Tuesday, May 22, 2018

J. C. Squire on Melville's verse

Sir John Collings Squire
Bassano Ltd via National Portrait Gallery
Melville's verse has always been neglected. The historians have commonly dismissed it in a few words; often enough, I daresay, they have been content to repeat each other's comments without reading the verse. --J. C. Squire, London Observer, April 1, 1923.
Sun, Apr 1, 1923 – 4 · The Observer (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.com

Books of the Day.

MELVILLE'S VERSE.

"John Marr and Other Poems." By Herman Melville, with an Introductory Note by Henry Chapin. (Princeton University Press.) 
(By J. C. Squire.)
There is a companion volume to this, a volume including prose pieces by Melville hitherto unprinted. This I may neglect, as not long ago I wrote in this place about Melville's prose. If more were to be said about that prose the desirable thing is that attention should be given, not yet to Melville's scattered writings, but to some of his major books. When his centenary occurred critics devoted themselves almost entirely to "Moby Dick." They had reason. "Moby Dick" has been, except spasmodically neglected; it is certainly Melville's finest book; it is the greatest prose work that has ever come out of America, and one of the greatest prose fictions ever written. Yet a concentration on the glories of that book tended to give the false impression that the rest of Melville's books might safely be neglected. It is not true of any of them, and emphatically, of the earlier ones. "White Jacket," "Omoo," and "Typee" might have given him a considerable reputation had he written nothing else. "Typee" especially is a book to be read over and over again. Long before the Gaugins and the Tusitalas, Melville got into that book all the beauty and romance and brutality of the South Seas. It still remains unequalled as a picture of the islands, a book exquisitely and yet racily written, admirably shaped, full of blue waters and waving trees, foaming waterfalls and graceful brown bodies, sharp fights and long languors. Let us, however, for the moment pass over his prose, on which his claim to fame is based, and regard his verse.
* * * 
Melville's verse has always been neglected. The historians have commonly dismissed it in a few words; often enough, I daresay, they have been content to repeat each other's comments without reading the verse. Nobody has greatly liked it: the American anthologists have thought only one or two pieces worth reprinting; for many years the editions of the poems have been out of print. The principal volume was a sizeable book "Battle Pieces," published by Putnams in 1866; the others were privately printed late in their author's life. Mr. Chapin has now made a selection from them all. He prefaces his selection with the statement that Melville's poetry "taken as a whole, is of an amateurish and uneven quality." He nevertheless thinks it worth while reprinting. He qualifies this statement by others. Melville's personality, he says, is everywhere in evidence. "It is clear that he did not set himself to master the poet's art, yet, through the mask of conventional verse which often falls into doggerel, the voice of a true poet is heard." I think myself that he might have put this far more strongly. Hardly one of Melville's poems is perfect. He refused to be the artist he might have been. There is an air of improvisation about it all. But there is a natural genius, a natural poetic genius, apparent behind all the roughness and awkwardness, and I find it impossible to avoid thinking that there was a great poet buried in the author of "Moby Dick," which is a great prose poem in itself. He did nothing in verse faultlessly. Yet his faulty rhymes not only show undeveloped poetic powers, but very varied poetic powers.
* * * 
Melville's completest achievement in verse is of this narrative kind. "Bridegroom Dick," a long poem, is doggerel, but the most magnificent doggerel ever written. A combination of Captain Marryat and Mr. Masefield may give the idea. An old sailor goes over his reminiscences. It opens with fine preparatory vigour:—
Sunning ourselves in October on a day
Balmy as spring, though the year was in decay,
I lading my pipe, she stirring the [her] tea,
My old woman she says to me,
"Feel ye, old man, how the season mellows?"
And why should I not, blessed heart alive,
Here mellowing myself, past sixty-five,
To think o' the May-time o' pennoned young fellows
This stripped old hulk here for years may survive.
He thinks of all his old comrades, with acutely vivid memories of each, vignettes of battles and carouses, dances and death beds. His catalogue of the dead must surely, rhythm and language, have been the inspiration of the fine end of Mr. Vachel Lindsay's "Bryan, Bryan":—
Where's Commander All-a-Tanto?
Where's Orlop Bob singing up from below?
Where's Rhyming Ned? has he spun his last canto?
Where's Jewsharp Jim? Where's Rigadoon Joe?
Ah, for the music over and done.
The band all dismissed save the droned trombone!
Where's Glenn o' the gun-room, who loved Hot-Scotch—
Glen, prompt and cool in a perilous watch. . .
There are other sea-pieces, more in the "Moby Dick" manner, marked by Melville's extraordinary grip both on physical reality and spiritual forces lying beneath appearance. His mood shifts constantly. He can turn from a contemplation of the infinite to a regret for the passage of the three-decker. This regret appears continually and, a generation before Sir Henry Newbolt, he found a symbol of the process in Turner's "Temeraire."
But Trafalgar is over now,
   The quarter-deck undone;
The carved and castled navies fire
   Their evening-gun.
O, Titan Temeraire,
   Your stern-lights fade away;
Your bulwarks to the years must yield,
   And heart-of-oak decay.
A pigmy steam-tug tows you,
   Gigantic, to the shore—
Dismantled of your guns and spars,
   And sweeping wings of war.
The rivets clinch the ironclads,
   Men learn a deadlier lore;
But Fame has nailed your battle-flags—
   Your ghost it sails before:
O, the navies old and oaken,
   O, the Temeraire no more!
The same lament over the transformation of war into an "operatives" occupation runs through the naval pieces written during the Civil War. But there is much more than that in those war-poems. America produced much civil war verse, but, except Whitman, no poet wrote a series on the war which for beauty and strength can compare with Herman Melville's, fragmentary and rough as they are. His compassion was as great as Whitman's; but the livelier moments appealed to him more than they did to Whitman. He could share in the intoxication of a charge and a cheer and a victory; yet no man was more afflicted by the tragedy of that mutual massacre, no Northerner more greatly admired the heroism of the South, no statesman spoke wiser or more sympathetic words when the period of "Reconstruction" came. "Sheridan at Cedar Creek" and "The College Colonel" are sometimes to be found in anthologies; but "Malvern Hill," "The Conflict of Convictions," and "A Meditation" should go with them. His steadfast judgment is reflected in the lines:—
"The South's the sinner!" Well, so let it be;
But shall the North sin worse, And stand the Pharisee?
* * * 
High spirits like Peacock's are shown in some of the poems from "Mardi," particularly "Pipe Song":—
Care is all stuff:—
       Puff! Puff!
To puff is enough:—
       Puff! Puff!
More musky than snuff
And warm is a puff:—
       Puff! Puff!
Here we sit mid our puffs,
Like old lords in their ruffs,
Snug as bears in their muffs:—
       Puff! Puff!
Then puff, puff, puff,
For care is all stuff,
Puffed off in a puff—
       Puff! Puff!
The more indolent and sensuous songs which might have been expected from the author of "Typee" are few. "Crossing the Tropics" is a beautiful thing; the poem which comes most nearly to the best Polynesian pages is "Marlena":—
Far off in the sea is Marlena,
A land of shades and streams. . . .
'Tis aye afternoon of the full, full moon,
And ever the season of fruit,
And ever the hour of flowers,
And never the time of rains and gales,
All in and about Marlena.
Soft sigh the boughs in the stilly air,
Soft lap the beach the billows there;
And in the woods or by the streams,
You needs must nod in the Land of Dreams.
Melville, unhappily, was never encouraged to write this or any other kind of verse.
* * * 
Mr. Chapin has made his selection well. There are just a few poems which he might have added; the omissions are especially to be regretted, as the American editions (there were no English editions) of Melville's poems are all extremely rare. An extract at least might have been included from "The Armies of the Wilderness," a powerful wide-sweeping poem with brooding commentary:—
The tribes swarm up to war
   As in ages long ago,
Ere the palm of promise leaved
   And the lily of Christ did blow.
There is something to be said for "Battle of Stone River, Tennessee":—
With Tewkesbury and Barnet Heath
   In days to come the field shall blend,
The story dim and date obscure;
   In legend all shall end.
Even now, involved in forest shade
   A Druid-dream the strife appears,
The fray of yesterday assumes
   The haziness of years.
Phrases, perhaps, do not redeem the "Battle for the Mississippi" and "The Fall of Richmond," but there are good phrases in them:—
A city in flags for a city in flames,
Richmond goes Babylon's way.
The first line is very compact; the second could only have been written by a man who saw all life poetically. The Epitaph on Sherman's Men who fell at Kennesaw certainly ought to have been here with the other inscriptions. Glory, romance, chivalry are dead, men say, but:—
Perils the mailed ones never knew
Are lightly braved by the ragged coats of blue,
And gentler hearts are bared to deadlier war.
The last line embodies the whole irony of modern history. Above all, I miss "A Canticle" in which Melville, witnessing the national exaltation at the close of the war compared the State to the fixed waterfall whose rushing waters perpetually change. It begins tumultuously:—
O the precipice Titanic
   Of the congregated Fall,
And the angle oceanic
   Where the deepening thunders call—
          And the Gorge so grim,
          And the Firmamental rim!
Multitudinously thronging,
   The waters all converge,
Then they sweep adown in sloping
   Solidity of surge.
The whole poem seems written in a frenzy; and patently, I think, with the majestic image of Niagara in mind. In the worst of Melville's war poems as in the best, and as in the fine prose supplement he added to them, there are evident both profound wisdom and noble generosity.
Mr. Chapin's edition is very well produced. The printing, which is charming, shows the influence of Mr. Bruce Rogers, one of the soundest printers alive.


