polonius," or "a Polonius"; or, failing that, a nuisance who was wrong. Mathew took that signature in mocking irony. (Mathew had previously used "Poins," another Shakespearean character--perhaps Poe mockingly modified it to "Polonius.")
But if that's true, it tells us that there must have been quite a bit of private correspondence, at least from Mathew's end. It wouldn't have just been these published, coded messages from Mathew (of which I have found two or three, in different newspapers). Mathew must have bugged Poe with numerous letters; and he must have gotten at least some responses. No-doubt the responses don't admit anything; and no-doubt Poe would have destroyed Mathew's letters, which accused him.
But that means that one of these letters could still be floating around out there.
That's the first clue. The second--if I can remember it, now--is that Poe would never have signed as "---- Quarles." Why? Because Francis Quarles was deeply religious. He doesn't appear to have been all that well-known, anyway--but all his poems, if you take the time to look at them, are faith-based. The poem, "The Raven," is not about death, so much as it is about a faith crisis. Abby, his first wife, whom he had lost in March of 1841, was deeply spiritual. Mathew had access to an original copy of Francis Quarles' poetry in 1831/32, which he quoted. Mathew, himself, was deeply spiritual, but as a young man also had a strong skeptical streak. Abby had taught him things he didn't believe, at first; later, he came to embrace them.
Just as C.S. Lewis states in "A Grief Observed," nothing Mathew had intellectually studied was of any help. He was back to Square One; and he was struggling. "The Raven" is about his struggle. Quite possibly, that same volume of Francis Quarles' poetry, was the very book that the author of "The Raven" speaks of, in the opening. Hence the pseudonym.
Poe could not possibly have signed with "---- Quarels," because he was not a man of faith. He was not grieving, nor was he struggling with his faith, because he didn't have one to begin with. Neither would he have studied Quarels' poetry--but a signature, by its very nature, means this is something you identify with. It means, this is a writer I deeply admire. Poe would have had no particular admiration for Francis Quarles. Besides, Poe didn't use pseudonyms like this--before or since. The whole thing is totally implausible, for him.
Do you know what a professor who specializes in Poe, wrote me, when I pointed out that Poe wasn't grieving at the time? He said he could have been grieving for family members he had lost in previous years. That reminds me vividly of the answer that a traditional Christian came back with, when I pointed out to him the New Testament passage wherein the disciples ask Jesus, "Who did sin, that man or his parents, that he was born blind?" The Christian's answer? That he must have sinned in the womb. That, in turn, has some interesting implications. The only sinful thing you could do in the womb, is to masturbate. Hence the concern about it blinding you, I suppose. But would a God of Love blind a man for having masturbated as a fetus? Just so, Poe wrote "The Raven" because he was still grieving for his family members, who had died some years previously.
Have you read that the official government explanation for the crash debris at Roswell, was that it was a "weather balloon"? This idea that Poe wrote "The Raven," originally signing it as "---- Quarles," is less plausible than that explanation.
Some day, I think a portion of that correspondence will surface. Mathew would have made sure it survived him. If my work survives me, people will wonder--"Why didn't they pay any attention to what he was saying? It's so obvious..."
The last clue--the second one I was actually trying to remember--is more obscure. This is the one nobody would get, unless they knew the complete back-story. But I'll touch on it briefly.
When "B." writes that he, himself, was present when Poe gave his lyceum reading of "Al Aaraaf," and then "The Raven," this is Mathew. Mathew was signing as "B.," which I went to some lengths to substantiate. He pretends to praise "Ulalume" on technical grounds, and by way of example, he compares it to a passage in "The Odyssey." But when I looked up that example, it was a negative example--the worst he could think of. That means Mathew was actually mocking Poe, and the poem.
He also can't understand why the editor hadn't seen fit to publish it, as the editor is so astute and sensitive. I can't remember his exact wording. But this editor was a macho boor. Mathew is saying, in sarcastic irony, that he doesn't understand why this macho boor wasn't thrilled with "Ulalume," given that he has no discernment.
But the real clue, is that I have seen Mathew do this, before. Writing from Europe, he pretends that Ossian Dodge is the real author of his travelogue, under the signature of "Quails." He does so by quoting Dodge's namesake, the poet "Ossian," and praising him (just as he praised "Ulalume"). But then the example he gives is likewise a negative example. He talks, as I recall, about Ossian's sensitivity--and proceeds to quote some blood-and-guts passage.
