|via Peter's Paper Antiques|
Sun, Jul 12, 1857 – Page 2 · The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio) · Newspapers.com
|via Peter's Paper Antiques|
"he became an advocate for reforms such as confirmation, choral singing and mixed pews." --American Jewish ArchivesRelated posts:
The Harpers continued to offer Moby-Dick (1851) and Pierre (1852) during the latter 1850's. In Capital Letters: Authorship in the Antebellum Literary Market (University of Iowa Press, 2009), David Dowling (page 158) cites the 1855 Harper & Brothers' Book-List as evidence of a restrictive genre classification that boxed Melville's writings in "Voyages and Travels." But the same 1855 table ("Index of Subjects and Works Relating to Them") also places "Melville's works" with those of Bulwer and Dickens in the category of "Fiction" (xiv), while itemizing his first six books (Omoo first) under "Voyages and Travels" (viii).
Herman Melville's Works.The new path struck out by Melville in Typee and Omoo has led to a wide and brilliant fame in a short space of time. Few of the younger American authors are more extensively read or more universally admired. His pictures of primitive social life in the islands of the South Sea possess an irresistible charm. The works devoted to this subject are redolent of the spicy fragrance of the native forests, and glow with the splendid lights of a tropical sky. In his other productions, comic humor is admirably blended with powerful description, grave reflection, and exciting narrative. Surpassed in originality by no recent writer in literature, his works form an epoch in its progress, and are indispensable in every library. --Harper & Brothers' Book-List, 1855
|New York Morning Courier - May 29, 1855|
via Fulton History
|The Attack of Two Lanoon Pirate Proas on the Proa Jolly Bachelor, belonging to Rajah Brooks |
of Sarawack and manned by the crew. Image credit: Lebrecht Music & Arts / Alamy Stock Photo
... But then, might not general distress, and thirst in particular, be affected? And might not that same undiminished Spanish crew, alleged to have perished off to a remnant, be at that very moment lurking in the hold? On heart-broken pretense of entreating a cup of cold water, fiends in human form had got into lonely dwellings, nor retired until a dark deed had been done. And among the Malay pirates, it was no unusual thing to lure ships after them into their treacherous harbors, or entice boarders from a declared enemy at sea, by the spectacle of thinly manned or vacant decks, beneath which prowled a hundred spears with yellow arms ready to upthrust them through the mats. Not that Captain Delano had entirely credited such things. He had heard of them — and now, as stories, they recurred.--Benito Cereno in Putnam's Monthly-October 1855; and The Piazza TalesIn chapter 11 of his Narrative of Voyages and Travels (well before the Tryal matter which takes up chapter 18), Amasa Delano notes the notorious "treachery and cruelty of the Malays." He warns against landing boats in the Natuna and Anambas islands, "treacherous harbors" in Melville's words. Delano also gives practical advice for chasing off a menacing Malay fleet (fire your big guns, "soon as you can") in the Banca or Bangka Strait. But the real, historical Delano did not tell any tales about the risky business of chasing after and boarding a Malay ship.
|via Patricia Hului at Kajo Mag, 10 Interesting Facts about the 19th Century Iranun Pirates|
"... a very wicked, but a very clever book." -- The Spectator.
"This fanciful autobiography opens like a Marryat novel with an account of youthful hardships, pranks, and enlistment in the navy. Soon follows a racy tale of wild East Indian life, for Trelawny turns pirate, captains a crew of dare-devil Arabs, Mussulmans, Daccamen, Coolies, and Lascars, with a sprinkling of Swedes, Dutch, French, and Portuguese, and argues that in preying upon others he is but despoiling robbers. Most of his rascality proceeds, however, from unbridled passion. He plays the savage with zest, runs amuck, is devoted to wine and women, and in his thirst for liberty or license, his hatred of priests, and his romantic attachment to the Arab girl Zela is a more venturesome and less sentimental Byron." --Frank W. Chandler, The Literature of Roguery Vol. 2 (Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1907) page 349.
