I have a couple of hours before a scheduled Skype interview this evening. I want to be rested; but I also don't mind focusing my mind on my project. So, since most of the stress of writing these entries comes from providing evidence and examples, this evening I'm just going to speak in generalities.
I've been going through the material I gleaned from my most-recent visit to the American Antiquarian Society. These are articles written by Mathew Franklin Whittier (myself in the 19th century) at age 12 and 13, in 1825-26, for three different newspapers: the "New-York National Advocate," the New York "Enquirer," and the Boston-based "New-England Galaxy." As previously reported, it appears that Mathew had been publishing work in the "Galaxy" at least since Spring of 1825. Having quite a bit of success, he wanted to obtain a higher education, and to pursue a career in literature; but his father refused. As a result of the ensuing argument, he ran away from home to New York City. He would have run to Boston, but it was too close to his hometown of Haverhill, Mass. In New York, he submitted to the "Advocate" and the "Enquirer" (following the editor, Mordecai Noah); but not nearly so much as he was continuing to submit to Joseph Buckingham, editor of the "Galaxy," in Boston.
He appears to have gone back-and-forth between New York and Boston for awhile, finally moving there in mid-1827. Perhaps, by that time, he was assured that his parents weren't going to try to force him to come home.
Now, I knew (or was convinced) that it was Mathew who was writing the faux letters from country bumpkin "Joe Strickland," to his family in "Varmount." These have been attributed to a lottery shop owner in New York, one George W. Arnold--but it was Mathew, the shop's "boy," who was actually writing them. In order to prove this, however, I had to find other types of pieces in these newspapers which were clearly Mathew's work, by subject and style.
Despite the Antiquarian Society having a very sketchy run of these papers, I found two articles which I'm sure were Mathew's work. So that makes his authorship of "Joe Strickland" that much more certain. (I won't say "that much more plausible," because the evidence, taken as a whole, is far stronger than that.)
So we have Mathew as the "Joe Strickland" originator, which also makes him the originator of that genre in America, so far as I know. There is a Brit, Theodore Hook, who was writing in this style two years before Mathew started, with his character "Mrs. Ramsbottom."
Now, I have determined that Mathew moved back to New York City in December of 1829, to write for Asa Greene's new paper, the "Constellation." Within a few months, Mathew, at age 16, became the acting editor; at least, to the extent that he was writing almost everything on the editorial page. Then, when that paper folded in mid-1832, Mathew began writing books: "A Yankee Among the Nullifiers," "The Perils of Pearl Street," "The Debtors' Prison," "The Life and Adventures of Dr. Dodimus Duckworth," and "Travels in America." All of these books have been attributed by historians to Asa Greene, despite the fact that none of them are signed. All of them are social activitist satires, or social activist novels. Note, in particular, that "The Debtors' Prison" was published in 1834. To my knowledge, this was before Charles Dickens had published anything along the social activisim, or social conscience, line. But this wasn't Mathew's first public appeal on this subject. Mathew's go-to signature, when writing for the "Constellation," had been the single intial "D." Over this signature, in the Jan. 7, 1832 edition, he wrote an article of the same name, "The Debtors' Prison." Of course, scholars will point to it as evidence that Greene wrote the book--but they're wrong. Indeed, the same author wrote both the article and the book--but that author wasn't Greene. Greene was busy running his bookstore, while a 19-year-old boy edited his paper.
I suppose I'll have to provide that article--let me see if I've already uploaded it for a previous entry. Nope. Here it is. It's a little tough to read, despite the fact that I've sharpened it some, but you can make it out with a little effort. (You know, mental elbow grease--that substance used by people who really want to to know something badly enough to put a little effort into it.) Tell you what, I'll give you a digitized copy in case you can't make out the photographic one.
This, now, was even before Dickens was working as a reporter. Is that right? Let me check--no, I stand corrected. Dickens was a freelance law reporter from 1829-31; a Parliamentary reporter from 1831-32; and then a general reporter for three different publications, from 1832-1839. So in 1832, he was reporting for the "True Sun," though I don't know to what extent he expressed a social conscience in his reporting. I would be surprised if he was writing impassioned pieces like the one I've linked to, above. Note that Mathew says he is actively involved in trying to help some poor fellow stuck in debtor's prison.
What we can definitely say, is that Dickens did not have the jump on Mathew Franklin Whittier in this regard. Certainly, not when it comes to Mathew's novel by the same name, published in 1834.
In actuality, I think Dickens' much-vaunted social conscience was a publicity stunt, part of his public image. Otherwise, you have a split personality. And this is what I've been wanting to write about all day, and then I'll shut up (and get ready for my interview).
I spent several hours, on two different occasions, recently, going to every website and YouTube video having to do with Dickens' supposed authorship of "A Christmas Carol," and leaving, in the comments, a brief assertion regarding Mathew and Abby's co-authorship of same. What I noticed is that over the years, Dickens' true character is being uncovered. In particular, I noticed that someone says Dickens tried to have his wife committed to an insane asylum--presumably, to get her out of the way so that he could enjoy his long-time affair with young actress Ellen Ternan. Perhaps Catherine was, indeed, coming unglued when faced with Dickens' wonderful persona, completely denying the rumors, as one sees in his published "Violated Letter." That's enough to drive any loving spouse crazy, while this supposed family man is secretly bonking an actress (think, Bill Cosby).
It's no particular mystery--Dickens loved his wife's young appearance. When she got old, and started to sag, he replaced her with a younger model. As I heard one man comment, he owed his success to his first wife; and he owed his second wife to his success.
From the spiritual perspectve, this is a pedestrian, worldly asshole. The more you look into Dickens' character--and his proven track record as a plagiarist--the less likely it seems that he could have written "A Christmas Carol." People imagine that bad people can do good things; meaning, that a worldly sociopath can be kind-hearted at times.
But good fruit does not fall from bad trees. When people imagine that good fruit has fallen off a bad tree, it messes with their intuitive sense of morality. It obfuscates their inner moral compass.
I don't mean that good people can't make mistakes. Mathew made plenty of mistakes. I mean that when you think someone with a criminal personality has done something good, either it's for show (with ulterior motives), or he's claiming something actually done by somebody else.
Dickens did both.
My latest research definitely ties Mathew Franklin Whittier, at age 13 and 14, to Asa Greene, who was then the editor of the Berkshire "American" in Pittsfield, Mass. I can then trace their working relationship to the New York "Constellation," the five books, and in 1834, the New York "Transcript." Both the article, "The Debtors' Prison," and the book of the same name, were Mathew's productions, not Greene's. And it is Mathew's deep concern about these issues which you see in "A Christmas Carol," not Dickens'.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
P.S. Just got another interview, as I was finalizing this page...
Music opening this page: "Isn't It A Pity," by George Harrison,
from the album "All Things Must Pass"