Okay, this morning I went to the library, and found that Mathew Franklin Whittier cannot possibly be the travelogue writer who goes from New York, to Washington, to Mobile, Alabama--because he stays in Mobile far longer than Mathew could have.* In other words, there are irreconcilable itinerary conflicts with Mathew's known works, which place him in other locations. These letters, signed "Buckingham," are very well-written, and the style is plausibly Mathew's. While I thought they might be a tribute to his old editor, Joseph T. Buckingham, perhaps they are Buckingham, himself! I don't know, but I know they aren't written by Mathew.
(I just checked to see when Buckingham died, and he could have written them--whew.)
So then when I got home, I realized that I actually have physical copies of all the "Buckingham" letters in my original volumes, and I didn't need to go to the library in the first place. I went yesterday, actually, and found the parking lot I usually used was closed. I found a parking space, and couldn't get the reader to read my credit card, so I used up all the quarters I had. That wasn't enough, so I tried the card again, and got it to work--$3.00 more. But when I walked the two blocks to the library, I found it was closed for Patriots Day. I don't remember ever hearing about Patriots Day. That's why I went today; but turns out I needn't have gone either day.
In that frame of mind, I went back to copying the "Joe Strickland" letters, cleaning them up, and reading Allen Walker Read's commentary while I did so. All the while, I'm biting my nails (not literally), because it only takes one irreconcilable date discrepancy to ruin your whole day. Sometimes Joe writes from New York; sometimes from Boston. I had Mathew Franklin Whittier in Boston from May 18, 1827.
There is a brief overlap of a couple of months, I think it was, in mid-1827. Mathew already had a connection with Joseph Buckingham, the editor of the "New-England Galaxy," which paper had been reprinting "Joe Strickland." So it is entirely plausible, based on the dates of the "Strickland" letters, and the dates and content of the other pieces Mathew was publishing in the "Galaxy," that he was in the process of moving. Then, either "Strickland," or members of his fictitious family, write from Boston. (There is one printed in New York later on, but it puts "Strickland" in Constantinople, in response to an ongoing story in the newspapers, and thus is tied by content neither to Boston, nor to New York.)
The gist is that there is no conflict. From 1825, Mathew is in New York City, writing "Joe Strickland" for the "National Advocate"--and then, when the editor launches his own paper, the "Enquirer," Strickland moves with him. Meanwhile, there is a relationship with the "Galaxy" in Boston, and finally, in mid-1827, Mathew moves there. He is submitting a great deal more than "Strickland" to the "Galaxy." All of this work is his, with one possible exception, an imitation. Read seems to think that just about everything not signed "Joe Strickland" is an imitation. I know from long-time familiarity with Mathew's work, that they aren't.
So it is poignant to see Read's analysis, after he has given us (and me) the actual pieces. Unfortunately, he didn't see fit to print what he thought were the imitations, but I already had a couple of them. He interprets everything in the context of lottery store owner George W. Arnold being the author, even though he has almost no historical information on Arnold. I think he has one handwritten note, which is irrelevant to "Strickland." He doesn't even have Arnold's birthplace. And yet, Read builds his entire edifice upon this sandy soil. I suppose he was hoping he'd be lucky, or that nobody would ever be in a position to challenge him on it.
He wasn't, and somebody is.
Well, you win some and you lose some. I lost "Buckingham," today (along with two trips downtown and about $7.35). But I've got "Joe Strickland," and I've got the very first piece that Mathew Franklin Whittier ever published--when he was just 12 years old.
I'm sorry I didn't go back over that piece of evidence I mentioned in today's first entry. As Buckingham tells it, a young man, who looks to him to be about 19, comes into his office with a letter to be published from Sam Strickland, writing to Joe Strickland. And then comes a horrifically-written advertisement about both boys having run away from home. Then comes Joe Strickland complaining that the ad almost got him arrested, but he was able to bribe the police chief with all the money he'd won at Arnold's lottery story.
John Greenleaf Whittier would have been 19 years old; and he lived in Haverhill, Mass. He could easily have come to Buckingham's office, in Boston. But this was all Mathew--the story (which he asked the editor to tell for him), the letter from Sam Strickland, the advertisement, and Joe Strickland's response. This is what Mathew liked to do--play all the parts simultaneously. I have several examples, with his various characters. He did it with the "Simpkins" family in the Boston "Weekly Museum," and he did it when he wrote for the Boston "Carpet-Bag" in 1851/52, with "Ensign Stebbings" and "Dr. E. Goethe Digg." Those characters were supposedly originated by Benjamin Drew--but they, also, were Mathew's.
I don't think any scholar would believe me. I don't know how to even get them to take me seriously. I would need their respectful attention for a couple of days. I couldn't do it in one or two brief e-mails, or a five minute phone conversation.
Well, I'm tired. I wrote this entry primarily to get my thoughts straight, before I tackled revising my sequel. I'm so tired, however, that I'm just rambling, so I'd better get to it.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*It's possible he passed the column off to someone else in Mobile, because believe or not, he actually did this a couple of times. I think it had to do with under cover Abolition work and the Underground Railroad. But in this instance, the writer is not as uncomfortable with a cock fight, and a slave auction, respectively, as Mathew would have been. In particular, he views a slave auction, and happens to talk with one slave owner who refuses to separate a family. But Mathew wouldn't have just reported that conversation; and he would have pointed out that once sold, the family had no protection from either speculators, or other owners. So when I see a writer expressing less compassion for the underdog than Mathew would have--or even cruelty--that's always been my best indicator that it probably isn't him.
Music opening this page: "Won't Get Fooled Again," by The Who,
from the album, "Who's Next"