I'm expermenting with a new online transcribing gig, which is very stressful (in a totally different way from my caretaking work), so I can't put a lot of time into this. However, I wanted to present another series of Mathew Franklin Whittier's work across a number of pseudonyms, newspapers, and his career.
Mathew had a penchant for introducing his characters to each other; or, to characters created by other authors. He also brought them into his real life, and had them echo his own activities, or the people he actually met. What follows is a sampling, from which a host of implications may be drawn. All those implications--or as many as I could glean (because I probably haven't caught all of them), are in my books. Here, I'm just going to present them with a very brief commentary, and you can ferret out the rest. If you've kept up with this blog, you will see them, yourself.
Once again we'll go in chronological order. As I've explained recently, Mathew was the author, as near as I can tell, of all the books attributed to Asa Greene in the period of 1833-1834. That includes the satire, "Travels in America" (of which I own a physical copy). Here, in 1833, his visiting British character, George Fibbleton, an insufferable snob, meets Mathew's earlier characters, "Joe (or Jo.) Strickland," and "Enoch Timbertoes." Some scholars attempt to credit George W. Arnold with Strickland, and Asa Green with Timbertoes. He also meets "Major Jack Downing," written by Seba Smith. The context is symbolic--Fibbleton attempts to claim their respective assigned settees, or deck chairs, and each of them kick him out, in turn. The symbolism should be obvious, but in this context it has to do with spurious claims to authorship. I am assuming, however, that Mathew is not inferring that he was also the author of "Major Jack Downing." I have assumed, rather, that Smith was, in part, imitating "Joe Strickland." "Enoch Timbertoes" was probably taken as an imitation of "Downing," when in fact, "Downing" was inspired by "Strickland," and "Timbertoes" was simply a revisiting of "Strickland" by the original author. Mathew essentially recreated this character in 1847, for New York humor magazine "Yankee Doodle," with the character "Joshua Greening."
That wasn't the end of it, however. Mathew launched "Ethan Spike" for the Portland "Transcript" and the Boston "Chronotype" in 1846; and then in 1850, for the Boston "Weekly Museum," Mathew created another rustic character named "Jedediah Simpkins." I think I'll provide the links at the bottom, and proceed with the description. Mathew became personal friends with Ossian Dodge, the man credited by historians for the "Museum's" travelogue, signed "Quails." Mathew was the real author of "Quails," which I have painstakingly proven in my first book. In the Jan. 19, 1850 edition, "Simpkins" meets Dodge.
While we're at it, look at the letter just preceding the "Simpkins" letter. This is a fellow-contributor, Mrs. H. Marion Stephens. If you read the opening, you'll see she is a racist (as was Dodge)--and if you look at the closing, you'll see that she is starting the rumor that Dodge is "Quails." This is the origin of the attribution that historians insist is fact--a spurious rumor. "Quails" was known as the "Flying Correspondent," and the pun about having two of them being a "dodge," was a reference to Ossian Dodge, whose nickname was "The Dodge." Mathew would have especially wished to keep his identity hidden from racists like this, because they had contacts with the more deadly kind; while he was secretly working for William Lloyd Garrison, and in fact was friends with Frederick Douglass. He would not have set Mrs. Stephens straight on this.
Continuing, here, "Quails" meets "Ethan Spike" in the Dec. 7, 1850 edition. Here, "Quails" first visits Edwin Plummer, editor of the new Portland "Eclectic." The route they take from Plummer's office, along Exchange Street, to "Spike's" place, is, in fact, the route to Mathew's flat in Portland, on the corner of Pearl and Congress Streets. I have walked it, myself. I know this is correct, because there is a brief notice in the papers about that flat catching fire. That's another story, because I felt it was arson, and in the context, I was probably right. Note at the end of this piece, there is a "bore" (i.e., a probably a fan) whom Mathew seemingly can't get rid of. This same theme is used in his unsigned parody of "The Raven," entitled "The Vulture," which was published in the Dec. 18, 1852 edition of the "Carpet-Bag." That poem is often misattribued by scholars to Robert Barnabas Brough. Mathew wrote frequently on this subject, including as "Dr. E. Goethe Digg" in the "Carpet-Bag" (which series scholars erroneously attribute to Benjamin Drew).
