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Yep, the stats went from 8 to 12 on the Archives link, so it looks like we've got four regulars.

Now, here's something interesting. The particulars are in my sequel, but I'll just give the general overview.

From all the clues I can piece together, in, say, 1842 or 1843, Mathew sent at least two poems to Elizabeth Barrett--the future Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Having successfully gotten Charles Dickens to publish his and Abby's manuscript as "A Chrismtas Carol," he must have sent more of his work to a few prominent literary figures, both in America and in Europe. Most of them probably sent him a letter of encouragement, if they responded at all; but a few of them saw fit to plagiarize him. I'm not entirely sure what Mathew's intentions were; they may have been mixed, and multi-layered. The "Carol," he had hoped to get out to a wide audience, for the benefit of mankind, through the agency of Dickens. With these later mailings, however, he may have hoped that one of these people would invite him into the fold of the "literati." I have the same lurking wish when I write to prominent figures, myself. Actually it's not lurking, it's quite articulate--I hope that one of these people might use their influence to promote me, and hence expand my influence. Not so much my pocket-book, but I would like to have a greater impact on Society--and this, more for Society's sake, than for ego-enhancement. At least I hope I'm being honest with myself in that regard.

The ego is very tricky. I was watching an up-and-coming musical group online yesterday. They are deeply spiritual, and their musical sense is excellent. But the lead singer, an attractive young woman, makes rather a show of her devotional fervor; and this is dangerous. The band appears to have gone, through the magic of the internet, from street performing to giving concerts and releasing albums. I hope, for their sakes, that they can keep their sensibilities. Because the shift from "I am trying to do this, to "I am trying to do this" is just a (deadly) step away.

But, I digress. So Mathew has sent Elizabeth Barrett two poems: "Lady Geraldine's Courtship" and "The Lost Bower." Both are typical of Mathew's preferred style. Barrett doesn't seem to have a style--she's all over the map, as plagiarists tend to be. But in 1844, she publishes a compilation which includes these two poems. Both have been, as I gather, modified slightly. "The Lost Bower" has been set in England, rather than in New-England as it was originally written. But she still is bravely tearing through the briars like an adventurous boy, in "The Lost Bower"; and in "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," she is still a male poet courting an English noblewoman. "How clever of her," everybody says. Indeed, but not in the way they're thinking...

Mathew, of course, knows that she has done this. He is, perhaps, flattered, gratified, and annoyed all at the same time. In a sense he has pulled off another one--but he has the nagging sense he has been ripped off, as, in fact, he has.

In 1846, perhaps, comes the rumor that poet Robert Browning has fallen in love with reclusive invalid Elizabeth Barrett, on the strength of Mathew's tribute poem to Abby, "Lady Geraldine's Courtship." (I don't know whether there was a rumor--that he did so on this basis, is a matter of record.) So in the April 1, 1846 edition--April Fool's Day--Mathew publishes one of his star-signed reviews (the star was also adopted in tribute to Abby), about Robert Browning. And what example from Browning's work does he choose to present? A story Browning published in 1841 about a sculptor, whose classmates played a trick on him. They introduced him to a beautiful, but mentally pedestrian girl, and wrote letters to him in her stead. They crafted the letters in such a way that the sculptor would think she was perfectly compatible with him, his dream girl; and then they arranged a marriage, with the stipulation that he not hear her speak until after the wedding. Realizing he has been duped, the sculptor decides to try and make the best of it.

They say that life imitates art...

So that's the story, from Browning's pen, that Mathew chose to present to his readership on April Fool's day, 1846. Barrett and Browning married in September of that year. Meanwhile, Margaret Fuller was claiming all of these asterisk-signed reviews and essays in the New York "Tribune" as her own, and that is how it has come down to us in the history, today.

I don't know whether or not I mentioned it in this blog, but in one of these star-signed reviews, the writer as much as says, flat out, that he is a freelancer. "Temporarily connected" with the paper, I think is the wording. Fuller was on-staff as the literary editor throughout this entire year and a half-long series. There is no way to twist out an explanation which makes her say that she is temporarily connected with the paper--not even in the philosophical sense. The meaning is clear. Whoever wrote that, was not on-staff.

There's more to all this--but it appears that Edgar Allan Poe, Margaret Fuller, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning were all phonies, and were all plagiarists. Poe and Fuller were actually friends; and Poe dedicated his compilation, "The Raven and Other Poems" to Barrett, in lavish terms. They were, as I have commented recently, "Thick as thieves."

Here is a poem that Mathew wrote about plagiarists, in 1850, after he had been ripped off by at least two more people. Entitled "The Winds.--A Day in Autumn," he has signed it "Smike," which is derived from his known character, "Ethan Spike," but with his first initial, "m.," substituted for "p." Note in particular the lines:

And the saucy little rascals keep a-laughing in their sleeves,
At the rustling and the bustling they have made a-turning leaves!

Mathew puts in italics the words and phrases that have a double meaning. "Turning leaves" means reading through books and periodicals, looking for exceptional work that was published anonymously, which a plagiarist can safely claim as his own.

This poem is also written in Mathew's preferred style, like "The Raven," "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," and "The Lost Bower." You will notice the word "dickens" appears in the poem; and there is, I think, a deliberate stylist reference to Poe in these lines:

And my teeth, they chatter, chatter, chatter, with a hollow, deathly sound
Like a watchman's rolling rattle as he walks his gloomy round,

Are you getting the creepy feeling--the sudden cold sensation--the dawning realization that I am, actually, right about all this?

All four of you?

I think "Winds" is particularly well-written, and the thought has occurred to me that, by merit alone, it deserves to be as famous as any that were stolen by now-famous writers of the period. Instead, because he published it anonymously and it wasn't claimed by anybody famous, it was wrapping fish or catching beard-trimmings the next day. Kind of like these blog entries, except these are even less useful.

The New-York "Constellation"
November 27, 1830

  "To what base uses we may turn, Horatio,"

We never see the labors of another, whether in the newspaper or book-making line, employed to light a pipe, to wipe a razor, or cover a pie, but the words of the Danish Prince rush forcibly to our mind--"To what base uses we may turn, Horatio!"

Matters which have taken days, weeks, and months of laborious thought, to be made the receptacle of the filthy shaven beard--to be carelessly twisted up, lighted, and thrust into a foul tobacco-pipe--or to be thrown irreverently over a batch of pastry--Oh! it is too much! Did the world but take into consideration how much ink has been shed, how much foolscap employed, how many grey goose quills chewed up, and how many brains rendered addled in literary operations, surely they would reverence them more, and would never think of putting them to a more ignoble use, than that of lining a bandbox or curling a lady's hair.

But we are assured by an experienced pastry cook, that hot political papers are very serviceable in baking pies--making a saving both in time and fuel. She however, remarked, that some of them communicated so strong a smell of "scoundrel," "villain," "liar," and such like foul and ungentlemanly terms, that she could not dispose of her pastry, and that in consequence several very promising batches had been entirely lost. Even a decent looking dog which she had coaxed to the door by holding out a minced pie baked under an abusive political paper, as soon as he got within smelling distance, turned up his fastidious nose, and refused the offered gift. But this is only the slander of a pastry cook, who does not know a politician from a pole-cat.

"To what base uses may we turn, Horatio!"--be degraded to light a pipe, to wipe a razor, to cover pies, and--be slandered into the bargain!

Best regards,

Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.


Music opening this page: intro to "Won't Get Fooled Again," by The Who,
from the album, "Who's Next"



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