Why, precisely, I want to prove anything to you all I don't know. But yesterday, I mentioned that I had had the thought to demonstrate how Mathew Franklin Whittier returned to his favorite gags over the years, in the course of his literary career--and how I could spot his style in various papers, even though he signed with impenetrable pseudonyms.
I have that strange sense of not being believed--have you ever started telling someone something, and felt that vague emptiness on the other side, or cynicism, and you knew you were wasting your breath? I feel that, sometimes, when I write these entries--in general, of course, given that there is so little interest in my book, but as regards specific passages in this blog, as well. This issue of being able to identify Mathew's works in various papers, despite his anonymity--and despite other authors claiming his work--is one of them.
It's a crucial issue--because if I am citing other writers' work as evidence for my past-life memories being genuine, then I am barking up the wrong tree. And this would be a typical go-to cynical argument. Now, why I want to spar with cynics--who will resort to any rationalization to avoid believing you and agreeing with you--I don't know. Perhaps this is for the future; perhaps that rare open-minded person will stop by, here.
In any case, I had the idea to string together a series of Mathew's rehashings (if that's a word) of the device of reporting on a meeting of humanized cats, or dogs. He used this gag four times, that I have found, and it is so distinctive, that there is no question of his authorship--or, there is no question that it is the same author who wrote all of them. Yes, there are alternative explanations, which might be plausible if you haven't read my book. Since you won't purchase it, you will have to take my word for it (by default) that if you see these pieces in their total context, there is no question who wrote them. (If you want to argue with me about that, not having seen the evidence, you are on shaky ground, my friend.) There are numerous indicators of Mathew's personal style in these examples, such as his fondness for puns, which I won't take the time to point out, here.
I could also demonstrate to you that where one sees Ebenezer Scrooge telling Marley's Ghost that he is a "bit of undigested beef," this is likewise a rehash of an idea Mathew used in the New York "Constellation"--but perhaps you would prefer to see it in context, in my book. At least, with these examples, you can know that as a lay scholar, I have dotted my "i's'" and crossed my "t's"...
Without further ado--and because I am extremely busy this morning--I will slice out an excerpt from each, with the citation, and then provide the last one in full--the culmination of this idea, when Mathew was at the height of his career in the early 1850's. Mathew was a reporter, and he often covered meetings and speeches--hence the seminal idea. (Mathew, himself, is portrayed as the secretary in the cartoon, below.) He also championed what we would today call animal rights, in an era when animals had no rights whatsoever.
The "New-England Galaxy and Boston Mercury"
January 6, 1829
held on the Cats-kill Mountains, at the sign of the Mouse-trap and Ratsbane.
At a pretty considerable convocation of the most suspectable Cats, from many of the most capacious kitchens, inhabited by more than the most conscientious Cooks in the United States, the following proceedings took place.
Thomas Cat, Esquire, in the chair, who opened the meeting with the following pathetic appeal (after taking a cup of catnip tea) which was received with a-claw.
'Most magnaminouse Mousers! Toms and Tabbies! Cats and Kittens! I will not say ladies and gentlemen--they are the titles of canting courtesy, therefore we will not be ladies or gentlemen--I think it proper to informk you of things which you all know. There has existed, does exist, and will continue to exist,k an existing evil in spite of our teeth, unless they deprive it of existence, an infa-Mouse Society, composed of Rats and Mice; who lurk in holes and corners--hold secret meetings, in granaries and garrets--to the infamy of many a meritorious Miller, and benevolent biscuit-baker. Each member of this farinaceous fraternity, makes his Meal of Flour, in the darkness of the night, unless the moon happens to shine. The feelings of the sensitive, and tender farmer are harrowed up by the dreadful, destructive, devastating depravity of these rogues-in-brain. Many a young and parentless Mite, beholds his morsel, perhaps his last, of cheese, torn from his tortuous possession; many a pale and innocent wicked candle end has been dragged away, never to know the light again. Reflect upon this if we permit these-here wretches, to proceed to them-there extremitis, there will be a Cat-astrophe! My feline friends, therefore paws upon it.
The New York "Constellation"
June 19, 1830
But it is said the disposition to combine for all sorts of purposes is not confined to the human race but that the brute creation are beginning to treat in the steps of their betters. Combinations of dogs may occasionally be seen in close consultation at the corners of the streets; and it is hinted that a canine association is about being formed, to be called the Anti-Curtailing Society, the object of which, as its name implies, is to put an end to cutting off the tails of dogs, which, contrary both to good taste and humanity, has hitherto been the prevailing custom. At a preparatory meeting, among other spirited resolutions, the following, introduced by Snapping Jowler at the close of an eloquent specimen of barking, was carried by an unanimous growl.
