Sunday, October 14, 2018

Big Three of American Fiction in 1854

Knickerbocker Gallery - Ik Marvel

This below, from a long critique of Kossuth in the New York Herald on December 29, 1854. Despite the devastating review of Pierre two years before (New York Herald, September 18, 1852), Herman Melville still belongs in the Big Three of accomplished American novelists, after Donald Grant Mitchell (aka John Timon; aka Ik Marvel) and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

New York Herald - December 29, 1854
... A man may fail, and be none the less capable on account thereof. The most successful men have been at times on the brink of ruin: Louis Napoleon could not pay for his washing. But if in such cases the world generously consents to make allowance for misfortune, and acquits such men of want of ability, it has a right to expect that they will not presume on its good nature to speak and act as though perfect triumph had crowned their endeavors. An author who having published a bad novel would at once set about showing that neither Mitchell nor Hawthorne nor Melville knew anything of novel writing, and that their books deserved not to sell, would be likely to meet with severe and merited castigation. Just so with M. Kossuth, Mazzini, Ledru Rollin and the other exiles. They all had their chance--in some cases a fair and promising one--but not one out of the number had the tact or the sense or the prudence to maintain himself. Common decency should remind them of this, when they feel impelled to cavil at the acts of others. --New York Herald - December 29, 1854

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Moby-Dick in the New York Morning Express

This notice of Moby-Dick in the New York Morning Express on November 17, 1851 borrows extensively from the Courier and Enquirer review of November 14th, but the texts are not identical. The Express tweaks the introduction before quoting the body of the earlier notice--using quotation marks and presenting it as the verdict of
"One who has read "Moby dick."
The reference to Melville's previous "squintings at his whaling experiences" appears only in the Express version.

New York Morning Express - November 17, 1851 via Fulton History

LITERARY NOTICES.

MOBY-DICK, OR THE WHALE. Herman Melville. Harpers.

Another book by the author of "Typee." What writer is more welcome? We have had a touch of his qualities on the sea, and some squintings at his whaling experiences, before, and are prepared to find in his new book a great deal of amusement and instruction, combined with his usual felicity. One who has read "Moby dick" tells us that it "has all the attractiveness of any of its predecessors; in truth it possesses more of a witching nature, since the author has taken in it a wilder play than ever before. It is ostensibly taken up with whales and whalers, but a vast variety of characters and subjects figure in it, all set off with an artistic effect that irresistibly captivates the attention. The author writes with the gusto of true genius, and it must be a torpid spirit indeed that is not enlivened with the raciness of his humor and the redolence of his imagination."  --New York Morning Express, November 17, 1851; found at Fulton History.
Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews, edited by Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker (Cambridge University Press, 1995; 2009 in paperback) gives the earlier notice in the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer on page 374.

Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer - November 14, 1851
via Fulton History
As reported by David Potter in his survey of Reviews of Moby-Dick in The Journal of the Rutgers University Library Vol 3, No 2 (1940), the highly favorable Courier and Enquirer review was reprinted in Littell's Living  Age, vol. 32 (January 17, 1852).


Moby Dick; or the Whale. By Herman Melville. Harper and Brothers: New York. 
No American writer is more sure, at every reappearance, of a more cheerful welcome than the author of Typee. His purity and freshness of style and exquisite tact in imparting vividness and life-likeness to his sketches long since gained him hosts of admirers on both sides of the water. This book has all the attractiveness of any of its predecessors; in truth, it possesses more of a witching interest, since the author's fancy has taken in it a wilder play than ever before. It is ostensibly taken up with whales and whalers, but a vast variety of characters and subjects figure in it, all set off with an artistic effect that irresistibly captivates the attention. The author writes with the gusto of true genius, and it mast be a torpid spirit indeed that is not enlivened with the raciness of his humor and the redolence of his imagination.—
N. Y. Courier 
[as reprinted January 17, 1852 in Littell's Living  Age, vol. 32.]

Melville's new book, The Whale

Just as Moby-Dick was rolling out in the U. S., the New York Evening Post printed this brief notice of the favorable reception of The Whale across the pond, more or less buried in a long column of "Foreign Items":
"Herman Melville's new book "The Whale," now in press of the Harper's, is well received in England."  --New York Evening Post, November 12, 1851.
Reprinted in the Troy Daily Budget on November 13, 1851; also the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser on November 14, 1851; and the Buffalo Courier on November 15, 1851.

Wed, Nov 12, 1851 – Page 2 · The Evening Post (New York, New York, New York) · Newspapers.com

Monday, October 1, 2018

Hobbes's Leviathan, from the library of Herman Melville

Early in 1892, as Merton M. Sealts, Jr. relates in Melville's Reading (University of Wisconsin Press, 1966) and Pursuing Melville, 1940-1980 (University of Wisconsin Press, 1982), Brooklyn bookman Alfred Francis Farnell (1835-1908) bought a lot of the late Herman Melville's books for $120. Among the most valuable was a rare 1651 edition of Hobbes's Leviathan, according  to this bit of "Brooklyn Gossip" in the New York Evening World for March 19, 1892. Found at GenealogyBank among items added "within 3 months."

New York Evening World - March 19, 1892
via GenealogyBank

BROOKLYN GOSSIP.

Bibliomaniacs seldom visit "Ye Olde Booke Shoppe," on Court street, without feasting their eyes on something rare and valuable.

"We have just purchased," says Mr. Farwell [A. F. Farnell], "the library of the late Herman Melville, of New York, and we obtained some valuable works. Here is one bearing the date of 1651."

It was the second edition of the "Leviathon," [Leviathan] published in London and much valued by Mr. Melville.
Obituary of Alfred F. Farnell in the Brooklyn Daily Standard Union, May 14, 1908:

ALFRED F. FARNELL.
Alfred Francis Farnell, bookseller, of 46 Court street, died Tuesday [May 12, 1908] of heart disease at his home, 96 Garfield place. Mr. Farnell established the Court street business known as A. F. Farnell & Sons in 1880. He was born in Yorkshire, England, June 5, 1835, and went to New Haven, Conn., in 1865, where for a number of years he conducted a circulating library. he is survived by two sons, Fred W. and Henry A., a daughter, Maude M., and a sister, Mrs. A. Blair, of Montgomery, Ala. Mr. Farnell was a member of the Second Unitarian Church, and the Rev. C. S. S. Dutton conducted funeral services this afternoon. Buried in Greenwood Cemetery.
Brooklyn Daily Standard Union - May 14, 1908
via Fulton History
The Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes is #358 in Melville's Sources (Northwestern University Press, 1987) by Mary K. Bercaw Edwards; not currently listed in "The Online Catalog of Books and Documents Owned, Borrowed and Consulted by Herman Melville" at Melville's Marginalia Online.