Saturday, March 3, 2018

Gansevoort in 1829, reading John Franklin

In 1829 and 1830, Herman and his older brother Gansevoort Melville attended the Grammar School of Columbia College. As mentioned in an earlier post on the Grammar School, John P. Runden published two fine articles on the Columbia school in Melville Society Extracts:
  • "Columbia Grammar School: An Overlooked Year in the Lives of Gansevoort and Herman Melville" in Melville Society Extracts 46 (May 1981): 1-3; and 
The text of this 1829 letter from Gansevoort Melvill (as then spelled) to his mother Maria appears in Runden's 1981 article. I saw the original document last year in the Gansevoort-Lansing collection at NYPL in the same folder with the 1826 letter about Mrs. Palmer's tea party. My motive for giving the later letter again here is to highlight the new book Gansevoort was reading when he wrote it: Narrative of a Second Expedition to the Shores of the Polar Sea (London: John Murray, 1828) by John Franklin and John Richardson.
May 23d 1828 [1829] New York
Dear Mother
We received Uncle's letter yesterday afternoon. I am very much pleased with the Grammar School, it is divided into four room's. Mr. Ogilby's room which comprehend's the first and second classes the first class is going to college next October it consists of twenty five boys. Mr. Underdonk has the charge of the third and fourth classes I belong to the former. The Mathematical department is under the care of Mr Mac Gorman the English under that of Mr Belden who formerly taught in the second room in the High School. I only recited five lesson's in the first part of the Latin Reader and having gone ahead of the boys in my class who to tell the truth were only three I was promoted into the third class. The book that I had bought was so little injured that Mr Lockwood took it back. Mr Underdonk, my instructor, told me that if I would call at his room in Broadway, he would with pleasure explain to me any part of my lesson. I think this was extremely kind in him. I was very happy to hear that Augusta's health is improving and I hope that when she return's her former vivacity will return with her. This morning Herman went to Hoboken in high spirits and returned about four o'clock. I am now reading Franklin's second journey to the Polar sea. We all unite in love to Grandmamma, Aunt Mary and cousins. We all send a kiss to yourself and Augusta.

Your affectionate Son,
Gansevoort Melvill.
 --Gansevoort Melvill to Maria Melvill, 23 May [1829]. Gansevoort-Lansing collection, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library.

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