Resolved, that since mankind are disposed to make so free with those posterior appendages which nature gave for the last ornament of our race, we will, from this time henceforth, turn our tails to no man, for any consideration whatsoever.
The New Orleans "Daily Delta"
August 11, 1846
Great Canine Caucus
A few days ago one of the Municipal Gazettes announced that at such and such a time "poisoned sausages" would be distributed in the streets, for the especial benefit of the canine race. At precisely half-past three o'clock in the afternoon, a small brown dog was seen rushing up Chartres street with the speed of an electric locomotive. Ever and anon he'd meet one of his companions, stop for a second or two, and after imparting as it were some important secret, which of course "was not to be mentioned for the world," away he would dart, and apparently give the same mysterious intelligence at every corner. About four o'clock numbers of dogs were seen grouped together, particularly in front of the Calaboose and Lafayette Square, evidently engaged in some matter of vital importance, to themselves and the dog community at large. What caused these numerous conclaves no one could determine; but that night it was discovered that, "at the suggestion of some of the oldest and most respectable dogs of the city of New Orleans, a public meeting be and is hereby called, to take into consideration the late unparalleled action taken by the Municipal authorities, in regard to the distribution of poisoned sausages."
At early candlelight, in an old, shattered frame house, the meeting took place. They were all there--the native of Newfoundland, with his erect carriage and noble form--the very Hercules of the race of dogs; the delicate, clean-limbed greyhound, full of grace and intelligence; the wiry Scotch terrier, with his sober suit of brown, cropped ears and cunning little eyes; the sullen, dew-lapped bulldog--and we don't know how many others. The meeting was called to order by an old mastiff, who for the last fifteen years had been in the habit of watching a bank in the lower part of the city, and who of course, on that account, was entitled to much consideration. When the Chairman of the meeting was announced, a buzz of admiration (caused by the wagging of hundreds of tails) ran round the room, and a bevy of terriers who belonged to politicians, (and who were evidently seeking for office), actually yelped with delight. This outburst was however instantly quelled by the appearance of the Chairman, a venerable old dog, who, tottering with age, advanced slowly and took his seat. A convulsive throw heaved his chest, but he soon mastered his emotion, and after wiping his dim eyes with his paw, in a low and monotonous voice he explained the objects of the meeting:
"Fellow-Dogs--I had thought to have gone down to my grave in peace--but even this boon in my old age is denied me. I look around this large and respectable assembly, and I see many familiar faces. I know--but it is useless to enumerate--I know all who are here, either personally or by reputation, and that is saying enough. Dogs, we are of a race of animals but little inferior to man. Horses have disputed the palm with us, but they never succeeded. [Cries of "no, no, they never did!"] Our intrepidity has been the theme of poets--our activity the means of adding to the sustenance of man. Look at the dogs of St. Bernard, the dogs of Kamschatka--look over the world, in the hut and in the palace, and you will see us in every place, the friends, the companions of man. Do we desert him? No! [Here the venerable speaker made a touching allusion to the famous "old brown dog" of Cincinnati, which drew forth the tears of his auditors.] But, friends, my strength fails me--I am like a blasted oak, withered at the top and bottom; and yet I would fain give you some advice before the journey of life be ended. Snares will be set for you--that which seems luscious will be filled with poison--therefore, beware--beware of sausages!"
The Boston "Carpet-Bag"
May 3, 1851
The enforcement of the law requiring our canine friends and fellow citizens to wear collars around their necks--a servile mark, which no dog of spirit could for a moment consent to wear--caused, as might be supposed, much growling among them, and many teeth were shown, and much dogged determination was evinced to resist the law. Acting upon this feeling, the more energetic of the Caninites went around among their brethren counseling them to withstand the law--and telling them, besides, that the rights of universal puppydom were in their keeping, and asking them, in tones of earnest entreaty, if they would see those rights sacrificed without a struggle.
This appeal was effectual, and a meeting was forthwith assembled at the old slaughter-house, on South Boston flats, to discuss the great question of resistance. It was composed chiefly of dogs whose necks had never chafed with the ignominious badge of ownership; of hard-faring dogs, bone-gnawing dogs--of dogs not nursed in the lap of luxury or pampered by the indulgence of favoring masters--none of the silk-eared and soft-footed aristocracy--but there were Huge Paws from Roxbury Neck, the Shagbarks from the North End, and the Tough and Roughers from West Boston, and many of minor note. Not a smile marked their meeting, not a tail wagged, not a bark disturbed the stillness, and any body with half an eye could see that each heart was nerved with mighty resolution.
