Here is a strange cross-correspondence in the body of Mathew Franklin Whittier's work, which I find interesting. I don't know whether anyone else will, except perhaps a historian who understands the thrill of connecting all these puzzle pieces in the study of one's chosen subject.
For this, you will have to go back to the entry of Feb. 8th, and the Nov. 16, 1850 story from the Boston "Weekly Museum" entitled "How the Cows Were Won," by "Quails." It appears that Mathew had started another story on this same theme, which is to say, another allegory about how the townspeople of Methuen, Mass. had gossiped behind Mathew and Abby's back, accusing them of being "lazy," when in fact they were grieving the recent loss of their young son. I had tied this story in with a psychic reading in which the medium had relayed (presumably, directly from Abby in the spirit world), "I hear M, M, M, Mathew, Methuen," where I had written in my notes, "Messuen."
This story appears in the Portland (Maine) "Transcript" under the one-off pseudonym, "Paul Pickle." I intuitively recognized this as Mathew's work when I first discovered it, but this was some years before I confirmed that Mathew would use variations on the double-P nickname, "Peter Pumpkin." Here (as I just realized), he has actually invoked another vegetable! And he contributed, off-and-on, to the "Transcript" throughout his literary career. So this is Mathew, alright.
Let me see if I have a photographic copy of this one... Darn, I have the physical volume but no photographic copy made, which means, I will have to shoot one. That's okay, just a little more work. I'll add it as three separate pdf pages: page one; page two; and page three.
I have indicated that Mathew often caused relevant poems to be placed above or below his stories, especially when they secretly related some aspect of his personal history with Abby. This is no exception, and I just noticed it this morning as I was photographing it. Look at this:
No, I don't believe that Mathew originally wrote the poem--he simply read it and related to it. Crediting the proper translator, he would have sent it along with his story to the editor, requesting that it be placed above. I can't prove this, of course, but there are so many examples...
Mathew had insomnia--as I struggle with, today. I have recently shown you his poem, written not long after Abby's death, about the "Great Cat Owl" who "loves the night, but hates the day." Here, we see yet another indication. Very likely, he wrote this story in the wee hours of the morning, as I have written this entry.
Note also the reference to stars. Abby loved the stars, having written a magnificent poem to them (erroneously claimed for Albert Pike, the Great Ass who stole them when she was his 14-year-old student in Newburyport, Mass.). Mathew used the "star" signature in tribute to her, throughout his career.
Sometimes the dates of publication are relevant to the content of these pieces, as for example if they are dated (in the case of letters to the editor) or published on or near an anniversary. This one is published less than a week, in this weekly paper, from his birthday, July 18th. But I don't know whether that's significant. Perhaps it puts us on notice that, in some sense, it is autobiographical.
It is published less than two years after "How the Cows Were Won"; but, frankly, it looks like a strange hybrid of some kind. Mathew had written quite a number of adventure tales set in various Latin countries, in his younger days, many of which were published in this same paper. This looks as though he had attempted to write about Methuen--perhaps back in 1850--and, pulling out his earlier unfinished manuscript, had somewhat arbitrarily tacked on this story about Madrid. So let's leave the Madrid portion set to the side, and just look at the opening. We'll compare it to "Cows."
Here we see that the same town of "M----," "in this state," is said to be a suitable place for the "Lazy Man." The "Transcript" was published in Maine, while Methuen is in Massachusetts (very near Mathew's hometown of Haverhill). One should not take Mathew too literally when it comes to these identifiers. He will obscure such things enough that those who are supposed to know, will figure it out. He opens:
It is just the place to suit the "Lazy Man:" its calm, cool, delightful retreats would soothe his senses, and lull him into a forgetfulness of all things earthly; yet there is no laziness here--
But then he gives us a description of what may be his cousin Richard Whittier's farmhouse, where I believe Mathew and Abby were put up for a couple of months while recovering from the loss of their son. Note that the extravagant description in the opening is, perhaps, a smokescreen for the accurate depiction:
But it is not with any of these cottages or their inmates that we have to do; so let us retrace our steps to the lake. A short distance from the bank, and between it and the main road, is a large old fashioned two story house, with a huge honey-suckle nearly covering its southern end, giving out its sweet perfume to each passing zephyr, to be wafted far down the lake. A large barn, looking newer and of more fashionable make than the house, occupied the center of a yard, wherein the implements of a farmer were scattered in careless profusion.
