I am heading into my two-day mid-week weekend, and I hope to get quite a bit of keying done on these travel letters, written under three or four different pseudonyms, by Mathew Franklin Whittier (myself in the 19th century). I take it for granted, but this is really a unique privilege--here I am, reading, for the first time in about 170 years, my own letters, and my own forgotten experiences. Forgotten, I would say, except I recognize my own higher mind. I've tried to describe this experience, and can't do it justice.
I'm going to provide links to copies of the original pages, from the July 7, 1849 edition of the Boston "Weekly Museum." Here, Mathew is writing under "Rusticus" (the second and last of his letters that I have found), and "Down East." You can see that he has been traveling by train and coach; that the writing style is identical, and that he even opens the letters with a similar thought. That's unusual--he must have been getting tired of trying to keep them all separate, because he was also writing as "B." Very soon, he will launch "Quails," and also write some letters under "A.B.D." On one occasion, in March, he created the character "Gabriel Smagins." So there are not, actually, as many gifted letter writers in this paper as it seems. Only a very few could write like this--say, Seba Smith, or Washington Irving. In short, it wasn't as common as Mathew makes it appear, by peppering his work throughout these 19th-century literary newspapers, where they were either taken for granted, or, in some cases, claimed by or for other writers.
Certain themes prevail in these letters; Mathew had studied esoteric literature with his first wife and mentor, Abby, and so these references crop up--almost casually, you might say. Mathew was a nature mystic, something else he and Abby shared. She had curly, auburn hair--so you will see a very brief reference to her, in tribute. His mother had raised the children on horror stories of Indian massacres in their local area of Haverhill, Mass.; and so while Mathew tried to take the part of the Indian, in sympathy, he always had in the back of his mind the conviction that they could be cruel and violent. Thus, both conflicting themes keep cropping up in his work.* Mathew was also a strong advocate for science, as the bringer of truth; he was no fundamentalist. Therefore, he is aware of the scientific discoveries of his day, and he, himself, inquires with a scientific mind. There's more, but that will give you an idea of what to look for. I have dozens and dozens of these letters still to key in, and then I must proofread and archive them. As I go, I'll be comparing them and looking for clues to substantiate my theory that they were all written by the same author. One looks for both positive and negative clues. Positive clues abound. Once in a long while, a flat-out contradiction will arise--but whereas these threw me for a loop during the early years of my study, I finally was able to demonstrate that Mathew placed these monkey wrenches in the system deliberately, to shake his pro-slavery and pro-military enemies off his trail. Things like where he went to school, or seeing a man lecture so many years ago, which would be impossible for Mathew. Then again, Quails made a passing reference to being on his own at age 14, which turned out to be true, as near as I can tell. That's something that has been entirely lost in the official Whittier legacy. I wrote asking about it, once, and never received a reply back. But I have quite a few clues pointing in that direction.
There are a couple of other points of interest in these two pages: firstly, you will see that they are running "David Copperfield." As I poked into the history of that work, I learned that Dickens almost certainly stole it from an American author--about the same time that he stole "A Christmas Carol" from Mathew. Seeing "Copperfield," I think, confused Mathew, and made him re-think his earlier suspicions that Dickens wasn't the writer he pretended to be (see yesterday's evening entry). Secondly, in the page containing Rusticus--a couple of items below it--is a notice of an upcoming series entitled "Lemuel the Avenger." That's Mathew's series, and it's all symbolic autobiography, as though he is doing his own psychotherapy. The revenge theme is no accident, and, once again, it ties in to what I wrote about, yesterday evening.
I really don't mean to brag on Mathew; but it has become apparent to me, as I have studied these papers which he wrote for, that the best material was, in fact, his own work, written under dozens of different pseudonyms; and that it was, in fact, his work which was largely driving the popularity of these papers.** I speak, now, of the New York "Constellation"; the New York "Transcript"; the Boston "Weekly Museum"; and the Boston "Carpet Bag." Other publications he contributed heavily to, the Boston "New-England Galaxy," the Portland "Transcript," and the Boston "Chronotype," ran work by other writers of comparable talent, so he wasn't driving those papers, per se; but he was certainly contributing to their success. For example, when other editors praised the Portland "Transcript," they usually made special mention of Mathew's flagship character, "Ethan Spike."