More links:

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Matthiessen on Melville's poetry


Edited by F. O. Matthiessen for "The Poets of the Year" series (Norfolk, Connecticut: New Directions, 1944), Herman Melville: Selected Poems is a slim but significant collection of Melville's poetry, one of the first after the 1924 Constable edition of Melville's Poems. (Before that there was the 1922 anthology from Princeton University Press titled John Marr and Other Poems.) Not counting the 1922 Princeton and 1924 Constable volumes, the only collection of Melville's poems before Matthiessen's is Selected Poems of Herman Melville (London: The Hogarth Press, 1943) edited by William Plomer. Today more critics know about Matthiessen's unwitting riff in American Renaissance on "soiled fish" (he didn't realize it was only a twentieth-century typo for "coiled fish") than this landmark volume of Melville's poetry. Here is the introductory essay by Francis Otto Matthiessen from his 1944 edition of Selected Poems, now accessible via the Internet Archive:

HERMAN MELVILLE

(1819-1891) 

Throughout the last half of his life, over a span of thirty-five years, Melville, who, in Moby Dick, had reached levels of imaginative writing unsurpassed by any other American, wrote little more prose. When he had finished The Confidence Man in 1856, he had produced ten books in less than a dozen years and had had his bellyful of trying unsuccessfully to gain a comprehending audience and to support himself by his pen. But he had not lost his interest in self-expression, and, turning to verse, he had, by the spring of 1860, a volume ready for publication. This was to find no publisher, and not until the year after the end of the Civil War did he at last make his appearance as a poet. The book then issued was Battle-Pieces, a series of seventy poems that form a running commentary on the course of the war, though most of them were inspired, retrospectively, by the fall of Richmond. The book had slight critical success, and from that time forward Melville, who had failed in various applications for a consular appointment, was employed for twenty years as a customs inspector in New York, and possessed only intermittent time for writing. But he managed to bring to completion Clarel, a narrative poem of several thousand lines, which grew out of the meditative pilgrimage he had made to the Holy Land during the year after the career as a writer of fiction had seemed to him finally unreal. Clarel, as Melville himself noted, was "immensely adapted for unpopularity," and could be printed in 1876 only as the result of a gift f[r]om a Gansevoort uncle. After his release from the customhouse at the end of 1885, Melville felt a resurgence of his creative energies, and made one major return to fiction in Billy Budd. But this story was still in manuscript at his death, and his final efforts to publish were two small volumes of verse, each privately printed in twenty-five copies, John Marr and Other Sailors, 1888, and Timoleon, 1891. One section of the latter, "Fruits of Travel Long Ago," would seem to be at least part of what he had designed as his first book of verse three decades before. Left among his papers at his death were more than seventy further poems, in addition to fragments of varying length. 
All the above poetry, with the exception of a few of the manuscripts, comprises three volumes of Melville's collected works. But since that edition appeared in England twenty years ago, was limited to 750 copies, and is long since out of print, the range of Melville's verse is virtually unavailable for the common reader. The selection here presented tries to take advantage of all the various interests attaching to any part of Melville's work. Some poems have been chosen because they embody the same recurrent symbols that give an absorbing unity to his prose. These symbols appear most often in his reminiscences of the sea: "To Ned" shows that he kept through life the image of Typee, of primitive existence unspoiled by civilization; "The Berg" presents a variant of the terrifying white death of Moby Dick; the "maldive shark" glides also through the lines "Commemorative of a Naval Victory." Other poems serve to light up facets of Melville's mind as it developed in the years after his great creative period: "Greek Architecture" indicates his understanding of a balanced form far different from any he had struggled to master: "Art"— whose lines are scratched out and rewritten with many changes in the manuscript— tells how painfully he understood the tensions of the struggle for the union of opposites. Few of his poems reveal anything like the mastery of organic rhythm to be found in his best prose. He had become an apprentice too late to a new craft. Although he tried his hand at a variety of metrical forms, he seldom progressed beyond an acquired skill. He was capable of such lyric patterns as "Shiloh" or "Monody," but he could often be stiff and clumsy. Yet what he had to convey is very impressive. I have included enough of Battle-Pieces to show the depth of his concern with the problems of war. Whole-hearted in his devotion to the Union's cause, what he urged at the close was forbearance and charity on the part of the North as the chief guide to reconstruction; and he prayed "that the terrible historic tragedy of our time may not have been enacted without instructing our whole beloved country through terror and pity. . . ." 
Clarel took his thought into some of the problems of his society's future and of our present. It falls into the tradition of those poetic debates of the mind which formed so much of the substance of Clough and Arnold and Tennyson. Since its characters voice a bewildering variety of creeds, and since Clarel, the disillusioned young divinity student is about the most shadowy in the group, it is impossible to determine from the poem exactly what Melville believed. The passages selected are among those where he persevered farthest from the beaten tracks of his day, where he doubted the value for the world of the dominance of Anglo-Saxon industrialists, where he foresaw class wars, and where, with the decay of Protestantism, he also foresaw a grim duel between "Rome and the Atheist." To put the gloom of some of these conjectures into its proper context, we should remember his reaction to Thomson's City of Dreadful Night: "As to the pessimism, although neither pessimist nor optimist myself, nevertheless I relish it in the verse, if for nothing else than as a counterpoise to the exorbitant hopefulness, juvenile and shallow, that makes such a bluster in these days." We should also remember that the "Epilogue" to Clarel dwells upon Christian hope, and that "The Lake," the most sustained poem left by Melville in manuscript, celebrates the theme of seasonal death and rebirth. And to counteract his forebodings of the possible degradation of democracy, we should recall his celebration of the heroic possibilities of the common man—one of the most recurrent themes of his fiction, from Jack Chase to Billy Budd. A  reward that awaits the reader who follows these selections on to Melville's collected works is the frequency with which his mediocre poems are illuminated by passages where the poet is in supreme control. That being the case I have not scrupled in three instances beyond Clarel ("Sheridan at Cedar Creek," "On the Slain Collegians," "Commemorative of a Naval Victory") to release such passages from their hampering surroundings. One further such passage, the concluding quatrain to " 'The Coming Storm'," an otherwise undistinguished reaction to a painting by Sandford Gifford, is perhaps the best poetry Melville wrote. Indeed, as I have said elsewhere, these lines constitute one of the most profound recognitions of the value of tragedy ever to have been made: 
No utter surprise can come to him
       Who reaches Shakespeare's core;
That which we seek and shun is there—
            Man's final lore. 
Such lines suggest Melville's master preoccupation, in verse no less than in prose. If it would not have risked confusion, I should have called this selection by the subtitle of Battle-Pieces: Aspects of the War. That would have suggested Melville's continuing concern with the unending struggle, with the tensions between good and evil: within the mind and in the state, political, social, and religious. 
F. O. Matthiessen

