Sunday, October 14, 2018

Big Three of American Fiction in 1854

Knickerbocker Gallery - Ik Marvel

This below, from a long critique of Kossuth in the New York Herald on December 29, 1854. Despite the devastating review of Pierre two years before (New York Herald, September 18, 1852), Herman Melville still belongs in the Big Three of accomplished American novelists, after Donald Grant Mitchell (aka John Timon; aka Ik Marvel) and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

New York Herald - December 29, 1854
... A man may fail, and be none the less capable on account thereof. The most successful men have been at times on the brink of ruin: Louis Napoleon could not pay for his washing. But if in such cases the world generously consents to make allowance for misfortune, and acquits such men of want of ability, it has a right to expect that they will not presume on its good nature to speak and act as though perfect triumph had crowned their endeavors. An author who having published a bad novel would at once set about showing that neither Mitchell nor Hawthorne nor Melville knew anything of novel writing, and that their books deserved not to sell, would be likely to meet with severe and merited castigation. Just so with M. Kossuth, Mazzini, Ledru Rollin and the other exiles. They all had their chance--in some cases a fair and promising one--but not one out of the number had the tact or the sense or the prudence to maintain himself. Common decency should remind them of this, when they feel impelled to cavil at the acts of others. --New York Herald - December 29, 1854

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Moby-Dick in the New York Morning Express

This notice of Moby-Dick in the New York Morning Express on November 17, 1851 borrows extensively from the Courier and Enquirer review of November 14th, but the texts are not identical. The Express tweaks the introduction before quoting the body of the earlier notice--using quotation marks and presenting it as the verdict of
"One who has read "Moby dick."
The reference to Melville's previous "squintings at his whaling experiences" appears only in the Express version.

New York Morning Express - November 17, 1851 via Fulton History

LITERARY NOTICES.

MOBY-DICK, OR THE WHALE. Herman Melville. Harpers.

Another book by the author of "Typee." What writer is more welcome? We have had a touch of his qualities on the sea, and some squintings at his whaling experiences, before, and are prepared to find in his new book a great deal of amusement and instruction, combined with his usual felicity. One who has read "Moby dick" tells us that it "has all the attractiveness of any of its predecessors; in truth it possesses more of a witching nature, since the author has taken in it a wilder play than ever before. It is ostensibly taken up with whales and whalers, but a vast variety of characters and subjects figure in it, all set off with an artistic effect that irresistibly captivates the attention. The author writes with the gusto of true genius, and it must be a torpid spirit indeed that is not enlivened with the raciness of his humor and the redolence of his imagination."  --New York Morning Express, November 17, 1851; found at Fulton History.
Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews, edited by Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker (Cambridge University Press, 1995; 2009 in paperback) gives the earlier notice in the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer on page 374.

Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer - November 14, 1851
via Fulton History
As reported by David Potter in his survey of Reviews of Moby-Dick in The Journal of the Rutgers University Library Vol 3, No 2 (1940), the highly favorable Courier and Enquirer review was reprinted in Littell's Living  Age, vol. 32 (January 17, 1852).


Moby Dick; or the Whale. By Herman Melville. Harper and Brothers: New York. 
No American writer is more sure, at every reappearance, of a more cheerful welcome than the author of Typee. His purity and freshness of style and exquisite tact in imparting vividness and life-likeness to his sketches long since gained him hosts of admirers on both sides of the water. This book has all the attractiveness of any of its predecessors; in truth, it possesses more of a witching interest, since the author's fancy has taken in it a wilder play than ever before. It is ostensibly taken up with whales and whalers, but a vast variety of characters and subjects figure in it, all set off with an artistic effect that irresistibly captivates the attention. The author writes with the gusto of true genius, and it mast be a torpid spirit indeed that is not enlivened with the raciness of his humor and the redolence of his imagination.—
N. Y. Courier 
[as reprinted January 17, 1852 in Littell's Living  Age, vol. 32.]

Melville's new book, The Whale

Just as Moby-Dick was rolling out in the U. S., the New York Evening Post printed this brief notice of the favorable reception of The Whale across the pond, more or less buried in a long column of "Foreign Items":
"Herman Melville's new book "The Whale," now in press of the Harper's, is well received in England."  --New York Evening Post, November 12, 1851.
Reprinted in the Troy Daily Budget on November 13, 1851; also the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser on November 14, 1851; and the Buffalo Courier on November 15, 1851.

