I just made another discovery, and it came about this way...
I was writing a letter to Pete Townshend,...do I need to explain that? Pete is a follower of my Guru. I used to work for a fellow (now passed on) who knew him personally; and I am e-mail friends with another. If I'm going to try everything, I might as well try that--not asking for money, but rather, for introductions. Because I can call Oprah, or Deepak Chopra, and get the gatekeeper--but somebody like Pete would be put through.
So there was a particular "Ethan Spike" piece by Mathew Franklin Whittier that I wanted to share with him--Spike's 1870 ignorant hate speech about white supremacy (Mathew was way ahead of his time), and I had to get a photograph of it from the original volume, which is in one of the boxes holding up my electric piano. While I was in there, I noticed a number of art-and-literature reviews signed "M.D.W." I had already seen one of those in 1874, and had determined it was probably Mathew's. In the early 1830's, he had signed as "D.", which probably either stood for "devil" (as in a printer's devil), or perhaps Diogenes--or both. In any case, one or the other was his "middle name," and he apparently decided to make it his middle initial, so as to remain incognito and yet almost sign with his actual initials. This was bread-and-butter work. Not too many years before this, in 1866, he was freelancing as a bookkeeper for his brother's publisher, Ticknor & Fields. So this series was, no-doubt, to generate a little supplementary income.
Now, I felt that this was Mathew's voice--that it was his mind behind it, and his accustomed style. But it's difficult to be certain about these things. I have always tried to err on the side of caution. I'm sure when I tell university professors that I have identified over 1,600 published works from a writer whom historians only credit with 70 or so, that they're thinking to themselves, "He's just grabbing at anything that looks remotely similar, and claiming it for his subject." Ah, the skeptical mind. But I do no such thing. I always put any such proposed material through the skeptical acid bath.
Just so with M.D.W. So, I'm keying in the second one, and the author is waxing eloquent about a particular painting by Raphael (you know, like the Ninja Turtle--that Raphael, the one he's named after). When suddenly I get the whim to look it up, as I sometimes do. And--if I remember the workings of my mind--as I was looking it up, it occurred to me, "You know, if Mathew likes a particular painting, and tells us he owns a copy, it probably reminds him of Abby." Abby being Mathew's beloved first wife, who at this point, had died almost 30 years previously.
Or maybe I saw the painting first, and then it hit me. In any case, she looks a lot like Abby. Not only that, she is with two babies--and Mathew and Abby had lost two young children, the second one only two weeks before she, herself, died. So to Mathew, it's an image of Abby with their two children--his first family.
This is the author of "The Raven." If soul-mate love is sublime, soul-mate grief is like a Mack truck running over an ant. You can feel it in the song Randy Travis sings to open this page. And it is just the same, 30 years later. (In fact, it was the still the same in my present-life childhood.)
Now look at the expert he quotes. He tells us this is from "Wonders of Italian Art," and I'm picking up toward the end:
I visited the Pitti Palace, as I did the rest of Italy and Europe, in the company of one keenly alive to the beautiful in all the arts, and in every style. We stood long before this picture, devouring it with our gaze, and when at length we turned to each other we found that the eyes of each were filled with tears. There is a point where admiration, like extreme joy, assumes almost an agony of grief.
That is where Mathew chooses to end a long quote--and this is why he chose the quote, to begin with. It's code. No-one--except himself, in the 21st century--would ever know what it meant to him.
Here is a comparison between the only portrait I ever found of Abby, and Raphael's "Madonna of the Chair," a copy of which Mathew tells us he owned.
I want you to understand how I do my research. When I read that full quote, and I saw the part about seeing the painting in Italy, I thought this was Mathew, himself, relating a story. Mathew toured Europe only one time that I'm aware of, in 1851. He was unable to reach Italy due to some confusion about visas or papers. So unless he had gone back and I didn't know about it (which is unlikely, as a storm and the resulting seasickness, combined with his perpetually weak stomach, literally almost killed him on the return voyage in 1851), this couldn't possibly be Mathew. I want you to know I was on the point of forcing myself to give M.D.W. up, as Mathew's work. And I would have done it. I would have gone back into my sequel, and left a record of my mistake--because it would be grist for the mill, part of the evidence. If I intuitively felt that was Mathew's writing, and the evidence subsequently proved it couldn't possibly be, then that's evidence.
But then I realized he was quoting someone else who had been to Italy, and I was safe. I won't sit here and pretend to you that I wasn't relieved! But for the sake of rigorous scholarship and research, I would have done my duty.
My methods have been rigorous, as I keep saying they have been, and I deserve respect for that. Not unthinking ridicule, by people who assume that I must be indulging in magical thinking, and that my "research" must be amateurish. I don't deserve for people to snort in derision, and not even bother to look at my evidence.
It really makes me wonder what we pass up in life, by making snap judgments about things...
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
P.S. It occurred to me today (the 3rd), that this was Mathew's modus operandi, to retain pieces of artwork which reminded him of Abby. That's because he had, as I gather, given away the one portrait he had of her, in a fit of Stoicism, and while in the "numb" phase of early grief. This, he regretted--and so he waxed eloquent in his writing about, and retained copies of, artwork which resembled her, for the rest of his life. It was in precisely this spirit which he owned a copy of the bust of Pallas, and I can prove that it reminded him of her, because B.P. Shillaber mocked him about it in his "Blifkins the Martyr" series. Here is the page from which Mathew pulled his quote; but he would have owned a more accurate, full-color copy such as the one you see, above.
Do you see how all this evidence ties together in a complicated tapestry? It is very difficult for me to pull out a succinct series of "smoking guns" to satisfy the skeptics. I was able to do it in my videos about "The Raven"--but now I can't get anyone to take me seriously enough to watch them. These videos should provide ample justification for setting aside the time and energy for that adventure. It isn't my job to shout louder than my competition--it's up to others to have the required discernment to see that my work is genuine and significant.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page, "Life of the Party," performed by Randy Travis
in a guest appearance on "Matlock"