... We approached her [unnamed ship, previously described as "a large Malay brig, full of men"] warily. Not the smallest impediment was opposed to us. Indeed nothing gave token that there was a being on board of her. I ordered the Rais, who commanded one boat, to board her on the bow with his Arabs; whilst I, with a party, chiefly Europeans, and a gallant set of fellows they were, climbed up her ornamented quarters and bamboo stern. On getting on board, we saw many dead and wounded on her deck, but nothing else. She was only about two-thirds decked, having an open waist, latticed with bamboo, and covered with mats. Her sails and yards were hanging about in confusion. We were now all on deck, and a party of men was preparing to descend between decks; when, while replying to De Ruyter's questions, I was suddenly startled at hearing a wild and tumultuous war-whoop, and springing forwards, I saw a grove of spears thrust up from below, which, passing through the matting, wounded many of our men. I was certainly as much astonished at this novel mode of warfare as Macbeth at the walking wood of Dunsinane. Running round the solid portion of the deck, several spears were thrust at me, which I with difficulty escaped. --Adventures of a Younger SonAs a teenager, the narrator of Trelawny's Adventures falls in with a devilishly charismatic and cosmopolitan privateer named De Ruyter, aka De Witt. De Ruyter himself is Dutch-American with a French commission, although personally he (much like the real Amasa Delano, later in chapter 11) disdains "the scum that the French revolution has boiled up" at the Isle of France. The "Malay brig" under attack is rumored to be loaded with plunder. After disabling the brig and attempting to board, De Ruyter's crew are astonished when Malays in hiding present them with "a grove of spears thrust up from below." Similarly, Melville's Delano conceives a surprise attack by stereotyped Malay pirates as "a hundred spears with yellow arms ready to upthrust them through the mats." Melville's figure of one hundred spears indicates he has in mind a relatively large vessel, comparable in size to the "Malay brig" described by Trelawny.
|New York Herald - December 6, 1847|
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.
... we stood on towards Angry point on the island of Java. Sailing round the point where the brig was run ashore we discovered a large Malay Prow, which as soon as she saw us, swept towards the shore. We out with all boats and outflanked her, got to the shore before she did, and boarded her. Not a man was to be seen upon her deck, which was only of loose bamboo. I was one of the first on board, and received a prick of a spear through the deck. In two minutes the decks were crowded with our seamen, and the Malays below kept pushing their spears through and wounding the men. Seeing that, I jumped into our boat, took out a port-fire and hove it in amongst them, which brought them up, and they surrendered. --Eventful Narrative of Capt. William StockellAs Stockwell relates it, he was impressed at gunpoint into service on the British frigate Egeria. The attack on the "Malay brig" is featured in the synopsis for chapter 10, as follows:
In the straits of Sunda surprize and take a Malay brig.--Description of their mode of defence.
Is it solely for the Malay, the living Ishmaelite of the world, that prolific nature has been thus bountiful? The Malay— treacherous, cruel, and vindictive as, he is—fierce and unrelenting as the tiger of his own mountains, by which he is often destroyed, —is still a being entitled to the sympathy and compassion of the civilized world; and we cannot but pity his condition, even when his vices demand a measure of punishment at our hands. How black and damning would be the page containing an account of his wrongs from boasted Christians, since the year 1510, when Albuquerque landed on his shores. For three centuries, what has been the history of Europeans trading on his coast, under the direction of heartless, grasping monopolies, but a record of oppressions, cruel exactions, and abominable injustice! To the honour of the British name, though her track in the east has, in all directions, been stained with blood, she has ever shown more humanity than either of her former powerful competitors; whose every thought, impulse, and action, appear to have been concentrated in one festering canker—insatiable avarice!The "living Ishmaelite" line was quoted in The Philadelphia Enquirer, also excerpted in Volume 7 of the New York Knickerbocker. If the Malay be a modern Ishmael, then Melville's Ishmael may be regarded as Malay, figuratively speaking. Call the Malay Ishmael a footnote to Spencer Tricker, "'Five Dusky Phantoms': Gothic Form and Cosmopolitan Shipwreck in Melville's Moby-Dick," recently published by Johns Hopkins University Press in Studies in American Fiction, vol. 44 no. 1, 2017, pp. 1-26. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/saf.2017.0000. Tricker's article was recently honored with the Hennig Cohen Prize Award for opening "a radical reassessment of race in Melville’s fiction." The second part deals with "The Malay in Melville's Pacific Works," but Tricker keys on the different, earlier reference in "Benito Cereno" to "Lascars and Manilla-Men," rather than the later image of lurking Malay pirates. For historical context Tricker introduces "The Malay Pirates" in The Albion, which I see was reprinted from The United Service Journal for April 1837, published in London. (Though published in New York, The Albion was a "British, colonial, and foreign weekly gazette" that chiefly promoted British literature and interests.) Bad as they are, Malays in their lust for war and violence "remind us of our northern forefathers, the sea-kings of the olden time." Vikings, like Jarl in Mardi. An earlier survey of Oriental Pirates appeared in the September 1835 issue of The United Service Journal.
