I apologize to anyone (i.e., any of you four) who read yesterday's entry before I had a chance to finalize it. I do have this bad habit of posting entries and then tweaking them--sometimes extensively. Yesterday, I was tired and rushed, and really made a mess of it until bedtime.
This may be the first time that I've been able to demonstrate that Mathew Franklin Whittier did, indeed, encode specific information relative to his under cover work for the cause of Abolition, into his innocuous-looking humorous stories and poems. In this case, it appears to be the Underground Railroad. This is in "The Odd Fellows," the weekly newspaper for the organization of the same name. One of the members of Mathew's "lodge" shows up some years later, as I recall, helping a slave escape in Portland. So there is historical verification that at least some of the members were involved with the Railroad, and specifically, those known personally to Mathew.
In order to get the specifics on that, I'd have to search for it in my book. I'm wanting to say the fellow's name was Edward, or Banks...correct, Edward P. Banks. But I didn't give a specific reference--I only say that there is a record of him helping to organize the rescue of a runaway slave in the fall of 1841. That would actually be earlier, rather than later. (Abby had died in the spring of that same year.)
Now, I like to stick my neck out, whenever possible, by giving my impressions and expectations before I make a research expedition. Not only do I not work things backwards, I risk working them forwards. Just like the above--I thought it was "Banks," and/or "Edward," and I wrote it before I looked it up. All that proves is that my memory was correct--but one suspects it might have been beefed up a bit by past-life memory, inasmuch as this is a passing reference in a book of 2,300 pages (or so, at last count).
Today, I'm heading out to the American Antiquarian Society, to peruse "The Odd Fellow" for the latter half of years 1846, 1848, and 1849, respectively. These are the periods when I know, from Mathew's other publications, that he was in Boston. "The Odd Fellow" was also published in Boston; and these are the times when he is most likely to be contributing to it. I'll be looking for anything signed with an asterisk or "star," plus any of his other go-to pseudonyms, like "M.," "F.," and now, "Anony-Mouse." Incidentally, that's an interesting signature, given what he's doing with it. He's poking fun at himself, as a cowardly radical, effecting change behind a safe veil of anonymity. Or, one might say (if one wanted to be more flattering), a sort of literary Zorro--or, perhaps, more like a "Mighty Mouse."
In the second half of 1849, in particular, I'll be looking for anything signed "Bertram." I know there is at least one, which was reprinted in the Boston "Weekly Museum" of Sept. 22, 1849. Because that poem is dated Sept. 3, it must be in "The Odd Fellow" of Sept. 5, 12 or 19. It was titled--I believe, erroneously--as "To My Mother." I am certain, however, that it was written to his late wife, Abby, in spirit. So I want to see whether that title is present in the original printing, and whether there is any additional information that didn't make it into the "Museum."
But most importantly, I want to see if there are any other pieces signed "Bertram." Because I know Mathew's different styles and genres. You can triangulate them, and confirm his authorship of them all, if he writes in more than one genre with the same signature.
This happened with "Anony-Mouse." One of them is Mathew's typical lampoon of quack medicine, for which I have numerous examples; then, the next is in his typical whimsical poetry style. These are both very cleverly written, which immediately eliminates all but the top literary figures in the field. Then, they are in a style which other writers could only attempt to imitate, which narrows it down a great deal more. Finally, we have two different styles under the same signature, both very typical for Mathew. That essentially seals it, because there are no options left. None of the imitators attempted more than one of Mathew's styles, that I know of. Mostly, we see them attempting a knock-off of "Ethan Spike," his known character.*
So as I write this, we have two pieces by "Bertram," one in 1849, the other appearing in 1853. The 1849 piece is the poem titled "To My Mother"; the 1853 one, in the Portland "Transcript," is also a poem entitled "Lines To ----," which also appears to be written to Abby, in spirit. The reason they are both on the same topic, is probably that he is specifically taking the name of the protagonist in the poem, "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," published in 1844 by Elizabeth Barrett--of which he was the original author. That poem was written about his courtship with Abby, not long after her death. So when he writes of their continuing relationship, he takes that name.
Mathew might branch out and use that signature for other genres, and other topics--but I rather doubt it. This is what I want to see, today, at the "Ant. Society." If he does branch out with it, and the new pieces are clearly his, it will make it easier to positively identify this pseudonym. But if he stays within this narrow range of writing love poetry to Abby in spirit, and I can still identify it as his work, we will have a stronger indication that "Lady Geraldine's Courtship" was, in fact, originally his poem.
Then, I will also be looking for more "Anony-Mouse" submissions; and in particular, whether they, also, have coded messages for the Underground Railroad, or for fellow Abolitionists. Here, too, he might branch out. Typically, in a case like this, he might introduce the pseudonym with something harmless, so as to throw off his enemies. Once disarmed, they will not suspect anything in the second or third offering.
