"There is no longer any interest in the subject. It was not possible for any one to say anything worth reading or listening to after Herman Melville's yarns. His "Omoo" and "White Jacket" were the last romances of the sea. Richard H. Dana, Jr., exhausted the field of "before the mast," and Melville left nothing for anybody to tell about whaling."
--Review of Nimrod of the Sea, Brooklyn Daily Union, September 8, 1874
|The Brooklyn Daily Union - September 8, 1874|
A bright boy, in the reading of the book, will not fail to gather a vast deal of new information in respect to the sea and its wondrous forms of life. Scattered through it are many spirited pictures representing the perilous circumstances which surround the intrepid sailors in their attacks upon the whale." --Christian Watchman [Boston], September 10, 1874The New York Herald (September 28, 1874) described the author William M. Davis as "one of those hardy Long Island mariners who sailed for the whale in the days before petroleum."
Found on Newspapers.com
So far, the 1874 review of Nimrod of the Sea in the Brooklyn Daily Union is the only contemporary notice I have found that recalls Moby-Dick. However, in the same year, the review of "Jules Verne's Romances" in the Wilmington Daily Commercial favorably compares the "vein of poetry and romantic mystery" in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea with that of Moby-Dick:
But a mere fantasy, an intellectual whim, must not be carried too far, lest in the process of attenuation it should break. M. Verne touches the limit nicely in "Twenty Thousand Leagues," and that book remains his best because in addition to its audacity and wealth of invention it had a vein of poetry and romantic mystery running through it. In those respects it resembled Herman Melville's "Moby Dick," in which the practical details of whale-fishing are relieved by a fine play of the imagination. --Wilmington [Delaware] Daily Commercial, November 4, 1874The Nantucket Historical Association has whaling journals by William Morris Davis in 1834-1837. According to the catalog description, Log 354 ("Journal of a man before the mast or on board the Whale Ship Chelsea of New London") was "Used in preparation of William M. Davis 'Nimrod of the Sea or The American Whaleman' (Harper 1874)."
As Caleb Crain has observed, some elements in Davis's description of sperm-squeezing in Nimrod of the Sea resemble Melville's treatment of the same operation in chapter 94 of Moby-Dick. For instance, Melville imagines himself "in a Constantine's bath" of sperm, while Davis experiences a more luxurious "bath" than ever did "Solomon in all his glory." I would like to know if and how Davis describes the operation of squeezing sperm in manuscript. And everything else, for that matter. It could be a rewarding project to compare manuscript and book versions throughout, to see what kind of rewriting was involved in 1872, and how much. Possibly the style of Moby-Dick in places influenced the editing or rewriting of Nimrod of the Sea. Obviously, Nimrod as published in 1874 could not have influenced Moby-Dick (1851), unless somehow Melville had access to "oil-stained" whaling logs of the Chelsea by William Morris Davis (1815-1891).