Yesterday, I demonstrated how author Mathew Franklin Whittier (myself in the 19th century) would return to his own best literary ideas. Keep this in mind, because it will be relevant to this morning's discussion.
Later in the day, after writing that entry, I stumbled upon a new piece of historical information regarding Poe's authorship--or plagiarism--of "The Raven." I was keying in the second of Mathew's star-signed book reviews for the 1845 New York "Tribune," which happens to be a review of "A Drama of Exile: and Other Poems" by Elizabeth B. Barrett (the future Elizabeth Barrett Browning). This review was published on Jan. 4, 1845, about a month before "The Raven" came out. But it's a very strange review. It begins with exaggerated praise:
We have read these volumes with feelings of delight far warmer than the writer, in her sincerely modest preface, would seem to expect from any reader, and cannot hesitate to rank her, in vigor and nobleness of conception, depth of spiritual experience, and command of classic allusion, above any female writer the world has yet known.
I have seen Mathew praise a writer as "the best" only twice before--and both instances were tongue-in-cheek. Here, however, it seems genuine; but as the review moves on, Mathew literally vacillates between criticism and high praise. It is as though he believes she's an excellent poet, but as soon as he draws out examples to share, the examples either support this opinion, or, disprove it--by turns.
I was trying to add this new information into my book as I was keying in the review, and I kept having to modify it, until I just set the book aside and read through the entire review. What struck me was that Barrett couldn't have written all of these examples. They are in at least three distinctly different styles--two of them are excellent, while one is awful.
Where have I recently seen this, before? In Poe's compilations. And not only there--the various writers who plagiarized from Mathew, and from his first wife, Abby, did likewise, including the ones you've never heard of, like publisher George W. Light. Look up his "Keep Cool, Go Ahead, and a Few Other Poems," and you'll see the same weird effect. Some of those poems are his (they aren't bad, but they're superficial); some are Mathew's; and some are Abby's. In terms of both style and competence, it's a total mismatch.
So that struck me about Barrett's work, as Mathew presented it. I couldn't tell whether it was intentional, and he was trying to tell us something "around the corner," or whether he, himself, was struggling with it.
Breaking off from this work, for some reason I had the whim to search online for more information about Poe and Barrett--or about "The Raven." I can't remember, now, precisely how I got there. But I found a blog discussing this very question, i.e., whether Poe truly wrote "The Raven." I think I bookmarked it...
Here it is as a cut-and-paste URL (I don't place live URL's into this blog, because they eventually go dead and leave the website littered with dead links):
If you visit it, you'll see I'm posting and they are responding, and I've given them the URL for this blog (oh, to be a fly on the wall... ;-)
Meaning, of course, that presumably they will immediately dismiss me as a nutcase. Still, they seem pretty logical. Anyway, from there, I saw that there were a few spurious claims--historial poets who appear to have been created as hoaxes out of thin air, who supposedly wrote poems that Poe plagiarized from, in obscure journals that nobody can find any reference to (I tried, as well). It seems obvious that these were back-engineered from "The Raven," and made to look like plausible precursors.
But there is one strong claim, cited by historians, which was news to me. It seems that Elizabeth Barrett had previously published a poem entitled "Lady Geraldine's Courtship." That poem--written precisely in Mathew's preferred style (which I'll get to, in a minute), contains the line:
With a murmurous stir uncertain, in the air, the purple curtain
While "The Raven" has a line which reads:
And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purpose curtain
This is very strong evidence--essentially rising to the level of a "smoking gun." The obvious interpretation seems to be that Poe was heavily influenced by Barrett's earlier poem--so much so, that he actually stole one of her lines. In other words, he had seemingly been caught red-handed--stealing not from Mathew Franklin Whittier, but from Elizabeth Barrett.
So much so, that he wrote a glowing tribute to Barrett in the introduction to his subsequent compilation, "The Raven and Other Poems."
Now, I had just gotten finished writing a blog entry about examining one's own mind as one is faced with cognitive dissonance. Talk about instant karma! It had only been a matter of hours...
But there is another piece of evidence, on the paranormal side. Look at my entry of August 7, 2018. Here, I'll save you the trouble of looking it up in the Archives. In that entry, I mention a past-life glimpse of purple (or deep blue, I'm colorblind in this life), silk, unpatterned cloth that Mathew and Abby used to hang over the walls in their first apartment. I'm wondering whether I can substantiate when I first had that memory...
