My website hits have gone up lately, but whether it's a result of officially declaring that I was discontinuing this blog, such that people decide to check out the other offerings, or it's coincidental, I can't tell. Another producer of spiritual films has given me some exposure, and showed me how to ask YouTube to take down the unauthorized posts of my own film*; so that could be causing most of the increase. I don't know how many of my former readers have discovered, through the Archives link, that I'm continuing this blog on an occasional basis. I had two reasons for hiding it: first, to prevent my employer, or my clients with that employer, or any future employer, from discovering it in a casual perusal of my website; and also because I was experiencing a stress reaction, and for a long period I had been writing an extensive entry each day. Still, as there is something new to report, I'll continue to at least mention it, here. This, both for you few, and also for posterity, if there is to be a posterity for this project.
In the quest to prove that it was myself in the 19th century, Mathew Franklin Whittier, who actually wrote the star-signed reviews for the 1845 New York "Daily Tribune," and not Margaret Fuller as historians would have it, I had cited what I believed to be a "smoking gun"--a passage in which the writer referred to his own childhood in a "lonely farmhouse." The account matched Mathew's own childhood, except for a birthday in winter. This was clearly not Margaret Fuller, who was born to a Congressman in Cambridgeport, Mass.
Pretty strong evidence--or so I thought--until I had the whim to check on the personal history of Horace Greeley, the editor of the "Tribune." His childhood was similar to Mathew's, except that he was born in February. So that detail logically pointed to Greeley, rather than to Mathew.
Now, in Greeley's memoirs (and also his contribution to Fuller's memoirs, which I found quoted at length in his biography), he says, in so many words, that Fuller was neurotic, spoiled, and lazy; and that her literary output for the "Tribune," when he made her literary editor at the urging of his wife, was a tenth of his own. He says that she sometimes asked him to write the review he had assigned her, but that he rarely, if ever, had time.
However, if we take the review in question to have been written by Greeley, then he did have time, at least occasionally. So to the historians, what I have done is to prove that not all the asterisk-signed reviews were actually written by Fuller. I don't know whether they presently acknowledge this, or not.
But there are numerous other clues which point to Mathew's authorship of this series. First of all, the single asterisk, or star, is his long-time pseudonym, from the early 1830's (when he also used it for book reviews), all the way through his career to at least 1873. Furthermore, it's his style, which I am very well familiar with from hundreds of his essays, editorials, reviews, travelogues and humorous sketches, going back as far as 1827.
And what logically cancels out this seeming "smoking gun" for Greeley's authorship, i.e., the birthday in winter, is that Mathew has done this before. In the early 1850's, when writing under the pseudonym "Quails," there was a buzz among his fellow writers for the Boston "Weekly Museum" that this travelogue was written by then-popular entertainer Ossian Dodge. The editor ran with it, and eventually, before Dodge bought out the paper in 1852, was actually asserting that Dodge had been the author of "Quails" in black and white. But it was a sort of running joke that morphed into a scam--the author had been Mathew all-along. I went painstakingly through every single edition of that paper, from mid-1848 to mid-1852, and it took me the size of a hefty book itself, within my first book, to prove it. But the important point here is, Mathew played along with it.
Why he played along with it is a matter of speculation, but aside from the sheer mischief of the thing, I think that he was remaining carefully under cover because he was doing dangerous anti-slavery work. Very likely, he was doing it in New York City even in 1845. He was maintaining his second family in Portland, Maine, and they were vulnerable to any pro-slavery fanatics who might discover his identity. So he had no choice but to remain carefully hidden. This, also, is why he couldn't publicly challenge Edgar Allan Poe's claims to have written "The Raven," when Mathew had published it anonymously as "Quarles."
So in one of the "Quails" travelogues--when this question of Dodge's authorship was coming to a head, publicly--Mathew actually gives his birthday as Dodge's birthday," Oct. 22. But then, if you read between the lines, he makes it clear that he isn't Dodge. So he is playing along on the surface, but leaving clues for anyone in the know, and for posterity, as to his real identity.
