It is fascinating how, in research, one thing leads to another; and all the puzzle pieces are found to interconnect. Yesterday, I shared that the "Pickings and Pencillings" series, in the 1846/47 "Odd Fellow," signed as "Dickens, Jr.," were undoubtedly Mathew Franklin Whittier's work. (If I haven't convinced you, never mind, I have the bigger picture, and it's him.)
This morning, my task was to go through my notes, and research any questions I'd indicated as needing further study. When I got to my photographs of the Feb. 17, 1847 edition, I came to an ad that had caught my attention. Someone in Syracuse, New York is requesting that the editor of "The Odd Fellow" post a notice for him--he is seeking an editor's position, as follows:
Let me bring this up alongside my typing field...
Mathew wrote the "Pickings and Pencillings" series from Syracuse, New York (the text says so). That series begins in the Dec. 9, 1846 edition of "The Odd Fellow," signed at the bottom from Syracuse, in the month of Nov., 1846. The seventh and final installment (mis-numbered as the sixth) is seen in the March 3, 1847 edition. It appears to me that Mathew has written all of these in Syracuse, though he is back in Boston at least by March 17, when he reports on a Sons of Temperance meeting, signing with his "star," or single asterisk. This last of the series is simply a short story seemingly based on a true event, which could have been written in either location.
Now, it's fortuitous that I discovered this after a decade of research, because I have the background to interpret it fully. This thing is chock-full of clues. The ad, presumably, was written by Mathew, himself, and then commented upon (after the pointing hand) by the editor of "The Odd Fellow." Watch what I can pull out of this...
First of all, the editor, L.H.M. Cochran, knows Mathew personally, and they are friends. This is significant because not a single one of "The Old 'Un" sketches are reprinted in this paper, although eight or nine (I didn't count them) of "The Young 'Un" sketches appear in it. I've given the history of Francis Durivage's plagiarism of Mathew's "Old 'Un" series, before. Durivage stole Mathew's series--perhaps he posed as a literary agent, and Mathew trusted him with this unpublished work--and published it in "The Flag of Our Union," along with that of his protege, George Burnham, who in deference, took the pseudonym, "The Young 'Un." The only reason why the editor of "The Odd Fellow" would print so many "Young 'Un" sketches, and none of the "Old 'Un," sketches, is if he knew Mathew personally, and Mathew had confided in him regarding the situation. So now we have evidence that they were, indeed, personal friends.
Mathew is 34 years old at this time. It would be like him to put the then-colloquialism, "middle-aged," in quotes. Likewise the cleverism, "art preservative of all arts." We know that he has a good education (being self-taught, and having been tutored in his youth by Abby, his future wife at that time). We know he possesses good taste (having been the freelance reviewer for the New York "Tribune" in recent years); and certainly, he is the author of "several popular Tales." All of this is actually extreme euphemism. I haven't counted how many "tales" Mathew has published by 1847, but it would likely be in the hundreds. And these aren't just any tales--he has pioneered an entire genre of letters in dialect, at least in America; and his stories are top-flight, on a par with, for example, those of Washington Irving.
I, also, express myself in euphemistic terms. I try to brag, and I just can't. But I have excelled; and when I simply state those accomplishments in plain language, people--being accustomed to everybody else's fanciful hype--assume I'm doing the same thing. I can never state this quite as I want to--if others ratchet themselves up 10 notches, so that people assume, now, that everybody does this (i.e., that everybody is lying); and I come along with real accomplishments, stand alongside these other people, and simply state what I've done; my audience will assume that I am also lying. They will, therefore, ratchet down what I say, as they have learned to do, automatically, when assessing anyone's claims. And note the word "automatically." It's so automatic, and so fast, you don't even know you're doing it. It's like an unconscious filter that you run everybody's claims through, in an age when hype is "normal."
When people allow that "program" to fire off automatically, they will have made a terrible mistake where I'm concerned. I was being literal. I'm not like these other claimants. Incidentally, such claimants, themselves, may do the same thing where I'm concerned. They imagine they're just like I am. And when I can prove my suppositions, they imagine they have proven theirs as well--or that they could, if only certain conditions were met. Dr. Walter Semkiw, for example, no-doubt thinks he has proven his cases to the level and degree that I have proven my case. On the other hand, Dr. Jim Tucker--who has actually proven his cases to a high degree of rigor--imagines that my case is far inferior in this regard. It isn't. This may or may not matter for my own ego; but it matters far more if we say we want the truth.
