Saturday, December 31, 2016

Thomas Low Nichols on Gansevoort Melville

Tom was a long, lank specimen of the male gender, a ready and unscrupulous writer, whose pen was at the service of any person and for any purpose. --Fun and Fancy in Old New York
As an ambitious New York journalist, Thomas Low Nichols (1815-1901) founded the Young Hickory Banner to back James K. Polk and the "Young Democracy" in the 1844 presidential campaign. According to Bertha-Monica Stearns, Nichols
"wrote almost every article in the paper, a weekly, which ran from August 10 until the election in November." --Two Forgotten Reformers
Nichols was the same age as his fellow-democrat Gansevoort Melville, Herman's older brother. Looking back after twenty years Nichols remembered Gansevoort as
"a young and ardent politician, whom I had met often on the stump in the recent political campaign."  --Forty Years of American Life
After the 1844 election, as related also in Forty Years of American Life, Nichols read "Typee" in manuscript and advised Gansevoort to get it published in London. Nichols became acquainted with Herman, too:
I met Herman Melville often, after I read "Typee," both before and subsequent to its publication. He was a simple-hearted, enthusiastic, gentlemanly sailor, or sailorlike gentleman. His subsequent works have been marked by certain eccentricities, but have, on the whole, sustained the promise of his maiden production.
The second edition of Forty Years, published in 1874, omits the sentence conveying a mild and innocently ironic criticism of "eccentricities" in Melville's maturer works. The revised 1874 description of Herman Melville reads:
"He was a simple-hearted, enthusiastic man of genius, who wrote with the consciousness of an impelling force, and with great power and beauty."
As Hershel Parker discusses in Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative, Nichols gave additional details of his early encounters with Melville and Melville's South Sea narratives in published correspondence with the Charleston Evening News.

And, in a letter to Alonzo Lewis, Mary Gove Nichols mentioned Herman Melville as a friend and occasional visitor around 1850, as Jean Silver-Isenstadt relates in Shameless: The Visionary Life of Mary Gove Nichols.

Here are two endorsements of Gansevoort that Thomas Low Nichols published in his weekly newspaper before the 1844 election, and before Herman's return on board the frigate United States.

 From the Young Hickory Banner, August 10, 1844:

Young Hickory Banner - August 10, 1844
Few have distinguished themselves more than GANSEVOORT MELVILLE, Esq., one of the ablest orators of our young Democracy. On the birthday of Andrew Jackson, he opened the campaign with a noble oration at the Broadway Tabernacle. We have alluded elsewhere to his spirit-stirring speech at the great ratification meeting in the Park. He has addressed mass meetings in the interior of New York and in northern Pennsylvania, with the most distinguished approbation. That admirable democratic paper, the Honesdale Herald, says that no public speaker who ever visited them, has done so much for the good of the cause and his own popularity as Mr. Melville. We hope to hear of him in half of the States of the Union before the end of this campaign.

We have a host besides, many of whom we may have occasion to notice hereafter.
At the end of August, the Young Hickory Banner gave notice of Gansevoort's acclaimed performance at the Nashville convention, highlighted by the widely reprinted Dying Douglass passage.

We are delighted to see that our friend GANZEVOORT MELVILLE, Esq. acquitted himself so nobly at Camp Hickory. The Young Democracy of New York need not ask for a better representative. The sneers of the Whig papers in this city are appreciated.
--Young Hickory Banner, August 31, 1844
The Whig sneers that Nichols gamely "appreciated" seemed mean enough in New York City. In Syracuse they turned vicious once the editor of the Bugle Blast stopped playing around:

The Honorable Gansevoort Melville is advertised to speak in Wayne county, at a loco foco meeting. Honors must be dog cheap, when bestowed upon such trash. --Bugle Blast [Syracuse, New York], September 7, 1844

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