I have mentioned that while Mathew Franklin Whittier wouldn't, or couldn't, come out publicly to defend his work against spurious claims, he would deftly built his protests into the series, themselves. I can think of two excellent examples I'd like to share, although these aren't the only ones. There are, for example, a number of veiled protests that Mathew published against Edgar Allan Poe's claim for having written "The Raven." They prove beyond any reasonable doubt that Mathew was charging him with stealing it. (That they prove the charge, itself, valid, is a question one can determine by studying their respective lives, and their personal characters.)
From the Fall of 1849, to mid-1852, Mathew wrote a travelogue for the Boston "Weekly Museum" under the signature of "Quails." It is quite similar, isn't it, to "---- Quarles," under which "The Raven" first appeared. I think that was intentional, but we can't prove it. In any case, this pseudonym, "Quails," was claimed by a slapstick entertainer named Ossian Dodge, who was known to be something of a con-artist despite his squeaky-clean, teetotaling public image. (His nickname was "The Dodge.") I have devoted the equivalent of a decent-sized book nested within my first book, to this subject, and don't intend to repeat the supporting evidence, here. I'll just recap my conclusions.
Mathew became personal friends with Dodge--one of a series of sociopathic personalities he was fooled by--and even traveled with him at times. Personally, I suspect he wrote at least some of Dodge's material. This is one reason some of Mathew's fellow-contributors to the "Museum" started speculating that Dodge was the author, because they were noting "Quails'" travel itinerary in comparison with Dodge's performance itinerary. Mathew was doing under cover work for the Abolition movement and the Underground Railroad. He was just as glad for the mistake, as it deepened his cover, so he played along with it. But as he did so, he made sure to add encrypted messages which would put posterity on notice that Dodge couldn't possibly have been the real author--as well as adding clues to his own authorship.
There are a number of other examples, but let's just stick with this one. Here, Mathew gives Dodge's actual birthday as his own. But he speaks of his advanced age--Dodge was 10 years younger, and would have been in his early 30's at this time. So we are on-notice that this isn't to be taken literally. Mathew also gives us a clue as to why he can't reveal his identity, in the following:
But dear friends, you must n't blame us, for we are fast passing into the vale of years, and our old dilapidated and trembling frame could n't bear the rough handling that we should have been obliged to endure had we revealed the secret.
In other words, he was likely to be tarred and feathered, or even murdered, if he was identified. Mathew was using this column to report his contacts to his fellow-Abolitionists, and probably to William Lloyd Garrison, himself. He had to make it look casual and innocuous. But he didn't want Ossian Dodge to get the credit for his work forever. Unfortunately, until he reincarnated as myself, nobody seems to have questioned it. In fact, being identified as the supposed author of this column was a cash cow for Dodge, increasing his perceived moral integrity, and hence swelling attendance at his concerts. It became far more popular than either Dodge or the editor anticipated--so much so, that it was driving subscriptions to the paper. Both the editor and Dodge were loath to admit the ruse, and toward the end of this paper's run, the editor, Charles A.V. Putnam, actually stated in black-and-white that Dodge had been the author. Nonetheless, it was always Mathew. Here is the "Quails" example.
Now we back up to end-1844 to mid-1846, when Mathew, signing as the "star," is writing essays and reviews for the New York "Tribune" on a secret, freelance basis. Here again, he is keeping under cover. The rumor circulates that Margaret Fuller, the literary editor, is the "star." Indeed, she seems to have inserted herself into Mathew's column on occasion, and she may even have written one or two of them.* In this way, she abused her authority. But Mathew was the author of 98% of this material. As in the "Museum," the situation came to a head at one point, whereupon Mathew embedded clues to his authorship; or at least, clues that Fuller was not the author. We are speaking of this edition of March 10, 1846; but I have to give a little background.
Some arch conservatives had written a couple of pro-capital punishment books, which Mathew, being against that practice, had lambasted in the March 4, 1846 edition. The authors defended themselves, and this is his response. Those authors had assumed that Fuller was the "star," and disparagingly spoke of her feminine sensibilities. Mathew has to walk a fine line, here. He cannot honestly say that he is a female; but he must defend the right of females to address such subjects with equal authority. You will see how he handles this dilemma in the third paragraph, beginning "We were not aware..." But I think he leaves us a clue at the end, with the phrase, "this mistaken Clorinda." It can be taken either of two ways--that the Clorinda was mistaken, or that it was a mistake to assume it was a Clorinda, i.e., a female, in the first place.
"Clorinda" is a reference to a character from the poem "Jerusalem Delivered" by Torquato Tasso--a female warrior whom the character Tancred refuses to fight, having fallen in love with her. Would Margaret Fuller refer to herself as a "mistaken Clorinda"? Perhaps, in irony. But Mathew Franklin Whittier certainly would have, and it would be a double entendre. "Mistaken" in the ironic sense, meaning she wasn't mistaken at all, except in the eyes of the pro-capital punishment authors; and "mistaken" in the sense that they have guessed wrong about the identity of the author they are defending against. I might sound like I'm reaching, here, but this would be very typical of Mathew's literary M.O. He is essentially defending a woman's right to criticize a man's position; while at the same time wryly calling Fuller, herself, an Amazon.
I don't get the impression that Fuller was the type to be able to laugh at herself.
There are other examples--including one in which "Quails" meets Mathew's character, "Ethan Spike," before Mathew had been publicly identified as "Spike's" author--but these two struck me as running very much parallel. I don't offer them as conclusive proof, because that is the job of my two books, where the totality of the evidence is presented. The entire picture is never presented in this blog. It is the responsibility of anyone who wants to hold me accountable, on the matter of proof, to read my books thoroughly. I have no patience with anyone who, reading what I offer in these entries, concludes that I haven't proven the case. I most certainly have--but I don't claim to have done so, here.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*When she went to Europe as the paper's travel correspondent in mid-1846, she dishonestly retained the star-signature, even though Mathew, himself, continued using it in "The Odd Fellow" in Boston, and in the Portland "Transcript," that same year. In fact, Mathew had actually overlapped with that signature in the 1846 "Tribune" and "Transcript." In he course of his career, he also used it for the "Weekly Museum," the Boston "Chronotype," the New York "Constellation" (a double asterisk, signifying himself and Abby), the Portland "Tribune," the Boston "Courier," the Boston "Carpet-Bag," and a Boston-based young man's magazine called "The Essayist." The earliest instance I've found occurs in 1829; the latest is 1873. All of these are carefully matched to Mathew's known style.
Music opening this page: "Peekaboo," by The Free Design,
from the album, "Cosmic Peekaboo"