You may have heard of the controversial 19th-century Freemason, Albert Pike. Before I had ever heard of him in that context, I ran across him in my own studies. Over the course of 2-3 years, I determined that Abby--my first wife when I was Mathew Franklin Whittier, and my wife in the astral realm, today--had been one of his students in 1830, in Newburyport, when he taught a class, there. She was 14 years old. Without presenting all the evidence here, my conclusion is that, conveniently having the same initials, he saw fit to surreptitiously steal Abby's poetry from her workbook (or, perhaps, her "album"), and publish it, over the next couple of years, in various journals. He also attempted to modify it, or extend it; and then, to write some of his own.
It turns out there is some controversy, among biographers and historians, as to whether Pike was, or was not, a plagiarist. But a year or two back, when I was studying this, I saw that one of his biographers mentioned, in passing (i.e., as though disbelieving it), that a "New York literary man" had accused Pike of being a "great plagiarist." This was before I knew that Mathew, himself, was a reporter, writer and junior editor in New York City from 1830-1835.
The same biography I read, said that Pike quit his teaching position to travel to Tennessee, and ultimately to Arkansas, because, as Pike himself explained, he had fallen in love with one of his students (a blond named Elizabeth Perkins), but was "too poor to tell her." But recently, I ran across one of Mathew's stories, written in 1832, which seems to tell us, in Mathew's typical disguised fashion, that Pike got romantically entangled with the girl (shall we say), and was driven out of town.
As I was trying to make all my commentary and speculations about Pike consistent in my book, this morning, I ran across this mysterious reference again, about the "New York literary man" who claimed Pike was a "great plagiarist." Now, I have found at least two other instances of this--Mathew appearing "cameo," as it were, referenced but not identified in a historical account. In at least one other one, he is identified; and in one, he is identified only as the brother of poet John Greenleaf Whittier. Another account of him having dinner with William Makepeace Thackeray, in London, was reconstituted as a story of John Greenleaf Whittier having dinner with Thackeray, and because this could never have really happened, the whole story was pronounced bogus.
Suddenly, it occurs to me--I'll bet dollars-to-doughnuts that Mathew Franklin Whittier was the anonymous New York literary man, who, from first-hand experience, pronounced Pike a "great plagiarist." Mathew grew up in Haverhill, Mass.--not far from where Pike grew up, in Newburyport, Mass. They would have known each other--or at least known of each other--from childhood. And he would have discovered Pike's plagiarism of Abby's poetry. Actually, the aforementioned sketch by Mathew actually hints that Pike stole one of Mathew's early pieces, naming the paper it was stolen from--and if I read his code correctly, a second one casually drops the name of the paper where Pike's plagiarism appears. I have an inquiry in to a New York library regarding the latter; we shall see if they come up with it.
Perhaps nobody cares; or those people who would care, will never read this. But these are some of the fascinating discoveries I'm making. I have exposed quite a number of literary scoundrels in my research, not the least of whom is Charles Dickens. Just imagine how many gallons of ink it would take to correct the mistaken belief that Dickens was the author of "A Christmas Carol," in all those textbooks! Maybe I should start investing in the ink industry...
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page, "Thief in the Night,"
by Eric Johnson, from the album, "Venus Isle"