Friday, June 23, 2017

Short notice of Clarel in the New York Observer

New York Observer - June 29, 1876
CLAREL: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land. By Herman Melville. In Four Parts. 1, Journalism. 2, The Wilderness; 3, Mar Saba; 4, Bethlehem. G. P. Putnam's Sons.
This is a dreary pilgrimage of two volumes of miserable poetry (if such it can be called) which few readers will be able to complete. --New York Observer, June 29, 1876
So Melville was right when he described Clarel as "eminently adapted for unpopularity," in his letter to James Billson dated October 10, 1884. The first book is titled "Jerusalem," not "Journalism."

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Philip Jenkins on Melville's Dualism in "Lost Gnostic Poem"

Philip Jenkins reads a Timoleon poem and locates Melville's poetical Fragments on the Albigensian part of the "Dualist/Gnostic continuum."
More curious is why it is allegedly “of the twelfth century.” All the Patristic sources concerning Gnosticism were focused on the first three or so centuries of the Christian era. Now, there were medieval Dualist movements in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries like the Bogomils and Albigensians, and many writers (including myself) have suggested possible continuities from ancient Gnosticism. I have even spoken of the Dualist/Gnostic continuum. In that sense, you could even imagine an Albigensian poem of the twelfth century, say, being described as Gnostic in a very broad sense.
Along the way, the Baylor historian raises interesting questions pertaining to the study of Melville's sources. Did Melville read Jules Michelet or Madame Blavatsky? Check out the enlightening blog post by Philip Jenkins for The Anxious Bench, on Patheos via the Evangelical Channel:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Clement C. Moore disclaimed authorship of the charity hymn, "Lord of life, all praise excelling"

In 1866, Reverend Samuel R. Johnson wrote a letter to the editor of the Utica, New York Gospel Messenger in which he reported a conversation with Clement C. Moore that had taken place around 1856-7, "six or seven years before his death." Johnson was curious about the authorship of Hymn 117, a charity hymn often attributed to Moore. When asked by his fellow churchman, Moore disclaimed authorship of the Episcopal hymn, "Lord of life, all praise excelling."
"Do you know who wrote that Hymn 117, for charitable occasions, beginning 'Lord of life, all praise excelling?'" He replied, "I do not know." Why, said I, Dr. Moore, do you know that I have repeatedly heard that hymn attributed to you, confidently, and by clergymen of reputation; more than that, I have seen the assertion several times in print. "No," said he, "it is a mistake; I did not write it, nor do I know who did write it." So his disclaimer settles that question forever. It was some six or seven years before his death, while his memory was evidently clear and firm.  --Gospel Messenger, January 25, 1866
As shown in a previous melvilliana post, the words to the hymn beginning "Lord of life, all praise excelling" were in fact written by Samuel Birch, the dramatist, pastrycook, and in 1814 Lord Mayor of London.

The published letter from Samuel R. Johnson provides additional testimony that Clement Clarke Moore did not compose the charity hymn commonly attributed to him. As also confirmed in Johnson's 1866 letter to the editor of the Gospel Messenger, Moore had no trouble denying authorship of widely beloved lyrics when he did not write them.
... Long years after, when the discussion concerning the authorship of the hymns was going on in the Church papers, especially in Philadelphia, this hymn was attributed by several to Prof. Moore. Some years after, endeavoring to verify the authors, at the request of a friend, I said to myself "Why was not this hymn, written so long ago, which was deemed good enough even for the Church's use, inserted in Dr. Moore's volume of poems, prepared by his own hand, published under his own eye? and as I met him weekly, why should I leave the matter at all in doubt, so easily determined by his very word? Accordingly, on visiting him, I turned the conversation to the authorship of these hymns, and put the question plainly, "Do you know who wrote that Hymn 117, for charitable occasions, beginning 'Lord of life, all praise excelling?'" He replied, "I do not know." Why, said I, Dr. Moore, do you know that I have repeatedly heard that hymn attributed to you, confidently, and by clergymen of reputation; more than that, I have seen the assertion several times in print. "No," said he, "it is a mistake; I did not write it, nor do I know who did write it." So his disclaimer settles that question forever. It was some six or seven years before his death, while his memory was evidently clear and firm.  --Gospel Messenger and Church Record of Western New York, January 25, 1866

