I continue to harvest Mathew Franklin Whittier's asterisk-signed book reviews in the 1845 New York "Tribune." I know that they end--or at least there is a hiatus--in November, because Mathew wrote a report of the "Millerite" sect for the Portland "Transcript," which was published in the Nov. 1, 1845 edition of that paper. Strangely, this is one of the only journalistic pieces signed with Mathew's real name. As I recall, it's the Seventh Day Adventists who reference it, occasionally, as a historical document, though they mention that it "may be somewhat sarcastic," or something along that line. (Actually, it's a scream.)
This occurred to me just at bedtime last night, and I had to crank up the computer again to check it out. Indeed, the star-signed book reviews are not found in the November editions of the "Tribune." But I will have to wait until I get further along, to see when they actually end.
I am tantalizingly close to uncovering a real smoking gun, which proves that it was Mathew Franklin Whittier who wrote "The Raven," and not Edgar Allan Poe. Clinching it may, or may not, be impossible. I asked the first psychic I used, in 2010, whether I would ever find evidence for the meeting between Mathew and Poe, which I seemed to have remembered under hypnosis (long before the attribution question came up). Per my notes, she replied:
My ideas about Edgar Allan Poe are correct (exactly correct or something to that extent, about my thinking he wanted to be friends, and him recruiting me as a political ghost writer). It would take a *lot* of research to uncover (repeated). May find in Edgar Cayce readings.
Now, the Cayce Readings seemed a very odd place to look for this information. I dutifully paid my A.R.E. membership, and began searching. I never found anything relevant to this issue, but I did find evidence that Cayce, under trance, perceived John Greenleaf Whittier's character much as I did, contrary to everybody else's assessment. That, however, is another story.
Knowing, now, that Mathew wrote a book review column for the "Tribune" as often as every other day, I turned to the history of that paper, and its editor, Horace Greeley, for clues. But Mathew is such a cagey figure, and so much marginalized, that you are lucky if you find even the barest mention of him. Occasionally he comes up as the "brother of the Poet," i.e., John Greenleaf Whittier. Greeley published his memoirs, but there is no sign of Mathew in them. Nor is there any reference to book reviews, or the asterisk (star) signature.
I didn't come away entirely empty-handed, however. Here is what Greeley says about Edgar Allan Poe:
A gushing youth once wrote me to this effect:--
"Dear Sir: Among your literary treasures, you have doubtless preservfed several autographs of our country's late lamented poet, Edgar A. Poe. If so, and you can spare one, please enclose it to me, and receive the thanks of yours truly."
I promptly responded, as follows:--
"Dear Sir: Among my literary treasures, there happens to be exactly one autograph of our country's late lamented poet, Edgar A. Poe. It is his note of hand for fifty dollars, with my indorsement across the back. It cost me exactly $50.75 (including protest), and you may have it for half that amount. Yours, respectfullly."
That autograph, I regret to say, remains on my hands, and is still for sale at first cost, despite the lapse of time, and the depreciation of our currency.
This may not sound like a big deal, but in 1845, according to an online inflation calculator, $50 was the equilalent of roughly $1,659 in 2018 currency. Poe borrowed over sixteen hundred dollars from Greeley, and never paid it back.
This isn't the only instance I've run across, so it appears to have been a habit. It's bordering on criminal when you don't pay back $50--friendships have been ruined for less. But not to pay back $1,600? Unless there really are extenuating circumstances, it is criminal, and moreover, if it's habitual, then it was intentional. This means I could make a very good case for Edgar Allan Poe being a sociopathic personality.
Sociopathic personalities, in the literary field--especially if they have inflated their talent, and then have to live up to the hype--will very likely turn to plagiarism. That is, if they haven't built up their reputation based on plagiarism in the first place.
As I placed yesterday's discoveries into my sequel, I worked out the following tentative scenario. It's going to sound grandiose, to you--but Poe's reputation is a scam, while Mathew Franklin Whittier's is just the reverse--hidden and marginalized. Mathew must have been mentoring Poe in poetry. He did this quite a number of times throughout his career, as near as I can tell. At least some of these people would take his unpublished poems, which he had shared in the spirit of friendship, and publish them under their own names. This, for example, appears to have been done by one Robert Johnson, who wrote very pedestrian poetry for the Boston "Weekly Museum." He lived in Norwich, Connecticut, and Mathew would stop over in Norwich on his travels. Suddenly, one of Mathew's poems--a deeply personal one about his beloved Abby grieving for one of their children--appears in the "Museum" under Johnson's name, with an absurdly long, biblical title that Mathew never would have given it. The poem is in Mathew's style, not Johnson's, and it is far better quality than anything Johnson could have written. I can't prove it, of course, but it's obvious to me.
