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5/5/19

Let's take one more sampling from the evidence for Mathew Franklin Whittier's authorship of some of this work, that I am claiming for him. We will see, once again, that at least where MFW is concerned, the academicians have been mistaken. I've been over this material before, but I don't think I've juxtaposed these particular pieces of evidence.

Above we have an item in a British paper relating to the recent death of Mathew's brother, John Greenleaf Whittier. It comes from the Sept. 26 1892 edition of the "Yorkshire Evening Post," appearing in a column headed "Gossip of the Day"--which is appropriate, because the details are distorted. However, there is information in it which was redacted from the official Whittier legacy, and I am in a position to sift through it. The quote is from a U.S. reporter named Charles O. Stickney, who tricked Mathew into thinking he was a visiting fan, when Mathew was working at the Boston Custom House in his later years. Whatever Mathew had actually said about his relationship with his brother, ostensibly off the record, this is the quote that Stickney gave his readers. Certainly, he wasn't asked if he was "any relation." This was publicly known. Here's the relevant portion of the original article, re-used by Stickney in the Feb. 5, 1899 Boston "Sunday Herald":

Something isn't quite right about this. Personally, I think the word "relationship" has been substituted, as journalistic sensationalism, for something more benign like "similarity." But it does tell us there was a rumor afloat that the Whittier brothers were estranged, which, again, you will not see in the Whittier lore. There, you will only find dark hints that Mathew was the black sheep of the family, that he was a hack writer, that he admitted he couldn't write poetry, etc. You will also see--including in this article--that they insisted he liked to be called "Frank," whereas my immediate gut reaction was that he specifically disliked being called by that name. He deeply admired his namesake, Benjamin Franklin, and to him, it was disrespectful to use the shortened form. Only his immediate family referred to him as "Franklin" (not in addressing him directly, as near as I can tell), based on some superstition of his mother's about not using the boy's first name lest the devil hear it, or something like that. Or so my own past-life impressions tell me, and I've found quite a bit of supporting evidence.

Mathew had two sisters--an older sister named Mary, and a younger named Elisabeth. The Whittier legacy spells her name with a "z," but she signed with an "s." Mathew signed with a single "t" in "Mathew"--you will find it both ways in the Whittier lore. I would guess that Mathew did not routinely lose bores in the street. Certainly, he wouldn't have done it in the tiny town of Amesbury, Mass., where Elisabeth lived. But probably he did it on one occasion, say, in Boston, and this became the basis for the sort of humorous anecdote, drawn from real life, which Mathew loved.

This article does, however, tell us that he disliked bores--and "bores" would include fans, i.e., people who had ferreted him out as the author of his series, "Ethan Spike."

Why? There are two reasons. Mathew was a deeply-sensitive, politically radical literary genius, who had studied both literature and metaphysics all his life. He enjoyed the association of like-minded, comparably-astute people, while conversation that was superficial, worldly, hypocritical, cruel or conservative was painful to him. Mathew was hardly on a par with the likes of Sri Ramakrishna, but a similar report is on record for him, that he tired of the conversation of worldly people, and longed for the appearance of the young men who would become his earnest disciples. Mathew's feelings were along these same lines. In reality, it is rarely because the person is simply boring. "Bore," in other words, is a term of convenience.

There are many more indications of this theme, and this is the first one I'm aware of, in the Nov. 16, 1827 edition of the "New-England Galaxy." Mathew was 15 years old at this time, and he is signing with a variation of his "Peter Pumpkin" pseudonym, in this case with a single letter "P." I would have provided a pdf, but I can't find the photographic original on this one.

The article is entitled "Thoughts On Bores," and you see that this first one takes a conciliatory tone. As for "Mr. Rush," an actual historical figure, Mathew could not have met him in London (if Mathew is, indeed, the author). We see that as of this date, he lives in Charlestown, a suburb of Boston. He has moved from New York City, to which he had run away from home at age 12. (Using the same signature, he also writes a final good-bye to the girl who had spurned him, back home, around this same time.) "Mr. Rush" is probably Richard Rush, who was the U.S. minister to Great Britain from 1817-1825. Perhaps Mathew met him in New York City when he was there from 1825 to 1827, and is resorting to literary license regarding London, in order to tacitly identify his subject. Mathew may have seen him speak and met him afterwards, or met him at a party, and found him condescending. This would be his revenge.

