From the Newark [New Jersey] Daily Advertiser, Tuesday, April 24, 1849:
Review of Redburn (listed but not transcribed in Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews, ed. Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker.) From the Newark [New Jersey] Daily Advertiser, December 11, 1849:
Literary Notices.MARDI; AND A VOYAGE THITHER. By Herman Melville. New-York: Harper & Brothers. 2 vols. 12mo. pp. 387.
A brief, pointed notice by the author, of itself commends a book, and the reader is seldom disappointed in what follows. But without Mr. Melville’s terse presentation of his new work, the pleasant memories of its singularly fascinating predecessors would secure him at least a hearing. He tells the public that when his veritable narrative of voyages in the Pacific were taken by many for romance, he determined to write a fiction, "thinking it might possibly be received for a verity.” To this novel idea we are indebted for a pair of volumes which, equaling TYPEE AND OMOO in wild interest and picturesque beauty, possess a higher degree of merit—exhibiting through stirring and diverse scenes an intimate acquaintance with human nature, and an unlooked for love of high philosophical speculation. The author’s romances of the real appeal mostly to the love of the sensuous and adventurous; this, his real romance, addresses also the imaginative and reasoning faculties.— It is, on the whole, a remarkable book: one, of course, to be sought for by all who have read Mr. Melville’s previous works, and the few who have not had that pleasure, may, by reading this, find out why his writings are so popular.
REDBURN: his first voyage. Being the Confessions and Reminiscences of the son of a gentleman in the merchant service. By HERMAN MELVILLE, author of Typee, Omoo, and Mardi. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1849. pp. 390.
We quote the title in full, because it gives as correct an idea of the nature of the work as could be given in any other form. It is an interesting book for juvenile readers, and others who are much interested in the impulses of boyhood, or the minute incidents of a sea-faring life; but the reader who expects to find another romance like “Typee,” will be disappointed. It is the simple narrative of a country boy who leaves home for the first time on a voyage from New York to Liverpool, before the mast; giving his first impressions at starting, the details of sailor life, trials, pastimes, perils, &c., both at sea and in port.
The work is written with commendable simplicity of style, and gives some entertaining and instructive incidents, drawn out, however, with rather tedious minuteness.
Review of White-Jacket from the Newark [New Jersey] Daily Advertiser, May 11, 1850:
WHITE JACKET, OR THE WORLD ON A MAN OF WAR, by Herman Melville: Harpers, N. Y.
The industry of this popular writer seems to us only surpassed by his ability. The press is scarcely cool which has printed the numerous editions of Redburn, when it is again set at work. The scenes of the one before us, are, as its title suggests, taken from the element from which he has drawn forth his coral wreaths of fame and honor—the ever-productive ocean. Changeable as it is, he seems to imitate its many moods and his sketches are as wanting in any approach to monotony as the hoary monarch himself.
We like Melville because he is so thoroughly American, because he is so eminently a man. Throughout all his writings there breathes forth so high and earnest a spirit, so pure an intent, that the reader catches the high inspiration and if not permanently made better, he for a time at least, thinks better. Melville is the best sailors’ advocate that ever spoke. Redburn did much for the merchant sailor—White Jacket is the most forcible word yet uttered for the man-o’-war’s man. But persuade our Congressmen to read it—they would require no urging when commenced—and the next day they would vote unanimously to abolish the use of the cat in the Navy of the United States. Our own Stockton has proved by a three years trip on the Pacific the little necessity for this degrading punishment. Honor to the men who forcibly denounce its use, and who practically abolish it!
Various other evils—abuses of power, &c., are therein pointed out. This is the utility of the work, which is incidental. The book itself is a narrative of personal adventure as a sailor, and comprises some most artistic portraits of Ben Brace, the Gunner, the Doctor, the old man-o’-war’s man drawn with a pen which would have been creditable to Smollet. His description of a storm while rounding Cape Horn is equal in interest to anything of Falconer, and must be an attractive chapter to many whose friends are now in the same perilous locality.
Unlike most writers upon sea-life, Melville’s works are relished by ladies. His poetical mind and refined tastes elevate his topics and his heroes, while his deep feeling finds ready sympathy where kindness and love exist. We would gladly extract from its pages, could we find space which would convey an idea of his various moods. We think this by far the most successful of his works.Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews (392-3) has the review of Moby-Dick in the Newark Daily Advertiser.
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