Both of my goals for the 15th were accomplished. I had my interview with "Spirit Radio" in Portsmouth in the evening; and I had reserved three 19th-century newspapers at the American Antiquarian Society, for that day. My purpose was to search for Mathew Franklin Whittier's earliest published work, written when he was 12 and 13 years old, for the "New York National Advocate," the New York "Enquirer" (both edited by Mortecai Noah), and the "New-England Galaxy" in Boston, edited by Joseph Buckingham. First of all, I wanted to find something else in the New York papers, besides the letter-writing character "Joe Strickland," which was clearly from Mathew's pen, in order to establish that he was indeed there, and hence could have been the Strickland author. Then, I wanted to see just how far back Mathew's contributions went in the "Galaxy."
The holdings of the New York papers, both dailies, were incomplete. They were partly digitized, and partly in a physical volume (which didn't have a complete run). First of all I got into the wrong "National Advocate"--and I was getting discouraged, because it takes perhaps three times as long to view these things on a computer, what with page refresh times lagging, etc. The one I wanted was the "New York National Advocate" (which is why I have written it this way). There, I found at least one of the "Joe Strickland" letters, as the scholar's article had cited them. But then, toward the end of Mathew's stay in New York, I found what I was looking for--Part III of a straight article on "Gaming," or gambling. The premise of the "Joe Strickland" letters is that a hayseed from Vermont, arriving in New York City, has hit the lottery. Putting two and two together, I gather that Mathew, always fascinated by science, and having run away from home to New York City, stood outside George W. Arnold's lottery store for two hours, watching a perpetual motion machine to see whether it would run down. Mathew's scientific curiosity and intelligence caught the attention of the shop owner, who hired him. Mathew, taking on the character of "Joe Strickland," wrote back to his family through this column.
Because his father didn't think he had what it took to be a success in the field of literature, Mathew teased him by writing as though he was an ignorant country boy. Hence, "Joe Strickland," which was, as near as I can tell, the first of this genre in America.
And here, again, we see the deep back-story. When attempting to identify the author of an unsigned work, always look for the back-story. Because it didn't arise out of a contextless vacuum. As I think criminal investigators will tell you, nothing ever does.
Part III of the series about "Gaming" is written precisely as I would expect Mathew, the young Quaker in New York City, to write it. They are signed "FRANKLIN," i.e., with his middle name in all caps, which signature Mathew will turn to again during his career. I'd say it's 99.9% verified that it's him--and that means he was there, writing for Noah's paper, and obviously could have been the author of "Joe Strickland."
Below is a sketch by Mathew in the Feb. 4, 1832 New York "Constellation," signed "FRANKLIN," which he wrote while he was the acting junior editor for that paper, at age 19. Note he praises the writing of "D." in that paper, whom he hails "as a brother." "D." was also Mathew in that paper--in fact, it was his primary signature therein. So this is a mischievous reference to himself. I could cite several other examples where Mathew very occasionally signed as "FRANKLIN." I think he wanted to honor his namesake, but didn't want to over-use it, lest someone identify him as the writer.
Incidentally, as I read the closing, I get a past-life "hit"--same as I got when I first encountered it. The number "41" is a secret or coded reference--it's meaningful. But I've forgotten just what it referred to. I only have the emotional or intuitive hit that it was a reference to something. In general, whenever Mathew throws up a seemingly contextless or arbitrary reference, it means something.*
The Society's holdings of the "Galaxy" are complete. Looking through the volumes for 1825 and 1826, I concluded that Mathew had started submitting work to this paper a few months before his "Joe Strickland" letters begin appearing in Noah's papers in New York. This is precisely what I would expect, when I think about it. He had begun publishing in the "Galaxy" at age 12. Being encouraged by his success, he begged his father to let him get an advanced education, so he could track himself toward this career. His father, being skeptical and needing Mathew on the farm, refused. There was a fight--perhaps, as Mathew has hinted, a physical one (Mathew was tall)--and he ran away from home. He would have run to Boston, but it was too close to his hometown of Haverhill, Mass., and he would have been in danger of being brought back home. So he went to New York City, instead.
Joseph Buckingham, editor of the "Galaxy," wrote in his 1852 memoirs about a group of young contributors to that paper, including one "Moses Whitney." I've gone into this in my book, and won't repeat all the details, here. Buckingham was referring to Mathew, who had requested anonymity of all the editors he had worked for. But Buckingham wanted to brag on Mathew, because his old pseudonym, "Trismegistus," was being used again in the Boston "Carpet-Bag," and the work under that umbrella signature was becoming popular. Buckingham couldn't resist including, in his memoirs, that "Trismegistus" originally appeared in his "Galaxy." So he created a name which retained Mathew's initials, along with the first four letters of his last name, for posterity.
