How to condense this...as I continue to key in and archive my past-life journalistic work, as Mathew Franklin Whittier, from the 1831 New York "Constellation," I keep running across foreshadowing, or, instances where Mathew has re-used some of his own favorite gags years later. All of this is disputed by the historians, inasmuch as Mathew's legacy has been wiped from the historical record except for one of his characters, "Ethan Spike." He is known to have published some 63 from this series; but I have found well over 800 of his published works, now. So "Ethan Spike" is just the tip of his iceberg.
In order to get at his true legacy, one has to wrest his work from dozens of claimants, including a few famous ones. This shouldn't surprise anybody, because he wrote at a very high level, which means, at times, he was able to attain a level of creative genius. When such pieces are floating around unclaimed, either anonymous or with an unknown pseudonym (as, for example, "----- Quarles"), someone unscrupulous, or hard-up, or both, is going to claim it. As I've said before, it's like leaving your Ferrari running unattended. So not only is it not surprising that Mathew's best works were thus falsely claimed (i.e., either by the plagiarists themselves, or by historians), it is inevitable that this would happen.
But I was just thinking, this morning, that when I cite these famous authors--Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, and in one instance, Samuel Clemens (and others who were famous at the time, but have been forgotten, today)--people immediately chuck me into the looney bin with the Ancient Astronaut Theorists and the other tin-hats one might typically find on Coast-to-Coast Radio. (I jest--my position isn't quite that extreme, I'm just making a point.) But subjectively--and if you read my blog and pay attention, you can see this for yourself--I feel just as upset about the obscure thefts, as the famous ones. Reacting with Mathew's own emotions, they all grate equally. This would not be the case, if I were a megalomaniac attempting to feed my ego by claiming famous works. It's a subtle difference, but for the objective observer, it should be a significant one.
Furthermore, I am able to prove what I say. On rare occasions I get the weird feeling--especially when I wake up in the morning--that I can almost feel the hatred of people who read this blog, who above all else don't want me to prove something they strongly disbelieve in. Now, that is very close to wearing a tin hat, but I simply report it without giving it any credence, or claiming that I can prove it. I just feel it sometimes. Whether it is my imagination, intuitive perception of vibes, or actual telepathy, I have no idea. If I can prove something, I say so; if I can't, I say that. If I think something is a pretty good bet, but I can't quite prove it, I say that; and if something seems far-out even to me, I say that.
For example, alien abduction seems pretty-darned far-out, to me. But if the testimonials are genuine and credible, there seems to be evidence that something is going on. And I have to leave the matter there.
But I have proof that Mathew Franklin Whittier wrote these works; and I have proof that, in many cases, these works have been misattributed. One of my strongest proofs, is to find these early pieces which clearly prefigure his later ones. It is significant, I think, that I discovered the later works, and identified them as Mathew's, before I found their precursors in his earlier work, written as a young man. In both cases, I can recognize it. I have said that my higher mind, now, is identical to my higher mind in that earlier incarnation--and this includes the creative process. I know my own. It may be a matter of immediate recognition, or it may dawn on me over a period of time, but I know my own work.
I discovered such a match this morning, and the above is as much time as I have to devote to an introduction. By the way, I frequently prove things that people don't like, i.e., that Society resists. If you think that Benjamin Franklin didn't believe in reincarnation--which a PBS special on him would certainly imply--check out this page on my website, and be sure to read the entire presentation. It's short, it won't take much of your time. Here, I have unequivocally proven that Franklin believed in reincarnation:
Below, I present the second letter of a series signed the "Ploughboy" for the 1851 Boston "Carpet-Bag," a literary paper which served as Boston's answer to Britain's "Punch," being in much the same format. I recognized "Ploughboy" as Mathew's work, before I had any proof for it. Then, I will present what I discovered today: Mathew's original treatment of this same theme, found in the lead editorial position of the April 16, 1831 edition of the New York "Constellation." Mathew, as I have determined, was actually in full control of the editorial page for most of these editions, here at age 18. Much is made of his famous brother, John Greenleaf Whittier, being an editor during this period--but nobody seems to know that Mathew, younger by five years, was doing the same thing in New York City. Except that Mathew was the junior editor, and received no public credit for any of this work. Mathew also ghost-wrote for the editor of this paper, Asa Greene, in 1833. Where you see historians claim "The Life and Adventures of Dr. Dodimus Duckworth" for Asa Greene, they are mistaken. Mathew ghost-wrote this for Greene, I'm certain of it.
