I have just this minute finished going through the Dover "Enquirer" of 1833-1837 with a fine-toothed comb; which is to say, my scans of the microfilm I had copied. I took 146 notes, and copied those articles I tentatively attribute to my past-life self, Mathew Franklin Whittier (in some cases, written in collaboration with his wife, Abby). A more detailed picture emerges of their personal history. I feel dazed--it is all a bit overwhelming, and one has the sense of things making subconscious connections as they "simmer on the back burner."
Although I feel the urge to incorporate my new information into my book now, I know from experience that an even clearer picture results from keying in the articles. A catch-phrase here, a typical pun there, tie the authorship even more firmly to Mathew; or a brief comment opens whole vistas of understanding, if it is a key to a previously-unsolved mystery.
I can share this much now, by way of overview. Some of this, I already knew, or had surmised; some is new.
Abby, in 1830, at age 14, having been privately educated, began tutoring Mathew, a Quaker farm boy eager for learning, who was four years older than she. They must have had their tutoring sessions in the winter months, when there were fewer farm chores; and he must have repaid the family by doing chores for them, or perhaps working with her father's horses (it appears he was a horse-whisperer of sorts).
When Abby had her coming-out party at age 16, she began flirting with him in earnest, even though he was a confirmed bachelor, having had a crush on the town beauty (who was probably one or two years older), and being rejected by her. Mathew finally succumbed, and they began courting in the spring of 1833, but they were separated by her father when it became serious, not because he was shocked at their intimacies, but because he, being a marquis, had raised his daughters to marry men of their own class, and hence bolster his sagging fortunes. (His father had escaped a slave uprising in Guadeloupe, having been able to save some of the family fortune, but still, they were hardly able to live at the level they were accustomed to--so Abby's father was educating his daughters with the hope that they would marry well, or at least marry into their own class.)
Somehow a deal was struck--probably with Abby's mother's intervention (as she, herself, had married Abby's father against the wishes of her parents)--that Mathew would go off to seek his fortune, and if successful, he could return at that time and marry her. He devised a plan that he would work for a new paper in New York City, the N.Y. Transcript, as a reporter for a year; then he would enter a partnership with a local, wealthy friend, back in their home town of Haverhill. They pledged their fidelity to each other, though of course, seeing the examples of unfaithful partners come through the Police Office there in New York, Mathew felt nervous that Abby might fall in love with some local boy during his extended absence. His choice of stories to report for the paper, reflect his concern on this point.
He needn't have worried. Both remained faithful, although, in worldly company, Mathew began drinking more heavily again, which was normal in that era for all except those who had embraced Temperance.
After a year, he did enter into a partnership with a rich friend in his local town of Haverhill. But then he presumably declared his love to Abby on May Day, as I had already surmised. Not two weeks later he is sarcastically signing a notice of a meeting to be held at his business, as the "Clerk of the Proprietor," even though he was officially a partner. Another two weeks, and that the partnership is dissolved, leading me to suspect that he told the senior partner he needed to be a real partner, in order to gain permission to marry Abby, with a real partner's income; and his request was denied, such that there was a falling out.
August finds the couple eloping across the state line to Dover, New Hampshire, where they first live in a boarding house run by a similar couple (an unorthodox Quaker married to a non-Quaker). After a month, she goes home to her family to make peace, where, apparently, she is charged with having taken her jewelry (which by law belonged to her father), and can neither see Mathew, nor leave town. This is resolved via an ingenious solution I have mentioned, before, and described in my book. November finds her back in Dover, and with child.
There is scant evidence for my memory, that they moved briefly into a nice upstairs apartment, but couldn't afford it and had to sublet it not long afterwards. Perhaps living in the apartment was a condition of Abby being permitted to return.
Mathew's business fails--but this is the depression occasioned by Andrew Jackson's presidency, the Panic of 1837. Many businesses fail during this period.
Apparently, based on intuition and a little tiny bit of evidence, it appears that Mathew teams up with the editor of the Dover Enquirer, who also owns a bookstore. Mathew, perhaps, begins working for him in whatever capacity is required. Abby, possibly, makes extra money doing French translation work.
But now is where it gets interesting. Mathew and Abby are both strong Abolitionists. Abby's family money comes from slavery, on Guadeloupe, and she has rejected it. Mathew's brother, John Greenleaf Whittier, is already publicly known as an Abolitionist. Just before they elope, Rev. David Root, the Congregationalist minister from Dover, gives a strong speech for Abolition in Haverhill. Mathew, apparently, ghost-wrote that speech. On the last day of Feburary, 1837, appears in the Enquirer a review or commentary by Rev. Root about a sermon given by one Dr. Dana. The sermon apparently was anti-Abolition; Dana advocated preaching the gospel and not getting involved with social reform; i.e., letting the gospel slowly bring people around as regards slavery, rather than calling for an immediate end to it, which was seen as radical and dangerous.
