When, in yesterday's entry, I said that Mathew had written in sailor dialect before he did so in the novelette, "The Mistake of a Lifetime," I said I didn't expect my examples to stand as proof, and that I was sharing more than trying to prove anything. That's true, but always in the back of my mind is the itch to prove, as well. I know how the skeptical mind works--how it searches for any loophole, like a trapped rat. And that with the ancient "fight or flight" mechanism triggered, it can override rationality, while one imagines to oneself that one is taking the high ground of rationality, at the same time! Thus is human nature.
But it is also human nature to want to prove one's case, and in my documentary work I learned a very neat trick. Michael Moore perfected a technique of attempting to interview people who refused to cooperate, on camera, which was as damning as if they had relented. I developed a trick of giving the viewer rope. I let him think that he's explained the thing away; I let him get comfortable in his imagined triumph--and then I bring in the clincher.
So, yesterday's examples weren't signed. I could prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that young Mathew Franklin Whittier was the acting junior editor of the New York "Constellation," under editor-in-chief Asa Greene, during years 1829-32. But it would take time, and you know that skeptics have short attention spans and want it all delivered on a silver platter, inside of five minutes, or they assert that you can't prove it at all. Very few things are amenable to that kind of instant proof, so these folks are safe from 95% of the things that would challenge their beliefs. This, of course, applies to the "penguins" (as radical archaeologist Sylvie Ivanova would call them), as well as lay persons.
So in this case, I've cross-corresponded the sailor dialogue in "The Mistake," with similar unsigned pieces in the "Constellation," which I claim that Mathew wrote. The skeptical mind can say, "Oh, well, he says these were written by MFW."
Now, in the spirit of argumentativeness, I am going to show you an adventure story--very similar in style to "The Mistake"--which Mathew signed with his own name. It was published in the weekly Portland "Transcript" on June 1, 1844. Since June 2nd was his beloved late wife Abby's birthday, presumably he wrote it, and signed it, as a tribute to her. She had died three years earlier.
The plot has a young lieutenant, recently back from a sea voyage, and his trusty nautical side-kick, "Bullet-Head Dick," chasing some Indians who have kidnapped his cousin, with the help of a friendly Indian guide. The cousin, Louise, is also his sweetheart, and this was simply a way, in the 19th century, of representing that he and Abby had been close since childhood. That's neither here nor there--for our purposes, I just want you to see his byline, and the text, for an additional comparison. Here, we eliminate the skeptical objection that we can't absolutely prove Mathew's authorship. In all of my literary comparisons, keep in mind that I have a fairly decent body of work which can be 100% attributed to Mathew Franklin Whittier--those signed under his own name, those written in conjunction with his "Ethan Spike" series (over a hundred), and those written for the Portland "Transcript," in the early-to-mid 1840's, under "Poins."
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "Hot Water," by Sugarloaf,
From the album, "Spaceship Earth"