I'm actually writing this the afternoon of the 7th, after having posted an Update this morning. But I just made an incredible discovery today, and I have to share it. Per usual, I won't give all the details, which is reserved for the reader who purchases my book, "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own words." That's not so much to tease anybody, or to drive sales, as it is to retain my own self-resepect.
So, I can't give the full background, here; but if you look up a Boston humor newspaper called the "Carpet-Bag," published from 1851 to 1853, you will find that the editor was B.P. Shillaber, creator of the "Mrs. Partington" character. You may find that Mark Twain wrote his first humorous piece for that paper, in 1852, as a 16-year-old boy. You may find that the most popular recurring characters were one "Ensign Stebbings," a parody of the pro-military mentality (who subsequently was made to run for President, the way Pat Paulsen did); and Dr. E. Goethe Digg, a lampoon of academia, and in particular, academic philosophers. You will see that all of these came under the umbrella pseudonym, "Trismegistus," and that they were attributed to a career teacher and school principal, Benjamin Drew. You may even find the editor, Shillaber, quoted as saying this in his memoirs.
I knew this was wrong, because I knew that I, in my past life as Mathew Franklin Whittier, was writing as "Trismegistus," and created all these spin-offs. I had quite a bit of circumstantial evidence, including getting into Drew's private papers and seeing that he couldn't possibly have written it--despite the fact that one of the "Trismegistus"-signed poems (or two, I can't recall, now) ended up in his diary, claimed by himself in his own diary. Apparently, some people will actually plagiarize a poem to themselves, or modify it just a tiny bit and so claim it is theirs, now. If you think that what I'm doing is downright unhealthy, I think that lying to yourself in your own diary, to make yourself feel important, is downright unhealhy. But he was one of these milk-toast boring ordinary steady kind of guys, apparently, and he wanted to spice himself up a bit. I don't know why he did it, actually.
He wrote a book of interviews with escaped slaves in Canada, after (as I recall) his school closed, as a money-making idea which would also help people; but he lost money on it. His last great work after he left teaching, and after the demise of the "Carpet-Bag," was a book about the fine points of type and typesetting, as I recall. I mean, the entire claim that he could have written "Trismegistus"--if you really look at those pieces--was absurd. But hand-and-glove, they are precisely Mathew Franklin Whittier's style.
Today, I was going through the 1835 editions of the New York "Transcript," which Mathew wrote for as a young man. I won't repeat what I've said about that, in the last several entries.
Now, sometimes, when I stumble upon a knock-your-socks-off piece of evidence, I don't feel shocked. I just stare at it matter-of-factly, thinking, "Oh. That's interesting. Look at that."
It happened today, because I stumbled across two poems, in this 1835 newspaper which I knew Mathew was submitting to and had recently been working for, signed "Trismegistus."* They were Mathew's work, I was certain of it. He was using this signature 17 years before it appeared in "The Carpet-Bag," and almost as many years before those two poems appeared in Benjamin Drew's diary.
Now, the weak link in this chain would be proving that these two were Mathew's poems, and not Drew's, or a coincidence (Mathew and Drew were the same age). But all the circumstantial evidence lines up. Without trying to prove it to you, per se, here's the scenario at the time.
Mathew and his beloved Abby, four years younger, were promised to each other; but Mathew was in New York City trying to get established as a merchant. At the same time, he was working for a newspaper to sustain himself, and thus, learning that craft as well. She was not happy about the situation; and she was a chess player, when her back was to the wall. Her father was the one keeping her apart, and forcing Mathew to prove himself before asking for her hand. But she didn't like that he was in this den of inequity. So after a little over a year, he comes home to visit her for her birthday. At this same time, the wealthy friend he had been working for as a sales agent (in the shoe manufacturing business), gives him a full partnership--in name, at least, if not in actuality. But after about three weeks, he decides to return to New York. She is not pleased, not at all. They have a squabble about it, and she may even have said, "Choose NY, or me."