Can you read this? I have a photograph of the entire page, but in order to make a sharper copy, I'd have to drag the original out from under my piano keyboard where it doubles as as a table (along with my other antique bound volumes), and photograph it, and I'm trying to cut down on the amount of work that these entries require. This, by the way, really isn't as awful as it sounds:
But returning to our mystery, one has to learn Mathew's "secret language." Can you see the game he's playing? First of all, he identifies himself by the pumpkin pie reference, as I have discussed many times in this blog. He apparently garnered the nickname "Peter Pumpkin" for this reason, and he often signs his works with variations like "Peter Pumple" or simply the initials, P.P. So he has effectively signed this travelogue entry. But then he gives his birthday as Dodge's--but for the "Quails" series, he has assumed the persona of an old man. This is because after his first wife, Abby's, death, he felt old; and also because he believes himself to be an "old soul." This is why he signed an entire series of short stories as "The Old 'Un," which series was subsequently stolen by known plagiarist Francis A. Durivage. Ossian Dodge was born in 1820, which would make him 30 years old when this travelogue is published. So immediately, we are put on notice that it cannot be taken literally. But now look carefully at his stated reason for not revealing the "great secret of the day." It's because his body couldn't "bear the rough handling that we should have been obliged to endure had we revealed the secret." The secret is not really about his birthday, at all. It's about his identity.
I can say, now, with dozens of strong clues having been identified in this series, that Mathew was definitely the author of "Quails"--and therefore, logically, it opens up the question as to whether he wasn't doing the same thing in the review, with the winter birthday reference. Wanting to share a personal anecdote, but at the same time wanting to be certain that his enemies didn't identify him with it, he threw in a reference which would seemingly point to Greeley. (Of course it is easy to know an associate's birthday--you simply have to make a note of when they celebrate it.) This theory will seem like a stretch to anyone who hasn't seen all the evidence. I just wanted to go on record, here, for anyone who thinks I entirely missed this point.
Mathew and Greeley had very similar childhoods. Both grew up on a poor, rural farm, at which only a few books were available. Both borrowed books from neighbors; both were early and voracious readers, being child prodigies. But the specific books mentioned in the review, are not cited by the biographers of either man. There is one difference--Mathew would have visited the private library of East Haverhill's doctor to read other books; whereas Greeley borrowed them from a sea captain and a clergyman, respectively. That means Greeley could bring them home, whereas Mathew may or may not have. The reviewer speaks of a sort of hallowed cabinet in which the books were kept, from which the children could draw. Greeley's biographer speaks of him reading the borrowed books in the cellar, or on the wood pile. And there are other clues in the books which the reviewer mentions--things which I know would have been influences for Mathew, like Greek mythology, and humorous faux letters to the editor in a British periodical. Both of these elements figure very strongly in Mathew's future writing. Greeley was most heavily influenced, his biographer tells us, by a newspaper which arrived at the farm when he was a boy--but there is no mention of a newspaper in the reviewer's account. So by content, this is more likely to have been Mathew's childhood.
I think I'm right--I think Mathew wrote of his own childhood, but then threw in the winter birthday reference to point to Greeley, so as to insure his anonymity. It's his proven modus operandi--I've noted several instances, where Mathew recounts his personal history in these public letters and articles.
For this, of course, you'd have to have read my books, and be as familiar with the evidence as I am. Here, I can only casually mention an example or two.
I still haven't gotten to something like 60 or 70 of these reviews. I've decided to leave off keying for the time being, and just read them. That way, if some important piece of evidence is contained in a review, I can revise my sequel now, rather than come upon it two or three months down the road. If I discover anything important bearing on this question of Mathew's authorship of the star-signed reviews, I'll probably report for you, here. Whichever decade or century you live in.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
My first "smoking gun" may not be as strong as I'd hoped--but I just found another. This edition contains an unsigned humorous sketch which I am absolutely certain--from long exposure to Mathew's work--is his. I won't go into all the indicators, here--there are several. Entitled "How the Quaker Collected a Debt," it appears directly under his asterisk-signed response to an letter to the editor, which was responding to an earlier essay. This is definitely Mathew Franklin Whittier. Whether Margaret Fuller, or the editor, Horace Greeley, ever wrote for the series (i.e., before Fuller left for Europe in August of 1846), I can't say for sure. But Mathew is definitely there, writing for the "Tribune" in 1845. This has a cascading series of implications, regarding Mathew's original authorship of "The Raven." But I'll leave it there, for today.
*I had left them alone to increase the public's exposure to the information. But when I realized that I had mistakenly appealed to this same logic as Mathew Franklin Whittier in the 19th century--and knowing that one must learn from one's past-life mistakes--I decided to change my approach.
Music opening this page: "Snowfall," by Liz Story,
from the album "A Winter's Solstice VI" (A Windham Hill Sampler)