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Whiteness of the Winnipeg Jets


Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color, and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows—a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink? And when we consider that other theory of the natural philosophers, that all other earthly hues—every stately or lovely emblazoning—the sweet tinges of sunset skies and woods; yea, and the gilded velvets of butterflies, and the butterfly cheeks of young girls; all these are but subtile deceits, not actually inherent in substance, but only laid on from without; so that all deified Nature absolutely paints like the harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but the charnel-house within; and when we proceed further, and consider that the mystical cosmetic which produces every one of her hues, the great principle of light, forever remains white or colorless in itself, and if operating without medium upon matter, would touch all objects, even tulips and roses, with its own blank tinge—pondering all this, the palsied universe lies before us a leper; and like wilful travellers in Lapland, who refuse to wear colored and coloring glasses upon their eyes, so the wretched infidel gazes himself blind at the monumental white shroud that wraps all the prospect around him. And of all these things the Winnipeg Jets were the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt? --Herman Melville, Moby-Dick - chapter 42, The Whiteness of the Whale.

Which John and Henry Livingston were in the Social Club with John Jay

via The New York Public Library Digital Collections
As mentioned in a previous post on T. W. C. Moore, his father John Moore (1746-1828) made a list of men who belonged to the elite "Social Club" in New York City before the American Revolution. In the 1919 Yearbook of the Dutchess County Historical Society, William S. Thomas mistakenly identifies "John Livingston and his brother Henry" on Moore's list as the Reformed Dutch minister John Henry Livingston and his younger brother Henry Livingston, Jr. of Poughkeepsie.



On Saturday nights in wintertime members of the Social Club would party at Queen's Head Tavern, operated after 1770 by Samuel Fraunces. In the summer they met at a private clubhouse on Kip's Bay. Rev. John H. Livingston, whose "piety was all-pervading," I'm guessing would have devoted Saturday nights to preparing his sermon for the next day. He definitely hated theaters, and presumably avoided taverns and tavern sins when he could. As a distinguished clergyman, and the husband of Sarah Livingston (daughter of Philip Livingston, a signer of the Declaration of Independence), Dr. John H. Livingston did make it onto Mrs. Jay's Dinner and Supper List for 1787 and 1788. As James Grant Wilson remarks,
"The doctor's tall and dignified figure and high breeding would make him a notable addition to any company…."  --The Memorial History of the City of New York
John Henry Livingston belonged to that larger group of notables by virtue of his high status in the Dutch Reformed Church, and marriage to Sarah Livingston his second cousin. According to Walter Stahr,
Sarah's dinner and supper list suggests that they hosted more than two hundred different people in 1787 and 1788.  --John Jay: Founding Father
But William S. Thomas in his 1919 article misrepresents the more exclusive membership list of the Social Club as John Moore recollected it decades later. Moore named loyalists and "disaffected" rebels together on his list of Social Club members.
During his early manhood he was a frequent sojourner in New York City and, with his brother, the Rev. John H. Livingston, pastor of the Middle Dutch Church there, belonged to the Social Club. Their names appear in a list of its members who were dropped by the ruling Loyalist majority at the outbreak of the Revolution. Opposite the names of the Livingston brothers appears the entry, "Disaffected, but of no political importance." A Tory social club was no place for Henry Livingston.... --William S. Thomas on "Henry Livingston," 1919 Yearbook Dutchess County Historical Society; also available on the Henry Livingston by Dr. William S. Thomas page of Mary S. Van Deusen's personal website.
Contrary to the claim by Thomas that patriots like Henry Livingston "were dropped by the ruling Loyalist majority," the whole Social Club had to disband after 1775. Nobody was purged from the Social Club for his politics in the tyrannical manner that Thomas imagines. Their winter meeting-place was well known as "the resort of both Whig and Loyalist." Indeed, Fraunces Tavern served the best Madeira to "some of the most active and distinguished men of the revolution." Those "disaffected" Whigs were the Social Club, which could not exist without them.
As a tavern it was the most noted in New-York, and was the resort of the bloods of that day who formed themselves into social clubs, and among whom were some of the most active and distinguished men of the revolution.... During the troubles which preceded the Revolution, Fraunces' Tavern seems to have been the resort of both Whig and Loyalist, political affairs not having sufficient power to sever the social ties of those whose custom it was to assemble there and discuss his Madeira, a wine, the excellent quality of which Sam's cellar stood proverbial. It must not be presumed that Sam was an idle spectator of the events then passing around him, his sympathies were with the Whigs, and he became one of Washington's most faithful friends and followers. New York Daily Tribune, 20 July 1854.
 <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030213/1854-07-20/ed-1/seq-3/>
Henry Livingston, Jr. of Poughkeepsie was a country cousin of the more privileged landowners, merchants, and lawyers in John Jay's Social Club. As a (relatively) humble Poughkeepsie farmer descended from Gilbert Livingston, the youngest and least fortunate son of Robert Livingston, this Henry was never really one of the "bloods" who gathered at Fraunces's Tavern. Thomas helpfully distinguishes his Henry, Major Henry Livingston Jr., from Henry Alexander Livingston (the Major's better-remembered nephew, only child of Dr. John Henry Livingston and Sarah) and Henry Beekman Livingston. But in his eagerness to magnify Henry Jr. of Poughkeepsie and make him author of The Night Before Christmas, William S. Thomas overlooked the lordly Livingstons of Livingston Manor, in particular John and Henry.
via The Livingstons of Livingston Manor
As Cynthia A. Kierner relates in Traders and Gentlefolk: The Livingstons of New York, 1675-1790 (Cornell University Press, 1992), the John and Henry Livingston named as members of the elite Social Club in New York City were in fact sons of Robert Livingston, Jr. the 3rd Lord of upper Livingston Manor:
Another group, the Social Club, gathered many of the city's leading me for evenings of drinking and conversation. In 1751, after he took up residence at the Manor, Robert Livingston, Jr. joined the Social Club so that when he visited New York City he could enjoy "a Gentle Bacchanalion Engagement" with the friends he had left behind there. Later, the Social Club's membership also included Robert's two youngest sons, as well as their Clermont kinsman, Robert R. Livingston, Jr.  --Traders and Gentlefolk
Citing Kierner, John L. Brooke in Columbia Rising also identifies John and Henry of the NYC Social Club as "Upper Manor" Livingstons. Likewise, footnotes in The Selected Papers of John Jay 1760-1779 edited by Elizabeth Miles Nuxoll, Mary A. Y. Gallagher, and Jennifer E. Steenshorne (University of Virginia Press, 2010) explain the entries for "John Livingston and his brother Henry" on Moore's list of Social Club members as references to
"John Livingston (1749-1822), son of Robert Livingston, third proprietor of Livingston Manor."
and
"Henry Livingston (1752-1823), son of Robert Livingston, third proprietor of Livingston Manor."
The admirably progressive editors of Selected Papers of John Jay say "proprietor of Livingston Manor," preferring not to call any fellow mortal "Lord." Titles aside, they agree here with Richard B. Morris in John Jay: The Making of A Revolutionary (Harper and Row, 1975) who identifies John and Henry as Livingstons of Livingston Manor:
John Livingston (1749-1822) and his brother Hendrick (1752-1823) were sons of Robert Livingston (1708-90), third lord of Livingston Manor.
On the Henry Livingston, Jr website, Mary S. Van Deusen makes Henry Jr. and his brother the Rev. John H. Livingston members of the Social Club, following William S. Thomas and repeating some of his errors:
  •  http://www.henrylivingston.com/prominentfamilyconnections.htm
Besides making Rev. John Henry Livingston and Henry Jr. of Poughkeepsie members of the New York City Social Club, William Sturgis Thomas and Mary S. Van Deusen have Henry Livingston, Jr. of Poughkeepsie serving in October 1774 as co-manager of the New York Dancing Assembly with John Jay and John Watts, Jr.