I wonder, sometimes, how much of this was intentional. Meaning, did Mathew deliberately provide us different types of works under the same pseudonym, which are clearly in his style, so historians could identify him as the author? Or was it simply coincidental, such that he had a "grab-bag" of signatures to choose from, and randonly picked this one or that one, as the mood struck him? I get the feeling, having studied over 1,500 of his published works (probably getting up closer to 1,600, at this point), that he wanted to be discovered by posterity. And that he left at least some clues, intentionally. It's a tough thing to prove, of course.
I have the feeling I should do this, today. I'm too tired from lack of sleep, and I can't afford the gas. I have no funding for this work, and being maginalized such that my books hardly ever sell, I can barely justify the expense. But I'm going because I think Abby is telling me it's important. I did mention, in a recent entry, that it was kind of a surprise that these three issues of "The Odd Fellows" came up for sale on Ebay; and even more surprising that I won them at the minimum bid, with no competition. (Historical newspapers aren't selling, apparently, but Odd Fellows memorabilia is a specialty area with more demand). I said that if there turned out to be any of Mathew's work in them, it was probably a sign of Abby's intervention.
Well, here we are, Mathew's work was in them. In this case, I can't prove it was Abby's doing. In one particularly noteworthy example from several years ago, however, I can prove it (it's described in detail, in my sequel). So I know for a fact she does this.
I'm aware of two things, here--firstly, that this is very much the same dynamic, apparently, that spirits use to give "signs" to their loved ones. But I also note that, when this phenomenon is beefed up, it is more like what you read about with genies granting wishes; or magicians with an astral helper. Abby is not a genie, per se, she's a human being who is temporarily disincarnate. And she is not under my control as a "familiar," she is my soul-mate and spirit guide. All these things have some points in common, and I am no expert in these matters. When Abby first began contacting me, in 2009 or early 2010, it didn't even cross my mind that it was possible to continue a relationship with a soul-mate, if they weren't incarnate. To the contrary, I assumed that was "it," I'd never be able to have a soul-mate relationship, because I'd finally identified her, but she wasn't even here on earth. That she and I would actually collaborate on this project, wasn't even on my conceptual radar. But in "The Sacred Promise," Dr. Gary Schwartz explores this very topic. I think it was known in ancient times, and is being rediscovered. Obviously, one would have to be careful with it. I never ask Abby for material gain, for myself. I just pay attention to her inner prompting, and to syncronicities. I can tell you that my books would not be a fraction of what they are, if Abby hadn't helped me discover the evidence contained in them, and inspire me to see connections between different points.
So let's see if I can find the asterisk, Anony-Mouse, and Bertram, in the 1846, 48, and 49 "Odd Fellow." And let's see what other surprises there might be in store. Almost always, when I do this, there is something unexpected.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
I went through the volumes of "The Odd Fellows" for 1849-1852. It's going to take a lot of work to be certain what I have, here, but I can give a general report of my impressions.
The bad news--maybe--is that I found only two more poems (or works of any kind) signed "Bertram." One of them is written to the poet's wife--and quite clearly, a living, physical wife who goes through things with him. Conceivably, this could have been written by Mathew while Abby was still alive, and published posthumously in this brief series. But I doubt it, because it is signed from "Roxbury, Feb. 22, 1851." The second one had been published on Aug. 14, 1850, being entitled "The Struggle of Life," and it's as stark as the title suggests. "To My Wife" is not written in what I take to be Mathew's preferred style, but "The Struggle of Life," is. But I can't get around the location that "To My Life" is written from, tied to a specific date. At the same time, I can't shake the feeling that these sound like Mathew's work; and that "To My Mother" is unlikely to have been written to anyone's mother. In fact, the poem to the poet's late mother sounds more romantic than the one to his wife! As near as I can tell, Mathew had ended his second, arranged marriage in 1849; so he shouldn't be writing in this vein to her, in February of 1851. I conclude I'm probably check-mated on this one. I'll have to leave at least some trace of this question in my book, as I always try to do.
On the other hand, the good news is that the writer signing with an asterisk in "The Odd Fellow" is almost certainly Mathew. There are a great number of these, and they fall into three or four categories. Either an Odd Fellow lodge is being launched; or there is a special Odd Fellows meeting; or there's a report on the local Boston theatre. Some are very brief, while some are fairly lengthy. Mathew was traveling the New England states when these were written, with Boston as his home base during most of it. He would have been in a good position to report on these various meetings in different locations. Some of these reports place the writer in a specific place at a specific time. This makes it possible to cross-reference that information with Mathew's itinerary as given with his other pseudonyms at the same time, to see if there are any glaring contradictions.
But I've already checked the biggest potential snag. I know that Mathew was on his European tour, writing for the Boston "Weekly Museum," from July 2, 1851, until October 15 of that year (I now have the exact date his ship docked in New York City). I did not find a single asterisk-signed piece in "The Odd Fellow" within that time-frame. They were sparse during 1851/52, anyway, I believe--but there were none during this period. There was at least one afterwards. Not only that, but during this time, other writers were taking over those reporting duties--including the man who had been the secretary for Mathew's own lodge in the mid-1840's.