It's true, I do experience a certain glee in pointing out these scholastic boo-boos. But really, where Mathew's work is concerned, it's a huge mess that needs to be cleaned up. It's as though there was a yard sale of Mathew's belongings, and about 25 people bought his stuff and claimed it as their own. Some of it was so valuable that they became rich and famous from it; some wasn't so much appreciated. But his legacy needs to be retrieved, properly attributed, and organized. I'm doing this work single-handedly, today; but I hope it will live after me, and be preserved.
Now we move to Mathew's character "Ethan Spike" meeting David Ross Locke's imitation of Spike, Petroleum V. Nasby. Mathew must have been ambivalent about it, because very much as he did with "Major Jack Downing" in "Travels," he caricatures Nasby, as well as poking fun at Locke's reputation for being a heavy drinker. I don't have a pdf of this one readily available, so I'll have to link to an rtf file.
Finally, I have determined that for several decades, Mathew was the anonymous reporter for talks given under the auspices of the Mercantile Library Association in Portland, Maine, published in the "Transcript." Mathew continued reporting the series even after he moved to Boston in 1861; but he gradually tapered off, until the last one I found was in the 1875 edition. Here, in the Jan. 10, 1874 edition, he reports on himself, or rather, on his character, "Ethan Spike," giving a talk on Cuba. From numerous clues (one of which I shared with you recently), it seems that as a boy, Mathew went to sea, only to be dropped off in Cuba until a returning ship could bring him home. Further clues suggest that his weak stomach--a life-long problem--wasn't up to the seafaring life. Apparently it was arranged for him to work for a shop owner, as he had also done when he first ran away from home to New York City, at age 12.
All that will keep you busy, and now I have to get busy, myself, typing up someone else's work. The pay comes out to about $5/hour, and I'd have to work seven days a week for quite some hours per day.* And it takes a lot of concentration. But I would get to stay at home, and the only ass I'll have to wipe is my own. Probably worth it. This is what you (i.e., generic "you") do to me by marginalizing me, when I am trying to present the truth for the benefit of the awakening of Society to a brighter day.
Travels in America
You know how I said that I may not have caught all of Mathew's coded references? I was just glancing at page 134 of "Travels in America," where Joe Strickland comes up to claim his settee. Did you notice the number of the settee? Fourteen. That's how old Mathew was in 1828, when he was writing this series (having launched it at age 12). Don't know if it's meaningful or not, but since almost every little detail in Mathew's work is a reference of some kind, it probably is.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
P.S. Those of you who want objective measurements, I signed up for an editing/proofreading freelance website, today, and I took a "word usage" test. I completed the 40-minute test in 9 minutes, and scored in the top 10% (I think some of the items I missed were arbitrary). But I didn't understand any of the technical terms of grammar. I just read the test examples and knew what should go in the blanks. It's all past-life skills carrying over. I've only had the normal English classes, and I really didn't pay much attention in school, anyway.
*I don't think it's viable, because they pressure you to do an inhumanly good job, but in the training period, the competition is so fierce that only the nearly-inaudible recordings are left to choose from (which several people have already rejected as substandard); and then, the algorithm grades you and warns you that if you don't improve, the software will soon freeze you out. Welcome to AI... There are human evaluators, but some of them aren't too bright. As part of my training, I transcribed a short kiddie cartoon with sparse dialogue like "Wow!" "Pearls!" "It's a mermaid!" The evaluator indicated I shouldn't over-use exclamation marks. It's a damn cartoon--the entire dialogue, such as it is, is nothing but exclamatory statements! (@#%*!!)
Music opening this page: "Awaken," by Eric Johnson,
from the album, "Up Close"