I'm pretty sure it was still-earlier--I was remembering when we had a piano--but I can definitely trace it to the time when I found what may have been the actual house still standing here in Portland. I can nail that date down by the digital date of the photographs--June 5, 2018. I consistently get the feeling that we had the back apartment.
While proofreading this entry, I found an earlier reference. This is from the journal I attempt to channel for Abby--it reflects my own past-life memory, as told through her voice, so it is relevant as evidence whether one takes this as genuine channeling, or not. This is found in the entry for Jan. 6, 2017, but here, I am not saying anything about the color or material of the cloth.
What Steve seems to remember, first of all, is me playing the piano in our own house. There was a time when Mathew was a business owner in Portland, and we were doing fairly well. Then we fell on hard times, had to move to a tiny place, but brought the piano along, so that we had this tiny room, the walls covered in wool blankets and rugs and tapestry to keep us warm, and this piano taking up about a third of it, against one wall. But Steve remembers that so long as I played for him, he remained in heaven whether he was in a big house, or a small room! And he still can feel poignant, strong reminders of what he would feel when I would play each piece.
This is still speculation, though I have a number of reasons for it, both logical and paranormal, all of which I won't go into, here. The house is a saltbox design, probably making it old enough to go back to the time Mathew and Abby moved to Portland, in 1839. It looks very much like the older portion of her family home (so that she might choose it to feel more comfortable in the big city, which she probably didn't want to move to in the first place). Streets named "Pleasant Street" seem to figure prominently in Mathew's addresses, suggesting he chose that address for secret nostalgia. And so-on.
Now, we know--and I have just gotten finished proving to you--that Mathew would return to his own best literary "bits." He would, essentially, plagiarize himself. This, especially, I think, when it was something deeply personal, which related back to a cherished memory with Abby. So there must have been some emotional back-story to these wall-hangings. They would, of course, have represented her upper-class family. Abby's father was a marquis--she was, quite literally, an aristocrat by birth. Mathew would refer to it when writing about her, precisely as he did in the poem which Poe stole and renamed "Annabel Lee," but which for some reason he was unable to publish (and hence, was published under Poe's name after his death). There, he refers to "high-born kinsmen" taking his lover away from the "kingdom by the sea," which was literal. As I've mentioned, before, Abby's sisters came to Portland, Maine and took her back to her family home in East Haverhill, Mass., a few days before she died. I have a poem written by her--signed with her initials, and published about a month after Mathew's death--written from her bedroom there, shortly before she died. All of this, in other words, has good evidence behind it.
So I think what happened, is that Mathew was in the habit of naively sharing his unpublished work--including work he'd written in tribute to Abby, after she died--with various public literary figures. I think, in part, he was seeking legitimacy this way; but in truth, he was a far better poet than they were. So much so, that they plagiarized from him, and he was helpless to stop them. He had remained hidden, even though he was at a parallel level with Poe in his professional career. Poe was a critic writing for the New York "Evening Mirror"; Mathew was a critic writing for the New York "Tribune." Only, Mathew kept all his work hidden behind his and Abby's "star," while Poe signed with his own name. Everything except "The Raven," where Poe is supposed to have used the name of a deeply religious 18th-century poet, Francis Quarles. That once again, is an absurd supposition for Poe, but it would precisely fit Mathew Franklin Whittier, who reviewed Quarles' poetry for the Boston "Essayist"--signing with his "star"--in 1832.
With me so far?
Mathew must have shared three works with Poe, in a personal, private meeting (which I had remembered, sans context, in a hypnotic regression session in February of 2009); but he must have also sent one to Elizabeth Barrett around the same time, i.e., in 1844. Mathew's poems generally weren't very long; whereas "Lady Geraldine's Courtship" is quite lengthy. It would have to be based on a poem Mathew sent her, which she then stretched into a poetic epic. But the line regarding the purple curtains would have been retained from the original.
What are the options?
1) That Mathew Franklin Whittier had nothing to do with it, and any similarities between his work and that of these famous poets, is coincidental. In that case, Poe drew upon the style--and one of the actual lines--from Barrett's already-published work, in writing "The Raven," and then openly admitted her influence when he published it in a compilation.
