I'm up far too early, being unable to fall back to sleep, here in my attic, and having some trouble with heartburn. As I lay there in the dark, I thought of Abby...and it occurred to me that although I find myself in the 21st century, I really haven't changed all that much since the 19th. I have been like this all my life, but it was fascinating to find, in Mathew Franklin Whittier's various writings--which, once you know how to decode them, are really quite revealing of his personal life--that he was very much of this same pattern. He writes of insomnia, and "dyspepsia," and he missed his soul-mate, Abby, for his entire life after her death in 1841.
Yesterday I shared with you three downloadable pages of the 1849 Boston "Weekly Museum," which contain Mathew's works under various signatures. The page I commented on yesterday consisted of articles reprinted from different Philadelphia papers he had been submitting to, since making that city his home base. He was traveling throughout the New England states, either as a postal inspector (as I had first surmised), or as a merchant of some kind. I'm still leaning toward the postal inspector theory, because he ended up working for the post office in Portland, Maine in 1852. Plus there are other clues, as for example that he reports meeting with an unusually high number of postmasters, in the small towns he travels through. As for past-life memory, I really don't have much on this. I remember feelings, and attitudes, more than facts.
"Convenient, that," the skeptic will say. But the skeptic is deliberately avoiding the totality of the evidence.
I had the thought, yesterday, "This is a particularly significant blog entry--too bad nobody will ever read it." I wonder if that's true (i.e., on both counts). I do believe that this is, as I wrote earlier, the historical research of the future. Scholars will use the tools available. Just as they use the internet, today--a tool that could hardly have been conceived of 30 years ago--in the future, they will use past-life regression, psychic readings, and the other "paranormal" tools I have used in my study. At that time, however, they will be "normal," rather than "paranormal."
You do realize that, as recently as 20 years ago, when I launched this website, the internet was "paranormal" by the strict definition of the word.
Shall I "open up" the two letters to the editor, for which I provided links in yesterday's entry? Here they are, again: Rusticus and Down East. Both of these letters are from Mathew Franklin Whittier (myself in the 19th century--as I have to keep repeating for any newcomers), to Charles A.V. Putnam, editor of the Boston "Weekly Museum." They both appear in the March 10, 1849 edition. Putnam may or may not have known the identity of the writer, at this point. Later, he did know who "Down East" was; and this is the first and last letter from "Rusticus." So here, it appears that Mathew first chose "Rusticus," and then changed his mind and adopted "Down East." The first would reflect his rural upbringing; the second is a colloquial term for Maine, though as I understand, it can be applied more broadly. Unlike some of Mathew's favorite expressions, this one is still in use, today.
We will start with the letter from Rusticus, which, although undated, was probably the first. Here, I will split my screen between this entry, and my now-digitized copy of the letter; you can do the same with the downloadable pdf copy, if you wish. I just thought this would be less cumbersome than adding all that digitized copy into the body of these blog entries. Plus, there's something about seeing these pieces in their original presentation.
I have not heard Portland, Maine called the "Forest City" in modern times. There are still a lot of beautiful trees, here. One is immediately outside my attic window, giving me the subjective feeling of living in a tree house (at a fraction of the cost). Down the street to my left is what looks like a massively tall Christmas tree--and to the right, behind a three-story Victorian house and some distance beyond, are two evergreens of a different species, with gracefully sloping branches, towering perhaps four or five stories.
Mathew freelanced as a reporter, and he especially liked to report on lyceums, or public talks. I have an entire body of unsigned reports which I am certain are his, and they cover talks by quite a few famous personalities. You can see, here, that he has witnessed lectures by such people as Charles Sumner and Ralph Waldo Emerson--though, as he is only visiting his children in Portland, we don't know that he has attended all of the lectures that he lists in this letter.
