Monday, December 28, 2015

Amy Strachey and her mother Mary Charlotte Mair ("Minnie") Senior on Melville's London fan club

Mary Charlotte ('Minnie') Senior, 1856-7 by George Frederick Watts
In Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative, Hershel Parker cites the "tantalizing but unverified" report by John St. Loe Strachey of a Melville fan club in England during the late 1840's and early 1850's. As Professor Parker indicates, Strachey was quoting one of Melville's female devotees, an otherwise unidentified "lady of letters" who told Strachey:
"I can't tell you how enthusiastic we all were, young and old, at the end of the 'forties and beginning of the 'fifties, over Typee, Omoo, and Moby-Dick. There was quite a furore over Melville in those days. All the young people worshipped him."  --John St. Loe Strachey in The Spectator, 6 May 1922
This by the way is the peach of a review in which John St Loe Strachey marks the apparent "spiritual influence" of Balzac and calls Melville "an uncanny throw-forward." Strachey's unnamed "lady of letters" must have been his mother-in-law. A month before the May 6, 1922 Spectator review by Strachey, his wife Amy Simpson Strachey (1866-1957) had scooped him in her own mini-review of Raymond Weaver's Melville biography. Amy Strachey's earlier comments on Weaver and Melville appeared in the Literary Review, published by the New York Evening Post on April 8, 1922. Besides identifying her mother as an early Melville fan, Amy Strachey quoted her recollection of the Melville "furore," the telling word that connects her source to her husband's as one and the same person. As John St Loe Strachey did in his later Spectator review, Amy Strachey in her 1922 "London Letter" corrects Weaver on Melville's reception in England:
"A series of books which creates a furore in the fifties and is revived in the nineties cannot be called unknown or unnoticed."  --Amy Strachey
In addition to the biography of her husband John St Loe Strachey, Henrietta Mary Amy (Simpson) Strachey wrote a novel called The Frozen Heart (1935) and a 1940 account of evacuation in wartime, Borrowed Children. As Horst Shroeder shows, her 1888 article on "The Child-Players of the Elizabethan Age" was later plagiarized by her editor Oscar Wilde in The Portrait of Mr. W. H.

From "A London Letter" by Mrs. St. Loe Strachey in the Literary Review of the New York Evening Post, April 8, 1922
New York NY Evening Post 1922 Grayscale - 1831.pdf
We have also been reading “Herman Melville, Mariner and Mystic” by Mr. Raymond M. Weaver, published in New York, and reissued here by the Oxford University Press. I should like to say one word as regards a misapprehension which the author of this book seems to suffer from as to the literary position of Herman Melville over here. The last revival of his work was, as we are accurately told, some thirty years ago, and was incited by Robert Louis Stevenson’s stories of the South Seas. I remember that my husband wrote enthusiastic reviews of the then reprints of the novels, and my mother, who had known the literary London of the fifties, told us of the furore which the books had excited on their first appearance. Nothing was talked of but “Omoo” and “Typee” at the London dinner parties of that date, and she was therefore specially interested in the reappearance of her old favorites. A series of books which creates a furore in the fifties and is revived in the nineties cannot be called unknown or unnoticed. I see that Mr. Weaver takes as illustrations some of the drawings done by William Hodges, who accompanied Capt. Cook in his voyages to the Pacific. The original water-color sketches for these pictures were bought by my grandfather, Nassau Senior, and are now hanging in my hall. The finished pictures are at Admirality House, now occupied, as every one knows, by Lord Lee of Farnham, the First Lord of the Admirality. It is a curious coincidence that these pictures should be hanging in the official home of the Minister who recently in Washington played so great a part in the discussions as to the difficult problems of the Pacific.
Engraving of 'The Fleet of Otaheite Assembled at Oparee'
Engraving of The Fleet of Otaheite Assembled at Oparee
by William Woollett after William Hodges, via Wikimedia Commons
Who was John St. Loe Strachey's "lady of letters"?

His wife Amy Strachey (1866-1957) was the daughter of Charles Turner Simpson (1819-1902) and Simpson's second wife, Mary Charlotte Mair Senior (1825-1909),
"only daughter of Nassau William Senior, master in chancery and professor of Political Economy at Oxford."  --The Eagle Volume 23, obituary of Charles Turner Simpson
So the Melville "furore" witnessed by Amy Strachey's mother belongs to the period before her marriage in 1865 to Simpson.
"Nassau John Senior's sister, Mary Charlotte Senior (b. 1825), married Charles Simpson, a barrister, in 1865 and their daughter, Henrietta Mary Amy ('Amy') Simpson, married John St. Loe Strachey (b 9 Feb 1860), son of Sir Edward Strachey of Sutton Court, Stowey, Somerset. Their daughter, Mary Amabel Nassau Strachey (b 10 May 1894), married Sir Clough Williams-Ellis (1883-1978), founder of Portmeirion."
-- A Richer Dust - The Descent of Hughes via peerage.org
Minnie's mother Mrs. Nassau Senior is the subject of a biography by Sybil Oldfield, Jeanie, an 'army of One.' Her father Nassau William Senior in 1821-1857 contributed essays on Scott, Bulwer Lytton, Harriet Beecher Stowe and other fiction writers to various British journals including the Quarterly Review, Edinburgh Review, London Review and North British Review. Many of these (excluding one on the recently deceased Thackeray) are collected in Essays on Fiction (1864) which features a prefatory note by daughter Mary Charlotte Mair ("Minnie") Senior.