There are many other examples, but let's focus on a few which show just how far off the academicians (or, to use Sylvie Ivanova's term, the "penguins") can be, on some of these literary attributions. Once again, we will go in order of publication date.

This is the second page of the "Quails" travelogue installment, which I recently shared in the context of "Quails" meeting "Ethan Spike." Here, he is in Portland, Maine, where he maintains his estranged second wife and their three children. And note that the Whittier legacy tells us--and his student biographer, Lloyd W. Griffin, dutifully echoes--that Mathew "abandoned his family." He did no such thing. The year they have for him supposedly ending his marriage and abandoning his family, is the year he was "outed" as the author of "Ethan Spike," 1857. That year his trading company failed, and he was blacklisted in Portland, at least as near as I can determine. At this point, he was unable to continue providing for his second family, and they were dispersed. But he had actually ended that relationship eight years early, in 1849--and he had been supporting them faithfully ever since, while renting a flat in Portland so he could visit his children.

So Mathew is in Portland, but his authorship of "Ethan Spike" is not general knowledge (any more than his authorship of "Quails" is publicly known). Someone, however, appears to have found him out, and thus holds a good deal of power over him. It would be very dangerous for Mathew to be exposed, at this time, because he is doing under cover work as a liaison for William Lloyd Garrison. So he is not happy about being tracked down; and the person appears to be some sort of goofball, who doesn't understand how delicate the situation is.

Note that, just as the British gossip column indicated, he tries to be civil, and even apologizes in his column for having lost his temper.

Now we turn to one of Mathew's pieces for the Boston "Carpet-Bag," written in the persona of his academic caricature, "Dr. E. Goethe Digg." Historians claim this for a career teacher and principle, Benjamin Drew. Through a researcher, I got into Drew's diary and unpublished autobiography, and this series wasn't written by Drew. All of these were spin-offs from a single pseudonym (as Mathew was wont to do), "Trismegistus." But Mathew had used this pseudonym for the "Galaxy" back in 1828, and again, at least once, for another paper in 1835. I could show you that evidence, but we're getting too far afield. "Dr. Digg" was Mathew's creation, not Drew's--even though editor B.P. Shillaber said it was, in black-and-white, in his memoirs.

I think "Treatment of Bore--Acute and Chronic" is one of Mathew's funniest pieces. Note that on the same page is a piece entitled "Stebbings in Indiana." This caricature of the pro-military mentality, Ensign Jehiel Stebbings, was also Mathew's creation. Other writers for the "Carpet-Bag" jumped on the bandwagon, but you can tell Mathew's contributions because he spells the character's title as "Insine," rather than "Ensign." Some of the imitators were not, in fact, anti-military, and they eventually took over the character and cleaned him up. These writers refused to give him the derogatory double entendre of "Insine Stebbings." (You can see how Mathew eventually got pushed out of this paper, with its conservative leadership--as a result of which the paper failed for general mediocrity, Mathew's imitators notwithstanding.)

Finally, we come to the real sauce of the thing--an unsigned poem entitled "The Vulture: An Ornithological Study." It first appeared, unsigned, in the Dec. 18, 1852 "Carpet-Bag." This is where the scholars must be prepared to eat a hefty piece of humble pie. It's a parody of "The Raven," considered to be one of the best. And no-wonder--because it was written by the original author of that poem, Mathew Franklin Whittier. Here, however, the subject is that of being plagued by a bore--and the poem is practically a retelling, in verse, of the incident related a couple years earlier by "Quails."

Historians never found this, the poem's premiere appearance. My discovery has been out for a few years, now, but so far as I know, nobody has picked up on it. One would think some enterprising scholar would claim it as his own discovery (the more things change, the more they stay the same), but I am so studiously ignored, that they won't even steal it from me, no less cite me.

Let's see what they say, online, today...

The University of Texas has a copy of it online, sans documentation. The "All Poetry" website also presents it, with the following historical explanation:

"The Vulture" is one of the earliest parodies of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven." It appeared unsigned in the December 1853 issue of "Graham's Magazine," where many of Poe's original poems, short stories and articles were published. Although the parody is uncredited, it shares a page with another poem by the noted American humorist John G. Saxe, who may possibly have been the author of "The Vulture" as well. In the poem, the "vulture" is a sponger or deadbeat who sets up residence in his friend's house and proceeds to terrify him in far more ingenious ways than Poe's raven did his reluctant host.