"One can measure three stages of Melville's growth between the spring of 1847 and the end of 1854--roughly, since his marriage--in the gothic chill of the passage in Mardi; then in Moby-Dick the evocative imagery of yellow peoples of the immemorial East and in Pierre the image of hooded phantoms from the unconscious disembarking in Pierre's soul; and now the gothic revisited as an illustration of the psychological and metaphysical problem of evil in the universe." --Herman Melville: A Biography Volume 2, 1851-1891 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002) page 239.
<https://books.google.com/books?id=5bI50n5WImkC&pg=PA239&lpg#v=onepage&q&f=false>In the summer of 1848 when Melville was deep into writing Mardi, a long discussion of "Piracy in the Oriental Archipelago" appeared in The Edinburgh Review v. 88 (July 1848): 63-94; reprinted in Littell's Living Age Volume 18 no. 222, 12 August 1848. The unsigned Edinburgh Review essay (by James St. John) was criticized in The Examiner of October 21, 1848 ("Piracy in the Eastern Archipelago"); and defended by Spenser St. John in Piracy in the Indian Archipelago, published in The Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia, Volume 3 (April 1849). As in the 1837 article on "Malay Pirates" in The United Service Journal, the original Edinburgh Review article traces pirate history back to the Vikings. Again, no mention that I can find of Malays lurking below deck.
"...the prototype of Melville's early works is Childe Harold, or, to name a more specific model flavored with Byronism, Trelawny's Adventures of a Younger Son." --Henry A. Murray, Introduction to Hendricks House edition of Pierre; or, The Ambiguities.Zela, the narrator's Arab bride in Adventures of a Younger Son, may have influenced Melville's conception of Yillah in Mardi.
My love for Zela knew no diminution. Every day I discovered some new quality to admire in her. She was my inseparable companion. I could hardly endure her out of my sight an instant; and our bliss was as perfect as it was uninterrupted. My love was too deep to fear satiety; nor did ever my imagination wander from her, to compare her with any other woman. She had wound herself about my heart till she became a part of me. Our extreme youth, ardent nature, and solitude, had wrought our feeling of affection towards each other to an intensity that perhaps was never equalled, assuredly never surpassed. <https://hdl.handle.net/2027/wu.89099222911?urlappend=%3Bseq=288>
... a light and bounding ﬁgure, with her loose vest and streaming hair ﬂying in the wind, and in speed like a swallow,—(but oh! how inﬁnitely more welcome than that harbinger of spring and ﬂowers!) came all my joy, my hope, my happiness, my Zela! She sprung into my arms, we clasped each other in speechless ecstasy, and there thrilled through my frame a rapture that swelled my heart and veins almost to bursting. The rude seamen forget their danger, and looked on not unmoved. --Adventures of a Younger SonIn Moby-Dick, Ahab with his "Anacharsis Clootz deputation" of global "isolatoes" on the Pequod recalls De Ruyter with his band of exiles and outlaws--viewed later on by the eccentric surgeon Van Scolpvelt as a "barbarous crew" with "heathenish prejudices":
We had fourteen Europeans, chiefly from the dow; they were Swedes, Dutch, Portuguese, and French. We had also a few Americans, together with samples of almost all the seafaring natives of India; Arabs, Mussulmans, Daccamen, Cooleys, and Lascars. Our steward and purser was a mongrel Frenchman, the cabin-boy English, the surgeon Dutch, and the armourer and master-of-arms Germans, De Ruyter was indifferent as to where his men were born, or of what caste they were; he distinguished them by their worth alone. I was astonished at such dissimilar and incongruous ingredients being mingled together with so little contention; but it was the consummate art of the master-hand, his cool and collected manner, which regulated all: before a murmur was heard, he forestalled every complaint by a timely remedy. He himself was the most active and unwearied in toil, the first in every danger, and every thing he did was done quicker and better than it could have been by any other person. In short, he would have been, amidst an undistinguished throng of adventurers, in any situation of peril or enterprise, by a unanimous voice, their chosen leader. --Adventures of a Younger SonIn chapter 24 De Ruyter invites his protege to command "an Arab grab brig" with a mysteriously "secreted" crew of Europeans and Americans. As sailors and fighters, however, the narrator prefers "Daccamen" in "red caps, jackets and turbans."