Truly "a lady of letters," as her son-in-law called her, M. C. M. Simpson herself wrote three novels: A Long Summer's Day (1873); Winnie's History (1877); and Geraldine and her Suitors (1880). 
 In addition to these works of fiction she
"was a translator and editor who edited works by Guizot and Tocqueville."  --Online Library of Liberty
In 1887 Mary Charlotte Mair Simpson compiled Letters and Recollections of Julius and Mary Mohl.
Her own memoir appeared the next year, Many Memories of Many People, centered in the intricate political and social life of her father, a friend of Alexis de Tocqueville and adviser to Jenny Lind. I don't see Melville mentioned in either volume.

Mary Charlotte Mair ("Minnie") Senior was 21 when Typee was first published in London.

Obviously, more study will be needed to illuminate one or more literary circles or salons associated with "Minnie" Senior where Melville was "worshipped." Considering her interesting French connections and continental travel with her father Nassau W. Senior, I'm thinking the previously unknown devotion to Melville on the part of Minnie Senior could involve Melville's reception in Paris, too.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Frank T. Bullen on global New Bedford and Melville's "glorious imagination"

Image Credit: Goodreads

From the Rochester [New York] Democrat and Chronicle, Sunday, October 13, 1901. Found in the online archives of Old Fulton NY Post Cards By Tom Tryniski

Rochester NY Democrat Chronicle 1901 - 5171.pdf 
Also published the same day, Sunday, October 13, 1901 in the Cleveland Leader.

NEW BEDFORD ONCE OF FAMOUS INTEREST.
Frank T. Bullen's Memories of the Past and Impressions of the Present After an Absence of Twenty-six Years 
WRITTEN FOR THE DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE

... When I was last in New Bedford twenty-six years ago, like most other sailors, I did not stray far from the water-front, and felt as if my intrusion up-town would be resented. Knowing nobody, and by sheer stress of circumstances caring little for anybody as long as I was not in his power, like most other sailors, as I say, my experiences were confined to those lively quarters where seafarers most did congregate. And what a concourse it was! I do firmly believe that nowhere in the wide world could have been found such a congeries of fortuitous atoms of the human race as in New Bedford a quarter of a century ago. From all the isles of the South they came, sturdy of limb and clear of eye from Polynesia, lithe, sinewy, and cruel visaged from Malaysia, black with the blackness of soft coal from East Africa, stolid and haughty from Arabia, and last, but greatest both in number and importance, the stately cavalier-like Portuguese from that Atlantic cluster of jeweled isles, the Azores, Cape Verde’s and Madeira. A whole series of articles might be written by a competent man on the queer transmutations which have brought into closest, most intimate contact, these dusky denizens of one of the most retrograde, hide-bound of nations with the sturdy upstanding Puritans of England’s prime who feared not the face of man nor recked aught of right divine except it was that of the only wise King Invisible, eternal in the heavens. 
But as such a comparison, such a series of articles is utterly beyond either my scope or my intention, I must hark back to that quaint scene that might then be witnessed any day along the wharves of New England’s metropolis of whaling. Here at least, no matter how queer your garments or foreign speech, you might be sure that none would bestow a second glance upon you because of the certainty that upon your heels would be treading a queerer garbed, more foreign-looking individual than yourself. How splendidly has Herman Melville depicted this in the opening chapter of “Moby Dick.” How his glorious imagination runs riot among these scenes of marvelous color, those wonderful kaleidoscopic views of all the sea-skirting world’s representatives drawn to one small town by the exigencies of a unique business such as the world never saw before and in all probability never will see again.
Bullen's letter to the New York Times, September 30, 1905:

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Picture of Liverpool: Redburn's "Prosy Old Guide-Book"

From Redburn: His First Voyage (1849):
And lastly, and to the purpose, there was a volume called “ THE PICTURE OF LIVERPOOL.”
It was a curious and remarkable book; and from the many fond associations connected with it, I should like to immortalize it, if I could.

But let me get it down from its shrine, and paint it, if I may, from the life.

As I now linger over the volume, to and fro turning the pages so dear to my boyhood,—the very pages which, years and years ago, my father turned over amid the very scenes that are here described; what a soft, pleasing sadness steals over me, and how I melt into the past and forgotten !

Dear book! I will sell my Shakspeare, and even sacrifice my old quarto Hogarth, before I will part with you. Yes, I will go to the hammer myself, ere I send you to be knocked down in the auctioneer’s shambles. I will, my beloved,—old family relic that you are;—till you drop leaf from leaf, and letter from letter, you shall have a snug shelf somewhere, though I have no bench for myself.

