Sunday, March 27, 2016

Jay Leyda, Biographer

A friendly view of Jay Leyda at work on The Melville Log ran with the photo above in the Berkshire Eagle, May 16, 1947. Headline:

Have You Any Material On Melville?
Jay Leyda, Biographer, Can Use It

... Any material uncovered or suggestions as to where material might be found may be brought tomorrow before 1 or next week to the basement of the circulation department of The Eagle, where Mr. Leyda is doing research among old volumes of the newspaper. He would like to examine any material uncovered, and possibly purchase it, if the owner is willing.... 
...This week’s research through City Hall records turned up information on a school reform committee which in 1837 came to the conclusion that “our schools are not so good and useful as they ought to be or as they can be.” The committee was headed by Thomas Melvill, Herman’s uncle. (A minor family crisis developed around the argument whether to have the “e” in the family name, the Pittsfield branch keeping with the Scottish influence and Herman’s family assuming the more elegant English ending.) The reform committee said the prime reason was the deficiency of competent teachers, because of which, “our own offspring lack the bread of knowledge.” That was in the spring of the year. By fall, Herman Melville, then 19, was installed as teacher in the Sykes district school here.

Found on

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