One last observation about these two juxtaposed pieces. When I discovered this second piece (which is historically the first), knowing Mathew's penchant for writing from his own life-experience, I knew it referred to his own youth. But the earlier one, the essay, clearly states that hog-reeves were chosen from among newly-married men. If we take the 1851 "Ploughboy" sketch to be loose autobiography, it must refer to a period when he was married. Mathew was newly-married after he and his wife Abby had eloped to Dover, New Hampshire, where they lived for a little over a year, from late 1836 to end 1837. That places the event he is describing in Dover. Other clues have suggested that where you see his character "Ethan Spike" discussing his home town of "Hornby," this, too, was based on their experience in Dover. You have to imagine a self-educated Quaker, and an exceptionally bright, tutored French girl from an upper-class family, both strongly supporting Abolition, suddenly transplanted into a backwater town in New Hampshire--that is the background for "Ethan Spike," i.e., their own reminiscences. This, in turn, means that--as I had strongly felt--Mathew wrote "Ethan Spike" as a secret tribute to his marriage with Abby, who had died five years before he began the series. Incidentally, the precursor to "Ethan Spike" is also found in the "Constellation," as letters from one "Enoch Timbertoes." Some historians have claimed this for Asa Greene--others, apparently, weren't so sure. "Enoch Timbertoes" was Mathew Franklin Whittier. Where you see him writing to his friend Tim, this was Abby's older brother, Francis Louis Poyen; and where he refers to "Sally," this was Abby, as a young girl, who already had a crush on him. Thus do the clues gleaned from these hundreds of Mathew's works, interconnect and inform each other, until a deep and broad tapestry of Mathew's life is revealed.
In this case, Mathew and Abby were submitting powerful pro-Abolition letters to the editor of the Dover "Enquirer" under a joint pseudonym; but it was too easily decipherable. They eventually were forced to flee persecution by moving back to Amesbury, Mass. near their hometown of Haverhill. Mathew was so radical, that he was often persecuted--even, eventually, being driven from the "Carpet-Bag" staff, where he had a financial interest, in 1853 (after which the paper died an ignominious death by mediocrity)--but his sense of humor was so keen, he could get away with his radicalism for a time, even under adverse conditions.
Back to work...
LETTERS FROM A PLOUGHBOY.
Annual Election in Scrabbletown.--"Scrabbletown? Where is that?" the reader enquires. Well, Scrabbletown is an "ancient and honorable borough," in Northern New Hampshire,--famous for raising green peas; and at agricultural fairs, always gets the premium on cabbages. At the south east corner is Mount Tug, near the center is Suction Pond, and it is bounded on the north by the Aurora Borealis; and as all these are noted locations, especially the last there will be no need of calculating the longitude. The annual election is the only day in the year of sufficient importance to call out the quiet citizens of this retired corporation. It is just like other towns, divided in politics, private enmities, and religious sects; in short a fair sample of New England towns generally. But there is one peculiarity in the customs of the people. When a man is elected to an office, however trivial, it is expected he will make a speech. At the last election, after the transaction of the more important business of the meeting, and the election of various officers, such as tythingmen, pound-keepers, &c., it was announced by the Moderator, "The next thing in order is to choose hogreeves. Will some one nominate?"
"George Peajacket, Esq."
"George P. Jacket, Esq., is nominated. All who are in favor of George P. Jacket, Esq., serving as hogreeve the ensuing year, will please to say Aye."
Aye--aye--aye--rang from all quarters of the hall.