Plagiarists had a field day in the 19th century. But it appears that when Mathew wanted Greeley to print his attack on Poe, Greeley refused, at least in part because Mathew didn't have enough evidence. I suppose Greeley didn't dare stick his neck out like that without proof. Why wouldn't Mathew be able to prove his own authorship of "The Raven"? Presumably, because even if he had retained an original in his own handwriting, there was no way to prove he hadn't written it out after-the-fact. Since he probably had never shared it with anyone before Poe, he could draw no mentions of it from his correspondence with anyone else. Had he, for example, sent a copy to his brother, in a dated letter, and had his brother retained that letter, this would have been proof. But Mathew didn't share his work with his brother, nor with anyone else. Poe must have charmed him to such an extent, that Mathew shared these deeply personal poems, and even complied with Poe's (gushing) request for copies. And Mathew tried to teach him something about poetry. I can prove that Mathew was in a position to do so, as regards knowledge and proficiency, but for that you can read my books and see the examples, or you can buy my compilation of Mathew's work, some of which predates 1845.
Very often, evidence doesn't rise to the level of proof--i.e., proof to someone else--while yet having its own validity. I was able to find an early daguerreotype of the "Tribune" staff in the Library of Congress:
We are told that, extrapolating from older photographs and other evidence, these men have been identified as follows: Seated left to right: George M. Snow, financial editor; Bayard Taylor; Horace Greeley; George Ripley, literary editor; Standing left to right: William Henry Fry, music editor; Charles A. Dana; Henry J. Raymond. Unfortunately, they can only date the photograph to between 1844 and 1860!
Even though Mathew was writing several reviews per week for this paper, I doubt he was on staff. Bayard Taylor was a personal friend of Mathew's sister, Elisabeth--whether through Mathew, or through their brother, we don't know. I do know that he used to visit her in Amesbury, Mass. where she and John Greenleaf lived.
Then I looked up Henry J. Raymond, and got a real shock. I don't like this fellow at all! I feel that I avoided him as much as possible--that he was as mean as a snake. Or, that was my gut impression, though there is no accounting for personality chemstry between people. I have frequently had past-life impressions from portraits, and one or two of them have carried evidential weight (as described in my book, and also my video interview, which can be seen on the Interviews page). But this was actually one of the strongest impressions, albeit this isn't evidential.
So what do we have, so far? We have that Poe habitually, and presumably deliberately, borrowed significant sums from his peers with no real intention to pay it back. You know, sort of like Wimpy, who says "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger, today."
We also know that Horace Greeley probably (though not definitely) knew Poe personally, well enough to lend him $1,600. And let me emphasize, again, that borrowing enough for a hamburger, with no intention of paying it back, is quirky. But borrowing $1,600 with no intention of paying it back, is criminal. If Greeley knew Poe personally, and Mathew knew Greeley personally, then we have Poe and Mathew at three degrees of separation. (I have him there as regards Portland author and art patron John Neal, but Mathew wasn't personal friends with Neal.)
I know, from past-life emotional memory, that Mathew had an adversarial relationship with at least one person who was deeply embedded in the original staff of the "Tribune." This sets the stage for Greeley not believing Mathew (presumably, before Poe ripped Greeley off for $1,600). I say that, because Greeley was probably partial to Raymond, and Raymond, being jealous of and threatened by Mathew's talent, would have derisively dismissed the idea that Mathew could have written "The Raven." Greeley would have believed his staff member, Raymond, over Mathew. It so happens that we see none of Mathew's poetry in this paper, at all--only reviews.
In future years, whenever Mathew reports on Greeley, or mentions him in passing, it's a distinctly ambivalent vibe. He paints Greeley as a clown, and yet, admires his message. I had always assumed the public viewed him that way, and that Mathew was simply reflecting the public perception of him. And that might have been true, but there may have been more to it than that. Perhaps Mathew, himself, was deeply ambivalent about Greeley. It feels bad not to be believed. Trust me, I know, because I write to you all without being believed. I have to brace myself, and sort of "tuck it away in the corner" each time I write. How do I know you don't believe me? Because if, for a half-a-half-a-second, you did believe that I wrote "The Raven" in my past life, you'd buy my book to check out the entire story. That you don't, tells me you don't really believe a word I'm saying. Let's be honest, here. This is not so much a matter of trying to induce anybody to buy my books--it's just the way it is. You know it, and I know it.
So Mathew wasn't believed, and he tried to let it go, based on Christian and Stoic philosophy. He tried to take the high road. In fact, as I continue scanning the "Tribune," I find that after a hiatus, he resumes his reviews with an even greater frequency (obviously, it was a steady additional income, and he had his second family, in Portland, to support). But when Poe--perhaps being a bit under fire--published "The Philosophy of Composition," bullshitting his way through an explanation of how he wrote "The Raven," it was too much.
