Saturday, August 19, 2017

John Williamson Palmer

From the sketch of John Williamson Palmer and his literary career in Current Literature, Volume 24 (August 1898):

Dr. Palmer has always regarded Herman Melville, author of Typee and Omoo, with peculiar admiration and affection, and is still in cordial sympathy with his "aloofness," his shyness of literary clubs and coteries. Speaking of so-called "brilliant" men of letters, he says, "In forty years' acquaintance with American writers, beginning with N. P. Willis, I have known but one genuinely and spontaneously 'brilliant' personality, and that was William Henry Hurlburt, of Putnam's Monthly in 1855."
Herman Melville and Palmer both contributed to Putnam's Monthly Magazine in the 1850's, Palmer during the latter half of the decade. In 1856 their books also were being published by Dix, Edwards & Co. For Melville, Dix and Edwards published The Piazza Tales (1856) and then The Confidence-Man (1857). In 1856 Dix and Edwards issued Palmer's The Golden Dagon; Or, Up and Down the Irrawaddi. On October 11, 1856 Melville gave a copy of The Golden Dagon to his brother Allan (see the catalog entry for Sealts Number 396.2 at Melville's Marginalia Online).

The one extant letter from Melville to J. W. Palmer (dated March 23, 1889) is held by the University of Virginia Library, with other manuscript Papers of Herman Melville. It's printed in The Letters of Herman Melville and also the  Northwestern-Newberry edition of Herman Melville's Correspondence.  In reply to Palmer's "friendly note" and gift of books, Melville says his wife Elizabeth had been reading aloud to him from "Up & Down the Irrawaddy." He probably forgot that he had given the first edition to Allan thirty-plus years before.

J. W. Palmer's brother was another physician and world-traveler, the distinguished navy surgeon James Croxall Palmer.

Links to some works by John Williamson Palmer that are accessible online:

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