I continue to proofread Mathew Franklin Whittier's anonymous work for the 1847 New Orleans "Daily Delta," where he reported the blotter for a few months that summer, as he had the previous summer (then signing with his middle initial, "F."). I ran into this brief report. I thought you might like to see work by one of the real co-authors of "A Christmas Carol," appearing about four years after Dickens published that book.
I've also been reading a book entitled "Lucy Hosmer, or The Guardian and Ghost; A Tale of Avarice and Crime Defeated," by D.P. Thompson, published in 1848. Thompson, a popular author of adventure stories (and a collector of oral histories), was 17 years older than Mathew. He was a judge, and a historian. His biographer states, "His writing was always secondary to his many other pursuits."
I'm fine with that--I have no particular wish to claim this book for Mathew. In fact, I'd prefer not to, and I don't intend to mention it in my sequel. But as I read it, I get the weirdest feeling that Mathew conceived the plot, but that the writing is not his. I can't prove it. So far, I have seen no style clues pointing to his authorship. But the plot--aside from the intricacies of the law which are embedded in the book (for which Thompson would have had the expertise)--is right-down-the-line like something Mathew would have concocted. I do know that he seems to have ghost written, before; and that authors have taken his productions--with, and without his permission--and re-worked them. Generally, these authors made Mathew's writing more verbose. This is what Dickens appears to have done with "A Christmas Carol," when you scrutinize the changes in his handwritten manuscript (which is a available in Flash format online). Ninety percent of those changes are just to make it more flowery--to "puff" it out. That's also the impression I get with the writing style of "Lucy Hosmer."
It's neither here nor there. In this case, I can't prove it. But the alternative explanation (or rather, the one I started with), is that all Victorian literature used variations on these plots. And that may be true. Or rather, it may be true to an extent, but this is more specifically "Mathewsian." This theme, of the guardian preventing a poor suitor from marrying his wealthier ward, came up in one of my hypnotic regression sessions, going all the way back to ancient Egypt. If that was a real memory, what Mathew experienced along this line with Abby was the recapitulation of a pattern which was launched many lifetimes earlier. And it showed up in this story, reworked by Thompson, such that I recognized it, intuitively.
Either that or it's generic. The maddening thing is that I don't think I will be able to prove this one, either way. I suppose I'm lucky to have been able to prove as many as I did.
I'm looking through an online listing of Thompson's papers, and at the end is a list of his publications. Oddly, I don't see this one, "Lucy Hosmer." I'm sure it's the same author--the author of "The Green Mountain Boys." I don't know what would account for the oversight. I thought I might see some indication of correspondence with Mathew; but all I see is correspondence with Longfellow, whom I suspect Mathew of being personal friends with. Not close enough. There is a mention in the description of some July, 1847 correspondence that he "has another book half written," which is presumably the book in question.
With regard to Mathew publishing at age 12 and 13, I note that Thompson says of his son that he is "qualified to enter any college, but is too young." Meaning that precocious children weren't so uncommon in this era. Oh, the next letter, written from Thompson to Josiah Pierce of Gorham, Maine (near Portland) "Tells about a trip from Portland to Boston." In August of 1849, Mathew was traveling the New England states, perhaps in the capacity of a postal inspector. He had his home-base in New York City earlier that year; in mid-1849, he had moved it to Philadelphia; and by August, it was in Boston. But he maintained his estranged second wife and three children in Portland, and visited frequently. So Mathew was in the same area, and moving in the same literary circles, at this time.
That's as far as I can take it, today. More on this if I learn more--I probably won't dig into it much further, though. I think it's kind of a research "orphan," which won't lead to anything, and won't prove anything I don't already know. The possible explanations I see are:
1) coincidence and a generic Victorian plot;
2) Mathew either ghost writing, or offering a plot idea to Thompson;
3) Thompson re-working some as-yet undiscovered work by Mathew.
The thing is, Mathew generated these ideas at such a phenomenal rate, if someone stole one of them, it wasn't as big a deal as you would think it would be. He knew he could easily create more of them. Even when Francis Durivage stole an entire body of work, a book-full of humorous stories and another book-full of adventure stories (around this same time, 1848), Mathew simply wrote another book full of nested stories, "The Mistake of a Lifetime," in response. So if one writer re-worked one of his productions, he sort of figured it was on that person's head, and on their conscience before God, and he moved on. Or at least, he tried to.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "Isn't It a Pity," by George Harrison,
from the album, "Ah Via Musicom"