"Besides, I like the look of those Arabs, and of those savage, lean, wild-eyed fellows, with their red caps, jackets and turbans. I never saw cleaner or lighter-made fellows to fly aloft in a squall, or board an enemy in battle.” “Yes, they are our best men, and come from Dacca; and they'll fight a bit, I can tell you.” --Adventures of a Younger SonPrimitive and nonhuman features of Trelawny's "savage" and "wild-eyed fellows" are shared by Ahab's "savage crew" (chapter 46, Surmises) of whale-hunters, depicted in chapter 36 (The Quarter-Deck) as having the "wild eyes" of prairie wolves.
There's Shelley, he was quite a sailor. Shelley—poor lad! a Percy, too—but they ought to have let him sleep in his sailor's grave—he was drowned in the Mediterranean, you know, near Leghorn—and not burn his body, as they did, as if he had been a bloody Turk. But many people thought him so, White-Jacket, because he didn't go to mass, and because he wrote Queen Mab. Trelawney was by at the burning; and he was an ocean-rover, too! Ay, and Byron helped put a piece of a keel on the fire; for it was made of bits of a wreck, they say; one wreck burning another! And was not Byron a sailor? an amateur forecastle-man, White-Jacket, so he was; else how bid the ocean heave and fall in that grand, majestic way?Also in White-Jacket, Melville gives traits of Trelawny's comically severe and amputation-obsessed doctor Van Scolpvelt to navy surgeon Cadwallader Cuticle. More on Van Scolpvelt another time, hopefully.
|Albany Daily Argus - June 18, 1832|
"in essence a boy's dream of heroic and romantic adventure, elaborated with the realism of a sailor, and the extraordinary power and imagination with which he was endowed by nature." --Anne Hill, Trelawny's Family Background and Naval Career, in Keats-Shelley Journal 5 (Winter 1956): 11-32 at 14.The New-York Society Library listed "Younger Son, by Trelawney, 2 vols." in their 1838 Alphabetical and Analytical Catalogue. Still there in the online NYSL Catalog, both volumes: F T CS v. 1 and F T CS v. 2. So Melville could have read or re-read them at NYSL c. 1848-50, when he lived in New York City.
"... Representativeness does not matter in visual art. As an artist, or a painter, my attention came to focus ever more on singularity."
|Amasa Delano, Narrative of Voyages and Travels (Boston, 1817)|
"I told him it appeared to me to be rather serious sport, as the wound had caused the boy to lose about a quart of blood."MELVILLE
|Benito Cereno in Putnam's Monthly - October 1855|
"Pretty serious sport, truly," rejoined Captain Delano.Look at what Melville keeps, and what else he adds in the rewrite:
I saw this and inquired what it meant.MELVILLE:
In amazement, Captain Delano inquired what this meant.DELANO:
The captain replied,MELVILLE:
... the pale Benito dully muttered,DELANO:
that it was merely the sport of the boysMELVILLE:
that it was merely the sport of the ladAdded by Melville to his source, just in this short bit: Delano's "amazement"; calling the Spanish captain by his first name, "Benito"; Benito's "pale" appearance and defeated manner of speaking when he "dully muttered" his reply; and the substitution of "lad" where Delano reported "boys."
|The Author of "Our New President" [Parke Godwin]|
Putnam's Monthly Vol. 4 - October 1854
"When he [Herman Melville] returned to New York I [Parke Godwin] met him, and he told me that he was going to narrate these experiences, although he was somewhat doubtful about finding a publisher for the book. I was satisfied that he would find no difficulty in obtaining readers and in that judgment I was correct. He called his book 'Typee,' and it was published in the same year that Parkman started out upon his adventures across the continent, which he described in a very successful book, now a classic, which he called 'The Oregon Trail.'" --E. J. Edwards, When the Government Encouraged Authorship in the Raleigh, North Carolina News and Observer, August 28, 1915.Parke Godwin at 80 remembers Melville with Dana and Parkman for their "high-grade reporting." Fri, Aug 27, 1915 – Page 4 · The Washington Herald (Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America) · Newspapers.com
... Mr. Godwin, as one of the editors of Putnam's Magazine, in the years when that periodical was at the height of its prosperity, was brought into association with all those who were achieving greatly as authors who were Americans and also some distinguished English writers, especially Thackeray. These authors were accustomed to make the editorial offices of Putnam's Magazine a sort of informal club, for they gathered there frequently.
"It is an interesting fact," said Mr. Godwin, "that, leaving out of consideration those who gained permanent fame as historians, like Motley, Prescott, Bancroft, and one or two others, the most successful literary work was done by men who recorded things just as they saw them.
"Almost all the fiction which had for a time great notoriety is now forgotten. I suppose that Mrs. Stowe's novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin,' is the only one that will maintain a permanent place in our literature, and that is due to a special reason.