Mathew was rushed into a family-arranged marriage, a year after he lost his soul-mate, Abby. I feel that he was "guilted" into it, i.e., his mother played on his survivor's guilt. We won't go into that, here, but that was in 1842. By the time we reach 1849, he has had three children with Jane, and he has tried, but she is a practical, worldly, and not very attractive woman who has no understanding or appreciation for Mathew's inner spiritual life, or his literary genius. If you want to get a sense of what that marriage was like, look up the "Blifkins the Martyr" series by B.P. Shillaber. Either these were co-authored, or they were written by Shillaber, but based on stories Mathew had told him about this second marriage. Some (not all) of the poetry written by "Blifkins" was Mathew's actual poetry. It appears in a work entitled "Partingtonian Patchwork," wherein Shillaber signs as the editor, rather than the author.
By March 1st, 1849, when this letter is dated, Mathew has separated from Jane. He had been traveling for much of this marriage, anyway. For 2-3 years he had been working in New York City, in some kind of mercantile capacity. He had been writing frequently to the editor of the Boston "Chronotype," Elizur Wright, under the initials "X.F.W.," as I have recently discussed. Then, he took some kind of traveling job, keeping his home base in New York, and visiting his children in Portland. As of May, he will briefly move his home base to Philadelphia; then, back to Boston.
So as Mathew did in his letters to Wright, from New York City, here he reports on Portland, writing to the editor of the "Museum." As with "X.F.W.," he reports on lyceums, and the theatre. Usually, he takes a dim view of people who chat during performances; but being newly-divorced, meaning, that he is now officially available, he is very much aware of the young ladies. Still, he doesn't take them seriously. Mathew is not a chauvenist--it isn't that he thinks that women, as a class, are empty-headed. Abby was a brilliant intellectual, and Mathew deeply appreciated her mind, as well as her physical beauty. It's that none of these girls could hold a candle to her; and yet, he can't help appreciating them, being a virile man still in his prime, and probably long-denied. So he is profoundly ambivalent. He appreciates them in the abstract.
For "Mr. Giles," I have to turn to the internet. This is Henry Giles, a Unitarian preacher and lecturer. He is described in Wikipedia as having a "hunchbacked, dwarfish nature," which I have no memory or sense of, as I write this, today. I only have a vague sense of appreciating his mind and thoughts. One of his talks is listed as "Illustrations of Genius in Some of its Applications to Society," which I feel Mathew would have been particularly in tune with. Not only as regards himself (if you're thinking I mean it that way), but this was a topic he was keenly interested in, and a profound student of, himself. Sadly, I do not have a review of Giles written by Mathew. I ran a digital search of my archives, but couldn't find any mention of him. Clearly, Mathew attended the lecture he mentions in this letter. I could also go back to the Portland "Transcript" for the date which follows, to see whether there is a review, there, which I had missed. Unfortunately, I don't have this physical volume, and will have to make a special trip to the library for it. They have the entire run of that paper in the "Portland Room" of the Portland Public Library--which is situated on precisely the same plot of ground where the American House Hotel once stood--presumably, the last place Mathew ever saw Abby alive.
The day before the letter is dated, March 1st, 1849, is February 28th, 1849, a Wednesday. I remember seeing a mention that this lecture series, for the Mercantile Library Association, was held on Wednesday evenings. That's the series that I believe Mathew reported on. The Portland "Transcript" came out on Saturday, so the next Saturday would have been March 3rd. I will be looking for a report on Giles' talk in the March 3, 1849 editon of the Portland "Transcript."
If I learn that, writing as "Rusticus," Mathew mentioned attending Giles' lecture on Wednesday, February 28th, 1849, and then I discover an unsigned report of it in the Portland "Transcript" published on the subsequent Saturday, I will know that Mathew was, indeed, the author of this unsigned lecture series! I will also know that he was writing as "Rusticus," at the same time that he was writing as "Down East," in the Boston "Weekly Museum." Thus has my detective work proceeded, in a web of clues. This isn't airtight proof, because it could be a coincidence, but in context with dozens and dozens of other clues, Mathew's authorship would be pretty obvious.
I'll probably check on that later today, and report my findings in a footnote, here.