In size, it is what the booksellers call an 18mo; it is bound in green morocco, which from my earliest recollection has been spotted and tarnished with time; the corners are marked with triangular patches of red, like little cocked hats; and some unknown Goth has inflicted an incurable wound upon the back. There is no lettering outside; so that he who lounges past my humble shelves, seldom dreams of opening the anonymous little book in green. There it stands; day after day, week after week, year after year; and no one but myself regards it. But I make up for all neglects, with my own abounding love for it.

But let us open the volume....

The Library of Congress volume is also available in the HathiTrust Digital Library.

Thirteen images from the 1808 edition of The Picture of Liverpool are accessible online via Wikimedia Commons.

The Picture of Liverpool is No. 547 in Mary K. Bercaw's checklist of Melville’s Sources. A quirk of scholarly rigor now excludes The Picture of Liverpool from the "Online Catalog of Books and Documents Owned, Borrowed and Consulted by Herman Melville" since:
"This resource lists only books and titles that can be linked to Herman Melville and his immediate family by documentary evidence, such as Melville’s autograph in extant copies, references to book purchases in his letters and journals, and library charge records." --Melville's Marginalia Online
Nevertheless, Melville consulted it--and how!

I guess it's the old problem: "If we make an exception for you, we have to do it for everybody." Hmm. Perhaps the page in Redburn where Melville copied out (and slightly modified) the title page of The Picture of Liverpool should be treated as graphic documentary evidence, as well as textual evidence, of Melville's certain engagement with the "Prosy Old Guide-Book."

Anyone contemplating a conference or other academic sort of paper on Melville's use of The Picture of Liverpool will want to consult Willard Thorp's 1938 article in PMLA and Hershel Parker's Historical Note in the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Redburn. Below, for a start, are links to Thorp and some other helpful scholarship:
Related melvilliana post:

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

1850 review of Æsop's Fables: by Herman Melville?

Image Credit: HubPages
Please don't try this at home. It's a dirty, thankless job trying to assign authorship on the basis of internal textual evidence. If some contrarian devil keeps you seeking to identify anonymous authors anyway, just remember that most of the time such arguments turn out to be wrong. Spectacularly wrong, on occasion: witness Donald Foster's once tempting, now demolished case for Shakespeare's authorship of "A Funeral Elegy"--written by John Ford, as demonstrated in 2002 studies by G. D. Monsarrat and Brian Vickers. Closer to home: in Melville studies the most prominent example of a fascinatingly mistaken attribution is the book-length argument by Jeanne Chretien Howes for Melville's authorship of the 1845 poem Redburn: or the Schoolmaster of a Morning. Howes herself discovered, but would not accept, solid evidence for the anonymous author's being Geneva poet George Megrath. Warren F. Broderick's more qualified and tentative case for Melville's authorship of five poems in 1838-9 is breaking up, too, now that we know the true author of Pity's Tear. The fifth of Broderick's five newspaper poems appeared (with a fourth stanza) under the title, "I Shall Remember" in the December 1835 Ladies' Companion.

Of course one should always be wary of confirmation bias. What's worse, you can make yourself crazy (as I have good reason to know). After a while everything sounds like Moby-Dick.

To get ourselves properly grounded, let's consider some verifiable facts. Herman Melville certainly did review books anonymously for the Literary World We know of five reviews that Melville definitely wrote in 1847-1850 (four unsigned, and the one on Hawthorne under a pseudonym):
In his unpublished doctoral dissertation, "Melville as a Magazinist" (Duke University, 1960), Norman Hoyle suggests that Evert Duyckinck may have "considered Melville his Far West specialist" as well as his "Cooper specialist" (46). Hoyle proposed Melville's authorship of four additional reviews (besides the known review of Parkman's Oregon Trail) on books of western travel and adventure, including The Western Trail, an unsigned review of J. Quinn Thornton's Oregon and California in 1848. Besides the two known reviews by Melville of books by J. Fenimore Cooper, Hoyle suggests Melville may have written a third, the unsigned review of The Spy titled The New Edition of Cooper. Before Hoyle, Jay Leyda had already opened the door to further investigation:
"There is more published work by M[elville] than has been identified."  --The Melville Log, Volume 2 [860]
Long before Leyda, Meade Minnigerode had pointed out in parentheses:
(Note. Besides the reviews already mentioned, there are undoubtedly others by Melville in the Literary World, but as they were unsigned they can not now be identified with certainty.) --Some Personal Letters of Herman Melville
After Redburn, which Melville once called his "little nursery tale," I wonder if the Duyckincks might also have considered Melville their specialist in Children's Lit? Here is another unsigned review that might or might not be Herman Melville's work, titled "A New Version of Æsop's Fables."

The Literary World, August 10, 1850 - 111
The Literary World, August 10, 1850 - 112


















NEW VERSION OF ÆSOP'S FABLES.

