I don't particularly feel like writing a long entry this morning. Read the longish footnote in yesterday's entry, regarding the possibility that Mathew Franklin Whittier was also the original author of "Some Words with a Mummy," published by Edgar Allan Poe in April of 1845. I did some poking around online after closing out that entry, and came up with something no historian would ever have noticed. "Mummy" was announced as being accepted for publication in the "To Correspondents" section of the January, 1845 edition of "Columbian Magazine," but never appeared in that publication. However, it's my opinion that Mathew wrote the unsigned descriptions of three etchings in the subsequent edition for February.
Normally, that would be the work of the editors. But one of those three is a glowing treatment of Mathew's namesake, Benjamin Franklin. I know that Mathew admired Franklin intensely; and Mathew had written a similar biographical sketch in 1838. To my eye, it's clearly his style. Keep in mind that this magazine featured very staid, Victorian literature from the famous authors of the era, like moralistic story writer T.S. Arthur. Mathew's work was far too edgy for them; but his satire tended to be veiled, so that the surface layer appeared to be merely playful. My best scenario is that the editors accepted the "Mummy," and sent Mathew his royalty check--but then, one of them subsequently recognized some satirical reference that Mathew had embedded in the story, and demanded that it be taken out. Mathew refused, and the compromise which was struck up was that Mathew would, instead, do this editorial duty for them. Probably, Mathew made it a condition that one of the etchings feature his personal hero, Benjamin Franklin.* Poe, meanwhile, was now clear to publish the copy Mathew had lent him, in the April edition of "American Review." Poe, of course, would have had no scruples about revising it--and, in fact, it does strike me as having been rather heavily edited.
That means that Mathew would have shared three pieces with Poe during their private meeting--"The Raven," "Abigail P----," and "Some Words with a Mummy." I see that I made a mention of the "Mummy" in the very first published draft of "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own words," back in year 2012. So I can prove that I had that intuitive reaction before I ever began my historical research into this question. The next question is, why did Poe publish the first two as quickly as possible, but the third one, "Annabel Lee," was only published after his death? I can think of several scenarios, including that Mathew retained a copy of this third piece, and so could have proved his authorship. But I think that, for some reason, Poe delayed submitting it. Mathew would have written to every major literary journal in the country, putting their editors on notice--and then he would have written Poe, telling him he had done so. This is why Poe, having that poem in his possession since their meeting sometime in 1844, never dared to publish it.
Of course, historians say that "Annabel Lee" was written in 1849. What they couldn't possibly know, is that there is one idiosyncratic reference in that poem which is a precise match for Mathew's own personal history (as I have discussed in previous entries).
Interesting how the facts keep lining up, the more you poke into it. That's what happens when you have a good theory. You don't have to force any round pegs into square holes. They sort of glide in by themselves.**
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*The etching was commissioned for the Magazine, but it looks rather amateurish, to me. This image, alone, certainly wouldn't inspire the glowing tribute to Franklin which accompanies it. It depicts Franklin in the midst of his kite-and-key electricity experiment. I can provide multiple examples of Mathew's enthusiasm regarding scientific progress. So my guess is that Mathew proposed the topic, and then the magazine had to have the artwork commissioned--which they did with a mediocre artist. The writer did have the image in front of him, but only referred to it to point out what he thinks is probably a historical error. He is honest that he could be remembering the account wrongly--which would also be typical of Mathew. In fact, this alone narrows the field a great deal, as he was one of the few who would be scrupulous about such admissions, in print.
We believe that the artist, for the sake of giving variety and interest to his picture, has departed from the strict line of truth by introducing the boy as Franklin's assistant and companion in the trial of the experiment; but we may be wrong, for it is many years since we read the philosopher's account of this "transaction." We can suppose, however, that the aid of the boy was required to raise the kite; but it seems natural to imagine that Franklin at such a time would desire to have no witness of his doings. We can imagine that his feelings would prompt him to seek some unfrequented place for the accomplishment of his design, and to be alone while carrying it into effect; that no prying eye should scan his movements, no gossipping tongue be wagging here and there with speculations on the views and purposes that could induce him, the grave philosopher, to occupy himself in a manner so boyish and trifling. Above all we can feel how he would desire, if his hopes and expectations were disappointed, to bury them and their failure in the silence of his own bosom. Yet an assistant may have been needful, as we have said; and if so, the same feelings would prompt him to select a boy for the purpose, as least likely to make report of the matter elsewhere.
According to the Franklin Institute website, Franklin's son, William, assisted him, so the artist was correct. Likely, had the editor written this piece, he would have omitted mention of it altogether, or else looked it up; but Mathew may not have had access to a library at the time. As I think about it, this is far stronger evidence than it might appear, to you, because it fits Mathew's profile so closely. Again, I could drag out dozens of his works, and even private correspondence, as supporting evidence. And I think this sort of admission is fairly rare, at least in published works.
**There is one piece of evidence, on the paranormal side, which doesn't quite fit, and that is that long before I began researching this question, I remembered, under hypnosis, a meeting between Mathew and Poe. We were on the wide porch of an unfinished cabin--unsanded, and unpainted, as though rough-hewn, with blond-colored wood. The porch extended the length of the house, and it was elevated above the yard. Later, I found that this somewhat matches the cabin that Poe took in New York--but the dates don't line up. The meeting would have to have taken place in 1844, while Poe took this cabin in 1846. Mathew certainly could have been in New York--unknown to me at the time of the regression, Mathew had lived there for some years in 1830-32, 1834-5, and again in 1847-49. I don't think the historical date for Poe buying the cabin is incorrect--historians seem quite certain about the details. It would have had to be an earlier cabin (or, the same cabin under construction). As I can find no record of Poe living in a cabin before 1846, I can only speculate that, if my memories were accurate, Poe could have chosen to meet with Mathew at a place in the country. Past-life memories do have a strange way of seemingly being disproved by the historical record, but then turning out to be right, after all.
Music opening this page: "Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra in C Minor, Op. 18,"
by Sergei Rachmaninov, performed by Anna Fedorova