Gospel Messenger and Church Record of Western New York
 January 25, 1866 (1 of 2)
Gospel Messenger and Church Record of Western New York
January 25, 1866 (2 of 2)
Related post:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Daniel Webster on the Bunker Hill Monument as orator

View of Bunker Hill & Monument, June 17: 1843
via Library of Congress
Speaking in 1852 at the annual Printers' Banquet, Melville's friend Dr. John W. Francis opened by recalling what Daniel Webster famously had said about the Bunker Hill Monument:
WHEN the great defender of the Constitution delivered the oration at Bunker Hill, he pointed to the just completed monument and exclaimed, “There stands the Orator of the Day.”  --Reminiscences of Printers, Authors, and Booksellers in New-York
Dr. Francis paraphrased and condensed, making one great line out of the well-known passage in which Webster personified the Bunker Hill Monument as "itself the orator of this occasion." As reported by Richard Frothingham and painted in oil by an unknown hand, Webster dramatically gestured to his superior when he said,
"The powerful speaker stands motionless before us."
Daniel Webster, 1843 Speech at Bunker Hill Monument
via Gallery 76 Americana & Folk Art
Herman Melville made a similarly humble move when he dedicated Israel Potter to the Bunker Hill Monument:

Your Highness will pardon me, if, with the warmest ascriptions on this auspicious occasion, I take the liberty to mingle my hearty congratulations on the recurrence of the anniversary day we celebrate, wishing your Highness (though indeed your Highness be somewhat prematurely gray) many returns of the same, and that each of its summer's suns may shine as brightly on your brow as each winter snow shall lightly rest on the grave of Israel Potter.

Your Highness'
Most devoted and obsequious,

JUNE 17th, 1854.  --Herman Melville - Israel Potter
For background and context, here is a fuller selection from Daniel Webster's 1843 Address, his second Bunker Hill oration. (The first of Webster's famous Bunker Hill Monument speeches was delivered on June 17, 1825 at laying of the corner-stone of the Bunker Hill Monument at Charlestown, Massachusetts.) The text of the 1843 speech would have been available to Melville in (for one example) the first volume of The Works of Daniel Webster (Boston, 1851).
The Bunker Hill Monument is finished. Here it stands. Fortunate in the high natural eminence on which it is placed, higher, infinitely higher in its objects and purpose, it rises over the land and over the sea; and, visible, at their homes, to three hundred thousand of the people of Massachusetts, it stands a memorial of the last, and a monitor to the present and to all succeeding generations. I have spoken of the loftiness of its purpose. If it had been without any other design than the creation of a work of art, the granite of which it is composed would have slept in its native bed. It has a purpose, and that purpose gives it its character. That purpose enrobes it with dignity and moral grandeur. That well-known purpose it is which causes us to look up to it with a feeling of awe. It is itself the orator of this occasion. It is not from my lips, it could not be from any human lips, that that strain of eloquence is this day to flow most competent to move and excite the vast multitudes around me. The powerful speaker stands motionless before us. It is a plain shaft. It bears no inscriptions, fronting to the rising sun, from which the future antiquary shall wipe the dust. Nor does the rising sun cause tones of music to issue from its summit. But at the rising of the sun, and at the setting of the sun; in the blaze of noonday, and beneath the milder effulgence of lunar light; it looks, it speaks, it acts, to the full comprehension of every American mind, and the awakening of glowing enthusiasm in every American heart. Its silent, but awful utterance; its deep pathos, as it brings to our contemplation the 17th of June, 1775, and the consequences which have resulted to us, to our country, and to the world, from the events of that day, and which we know must continue to rain influence on the destinies of mankind to the end of time; the elevation with which it raises us high above the ordinary feelings of life, surpass all that the study of the closet, or even the inspiration of genius, can produce. To-day it speaks to us. Its future auditories will be the successive generations of men, as they rise up before it and gather around it. Its speech will be of patriotism and courage; of civil and religious liberty; of free government; of the moral improvement and elevation of mankind; and of the immortal memory of those who, with heroic devotion, have sacrificed their lives for their country. 
--Daniel Webster on the Completion of the Bunker Hill Monument (June 17, 1843).
In Monumental Melville: The Formation of a Literary Career Edgar A. Dryden quotes extensively from the 1843 Address, including Daniel Webster's depiction of the monument as "orator" and "powerful speaker." In Dryden's view, Israel Potter gives Melville's "antithetical version of the national myth that not only destabilizes Webster's vision of the monument supporting the myth of the nation, but demystifies both public and literary monumentality." For the freshest discussion to date, check out John Hay's article in the June 2016 New England Quarterly, titled Broken Hearths: Melville's Israel Potter and the Bunker Hill Monument. Rightly estimating Dryden's reading as "persuasive," Hay nevertheless offers a welcome counterbalance to the constant and by now wearisome valorizing of irony in Melville criticism.