Sometimes I think Mathew would play with his readership. For example, in the August 11, 1849 edition of the "Museum," we find letters from "Down East" and "A.B.D." side-by-side. If the dates are literal, Mathew has traveled from Eastport, Maine, to Cohasset, Mass., which is just below Boston, in a couple of days. This should have been possible if he went non-stop, by train. He would have been on his way back from either escorting his ex-wife and children to her family home in St. John, Canada, or from a visit with them. This is why he would have gone directly back to Boston, instead of stopping at various little towns, as he usually did for his job. I have numerous examples of Mathew writing about this route, including once under his own name.
Now, let's play "real time detective" again, shall we? I have never looked at the poem--by another author--which sits above "Down East" and adjacent to the top of "A.B.D." But Mathew's work--along with clippings he had sent in--often appear side-by-side on the page. Let's see if this poem seems to relate to Mathew's life, and in particular, to his late wife, Abby, his soul-mate.
I would give that an emphatic yes. Abby died of consumption on March 27, 1841. It also appears that in the winter of 1839/40, she went to her father's native Guadeloupe for several months to convalesce, where she was treated by her first cousin, Charles Poyen, the Mesmerist (who would go on to study medicine, and then, a few years later, himself die of consumption). While she was away, Mathew wrote a poem to her entitled "To Abby," signed "M.," the gist of which was that she was going to miss the spring, in May, that he missed her terribly, and that it almost seemed to him that he felt her presence while out on a walk. Here, the poem speaks of a girl who tells her beau that she will be dead by the following May; and the inference is clear that she is dying of consumption.
Mathew read a great deal of poetry; and when he read one that particularly struck a chord--especially, as regards Abby--he would send it in to the editor, along with his own works, and ask (as it appears) that it be printed above, below, or to the side of his own pieces. That is probably the case, here. I have numerous examples, some of which I shared in this blog, recently.
Here is a capture of "Down East," the poem, and "A.B.D." together on the page. I hadn't yet looked at the poem, when I named the file "DE_ABD_combined.jpg." Oh, note there is an interesting clue in the "Down East" letter--and that is, that at this time, the writer knows the editor personally.
Note the introduction to the "A.B.D." piece. He is inferring that he has been travelling north, from place-to-place, and has at last ended up in Eastport, the furthest-east point in the United States, and very far north in Maine. Actually, he has been traveling south from where his children are, in St. John. Furthermore, compare his language, here, to his language in the first travelogue he ever wrote about this route, for the 1843 Portland "Transcript," signing with a pseudonym that I can say is absolutely proved for him, "Poins." First "Poins," then "A.B.D.":
I was agreeably disappointed in the appearance of Eastport. All my preconceived opinions were routed by the first glance. I had somehow or other got an impression that it bore a strong resemblance to that undefined point in creation usually termed "the jumping off place," that it was dismal and gloomy, bleak and barren, and that its staple productions were porpoise-oil and fog!
In fact, I have been to the very identical "jumping off place," otherwise known as Todd's Head, and being the most easterly point of land of the United States, situated only a short distance from the thriving village of Eastport, and peculiarly adapted to the convenience of those unlucky "humans," who wish to leap from time into--the ocean and become food for fishes.
Meanwhile, writing as "Quails" for the "Museum" in the March 22, 1851 edition, he is once again on this same route, and writes:
Eastport is "down east," and no mistake! It is the eastern-most point of land in the States, and when you cross the river St.Croix, and enter the Provinces, the term "down east" is unknown, but as a substitute, they use "towards town," "towards the lines," and "over there." Therefore, be it known now and forever more, that the long-vexed question of "where is down east?" is settled, for Quails has searched the records and pronounces it to be at Eastport, in the State of Maine. So mote it be.
Do you see what I mean when I've said, that I can dig all day into this study, and keep coming up with confirmations, because I'm right, and it's genuine? I haven't even gotten started on this one, but I'll just call a halt to it for expediency's sake.
