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5/9/19

Yesterday, I presented a story entitled "How We Smoked Him Out," by Mathew Franklin Whittier, plagiarized by George P. Burnham; found in an 1848 book published by Burnham and Francis Durivage, entitled "Stray Subjects Bound Over (etc.)" I remarked that it was written precisely in Mathew's known style, and that I could show you literally hundreds like it from his pen. I also mentioned that Mathew was, in fact, living in New York City (where the story is set), in a boarding house, and that he was writing for the New York "Transcript" under editor-in-chief, Asa Greene.

It occurred to me, this morning, to see if I could provide a matching style sample from the "Trancript," preferrably as close to the time depicted in the story as possible. This would be July of 1834. I don't remember, now, specifically which sketches are in the "Transcript," except I know that the bulk of his work for this paper was reporting the "blotter," or "Police Office." This he did with a wry sense of black humor, turning these reports into archetypal cautionary tales, laced with a deep sense of compassion for the underdog, as usual.

So this morning, I haven't looked in my archives before commencing this entry--shall we begin?

I'm going to go directly to the closest dates I can find, for July 1834. I see, first of all, a parody of a response to a personal ad (yes, they had them in the 1830's), dated June 28, 1834. I'll use it if there isn't something more nearly similar. I'll just minimize that on my desktop, and look some more...

Here's a very brief anecdote--just a "filler"--of two sailors on the street, dated Aug. 11. I'll show it to you, just to demonstrate Mathew's use of dialect.

Now I find a piece about May Day, which I had missed, before. It's published on the first, along with an early report from the Police Office. Both of these are similar in style, but I will keep going...

On May 3, is a brief piece in black dialect. At this age, Mathew included blacks among the ethnic groups (along with sailors) whom he mildly lampooned in their respective dialects. Before too many years had elapsed, he took them out of the list, presumably because pro-slavery forces were using them to promote a crueler agenda.

Let's go specifically to July, since we have so many to choose from. Here is an unsigned piece, which by style I am certain is Mathew's, entitled "Disagreement Between the Vanes." The copy is difficult to read, so I'll also give you the digitized version. The deeper philosophical message, of course, has to do with disagreements between the various denominations. This was published the day after Mathew's birthday--and roughly the time that the story of smoking out the new roommate took place. You will see that it leads out the front page. Mathew had been the acting junior editor for Asa Greene's previous New York paper, the "Constellation," so he may have occasionally freelanced in this capacity for Greene on the "Transcript," as well.

If I had to guess at it, I'd say that Mathew chose not to print the boarding house anecdote, because he would be too-easily identified. He might also have been concerned that it would be taken the wrong way, as a racist statement instead of a small triumph against the thieves and con-artists who were always getting the best of him. For both reasons, I think he never intended to publish it. It remained in his portfolio or workbook, until Francis Durivage stole it and published it without his approval.

Again, none of these pieces of evidence are necessarily convincing in isolation. The entire tapestry is convincing, however, as given in my book and its sequel.

Best regards,

Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.

 

 

   

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