Friday, June 16, 2017

William Alfred Jones's dedication to Clement C. Moore

Literary critic William Alfred Jones dedicated his two-volume collection of Characters and Criticisms (New York, 1857) to Clement C. Moore, who had been a close friend of Jones's father, the lawyer David S. Jones (1777-1848). Moore's friend David S. Jones was
for nearly half a century one of the most active and influential members of the New York bar and was the first judge of Queens county and received the degree of LL.D. from Allegheny College. --The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography
In his published dedication, W. A. Jones thanked Moore for "many kindnesses." As shown in a previous melvilliana post, W. A. Jones had favorably reviewed Moore's 1844 volume of Poems in the July 17, 1847 issue of The Literary World. Jones reprinted the review in his 1849 anthology, Essays upon Authors and Books. The review of Moore's Poems appears yet again in volume 2 of the 1857 work that Jones dedicated to Moore. As Columbia Librarian, W. A. Jones also wrote admiringly of Moore in his published history, The First Century of Columbia College.










For some years W. A, Jones had been associated with his friends Evert A. Duyckinck and Cornelius Mathews as champions of Young America. Jones is generally credited (wrongly?) with authorship of the unusually positive review of Herman Melville's Mardi in the July 1849 issue of The United States Democratic Review.

In his signed work, William Alfred Jones studiously ignores Herman Melville. No treatment of Melville appears in his anthologies of previously published literary criticism. The anonymous reviewer of Mardi in John O'Sullivan's U. S. Democratic Review exhibits a reform agenda that Jones once shared as a Liberal Democrat writing for Democrats. However, the reviewer seems oddly abstemious for one of Duyckinck's Rabelaisian Knights of the Round Table. He does not know, or pretends not to know, if Herman Melville smokes and drinks in real life the way his fictional characters do. He hopes not, but has to admit:
"there is a little murkiness in Mardi, that smells of the smoke of the vile weed."
--Review of Melville's Mardi in the U. S. Democratic Review, July 1849
The anonymous review of Mardi appeared in the year after Jones's dramatic split with Evert A. Duyckinck. As Perry Miller relates in The Raven and the Whale, Duyckinck broke with his loyal friend over the married Jones's scandalous flirtations with Catherine Clark Panton, then teenage sister of Duyckinck's wife Margaret. Miller's blockbuster ends poignantly with the image, not of Poe-Raven or Melville-Whale, but of William Alfred Jones as
"an amusing eccentric, with no concerns except his whimsies. The sole survivor of Young America, he endured until May 6, 1900." --The Raven and the Whale

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dylan's Melvillean intro

"We have small respect for authors who are wilful, and cannot be advised; but we reverence a man when God's must is upon him, and he does his work in his own and other's spite." --The United States Democratic Review - July 1849