There was one clue which threw me for awhile. The asterisk-signer briefly admonishes the readers who are late in their subscription payments, speaking for the paper. One would think it was the editor, himself. But the editor always signs as the editor--I photographed several examples. I think the mystery is cleared up by remembering that Mathew used to freelance as a bookkeeper. So he was freelancing as the bookkeeper for "The Odd Fellow," or else handling their finances gratis. When somebody had to light a fire under the delinquent subscribers, that job fell to him; and of course he spoke for the paper in that capacity.
Finally, there were a few instances where Mathew's own works from other papers were reprinted in "The Odd Fellow." The protocol in those days was that you cited the newspaper that the piece came from--and you might, or might not, cite the author (or the author's pseudonym). These were a mixed bag. One of them says it came from Philadelphia in 1846, at a time when I'm not aware that Mathew was there. But I think I have a still-earlier printing from Boston. I'm not sure they knew who had written it--I'll have to check. I've mentioned that Mathew wrote the Police Office reports, in a very creative way (turning them into literature in their own right), for the New Orleans "Daily Delta," in the summer of 1846. At least two of these, plus an excerpt of a poem, are reprinted in "The Odd Fellow," over Mathew's signature for that paper, "F." This is a strong clue that Mathew was involved with "The Odd Fellow," knew the editor, and had suggested these pieces, himself. Otherwise you have to invoke chance on this, and I don't like to invoke chance on anything.
I think there were one or two other "finds." Overall, I think my results today are as significant for what I didn't find, as what I did find. Mathew did not have a strong presence in this paper; but he was an Odd Fellow in good standing, and he contributed his talents to their Boston newspaper accordingly--reporting, and bookeeping. Probably, everybody pitched in with what they were good at.
If I hadn't gone in today, I would have made a more straightforward claim of "Bertram" for Mathew than is really justified; and if I hadn't gone in, I wouldn't be able to say with certainty that the "asterisk" does not appear in that paper during the entire period when I know Mathew was in Europe.
So that's progress. More when I actually get some of this stuff processed.
OH, there was one more thing--perhaps the most significant, of all. I've said that in 1849 (and probably beyond), Francis Durivage was publishing a great many of Mathew's stolen humorous sketches under his (Mathew's) pseudonym, "The Old 'Un," in the "Flag of our Union." Durivage had teamed up with another author, who published his stories as "The Young 'Un," and then they published a compilation together. In "The Odd Fellow," I saw perhaps eight or nine stories reprinted from the "Flag" by "The Young 'Un"--but not a single story by "The Old 'Un." The "Old 'Un" stories are actually superior in quality (being Mathew's work). The only explanation I can think of, is that Mathew told the editor of "The Odd Fellow" that "The Old 'Un" was stolen from him by Durivage. In this case--finally--Mathew was believed by somebody. And so the editor refused to print "The Old 'Un" in his newspaper, but he would print "The Young 'Un," since these were written by someone else.
Perhaps you can think of another explanation--I can't. Especially when Francis Durivage was also a member of the Odd Fellows. A letter from him was printed in the paper. One of Mathew's Latin adventure tales, signed with Durivage's own name, also appeared in "The Odd Fellow." But only one. Presumably, Mathew had forgotten to mentioned those.
On re-reading the poem "To My Wife," signed "Bertram," I think this could be Mathew. What's happening is that by 1851, Mathew is really thinking of her as I think of her, today, i.e., literally his wife, unseen. The poem can be interpreted that way, and there are a couple of subtle indicators suggesting it, as for example, the lines:
Sharer of joy, to thee 'tis giv'n,
To render life a type of heav'n,
To glad my journeying below,
Speed pleasure's streamlet soft or slow.
I've mentioned that Abby styled their souls as stars; so here, we see:
My guiding star, the rays of love,
Thy soul reflecteth from above,
Have been my sun in days of light,
A pillow of pure flame by night,
Leading me on, where roses grown
Along the path of fate are strown,
Shedding a halo o'er my life,
The blessings of a faithful wife.
That she is a "guiding star" whose soul reflects rays of love "from above"; means she is in heaven; that she is a "pillow of pure flame by night" refers to visitation dreams.
This has happened so many times, that my intuition was right, but my questioning mind balked.
You have to consider all of these "Bertram" poems as a unit. I wish I had more of them. More on this, later.
*Actually I think there was one exception, John C. Moore who wrote under "Peter Snooks." He persisted in imitating Mathew in the "Carpet-Bag," while the editor, desperate for original copy to fill an eight-page weekly, let him get away with it.
Music opening this page: "Abby's African Drums," by the author under
prompted guidance by Abby, in Garage Band software