"It is a vote," responded the Moderator. Now, Esquire Peajacket was a noted character. He was one of those men who always say just what they please--and nobody appears to be offended with him. One of your real, independent, go-ahead fellows, who are sure to make their "mark" on society, if they cannot write their "name" there. Every body said he was a "pretty clever fellow," but he could not get a half dozen votes in town for any important office. The fact is, he was one of these irregular, comet-like geniuses, who are born about a half century before their time; and he was chosen hogreeve for the sole purpose of getting a speech out of him.
After a few moments' suspence and almost breathless silence, Esq. Peajacket rose very deliberately, and said, addressing himself to the meeting: "Gentlemen, being taken thus by surprise, I hardly know what to say to you; but I suppose I must say something, or at least that it would be good policy to do so, for it is well settled that the way to get more is to be thankful for what you get. So after thanking them, very sincerely of course, for "this token of admiration," as he called it, he continued: "Now, gentlemen, I consider the office, to which your partiality has elevated me, the most honorable office in town. It has in fat become quite a sinecure; a very honorable office with nothing to do--I suppose, gentlemen, it was not always so; but that in former times, when hogs ran at large as hogreeves do now, it was a very active and agreeable office. But times change, and men change. Nothing stands the brunt of time like office; and there can be no sort of question if every porker in Scrabbletown were to go the way of all swine, you would want hogreeves. But, gentlemen, before entering on the duties of my office, there are one or two queries in my mind that need settling. In the first place, there are several breeds of swine. There are your Suffolks, Berkshires, China and Natives (I don't know whether they are Native Americans or not); and then there are a variety of colors, such as white, and speckled, and black."
Peajacket was an abolitionist; and when he came to the idea of a black hog, he made a pause; and looking round upon the assembly, he saw in the half-suppressed smile that every where greeted him, that there was a very natural association of ideas tickling each brain; and he continued, "I would like to know if black hogs come under my supervision?" This question was answered by a universal shout, and a voice from one corner of the hall, "Yes, you were chosen to take care of them in particular." The Esquire, not at all disconcerted, continued, "Thank you, gentlemen, for this free expression of sentiment. I look upon it as one of the encouraging indications of the times, coming as it does, from the democratic friends come to the conclusion that black hogs are the subjects of civil government, it will be a very natural transition to the enquiry, whether black men have any rights at all." The meeting was in too good humor to take offence at a repartee and the speaker proceeded.
There is one query more that lies with much weight on my mind. It is well known by readers of natural history that naturalists divide the animal creation into several great classes or kinds. Thus, there are the cat kind and dog kind; the horse and the cow kind. Now it so happens, that between these several great and distinct classes, there are some animals that are neither the one nor the other; as for instance, between the cat and the dog, there are some animals that resemble a dog so much in some things, and are so much like a cat in other respects, that naturalists are divided in opinion, and some class them one way and some the other. Just so with regard to swine. It is very doubtful, in my mind, what developments would bring an animal under the hog kind. All of us have heard it said; many of us in our younger days, had it set for a copy in our writing books: "All are not men who wear the human form." If they are not men, what are they? There are some, Mr. Moderator, whose names are inserted in the Check List, they walk up to the ballot box and vote, they go to meeting on Sundays, and sometimes they say their prayers; but still, they have a very general reputation of being rather hoggish. Now, the great query in my mind is, whether these animals come under my jurisdiction or not? It is my impression sir, that they do; and I would give notice, that until I am further advised or better informed with regard to the true character of these animals, if I hear any complaints against them, I shall consider it my duty to attend to them."
Esq. Peajacket sat down in a storm of the most thundering applause. If he has any dealings with these Home-Porkers I will send you an account of it.
He drove the sow and little pigs,
He drove the tusked boar,
And to the pound he saw them safe,
And fast he locked the door.
Among the town offices in Massachusetts is the important one of hog-reeve. To this office it belongs, to see that the swine are kept in due subjection to the laws; and, if found transgressing, to impound, yoke, or ring them; or inflict whatever punishsment, may be agreeable to the statutes, and requisite to the good order and correct deportment of the said swine.