Æsop's Fables: a new version, chiefly from original sources. By the Rev. Thomas James, M.A. With more than fifty illustrations by John Tenniel. Robt B. Collins. 
We hope some of our readers remember the old edition of Æsop's Fables, that in vogue some quarter of a century ago. We hope so, because we should like to know that others besides ourselves are sharers in the pleasant recollections which the title of the work calls up; that others remember those small oval woodcuts with the beasts therein depicted, much after the style in which they are sculptured for a child's Noah's ark. Bad as they were, they were favorable specimens of the wood illustration of the day, and bore in their smirched faces unmistakable evidence of being in demand for frequent impressions by the public. 
Let the reader, with the old fresh in his memory, turn to the new. He will find that the old friend of our childhood, perennial Æsop, has doffed cocked hat and small-clothes for a dress of the latest cut and newest gloss. All the appliances of modern book-art are brought to bear: wily Reynard looks up from the foot of the page to the grapes gracefully pendent from a trellis at the head, the design framing a few lines of the text. The lazy maids, whom the old woman is toiling up stairs at the side of the page to chastise, are rubbing their eyes and stretching themselves in the most graceful of attitudes; and the tailpiece of the volume brings up its artistic claims triumphantly by a representation of the sad fate of the accommodating individual who, to please the public, tied his ass's legs to a pole and, with his son's aid, carried him, or essayed to do so, over the bridge, in the sight of the assembled public. The poor animal is tumbling into the water; and the astonished public, gazing at him from the whole length of the Bridge, are admirably rendered in all the varieties of stupid amazement. Lesson fresh as if old Æsop's stylus of Greece were Gold Pen of nowaday New York, and the ink not yet dry upon it. 
These illustrations are from English designs by John Tenniel. The animals are spirited, and we do not know any one who could have done them better, except that Æsop of painters, Edwin Landseer. We hope that some Maecenas of the Book Trade may some day or other immortalize himself by combining these two Æsops as author and artist in a volume.
Æsop has always been an illustrated book, and always will be. Look into any library of old books, and ten to one you will find a ponderous folio, with most " savagerous" of beasts ranging over its folio pages. Old Æsop, to be sure, is, nowadays, come down from a folio to be a book for children, but he has lost none of his wisdom by so doing. We are not sure but that ability to interest children by original books (we do not now refer to compilations of "history made easy," and such like) is the test of a great author; at any rate, were we disposed to argue it, we could bring many an influential witness into court on our side—to wit, besides our venerable friend now under discussion, Defoe, Scott, Southey, Goldsmith, Fielding, Miss Edgeworth, Hawthorne, el al.

The Juvenile readers of .Æsop will be inclined to favor the present edition when we tell them that the new translator has cut down those prosy old morals, which even in the smaller type in which they were printed, well nigh preponderated over the text of the original fable, and might be likened to pills after sweetmeats (a reversal of all nursery rules— all allopathic ones at least)—that these "lengthy " morals are cut down to a line or two apiece.
For an excellent conversation starter (or stopper, as the case may be), here's some textual evidence for Melville's authorship of the 1850 review transcribed above.
  1. "Maecenas of the Book Trade." The reviewer wants an editor or publisher to back a new edition of Æsop illustrated by Landseer. This champion of Æsop and Landseer would ideally be a generous and large-minded patron of the arts like the Roman statesman Maecenas, the wealthy patron of Virgil and Horace. In White-Jacket (1850) Melville similarly honored Maecenas, comparing Jack Chase's patronage of the navy poet Lemsford to "Maecenas listening to Virgil."  
  2. "may some day or other immortalize himself...." Melville in Mardi and elsewhere refers to immortalizing oneself and others through published writing, just as the reviewer conceives that his editorial Maecenas would "immortalize himself" by publishing a new illustrated edition of Æsop with pictures by Landseer. Melville's Redburn desires to "immortalize" the "curious and remarkable" guidebook titled The Picture of Liverpool.
  3. "ten to one" occurs at least 14 times in Melville's known writings, most famously of all in the first chapter of Moby-Dick: "Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream."
  4. "prosy old morals" verbally recalls the Prosy Old Guidebook in Melville's Redburn (1849). As in Redburn the reviewer associates a "prosy old" book with reading  by children, here "Juvenile readers." Moreover, the "prosy old guidebook" that Melville's young hero Wellingborough Redburn describes at length, expressly belonged to his father. The anonymous 1850 reviewer uses the term "prosy old morals" with reference to old editions with small type and long morals. Melville's father Allan Melvill in fact owned an 1787 edition of Æsop's Fables which survives in the New York Public Library. Here is the 1787 book (same edition, but not the actual volume owned by Allan Melvill) at the Internet Archive:

Allan Melville's copy of the Fabulæ Æsopi Selectæ, or, Select Fables of Æsop is Sealts No. 6, as shown in the catalog at Melville's Marginalia Online. Even the longest morals do not really dominate the fables themselves, however. (If the reviewer has this edition in mind, perhaps he exaggerates or mis-remembers the graphic reach of the morals.)
5. The conceit of a hypothetical legal argument with "influential witnesses" on the writer's side of the case anticipates Melville's lawyerly posture in Moby-Dick, for example throughout "The Advocate" chapter of Moby-Dick, and again in "The Hyena":
"Here then, from three impartial witnesses, I had a deliberate statement of the entire case."  --The Hyena
More generally, the reviewer's obvious and sustained interest in the illustrations, paying close attention to details of several different pictures, seems consistent with Melville's known devotion to the visual arts. The "cut" and "gloss" of the reviewer's clothing metaphor will reappear in Melville's Pierre (1852), in the letter from tailor-publishers Wonder & Wen to Pierre the juvenile author. Also associated with Pierre as writer: "ink not yet entirely dry," echoing the conceit of "ink not yet dry" in Æsop's timeless stories according to the 1850 reviewer. In Mardi, Melville mentions Landseer as an exemplary painter of animals. Near the end of his life, he gave his granddaughter a volume of Landseer's Dogs. In The Confidence-Man, Æsop is said by the cosmopolitan Frank Goodman to malign animals unfairly.