"There were three writers of narratives--Herman Melville, Richard Henry Dana, and Francis Parkman--whose works, at least the works of two of them, will be embodied in a list of permanent American literature. I knew all three of these men, although I was not acquainted with Mr. Dana until he was in flourishing practice as a lawyer.
"The literary triumph and the assured fame which Parkman's book, "The Oregon Trail,' and Dana's book, 'Two Years Before the Mast,' and I was going to say Melville's book, 'Typee,' have gained were due entirely to the ability these three men showed for very high-grade reporting. They told their stories as they saw things, exactly as they would if they had been repeating to friends some of their experiences...." --E. J. Edwards, "History Builders / What a Famous Book Brought its Author" in the Washington, D. C. Herald, August 27, 1915.
(By E. J. Edwards)
New News of Yesterday
"One of the most interesting and personally charming of all of the American writers whom it was my good fortune to meet was Herman Melville," said the late Parke Godwin to me, at a time when he was speaking to me reminiscently of some of the great writers with whom he was associated as editor of Putnam's Magazine. Mr. Godwin had said to me that he looked upon Richard Henry Dana's narrative entitled "Two Years Before the Mast" and Francis Parkman's story of his adventures in the Far West, which was called "The Oregon Trail," as two works which were sure of permanent fame. They had already become American classics. Mr. Godwin was an admirable critic, and he ascribed the phenomenal success of these two books to the fact that the writers of them told a story of adventure in simple, yet vigorous language, reporting the things that they saw exactly as they saw them, so that the readers of the books could thereby form a perfect mental picture of these scenes. Furthermore, Mr. Godwin said incidentally that the American writers of later years should study these works, for in them they would find the secret of that permanent success, which is called fame.
"I include Herman Melville in the list of great American writers," said Mr. Godwin. "Like Richard Henry Dana, he sailed around Cape Horn on a whaling vessel, expecting to be gone two years. He was marooned upon an island in the Pacific, which was occupied by the Typees, a tribe of warlike Indians. He had plenty of experiences; some of them far more exciting and dangerous than any which Mr. Dana describes in his book. When he returned to New York I met him, and he told me that he was going to narrate these experiences, although he was somewhat doubtful about finding a publisher for the book. I was satisfied that he would find no difficulty in obtaining readers and in that judgment I was correct. He called his book 'Typee,' and it was published in the same year that Parkman started out upon his adventures across the continent, which he described in a very successful book, now a classic, which he called 'The Oregon Trail.'
"For a long time Melville's book maintained an even greater success than did Dana's 'Two Years Before the Mast.' It was successful for the same reason that Parkman and Dana gained great successes with their books. It told an exciting story of adventure with all the picturesque details that the experience made possible in appropriate language.
"I have heard that in recent years it has not maintained its popularity as compared with Dana's and Parkman's books, but I am certain that this is only a momentary lapse. The book is sure to become a great American classic.
"By the way, Melville was one of the great American writers whom the United States government fostered indirectly, for a place was given to him in the New York custom house. There, too, many of the men gained fame as writers secured a regular income, and it was not until recent years that the government abandoned its general policy whereby writers were assured of regular and permanent income. I suppose we should never have had the masterly essays of Richard Grant White and the evidence of his Shakespearian scholarship had not the government provided him with a comfortable position in the custom house." --E. J. Edwards, When the Government Encouraged Authorship in the Raleigh, North Carolina News and Observer, August 28, 1915; accessible via Newspapers.com and GenealogyBank.In a letter to the editor of The People's Journal dated July 17, 1847 Parke Godwin confirmed "the real existence of Mr. Herman Melville" for skeptical Brits:
"... let me say that I saw him in Albany the other day as large as life, where he and his family are well known, and his narratives bearing a little artistic ornament, are held to be perfectly authentic. The writer under no assumed name, but under his own veritable Christian and patronymic designation. It is no unusual thing, by the way, for our young men of fortune to go as sailors, to the South Seas, in quest of adventure." --The People's Journal v. 4
Herman Melville has described Tahiti in a book, ('Typee,'), which I can compare but to Rasselas re-written by Irving. --"Pee-Wi Ho-Ki, The Tahitian Cannibal" in the New Orleans Daily Delta for May 16, 1852; reprinted in The New Orleans Sketch Book.Later reprinted in William E. Burton's Cyclopedia of Wit and Humor, the same volume with Melville's short fiction, The Lightning-Rod Man. The New Orleans Sketch Book was illustrated by Herman Melville's friend Felix Octavius Carr Darley.