But, I digress. John Greenleaf Whittier said, of his younger brother (when trying to get a position for him, through influence, when Mathew was desperate), that Mathew wasn't "forthputting on his own account." I'll be "forthputting" here, in a mood of sheer defiance, for just a minute. Did you watch that video I have linked at the opening of this page? I was producing a show for community access TV in Atlanta on international music, called "Universal Language." I was just learning television production. The call went out to the producers for short skits, and I created this one. I had bumped into Mort Lieberman, a retired microphone salesman, at a garage sale, and asked him if he would play Einstein in a skit. I wrote the sketch around him. I had no idea I had been a writer of humorous sketches in the 19th century. I just now watched it again as I tested the link, and despite the technical flaws (I only had time to shoot two takes of every scene), I think it's pretty darned good. The only professional actor was the woman playing "Gloria Decker." Sad to say, I've forgotten her name. The man who "apparently didn't want to work" was my real down-and-out friend, the late Mike Blakey. Mike, himself, was very much like Einstein in the skit. He was brilliant, and could generate a fresh idea faster than anyone I've ever met, but he was kind of mercurial. Mort was recovering from a stroke, and I think he did splendidly. That's me, in the opening, messing with the oragami bird.
So, to return to this ad in "The Odd Fellow," we also have our first corroborating evidence that Mathew acted as the junior editor for the New York "Constellation" (a weekly), under the editor-in-chief, Asa Greene; and probably for Greene's subsequent paper, the New York "Transcript" (a daily), as well. Mathew also edited his own paper, the Salisbury "Monitor"--as I've recently shared with you--from Feb. 1838 to May of that year. So this is literal, and no exaggeration, except that he was the junior editor, so far as I know, of all except his own publication. Mathew has bookkeeping skills, and there is evidence he may have been lending those talents to "The Odd Fellow" (inasmuch as the "star" addresses its subscribers regarding delinquent accounts, writing in that capacity for the paper). Thus, he could "assist in the general management of the establishment," meaning, in financial matters.
Now, if I didn't know that Mathew had been writing the police reports for the New Orleans "Daily Delta" the previous summer, in 1846, I would think that wanting to be in the "South West" would be a deal-breaker. There are only two reasons why Mathew would prefer these locations: 1) because he is in hiding, or 2) because he wants to do more under cover work in the slave states. There is a strong indication that Mathew is in hiding in August of 1850, but not at this time. He was heavily involved in the Abolitionist movement (as was his brother, John Greenleaf Whittier), and always concerned about maintaining his anonymity. So it's clear that there were pro-slavery people after him, at least from time-to-time. This must be the reason that he is in Syracuse, to begin with. I'm speculating, but here's the itinerary: 1) in New York City, writing for the "Tribune," from late 1844 to mid-1846; 2) in New Orleans, writing for the "Daily Delta" from July 1846 to Sept., 1846; 3) in Syracuse, New York, writing for the Boston "Odd Fellow" in Nov. 1846 to Feb. 1847.
This, by the way, brings up the very strong likelihood that Mathew was publishing in the Syracuse "Onondaga Standard" during this time. This is why my books are so long. I have gone from one clue, like this, to the next--always thinking, like the mountain climber, that the next mountain is the last. I can't leave it alone--curiosity drives me onward, and of course I will try to access the "Onondaga Standard." There, I may find five--or twenty--or fifty--of Mathew's works. He may be using another pseudonym, or he may continue to use the "star" for at least some of them. There may be yet more clues in the "Standard," which will lead me elsewhere. All of this will have to go into the (second) book, especially if there are significant clues which cross-reference with earlier past-life impressions, speculations or conclusions.
And so it goes. I'm telling you, this is a real case--and in anyone's real life, the interconnected elements are nearly infinite. Everything in your life is interconnected--every cell is connected to every other cell. So I can follow the threads of Mathew's life indefinitely like this--and some of it, I "predicted," i.e., remembered, vaguely or clearly as the case may be. In this case, the instant I saw this ad, I felt it was Mathew's, or more precisely, that it was Mathew being referred to. But I intellectually dismissed it, at first, on no particular basis except that it was too good to be true. But at that time--there, in the Antiquarian Society reading room--I had had exactly the same gut reaction to the "Pickings and Pencillings" series. Accept one, and you have to accept both, because both are written from Syracuse.
Here, Mathew portrays himself as "strictly temperate and industrious." But it's been my memory, and also my interpretation of a number of clues, that Mathew believed in "temperance," not "abstinence." In other words, that he would drink a beer, or a small glass of wine, but never to excess, and never hard liquor. So if that's true, "strictly" is a bit misleading, for hard-liners. As for industrious, Mathew was driven, as I am, when doing creating work. He might not be so driven, shall we say, when it came to drudgery, like bookkeeping. Though he would protest if challenged on it. So this is a typical self-recommendation, making oneself shine just a little bit, but still honest.
He assures the reader of "the most satisfactory testimonials." I suppose so. Among them might, for example, be Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Horace Greeley, and of course his brother, John Greenleaf Whittier.
So then comes the comments of the "Odd Fellow" editor, and we see that he is a personal friend and admirer. He requests fellow-editors to insert the announcement, where they have room, for free (I found, in a quick online search, that Benjamin Franklin advocated not paying public servants). "Out of quoin" means, as I gather, to sort of jam in the copy wherever the editor can find space.
