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7/10/19
I've been poking around the historical record regarding Edgar Allan Poe's supposed authorship of "The Raven," and I just found what is probably the strongest clue yet, indicating it was originally written by Mathew Franklin Whittier.

I had a feeling I should be looking at the little revisions that Poe made to the poem, when he published it in his own newspaper, the "Evening Mirror." And I did learn something else interesting while I was in there--supposedly, he, himself, could have actually set the type for its appearance in the "Mirror." But here's what I discovered.

One of the changes Poe made occurs in the ninth stanza. The original reads:

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning--little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no sublunary being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door--
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
    With such name as "Nevermore."

And note this is a joke. In the midst of crushing grief, Mathew is making a joke, that he mistakes the bird's name for "Nevermore." Mathew was a humorist, who used humor to manage his deepest emotions. Poe was not (nor was Poe even grieving when he supposedly wrote the poem).

But that isn't my clue. Now, read the stanza as Poe altered it:

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning--little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door--
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
    With such name as "Nevermore."

"Sublunary," given its normal accenting, is awkward, here; so the poet must have had a particular attachment to the word, unusual as it is. It so happens that this was one of Mathew's favorite words. In my digitized collection of his works--which totals, now, over 1,600 works--I find that he uses "sublunary" in ten different pieces; and a deliberately misspelled version, "subloonary," in seven, with "subloonerary" in an eighth. The eight mispelled instances all occur in Mathew's historically known series, "Ethan Spike." Of the others, one is also in "Spike"; three are written under pseudonyms I have definitely identified as Mathew's; one of them is a one-off pseudonym in a paper he was frequently contributing to, which by style I am reasonably certain is his; and five are unsigned. Of the unsigned works, two are in this same paper (the New York "Constellation"), and given that I have determined Mathew was the acting junior editor for that paper, and often didn't sign his editorial work for it, these, also, are undoubtedly his. Two of them appear in the New York "Transcript," which had the same editor-in-chief (Asa Greene); and of these, one is part of Mathew's police office report series, and is definitely his. In 1851, "sublunary" occurs in a brief commentary in the Boston "Carpet-Bag," and by context and style is also undoubtedly Mathew's.

There is no authorship question with regard to the eight cartoonishly-spelled instances in "Ethan Spike."

That's 22 instances total. So far as I know, this was a relatively uncommon adjective, even in the mid 19th-century. I challenge you to find 23 instances in Poe's work, or that of any other writer of the period.

Take this discovery, together with the 15 (as of yesterday, 16) other clues pointing to Mathew's authorship of this poem, and I think the message is clear.

As I dig further into the history of this poem, I'm seeing Poe as a very active, and devious, participant in this historical error. It appears that he not only contrived to publish the poem in his own newspaper, scooping Mathew's publication in "American Review"--but he also tried to get it republished either in, or by, "American Review" under his own name. I just glanced at that in passing--I may have it wrong. But somehow he approached the literati, including N.P. Willis, to convince them that he was the author of the poem, to be sure that its subsequent reprintings bore his name, rather than Mathew's pseudonym, "---- Quarles."

So he was very busy promoting himself as the author. He didn't just rest with scooping its first appearance in "American Review." Scholars, strangely enough, can't seem to find these original documents; just as they can't find the original handwritten copy of "The Raven," itself.

Even at the time, had Mathew come out publicly and claimed the poem as his own, people would have laughed at him. And with a century and a half of scholarship and debate piled on to of the original controversy, that situation has only gotten worse. I'm back, but now that I'm finally speaking out, they are all laughing at me. Most snort in derision and delete my letter with the rest of the spam; some write me back with condescension, or incrudility; some write back in a kindly and patronizing tone. Not a single professor considered the possibility that I could be right. A few have watched my evidence videos all the way through; some (the average) merely suffered through the first six minutes, or even less.

"But they were all of them deceived."

Best regards,

Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.

 

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