Yesterday, I shared with you an example of Abby Poyen's poetry in the Philadelphia "Album" of 1831. Historians will tell you that this was written by Albert Pike, of Masonic notoriety. As near as I can tell, 14-year-old Abby was attending his class in Newburyport, Mass., and he was stealing her poems. Presumably, he sent them off for publication without her knowledge. Since they had the same initials, if he was ever caught, he could simply claim that he had been doing it for her; but if he wasn't caught, he could reap the benefits thereof, himself. Which is what he did. Sometimes he would adulterate them, or stretch them, or (as in the case of "Ode to the Mocking Bird"), completely rewrite them. Sometimes he would just send them in. And when he ran out of hers, having established himself as a poet, he would try his own hand at it. After all, once you have a reputation, and your foot in the door, you can get away with literary murder. Just as Edgar Allan Poe did.
I'm now going to share with you one of these latter examples. Pike would have written this one, entitled "The Curse," entirely by himself. It's the last piece signed "A.P." I could find in the 1831 "Album," so I can imagine an editor calling his associate editor into the office:
"Did you okay this?"
"It was by 'A.P.,' you always print 'A.P.'"
"You've been duped, man, this is unmitigated trash. If it was written by the same author, I'll eat my hat!"
This is written by someone who knows nothing about morality, attempting to fake a poem with a Victorian moral message. What he does know, is macho blood and guts. The same author could not possibly have written "Part of an Address to the Stars," as has written "The Curse." Occam's Razor is clearly on the side of plagiarism, here--plagiarism of a young female prodigy, by a boorish teacher who will go on to fight as a general for the South, in the Civil War. I'm not wrong about this, and I'm not just indulging in magical thinking (as so many of my casual readers probably have me pegged).
Anyway, I'm closing in on completing my digitizing project, and I want to get back to it while I have some hours to devote to it, before going in to work this afternoon. I was going to go over my month-end stats briefly, but suffice it to say, they have been going up. Whether this blog is driving them up, I can't say, though the hits on this page have certainly increased dramatically since I've been writing about Poe as a plagiarist. A few months ago I saw an average of 250 hits per day on this website; now, it is in the mid-300's, and day before yesterday pooched well into the 400's. It tends to cycle, while I never see any book sales in either phase. But I suspect it will one day hit critical mass. Somebody is going to want to interview me, or write about me (i.e., favorably rather than derisively), and someone will actually fork out the cost of a fast-food meal for my e-books.
In the meantime, this is Albert Pike's awful attempt at writing poetry. Like Poe's "Ulalume," this is what he looks like on his own. And I should mention, here, a principle I cited in my book. When evaluating the work of a plagiarist, the rules are reversed. Normally, one would gauge the writing of an author by his or her best work. But one gauges the work of a plagiarist by his worst work.
According to one Pike biographer, what he wanted more than anything else in the world was fame. If I have anything to say about it, he's going to get. Boy, is he going to get it.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "King Tut," by Steve Martin, live performance