|Youth on the Prow, and Pleasure at the Helm by William Etty|
via Wikimedia Commons
"How any man, even if in some mad hours of excitement he had written such a book, could read the proof-sheets and not heave the whole mass upon the fire, we cannot conceive." --Benjamin J. Wallace on Melville's Pierre
|From The Bard: A Pindaric Ode in The Works of Thomas Gray|
"wrote all the book-notices during the ten years of his editorial charge, and forty-one articles on various subjects."For this reviewer, Typee and Omoo exhibit Melville's characteristic "voluptuousness," Mardi his "dreamy scepticism." Nothing about Moby Dick. Among other interesting points here, Rev. Wallace prefers Dickens and Esther Summerson over Melville and Isabel. From The Presbyterian Quarterly Review, Volume 2 (June 1853): 124-155.
The same "foul flowering" that shows itself in society, appears appallingly in literature. Instead of any general review of the books that our sons and daughters read with so much eagerness, we will select the works of one Author—a man of genius, else we should not think it worth our while to notice him—a writer of a most beautiful, not to say delicious style, at least in his earlier productions, a man of sufficient ability to concentrate, and then spread, the miasmata of the country, and so to become an exponent of the disease which is preying upon its vitals. Whom can we mean but Herman Melville? When the foul vapors of the land are pervaded with the light of his brighter genius, or made lurid with the glare of his phosphorescent flashings, they take with tolerable distinctness the form of a voluptuous dreaminess and beauty which first invests all truth with a fair hue, and ends by dissolving it. The pupil in this school is left without fixed principles, or a sure compass; and then by an Epicurean process as old as the world, but never more dangerously realized than now, his leading propensities, carried out without restraint, become the chief good. If we be the victims of a dark fate, if with the semblance of free will, man vainly struggles in a net-work of influences utterly beyond his power to unmesh; if it be doubtful whether God or the devil govern the universe, or whether they exist at all; or if potentially, both are in man, the angelic in the shape of aesthetic beauty, and the demoniac in the shape of pain and low spirits, and so that which theologians call God be simply the aggregate of joy, and love, and beauty, rosy wine and rosy sunsets, and that called devil be only poverty and old age, and icy cold, heartlessness and contempt, hatred and sorrow; if the ministry are a body of cunning men who have taken advantage of a weakness in humanity to climb to place and wealth; if the Church is a vast conventional worldly machine which rebukes only the vice which is not respectable, and winks hard at sin amongst vestrymen, ruling elders, and bank directors; then there is nothing better, muses the young neophyte, than that I should launch my bark,Multiple volumes with the "Young America" article are also accessible courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library:
Youth at the prow, and pleasure at the helm.He does it. He meets many disciples of the same school, of both sexes, and the revellings described in Putnam's Magazine [in Our Best Society by George William Curtis, February 1853 issue with Fitz-James O'Brien's article, Our Young Authors — Melville] are the result, as natural and legitimate as the flow of water down hill, or the upheaving of the tides beneath the influence of a summer moon. This is the ultimate efflorescence of the choice mingling of voluptuousness and dreamy scepticism.
[Thomas Gray, The Bard: A Pindaric Ode 2.2; earlier verse at 1.3 personifies "huge Plinlimmon" with "his cloud-topt head"]
That we are doing no injustice in speaking of the tendency of these books, we shall attempt to prove by a slight analysis. It pains us to speak evil of any thing. We never do so, except of the works of one who voluntarily appears before the public, and so loses his right of privacy, as an author. That we distinguish between the author and the man appears in this, that we charge on Mr. Melville no intention of evil. For aught we know, he may write purely for amusement, or money, or fame. But the tendency of his writings is public property. Of that only we mean to speak.
"Typee," in point of descriptive power and beauty of style reminds us both of Defoe and Washington Irving. The impression produced by it as a work of genius was both natural and deserved. With Irving, Willis and Curtis, Melville has shown a peculiar power, hitherto supposed to be like picturesque ruins, or very refined manners, only possible in an old country, aristocratic in its institutions. Many ideas of this kind, however, are destined to be exploded by our Western republic. In this beautifully written book, the character of Fayaway has been admired by men and women as its chief gem. Lady writers of high reputation have recorded their admiration in permanently printed words. Yet if the book is truthful, the hero lived in careless ease among these poor Polynesians, without any one effort to benefit them, and both the descriptions and the story of the beautiful central figure imply—shall we use a soft word ?—voluptuousness. This ought to have given the alarm on the threshhold of Mr. Melville's authorship.