Wed, Nov 12, 1851 – Page 2 · The Evening Post (New York, New York, New York) · Newspapers.com

Monday, October 1, 2018

Hobbes's Leviathan, from the library of Herman Melville

Early in 1892, as Merton M. Sealts, Jr. relates in Melville's Reading (University of Wisconsin Press, 1966) and Pursuing Melville, 1940-1980 (University of Wisconsin Press, 1982), Brooklyn bookman Alfred Francis Farnell (1835-1908) bought a lot of the late Herman Melville's books for $120. Among the most valuable was a rare 1651 edition of Hobbes's Leviathan, according  to this bit of "Brooklyn Gossip" in the New York Evening World for March 19, 1892. Found at GenealogyBank among items added "within 3 months."

New York Evening World - March 19, 1892
via GenealogyBank

BROOKLYN GOSSIP.

Bibliomaniacs seldom visit "Ye Olde Booke Shoppe," on Court street, without feasting their eyes on something rare and valuable.

"We have just purchased," says Mr. Farwell [A. F. Farnell], "the library of the late Herman Melville, of New York, and we obtained some valuable works. Here is one bearing the date of 1651."

It was the second edition of the "Leviathon," [Leviathan] published in London and much valued by Mr. Melville.
Obituary of Alfred F. Farnell in the Brooklyn Daily Standard Union, May 14, 1908:

ALFRED F. FARNELL.
Alfred Francis Farnell, bookseller, of 46 Court street, died Tuesday [May 12, 1908] of heart disease at his home, 96 Garfield place. Mr. Farnell established the Court street business known as A. F. Farnell & Sons in 1880. He was born in Yorkshire, England, June 5, 1835, and went to New Haven, Conn., in 1865, where for a number of years he conducted a circulating library. he is survived by two sons, Fred W. and Henry A., a daughter, Maude M., and a sister, Mrs. A. Blair, of Montgomery, Ala. Mr. Farnell was a member of the Second Unitarian Church, and the Rev. C. S. S. Dutton conducted funeral services this afternoon. Buried in Greenwood Cemetery.
Brooklyn Daily Standard Union - May 14, 1908
via Fulton History
The Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes is #358 in Melville's Sources (Northwestern University Press, 1987) by Mary K. Bercaw Edwards; not currently listed in "The Online Catalog of Books and Documents Owned, Borrowed and Consulted by Herman Melville" at Melville's Marginalia Online.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

1852 letter in the Panama Star--signed "Herman Melville"?

Harper's New Monthly Magazine - January 1859
It took five years to build The Panama Railroad, starting in 1850. Thousands of people died of malaria and cholera and other horrors:
"It was a hard road to build. The tropical fevers slaughtered the laborers by wholesale. It is a popular saying, that every railroad tie from Panama to Aspinwall rests upon a corpse. It ought to be a substantial road, being so well provided with sleepers—eternal ones and otherwise."  --Letter from Mark Twain in the Chicago Republican (August 23, 1868).
Construction of the entire line was not completed until 1855, but an 1852 item in the London Athenaeum (August 7, 1852) references a letter about "the first trip" on a completed segment, signed "Herman Melville." According to The Athenaeum, "the author of 'Omoo" endorsed the project and expected it to be finished sooner than it actually was.

Every now and then it is convenient for our readers that we should present in a few words and at one view a general idea of the progress of railway extension—this extension being one of the most powerful agents of peace, social prosperity, intellectual interchange, and civilization generally. Most important perhaps of all the iron ways now in course of construction is that at the isthmus which separates the ocean over which Columbus sailed from that which Nunez discovered. All other railways are local and provincial—this is of universal interest. A letter from Herman Melville, printed in the Panama Star, describes the first trip made on a portion of this line—that is, as far as the crossing of the river opposite San Pablo. The works, according to report, proceed without interruption; and the author of ‘Omoo’ expresses an opinion that they will be completed in about a year from this date.— --The Athenaeum, August 7, 1852.
Herman Melville was then in Pittsfield, not Panama. Melville's friend Robert Tomes did go to Panama, and did write about the new railroad--but not until 1855, after its completion.