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury - October 24, 1774
via GenealogyBank
Henry Livingston, JUNIOR (whose father Henry Livingston was alive and well, age 60, in Poughkeepsie) was a farmer in 1774, married in May to Sarah "Sally" Welles of Stamford, Connecticut.

The "Henry Livingston" named in 1774 as co-manager of the Dancing Assembly in New York City must have been a different Henry, not the farmer from Poughkeepsie. A more likely Henry is again Henry Livingston of Livingston Manor, ever a bachelor. Or could this Henry Livingston be Princeton grad, teen-aged Henry Brockholst Livingston, before he dropped the "Henry"? This Henry was the brother of Jay's wife Sarah Van Brugh Livingston. Henry Brockholst Livingston went to Spain with his sister and brother-in-law, serving a troublesome stint there as Jay's secretary. In December 1783, Henry Brockholst Livingston joined a controversial effort to revive the Dancing Assembly, meeting with A. V. Cortlandt, Nicholas Fish, and Lewis A. Scott at Cape's City Tavern.

Rivington's New-York Gazette - December 3, 1783
via GenealogyBank
As revealed in one extant letter from John Jay to Egbert Benson, Jay admired Henry Livingston Jr.'s first wife Sarah (Sally) Welles as "an excellent woman" and "rara avis in terra":
Harry Livingston, I imagine, lives in the neighbourhood. His wife is an excellent woman, and in my opinion a rara avis in terra. I believe they both wish me well, and would not refuse to oblige me by taking my son to live with them and treating him as they do their own. In that family he would neither see nor be indulged in immoralities, and he might every day or two spend some hours with his grandfather, and go to school with Harry’s children; or otherwise as you may think proper. At any rate he must not live with his grandfather, to whom he would in that case be as much trouble as satisfaction. This is a point on which I am decided, and therefore write in very express and positive terms. Unless objections strike you that I neither know or think of, be so kind as to speak to Mr. and Mrs. Livingston about it. I will cheerfully pay them whatever you may think proper, and I would rather that you should agree to a generous allowance than a mere adequate compensation.... --John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, ed. Henry P. Johnston, A.M. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890-93). Vol. 2 (1781-1782). 5/14/2018. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2328#Jay_1530-02_633
From Madrid in 1781 Jay seems to have regarded Harry and Sally of Poughkeepsie as good folks whom he could pay to care for his son Peter while he was serving as ambassador to Spain. Jay fancied his son might attend school with Harry's children. After his wife Sally's death in 1783, Henry Livingston, Jr. boarded his own children elsewhere, according to Day-Book entries in 1784, transcribed by Mary S. Van Deusen on the Henry Livingston website. Jay's father moved from Fishkill to Poughkeepsie before his death in 1782 but
Where the Jays lived while in Poughkeepsie does not transpire. --J. Wilson Poucher, Yearbook of the Dutchess County Historical Society
 Below, the 1823 obituary for Henry Livingston of upper Livingston Manor, the bachelor "General":


 New York National Advocate - June 5, 1823

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Columbia and Slavery | About the Columbia University and Slavery Website


The Columbia University and Slavery project explores a previously little-known aspect of the university’s history – its connections with slavery and with antislavery movements from the founding of King’s College to the end of the Civil War. The Columbia and Slavery website features papers written by students and online exhibits organized by them, as well as a wealth of material about the university and individuals connected with it, including primary sources, interviews with historians, and a preliminary report summarizing current findings. Visit at: https://columbiaandslavery.columbia.edu/

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

1887 letter from Cornelia Griswold Goodrich to Benson J Lossing

Various "witness letters" assembled by Livingston descendant Mary S. Van Deusen supply valuable evidence for the history of the claim that Henry Livingston, Jr. wrote "The Night Before Christmas." For a few family members this claim became a lifelong quest. I'm pleased to contribute to the story of this fascinating family legend by locating and transcribing a letter from Cornelia Griswold Goodrich (1842-1927) to historian Benson J. Lossing. Unrecorded before now, the January 1887 letter is presented here with the kind permission of the Benson John Lossing Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries.

Although Cornelia Griswold Goodrich  does not give the year, her letter of "Jan 1st" to Benson J. Lossing was certainly written, or rather begun (since her postscript is dated January 4th) on New Year's Day, 1887. The year 1887 can be established with certainty on internal evidence, since Goodrich refers to known details of her previous correspondence with Lossing. Specifically, the mention of "much prized contents" in the first line refers to enclosures in the December 6, 1886 letter from Lossing, including a manuscript letter from Arthur Breese to Henry Livingston, Jr.

