Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Burke on the age of chivalry in Melville's 1831 London Carcanet

In the early newspaper sketch "Fragments from a Writing Desk / No. 2" (1839) Melville quotes Edmund Burke on the sad demise of chivalry:
Is it possible, thought I, that the days of romance are revived? No, "The days of chivalry are over!" says Burke.   --Northwestern-Newberry Piazza Tales 197
Again in Mardi (1849), Melville cites Burke on the end of chivalry and associated traditions of courtly romance:
Days of chivalry these, when gallant chevaliers died chivalric deaths! 
And this was the epic age, over whose departure my late eloquent and prophetic friend and correspondent, Edmund Burke, so movingly mourned.  --Mardi, vol 1 chapter 24
Critics who bother to notice give Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France as Melville's source.

But in the breezy "erudition" of Melville's "Fragments," Leon Howard recognized the young writer's clever use of literary compilations, specifically Lindley Murray's English Reader and that good old 1831 gift volume, The London Carcanet (Herman Melville: A Biography, p15).

Wait a seccould even Burke be in The London Carcanet? Yes! Here's how it looks in the volume (NOT the book Melville actually owned, which is at Yale) lately procured by melvilliana on e-bay:

"... little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fall upon her in a nation of men of honour, and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult—but the age of chivalry is gone!"
There it is right there in the 1831 London Carcanet: Burke on the end of chivalry, in between unattributed romantic lines on the pursuit of greatness and Waller's Long and Short Life. The lines "To a Dying Infant" on page 141 are by Caroline (Bowles) Southey.

In a different arrangement of texts, Burke on the end of chivalry also appears in the 1828 London edition.
Marie Antoinette by Joseph Ducreux
Image Credit: Joseph Ducreux  via Wikimedia Commons

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