Understand that this is speculation. But if I am not mistaken, this is a slightly obfuscated description* of Richard Whittier's farm, which was situated within easy walking distance of the Spicket River in Methuen; or a little over two miles from the larger (and beloved) Merrimack River. I found no large lake in the satellite image for this area. The scene above might not fit with fall, though some species of honeysuckle are said to bloom into early fall. Mathew and Abby's son, Joseph, died in early August, so they could have moved there by mid-month. Or, the couple might have visited Richard in the past, when honeysuckle was blooming. It is interesting, given the above quote, that our second psychic medium, seeing Abby in his mind's eye, reported:
In garden, warm summer day. Flowers. Would love flowers. Certain flower pointing to--honeysuckle.
This historical photograph is yet far too recent to reach back to 1838, when Mathew and Abby would have been there. The vines, here, are growing on the East-Southeast side. But a honeysuckle vine would be far more likely to "nearly cover" the walls of a stone structure, than a typical wooden farmhouse of the period. (The tower was added when the farmhouse was turned into a gatehouse by the wealthy resident who purchased the land--and if I am not mistaken, the entire rear portion, shown here, wasn't there in 1838.)
All this does is to give us a double confirmation of my speculations regarding Mathew and Abby's brief experience of living in Methuen. That farm house building (a two-story stone structure) is now the local historical association's headquarters. (You can quickly find an image of the front, which is original, by searching "Methuen Historical Society.") I visited it last year, and audio recorded my real-time impressions of standing in the small, second bedroom which they would have stayed in. I had the further impression that they began writing "A Christmas Carol" in that very bedroom.
Unless the historian in Methuen who has Richard Whittier's diary was willing to look through it for references to Mathew and Abby living there in the fall of 1838, I have no way of definitely confirming this theory. I can only point to two seeming cross-correspondences which, in concert with Mathew's known modus operandi, suggest an obfuscated personal tale about laziness in a New England town starting with the letter "M." I can say it is a "personal" tale, because in one of the stories, Mathew and Abby's last initials appear in it.
Odd the things you notice--I never realized that in this story, the farmer's name, "Roger Weston," has the same initials as Mathew's cousin, Richard Whittier.
As for the rest of the story, it is my understanding that Mathew--also raised on a farm--ran away to sea at age 14 after a fight with his father about attending school (apparently, Mathew was denied that privilege which had been reluctantly granted to his older, and less physically fit, brother John). I don't know that Mathew ever reached South America, or any Latin country except Cuba. It appears, from clues scattered in various stories, that that's as far as he got, perhaps because his stomach wasn't up to the sea and ship fare. (One especially amusing story has a former sailor trying to convince his aunt not to allow her son to go to sea, by giving horrific accounts of a sailor's diet.**) But Mathew must have wanted to go to these countries, because his adventure stories are frequently set in them.
What I think happened to Mathew, is that he was dropped off in Cuba, and given a job assisting in a mercantile store there. Here, his character makes it to Spain, and has fantastical, romantic dealings with a merchant. It's a very jazzed up version of his own rather unpleasant stay in Cuba. To get an idea of what really happened, one has to turn to another story. Let me see if I can find it, now...I remember the boy had white hair, so I may be able to locate it in my book with those key words...
Here's the page. As I present this, I have the funny feeling that nobody will ever get this far down, to see it. Too bad. Because this is getting interesting.
This entire page, from the April 16, 1851 Boston "Carpet-Bag"--a paper edited by Mathew's friend and collaborator B.P. Shillaber, and which Mathew had a vested financial interest in--is all Mathew's work (except, perhaps, for a couple of little "fillers"). The first piece is one I mentioned a couple of entries ago--a faux report of an agricultural meeting, which is actually a satirical commentary on the internal politics among the various editors for, and contributors to, the paper. Immediately following it is a tribute poem to Abby, signed "D." Mathew had previously used that pseudonym when he was the acting junior editor for the New York "Constellation" in 1830/31. It probably stood either for a printer's "devil" (in which capacity he may have started out in 1827 at the Boston "New-England Galaxy"); or, for Diogenes, or both. In any case, here, he is borrowing his old pseudonym, because in the "Carpet-Bag," he continually mixed-and-matched them.