Two letters from Lossing to Goodrich dated November 25, 1886 and December 6, 1886 are held by the Dutchess County Historical Society with other Henry Livingston Papers.
  • https://dchsny.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/livingston_henry_papers.pdf
Transcriptions of both letters from Benson J. Lossing to Cornelia Griswold Goodrich are available on Mary Van Deusen's Henry Livingston website:
The January 1887 reply by Cornelia Griswold Goodrich is transcribed below from scans of the original manuscript letter, now held in the Benson John Lossing Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries. For expert help with locating this item I am indebted to Kelly Dwyer, Reference Assistant; and Nicole Westerdahl, Reference and Access Services Librarian. Mistakes are all mine.
13. East 22d Street
Jan 1st [1887]

My dear Mr. Lossing,

I trust you will forgive me for the delay in answering your very kind letter, and acknowledging its much prized contents—but my excuse is, that I have been quite unwell for some time past, & I thought I would wait to get the answers to your questions from my cousin Miss Gertrude Thomas, so as not to trouble you with too many epistles.

I am so sorry I cannot give you proof positive about the poem, of which we so long to have the true authorship established. We have only the moral certainty that it is so— & the voice of many to attest it, without one written line to prove it. The husband father of the lady who writes, Charles Livingston, possessed the original manuscript & the Po’keepsie paper in which it was published & took them with him out West, but a fire in Sandusky, where he was living, completely destroyed these valuable papers, with others. If there was any possibility of getting a paper of that time—all would be made clear. I understand Mrs Judge Gannet has some. I wrote to Platt of the Po’keepsie Eagle for information but he has not deigned a reply.
It must be about the time those other verses were written which I sent you. But I suppose Mrs. Hubbard has forgotten the exact date of the paper.

I wonder what the Moore family would have to say in regard to their claim?

You will notice in the letter from Mrs. H. that she says her Mother knew her Grandpa Henry Livingston even better than her father did. The lady whom he married was a very intimate friend, whose home in those early days was “Russ Plaas”—afterwards Mrs. Smith Thompson’s home (his sister) and now the Burial Cemetary. Communication between the families was constant—daily I presume, as the places were so near— & as Charles Livingston was from home, almost even from his early youth, she of course had knowledge of many every-day matters of interest which he missed.

Mrs. Smith Thompson daughter of Henry Livingston died last year—but I have a letter from her at home, telling very much the ' same as the ' one enclosed.— owing to illness I have not been able to go up for it. but if it is still there when I get back to Southroad will send it to you. Charles Livingston is also dead. Mrs. Gurney, I still hope to hear from & will let you know—she was is a sister of Charles Livingston. My g. g. grandfather Henry had 1. son by his first wife, & one daughter; Henry Livingston; & Catherine, the wife of Arthur Breese, Judge of the Supreme Court— by his second wife, he had 3. Sons, & 4 or 5. daughters Edwin, Charles, Sidney — &c &c.

Thank you so very much for the letter from my great grandfather Arthur Breese. It announced the death, to his father-in-law, of his son Henry Livingston, who was studying law with him in Utica.

In a letter from my cousin Miss Thomas, she says that both of the poems I sent you, were copied from the original manuscripts in her possession. She could not send them to me, as the ' book they are in ' contains private matters—
I shall be most happy some day to make you a sketch of my great. g. grandfather’s house as it stood at Locust Grove in the old days. if you want it for your book of Duchess Co. you will kindly let me know, when I shall send it?

May I ask a great favor of you Mr. Lossing? — You have been so kind in giving me such valuable hints in connection with my Uncle’s memoirs—may I solicit your kind indulgence again, regarding a sketch I have made of a delightful trip we made some 15 years ago through an unfrequented part of the Black Forest? I have a great many sketches of interiors & landscapes, & I would like to know if you think it would merit publication. — If you would let me know, if your time would allow you to do me this favor, when it would be most convenient for you to receive the Mss: I will have the sketches all ready to forward with the manuscript. but I do not quite know if I must do them in pen & ink ready for publication—or simply draw them from the original & leave it to the publisher to find his own draughtsman? I do not wish to be at any expense if I can help it, & do not know what to do in perfecting the sketches. Reversing I do not understand, but if that is not necessary I shall be happy.

If I am taking too great a liberty in asking this favor of you, please do not hesitate to refuse.

We are taking great delight in reading your charming book “Mary & Martha”, & find it most interesting. My mother intends sending ' one as a present to my Aunt Mrs. Morse, in Berlin.

Please accept our heartiest Wishes for the New-Year for yourself & Mrs. Lossing, & believe me

Very Sincerely Yours
Cornelia G. Goodrich

P. S. Jan 4th. I have left my letter open hoping each day, to receive the answer from out West. but will send it later.
C. G. G.
--Transcribed by Scott Norsworthy and posted here with kind permission from the Benson John Lossing Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries.
One of Goodrich's earlier letters to Benson J. Lossing evidently enclosed a "letter from Mrs. H." whom Cornelia Griswold Goodrich also identifies as "Mrs. Hubbard," meaning Jane Patterson Livingston Hubbard (1829-1909), daughter of Henry Livingston's son Charles and Elizabeth Clement Brewer. Lossing's Mary and Martha: the mother and the wife of George Washington was published in 1886 by Harper and Brothers. The second of two letters in the Benson J. Lossing Collection at Syracuse concerns illustrated sketches of travel in Germany that CGG apparently forwarded in manuscript, in hopes that Lossing might be able to arrange their publication. Some of this material eventually found its way into print in "Schloss Bürgeln in the Black Forest" (Woman's Cycle, July 24, 1890). Published in New York City, Woman's Cycle was founded and edited by Jane Cunningham Croly, aka Jennie June.

· Wed, Aug 17, 1927 – Page 1 · Poughkeepsie Eagle-News (Poughkeepsie, New York) · Newspapers.com
Other collections with correspondence of Benson J. Lossing include
  • Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, Gilded Age Collections (GA-28), Benson J. Lossing papers, 1850-1891 - Online guide lists two letters from "Goodrich, Cornelia P." (Cornelia Platt Goodrich, mother of Cornelia Griswold Goodrich.)
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Monday, April 30, 2018

Clement C. Moore's Petrosa in the New York Evening Post

"To Petrosa" by Clement C. Moore was collected in Moore's 1844 volume Poems where it appears on pages 92-94. A brief prose heading in the 1844 volume explains that "Petrosa" was
"Suggested by Goldsmith's stanzas which begin, "Say cruel Iris, pretty rake."
"Lines to Petrosa" had appeared previously with other of Moore's poems over the signature "L." in John Duer's A New Translation, with Notes, of the Third Satire of Juvenal (New York, 1806). Here is an even earlier printing (the first, apparently) of "Petrosa," signed "Meliboeus" and published without any title in the New York Evening Post on May 9, 1804. To the Evening Post editor, Moore (still 24 in May 1804) described himself as "A young rhymer." The 1804 and 1806 versions of "Petrosa" both lack the 1844 allusion to Goldsmith's poem The Gift.

· Wed, May 9, 1804 – Page 2 · The Evening Post (New York, New York) · Newspapers.com

FOR THE EVENING POST.