2) Mathew had this habit of sending his unpublished work to prominent literary figures, and these two plagiarized it--one submitting it essentially without changes, and the other editing and stretching it extensively. It was Mathew, himself, who had borrowed his own wording in regard to the purple curtains, because it had pleased him, and because the curtains had a specal meaning. Presumably, unlike most things associated with Abby, which he had given away in an overzealous fit of stoicism, he had retained the purple cloth, using it as curtains rather than as tapestry. So it had become precious to him.
Oh, there was one more clue. In response to Poe's gushing praise of Barrett in the introduction to "The Raven and Other Poems," she apparently wrote back to him, and as a joke, mentioned that one of her friends owned a bust of Pallas, which he now was afraid to look at in the twilight. That tells us that people could purchase replicas in the 19th century, just as I purchased a six-inch tall replica from a sculptor in Greece, made out of alabaster, myself. Most of the historical statues of Athena, or Pallas, are full-length, but there was a bust found in Herculaneum--which happens to look rather like Abby. That's why the comparison shows up, in disguised form, in the parodies of Mathew's second marriage found in B.P. Shillaber's tales of "Blifkins the Martyr." That was Mathew's copy of the bust, which Shillaber says was "above his chamber door." And Shillaber specifically mentions that Mathew thought it looked somewhat like Abby (represented, here, as the "Widow Thompson"), and that he had had a dream of being with her, and that he tried to telepathically communicate with the bust.
Now, I'm going to quote a passage from "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," with some poems by Mathew. The first comes from 1843, before "The Raven" was published; the rest were published afterwards. My point is simply to show that this was, indeed, Mathew's native, preferred style. He was imitating nobody--it's how he best expressed himself. He could write in other styles, but most often he reverted to this one. I don't know the technical name for it. He is not the only poet who used it, of course. But the point is, my scenario is entirely plausible, based on this evidence.
First, the lines from "Geraldine":
I'm looking for the best example, and I have to go somewhere else with this. I could show you style comparisons, but the content is precisely on-target for Mathew's remembered relationship with Abby, and I'd rather show you examples of that. This is going to take more work, on my part. I don't think I can encapsulate the entire thing. But think about this, for a minute--why would Elizabeth Barrett write a poem taking the part of a young man falling in love with an aristocratic far above his station? This is a symbolic poem representating Mathew's courtship of Abby.
Oh, to see or hear her singing! scarce I know which is divinest,
For her looks sing too—she modulates her gestures on the tune,
And her mouth stirs with the song, like song; and when the notes are finest,
'T is the eyes that shoot out vocal light and seem to swell them on.
Then we talked—oh, how we talked! her voice, so cadenced in the talking,
Made another singing—of the soul! a music without bars:
While the leafy sounds of woodlands, humming round where we were walking,
Brought interposition worthy-sweet,—as skies about the stars.
And she spake such good thoughts natural, as if she always thought them;
She had sympathies so rapid, open, free as bird on branch,
Just as ready to fly east as west, whichever way besought them,
In the birchen-wood a chirrup, or a cock-crow in the grange.
In her utmost lightness there is truth—and often she speaks lightly,
Has a grace in being gay which even mournful souls approve,
For the root of some grave earnest thought is understruck so rightly
As to justify the foliage and the waving flowers above.
And she talked on—we talked, rather! upon all things, substance, shadow,
Of the sheep that browsed the grasses, of the reapers in the corn,
Of the little children from the schools, seen winding through the meadow,
Of the poor rich world beyond them, still kept poorer by its scorn.
So, of men, and so, of letters—books are men of higher stature,
And the only men that speak aloud for future times to hear;
So, of mankind in the abstract, which grows slowly into nature,
Yet will lift the cry of "progress," as it trod from sphere to sphere.
And her custom was to praise me when I said,—"The Age culls simples,
With a broad clown's back turned broadly to the glory of the stars.
We are gods by our own reck'ning, and may well shut up the temples,
And wield on, amid the incense-steam, the thunder of our cars.
First of all, I don't think Barrett touched this portion. This is all Mathew. This, I think, is his master-tribute to Abby, which I knew had to be there, but which I could never find. So let me break just this part down for you, which I chose at random--then I'll provide examples of matching content in Mathew and Abby's writing.
