Monday, November 24, 2014

J. E. A. Smith's Biographical Sketch of Herman Melville (1891)

1902 postcard with Tennyson's Lady Clara Vere de Vere
Marcus Stone / Image Credit: TuckDB Postcards


was in 1885 when he was for some days a guest at the Homestead Inn, the Pomeroy homestead on East street, which was for a short time converted into a fashionable hotel. While there, he did not show even the changes which time commonly works on men in the number of years which had elapsed. He did not evince the slightest aversion to society but appeared to enjoy the hearty welcome which it gave him; time having enhanced instead of diminishing the local pride in and regard for him. Perhaps his manner was a little more quiet than in the old time; but in general society it had always been quiet. It had eminently that repose which stamps the caste of Vere de Vere, although it covered no heartlessness, and savored nothing of arrogance. The Melvilles were never forgetful of the patrician character of their family, while they never manifested their consciousness of it to the outer world, except by their scrupulous obedience to that grand law which is grandly condensed in the axiom, noblesse oblige, which imperatively demands of all who claim high rank that their acts should always be noble, never ignoble; grandly assuming that each individual recognizes what constitutes nobility of action. --J. E. A. Smith's 1891 Biographical Sketch
According to Smith, Melville's quiet manner resembled the aristocratic "caste of Vere de Vere," but without the heartlessness of Tennyson's cruel and lofty Lady Clara. Smith's sketch was originally published in the Pittsfield Evening Journal. Digitized volume from Harvard is at the Hathi Trust Digital Library...

For edited text and background, get The Early Lives of Melville by Merton M. Sealts, Jr.

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