Now we're getting into some far-out stuff, even for me--meaning, not having to do with reincarnation, but rather from the scholastic point of view. I'm in the realm of theory--but this is where my detective work is taking me. See if you think my logic holds.
I am perusing the New York "Evening Mirror," online, around early November and going back into October, of 1847. Within that range, yesterday, I found a piece of faux correspondence from "Ferdinand Mendez Pinto," ostensibly from Italy. I know this is Mathew Franklin Whittier, because he took up this same character in mid-1851, for the Boston "Carpet-Bag." Here is a screen capture of "Pinto" in the "Mirror," and then in the "Carpet-Bag," where Mathew is using it to attack fellow-contributor John C. Moore, who with his character "Peter Snooks," was blatantly imitating Mathew's work.*
Note that Mathew is speaking ironically as a character. He, himself, would align with the British abolitionists; and he would hardly have been interested in viewing the Coliseum (having been raised Quaker) with several ladies, by moonlight. Below is the tail end of his first attack on John C. Moore, in-character as Pinto. He is calling Moore a liar; but in-character, he is saying that Moore is in good company, since he is a better liar.
This morning, I ran across a letter from London, signed "B." I have seen that in the Boston "Chronotype" of April and May of 1849, Mathew used this signature for his "Gossip from Gotham" series--but only once. The rest of that series is unsigned. It's a continuation of his lengthy series of letters from New York City signed "X.F.W." (i.e., his initials with the letter "X" substituting for his first initial, "M."). But the subject-matter of the second series is riskier, inasmuch as he reports attending the meetings of anti-slavery societies, where he sees speeches by the leading figures in that movement. A second "B."-signed piece in the "Chronotype" is a scathing satirical poem entitled "Hang the Black Rascal," about the readiness of the law, and white society, to hang black people. So far as I can tell, Mathew never uses "B.", again.
In this range of the NY "Mirror," in late October and early November of 1847, I also see Mathew's single asterisk signature (a star), attached to a brief review of "The Columbian Magazine," which would be typical of his style. He says, for example, of one of the engravings, "It is intended as a fashion-plate--as an illustration of Lady's Riding Costume for the month, but is, in fact, a well-drawn and well grouped picture, embracing a lady, a gentleman and a horse. 'The Schoolmaster returning Home" is perhaps intended as a sly hit at the well-known schoolmaster who has been so long abroad." That's a reference to a much ridiculed quote by a British member of Parliament, regarding the importance of the "schoolmaster abroad," which I won't get into, here**--but the touch of wry humor tags it as Mathew's asterisk.
Now, here's my question--is it possible that Mathew, getting bored in New York, and being amused by the foreign correspondence, some of which he thinks is probably made up out of whole cloth when the papers don't have enough foreign copy, decides to pull a practical joke? Does he, in fact, make up his own foreign letters out of whole cloth, which are just absurd enough to be questionable, and attempt to pass them off as genuine?
I can't quite tell, from the editor's introduction to the Pinto letter, whether he is in on the joke, or not. It does seem a bit tongue-in-cheek:
Another Letter from Mr. Pinto.
We are happy to present the following interesting letter to our readers, which we received by the last arrival from our highly valued correspondent. It will serve as an answer to the many anxious enquiries that have been addressed us from different parts of the country, respecting Mr. Pinto's present whereabout. He is still in Italy, where he upholds the honor of his country under all circumstances with the same noble feeling of patriotism, which he has displayed since he went abroad.--Ed. Mir.
Unfortunately, this is the only letter from "Pinto" I've been able to find, so far. I note that this appears on Nov. 8th, and I wasn't able to find anything I'd be tempted to attribute Mathew after the 12th...
What I found, this morning, was the "B."-signed letter from London, in the Oct. 21, 1847 edition. The writing is plausibly Mathew's; the writer is complaining that England has been poorly governed. But I think it is less patriotic, and more disrespectful, of England than any loyal British citizen would be:
London, Oct. 3d, 1847.