Melville got Tomes's book (Sealts Number 528 in the catalog at Melville's Marginalia Online) as soon as it came out. Among various international themes that might have appealed to the poet in Melville as suitable for versifying, Hershel Parker has already suggested the Panama Railroad, without reference to anything in the Panama Star:
"Melville could have written with some confidence about the epic construction of the Panama Railroad with its uncountable sacrifice of human life, since he could have relied on his copy of the chronicle of that achievement written by his old friend Robert Tomes...." --Melville: The Making of the Poet; also the Historical Note in Herman Melville's Published Poems (Northwestern University and The Newberry Library, 2009).
Sailing to San Francisco with his brother on The Meteor, Melville wrote of Panama and the railroad in a letter to his son Malcolm:
"When we get to San-Francisco, I shall put this letter in the post office there, and you will get it in about 25 days afterwards. It will go in a steamer to a place called Panama, on the Isthmus of Darien (get out your map, & find it) then it will cross the Isthmus by rail road to Aspinwall or Chagres on the Gulf of Mexico; there, another steamer will take it, which steamer, after touching at Havanna in Cuba for coals, will go direct to New York; and there, it will go to the Post Office, and so, get to Pittsfield."  --Melville's Correspondence, edited by Lynn Horth (Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library, 1993), page 349.
Melville himself rode the train across the Isthmus in November 1860, on his return trip from San Fransisco via Panama. He departed from Aspinwall on the steamship North Star, arriving in New York City on November 13, 1860. The New York Commercial Advertiser for November 14, 1860 identifies "Mr. Melville" and some of his more privileged companions including then Lieutenant Chauncey McKeever of the United States Army, traveling with his unnamed "servant"; and Lieutenant Robert MacFeely with "lady and servant." Like Melville and a number of their fellow travelers on the North Star, army officers McKeever and MacFeely had also made the trip from San Francisco to Panama aboard the Cortes.

New York Commercial Advertiser - November 14, 1860
If the 1852 account in the Panama Star was first-hand, the letter-writer was presumably an admirer using "Herman Melville" as a pseudonym. I have not found the letter as printed in the Panama Star, and I don't know who wrote it, really.

Only a guess:

In July 1852 American soldiers with the 4th Infantry (including the regiment of then Quartermaster Ulysses S. Grant) rode the train as far as it went, just to the Chagres River at Barbacoas. They and "300 civilian passengers" had arrived at Colón (formerly Aspinwall) on the steamship Ohio, as related by Aexander Saunders in his Short History of the Panama Railroad. Maybe "Herman Melville" was a soldier or sailor or other passenger on the Ohio.

Readex, a Division of Newsbank has the Panama Star in its database of Latin American newspapers, and Wilson Library at the University of Minnesota carries Newsbank/Readex, so I drove south to the Minneapolis campus this morning and checked. Alas, complete runs of the tri-weekly newspaper (published in Panama City on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays) for the year 1852 are only available via Readex in November and December. Nothing at all in June, July, and August 1852.

Herman C. Melville! Update 10/02/2018:

Lansingburgh Historical Society trustee and webmaster Christopher K. Philippo has discovered and kindly forwarded earlier British notices of an 1852 communication to the Panama Star from "Herman C. Melville," some of which specifically cite the Panama Star of July 6, 1852. Apparently the Athenaeum found the Panama Railroad item in a London newspaper and erroneously transformed "Herman C. Melville" into the author of Omoo.

From the London Express, August 2, 1852 (page 2 column 6):

THE WEST INDIA, PACIFIC, AND MEXICAN MAILS.

...
Regarding the progress of the Isthmus Railway, the Panama Star of July 6 has the following:
From Mr. Herman C. Melville we learn, that the rail way cars made their first trip to the crossing of the river opposite San Pablo, on Sunday, the 4th inst., where the employées of the company did due honour both to the day and the occasion. Every week brings the railway nearer to us, and we may confidently expect to find the road, judging from present appearances, completed to this city before the expiration of the contract, August, 1853.
London Express - August 2, 1852
via NewspaperArchive
Reprinted in the London Daily News, August 3, 1852. Also in the Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser [Somerset, England] August 4, 1852: 4 cols 2-3; and Leicestershire Mercury [England] August 7, 1852: 2 col 1.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Not Mary Elizabeth Frye

Here's something different, though not entirely out of place, I hope, considering the number and relative popularity of Melvilliana posts on authorship questions.
https://academic.oup.com/nq/article-abstract/65/3/423/5056203
As my article in the current issue of Notes and Queries (September 2018) demonstrates, the consoling poem known as Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep was originally written by Kansas native Clare Harner (1909-1977) and published under the title "Immortality" in the December 1934 issue of The Gypsy.

