Read yesterday's entry in the Archives (link at bottom of page) if you want a recap for newbies. I am on a break, I need to reserve some time for rest, and I want to just jump in here with one thought to express.
I have seen Steve Martin in a number of films, over the years, my favorites being certain scenes in "The Jerk," and all of "Planes, Trains & Automobiles." But I hadn't paid too much attention to his stand-up comedy routines. I knew about his "King Tut" song-and-dance, and when something about King Tut came on a TV documentary, I looked it up on YouTube, and ended up watching a couple of his complete routines, from different years.
What I noticed, right off, is that he reuses his gags, which then become audience favorites. King Tut isn't the only one--there's the arrow through the head, and the animal balloons, and the happy dance...
I like Martin, but the point of all this is that in my past life as Mathew Franklin Whittier, a 19th-century humorist and satirist, it appears that I did the same thing in my humorous sketches. Not to the extent Steve Martin has, but still, if I was particularly pleased with a gag, I might re-use it five or ten years later.
This is extremely fortuitous, for me, when attempting to identify his work under dozens and dozens of different pseudonyms.
So, lately, after eight years of research, I have stumbled upon his earliest work last. And it is going in my book that way, because in the book, I tell the story of the research. But now, I am recognizing his gags as clearly as I recognize Steve Martin's arrow. It doesn't matter what year it is; and it doesn't matter what pseudonym he uses. Nor does it matter who historians attribute that pseudonym to. It's as obvious as that arrow.
What got me thinking about it, and wanting to write about it, is that I found another one, today. And these things have ricocheting implications. If this is Mathew's work, then that is his work, as well..but if that is his work, then I can prove that he did this. In the current example, Mathew gives a report on a sort of a 19th-century French "Houdini," who, among other tricks, puts on a special suit and bakes himself in an oven, along with some pieces of steak and a thermometer. But this magician had a very thick French accent, and French mannerisms, and he amused Mathew--who attended his first lecture there in New York City--no end. Mathew reported it in wry humor, with full dialect, as he loved to do when poking good-natured fun at various ethnic groups.
But I recognized it immediately. He had done exactly the same thing with a French magician in 1850, writing as "Quails," for the Boston "Weekly Museum." That Frenchman would permit a member of the audience to fire a (rigged) pistol at him, only to catch the bullet in his teeth.
If you could see the two sketches side-by-side, you would recognize the style as belonging to the same author; and the two pieces would look as similar as Steve Martin's arrow. These two examples are hardly the only ones. As I've mentioned, I have over 800 of Mathew's published works, now.
But that means that a similar faux letter to the editor, from the February, 1830 edition of the same New York paper, was definitely also written by Mathew. And what does that imply? That Seba Smith, who began publishing his "Major Jack Downing" letters in Yankee dialect that year, may not, actually, have originated this genre, as the historians insist he did. I think Mathew was way ahead of him, and Smith actually imitated something he saw of Mathew's, which I haven't found, yet. Because by the time Mathew, at age 17, writes that faux letter from the Frenchman, he is already an expert with that style. He must have been getting these things published even earlier. (He also wrote a story using Yankee dialect which was published in the December, 1829 edition--before Smith began his series.)
This work I'm uncovering now, is attributed by some, if not all historians, to the editor of that paper, Asa Greene. They weren't Greene's, however, they were Mathew's, and I can prove it, now.
Meanwhile, as I mentioned before, "Quails" wrote a long-running weekly travelogue, including a trip to Europe, beginning in the fall of 1849. There, in 1851, he visited with Victor Hugo in his home, in Paris. Never mind that historians attribute this travelogue to someone else. What I discovered today puts the nail in the lid of that theory. It was Mathew. Aside from the fact that Hugo considered him a fellow-author and reformer, Mathew's proven authorship of this travelogue opens up a world of implications.
"Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own words" is certainly not a short book, now. Perhaps it is unsuited for people in this attention-challenged, technology-mad age. But it's long because it's crammed full of fascinating evidence. And it proves both my past-life match, and by inference, reincarnation itself.
Don't believe me? Tut-tut.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page, "King Tut," from a live performance by Steve Martin