Dylan cops Melville's best book best when he talks about internalizing songs:
You know what it's all about. Takin' the pistol out and puttin' it back in your pocket. Whippin' your way through traffic, talkin' in the dark. You know that Stagger Lee was a bad man and that Frankie was a good girl. You know that Washington is a bourgeois town and you've heard the deep-pitched voice of John the Revelator and you saw the Titanic sink in a boggy creek. And you're pals with the wild Irish rover and the wild colonial boy. You heard the muffled drums and the fifes that played lowly. You've seen the lusty Lord Donald stick a knife in his wife, and a lot of your comrades have been wrapped in white linen.  --Bob Dylan - Nobel Lecture
 By "Melville's best book" I mean Mardi, obviously:
Yet, again, I descend, and list to the concert. 
Like a grand, ground swell, Homer’s old organ rolls its vast volumes under the light frothy wave-crests of Anacreon and Hafiz; and high over my ocean, sweet Shakespeare soars, like all the larks of the spring. Throned on my sea-side, like Canute, bearded Ossian smites his hoar harp, wreathed with wild-flowers, in which warble my Wallers; blind Milton sings bass to my Petrarchs and Priors, and laureats crown me with bays.
In me many worthies recline and converse. I list to St. Paul, who argues the doubts of Montaigne; Julian the Apostate cross-questions Augustine; and Thomas-a-Kempis unrolls his old black letters for all to decipher. Zeno murmurs maxims beneath the hoarse shouts of Democritus; and though Democritus laugh loud and long, and the sneer of Pyrrho be seen, yet, divine Plato, and Proclus, and Verulam are of my counsel; and Zoroaster whispered me before I was born. I walk a world that is mine; and enter many nations, as Mungo Park rested in African cots. I am served like Bajazet: Bacchus my butler, Virgil my minstrel, Philip Sidney my page. My memory is a life beyond birth; my memory, my library of the Vatican, its alcoves all endless perspectives, eve-tinted by cross-lights from Middle-Age oriels.
--Herman Melville - Mardi

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Stockbridge correspondent "Jeannie Deans" on Berkshire in 1855

Glendale via RootsWeb -
A native "westerner," formerly of Galena, the poet and journalist who signed herself "Jeannie Deans" after the heroine of Scott's The Heart of Midlothian (but not Jane Grey Swisshelm, the better known "Jeannie Deans") was a regular correspondent of the St. Paul Minnesotian in the early to mid 1850's. In the summer of 1853, "Jeannie Deans" visited Baltimore and Norfolk, Virginia. In August of that year she wrote about socializing with G. P. R. James in Nags Head, North Carolina (Weekly Minnesotian, September 24, 1853). In 1854 the Minnesota editor politely declined to reveal the identity of his gifted correspondent:
We have been asked a thousand times, "who is Jeannie Deans?" That question we are not at liberty to answer as yet. We can only say, although now residing in Massachusetts, she is a lady identified with the West from infancy, and with the North-West since the first settlement of northern Illinois. Galena particularly should be proud to claim one who has it within her power to assume a position in literary circles alongside of "Grace Greenwood," Miss Cummings, or any other famous names among our younger lady authoresses. --St. Paul Weekly Minnesotian, June 17, 1854
By that time "Jeannie Deans" had moved to Stockbridge. In the summer of 1855 she would move again, to New Jersey. Transcribed below, her piece "For the Minnesotian" dated March 26, 1855 features the obligatory reference to Berkshire resident Herman Melville and his "charming Typee." However, this particular selection of "Village Sketches" by "Jeannie Deans" seems more interesting and important for her contemporary description of the Glendale Woolen Mills.

From the St Paul Daily Minnesotian, April 13, 1855; reprinted in the Weekly Minnesotian, April 14, 1855.

[For the Minnesotian]

Village Sketches.

Our village is like any other village. It has the same broad street, swept clean just now, by the old woman March, who has come down from the sky, and clashes the branches of old trees together into a rude timbrel music. Well, to retrace our steps, return to our street. On each side of it are ancient elms, turf and white fences, with here and there beautiful cottages nestling like birds, closing their wings around the house tree. Cottagesornee and gabled, in every variety of architectureporches, bay-windows and verandah "all around the house." We have one Doctor, ditto Shoemaker, the Store, a Blacksmith, Carpenters, Cows, Horses, fowl and flesh. A poor-house, crazy man, two superannuated colored people, a gossip and a bad boy. But it is unlike any other little place in its wealth of intellect, high orders of mindrefinement, cultivation and accomplishment. The air is filled with inspiration. Where congregates more genius than in Berkshire? Is not Monument Mountain a granite column to Bryant, that no time shall effect, but stand his soul-marks through eternity? Is not every tree, rock and stream, around her native place crowned with the ever living wreath of fame by the talented Authoress of Berkshire?
Near us are Dr. Griswold, Herman Melville, the author of charming Typee, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and in the summer, Henry Ward Beecher and others. We catch glimpses of these shining lights sometimes. Shakespeare must have had a prophetic one, when he said,
"How far that little candle throws his beams."
Now-a-days we see all the great minds face to face, thanks to Photography and Railroads.