Clare Harner
The ubiquity of attributions to Mary Elizabeth Frye (1905-2004) in print and online formats, calls to mind the persistence with which the quote "We cannot live for ourselves alone...." has been falsely attributed (by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Garrison Keillor, for example) to Herman Melville.
 http://melvilliana.blogspot.com/2011/09/finest-thing-herman-melville-never-said.html
On the internet right now, attributions of Clare Harner's "Immortality" to Mary Elizabeth Frye are sometimes accompanied by photographs wrongly supposed to represent the "Baltimore housewife and florist."
 https://www.poetseers.org/contemporary-poets/mary/index.html
 https://www.poemhunter.com/mary-elizabeth-frye/
Newspaper columnist Richard K. Shull first attributed the poem to "Mrs. Mary Frye" in a story for The Indianapolis News (June 9, 1983). As portrayed by Shull, however, the admirable Mrs. Frye sounds more like a copyist than composer. And the extended version presented by Shull as "her original text" is certainly not the "modern definitive version" of "Do not stand at my grave and weep" given in the London Times obituary of Mary E. Frye.

Of two pictures most often identified by internet sources as Mary Elizabeth Frye of Baltimore, neither actually depicts the person claimed. Though intended to represent Mary Elizabeth Frye the homespun poet of "Do not stand at/by my grave and weep," these pictures are in fact photographs of other women, namely:
  1. Mary Frye of Dallas, Texas; and
  2. Mary Elizabeth Switzer
Mary Frye of Dallas has long been a leader in the home decor business.
"She is an active industry advocate, speaker and panelist at home furnishings seminars and conferences. A strong supporter of networking and a believer in servant leadership, she is dedicated to the mission of fostering connections to grow careers and build lasting relationships." --WithIt 2011 Professional Conference brochure
As president of Home Furnishings Independents Association in 2010, Mary Frye won the Chairman's Appreciation Award. The 2010 announcement of her award was accompanied by a smart, business-style photograph that has since been misidentified as a portrait of Mary Elizabeth Frye the reputed author of "Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep."
Mary Frye
via Furniture Today
This Mary Frye continues to excel in her field, recently winning a 2018 WOW Award for Mentoring. Professional articles in RetailerNOW by Mary Frye, executive vice president of the Home Furnishings Association may be found via the link below:
http://retailernowmag.com/author/mary-frye/
For an updated photo see Mary Frye on LinkedIn.

Another image misidentified online as Mary Elizabeth Frye of Baltimore is in fact a portrait of Mary Elizabeth Switzer (1900-1971), the distinguished government administrator and influential advocate of expanded services for persons with disabilities.

Mary Elizabeth Switzer (1900-1971)
via Smithsonian Institution
More about Mary Elizabeth Switzer:
  • https://siarchives.si.edu/collections/siris_arc_306377
  • Mary E. Switzer Facts 
  • https://www.aph.org/hall/inductees/switzer/
I don't know why, but the bio of Mary Elizabeth Frye at Emily's Poetry Blog features an image of Margaret Thatcher.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Battle-Pieces in Gold Hill, Nevada

From the Gold Hill Daily News (Gold Hill, Nevada), October 1, 1866; found at GenealogyBank.

Gold Hill [Nevada] Daily News - October 1, 1866
The author of "Pypee," "Omoo," "Pierre" and "Moby Dick" has a reputation on both sides of the Atlantic as a writer of strange novels, but it is a new thing for him to appear as the author of a volume of poems. As such, however, he has ventured to come before the public with a beautifully-printed volume entitled "Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War," published by the Harpers. We have had barely time to give the book a hasty glance, but are satisfied that it is of a far different character from that of the most of the published "poetry of the war," which has been entailed on us along with the national debt and other afflictions.
When this notice of Melville's Battle-Pieces appeared, publisher Philip Lynch was also "sole editor" of the Gold Hill Daily News. (Alfred Doten came on as associate editor the next year, in November 1867.)
"According to the Nevada historian Myron Angel, under Lynch the Gold Hill Daily News gained a reputation as 'the best-printed [paper] of any on the Pacific Coast.'"
--Nevada Digital Newspaper Project
Mark Twain gave his Sandwich Islands lecture in Gold Hill on November 10, 1866, and afterwards endured a famous hold-up, perpetrated by his friends.

Gold Hill Daily News (Gold Hill, Nevada) - November 10, 1866
via GenealogyBank