(First appeared in Mathoverflow) In May 2020, I submitted a paper to a notable Combinatorics journal where a couple of earlier papers in the topic of my paper had been published. It was one of my first papers in Mathematics, and I didn't motivate the introduction as well as the referee would have liked as it turned out, and had imagined that the major result of the paper would sell itself. I received a detailed referee report in December 2020 where the referee mentions that according to them all the results are correct, and had a lot of suggestions for improving the writing of the paper and identified typos and misspellings. Then they said the paper seems insufficiently motivated and in their opinion, the paper seems borderline for publication in that journal. The referee said they would like to get contacted by the next journal where this paper may be submitted in case the editors decided to reject the paper.
The editor rejected the paper. I sent a follow up email to this editor politely asking if he could confirm that he would be able to forward the referee report to the next journal. I did not get a reply to this email.
In February 2021, I spent time trying to motivate the paper better and reworded parts of the introduction and included some examples and references to more recent work in the area, and then submitted to another new prestigious Combinatorics journal, requesting if they could use the earlier referee report. A month later, I sent a couple of emails requesting if they could let me know if the earlier referee had been contacted, but did not get a reply. In late October 2021, I sent a further email requesting for some information on the refereeing process, and got two new referee reports the next day. One of these said the paper is well motivated and well written and is suitable for publication, but that the main long proof could be written a bit better. The other detailed report said the paper is "worthy of attention" but asked for a lot of changes in the writing and that I spend time on the main theorem. The editor's message said overall this is no guarantee of eventual acceptance.
I completed the revision in December 2021, spending some time on rewriting this proof and including diagrams. I did not hear back from the editor till a couple of weeks back. I sent a couple of polite emails asking for the status, over a weekend, but didn't get a reply.
There was a follow up paper to this paper that was written up a bit poorly and ideally should have been worked on after this paper did get published. This was causing some amount of stress. I withdrew the paper two weeks back. Only then the editor emailed me saying he had a follow up referee report which noted that the paper had "improved considerably" although the "main theorem remains hard to follow, but perhaps that is a personal opinion", and lists a couple of small further typos.
The editor said he would be willing to forward these referee reports to the next journal I submit to. I replied thanking him, but also saying that if I knew it was actually close to being completely refereed here, I would not have withdrawn it.
The editor in chief of the next journal said he wanted "formal letters" from the editors in chief of the two previous journals. I wrote to both of these earlier journals about this. However, today I received a rejection saying they could not get hold of the previous referee reports.
Now I resubmitted again to the second journal, which took around a year and had two referees go through my paper. In this case, can I expect this journal again to consider this paper objectively?