Here are the links for the two letters from the July 7th edition; you will be looking for the letter from "Rusticus," and the letter from "Down East." For purposes of comparison, you may peruse the letter from "H.," the paper's regular correspondent from Washington. He's definitely another writer (Quails reports meeting him at some point.) His letters are quite enjoyable and competent--it's not that nobody else in the 19th century could write a letter. It's just that there's something unique about Mathew's--including that he puts more of himself into them, I would say, than most. They are more personal, and also--perhaps because he remains carefully anonymous--more vulnerable. They reveal him as a deeply sensitive, caring, perceptive person, who knows he is a literary genius but cannot convince anyone of it; and who has a very deep background in literature, as well as in esoteric teachings.
Later... I'll just add this here...
This morning, I picked up my copy of Vol. I of the Boston "Carpet-Bag," 1851, from the bindery repair shop. They'd had it about half a year, and still hadn't gotten to it, and I was concerned that maybe the shop has fallen on hard times and they might close. (Turns out there's only the proprietor running the whole place now, and I'm pretty sure he had employees working for him when I left it there in February, so I may not have been too far off.) I repaired the loose cover myself with archival tape, and that's that. But as I casually leafed through the first few editions, I came upon a poem signed "D." At the time I went through the "Carpet-Bag," for my first book, I had not yet discovered that Mathew routinely signed "D." when he was the junior editor of the 1831-32 New York "Constellation." So, since Mathew was a silent financial partner in the "Carpet-Bag," and a major contributor (under various pseudonyms), it's very likely that he was the author of this poem. It is designated as being "Written for the Carpet-Bag."
If I am not mistaken, this is a tribute to his first wife, and soul-mate, Abby, when he first fell in love with her. She was just 15 years old; they had known each other for some years, and she had long been in love with him (being also his tutor); but he had held off the romance until she was of age, which in that day was 16. (He was, apparently, permitted to court her in a strictly chaste fashion in the months leading up to her 16th birthday--which he did.) Abby loved stars, and thought of her and Mathew's souls as twin stars in heaven. She loved birdsong, and flowers. Her father was a marquis, and there was, in fact, something noble about her; Mathew would call her a queen (a "dauphine," actually, if past-life memory serves--but a "queen" in his other tributes). He would also call her an angel. That's the only one of the references I would be looking for, that's not in this poem. She was very musical, and apparently not only played piano and harp, but had a beautiful singing voice. She would dance by herself, in Nature, or for Mathew. She had a very light complexion. I'm not just making all this stuff up--I have evidence to document every bit of it, several times over. I notice that the third line is in the present tense, while the remainder of the poem is in the past tense. I can't account for it, and don't know if it was a mistake or intentional. But enough of didactics. Past-life recognition memory tells me that I was especially pleased with the stanza about the sun. It also tells me she was worth every word this. What follows, I believe, is a tribute by Mathew to his true love, Abby, at age 15 or 16:
MY HEART'S HOPE.
Her breathing was the roses' breath,
Her brow the lily pure,
She moves as moves the mountain heath,
When zephyrs charm the hour.
Her voice the whistle of the quail,
Her eye the evening star;
Around her sighed the summer gale,
Birds watched her from afar:
Where'er she came each tuneful throat
Poured out its sweetest song,
Unless they ceased, intent to note
The music of her tongue.
And where she stopped the violets grew,
Where looked the strawberry bloomed,
The evening shed its honey-dew,
The briar was perfurmed.
And even the sun as he went down,
Smiled with his latest ray,
As if he fondly loved to crown
The sweetest flower of day.
At night, oh! how the stars looked out,
A brighter star to see,
And how the fire-flies glanced about
The moonlight of her eye.
How Nature seemed to pause in awe
Of its young blooming queen,
As, from each vale and hill, it saw
Her footsteps on the green. D.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*In this case, if the legend is true, we don't know what Mr. Snow may have done to the Indians, first. That Mathew reported it without question, suggests his prejudice as caused by his family background. In other instances, where he has reported something and discovered he was mistaken, he has issued a correction. I was only able to find a legend about an Indian princess who begged for shelter in the cold, and was refused by the entire village, and so cursed the area.
**There were exceptions, like Mathew's friend John Townsend Trowbridge, writing (exclusively) under the pseudonym, "Paul Creyton."
Music opening this page: "Soapstone Mountain,"
by It's a Beautiful Day,
from the album, "Marrying Maiden"