|Ex-Voto of a Naval Battle between a Turkish ship from Alger |
and a ship of the Order of Malta under Langon, 1719
via Wikimedia Commons.
But I found ample entertainment in a few choice old authors, whom I stumbled upon in various parts of the ship, among the inferior officers. One was "Morgan's History of Algiers," a famous old quarto, abounding in picturesque narratives of corsairs, captives, dungeons, and sea-fights; and making mention of a cruel old Dey, who, toward the latter part of his life, was so filled with remorse for his cruelties and crimes that he could not stay in bed after four o'clock in the morning, but had to rise in great trepidation and walk off his bad feelings till breakfast time. --White-Jacket, A Man-of-War LibraryHoward Vincent thought Melville had both Morgan's History and another book, Knox's Captivity in Ceylon, "at hand" when writing White-Jacket:
Melville's third paragraph about a couple of "choice old authors, whom I stumbled upon in various parts of the ship" is clearly his improvisation, or use, of two books from which he, now author in 1849, was then reading: Morgan's History of Algiers, and Knox's Captivity in Ceylon. That these were at hand in Melville's New York study is suggested by his adequately accurate quotation from the second work.Vincent says "improvisation" to distinguish this section of more original writing from other passages in the same chapter of White-Jacket that Melville adapted from Mercier's Life in a Man-of-War. John or Joseph Morgan's Complete History of Algiers does look like a potentially useful source-book for remarkable North African scenery and military history, with tales of captivity and piracy on the Barbary coast. For a start, what about that restless, remorseful Dey? Wonder if we can find any trace of him trying to "walk off his bad feelings" in either volume of Morgan's History. If he's there somewhere, it might be fun to compare the original text with Melville's paraphrase. I am guessing "breakfast time" at least is Melville's contribution.
--The Tailoring of Melville's White-Jacket, 118
Volume 1 at the Hathi Trust Digital Library:
Here's a link to the second volume: Morgan's Complete History of Algiers, vol. 2