The above is a miniature, attributed to Mathew's cousin, Ruth Whittier Shute, which I have proven beyond a reasonable doubt as being Abby's portrait, at age 20, painted in Jan. 1837. She was beautiful, ethereal, and spiritual, with a deep understanding of esoteric studies. Here, she wears a custom-made, esoteric-themed brooch, with the white center for the soul, surrounded by the black of the world, or Maya, with energy swirls at the four corners, probably representing the elements. You will see this broach referenced briefly in Mathew's poetic tribute, "To A Bright Lady," shortly. She was both a poetical and a musical prodigy, who could sing, play piano, and play the harp. She could also dance, but never did so with other boys, only alone in Nature, and with, or for, Mathew. Mathew was her student, literally, as she was tutoring him, despite being four years younger. She was petite, while he was growing into his full height of 6'2". He was a Quaker farm-boy, also a literary prodigy, and he was desperately eager for a full classical education, which Abby was giving him. She was falling in love with him, but he was older--the town favorite, because of his wit--a sort of a lovable rogue, with a naturally skeptical nature, who loved social satire and had studied all the great satirists of that age and the previous century. The irony was that she thought he was above he (being a handsome, popular older boy), while he thought she was above him, by reason of social status
Abby would sing and play for Mathew; they would talk on high philosophical subjects (both remembered spontaneously by myself, and described in a psychc reading, plus there is plenty of evidence in their writing). They would read to each other, and she no-doubt taught him to write poetry, which he would read back to her. Mathew soon fell in love with her, but for the longest time dared not let on, given her age and also her station in life. In other words, all of this, described in the poem "Geraldine," is literal for Mathew and Abby, except that she is presented as a real lady of aristocracy. So the entire thing is literal except for the characters and setting. This, as I have said previously, was also true for "Annabel Lee," and was typical of all of Mathew's work. I have said that his writing is like taking a photograph into Photoshop, and applying filters. He started with real life; and there is always a great deal of real life still left in all of his productions, including his poetry.
Now for examples. And for now, I won't try so much to go for style--though I certainly could--I will go for content. This is an asterisk-signed tribute to Abby, originally printed somewhere in the "New Mirror" (or so the citation says, though I can't find it there). It appears, reprinted, retaining Mathew's "star" signature, in the Jan. 17, 1846 edition of the Portland (Maine) "Transcript." This is actually not long after Mathew ceased writing for the New York "Tribune" and, apparently, returned to Portland. His last piece for the "Tribune" appears in October of 1845, and his "Millerite" article, as I recently shared with you, was printed in the "Transcript" of Nov. 1 1845. Just about all the elements mentioned in the lines, above, are also represented in this poem--her poetry, her music, and so-on.
To A Bright Lady.
Smile thy sweetest smile, lady,
Let its glances be
Soft as summer sun-set
On a summer sea.
Laugh thy gayest laugh, lady,
Let its clear notes ring
Like the fairy echo
Of the lute’s light string.
Speak thy glowing words, lady,
Full of poet fire,
Smother not the gladness
Spirit dreams inspire.
Trip thy lightest step, lady,
Let thy foot-fall be
Light as idle breezes
Wandering wildly free.
Dance thy gayest dance, lady,
Move in airy motion
As the dreaming sea-bird moves
With the swelling ocean.
Wear thy brightest pearl, lady,
On that breast of thine—
And thy freshest garlands
Mid thy tresses twine.
Play thy golden harp, lady,
Let its thrilling tone
Echo every heart-throb—
Echoing thine own.
But list thee—list thee—lady,
Wear thy richest gem,
As the rose the dew drop wears
For its diadem.
And thy beaming smile, lady—
Let it shine for heaven—
Lighting earth—as do the stars
Mid the hush of even.
Oh! List thee—list thee—lady,
Breathe thy deepest prayer;
Heaven may give thee grace, lady,
All its gifts to bear. *
"List," of course, is short for "listen." Next is a humorous description of Abby as a child prodigy, singing a solo in church (presumably, the East Haverhill Meeting House in East Haverhill, Mass.), probably when she was around 10 or 11:
But there is a point beyond which forbearance is no longer a virtue. Great pains had been taken by the choir in getting up a new anthem, (selected from Mozart,) for Thanksgiving day, and the very gem of a piece was a solo, which had been assigned to the sweetest voice, and the prettiest little girl in the village.
All who attended the rehearsals were perfectly delighted with the solo as sung by "little Mary." It was very difficult. It was marked from beginning to end, "Andantino," "Dolce," "Affetuoso," "Crescendo," "Pianissimo," with changing keys and flats and sharps springing out from unexpected places; but she had conquered it all.