But what's this we see, next? "Quails," a regular feature of the Boston "Weekly Museum," has written his one and only piece for the "Carpet Bag." Note, in the introduction, that "Quails" is a devoted admirer of "Mrs. Partington." That is code for Mathew being personal friends with Shillaber.
Why did Mathew write "Quails" for the "Carpet-Bag," instead of for the "Museum" per usual? Because, I think, he is secretly broadcasting a notice about the activities of John Brown. Brown, of course, is not famous at this point, so the veiled reference would be missed by most readers. The editor of the "Museum," Charles A.V. Putnam, was less naive than Shillaber, the editor of the "Carpet-Bag," and might have caught it. The "moral suasion" abolitionists, of whom Mathew was one (under William Lloyd Garrison, if I'm not mistaken), kept a close watch on their more militant cousins; and they used the newspapers to broadcast their own secret news, under cover of these seemingly frivolous stories. The "John Brown" referred to here is, I believe, a ship-builder--but that's just a ruse. The entire story would be an excuse to report on John Brown, the abolitionist, in the punchline. If I recall correctly, I noted, in my first book, that there may have been a correspondence with what Brown was doing, at the time--I think he was relocating by ship, or something like that. I'm too lazy to go back and check right now ;-).
In any case, while Mathew is at it, I think he draws upon his experience in Cuba. He would have been an outcast, there, and at age 14, was probably the butt of jokes by older boys. It was not because of his appearance, but rather, because of his nationality. That's what my intuition told me, immediately, when I read it.
There are many other hints about Mathew having sailed to Cuba as a young man. At least one appears in one of Abby's stories, which I mentioned recently, "Master Palmer." But we're getting too far afield. The poem to Abby appears to be inspired by another author's poem, which he had arranged to be published on the page with another of his pieces a couple of years earlier--but I've forgotten which one, now. I wrote about that a few weeks back, and it's in my book, as well. All of this is interconnected; and I seem to have the entire thing more-or-less at my fingertips. I have to use the search function, but I know what I'm looking for, and I can usually find it fairly quickly. I don't understand quite how I could have all of this held in my mind. It seems to be one vast, interconnected tapestry, any portion of which I can access from any other.
It would appear that I have accessed Mathew's subconscious mind, to the point that it functions as my own, present-life subconscious mind would function. This is dangerous, because I am getting his illnesses and quirks, as well, like stomach complaints and insomnia. And the urge to write compulsively at 3:00 in the morning.
But I still think it's kind of interesting--and it's pretty clear that when the psychic medium said "I hear M, M, M, Mathew, Methuen," Abby was giving him the two names in juxtaposition, so there would be no question what was going on. Nobody except Abby knew that he had lived in Methuen. I'd never heard of the place--and while the medium did know of it, because it was near Swampscott where his Spiritualist church was located, his voice trailed off because he thought surely he must be making that part up. After all, he knew nothing about Mathew or Abby, other than what she was telling him directly during the reading. So far as he knew, they could have lived anywhere, and the chances they lived in the obscure little town of Methuen, not far from his own church, would be astronomical.
I watched a National Geographic show last night about the future of artificial intelligence. The show assumes philosophical materialism, and the absurdity that machines will ever achieve consciousness. The whole thing was extremely well-funded, very slick, highly intelligent, and abysmally stupid. Because it was entirely ruined by its a priori assumption of materialism. How ridiculous these shows will look, someday--how utterly primitive. In that day, people will be fascinated by my research; and researchers studying the questions it has raised, will be nicely funded.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*Mathew as much as tells us he disguises actual locations in his sketches, in an essay on sketch writing.
**This story appears where an editorial would normally be found on the second page. But since Mathew was writing the editorial page, as the junior editor, and as he was a writer of humorous sketches, he would sometimes take the unusual step of leading out with such sketches in this paper. They remain unsigned, as the editor's work on this page normally would. The name of the editor-in-chief, Asa Greene, remains at the top; but Greene also ran a bookstore in New York City, and I think that was his first priority, being his bread-and-butter.
P.S. To any Spaniards or Cubans who might read this, I apologize for the Mexican song opening this page--it's the best I could do on short notice, from my limited collection. I went through a period of trying to learn Spanish by listening to the Mexican radio station, and developed a taste for Mariachi...however, all I learned were romantic words like "corazon," "brassos" and "recuerdos"...
Music opening this page: "Tristes Recuerdos,"
by Antonio Aguilar