At this time, Mathew frequently traveled by rail, through the small towns of New England, and often wrote about them. He had made friends in many of these towns, and here, he reports on a practical joke that one of them played on him. Obviously, his friends know he is now "available," and are trying to match him up. He is torn, as said, and while he is captivated by the young ladies' charms, he runs when the prospect gets too real. When he says "We vamosed immediately," that is the "royal we," which he is accustomed to writing in, even though he speaks in the first person for most of the letter. Obviously, the friend wouldn't "vamoose" from his own girlfriend.
The editor's asterisked comment is off-target, because the implication is that the friend was trying to match him up with one of his girlfriend's sisters. Whether the editor really misunderstood, or was just taking the opportunity for a wry comment, I don't know.
Now I'll bring up the letter from "Down East," which is undated, but is also written from Portland. This is the pseudonym that Mathew settled on for several months, so presumably it was written after March 1st. I'd forgotten to mention that the letter directly above this one, from "Gabriel Smagins," is also Mathew's--or, at least, I'm pretty darned sure it is. I'll go into that one, shortly.
Here, he has given in to the temptation to date--perhaps one of the Misses Valentine, on a double date. One gathers he has gone on a sleighride, and been entertained afterwards at her home (probably in the company of his friend and the sisters). It was intoxicating, and yet, he kept his heart aloof, so that he can write "no matter who." It was "not to be forgotten very easily," but nonetheless, he will manage to do so; and then he is into the business prospects of Portland.
Incidentally, Mathew will do this from time-to-time--when he knows the people he is writing about will see his published copy, he writes in such a way as to please them. When he is prevailed upon to attend a dance, for example, he flatters the ladies in print, by turns. For a satirist, Mathew was keenly aware of people's feelings. He was like a cloaked knight who wielded his sword only against his enemies, for the cause of righteousness--as the music introducing this page suggests.
"Down East" writes as though introducing Portland to the paper's readers, just as he would any city. But Mathew has lived there since 1839; and has contributed to the Portland "Transcript" since 1841. Therefore, his praise that it is "a very valuable family paper and ably edited," is personal.
Likewise, he praises the hotels; but he and Abby spent their last few months together in the American House.
When Mathew takes up the "Quails" signature for this paper, in the fall of this year, he will often critique the railroad personnel, as he travels from town to town across New England. Usually, he is far more ready to praise, than to blame. Very rarely does he actually identify an employee, when castigating them; and here, he refuses to do so, although the editor thinks he should have.
Finally, let us turn to the undated letter from "Gabriel Smagins," in Kennebunkport. I have placed this one in my "possible MFW" folder, but I'm pretty certain about it.
Mathew did not want to be identified; and he didn't want to write too many letters from Portland, lest people realize he was a resident, or had a residence, there. He had been doing very risky, sensitive work for the cause of abolition; and being away from Portland so often, his children were vulnerable to his enemies. He did not dare take the chance that one of these pro-slavery fanatics would figure out where they lived. So within a relatively brief period, Mathew has written from Portland as "Rusticus"; again, from Portland as "Down East"; and here, as "Gabriel Smagins" from Kennebunkport. But Kennebunkport is only about 30 miles from Portland. (In June, he will do the same, writing from nearby Westbrook, as "B.") The signature is typical for Mathew, being somewhat clownish. Mathew sees himself as a rustic genius, or a sort of comical sage. The name reflects this self-image.
This is, perhaps, the third letter Mathew has written within a short span, and he is having trouble coming up with new ideas. Why Mathew felt pressed to write so many, is unknown. It could be economic pressure, that he needs even the modest payment he gets for each published piece; or the editor might be desperate for copy. Or both. At any rate, here, he uses his very writer's block as his lead-off. He will do the same thing when he writes for the Boston "Carpet-Bag," under the signature "The Ploughboy," probably for the same reason--because he was contributing as many as six pieces per issue for that paper, under different signatures.
The close of this paragraph suggests that at least some of the pressure, in this case, may be coming from the editor.
In desperation, Mathew turns to the weather, and that leads him to the California gold rush, which leads him into a little philosophy about wealth. "Smagins'" philosophy on this topic would be typical for Mathew. However, he cuts it short at this point, and sends the letter in. Actually, as I think about it, one can hardly imagine this letter meriting publication. It was published because it was Mathew's, and because the editor needed copy, not for its own merits, I would say. It's sort of like watching a 37-year-old Roger Federer off his game, these days. He's still pretty good.