No manuscript or other external evidence for the authorship of this unsigned 1850 review of Æsop's Fables has yet been found, so far as I know. First place to look would be the Duyckinck family papers in the Manuscripts and Archives Division of The New York Public Library. Box 57 contains "Miscellaneous poems, articles, reviews written for the Literary World."  And who knows what's in Box 59 ("Miscellaneous papers")?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

August 5, 1850 as remembered by Cornelius Mathews

David Dudley Field via Library of Congress
So Melville and fellow guests of the Fields dined with Mary Rowly O'Sullivan. In his 2000 book on Young America, Edward L. Widmer points out John Louis O'Sullivan's close ties to Hawthorne and also Stockbridge, Massachusetts where
"he formed lifelong friendships with Thomas Wilson Dorr and several Stockbridge natives, including the lawyer David Dudley Field and members of the Sedgwick clan."  --Young America
And Widmer goes on to identify John's mother Mary Rowly O'Sullivan or "Madame O'Sullivan" as a previously unidentified companion at the dinner party in Stockbridge--after the adventure up Monument Mountain, before the trek through Icy Glen:
Another guest at Field’s dinner, never before noticed, completed the sense of convergence felt in Stockbridge that day. The guest, whom Cornelius Mathews described only as “a most lady-like and agreeable conversationalist, mother of a distinguished democratic reviewer,” was almost certainly O’Sullivan’s mother, the celebrated Madame O’Sullivan. Not only was she a long-term Stockbridge visitor, and close to the Sedgwicks, but her presence makes sense when the overall composition of the group is considered. For Field, Duyckinck, Mathews, and Hawthorne had a common bond in their Review experience, and Melville was no stranger to their machinations. 
--Edward L. Widmer, Young America: The Flowering of Democracy in New York City
Brilliant! (Just for the record, Mathews's word as originally printed in the Literary World is the unusual form: "conversationist".) 

First serialized in The Literary World, the engaging three-part narrative of "Several Days in Berkshire" by Cornelius Mathews has recently been reprinted in Steven Olsen-Smith's valuable collection of 19th century biography, Melville in His Own Time. The transcription there of Part II (August 31, 1850) concerning "The Mountain Festival" of August 5, 1850 gives real names of participants within editorial brackets--for the most part helpfully. However, Melville in His Own Time does not reference Widmer's discovery about the "lady-like" presence of Mary Rowly O'Sullivan and her "agreeable" talk at the dinner table. Also host and hostess of the day are misidentified in one place as "John and Sarah Morewood" (page 46). Impossible, since the hikers have returned to "the Umbrage" for dinner, in Stockbridge. Sarah Morewood is Fairy Belt, but Host and Hostess here are still David Dudley Field II and his wife Harriet Davidson Field. (Confirmed by the narrator's bon voyage at the close, appropriate because the Field family were about to leave Stockbridge for Italy.)
"Humble Self" the correspondent (later "Behemoth") is Cornelius Mathews.
  • New Neptune = Herman Melville
  • Silver Pen = Evert A. Duyckinck
  • Town Wit  = Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • Mr. Noble Melancholy / Essayist = Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Fairy Belt = Sarah Morewood
  • Harry Gallant = Henry Dwight Sedgwick II
  • Mr. Greenfield / Boston publisher = James T. Fields
  • Greenfield's new wife = Eliza Willard Fields 
  • Host = David Dudley Field II
  • Hostess = Harriet Davidson Field
  • Fair Daughter = Jenny Field
  • Amiable invalid son of a collegian = ?
  • "a most lady-like and agreeable conversationist, mother of a distinguished democratic reviewer" [so, editor or notable contributor to the United States Democratic Review] = Mary Rowly O'Sullivan, mother of editor John Louis O'Sullivan, as shown by Edward L. Widmer in Young America
  • New York Lawyer with "Channing blood in him" = is this Henry Dwight Sedgwick II again? (Harry Gallant)
  • Celebrated military author = Joel Tyler Headley  
From The Literary World, August 31, 1850

SEVERAL, DAYS IN BERKSHIRE,
(From an " Esteemed Correepundent.")
PART II.
THE MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL.