Sir,
A young rhymer submits the following lines to your judgment, and will be flattered if you should think them worthy of a place in your paper.

Thy charms, Petrosa, which inspire
   Unnumber'd swains to chaunt thy praise,
Bid me, too, join the tuneful choir,
   And strive my feeble voice to raise.

And though more lofty songs invite,
   Hear me, for once, an humble swain--
The warbling thrush can oft delight
   More than the sky lark's louder strain.

Thy heav'nly form, thy virtue too,
   In notes of praise ascend the skies;
To opening charms, which strike the view,
   Unceasing aspirations rise.

Yet, in these charms, by all confest,
   Thy hopeless swains one fault declare:
A heart there dwells within that breast
   Which feels no love, which heeds no prayer.

Despondent sighs and notes of pain
   Delight, they say, Petrosa's ear;
To sue for pity, were as vain
   As from the rocks to ask a tear.

Oh, senseless throng! that callous breast
   Proclaims her Nature's favour'd child
While others pine, with love oppress'd,
   Her thoughts are free, her slumbers mild.

And all the softness, which gives grace
   And honor to the female heart,
Though distant from its wonted place,
   She harbours in a nobler part--

For though that heart, to every sound
   Which would compassion move, be dull;
The softness which should there be found,
   Kind Nature granted to--her skull.
MELIBOEUS.


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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Forgotten or well known?

Famously forgotten, perhaps, except by the best informed literati and most discerning readers.
"Mr. Herman Melville, the well known author of popular seafaring stories, died at his home in New York Sunday night."  --Boston Journal, September 29, 1891
New York Tribune - October 3, 1891
via GenealogyBank


"The New-York Times" of yesterday, in an appreciative editorial concerning the late Herman Melville, remarks that only one newspaper (presumably "The Times") contained an obituary account of him, and this was but of three or four lines. Had "The Times" consulted the files of The Tribune, it would have found a much longer obituary of Mr. Melville on the morning after his death, and in Thursday's issue it might have noted a half column review of his life and work. A perusal of this latter article might, perhaps, have prevented the further dissemination of a misleading report that Mr. Melville had been forgotten by the contemporary literary guild. He was invited, among the very first, to join in the founding of the democratic little Authors' Club that flourishes in this city. This occurred in 1882, but Mr. Melville always has been an object of interest among literary people here, who have regretted his extreme self-isolation. --New York Tribune, October 3, 1891.
Here's the obituary of Herman Melville in the New York Tribune, the one printed "on the morning after his death":
New York Tribune - September 29, 1891
And here's the longer funeral notice by Arthur Stedman:

New York Tribune - October 1, 1891
via Library of Congress, Chronicling America
HERMAN MELVILLE'S FUNERAL.

The funeral of the late Herman Melville was held at the family residence in Twenty-eighth-st. yesterday afternoon, the Rev. Theodore C. Williams, of All Souls' Church, delivering a short address. Among the relatives and friends present, beside the widow and daughter of the deceased, were Mrs. Thomas Melville, widow of the late governor of the Sailors' Snug Harbor; the Misses Melville, daughters of the late Allan Melville; Samuel Shaw, of Boston; W. B. Morewood, George Brewster, Mrs. Griggs, Miss Lathers, Dr. Titus Munson Coan, Arthur Stedman and George Dillaway.

The death of Herman Melville, although following a lingering illness, has come as a surprise to even his few acquaintances in the city, for their opportunities of seeing him have been extremely limited in number. Much has been written, particularly in English journals, concerning the alleged neglect and disregard of Mr. Melville by contemporary authors in this country, but it is a well-known fact here that his seclusion has been a matter of personal choice.

This writer gained an international reputation at an earlier date than James Russell Lowell, although born in the same year, 1819. His practical abandonment of literary work some twenty-five years ago, however, has allowed general interest in his books to die out.

Mr. Melville came of patrician blood on both sides of his family, his fraternal and maternal grandfathers figuring prominently in the Revolution, being respectively of Scottish, New-England and Dutch dissent. As in Richard Henry Dana's case, Melville's first literary success was a narrative of his own experience while a common sailor before the mast and in new countries; but unlike Dana, he continued work in the same field, and with credit. In regard to "Typee," Dr. Coan was heard to remark at the service yesterday that his father, the Rev. Titus Coan, of the Hawaiian Islands, had personally visited the Marquesas group, found the Typee Valley, and verified in every detail the romantic descriptions of the gentle but man-devouring islanders. Dr. Coan further said: "Herman Melville was the first man who shared the life of a cannibal community in the South Seas—who had the consummate literary skill to describe it—and who got away alive to write his book. 'Typee' will be read when most of the Concord group are forgotten."  
However this may be, Mr. Melville always has been an interesting figure to New-York literary circles. So far from being forgotten, he was among the very first to be invited to join the Authors' Club at its founding in 1882. His declination of this offer, as well as his general refusal to enter into social life, are said to have been chiefly due to the very adverse critical reception accorded his novel, "Pierre, or the Ambiguities," published in 1852. He was always a great reader, and was much interested in collecting engravings of the old masters, having a large library and a fine assortment of prints, those of Claude's paintings being his favorites.

His tall, stalwart figure, until recently, could be seen almost daily tramping through the Fort George district or Central Park, his roving inclination leading him to obtain as much out-door life as possible. His evenings were spent at home with his books, his pictures and his family, and usually with them alone.

While at Pittsfield, Mass., from 1850 to 1862, he became the intimate friend of Hawthorne, who lived for a while near by at Lenox, and they often exchanged visits. It was at this place that most of Melville's writing was done. The place in the New York Custom House was given up about 1881.

At the beginning of failing health, some three years ago, Mr. Melville wrote and privately circulated a little story entitled "John Marr." It was dedicated to Clark Russell, who was a cordial admirer and correspondent. Last spring, after his final illness set in, he collected and had printed his miscellaneous shorter poems under the title "Timoleon, etc." This volume is dedicated to "My Countryman, Elihu Vedder." Both little books are limited to twenty-five copies. Mr. Melville's later style became somewhat rugged and mystical. His best-known poem was "Sheridan at Cedar Creek," thought by most literary experts to be superior to "Twenty Miles Away," though lacking a popular refrain.

The following poem is from "Timoleon":
L'ENVOI.

The Return of the Sire de Nesle,
A. D. 16——.

My towers at last! These rovings end.
Their thirst is slaked in larger dearth;
The yearning infinite recoils,
       For terrible is earth.

Kaf thrusts his snouted crags through fog;
Araxes swells beyond his span.
And knowledge poured by pilgrimage
       Overflows the banks of man.

But thou, my stay, thy lasting love,
One lonely good, let this but be!
Weary to view the wide world's swarm,
       But blest to fold but thee.
--New York Tribune, October 1, 1891; reprinted without the poem from Timoleon in Melville in His Own Time, edited by Steven Olsen-Smith (University of Iowa Press, 2015), pages 164-166.
Philip Hale may have contributed the obit of Melville published in the Boston Journal on September 29, 1891, part of which is lifted from the end of the 1856 article A Trio of American Sailor-Authors
in The Dublin University Magazine.