Three or four accomplished singers who had come from Boston to pass Thanksgiving in the country, and who attended the last rehearsal, were in raptures with little Mary's singing.
They had heard Tedesco, and Biscacianti, and Madam Bishop, and yet they say, "for a country girl she is a prodigy."
* * *
In the meantime the congregation assembled, and the worship proceeded in the usual way. At length came the anthem. It even went beyond expectation. A long "rest" immediately preceded the solo. It was no rest for poor "little Mary." It was the most anxious minute she had ever passed. She arose blushing and trembling. Her agitation gave a tremor to her voice, which added to the pathos of the music. It was beautiful.
Now, Deacon Goodman always made it a rule when any accident had detained him until after worship had commenced, to come in very softly. How different from the fashionable flourish? All were intent on the solo.
None heard and but few saw Deacon Goodman enter his pew, and take up the sheet on which the words of the anthem were printed.
Unlike that of many singers, the articulation of "little Mary" was perfect. The Deacon soon found the piece; and to the astonishment of the congregation, indignation of the choir, and the perfect horror of "little Mary," he "struck in," and accompanied her through the solo. Accompanied!! "Oft in the stilly-night," accompanied by Captain Braggs Battery, would give some notion of it. Poor little Mary was sick a fortnight.
"Why don't you cut that old fellow's tongue off?" said one of the Boston singers.
"What good would it do?" said the choir leader, "he would howl through his nose."
They were all very cross.
This is a relevant excerpt from one of Mathew's first love poems to Abby, entitled "My Love and I," appearing in the Aug 18, 1832 New York "Constellation." This is the one I mentioned, wherein Mathew was influenced by a poem entitled "Love" by Samuel Coleridge--the only such instance I know of, where he didn't give fair attribution. (Still, while it may be imitation, I think Mathew's is better.) Here, he has just turned 20, and Abby has recently turned 16. They are permitted to take walks in the evening, apparently under the strict condition that they remain chaste--and it's practically killing him, precisely as you see in "Lady Geraldine." But the point is, they make up stories to tell each other which, as I think about it, are probably along the line of the plot one sees in "Geraldine."
My love and I, one Summer's night,
Sat underneath a chesnut tree;
Against its massive trunk we leaned,
And none were there but God and we.
We sang and talked of other days--
We sang the chivalrous songs of old;
Alternatively we told the loves
Of maidens, and of warriors bold.
Persuasively I told another
Tale of love, and hope, and fear;
And first her eye with sorrow drooped,
But soon it glistened with a tear,
That pearly tear caused mine to flow;--
And gently clasped her hand in mine,
For none were there but God and we.
Another still I had to tell,
Of early, fond, devoted love;
I told it in an earnest manner,
And yet my lips did scarcely move,
I told it--yet I know not how;
I told it--and she knew my meaning,
For, 'ere I closed, I felt her cheek
Against my anxious bosom leaning.
I know that these things are generic for Victorian courtships. Remember, my intention is to establish plausibility for Mathew being the original author, and for "Geraldine" actually having been a tribute to his courtship with Abby.
Now we have a story written by Abby, entitled "Bobby Lincoln," where she casts herself and Mathew (whom she names "Frank") as brother and sister. Here, too, they spend the day making up stories to tell each other. This was published by Mathew, almost 10 years after Abby's death, in the Aug. 31, 1850 Boston "Weekly Museum."
Fanny Anise and her brother Frank were orphans, but they had been so pampered and petted in the house of the rich relative who had adopted them, and had felt themselves so free from labor all their lives, this rambling abroad and rehearsing bits of dramas for their own amusement, was just one way they had of wearing out the day.
He was a fine, heartsome-looking fellow, this brother Frank, with his sister's own sparkle about him, and a world more than his sister had of energy and strength of character, (in term) but all subdued just now to an expression of staid thoughtfulness that became him well, and promised wondrous things in his far-away horoscope of manhood.
"Now, brother Frank, what is all this about?" began Fanny, coming up to him, quite out of breath; "are we being Alonzo and Melissa, just now, or, or--what is that girl's name in 'The Children of the Abbey'? Amanda! Oh, oh, your lordship"----
"No, no, Fanny; poh, do n't talk so; though I guess, after all, when you do begin on them, there won't be found a finer girl than you are, Fanny, or a prettier one, or a better one, or one half so much sought after."