Destiny has appointed to all of us, in the course of our lives, a delay of five, ten, or fifteen minutes at a railway station; when we may rove about the platform, stroll through the waiting-rooms, contemplate the mystery of the shut-up ticket-hole, and dwell, with a sort of childish regard of wonder, on the silent ears, lingering on the track as if they belonged there, like houses in a row. Our destination from Pittsfield, remember, is to Stockbridge village, twelve miles down, and we are invited to a Feast of Quidnuncs, incidental to a visit to the Monument Mountain in that neighborhood. Loitering there, up and down and all around the premises, New Neptune, Silver Pen, and our Humble Self: a slight apparition presently appears with a glazed India-rubber bag in hand, another of our party, Mr. Town Wit 
We are in the cars, and with a hurrah to the neighborhood from the steam-whistle, we are away. Our stately inviter appears promptly at the other end, and conducts us at once, by horse-power, to his Umbrage in a hollow, in the skirts of Stockbridge, where we make acquaintance with a delightful lady, the mistress of the mansion, a fair daughter, and an amiable invalid son of a collegian. There are plenty of arm-chairs in the summer parlor, a bowery look-out, a sea of trees, in which the cottage seems to be swimming for dear life, a wonderful poodle, and just by way of a rehearsal, for the grand climb, we take a run to the top of Sacrifice Mount, not far off, where in the old time the Indians brought their sacrifices to the knife. 
On our return to the house we have the mountain party completed, with the addition of the charming sketcher of New England mystic life, Mr. Noble Melancholy, and, with a watchful eye on the fall crop, close at hand, his publisher, Mr. Greenfield, and the new wife, who is the violet of the season in Berkshire; a young gentleman also, a twig of a celebrated Stockbridge tree, Harry Gallant, is on horseback—and we set out in procession for the Mountain of the Monument, some three miles eastward. Passing, as we gallop along, the domicil of the late right-reverend Agrippa, formerly servant to that noted Polander, Kosciusko, we reach the foot of the mountain—of which we had, by the way, a chalky outline sketch, with its white cliffs, as we came along. Higher, higher up we go, stealing glances through the trees at the country underneath; rambling, scrambling, climbing, rhyming—puns flying off in every direction, like sparks among the bushes. 
Behold, now! the panorama spread out like a sea. At that height it occurs to us all, at once, that we have passed the previous parts of our lives in very small matters. What is Trade to us at that elevation! Business is referred to with disgust. Wall street and Washington (supposed to be of some importance down below) are mere alleys and dog-paths. Even the writing of Books and Poems is child's play—regarded from that watch-tower, so near up towards heaven. Somebody attempts a pun—we believe it's that rogue,Town Wit,— and is, righteously, near losing his foothold and tumbling straight down a thousand feet. As far as landsmen can, we have a glorious ocean-feeling, not diminished when a swift-sailing thunder cloud, like a black pirate-ship, goes scudding past directly alongside of us. New Neptune is certainly fancying himself among the whalers of the Pacific, for he perches himself astride a jutting rock,like a bowsprit, which is exceedingly painful to the feelings of Mr. Town Wit, who describes himself as epigastrically affected, and talks of the mountains as if they were so many thundering boluses. 
The tempest vindicates himself as superior to the mountains, and rising, spreads his cloudy wings, which he presently shakes upon us, and compels us to a retreat, which, honored as the harbor of two lovely women, shall be henceforth known as the Fairy Shelter. A couple of bottles are broached, we drink all round, and to the vast organ-bass of the rolling thunder, Humble Self reads Bryant's grand poem, dedicated to this very scene,—the Story of the Indian Girl, "a sad tradition of unhappy love." 
If silence and sighing are tributes of interest, the reader should have been well pleased with his endeavor. The storm had passed away, but there still lingered in the thoughts of the mountain-climbers a remembrance of the sad daughter who, in default of love, cast herself from this lonesome height, and perished on the rocks below. We walk about, in the new sun, upon the mountain top, as though we were the angels of the time, and as though these airy ridges were our natural promenade. We look on, to east and west, far, far away on either hand, and think meanly of our fellow creatures, the under-dwellers: the individual man on the peak is raised to a noble spirit, but man in general, occupying those little, paltry sheds and toy structures, is regarded with scorn,—he hardly rises to the dignity of contemptuous reference in the grand survey of hills, valleys, and wide-sweeping tracts of earth. But we must go back to that condition whether we will or no. Slowly descending a winding way, we seek out the little cairn or stone-heap which rises on the spot where the Indian maiden fell; a little way-side heap of stones, cast there by the tribes-people as they passed. Remembering Fairy Belt, who should never be forgotten, as never forgetting others, we pluck a brief memorial from the monument as a remembrancer of our visit; and with a cool gallop along the road, we are returned to the Umbrage. We will seat the company at the dinner table. 
Host and hostess at either end: right side from hostess, a most lady-like and agreeable conversationist, mother of a distinguished democratic reviewer; next, Noble Melancholy (as we name him), a delightful mystical essayist, a late "Letter" of whose is or would be a letter of introduction any man might be proud of presenting anywhere; the violet-bride, and next, her husband, a classical Boston publisher, whose name on a title-page is a pretty sure guarantee of the "better sort" of poetry. Thereabouts at the table a most companionable New York Lawyer, who has Channing blood in him to keep him from malpractice. The Host, rising like Babel in the confusion of tongues: Silver Pen, with whom the readers of the Literary World are particularly well acquainted: the fair daughter of the house; New Neptune (in our vocabulary), the sea-dog of our Berkshire homestead, whose tales—such is their wonderful growth—have reached to several ends of the earth; next to the Nautical, an earth-monster, a perfect Behemoth, the mention of whose name has before now driven three critics crazy and scared a number of small publishers out of a year's growth; a mighty shadow, whose name we dare not mention: next to him, sitting erect in his chair, bristling with eyes, collar, and ears attent, the Town Wit, whose clever verses and jeux d'esprit are on everybody's tongue. And now, with (or without) your leave, reader, we propose to shut the Dining-Room Doors. 
You are disappointed, we know—you would give the world to have an accurate account from so careful a pen as ours of what that picked company of wits and belles had to say to each other over the wine. But—we have sworn on oath—we have sealed a seal, never, never to divulge, no, never. We can only intimate, in the remotest way, that the Sea-Serpent and Mr. Payne were referred to; the Rochester Knockers not; that one of the gentlemen in company (we are not ashamed to connect this happy hypothesis with the name of Mr. Town Wit) gave it as his deliberate opinion and as the result of a most elaborate and searching scrutiny, that in less than twenty years it would be a common thing to grow in these United States men sixteen and seventeen feet high; and intellectual in proportion. There was no mention of molasses in the course of the dinner. Stephen Girard was not introduced personally as a topic; somebody or other spoke of a remarkable bullock at Great Barrington. The condition of American Poetry may or may not have been dwelt upon. But we are going a little too far; the oath—the oath! 
It's a long session, but dinner is at last concluded—a fillip having been imparted to the close of it, by the sudden appearance of a celebrated military author—when, military author and all, tumbling out into the road, we make three miles away for a mysterious defile—where you can have iced punches in their natural state—in the middle of August: the Icy Glen, by name. A dark and slippery region, with oozing rocks for stairways, and rotten logs for bridges; such face of melancholy we never in all our mortal life witnessed, as did our Boston Bibliopole put on when he saw his two prize-producers— now under way with a volume each—the Essayist and Town Wit, engage in the neck-endangering progress through the treacherous gully, dripping with anxiety and mournfully repining at his own fat, which kept him from sallying after. "Ten per cent more to your authors on your next book, and you'll have less fat to complain of," was quietly suggested to the struggling and perspiring book-man. We are out again upon the open air; try a pass or two with some scythes lying in the meadow —the Umbrage receives us again—coffee, conversation, Fay the Poodle taking an active part on his hind legs, and giving his opinion of the music in a jargonic howl equal to the most learned professor. 
Good-bye, friends, all round. Friends at the Umbrage, farewell—God speed you safely over the ocean in your new path of travel, and return you wisely and safely to the dear harborage of Stockbridge! Shake hands all round. Our kind and liberal entertainer sees us to the cars—away! 
And here be remembered that friendly Conklin, who, taking pity on three roving knights of the quill, did gently pause his train at the bridge, saving us there a foot-sore tramp at midnight. Be all conductors like him: and may every Berkshire Festival-Day, like this of ours, be provided with an Evening Star, like that, to rise upon the train and cheer us just when he is wanted. But there's another small bottle of Berkshire to be discussed—for which see our next!  --The Literary World No. 187, August 31, 1850
Cornelius Mathews via Library of Congress