There must be a letter out there, which mentions something...somebody said that Poe stole "The Raven" from the guy who wrote reviews under a "star" signature for the "Tribune." "Of course, he was nuts, but just for laughs, I remember that somebody claimed that..." That's all I would need. Or a sneering denial by Poe, thinking that nobody would ever know who the "asterisk" was writing those reviews. Something... The psychic said it could be found with a lot of digging. I'm not going to make a life-compulsion of it. If some new avenue occurs to me, I'll poke around. One thing leads to another. I never thought I'd be able place Mathew Franklin Whittier in New York City at the time "The Raven" was published--but now, I have.
Incidentally, you may have put this together, but Poe was working as a literary critic for the New York "Evening Mirror," a major New York City newspaper, at this time. But Mathew Franklin Whittier was working as a literary critic for the New York "Tribune," another major New York City newspaper. In fact, their careers were entirely equal and parallel, the only difference being that Mathew remained anonymous, while Poe used his real name. Mathew suppressed his fame, while Poe did everything he could--ethically or unethically--to enhance his. They had both been in the literary field about the same amount of time. There is one significant difference, however. Mathew was a prodigy, and he could prove it (and, I have proven it). Poe, being a little older, claimed to have been a prodigy, but I have yet to see clear evidence for it. All I have seen, so far, is evidence that he faked it. There is another difference--Mathew's poetry, up until the point that "The Raven" was published, is of excellent quality--while Poe's--that portion of it he wrote himself--strikes me as being pretty awful. (I except "Al Aaraaf," which I think Poe had plagarized from someone else.)
If this were a legal matter, I now have more than enough circumstantial evidence to convict Poe of plagiarism. I have "means, motive and opportunity" (the crucial element just added being opportunity). But I want to find the smoking gun, and I think it's out there, somewhere. Someone mentioned it, and dismissed it. But the record of their dismissal is still there. I ran across the same thing several times, regarding John Greenleaf Whittier's legacy. One biographer dismisses an account that has JGW dining with William Makepeace Thackeray in London, which story supposedly came from a friend of the poet's brother, i.e., from Mathew. The story was "about Whittier"--but not the older brother. It was about Mathew. However, when Mathew was in Europe, he wrote under the pseudonym "Quails," which was being claimed by, and for, con-artist entertainer Ossian Dodge. So the Whittier biographer had no reason to attribute it to Mathew, even though Mathew was the original source of the story. This didn't even occur to him.
Similarly, I'm betting there is a reference out there somewhere to a supposedly apocryphal story of Poe plagiarizing "The Raven" from a fellow-critic who worked for another New York City newspaper. I just have to stumble upon it...
Incidentally, I'm discovering something new, as I get into mid-1845. Mathew is writing book reviews signing as the asterisk (star), but then he is writing addition reports signing with his middle initial, "F." Here's an example from the June 30, 1845 edition. In case any scholars are interested, the asterisk-signed piece trues precisely with the style and attitudes seen in the Boston "Weekly Museum's" "Quails" travelogue.
Oh, here's another clue I just ran into. Several months after Poe presumably plagiarized "The Raven" from him, Mathew, signing with the asterisk, reviews Poe's recently-published book of stories. One might think this disproves my theory altogether. But I think not. We know that Mathew has, as I said, tried very hard to take the high road. Keep in mind that he has published hundreds of pieces by this time, beginning when he was 14 years old--among them an excellent (though smaller) body of poetry. One theft doesn't affect him so very much--and he has no way to know that "The Raven" will become a cultural icon, in the future. So he takes Poe as a genuine talent, and treats him as even-handedly as he does everyone else--including pointing out a few mistakes. He also gently suggests that Poe fails to delve sufficiently into metaphysics, though he still credits Poe with the ability to do so--not understanding what I have perceived about Poe, today, that he was faking it. (Actually, the way he phrases it, I get the sense he suspects Poe is faking it, but doesn't want to believe this about him--kind of like the way you don't want to believe your girlfriend coldly and calculatedly screwed your best friend.) We will also note his somewhat darker view of Poe as a critic, or rather, a self-proclaimed critic. But there is no mention whatsoever of Poe as a poet. This omission is, I think, meaningful in itself. Mathew simply avoids the subject altogether, giving credit where credit is due, and remaining with the topic under discussion. I also note that the review, while being fair, is neither glowing nor protracted. Perhaps he was assigned it by the editor, just as he was once required to review a talk by one of the public figures he had previously lampooned, Caleb Cushing. The review of Cushing is fascinating, in asmuch as it, too, is what you might call "painfully balanced."
Incidentally, if you think the "asterisk" signature, which appears so frequently in this paper, is really the editor, here are the signatures for two articles which appear one after the other in the same edition:
More as I discover it...
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.