I find myself on-hold, today, for a number of things. I've learned that when you don't have anything to do, there are almost always things you don't want to do that you could be doing. So most of the day, today (unless something breaks) I'm going to be reformatting the reviews and essays written by Mathew Franklin Whittier in 1846, for the New York "Tribune," signed with his long-time secret pseudonym, a single asterisk or "star."
These are all attributed by historians to Margaret Fuller, even though my research indicates that, as the "Tribune's" literary editor, she only wrote two or three of them (i.e., before she became the paper's foreign correspondent). The fun--if you can call it fun (because it is neither fun for me, nor fun for the academics who were fooled), is that this entire run of articles has been published in book form: "Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846," by Judith Mattson Bean & Joel Myerson, Editors. If I'm not mistaken, Myerson is the academic heavyweight, with whom Bean has partnered to give her credibility; while Bean and her staff probably did most of the grunt work.
"But they were all of them, deceived."
I've noted a number of clues in my sequel, "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own world," pointing to Mathew as the real author of this series. It's particularly tough to prove, because Fuller was officially supposed to be a Transcendentalist (while actually, she was a prima donna, raised to be an intellectual); while Mathew, though not identifying with the label or the movement, was an actual Transcendentalist, i.e., a mystic. So they will be expected to say many of the same things, and espouse many of the same causes.
But just this morning, I ran across an interesting clue. I get the intuitive sense that some of these little discrepancies must have bothered Bean, and this is one of them. By convention, whenever she has run across a typo or a grammatical error, she has flagged it with a superscript "n." We are not told what it stands for (perhaps I would know, if I were a scholar). The explanation is given:
Emendations have been made in cases of obvious typographical errors or misspellings, or when clarity of thought is disturbed. All emendations are reported by placing a superscript "n" in the text immediately following the word emended (as in "wordn"), with a description of the original reading provided in the footnotes.
For myself, I'll have to look up "emendation," though I presume it means "change" or "correction":
1. a correction or change, as of a text.
Looks like I nailed it! Maybe I should go into the dictionary-writing business...
Anyway, here is one difference between Margaret Fuller and Mathew Franklin Whittier. Fuller was privately educated by her father, an attorney and state senator who had graduated from Harvard with honors. Mathew, a poor Quaker farm boy, was home-schooled by his mother, then tutored by child prodigy Abby Poyen (she having received a private, tutored education), and the rest was self-education. Mathew received the equivalent of an advanced college education--but he always suffered from his poor background, when it came to spelling. In fact, this is one reason he began writing intentionally mispelled letters from country-bumpkins. He was caricaturing himself, but he was also entirely safe from spelling errors in that genre.
To cut to the chase, there are more of these kinds of errors in the star-signed reviews than there should be, if the author were Margaret Fuller. Again, I suspect it bothered Bean, but she was so convinced that Fuller was the author, that she never let herself really question why this was happening. We just don't want to see those "red flags" which threaten our entire world view--we ignore them as best we can (and as a result, most of us have lumpy rugs). In this case, scholarship demanded that she record them, but there was no attempt to explain their presence.
I'm going to provide the example I bumped into, this morning. Here is the passage as it is seen in the original newspaper (from online pdf copies):
Now let's look at what Bean and staff flagged and corrected (excuse me, emandated):
We've got a missing close-quote (which could have been Mathew, or the typographer); "us," which the footnote erroneously tells us was rendered "ns"; and "hers," which was originally rendered apostrophe "s," as "her's."
Well, the second one is a mis-read by Bean or her staff, because it was actually printed correctly (the score is now two errors "Tribune," one error Bean):
But what's really of interest is the third one, "her's." This kind of mistake is far more likely to have been made by a poor Quaker farmboy who struggled to educate himself, than a young woman whose successful father, an honors graduate from Harvard, had privately tutored her.
Now here's another one I found as I continued my archiving:
Whether Margaret Fuller, the snooty intellectual, was doing calisthenics is questionable; whether she was so determined to sound like a man in this column, that she would speak of "reaching the healthy stature of manhood" without mentioning healthy womanhood (being herself a radical feminist), is even more questionable. Mathew, who had grown up doing hard work on the farm, would certainly have written these things.
Neither of these bits of evidence are proof, by themselves. Very few pieces of evidence in my study are proof, in and of themselves (with a few notable exceptions). But it's a sign...and remember, if we can definitely place Mathew Franklin Whittier in New York City as of January 1845, writing these star-signed reviews for the New York "Tribune," because of the clues contained in it, we have as much as proven Mathew as the real author of "The Raven."
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "Won't Get Fooled Again,"
from the album, "
Whose Who's Next"