For a modern edition of "Several Days in Berkshire" in all three parts, get Melville in His Own Time, edited by Steven Olsen-Smith. Online, Google Books has digitized the 1850 volume of the Literary World which alas! lacks the September 7, 1850 number containing the third and final part,
  • Part III of "Several Days in Berkshire," The Literary World No. 188 - September 7, 1850
For the sake of completeness, here are images of the elusive Part III, scanned from authentic pages of the 1850 Literary World in the Melvilliana library of odd volumes:


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Seeking Enceladus

Last time around we were looking for a natural counterpart to Melville's Enceladus and almost found him in a couple of Berkshire glens: Dalton's Wizard's Glen or "Gulf" as described by Godfrey Greylock, and Ice Glen near Stockbridge. Also called Icy Glen, this Ice-Glen was celebrated in prose and poetry for just the sort of giant moss-topped rocks that Melville describes in the Enceladus dream-vision of Pierre. In verse, Mary M. Chase anticipated Melville's figure of rocks as defeated Titans when she imagined
the Titan rocks gloomy and vast,
Fettered firm to the earth, where in wrath they were cast. --The Ice-Glen at Stockbridge
Icy Glen seems all the more appealing since Melville definitely knew the place and famously had visited there in a company of literary adventurers that included Evert Duyckinck and Nathaniel Hawthorne. As often recounted, Melville and Hawthorne first met that day--August 5, 1850, the day of the unforgettable excursion to Monument Mountain.

Symbolically, critics find Hawthorne all over Pierre (as Plinlimmon, as Isabel), and Mildred K. Travis for one has already interpreted Enceladus as another version of Hawthorne in stone, in "Hawthorne and Melville's Enceladus," ATQ 14 (Spring 1972): 5-6.