Rev. Root's response appears to also have been ghost-written by Mathew and Abby, or else, they all collaborated on it. It may well have been Mathew who saw the original talk, as he frequently attended them. This now sparks a series of letters to the editor, defending Dr. Dana and attacking Rev. Root, and then, responses by Root (aka Mathew?), with others weighing in. Someone writing as "Alpha & Beta"--apparently, from academia, the church, or both--requests permission to publish an extended treatise on (i.e., against) Abolitionism in the paper. Immediately, "Kappa, Lambda & Mu" join the fray--and this is Mathew and Abby ("Mu" being their unborn child). Already, "Alpha & Beta" suspect that KL&M are really Rev. Root--which in a particular sense, is true. So it was an ill-advised pseudonym, too easily deciphered.
Here is the political landscape at the time. Dover, New Hampshire is a conservative town. Mathew will use it, in later years, as the basis for his character, "Ethan Spike's" hometown of "Hornby." Conservative candidates overwhelmingly win local elections--and there is plenty of boozing during these events. Rev. Root has adopted two causes--Temperance, and Abolition. But he is a scholarly, ponderous fellow, whose own writing is as difficult to wade through as a chemistry textbook. Mathew's style is brilliant (forgive my immodesty), sarcastic and inflammatory. I'm going to attach, somehow, here, an article Mathew wrote, soon after they moved to town, lampooning a typical Dover town meeting; and then, we can compare that to one of his later "Hornby" sketches.
The editor is an ardent political liberal, a Whig--today, he would be a liberal democrat. But he is very, very circumspect about one topic--Abolitionism. He hardly ever mentions it. Briefly, on page 3, you might see a brief notice that Rev. Root has invited British radical George Thompson to speak at his church. Then you might seen nothing on the topic at all.
But now, with this letter criticizing Dr. Dana's mealy-mouthed Christianity, ghost-written for Rev. Root, there is a firestorm. The editor soon calls a halt to it; but he has promised to let "Alpha & Beta" have their say, and they continue using blatant sophistry to undermine the legitimacy of the Abolitionist position for ten full articles. When they are quite finished, there was obviously a desperate need for someone to rebut them. But who would dare to step forward, to do the job? Only Mathew and Abby, who were about to have their first child; who had lost their business (probably, due to shunning, and also the poor economy and lack of capital funds). Only this vulnerable young couple dared do it.
So "Kappa, Lambda & Mu" begin rebutting each of "Alpha & Beta's" letters, in turn. They stop long enough for her to have the baby, at which time someone signing "HAMDEN" fills in for them admirably. What he says, in essence, is that anyone with a brain and a heart knows that Alpha & Beta are using their education for the purposes of inane sophistry; but that no-one dares stand up to them. He puts himself at terrible risk even doing this much, but he cannot let his friends down, since they, themselves, have risked so much.
Soon, KL&M resume, and they continue until they have rebutted all 10 of A&B's numbers. Just about that time, Abolitionist Rev. Elijah Lovejoy is murdered by a mob in Illinois. I just learned this morning, it appears that Mathew, himself, may have given a discourse as part of the service for Rev. Lovejoy, at Rev. Root's church; and then immediately afterwards, they left town, returning to Amesbury (near their hometown of Haverhill), where he began working for a local paper, there. Not many months would pass before they would attempt to launch their own paper, which failed (probably for shunning), and their life proceeded tragically from that point on.
In short, it didn't take long for them to start paying for those KL&M letters to the editor. They survived for a few years afterwards, but never really recovered from it. Whereas, had they left the matter alone, they quite likely could have prospered. Mathew could have continued clerking for the editor's paper and his bookstore, and they could have had a wonderful life together--while black families were being brutalized and split apart. They really had no choice--it was "Hobson's choice" (a choice of one).
Abby has told me that this story will be made into a film, someday--I think the scene of Mathew giving this discourse, and them packing up their things and moving to Amesbury, perhaps that same evening, will make a gripping scene.
There's much, much more in here I've left out for lack of time. I don't know how many of my readers would even get this far. I haven't yet keyed in Mathew's lampoon of the local town meeting--when I get that done, I may post it, here, along with one of his later lampoons of "Hornby." I think if he was identified as the author of the first lampoon, already his business would be shunned, as people don't like to be made fun of. One wouldn't dare try to set up a business in a small town, and then do that, today. But they had to go to Dover--they had eloped. They were persecuted for class or beliefs all the way through. This is the true soul-mate pattern; the pattern of two people ahead of their time.
I was going to say that while the editor of the Enquirer was like a democrat, today, Mathew and Abby would be members of the Green Party. She would be Jill Stein; and Mathew would be Lee Camp. I am not so different, today. But where you see me, for example, being sarcastic about the "Interstellar Bean Show," this is a remnant of what I used to do, as Mathew Franklin Whittier.