Boston Journal - September 29, 1891
via GenealogyBank



Herman Melville.

Mr. Herman Melville, the well known author of popular seafaring stories, died at his home in New York Sunday night. So little has been heard of him, personally, in late years that many people imagined he was dead, yet his literary honors were well won and deserved. In the past 15 years he wrote little for publication. Mr. Melville's early life was full of adventures. He was born of an ancient Scotch family in New York Aug. 1, 1819. In his 18th year he made a voyage from New York to Liverpool and back home before the mast, and liked his marine experience sufficiently to embark in a whaling vessel for the Pacific Jan. 1, 1841. About July of the next year the vessel arrived at Nukaheva, one of the Marquesas Islands, and Melville, with a fellow sailor, who like himself was tired of strait quarters and a tyrannical captain, embraced the opportunity of leaving the ship without waiting for the usual formality of a discharge. Falling into the hands of a warlike race who inhabited Typee Valley, Melville was detained a prisoner for four months, when he was unexpectedly rescued by the crew of a Sydney whaler. After passing several months in the Society and Sandwich Islands, he shipped on board the frigate United States and arrived at Boston in October, 1844, having been absent from home nearly three years. 
Most readers associate Herman Melville only with those adventures which his early life as a sailor made the means of his literature; but besides "Omoo," "Typee," "Mardi" and books of kindred character, he wrote such stories as "The Confidence Man," a volume of poems about the Civil War and two volumes on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The cannibals whom he met were made the subject of his first novel, "Typee," published in 1846. Besides those already mentioned he wrote a philosophical romance, "Redburn," "Plute Jacket; or, The World on a Man-of-War," "Moby Dick," "Pierre," Israel Potter" and "The Prazza Tales." 
It is interesting to recall the fact that the grandfather of Herman Melville, Major Thomas Melville, was a noted Bostonian and a member of the famous tea party. In 1847 Herman Melville married a daughter of Chief Justice Shaw of Boston and resided for some years at Berkshire, Mass. He was undoubtedly an original thinker, and boldly and unreservedly expressed his opinions, often in a way that irresistibly startles and enchains the interest of the reader. He possessed marked powers of expression. He could be terse, copious, eloquent, brilliant, imaginative, poetical, satirical, pathetic, at will. Though never stupid or dull, yet he was often mystical and unintelligible, though not from any inability to express himself. His death removes a noted figure in American literature.  --Boston Journal, September 29, 1891.
Melville was well-remembered in Buffalo and Troy, as shown by obituaries in Buffalo Courier (September 29, 1891) and the Troy Budget (reprinted with cuts in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 18, 1891). Warren Broderick found the original, longer obit in the Troy Northern Budget of October 4, 1891; transcribed in Deceased but Not Forgotten: Obituaries for Herman Melville in the Upstate Press (Leviathan 16. 2, June 2014), pages 58-68 at 66-7.

· Tue, Sep 29, 1891 – 4 · Buffalo Courier (Buffalo, New York) · Newspapers.com

San Francisco Chronicle - October 18, 1891
via GenealogyBank
Below, the memorial essay by Charles Goodrich Whiting in his column "The Literary Wayside," published in the Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican on October 4, 1891:

Springfield Republican - October 4, 1891
via GenealogyBank
· Wed, Oct 28, 1891 – Page 3 · The York Daily (York, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com
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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Hoffman on The New-York Book of Poetry



One known letter from Charles Fenno Hoffman concerns The New-York Book of Poetry, edited by Hoffman and published by George Dearborn in 1837 as a holiday gift book. Hoffman did heroic work to identify and collect poems by natives of New York State. The collection took an amazingly short time to assemble: only two weeks ("a fortnight") according to the prefatory "Advertisement." As originally proposed by Hoffman to Dearborn, the scope of the project would have been limited to poems and poets associated with New York City, "real Knickerbockers solely." Hoffman's proposed title, "The Wreath of St. Nicholas," reflects this narrower, more exclusive focus. But Dearborn enlarged the scope to include New York State writers, as Hoffman reveals in this December 1836 letter to his Albany friend John B. Van Schaick. My transcription below adds punctuation, mostly periods, lacking in the digitized volume of Charles Fenno Hoffman by Homer F. Barnes (New York: Columbia University Press, 1930) that is currently accessible via the Internet Archive.
New York, Dec. 12th, 1836
My dear Van 
I write to you in haste and though it may prove a bore you must try an [sic] answer in equal haste, if possible. The matter in a word is this: four days ago Mr. Dearborn determined to get up a “New York Book" of poetry and have it out in ten days from this—that is, in time for the holidays. Several of his acquaintances were applied to for their commonplace books and together we have raked up some dozen or two names of persons born in this state who have written verses worth collecting and doubtless there are as many more of whom we know nothing. I had but one piece of Bogart's, a drinking song which is already struck off on handsome 8 vo sheets. But I have none of yours. My papers, many of them, having been burnt last summer. Now I want you to send three or four of the best of your “old iron” and moreover to get permission from Miss Dewitt that was and Miss Vanderpool that is, not [sic] to publish “The Wife” and some of their other pieces which you must obtain with their names and you can tell them—or whatever instrument you use to extract poettics [?] from them—that the whole collection consists chiefly of private names for the first time affiixed to pieces that have appeared anonymously. Have you nothing of Henry L. Bogart’s? The Knickerbockers must flare up. If the volume which will consist of 200 pages succeeds, it will be followed by another to whip in the pieces which have lagged behind this. The writers must be natives of New York. The thing was started by my proposing to Dearborn to get up a book representing real Knickerbockers solely—to be called “The Wreath of St. Nicholas." But thinking it could not be filled up well or would not sell he determined to publish a more general affair and call it “The New York Book.” By the by I forgot to tell you that the whole matter is a secret yet which you must betray only so far as it may be necessary. Did you read Verplanck's introduction to “The Fairy Book”? I shall urge him to write just such another for Dearborn’s collection. 
Very cordially yours,
C. F. H.
N. B. Why do you not let me know at my office—I mean that of the Monthly—when you visit N. York? I live three miles out of town and go so little into society that I never hear when my friends from other places are in the city. I called twice on you when I last heard you were here and repeatedly before when hearing of your being here. I have sought you just in time to learn that you were gone. I live such an oozy life now that it is a real pleasure to me to well out to an old friend occasionally.
In footnote 43 on page 78 of Charles Fenno Hoffman, Homer F. Barnes locates the manuscript letter of December 12, 1836 from Hoffman to John B. Van Schaick in the collections of the
"Pennsylvania Historical Society, Philadelphia."