Finally, the editor closes with a reference to Mathew's "talents, experience and merits." Mathew has been publishing in all genres since 1827, when he was 14 years old. He has worked as the unsung junior editor for at least one, if not two, New York newspapers, and has been the anonymous reviewer and essayist for the New York "Tribune." In fact, if I read the situation correctly, he was the de facto editor of the New York "Constellation," writing most of its editorials and, indeed, its entire editorial page. He has also briefly owned and edited his own paper. He was the original co-author of "A Christmas Carol"; and he was the real author of "The Raven," which had been published a couple of years earlier, as well as "Lady Geraldine's Courtship" and "The Lost Bower," published by Elizabeth Barrett in 1844. So, yes, "talents."
But so far as I know he didn't get a position. I don't know whether any other editors inserted the ad for free--I'm guessing that none did. "The Odd Fellow" was probably read primarily by members, few of which were editors or proprietors of newspapers. So this was a typical "shot in the dark" which simply didn't yield fruit. I do the same, today--for example, sending e-mails to prominent people in the paranormal research and afterlife education fields. Most of these pieces of bread that I float out on the waters, quietly and ingloriously sink. But occasionally, these "messages in a bottle" find their recipient, and something comes of it.
It looks like I have another interview coming up, resulting from having reached out in this way. But this one may be especially interesting. I don't want to jinx it by announcing it prematurely. I'll let you know if it becomes definite.
Meanwhile, when I tell you that Mathew Franklin Whittier was the unseen junior editor for Asa Greene's New York "Constellation," and then perhaps for his New York "Transcript," we now have additional evidence. Therefore, when I tell you that he must have ghost-written Asa Greene's book, "The Life and Adventures of Dr. Dodimus Duckworth," I am standing on even firmer ground. And when I tell you that Francis Durivage stole Mathew's entire series, "The Old 'Un," I am standing on firmer ground with that conclusion, as well.
You can see how it all fits together...
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
P.S. I've been going through my notes, looking things up online where necessary to try to determine authorship of this or that piece from "The Odd Fellow," and I stumbled upon a clue regarding "Annabel Lee" by complete serendipity. If there is such a thing. I'm going to just reproduce it verbatim as I inserted it into my sequel, to save time. What this does, is to add additional evidence that Edgar Allan Poe was a sociopathic bullshitter.
In the April 22, 1851 edition of the Milledgeville, Georgia “Southern Recorder,” is a story purporting to give the background story of how Poe came to write “Annabel Lee.” In a rather implausible leap, the unnamed author tells us that Poe wrote it in tribute to a woman he had once had a crush on, when she was 12 and he, 17, whose married name was Mary Leland. He had heard that she was seriously ill, and assumed that she had died:
But the bright dreams inspired by her, remained with him, and he told us, that her angel form often rose up before him in his degradation and darkness and ruin. It was like a beam of light that gilded the gloom of his existence and shed its rays through the thick clouds that rolled about his head. In one of those moments, when, frenzied by intoxication, the love light of his early days appeared before him, he thought how it was untimely quenched and left him in the darkness alone, friendless, helpless and hopeless, he seized and wrote those wild sweet strains of “Annabel Lee”—and the “cloud that came out by night.”
‘Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.’
The narrator continues, saying that “chance threw him in the way of her he had supposed to be dead.” She was the wife of T.C. Leland, but she “cherished a sympathy for the miserable child of genius.” Her husband came to appreciate him, and together they befriended him. The story, reprinted from the Milwaukie “Daily Free Democrat,” is said to have been occasioned by the death of the Lelands’ daughter, Annabel Lee (named for the poem). But what I see, here, is that Poe told Mrs. Leland that he had written “Annabel Lee” for her, thinking she was dead—along with the absurd and flowery story of having seen her ghost appear to him in his despair. The account, in my opinion, has no credibility as told—but it strongly suggests that Poe, the consummate con artist, produced Mathew’s poem and manufactured this story in order to get in the couple’s good graces—which ruse worked so well, that they named their unfortunate child “Annabel Lee.” Note that the author indicates that Poe knew Mary in Richmond, Virginia, where he grew up, and unless one really wants to stretch a point, Richmond is not a “kingdom by the sea”; nor is there any indication that she was from an aristocratic family (as Abby was). Furthermore, it is clearly a poem about a couple, not an unrequited, admired love. Finally, keep in mind that it was never published until after Poe’s death. If it had made such an impact on his close friends that they named their child after it, one would think that either he, or they, would have arranged to have it published while he was still living.
If Poe is thus caught making up a wild story about his authorship of “Annabel Lee,” it becomes one more piece of evidence suggesting that he didn’t actually author it, at all.
Video opening this page: "Einstein at the Unemployment Office,"
by the author, done through Community Access TV in 1990
(15 years before I learned of Mathew Franklin Whittier)