"Omoo" advanced another step, not, we presume, in any deliberate design to do mischief, but certainly in the wrong direction. Not content, to say the least, with carelessness as to the welfare of the simple beings amongst whom his hero is represented as amusing himself, in Omoo a deliberate effort is made to hold up to contempt the men and women, who at great cost of labor and sorrow, went to those islands to Christianize and civilize their degraded fellow-men. If these arrows have fallen harmless at their feet, it is not Mr. Melville's fault. If America received the attempt with disgust, it was because America is sagacious, and can appreciate enterprise and virtue. It is too late to sneer at Christian missionaries.
Mr. Melville presently gave us "Mardi." This strange book, it is true is so fashioned, that the author may very readily say that ho had no intention to teach any thing whatever. It professes to be a rhapsody. It sets out to be a South Sea romance; a floating amid sunny and stormy waves, water-lilies and plantains, beautiful women and orientally philosophic and poetic men, kings and courtiers, maidens and attendants, after a peculiar South Sea fashion. But the book has genius, and will be read, and therefore we have something to do with it. It is our business to analyze subtle potions, because we are physicians of the soul. We have said that these books are pervaded with two essences, ever mingling, voluptuousness and dreamy scepticism. By scepticism, we do not mean infidelity, technically so called, or opposition to the Christian religion, but doubt as to almost every thing. In Typee and Omoo, the former element predominates; in Mardi, as is natural, the latter appears more prominently. We have a king, or powerful ruling practical man, a philosopher, who has examined all manner of systems of belief and thought, a poet rich in genius and melody, a mystic maiden whom they ever pursue, who may possibly represent "truth" or "happiness." They voyage the world around, in their Polynesian way, examine all climes, and discuss all methods of existence, find savage and civilized much the same in essence, and end the search as unsatisfactorily as they began. They are amused; their intellect, imagination and sensibilities are played upon by the way; but the result is nought—Pyrrhonism, like the old Greek, or "Nothing," like that celebrated Japanese school of philosophy, of which we read, in which the professors discoursed so eloquently of this ultimate outcrop of human things, that their disciples would cry out for hours, like the Ephesians of Diana, "great is nothing!" "nothing! nothing!" If all this of "Mardi" had been written, mutatis mutandis, in Greece, before the Christian era, we might admire it, and amuse ourselves with it, while lamenting that over such a mind the true light had not risen. But the case is widely different when "the times of this ignorance" have passed away. There is no kind of excuse for dwelling in darkness or penumbra when God hath spoken, and the man that weaves a frail artificial summer-house of leaves and flowers over and around him, that in his twilight arbor he may not see things clearly, but dream amid sensuous enjoyment and skeptical doubt, will presently learn with all like-minded, that it is not with them in responsibility, as with those who moved in procession in Cyprus and at Corinth, where genius and pleasure wove their wreaths around youth and beauty, and gods and demi-gods smiled from heaven and on earth, to their fancy, over their voluptuousness. The true light now shineth, into the noonday must men come with their principles and deeds, or presently God will bring them into a brighter light than the sun at noonday, before men and angels!
If Mr. Melville agrees with us in these statements, and Mardi was written to teach some such lesson, then we have but to inquire the meaning, last of all, of a book called "Pierre, or the Ambiguities." How any man, even if in some mad hours of excitement he had written such a book, could read the proof-sheets and not heave the whole mass upon the fire, we cannot conceive. We will give the reader an idea of it, by tracing the plot in the simplest possible language. A young man is born and brought up in a village where his ancestors had lived and owned a large part of the soil for generations. He is handsome, physically brave, cultivated, an only child, left with his mother, who is a widow, but proud and beautiful. He becomes engaged to a lovely girl, who is devoted to him. He suddenly discovers that his father had an illegitimate child, who exists in the shape of a young lady of remarkable beauty. He determines to protect her, and in order to do so, persuades her to pass for his wife. His mother disowns him, and dies soon after, leaving the entire estate, which was her's by will of the father, to his cousin. The hero flies the village, and presently passes through a number of romantic phases, into incest with his sister. His betrothed bride, who had been on the verge of death at his desertion, now insists on coming to live with him, of course without being married to him, and against the wish of all her relatives. The end of it is, that he murders his cousin, he and his sister commit suicide, and the betrothed bride falls dead at his feet—all before he is of age.
We would inquire whether it is at all necessary to import Parisian novels, in order that we might have the French school full fledged among us, if such books as Pierre are to be tolerated as American literature?