The meeting was organized by the choice of Caesar, the biggest dog present, for president, and Plato, a lean dog in specs, who had been very active in getting up the meeting, and who was known to be an excellent reporter, was appointed scribe. Some said, an in under tone, that the scribe had nominated himself, but his well-known modesty precluded the possibility of this, and it maybe set down as a slander.
The Chairman, on taking his seat, stood up, and, after wagging his tail in silence for some moments, expressive of his deep emotion, he then proceeded to make a speech describing the object of the meeting, characterised by all the profundity, eloquence, brilliancy, and power, that has rendered the name of Caesar immortal--and that has more or less marked the efforts of every chairman of every meeting, since when the memory of man or dog knoweth not the contrary. We regret very much that we have not this great speech to print. In recommending union in their action, he related an original anecdote about an old man and his sons and a bundle of sticks, which was received with tremendous applause.
There was a struggle for the door as the chairman ceased, and amidst much yelping, it was assigned to Cato, an old setter, who called upon his hearers to keep cool and not be in too much of a hurry; they would accomplish more by masterly inactivity than by thrusting their necks in the way of the danger; they must remember the conduct of an ancient member of their race--he must refer to it, although it was humiliating to think that a dog should be such a fool--who dropped a piece of beef he had in his mouth for its shadow in the water. Prudence, with both eyes wide open tight, would remove them out of the way of trouble; as a last word he would advise them to lay low and look out for bricks--a species of dog-bane inimical to canine constitutions.
A heavy old dark-browed dog here arose, who commenced to bay violently against the law and those who were enforcing it. He was astonished, he was paralysed, he was dumbfounded to hear dogs counsel coolness in this crisis! The policemen are upon us! We have already felt our tails within their degrading fingers! I hold them and their leader in detestation! He! I would bark at the woman who does his washing, I hate him so! I would point at him in State street, though not naturally a pointer! I would show my teeth at him wherever I met him! His excitement overpowered him and he sat down.
Ponto, a large, gnarly, hard-looking dog, here arose, and it was doubtful for a time if he could be heard, for the noise and confusion which prevailed among the opposers of the law. He was for law and order; law was too sacred a thing to be handled without gloves; it was the palladium of our liberty; if the law was oppressive, as it doubtless was, he would suggest, in his reverence for law, that they grin and bear it; if their necks were a little chafed, the evil would be mitigated by the reflection that the law was inviolate; individual grievance was nothing in comparison with this grand idea; everything that is legal is right; what is wrong in the individual may become right in law; did the law require him to fasten the collar upon his own neck or upon the necks of those with whom he was allied, he would not hesitate to do it in his regard for the law; he would"--He was here pulled down by his tail, when, amid the shaggy hair which thickly covered his neck, a collar was discovered, fitting closely to the skin! Amid the confusion attending this discovery, he sneaked away.
A sandy-haired dog, named Carlo, next took the floor and snarled ominously as he commenced. He had but few words to say. He would ask them if they were going to allow this law to be enforced? For his part he would fill his pistols, and with a twenty-four pounder under each arm would he go alone to oppose it!
His remarks produced an immense sensation among the young portion of the audience. A cry was here made for "Bones," and a venerable dog arose, whose appearance excited respect. He gained his feet with much difficulty, and it was perceived that he had a wooden leg, and bore about his person sundry other marks of dilapidation.
"My brethren," said he, when the cheering which greeted him had subsided, "you have before you but a sorry dog; but such as I am is all that was left over from that fatal Nineteenth of April, when so many of our race were served up cold. I was then young and ardent. At the first howl of danger, I left the bone I was gnawing, and threw myself into the front rank of the defenders of my race. Alas! my friends, I soon found that I was barking up the wrong tree, and discovered, too, that canine sagacity, however good it might be in saving children from drowning, or worrying cats, could never cope with humanity armed with clubs and actuated by the love of money. In a bloody fray my leg was broken with an ignominious brick, in another my termination was curtailed, in another my right eye closed in darkness on the world forever. With this view of the power of man and of our own weakness, I would counsel caution--submission, even--for the present, resting in the assurance of the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy of the good time coming, when "every dog shall have his day!" when, basking in the broad sunshine of beneficent law, we may catch flies in peaceful security, fearing not the butcher's art, fearing not the urchins' mischief who, so reckless of our feelings, persist in ornamenting our extremities with cast-off culinary utensils."
This speech produced a great sensation, awakening the president, who had fallen asleep during the pathetic part of it, and a few sensitive pups near the door were so deeply affected that they had to go out and take a little whine to restore their strength. The scribe who had prepared a series of resolutions before he came, concluded not to submit them, and let them drop back in his pocket, to read some other time to private admirers, and the meeting dissolved.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "Gem,"
by Eric Johnson, from the album, "Up Close"