Abby had been tutoring Mathew, not only on the classics, but also on high mysticism, including Alchemy and Hermeticism. She believed in reincarnation; he did not. In fact, he had a great sense of humor, but didn't take all of this stuff with full seriousness--not until he was much older, would he do so. Now, he liked being tutored by her; he very much wanted a classical education, which his poverty and the necessity of working the family farm had denied him; but he was just "so-so" about the metaphysics. Along with the metaphysics, Abby taught him Nature mysticism (it was the Romantic era), and probably urged him to become a vegetarian. Later, he would actually embrace that, as well, but now he made fun of it.
So the first poem is a lampoon of vegetarianism and Nature worship, inasmuch as he writes about how much he appreciates "Nature" in the different flavors of meat. Then, he gets serious--or as serious as he gets, anyway--and tells her he is very upset that she has turned away from him. My gut feeling is that she is pretending to turn away from him, and pretending to give him an ultimatum, to induce him to move back to their home town. I am not finished going through all of 1835; but his contributions to the paper in New York become spotty after he returns, and while he must be traveling as a partner in the business to other cities besides New York, her ploy may have worked.
The poems are reprinted from New Haven, Conn. But in 1834, Mathew wrote a series of faux letters to the editor from one "Mrs. Higginbottom," who traveled to Hartford, Conn. by way of New Haven. Mathew would take his own experiences, and disguise them, turning them into a humorous sketch, with the skeleton of the thing taken from real life. So he, himself, must have travelled to Hartford, stopping over in New Haven. My guess is he met the editor of the local paper there, who invited him to submit something, sometime. So now, while on vacation visiting Abby, he wrote these poems, and remembering that offer, did, in fact, submit them to the New Haven paper. He then made sure they were reprinted in the New York paper.
So this doesn't come up to the level of proof, for anybody except that person who reads my entire book with an open mind. That person will see all the dots connected. The problem with proof, is that you end up trying to prove your theory to someone who can't be bothered to read your work properly. They want you to convince them against their stubborn will, with a few pieces of evidence which match their attenuated attention span. And it can't be done. But that doesn't mean I haven't proven my case. It means you can't prove anything to anyone against their stubborn will, when they only care enough to look at a fraction of your evidence.
"Trismegistus" was Mathew's pseudonym in honor of Abby's tutoring in high metaphysics. During her lifetime, when they were both young, it was a joke. But later on, years after she had passed, it was a real tribute. Benjamin Drew was, by his diary and unpublished autobiography, a sort of "reformed Calvinist," the way some people are "reformed Catholics." He had broken away from his father's (or mother's?) strict Calvinism, and had adopted a lukewarm variety. But there is no indication whatsoever that he would identify with, or choose, the name "Trismegistus." On the other hand, there is a great deal of back-story indicating that Mathew Franklin Whittier would do so.
Today, a friend came over to pick up a CD of some talks I had copied for him. He is writing a biography having to do with mysticism and spirituality; he is well-acquainted with reincarnation theory. Since he was briefly in my office, I took a chance and showed him the five copies I recently purchased of the 1831 newspaper, the New York "Constellation," that Mathew contributed to when he was only 17 years old. I said, as I recall, "See these old newspapers? I wrote for them in a previous reincarnation, in 1831." His immediate response was, "Oh, did you have a reading?" I answered--but do you know the feeling, when you can tell you've already lost someone? I said, "Well, actually, I had two readings, but I did eight years of research, and I proved it many times over."
Nothing. No reaction. As said, I had already lost him, and he didn't hear anything I said. He was satisfied with answering his own question, "Oh, did you have a reading?" In other words, he didn't believe me. Not for half-a-half-a-second.
If this person can't take me seriously--if he has this knee-jerk reaction and tunes me out--it's no wonder everybody else does. But just wait. I know I'm right, so it's just a matter of time before people start to figure out what I've been saying for years and years, now. The shift from "he's imagining it" to "he's really done this" is, as they say, "just a step away."
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*Actually, they were back-to-back, and one of them was signed "Trismegistus"; it appears to have been a newspaper convention to use the signature for only one poem, when two from the same author were presented in this way.
Music opening this page: "Don't Cry, Baby,"
by The Free Design, from the album, "Sing for Very Important People"