"Bravo, Frank!--a grand beginning!" and Fanny perked her head on one side with such an expression of mock sentimentality and mixed perplexity and mirth, it was unintentionally comic.
Oh, wait, there was one more I wanted to add. In "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," we read:
It was thus I reeled. I told you that her hand had many suitors;
But she smiles them down imperially as Venus did the waves,
And with such a gracious coldness that they cannot press their futures
On the present of her courtesy, which yieldingly enslaves.
Mathew was quite jealous-natured, and this would be from his perspective (if, indeed, Barrett hasn't edited it for dramatic effect). Abby, in one of her first short stories, published for her by Mathew as the junior editor of the New York "Constellation," in the Oct. 2, 1830 edition, writes in thinly-veiled autobiography about herself and Mathew, whom she calls "Diffident Jim." She gives her own character the name "Mary of the Valley":
Mary had many suitors—not becaue she was desirous of many, but because the invariable sweetness of her temper, the guileless sincerity of her heart, and the simple, the native attraction of her manners, irresistibly won the affections of many. With the general esteem and love of her acquaintance she could not fail to be gratified; but the marked attentions of so many sighing swains were to her rather painful than pleading. To meet the especial love of one, was her joy, her pride; to give her own in return, was her happiness. She had none of the cruel vanity of the coquette, who is fond of gracing her triumph with a display of broken hearts; and it was her wish to secure a friend, where she was compelled to refuse a lover.
But though Mary's unsuccessful suitors could do no less than acquiesce in their rejection, there was one thing with which they generally took the liberty of being dissatisfied--and that was, the nature of her choice, which, to their great mortification, fell upon one, whom, from his silent attentions and unassuming manners, they had scarcely considered in the light of a rival. To have the prize carried off without noise or bustle, was hardly to be endured.
James Columbine, usually called among his more forward acquaintance, Diffident Jim, led to the altar the boast of the Valley. And wherefore this success? He had no means of competing with his rivals on their own ground. Their circumstances were affluent, his were humble. Their apparel was costly and gay, his was cheap and plain. Their equipage was showy and expensive, his—alas! he had none. They drove a gig and tandem, he walked on foot. Their manners were forward and fashionable, his were modest and retiring. They pushed their suit by offers of balls, parties of pleasure, and public attentions; he only by the silent language of the countenance and by noiseless assiduities. In few words, Diffident Jim, as they called him, had little else to boast than industry, honesty, good sense and a feeling heart. But these were every thing to Mary of the Valley, and she did not hesitate between the sterling value of gold in a plain box, and the worthlessness of tinsel in a gilded casket.
The clear inference is that the rejected suitors were of Abby's social class, just as one sees in "Geraldine."
These are the examples that readily come to mind, as regards content. I should give a couple of examples of style, before I wrap up, because the poems I've presented, here, aren't representative in that respect. Regarding the content, I haven't even read "Geraldine" all the way through, yet. I always find it difficult to read Mathew or Abby's work, when I know it has probably been adulterated. I have to force myself.
Here is the only example I have of Mathew writing poetry in this style, which appears before "The Raven" was published. This printing was truncated. I have a theory as to why--it reflected too much of Abby's esoteric teachings regarding the effect of mass consciousness, or simply consciousness, on natural disasters. In any case, the poem, entitled "The Crucifixion," appeared in the March 1, 1843 edition of the Portland "Transcript," signed "Poins." This, as I've said recently, is a 100%-provable signature for Mathew Franklin Whittier, because his brother mentioned a piece with this signature in personal correspondence, thanking Mathew for having sent it (and indicating that it was, in fact, Mathew's).
A Fragment : : : By Poins.
Over Jordan, vale and mountain,
Silence gathered like a pall,
Stayed the torrent, sealed the fountain,
Boding stillness over all.
On Genassaret's waters playing
Not an idle zephyr roves,
O'er the Mount of Olives straying
Not a breeze the foliage moves.
Over Hermon slowly creeping
Giant shadows silent go,
Round his hoary summit sweeping,
Veil his coronal of snow.
Earth and air are clothed in mourning,
Sheeted dead from graves appear!
From her centre, deeply groaning,
Nature testifies her fear!
* * * * * *
Mete this general fear and sadness,--
Graves should open! mountains nod!
Mortal men are in their madness
Crucifying Nature's God!
