The previous entry was a particularly good one, especially for new people who might stumble upon this blog. But I like to write entries to wind down after a long day; perhaps I'll link to that one from the book's supporting page one of these days. I'd recommending finding it in the Archives (link at the bottom of the page) if you want to understand what my study is about, and how my method works.
But now I just feel like musing...
I had to look up a 19th century editor and printer, one George Washington Light, today, to see if and when he married. I found him through an online search, in a late-19th-century literary encyclopedia. And this is what I wanted to comment on--how frustrating it is for me, and poignant, to read someone's assessment of a writer, based on what they stole from me when I was Mathew Franklin Whittier. In this case, George Light plagiarized both from me, and from my future wife, Abby Poyen. Albert Pike (have you heard of him?--having grown up in Massachusetts, he moved to Arkansas and became a Civil War general for the South; then he became a very high ranking, and controversial, Mason)--as I was saying, at the same time, Albert Pike was stealing Abby's poetry, as well; and both were publishing in the same monthly magazine, of which Light was the editor. Abby was only 14 years old when she wrote much of this poetry. She was really a prodigy. So was Mathew; but where he was extremely bright, she was brilliant, almost out-of-this-world brilliant.
Let me see if I can find the portion of George Light's entry that pissed me off earlier today...
His poetry is said to be highly finished, and to abound in pleasant satire and practical maxims of sterling value. "The verses are of that manly, hopeful, animating kind, which is good to have sounding, like stirring music, in the ear, bracing the nerves, quickening the step, and helping one to face trial all the more cheerfully."
But they are talking about three entirely different poets--Mathew, Abby, and Light. All three are represented in the one book of poetry he published in 1851. And one of them had been first published under Mathew's middle name, "FRANKLIN," which he occasionally used.
Oh, and "manly verses?" This is the second thing (after the theft of Mathew's poem signed "FRANKLIN") that tipped me off--three or four of the poems in his book are clearly feminine. Try this on for size:
Fanned by Morning’s purple wings,
Pluck the opening flowers;
Join the song the Spring-tide sings.
In its blushing hours;
While the chanting streamlet rings
Through the rustling bowers!
I noted in my book that this stanza was unlikely to have been written by George Light, unless we are meant to picture him dancing among the streamlets!
Here is how Mathew referred to Light's plagiarism, in code, writing in-character to the editor of the Portland "Transcript" in 1857:
My bizness ain't to get published, fur thank George! ive ben thru that tryin ordeul, and cum aout double...
There's so much more. I could go on providing evidence of multiple plagiarisms from Mathew's work for hours. I've lost track now of the total who I know stole from him--I think it's up to 14, over the course of his life. Sometimes, because Mathew published under scores of pseudonyms, his work is simply assumed to have been written by someone else. Many of these authors made it into the history books on the strength of Mathew's work, where you see it appreciated in a half-hearted, second-hand way, without being fully understood. So Mathew's legacy has been scattered to the winds.
I have managed to reconstruct that legacy, which I think is a worthwhile feat, in itself. If you didn't blithely dismiss me, when I say that Mathew and Abby co-authored "A Christmas Carol" (or what Dickens worked from to create the book he published under that title); and that after her death, he wrote "The Raven"; you might think it was worth investigating.
I am surprised, when I look at some of these plagiarisms--having, now, full access to Mathew's subconscious mind (meaning, his intuition, his feelings, and his sensibilities)--that any scholars could be fooled. These are very poorly-discerning scholars. And illogical, as well. Who could ever think that George W. Light wrote distinctly feminine poetry, depicting himself as dancing around the streamlets in joy? And then, that his verses were "manly"? Wouldn't anybody question this? These people have doctorates in literary history--and nobody looked deeply enough into it to see that he couldn't possibly have written all the poems in his book?
This was his only poetry book. He was a publisher and an editor. Clearly, he was impressed with the poem Mathew published (in the Boston "Chronotype" under "FRANKLIN"); he stole it and got it published in a few papers under his own name. He liked it so much, he wrote an imitation. But any discerning person could see the imitation was written by a different author, with entirely different sensibilities. Sheesh.
And then for him to include two or three of Abby's poems, which are entirely unlike both his and Mathew's. What this is, is a compilation that he put his own name to, having made a few judicious revisions. This kind of thing was rampant in the 19th century. All you had to do, was to revise the thing, and you could claim it as your own. This is precisely what Dickens did with "A Christmas Carol." I don't think that Poe revised "The Raven," though. I think Mathew published it under "----- Quarles," and somehow, it became associated with Poe, and he decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and "agreed" that he had written it. Something like that. Do you know that his former employer turned it down, and since Poe was down-and-out, just gave him some money? That editor (Graham) was familiar with Poe's handwriting, because Poe had worked for him. He would have known that the poem was not in Poe's hand; and rather than accuse him of plagiarism, he would have turned it down on that basis, and simply given him some money to tide him over, out of pity. Otherwise, we have to assume that a very astute editor was stupid enough to reject one of the most celebrated American poems of the century. That is what we all have been told, but I don't believe it. When you see a premise that doesn't make logical sense, look more closely.
Well, I've vented enough. This is a very poorly-written entry. I really should have left the previous one up. I'm so tired I can't think straight. I don't know whether this actually helps me unwind, or winds me up...
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "First Snow" by "Skywalk," from the album, "Silent Witness"