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Charles Fenno Hoffman--on Francis Parkman, on the first meeting betwen Tuckerman and Poe

C. F. Hoffman
via Library of Congress

In March 1930 Columbia University Press published Charles Fenno Hoffman, a doctoral dissertation on the quintessential Knickerbocker by Homer F. Barnes. Hershel Parker credits Barnes for information on Hoffman's physical appearance and mock correspondence of Zachary Taylor in the first volume of Herman Melville: A Biography (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996; 2005 in paperback). The bogus Old Zack letters by Hoffman are extant and accessible online via The New York Public Library Digital Collections:
Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Hoffman, Charles Fenno (1806-1884)" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1850 - 1868.
http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/e1facd90-693c-0133-c93c-00505686d14e
Barnes's valuable study is currently available online via the Internet Archive. Herman Melville shows up on pages 104 and 185. At 104 Barnes quotes from the "deeply impressed" Hoffman's "complimentary" review of Typee in the New York Gazette & Times (March 30, 1846). A few pages later Barnes gives Hoffman's letter to Evert A. Duyckinck, recommending publication in The Literary World of fresh western sketches by Francis Parkman.
Office Evening Gazette — Thursday 
My dear Sir, 
Allow me the pleasure of making you acquainted with my friend Mr Francis Parkman of Boston. Mr Parkman has lately returned from the Rocky Mountains whither he went to make some scientific enquiries relative to Indian languages usages etc, with reference to an elaborate work upon these subjects which he contemplates finishing at some distant day.
Meanwhile he has thrown off some easy sketches of his tour to make up a light volume for summer reading. The prevailing interest among all classes about the emigration and routes of emigrants to Oregon must necessarily command a hearing for him with the public. I have therefore my Dear Sir, had no hesitation in commending him to the Editor of "The Literary World" to introduce "The Oregon Trail — or A Summer out of Bounds’’ — to both Publisher & readers. You will find Parkman a clever fellow & a gentleman as well as a traveller & student worth knowing.
Truly yours 
C F Hoffman 
E A Duyckink, Esq 
N B I have just glanced at “the work” —Thank you for Copy — Nothing could look better
Duyckinck must have passed since The Literary World did not publish Parkman's well-recommended travel narrative--doubtless to his later regret, as Barnes observes:
The Literary World did not accept Parkman's "sketches" for publication. They soon appeared, however, in The Knickerbocker, and their popularity must have caused The Literary World to realize that it had missed an unusual opportunity.  --Homer F. Barnes on Charles Fenno Hoffman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1930) page 109.
Digital images of Hoffman's letter to Evert A. Duyckinck in manuscript are accessible online courtesy of the Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Hoffman, Charles Fenno (1806-1884)" The New York Public Library Digital Collections, 1850 - 1868:
  • http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/e1facd90-693c-0133-c93c-00505686d14e
Francis Parkman's sketches of his summer travel "out of bounds" were serialized in The Knickerbocker starting in February 1847.



Parkman's magazine sketches appeared in book form as The California and Oregon Trail, afterwards shortened to The Oregon Trail. Melville reviewed the book version for Duyckinck in The Literary World of March 31, 1849. The text of Melville's unsigned review of Parkman's Oregon Trail has been available online since 2012 in the Melvilliana post
Mr. Parkman's Tour
Digital images of Melville's Review of The California and Oregon Trail in manuscript are now also available online courtesy of the Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Review of The California and Oregon trail," The New York Public Library Digital Collections, 1849:
  • http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/76003a20-1830-0133-c9a3-58d385a7b928
The Melville mention on page 185 of Barnes's 1930 book occurs in the context of Hoffman's struggle with mental illness. Barnes gives only part of the now well-known passage about "Poor Hoffman" from Melville's April 1849 letter to Evert Duyckinck. Adopting the abridged text as presented by Meade Minnigerode in Some Personal Letters of Herman Melville, Barnes omits Melville's more personally revealing remarks:
— I remember the shock I had when I first saw the mention of his madness. — But he was just the man to go mad—imaginative, voluptuously inclined, poor, unemployed, in the race of life distancd by his inferiors, unmarried,—without a port or haven in the universe to make. His present misfortune—rather blessing—is but the sequel to a long experience of morbid habits of thought.  --Herman Melville, Correspondence, ed. Lynn Horth (Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library, 1993) page 128.
I'm highlighting the word "morbid" as transcribed in The Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Correspondence. As applied by Melville to his friend Hoffman the word morbid does not sound or in manuscript look quite right. Checking, I see the N-N editor calls morbid a "conjectural reading." Some earlier editions make it unwhole as in "unwhole habits of thought." For a different conjectural reading let's try this: "monkish." Long experience of monkish habits of thought? The adjective monkish at least seems to fit with Melville's idea of Hoffman's "unmarried" state as one contributing factor to his emotional distress. In addition to his being imaginative and poor, Hoffman according to Melville was a "voluptuously inclined" bachelor.

As Barnes relates, Hoffman experienced a brief "change for the better." On April 21, 1849 the New York Tribune optimistically stated, "Mr. Hoffman's health is now almost entirely retrieved." In June 1849 he was in Washington, working (too hard, it seems) as a clerk in the State Department. However, by October 1849 he had to be hospitalized in Baltimore. Eventually Hoffman went to the State Hospital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania "where he remained for over thirty years, until his death in 1884."

In the back of his 1930 book, Barnes offers a wonderful trove of Hoffman's letters, uncollected poems, and a bibliography that includes contributions to periodicals and some fugitive pieces.

One of Hoffman's letters to Rufus W. Griswold (now held by the Boston Public Library and accessible online via Digital Commonwealth) makes "a good joke" of the first meeting between Henry T. Tuckerman and Edgar Allen Poe. We don't know exactly when Melville first met Tuckerman, or if Melville ever met Poe in person. But thanks to Charles Fenno Hoffman (and his Columbia University biographer Homer F. Barnes) we do know when Henry met Edgar: the evening of July 10, 1845, in New York City at the Rutgers Female Institute. Both had been invited there to judge compositions by Rutgers students.

Charles Fenno Hoffman, letter to R. W. Griswold, 11 July 1845
Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth
Let me tell you a good joke. Poe & Tuckerman met for the first time last night — & how? They each upon invitation repaired to the Rutgers Institute where they sat alone together as a committee upon young Ladies compositions — Odd isnt it that the women who divide so many should bring these two together! --Hoffman to Griswold, July 11, 1845

via The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Presumably the prize-winning writers were honored at Commencement exercises the next day, on July 11, 1845. The distinguished Principal of Rutgers Institute was Charles E. West, Herman Melville's teacher at the Albany Classical School ten years before. In his published Address on retiring in 1851, West recalled early controversies over the aims and methods of public education for women.
Then the objection arose that our studies were of too elevated and difficult a range; that the rights of the colleges were invaded; that logic, metaphysics, and the higher mathematics did not belong as studies to young ladies; that they should be dealt with more gently by the selection of studies on a level with their capacities! Many a boding note was rung in the ear of the speaker, kindly warning him to beware lest the Institution founder upon this fatal rock. As though the domain of thought, and the vast stores of accumulated knowledge, belonged exclusively to man! As though no Somerville had mastered the profound mysteries of mathematical analysis, or no Mitchell could gaze out upon the heavens, and watch the silent movements of yon shining orbs, and discover what had escaped the telescopic gaze of all the Astronomical Observatories of Europe and America — a new comet!  --Charles E. West
Charles Fenno Hoffman's reference to "young Ladies" of Rutgers as "the women who divide so many" alludes I guess to these or similarly sexist objections. Hoffman's letter to Griswold with the anecdote about Poe and Tuckerman is listed with other 1845 items in The Poe Log, edited by Dwight Thomas and David K. Jackson and accessible online courtesy of The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore.

· Mon, Jun 9, 1884 – Page 4 · Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

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