Aproprosthe latter brings to mind a ride of last week. Seven ladies and one gentleman took the eleven o'clock train for Glendale, a beautiful place two miles distant; beautiful as its name; but doomed to bloom unseen, for utility had turned it into that destroyer of beauty, a manufacturing town. Its rippling stream was damned. Its finest rocks became a gas fixture, and its trees fell in its defence. We were going to the Glendale Mills, "Woolen Factory," (as the card expressed it,) to see all that was to be seen. And we didfrom the commencementthe great furnace, with its red jaws, glowing and flaming, setting all the machinery in motion, to the spinning room, next the roof. 
"Here are the dyeing rooms;" a general smell of bark, a huge vat of boiling indigo, two gloomy phantoms looming up in the mist, "true blues," rolling up cloth on windlasses from the tubs beneath. A peculiar, cloudy, damp feeling, a dyeing sensation prevailed.

"Oh! the ladies' bonnets, the ladies' bonnets," screamed the foreman. "Mr. G., they will all dye!"

A concert scream and a rush followed. I am sorry for the sake of mankind to add, that the one gentleman was just as much afraid of dyeing as the ladies, and his new hat gave him courage to precede us in the melee. We who wore black bonnets and hoods returned, those whose new felts and velvets vanity had prompted to wear, stood
"Like Tantalus without the pale."
The finishing room was filled with roll upon roll of shining cloths of every hue, "grey, black and brown." The carding was new to all of us; each machine keeps one man busy. One little boy, scarcely fourteen years of age, had the care of one.

The spinning room at the top of the building employed but five men. One of these attracted our attention and interested us. His years numbered more than fifty; his clothes were poor and threadbare, but scrupulously clean; his face wore a resigned, melancholy look. Mr. G. told us that he had been absent from that mill but three days in the last eighteen years. Regular as clock-work he entered the door and walked fourteen hours daily in the winter, behind that machine. Think of it. What a tread mill life. Day after day to stand in the same room, on the same boards, rolling that pile of springing machinery. What is winter, summer, year in, year out, to him? Is it any wonder that he has grown mechanical, subdued, with a vacant, thoughtful face, chained to a rock by poverty. I felt as though he must fly. I wondered he did not open the window and dash out, down four stories; "anywhere, anywhere, out of the world." 
The weaving room was airy and spacious, the floor white, for the girls "holy-stone" it. Pillars through the center of the room and many windows. The whirr and clash of the shuttles was deafening. Here we had more interest. This was the woman's department. One had the charge of the looms, and it was quite enough to keep them busytaking out empty bobbins and replacing them with filled ones; tying weaver's knots and heading pieces. One little girl of twelve years was commencing the web of her life. Her looms wove and wove and the little hands flew from one to another without cessation. Her cheeks had an unnatural glow; want of air and exercise were weaving the warp of disease through the woof of nature.

Each factory girl had her window, filled with green plants, prayer books, looking glasses, bits of colored papers, and treasures that looking at helped to cheer them. Here was a casement void of green, a little red shoe and a half made apron and sewing implements filled the seat. The owner of these looms was a tall, slender woman, transparently white, hollow-eyed and negligently dressed. She seemed exhausted and harrassed. She dropped into a chair after feeding, as though she could stand no longer. I imagined her thinking of a little one at home; perhaps it was sick, or would not receive attention. Her face haunted me all day.

In contrast to her, the next looms were under the care of a bright, rosy Irish girl, neat and tidysinging at her task, as pretty and healthy a specimen of the country girl as I have seen. Two roses were in full bloom in her window, and a vine with a small yellow blossom twining the pillar in the sunshine.

The shears and napping were inspected and then we went to the store while the gentlemen went to dinner; officiated and rummaged the drawers, dined on crackers, raisins, confections and cinnamon. Were obliged to wait two hours for the cars at the depot, some of the party took high seats on the desk for want of chairs, others played "Tee-to-tum." Several poetical discussions took place, with a general dissention of mind. Did any two ever agree entirely on Religion or Medicine, on Poetry or Philosophy? The boys who had been playing base around the station, called vociferously, "the cars; the cars." Imagine the sensation we created in the cars. I heard a gentleman whisper that we must have been to a woman's convention. I wonder if we looked strong-minded, or which he took for the Rev., the Dr. or the Lawyer.

Stockbridge, March 26, 1855
St. Paul Daily Minnesotian - April 13, 1855