It has, time out of mind (i.e. our mind) been a custom in certain districts of the State, to select the candidates for hog-reeves from among those gentleman who have taken to themselves a wife during the past year. On what ground this practice originated, we are not precisely informed.--Some suppose, from an opinion, that he, who can manage a new made wife, is best calculated to restrain those other animals, for the due subjection of which the office of hog-reeve is constituted. Others suppose, it is intended as an encouragement to matrimony, by holding out the certain and sudden elevation of office of all such as enter the state of double blessedness. While a third party insist upon it, that it is but another way whereby the old foxes show their contempt of the young ones, who have made haste to run into the same snare in which they had themselves been caught. But if we may speak our own mind respecting these several opinions, we should say of the first, that the analogy must be exceedingly slight between managing one's own wife and his neighbor's hogs; of the second, that there surely must be more powerful motives for entering into the state of matrimony, than that of being chosen hog-reeve; and of the third, that it savours very much of coming from one of those cunning old foxes who intend never to be caught in the trap matrimonial.
But whatever the cause of this selection of new married men for hog-reeves, or as they are sometimes called--hog-constables; the effect is usually not a little amusing, and occasions the most laughable incidents of a town-meeting day. The hog-reeves are not chosen by ballot, like the modernator, selectmen, and some other of the principal officers; but are nominated viva voce, and voted for by holding up the hand. It is then a time for jokes, which are freely banded about at the expense of the newly married men. Then nominations are brisk; for, to tell the truth, few are ambitious of the office; and most persons are ever ready to place upon the shoulders of another, what they have no desire to take upon their own.
A set of merciless wags are always ready with a list of candidates prepared for the occasion, all of whom have entered the holy state of matrimony since the last town meeting--some of them indeed for the second, third and fourth time. But this repetition of conjugal duty, does not exempt them from the office of hog-reeve. On the contrary, they are, jocularly, declared to be better and better qualified for that office, every time they marry.
The moderator gives the call to nominate, and a motley mixture of candidates is announced.--There are old men who have married young wives, and young men who have been tacked to old ones; there are widowers who have married maids, and bachelors who have yoked with widows; there are raw boys who have married silly girls, and decrepid old men who have matched themselves with toothless old women. In short, there are all sorts of characters on the new-married list, out of which the hog-constables are to be made.--Seldom is a nomination disputed on account of the qualifications of the candidate, but all the last year's husbands, whether high or low, rich or poor, wise or foolish, are forthwith voted in, and doomed to bear "their blushing honors thick upon them."
But those who are fond of throwing contempt, as it were, upon the holy state of matrimony, by making hog-reeves of its recent votaries, have sometimes occasion to repent of their forwardness; for the officers, thus chosen out of a joke, will execute their commission in earnest, and by no means be wanting in attention to the grunters of those very persons by whom their election was promoted. And thus the poor swin get impounded, yoked, ringed, &c., on account of the folly of their masters. In fact, some of the very active and vigilant hog-reeves are accused of paying more attention to their neighbors' swin, than to their own wives.
The new-made hog-reeves are occasionally disposed to execute their office incontinently upon their constituents, doubtless supposing they have more need of looking after than the swine themselves. An instance of this kind occurred at Newburyport lately, as we perceive by the Salem Gazette. A gentleman being nominated to the office of hog-reeve, said "he should be proud to accept, if they would allow him to begin the execution of his duties of his office on the spot, by yoking and ringing all the animals that had trespassed into town meeting, and acted swinishly."
We will close this article by copying, from our recollection, a clever pun,which though old to some of our readers, will doubtless be new to others. A man by the name of Shoat had been chosen hog-reeve, when a wag enacted the following distich:
The wisdom of this town now stands confest--
One Shoat is chosen to govern all the rest.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "Evinrude Fever," by Eric Johnson, from the album, "Europe Live"