The papers which I send by the Cambris, will give you fuller and better accounts of the stirring times on this side of the Atlantic than I could contrive to condense into a letter. The failures which are now looked for every morning, are beginning to lose something of the exciting interest which the first announcements caused a month or two since. But there is doubt, dismay and trembling in Threadneedle st, and the round flush faces which one used to meet, on change, have become strangely elongated and billious. All eyes are again turned to America, which seems to be the only part of the world in the enjoyment of even comparative prosperity. There you are all happy, with work enough, money enough and liberty enough, and in this last, you have the warrant for everything else that is desirable in the world. England stands precisely where it did in the merry days of Queen Bess.
But here's what really made me suspicious. This writer is charging the New York "Herald" with publishing forged foreign letters. This would have been the original impetus for Mathew's own series. In other words, he is parodying the "Herald":
.... I occasionally see a New York Herald here, and have been much amused at its foreign correspondence.
The letters dated at Vienna, Madrid, Constantinople, Berne, Rome, &c. are all evidently written by the same hand. I have been told that they are written by Dr. Lardner in Paris, who probably makes them up out of Gaglinani's Messenger. They may be written in the same office in which they are published, however, for I have been told that many of the American papers manufacture their own foreign correspondence. To read some of them would leave but little doubt of the truth of this charge, for they abound with the greatest errors and most ridiculous mistakes.
So if I'm not mistaken, what Mathew has done is to parody this fraud by creating his own fraud, with which to expose it--with or without the knowledge of the editor of the "Mirror."
The "X.F.W." series is our anchor, inasmuch as that is definitely Mathew. In the Dec. 2, 1847 edition of the Boston "Chronotype," writing under "X.F.W.," he gives a sketch of the New York "Herald," opening with the following observation:
The Herald has been in existence some dozen years and upwards, having had its origin at a time when it was much easier to establish newspapers than now when magnetic telegraphs and expresses render it impossible almost for a new competitor to get any foothold at all. Its originator and proprietor, James Gordon Bennett, a man without principle, with a great deal of smartness and a perfectly transcendent faculty of impudence, deserves the credit of its success: the disgrace belongs mainly to the public.
I'm pretty sure I'm right--"B" and "Pinto" are both Mathew Franklin Whittier. But have you kept up with this blog, to the extent of seeing how Mathew responded (or, attempted to respond) directly to Edgar Allan Poe, regarding the latter's theft of "The Raven," and Poe's subsequent explanation in his essay, "The Philosophy of Composition"? Perhaps you can see, now, how Mathew operated, even though in that case, Charles Ilsley, editor of the Portland "Transcript," may not have fully cooperated in the scheme.*** This is Mathew's MO; and I can ferret it out, because I am still Mathew, in many respects. I know precisely how his mind worked, because I still have the same higher mind.
Therefore, I am able to unravel his tricks, whereas no-one else has even suspected them.
I'm going to get back to work. For some reason, these online pages download quickly in the early hours of the morning, but take about 15 minutes per page later on in the day! Presumably, if other people are accessing them, it puts too much strain on the server.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*For reasons of his own (presumably, to fill the paper with "original" material), the editor, B.P. Shillaber, wasn't putting a stop to it, so Mathew apparently decided to take matters into his own hands. Shillaber stated, in his "To Correspondents" column, that he didn't consider imitation to be plagiarism.
**"Let the soldier be abroad, if he will; he can do nothing in this age. There is another personage abroad...the schoolmaster is abroad; and I trust to him, armed with his primer, against the soldier in full military array."--Lord Brougham, Jan. 29, 1828. (This would have been highly amusing to anyone who had attended a boarding school, and had been beaten by a schoolmaster.)
***I think that Ilsley, an expert amateur cryptographer, was savvy enough to head off a couple of Mathew's attempts to use the "Transcript" to get revenge on specific individuals. He did not, however, appear to have caught the significance of the "Libbeyville" sketch (which I mentioned in a recent entry), as juxtaposed with the Francis Quarles quote.
Music opening this page: "Bombay Calling," by It's a Beautiful Day,
from the album, "It's a Beautful Day"