Graham unethically reprinted this poem, complete with illustrations, a year after it appeared in the then-defunct "Carpet-Bag," sans citation.

The University of Texas provides us another page about the poem, and they are kind enough to also show us a snippet of Poe's original manuscript of "The Raven," with his signature at the bottom:

This is presumably Poe's known handwriting--it certainly isn't Mathew's. Poe may have been deficient in moral character, but he was no dummy. Of course he would have copied it over, and signed it. But, I digress.

The Wikipedia article on Robert Barnabas Brough gives the following opinion:

Brough also penned a parody of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" called "The Vulture; An Ornithological Study" which was published in the December 1853 issue of Graham's Magazine, though he was not credited. The poem was later reprinted in William Evans Burton's Cyclopedia of Wit and Humor (1858), this time with his name attached. It was also published, however, a year earlier on the front page of the December 18, 1852 edition of The Carpet-Bag in Boston. In this earlier printing, it was also not credited, but this attribution to Brough is therefore uncertain.

I'm having trouble finding the academic sources for this attribution, but I did find a book in Archive.org entitled "Parodies and Imitations: Old and New," edited by J.A. Stanley Adam, first published in 1912, which attributes the poem to Brough. Here's the relevant page. Apparently, this attribution has been guessed at, based on the fact that the illustrations were in the style of British illustrator George Cruikshank. Cruikshank's humor magazine also ran "The Vulture"--sans the second illustration--in 1853. But the first appearance was in the "Carpet-Bag" in December of 1852. And obviously, I can prove it (If your skeptical mind is thinking I created the entire page in Photoshop, you are having delusions. Go order a copy for yourself.)

So how could Cruikshank's illustrations--including one that he didn't use, himself, in his own publication--appear in the American "Carpet-Bag" before it appeared in his own magazine? I'll tell you what I think must have happened. Mathew was in London during his European tour in 1851, writing as "Quails" for the Boston "Weekly Museum" (the column which historians have attributed to Ossian Dodge). He met with a number of prominent people on that tour, including British poet Sam Rogers, and Parisian author and activist Victor Hugo. He would also, typically, have met with the editors of the prominent humor magazines there in London, including "Punch" and "Cruikshanks" (he appears to have published a poem in "Punch" earlier that year, and in 1848 his "Ethan Spike" had appeared in Douglas Jerrold's Newspaper). He must have also met with illustrators on this trip, and made a tentative agreement for an oveseas collaboration.

I don't blame the historians, except that when one is making wild guesses, or even educated guesses, it behooves one to say so. But when rigorous scholars express appropriate uncertainty, less rigorous persons take it up as fact. Possession is 9/10ths of the law; and once an attribution has appeared in print, and been replicated a few times, it takes on a seeming legitimacy of its own.

Mathew Franklin Whittier was the original author of both "The Raven," and its best parody, "The Vulture." Mathew was a literary force in the 19th century who is entirely unaccounted for by historians. His work has been attributed to a wide variety of literary figures, from famous ones like Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe and Margaret Fuller, to lesser-known persons like Ossian Dodge, Benjamin Drew, Asa Greene and Francis Durivage. One pseudonym, however, was apparently taken as a real name--Waldo Howard, the signature on "The Mistake of a Lifetime." So far as I can tell, scholars didn't attempt to look behind it for the actual author. This, too, was Mathew Franklin Whittier, who has been credited only with his literary toy, "Ethan Spike." Even there, he hasn't been given credit for the other, similar characters he created--Joe Strickland, Enoch Timbertoes, Joshua Greening, and Jedediah Simpkins--nor has he been credited with originating that American genre, itself, in 1825.

Am I boring you? I have presented so much strong evidence, in this blog, that I should have convinced anyone who has stuck with it, and who isn't deep in denial. If I have convinced you, one would think you would be sharing it with others--some of whom, probably, would wish to steal it. But things travel fast on the internet. If I find that anybody is claiming these discoveries as his or her own, without properly crediting me and fully citing my work, I'll go into action immediately. For one thing, I'm lining up a few interviews, now, with some larger radio shows. Such attempts to claim my work would make for interesting material to share with them. I would, of course, be careful to just stick to facts on the air, without adding any editorial comment for which I might be sued.

Best regards,

Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.

 

Music opening this page: "Surfin' Bird," by The Trashmen,
from the album, "Re:Action--Coolest Songs Ever, Vol. I"

 

   

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