What fascinates me, is that one could be as liberal as one wished to be, even in a small conservative town, but the one topic one dared not publicly advocate was Abolition. How similar it is, today, with reincarnation. One can publicly believe in mediumship, and near-death experiences, and even UFO's. But one dare not champion reincarnation. It is not the only taboo, now, but it is one of the most deadly. The 1830's found me risking my career for Abolition; the 21st century finds me doing the same, with reincarnation.
Except, the reader may point out, Abolition was a pressing social problem, whereas reincarnation is a boutique belief system.
Wrong. Half of the pressing social ills you see in Society right now, are directly or indirectly related to this prejudice against reincarnation, i.e., against the understanding of life as a cycle, rather than as a straight line. Put reincarnation back in, and life is meaningful; there is full justice; everyone is 100% accountable for everything they do. Mental pollution is every bit as serious as pollution of the physical environment. That's just scratching the surface of the social implications of reincarnation.
If you want to see the extreme degree of prejudice against reincarnation, just look at its definition. I defy you to find a dictionary which defines it as a phenomenon. Every dictionary defines it as a belief. It is not even given the dignity of being an actual thing. This is like saying, "See that man over there in the tux? That's Mr. Smith--he believes he owns a Rolls Royce."
My next step is to key all this in; meanwhile, my researcher will be looking for signs of Mathew's writing in the N.Y. Transcript, where I strongly suspect he was assigned the police office (police station) there for about a year in 1834/35, before returning to Haverhill to enter into a business partnership with a rich friend--all this not because he wanted to be a merchant, but to gain permission from Abby's father to marry her--even though, unknown to him, her father never intended to make good his part of the bargain, in the first place. He just figured if the couple were separated for a few years, they would forget about each other and he could find a suitable, upper-class husband for Abby.
But he didn't understand soul-mates.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
For the Portland Transcript and Eclectic.
Letter From Ethan Spike.
Hornby, Aperell 9th, 1855.
Dear Surs:--Our annewal taoun meetin kim orf accordin to anshunt usage only a leetle more so. The great number of new perinciples pertainin to this contest gin it a interest beyond anythink of the kind, and as a nutral consequence gin rise to more jawin an fightin.
The Rooshan War, women's wrights, Kuby, Noknothinks, the pickerel question, niggers, tetter-rot, crow baounty, juries-prudence, judy-kature, French-spiles, religion an rum an many more cimilar idees wich though not insarted in the warrunt, all kim before the meetin, exercisin a powerful influence on the suvrin Electyve frankinsense. Perhaps the grate question "Rum or no Rum," war more perspickeous than any of the tothers, fairly ridin over the old issoos of dimocracy an federalism like a woodchuck over the caowkumber vines, not leavin enough of ither to greece a pair of waggon wheels. Jabe Libby made a tellin speech agin the licker law, an used some of the most beautifulest figgers of speech that I've ever heern. He said the law was no daoubt the disserlootion of abomination spoken of by Danle the prophesy, an bleved it destyned to blow up aour institooshuns and shatter aour perlaydium like a beesom. He had just heern that daoun to Portland, whar they accepted the law, it was workin most orful, a pair of gallersis had bin sot up, one on Maount Joy an tother on Brimhorn, an the perlise a workin day an night hanging all them as cant spell Kneal Daow backerds and walk a crack, them beein the shiberleth laid daoun in the statoote, entitled an act in addition to an act. That insendries, midnight torches an pestylence walked at noon day smashin thing generally.
The Grand Trunk had bin broken open an all the koopons stole, more than twelve elevenths of the hull city war a mask of conflergrashuns an still a burnin, an what makes the case more heartrendin an orfuller--the resyvoirs has gin aout, an all the licker is spilt.
Isaiah Peabody undertuck to reply an defend the law but owin to a bad cold and the bad gin he tuck to cure it he didn't do much. He said suthin abaout rummies, an his feelin hisself inspired as a apostate to fight aginn licker--when he sot up sich a sneezin and hickupin that the cheer called him to order, an his brother Enoch led him home.
Thar was a good deal of fuss abaout the right of suffrin. One party brought up an Irishman to vote, an tother one lugged up a great nasty nigger. Arter much jaw an more fighin the cheer decided that nyther come within the meanin of the statoote, not bein sarcumsised christians, but pagan annathelmys wich constytoots them to all intents alyens an seditions. The meetin gin three cheers at this decision an then kicked the Irishman an the nigger both out doors.
Below I give the ballot.
Hull vote 44
Awl others 3
Yours, Ethan Spike.
Music opening this page: "Changes IV" by Cat Stevens, from the album, "Teaser and the Firecat"