We might get there yet (to deep layers of symbolism I mean), but for now the problem is finding a model in the natural world. As widely recognized, Pierre's Memnon Stone also called the Terror Stone closely resembles Balance Rock, a real phenomenon that tourists can still visit and apparently vandalize today. Likewise Pierre's Enceladus dream is supposedly inspired by a real rock in the neighborhood of the Mount of Titans which critics reasonably take to be Greylock. Did Melville have in mind one gigantic rock in particular, or does his imagined Enceladus blend imagery from Wizard's Glen and Ice Glen, Greylock and Monument Mountain? Should we be looking out of state to, say Monadnock?

Melville further particularizes the natural habitat of with topographical and even historical details that I neglected to consider in the previous post. Some clues, especially concerning the early attempt by energetic "young collegians" to dig out the giant rock, might prove essential to any proper quest for Enceladus. Melville's junior archaeologists dig out "a circular well" with picks and spades, "to the depth of some thirteen feet." Williams College seems evoked in this passage--did Geology students or faculty ever do such a thing on an expedition from Williamstown? Leads might be awaiting in Sketches of Williams College and Geological Excursions in the Vicinity of Williams College. And of course we've got to find out what others have discovered already--while I check the newspapers and that promising 1839 gazetteer, JSTOR and why not? Monadnock, let's review the textual clues. Grab a spade if you please and come along...
No more now you sideways followed the sad pasture's skirt, but took your way adown the long declivity, fronting the mystic height. In mid field again you paused among the recumbent sphinx-like shapes thrown off from the rocky steep. You paused; fixed by a form defiant, a form of awfulness. You saw Enceladus the Titan, the most potent of all the giants, writhing from out the imprisoning earth;—turbaned with upborn moss he writhed; still, though armless, resisting with his whole striving trunk, the Pelion and the Ossa hurled back at him;—turbaned with upborn moss he writhed; still turning his unconquerable front toward that majestic mount eternally in vain assailed by him, and which, when it had stormed him off, had heaved his undoffable incubus upon him, and deridingly left him there to bay out his ineffectual howl.
To Pierre this wondrous shape had always been a thing of interest, though hitherto all its latent significance had never fully and intelligibly smitten him. In his earlier boyhood a strolling company of young collegian pedestrians had chanced to light upon the rock; and, struck with its remarkableness, had brought a score of picks and spades, and dug round it to unearth it, and find whether indeed it were a demoniac freak of nature, or some stern thing of antediluvian art. Accompanying this eager party, Pierre first beheld that deathless son of Terra. At that time, in its untouched natural state, the statue presented nothing but the turbaned head of igneous rock rising from out the soil, with its unabasable face turned upward toward the mountain, and the bull-like neck clearly defined. With distorted features, scarred and broken, and a black brow mocked by the upborn moss, Enceladus there subterraneously stood, fast frozen into the earth at the junction of the neck. Spades and picks soon heaved part of his Ossa from him, till at last a circular well was opened round him to the depth of some thirteen feet. At that point the wearied young collegians gave over their enterprise in despair. With all their toil, they had not yet come to the girdle of Enceladus. But they had bared good part of his mighty chest, and exposed his mutilated shoulders, and the stumps of his once audacious arms. Thus far uncovering his shame, in that cruel plight they had abandoned him, leaving stark naked his in vain indignant chest to the defilements of the birds, which for untold ages had cast their foulness on his vanquished crest.

Not unworthy to be compared with that leaden Titan, wherewith the art of Marsy and the broad-flung pride of Bourbon enriched the enchanted gardens of Versailles;—and from whose still twisted mouth for sixty feet the waters yet upgush, in elemental rivalry with those Etna flames, of old asserted to be the malicious breath of the borne-down giant;—not unworthy to be compared with that leaden demi-god—piled with costly rocks, and with one bent wrenching knee protruding from the broken bronze;—not unworthy to be compared with that bold trophy of high art, this American Enceladus, wrought by the vigorous hand of Nature's self, it did go further than compare;—it did far surpass that fine figure molded by the inferior skill of man. Marsy gave arms to the eternally defenseless; but Nature, more truthful, performed an amputation, and left the impotent Titan without one serviceable ball-and-socket above the thigh.

Such was the wild scenery—the Mount of Titans, and the repulsed group of heaven-assaulters, with Enceladus in their midst shamefully recumbent at its base;—such was the wild scenery, which now to Pierre, in his strange vision, displaced the four blank walls, the desk, and camp-bed, and domineered upon his trance. But no longer petrified in all their ignominious attitudes, the herded Titans now sprung to their feet; flung themselves up the slope; and anew battered at the precipice's unresounding wall. Foremost among them all, he saw a moss-turbaned, armless giant, who despairing of any other mode of wreaking his immitigable hate, turned his vast trunk into a battering-ram, and hurled his own arched-out ribs again and yet again against the invulnerable steep.

"Enceladus! it is Enceladus!"—Pierre cried out in his sleep. That moment the phantom faced him; and Pierre saw Enceladus no more; but on the Titan's armless trunk, his own duplicate face and features magnifiedly gleamed upon him with prophetic discomfiture and woe. With trembling frame he started from his chair, and woke from that ideal horror to all his actual grief.  --Pierre, Or, The Ambiguities