At the time I encountered that--while I was trying to prove Mathew's authorship of the series--I concluded that the editor, upon receiving the copy back in the States, must have inserted it, himself. But, no. Now I understand. It's the same MO--Mathew is mocking the whole business, by pretending to praise Ossian, and then giving the most awful example he can find.
That means he was definitely doing the same thing with Poe, because now, we have two cross-corresponding examples of Mathew's method of sarcasm.
It's all in my books...
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*I just read through it completely for the first time, and I'm not convinced it was written by MFW. It could have been--the closing punchline sounds like his, regarding the lozenges, etc. I doubt it was Poe's. The punchline, i.e., that it is the quack medicines which the mummy can't top, would be consistent with one of Mathew's regular themes. Mathew's second wife was, in fact, a shrew who apparently nonetheless fed him well; though he would not have joked thus about abandoning his entire family, as he loved his children deeply. This part, especially, doesn't ring true for Mathew, as he wouldn't have even joked about such a thing--and it seems to be integral to the story, being the surprise ending. Whether Poe would have joked about it, having no children, we don't know. Mathew was a hearty eater, especially at this point in his life (Abby's sisters commented on how he had filled in, late in 1847); but I don't know that Poe was. Mathew also suffered from dyspepsia, and joked in Jan. 1846 about having bad dreams from overeating, in his first "Ethan Spike" piece. The story was published, according to the Wiki article, in "American Review" in April of 1845. I see that it was indicated as being accepted for publication in the Jan. 1845 edition of "Columbian Magazine," but never appeared there. The explanation given is that Poe pulled it, being offered more money for it elsewhere. I have never heard of such a scenario, though I have seen cases where a piece was listed as accepted, but was never inserted. I really haven't looked into this deeply--but if "The Raven" was published by Mathew in February, 1845 (with Poe scooping him in the "Mirror"), then Mathew might have tried to publish the "Mummy" in January, as well, only to have Poe make arrangements to block it somehow, through inside contacts. What it does mean, is that there is intrigue around the publication of two of Poe's pieces in this time-period, not just one--and that's suspicious. It could suggest that Mathew shared several pieces with Poe in 1844. I'm not trying to make a strong case for this--I'm really just looking at it for the first time, today. It was several years ago I got a strong intuitive "hit" that that was actually Mathew's story, and never pursued it. Today is the first time I've even looked at the dates to see if it's plausible. I found an online copy of the Jan. 1845 "Columbian Magazine," and only the title is listed--not the author--so there is no way to know whether it was submitted under a pseudonym. I will say this much--Mathew typically generated these kinds of clever, ironic humorous plot devices, but so far as I know, Poe wasn't known for this kind of thing. If you didn't know the authors, and you put the totality of Mathew's work in one pile, and the totality of Poe's work in the other, and asked people to decide which pile this story belonged in, they would choose Mathew's pile.
Upon reflection, I would say that if this was Mathew's story, his ironic ending had specifically to do with the quack medicines, as the only thing that impressed the mummy. The twist ending regarding the narrator deciding to get himself embalmed, would have been tacked on. This has always been a litmus test, for me, when evaluating when another author has adulterated Mathew's works. If it is cruel, or heartless in some way, it is not original to Mathew. To put it in New Age terms, Mathew always used sarcasm and wit to further the causes of Light--never the forces of ignorance. People with less spiritual discernment, in attempting to modify or imitate his work, didn't understand this distinction, and would add things that were racist, or cruel to animals, or (as in this case) cruel to family. For example, when Mathew silently collaborated with B.P. Shillaber, and wrote a biography of Shillaber's character, "Mrs. Partington," he has "Ike," her nephew, trying to see how long he could hold a mud turtle under water before it would drown. But you can't drown a mud turtle; which is why Mathew used that example. On the other hand, Shillaber would have Ike do things like hang the cat, or step on a monkey's tail to see if it was real or made of rubber. Mathew had a long-standing beef with quack doctors, probably in part because he had lost family members to them. Defintely, he writes of other cases in which parents lost children due to the ignorance of quack doctors.
Music opening this page: "Long Last Laugh," by James Booker