But when I first found those memoirs, and saw that Buckingham was referring to year 1828, I was puzzled, because he mentioned that the young man had contributed "for several years." Whereas, at that time, I only knew of Mathew's contributions beginning from 1827, the year before. Now, I see why he put it that way--Mathew's contributions actually began in the Spring of 1825.
It's not a simple matter to discern Mathew's work from that of his young colleagues. I will have to study these with a fine-toothed comb, looking for specific indicators of his authorship, or against it. Some of them, however, I'm pretty sure about on the face of it. I've re-written my sequel with a preliminary treatment of this new evidence; but no-doubt will have to re-write it after all the data is in. My technique is to say "as of this writing"; then, like software, I update it. But that will have to wait, while I turn my attention to the pressing issue of my monthly income. I am unfunded in this research, and my Social Security doesn't cover my basic expenses. Given the significance of this work, I should be funded; but the silver lining is that my lack of financial support leaves me entirely independent. How many researchers, these days, can say that?
And one must be independent in order to pursue research this far outside the mainstream.
As for the interview, it went off very well. I won't go into the details, but you can listen to it from the link provided in my Update (as linked from the home page); or, I've provided the link at the very top of the home page, as well. I learned one thing, as regards procedure--from now on, if I'm asked a question which has, say, a three-part answer, I'll summarize the three parts first, before I launch into the first one. That way, if we don't get to Parts II and III, I'll have at least answered the question in an introductory summary. In this interview, I was several times not able to complete a thought, and that's probably because the interviewer was more aware of the clock than I was.
As for my subjective experience of the interview, I think I'll leave that in the realm of personal matters, but suffice it to say I made a warm connection with two like-minded pioneers, and I enjoyed the entire experience. I think maybe Willy, the male co-host, was a bit more skeptical; while Lynne, the female co-host, being psychic (and having researched a past-life case of her own), sensed that I'm genuine. Both are, in my estimation, august persons in the spiritual realm.
It really didn't occur to me to be nervous, even in a live broadcast. This was a community access radio station, and it was like stepping back into the hippie era. So I felt quite comfortable. There were no call-in questions, so I really don't even know how many people might have been listening, in Portsmouth, at 10:00 on a Wednesday evening. It's possible I didn't have a single listener! But for me, it really was just a conversation on my favorite topic, which is a rare treat. So much so, I couldn't shut up for some time after the broadcast...
I've found that "nerves" are inversely proportional to preparation, at least for me. If I've done my homework, I have confidence in that. So I prepared carefully for this interview, and I felt accordingly self-confident.
Now, I have two recent interviews under my belt, which I can show prospective show hosts. I have two more interviews tentatively arranged for the next couple of months, with larger shows. Let's see if this builds. I feel that it's all timing--and the time is now ripening, when things will start to move for this project.
Finally, you will note that I have replaced the software for the page's opening music, with one which has a controller. This is HTML-based (being a relatively new development, in HTML 5), and it should work across browsers. If I ever have time, I'll replace the other pages on my website with this feature, including, perhaps, in the Archive. But I have to see to my daily bread, here, first.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*This story, "No Ear for Music," appears to have been a thinly-veiled reference to Albert Pike, who had plagiarized Abby's poetry when she took his class in Newburyport, Mass. in 1831. It alludes to the real circumstances of Pike's flight from Newburyport to the Arkansas Territory. "No ear for music" is symbolic for not having "poetry in one's soul," meaning that Pike did not have the sensitivity to have written the poetry he claimed under his and Abby's common initials, "A.P." The piece opens with a poetic quote which makes this meaning clear. Pike told his biographer that he had been in love with one of his students, but being too poor to ask for her hand in marriage, he left for Arkansas, i.e., to forget her. But in reality, if Mathew's version is correct, he had an affair with her and fled. Presumably, Mathew would have signed "FRANKLIN" to be sure that Pike knew who wrote it. The number "41" probably figures in somehow, but I don't know how. It would be a private message to Pike, or a reference only he would get. I can't give all the background details here, but literary historians may know what I'm referring to. I cover all of this in my first book.
Music opening this page: "The Great Beyond," by R.E.M.,
from the film, "Man in the Moon"