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5/8/19

My stats tell me that only a little over two people are hitting the Archives (i.e., entry) page--but that someone, apparently, is directly sharing the evidence, i.e., my pdfs of Mathew's work in various period newspapers.

Here's half a smoking gun. Or you might call it a very warm gun. I'll make this as concise as possible. That means I have to make assertions, for which I do have evidence, but I can't give all that background, here.

This is from an 1848 book entitled "Stray Subjects, Arrested and Bound Over: Being the Fugitive Offspring of the 'Old 'Un' and the 'Young 'Un,' that have been 'Lying Round Loose,' and are now 'Tied Up' for Fast Keeping." It was ostensibly written by Francis A. Durivage and George P. Burnham. In actuality, Durivage must have stolen Mathew Franklin Whittier's portfolio, or workbook, containing treatments, anecdotal character sketches, observational notes, and a few polished stories that hadn't been published, yet. These subjects were "lying round," alright--but they didn't belong to the authors. Some of them seem to go back to the 1830's, while some were more recent. Most of this, I think, Mathew did not want to be published, including an early racist lampoon of crib notes for Shakespeare's "Othello."

Because I know when and where Mathew was publishing in what newspapers, I have his personal and professional chronology. And while Mathew tried to cover his tracks, in one of these stories he lets too many details slip. Too many, that is, if you have the information on him that I do.

This story is entitled "How We Smoked Him Out." The gist is that two young men, who share a room in a boarding house, literally smoke out a "transient gentleman from the West Indies," who has been lodged in the room's third bed. I can't speak for the second man's prejudices, but where Mathew is concerned, I think by age 22, his objection is that a similar transient had ripped him off recently. It would be very easy to do in a boarding house, so long as you were leaving the city, anyway.

Now let's compare the facts given in this story, with the data I have on Mathew.

In the story, we know that the narrator lived in a boarding house in New York City, in the 1830's. We know that he was a young man of 20, or not much more, and that as of that time, he had been in the City for four months. We also know that the events described take place in July.

What I know of Mathew, is that as of 1848, when this book was published, he had lived in New York City on four occasions--from 1825 to 1828; from late 1829 to mid 1832; from 1834 to the fall of 1835; and from late 1845 to mid-1846. I know he lived in boarding houses. I know that he wrote, from 1834 to fall of 1835, for the New York "Transcript"'; and, finally, I know that his birthday was on July 18. He was born in 1812, so on July 18, 1834, he was 22 years old.

His first published piece in the New York "Transcript" appears in the April 7, 1834 edition. If he arrived in New York the previous month, giving him time to get settled in before his first article was published, he would have been 21 when he arrived; and as of his 22nd birthday, he would have been in the City for four months.

This sketch is written precisely in Mathew's style, including the dialect. I could literally present hundreds of similar ones, many of them under completely verified pseudonyms.

As said, this isn't quite a smoking gun--but it means that Mathew is certainly not disqualified from being the author. Mathew wrote from real life (his or someone else's, but mostly his). This story is signed by George P. Burnham, and I have no particular reason to believe that Burnham's itinerary matches this story. He and Durivage simply weren't counting on someone who knew Mathew's personal history as well as I do, to come upon this book.

Finally, note that evidence like this cuts both ways. Since there are many clues indicating that Francis Durivage plagiarized Mathew's work and published it, both in the newspapers and in book form, this also provides evidence that Mathew was, indeed, living in New York City in 1834, and writing for Asa Greene's New York "Transcript." That means he had a professional relationship with Greene, which makes it more likely he was writing and editing for Greene's previous paper, the New York "Constellation"; and it also makes it more likely that it was Mathew, not Greene, who wrote a series of books in 1833/34 (between the two newspapers).

It means that while some might assume I'm just grasping at straws, my evidence goes very, very deep. And note that if I'm right about Durivage, and Greene, I'm probably right about Poe, and Dickens, and Fuller, as well. Occasionally I'm wrong, and if so I readily admit it, as I did, yesterday (I just added the disclaimer to yesterday's entry, this morning).

Best regards,

Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.

 

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