Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Typee down the memory hole

Here's a glimpse of Typee as touchstone for arguments (not to mention deep and enduring hostilities), between Catholics and Protestants. Early criticism of Melville's first book on religious grounds came mostly from Congregationalist, Dutch Reformed, Methodist, Presbyterian, and other Protestant readers. Notwithstanding rebukes by Melville here and there of French Catholics, the readers who complained loudest about unfair treatment of missionaries in the first edition of Typee, and subsequently in Omoo, were Protestant.

Forgiving Melville his thoughtless impieties in the first edition, the evangelical Protestant press welcomed the American revised edition of Typee which removed objectionable parts with the author's complicity and blessing.

However, as the following item shows, the Catholic press noticed and lamented the expurgations. Anticipating the idea behind Orwell's memory hole, the Kentucky writer advises readers to hold on to their hard copies of the first, uncensored edition, lest Melville's unflattering views and remarks on Protestant missionaries disappear from the historical record.
"It seems that testimonies like these as to the real results of Protestant missionary efforts are not very palatable to the saints at home. Herman Melville spoke too plainly and honestly of what he beheld, and we are informed that his work, in more recent editions, has been, whether with or without his consent we know not, carefully freed from those passages which recorded the effects and success of missionary zeal. This fact should not be lost sight of, and those who have a copy of the first edition of his work should preserve it carefully, for the benefit of future times."
--The [Louisville, Kentucky] Catholic Advocate, Saturday, December 18, 1847;
found at Old Fulton NY Post Cards
Example of censored material, not present in the American revised edition of Typee:
How little do some of these poor islanders comprehend when they look around them, that no inconsiderable part of their disasters originate in certain tea-party excitements, under the influence of which benevolent-looking gentlemen in white cravats solicit alms, and old ladies in spectacles, and young ladies in sober russet low gowns, contribute sixpences towards the creation of a fund, the object of which is to ameliorate the spiritual condition of the Polynesians, but whose end has almost invariably been to accomplish their temporal destruction.

Let the savages be civilized, but civilize them with benefits, and not with evils ; and let heathenism be destroyed, but not by destroying the heathen. The Anglo-Saxon hive have extirpated Paganism from the greater part of the North American continent; but with it they have likewise extirpated the greater portion of the Red race. Civilization is gradually sweeping from the earth the lingering vestiges of Paganism, and at the same time the shrinking forms of its unhappy worshippers. --Typee, chapter 26
 Early London edition of Typee (uncensored):

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