In the "Carpet-Bag," Mathew will launch a series which has small illustrations interspersed throughout, rather as one sees in the British humor magazines. But several of these are set in Boston, and the "Carpet-Bag" prided itself on printing original material. One of the pieces in this series features a "Mr. Spoon," who has decided to join the gold rush. However, he knows that conditions are harsh, and he prepares by training himself to endure them. Finally, however, he views a "panorama" of the scene in California, and thinks better of the whole venture. Portions of this piece were reworked for "Cruikshank's" humor magazine in England, except that the character, there, is going to Australia.
This is significant, because in the December 18, 1852 edition of the "Carpet-Bag," appears another in this series--a parody of "The Raven," called "The Vulture." This, also, appears in "Cruikshank's" for the following year, 1853--except that one of the illustrations is missing. If you look closely, you can see that "Cruikshanks" has actually copied the illustrations, because in tiny details, they don't match up. But the entire piece with original illustrations is found, sans attribution, in "Graham's Magazine," precisely as it appeared in the "Carpet-Bag," about a year later in December of 1853.
"The Vulture" is considered one of the best parodies of "The Raven." Scholars cite either its appearance in "Cruikshanks," or "Graham's." So far as I can tell, they seem to have entirely missed its unsigned debut in the "Carpet-Bag."
Based on the illustrations, they assume it was British. But Mathew had been in Europe in 1851, from where he reported back to the "Museum" as "Quails." "Quails" was not Ossian Dodge, as historians believe. Mathew would have visited with the staff of the humor magazines there, including "Punch"* and "Cruikshanks." He might very well have established a relationship with some of their artists.
In any case, "The Vulture," as it appears in the Dec. 18, 1852 edition of the "Carpet-Bag," is a continuation of Mathew's series, which also included "Mr. Spoon." Mathew was parodying his own poem, and not for the first time--because he had written an earlier one for the New York humor magazine, "Yankee Doodle," a few months after Edgar Allan Poe had published his essay, "The Philosophy of Composition," in "Graham's Magazine," in 1846. In that essay, Poe explained how he had supposedly written "The Raven," and as I've opined recently, it is manifestly pure BS.
Could you follow all that? By necessity, I have to summarize it. The complete detective work is set forth in my book, "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own words."
Isn't it unfortunate that I have to mix up such significant historian discoveries, with all this woo-woo reincarnation crap? Just remember that what's normal today, was "paranormal" yesterday; and what's "paranormal" today, will be normal, tomorrow. I see that my stats are going up a bit for this blog, and also that 10 people have viewed my video interview so far this month. I often think that people start to be interested, until they watch that video, and they just dismiss the whole thing when they come to my relationship with Abby across the Divide. I don't blame them. But here's the thing--my entire presentation is based on strict honesty. If this is really my experience, then I must honestly report it. I almost had an analogy, there--what was it...well, the "Back to the Future" 88 mph wall, is one, but this was something else... Okay, you're starting to date someone. There is something about yourself, or your personal life, that you have to come clean about. If you broach the subject, you are likely to be rejected on the spot. But if you don't, what's the use? The relationship will remain a house of cards, or else, you'll have to risk it later--and it only gets worse. What if it's actually something good, except, most girls won't believe it? Like, you're going to be inheriting a billion dollars; or you are personal friends with Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, or whatever. Well, it's like that with my cross-dimensional relationship with Abby, and this video. I actually present some fairly strong evidence, right there in the interview; but it violates people's boggle threshold so severely, that they still turn off. Or so I would guess. But if anybody should pass the test, and stick with me, it would be another story.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*I have identified one of Mathew's humorous poems in "Punch" of 1851, published before he traveled to Europe that same year. So clearly he had aleady established a connection with that magazine; and one of his "Ethan Spike" letters had appeared in "Douglas Jerrold's Weekly Newspaper" in 1848.
Music opening this page: "Gem," by Eric Johnson,
from the album, "Up Close"