This is an excerpt from "To the Wayfarer of Life," in the April 21, 1849 Portland "Transcript," signed with the "star." Note the philosophical compabitility with the poetry of Francis Quarles (look him up):
Fainting on life's rugged mountains,
Parching mid its bitter fountains,
Give thine ear, sad pilgrim brother,
To the greeting of my lay,
And its close chill folds unsealing,
Let thy heart breathe forth its feeling,
Opening to the touch of kindness,
Like the flowers to the day;
So conversing and rehearsing,
We'll beguile the dusty way.
Thou art worn, and sad, and weary,
Of thy journey, waste and dreary,
And thy once smooth cheek hath furrows,
Where the tears are wont to flow;
And thy thousand cares oppress thee,
And thy failing limbs distress thee,
Sighing for the dove's soft pinions,
And the days of "Long ago;"
Life's sweet morning, manhood dawning,
Doomed without return to go.
Again, others in the Victorian and Edwardian era wrote in this style (though perhaps few wrote so well, or so often, in it). I am establishing plausibility, here. Now we turn to a poem with the enigmatic signature, "Incog," found in the paper that Mathew's brother, John Greenleaf Whittier, served on as associate editor. Entitled "In Much Wisdom is Much Grief," it was reprinted in the Nov. 10, 1849 edition of the Boston "Weekly Museum." This is a long poem, which arguably has "Raven"-like elements, but I'm going to lose my entire audience if I reproduce it entirely. I'll just take the first stanza, and then dip down into a section where there is a change of style. The gist is that he is despondent about his work, and its lack of public acceptance, when Abby visits him from the spirit world by way of encouragement. I have multiple pieces of evidence indicating that Mathew was, in fact, living in a "garret" or attic, in Philadelphia in mid-1849.
In a garret, forlorn and high,
Wearily gazing upon the sky,
Lingered a thoughtful and toil-worn one,
Scanning the march of the setting sun:
Broad his brow, but his form was thin,
Dark and sad was the soul within,
Lofty genius the eye bespoke,
Burning words from the pale lips broke;
Want, and Sorrow, and stern-faced Pride,
In his garret stood side by side;
Poverty, too, like a well-known guest,
Leaned with her gaunt hand on his breast;
Day and night, in his lonely cot,
He felt their presence, but saw them not.
* * * *
A rich light falls
On the garret walls,
Flooding the room with its silver streams;
With angel grace,
See a starlike face
On the lonely student beams.
A clear mild eye,
Like the pale, blue sky,
Bendeth on him, till he shrinks with awe;
So sweet a thing,
In his journeying,
He never before saw.
Her white robes glitter,
For heaven fitter
Their purity, than the guilt-stained earth,
So soft and even;
Surely in heaven
She had her birth.
Whispers she sweetly,
“Time passes fleetly,
Lend me, oh student! Thine ear awhile;
Thine is a mission
Near to fruition,
Thine heaven’s smile.
I'm not quite done yet. Am I wearing you out? Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you challenge me to "show you the evidence," assuming I don't have it; but I actually have a great deal of it, and I start showing it to you; it then behooves you to look at it. Keep in mind I'm not showing you everything. I can't even do that in my books.
Now we come to a very stark poem entitled "Iorno," about a mythical ancient ruin. This too, is a long poem (despite my assertion that Mathew didn't write very many long poems). It appears in the May 15, 1852 edition of the Portland "Transcript," signed with Mathew's "star." Please note the series of consecutive lines beginning with the word "And," and "Now," as this technique is also seen in "Geraldine." How much of a convention this was in 19th century poetry, I don't know. I do know that Mathew liked it.
Evening came upon Iorno, on its grey and mouldering towers,
And the stealthy-footed shadows stole from out their woodland bowers,
And the birds of day returning, circled through the shadowy dome,
And the bat, with noiseless flittings, left its narrow, dusky home;
And the night wind, pensive mourner, sweetly sang through court and hall.
O'er the tall grass in the market, and the ivy on the wall
Sitting on the crumbling windows, or upon the shivered frieze,
Now and then a lonesome night-bird answered to the plaintive breeze,
Now and then a fitful rustling stirred the rand and tangled copse,
Now and then in husky echoes came the barking of the fox.
Compare with this stanza from "Geraldine"
In that ancient hall of Wycombe thronged the numerous guests invited,
And the lovely London ladies trod the floors with gliding feet;
And their voices low with fashion, not with feeling, softly freighted
All the air about the windows with elastic laughters sweet.
