I'm going to have to keep this brief, because I've still got two projects going simultaneously, but I want to share one more discovery from my latest expedition to the American Ant. Society. For this, I have to recap a little by way of background.
I have said that I believe Mathew Franklin Whittier (myself in the 19th century) was the real author of two poems which appear in the future Elizabeth Barrett Browning's 1844 compilation, "Poems," including "Lady Geraldine's Courtship." This was a veiled representation of Mathew's courtship with his true love, Abby, when she was only 15/16, and he was 19/20. Instead of being a French marqui's upper-class daughter in East Haverhill, Mass., Mathew has made her a young English noblewoman. Other than that, it's pretty-much literal.
In the early 1840's, in the years after Abby's death in 1841, Mathew was a member of the "Odd Fellows." During this period, it appears that he assisted with their Boston-based newspaper, "The Odd Fellow," and contributed quite a few pieces, including humorous sketches and a little poetry. The poetry which had to do with Abby--and with his continuing relationship with her, in spirit--he published under the pseudonym "Bertram." "Bertram" is the protagonist in "Lady Geraldine." I have interpreted this as evidence of his authorship of that poem.
With me so far?
So, during this last expedition, I found a poem by "Bertram" that I'd missed. First of all, it is published in the May 29, 1850 edition, having been written on May 23. June 2nd was Abby's birthday, so this poem was published in the weekly "Odd Fellow" as close to the date of her birthday as possible.
The poem is entitled "The Hand of Stone," and it retells, in verse, a legend of a maiden who has very reluctantly agreed to marry a knight with whom she is not in love, because her mother "has prayed for it"; even though her heart belongs to another. As she approaches the altar, she prays to be relieved from this terrible fate; and when the groom forcibly takes her hand, his hand turns to stone!
Now, there is a deep back-story to this, which I won't get into at this time. Mathew and Abby appear to have experienced something similar, when her father banned him from the house, and instead, introduced an upper-class suitor more to his liking. That situation was reflected in "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," as Bertram overhears his upper-class rival attempting to court Lady Geraldine:
Thus I knew that voice,—and I could not help the hearkening:
In the room I stood up blindly, and my burning heart within
Seemed to seethe and fuse my senses, till they ran on all sides darkening,
And scorched, weighed like melted metal round my feet that stood therein.
And that voice, I heard it pleading, for love's sake,—for wealth, position,
For the sake of liberal uses, and great actions to be done,—
And she interrupted gently, "Nay, my lord, the old tradition
Of your Normans, by some worthier hand than mine is, should be won."
"Ah, that white hand," he said quickly,—and in this he either drew it
Or attempted—for with gravity and instance she replied,—
"Nay, indeed, my lord, this talk is vain, and we had best eschew it,
And pass on like friends, to other points less easy to decide."
Here is the conclusion of "The Hand of Stone":
I'll wed thee—but the faith I give
Is brittle, for the heart
I cannot plight, 'tis not my right,
It is another's part.
Then take the worthless pledge I hold,
This hand is mine alone;
A craver he, no man like thee,
Would claim it as his own.
As the legend runs, the stalwart knight
Grasped the hand with a warrior's might,
As 'twere not flesh and bone!
The maiden trembled, the knight grew pale,
The chapel echoed a fearful wail,
The hand of the knight was stone!
As near as I can determine, it was the previous year, 1849, that Mathew formally called it quits with his second, arranged marriage, which had been pressed upon him by his mother a year after Abby's death. I suspect that plays into it, too.
I continue to write personal e-mails to English professors across the country, whose biographical sketches indicate that their areas of interest might coincide with my findings. The only one I've heard back from, was a mistake on my part--she specialized in helping students avoid plagiarizing, rather than in historical incidents of plagiarism. She correctly (albeit tersely) advised me that it wasn't in her area. Other than that, it is one big stoney silence, so far. And this is what I expect, having done this to promote my reincarnation documentary many years ago. Then, I wrote to professors in philosophy, religion, psychology and a couple other disciples. I received only three or four replies, then, some of which were quite unpleasant.
The truth is that most of these professors only think they are wise. They are actually faking it, by using big words. When my son, Peter, was little, I explained to him that any time a person uses a big word, you can usually find a little word which means exactly the same thing; and never to be intimidated by this practice. There are a relatively handful of professors out there who actually have insight into their chosen subject, and into life. Most have built an elaborate edifice around their ignorance--no doubt, as they perceive me!
The other project I have going--now that I have finished keying in all my new discoveries from the Ant. Society--is creating a video. I have seen any number of "Top 10" videos on YouTube--you know, the top ten scariest photographs of all time, etc. I've been feeling for some time that I should produce one, so I'm going to create "The 10 Strongest Proofs that Mathew Franklin Whittier, not Edgar Allan Poe, Wrote 'The Raven.'" I have the first two written out, but this is going to take some time. Should be fun, though. When I get done, I think I'll post a link to it on YouTube everywhere there is a reading of "The Raven," or a reference to it. Of course I'll provide a copy here, for you guys (all 3.3 of you, now).
Lest it sound like I am meeting with failure at every turn, I got tenative confirmation, yesterday, for three interviews--one of them television, and another with a fairly prominent public figure. That makes four pending (a fourth, in the UK, is already locked in for next month). Things are not going badly, at all--it's just that it seems like I'm going nowhere, because the inertia is huge.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page, theme from the film, "The Young Victoria,"
by Sinead O'Connor