Here's an example of a poem by Mathew which was plagiarized by publisher and editor, George W. Light. Light had been the editor of "The Essayist" in 1831/32, when Mathew, signing as "Franklin, Jr.," presented his two-part review of Francis Quarles' poetry. This appears in Light's compilation, "Keep Cool, Go Ahead, and a Few Other Poems," published in (I believe it was) 1853. Likely, it was written earlier--perhaps as early as the 1830's--but I can't prove it, as this is the only instance I have found. I can only say that some of Abby's poetry found in this same book was written in 1831, or even earlier. This is called "Inward Life," and reflects Abby's esoteric teachings. I'm just going to quote a few stanzas from the opening, to show the style:
Where is Hell? And where is Heaven?
Questions children sometimes ask,
But, to answer, hoary Teachers
Have pronounced a fruitless task;
When within us both are reigning:
Search beneath, or soar above,
Hell is but the blast of Discord—
heaven, the regal sway of Love.
Can we see our heavenly Father?
Yes, if we are pure within;
Everywhere his blissful Presence
By the pure in heart is seen.
Could we see our inward being,
Shadowed not by outward things,
Each advancing step would lead us
Where an angel sits and sings.
Keep in mind, once again, that Mathew signed "The Raven" as "---- Quarles," in honor of Francis Quarles, who was a deeply religious and rather austere poet.
Shall I share one more? There are plenty more examples. Let's end with a series signed as "A. Trunk" in the Boston "Carpet-Bag." Mathew is reporting, in verse, on the London World's Fair of 1851, in the "Crystal Palace." This, again, is a fairly long poem, so I'll just snip out a section:
Gone, like a dream!—all Things are transitory,
But Thought lives on in an unceasing life;
We have learned to prize the workman’s bloodless glory,
O’er the red lattrels won in martial strife!
We have learned that men, if tyrants do not mingle
Their bitter wormwood in the cup of joy,
Like brethren meet, with heart and purpose single,
And learn to love what once they would destroy!
King-craft and Priest-craft, born of falsehood, perish
Before the Ithuriel spear of Love and Truth;
Mankind have learned a nobler hope to cherish,
And, like a serpent, Earth renews its youth;
Casting aside the film of blind tradition,
Which wrapped the human soul in dead embrace,
O’ershrouding all the spiritual vision,
Which else had taught us our predestined place!
I think I have proven, by a preponderance of evidence, that Mathew Franklin Whittier could, in fact, have sent Elizabeth Barrett his master-tribute to Abby, in verse; and with some possible editing, she published it under her name as "Lady Geraldine's Courtship." Ironically, as I read the historical accounts, it was this poem which so turned on Robert Browning, that he began courting her. What if he knew it had actually been written by a man, to his late wife, about their early courtship? (It does seem implausible that Barrett would write a poem from the point of view of the young man.)
Still, there is the difficulty of breaking through any long-established scam. I am convinced that St. Paul faked his reported conversion experience on the road to Damascus, and that where he seems to speak wisdom, he is plagiarizing the genuine apostles. There's some evidence to substantiate this, which I won't go into. You see how it works--you don't dare criticize Paul, because he has won people's hearts with, for example, the lines from Corinthians 13, beginning "If I speak with the tongues of men and angels..." But he didn't write that, he stole it! All these people have actually fallen in love with Mark, or Luke, or Peter, believing it was Paul. The same misplaced loyalty is there for Poe--all these people are actually admiring Mathew, not Poe--and that, because they can feel Mathew's deep love for Abby, and his grief and confusion upon losing her--but you can't tell them.
These plagiarisms by famous authors of the 19th century are not quite of the social magnitude as St. Paul's scam, but the same principle holds. A few scholars have questioned Poe's authorship of "The Raven," because he was known to be of dubious personal character. I see no evidence, in a quick online scan, that Elizabeth Barrett Browning was ever charged with plagiarism. But her work strikes me as being suspiciously uneven, as Mathew pointed out--knowingly or unknowingly--in his 1845 review. Meanwhile, the more closely I read "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," the more strongly I feel that this--or at least some significant portion of it--is actually Mathew's tribute to Abby. Of course, I could be wrong, but I don't think so.
Now I have to add my new insights into my sequel, and so it goes as this blog continues to spark them. I don't know when this project will really be finished--perhaps when people start taking me seriously.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "She's So High," by Tal Bachman,
from the album, "Tal Bachman"