If it be asked whether we charge the author with approving the conduct of his hero, and of any other character in Pierre, (for nearly every one is vicious or silly,) we reply, of course, in the negative. But there is in man a strange passion of sympathy and imitation. The constant familiarity with murder, produces murder; sensuality begets sensuality; a nightmare literature is both cause and effect of a vicious state of society. God creates the beautiful and pure in nature, he establishes it in his kingdom of grace, He "sets the solitary" in no unnatural and horrible position, but in "families." And such influences carried out benignantly, create a pure and virtuous society. With all his faults compare Dickens with Melville, the death of poor Jo with the death of Pierre, Esther Summerson with Isabel. The one* is the breath of morning driving away the pestilence that walketh in darkness, the other the enervating south wind relaxing our vigor, or the hot simoom of the desert, withering the nerves and turning life itself bitter within us. Mr. Melville is a young man. Let him listen to the friendly voices which urge him to a better path.
* We wish Mr. Dickens could be persuaded for once, if only for the sake of variety and truth to nature, to become acquainted with one decent minister of any denomination, and give us his portrait as an offset to the disgusting hypocrites he delights to paint. Is there no such thing as an honest man in England preaching the Gospel?
|Digitized by Google - Original from Cornell University|
via HathiTrust Digital Library
|Cleveland Plain Dealer - June 22, 1853|
— The last number of the Presbyterian Review has an article entitled "Young America," from which we select the following touching Melville's last work—the abomination of all abominations, in the shape of romance—entitled "Pierre or the Ambiguities:" ...
"The chief characteristic of Herman Melville's writings is this attempted union of the practical with the ideal." --Henry S. Salt in The Scottish Art Review Volume 2 (November 1889): 186-190 at page 189.
Captain Amasa Delano, of the ship Perseverance, of Boston, has received from the King of Spain a Gold Medal, with his Majesty's likeness, as an acknowledgment to captain D. for the humane and spirited exertion of himself and his crew, in rescuing a Spanish merchant ship, in the Pacific Ocean, with a cargo of slaves who had risen upon and massacred the greater part of the Spaniards on board. --Poughkeepsie Journal, September 2, 1807.Mon, May 19, 1806 – Page 3 · Weekly Raleigh Register (Raleigh, Wake, North Carolina) · Newspapers.com
It is with pleasure we record the following heroic conduct of Amasa Delano, of Boston, as well as the liberality with which he has been rewarded by the king of Spain and the government of Chili.
Captain Delano commanded the ship Perseverance of Boston; off the island of St. Mary's he fell in with a Spanish merchant ship called the Trial, Captain Don Benito Serien, with a cargo of slaves who had mutinied, and in a most cruel manner butchered the greatest part of the Spanish crew. Capt. Delano did not hesitate a moment in taking the most effectual means of affording the Spaniards every assistance in his power. He laid his vessel along side of the Trial, and boarded her in a resolute manner, at the head of his gallant but small crew, and notwithstanding the vast superiority of numbers, he over came and secured the blacks, and thereby saved the lives of the few remaining Spaniards, whom he also abundantly supplied with water and provisions which began to fail them. Capt. Delano, it is said, has received eight thousand dollars from the government of Chill, and the king of Spain has charged his ambassador near the United States to write to Captain Delano a letter expressive of his thanks, and to present him at the same time a gold medal as a token of gratitude for saving the lives of his subjects on board of the Trial.
Capt. Delano is yet absent, but is expected to return to Boston next October; we do not wish, however to delay laying before the public the above particulars, which at the same time that they do honor to our brave fellow citizen are equally honorable to a monarch and a nation who so justly appreciates and rewards the service rendered to humanity.
U. S. Gaz.The glorifying of Delano in the United States Gazette was protested by a correspondent of Poulson's American Daily Advertiser; transcribed below from the Baltimore Telegraphe and Daily Advertiser of April 28, 1806:
From the American Daily Advertiser.
A correspondent has observed, with surprise, your re-publication (from the Gazette of the United States) of an instance of American bravery, which is trumpeted forth as an act of "humanity," deserving of the "tribute of public gratitude."— What is the story? Stripped of those fascinating epithets, which contribute so much to blind even the eyes of the wise, with the dazzling lustre of heroic prowess. The poor Negroes, otherwise called "a Cargo of Slaves" (mark, no lustre here) on board of a Spanish Merchantman" (mark, again, no infamy here) had risen upon their Oppressors—what do I say—their Murderers: but the strife was yet undecided when a captain Delano, of the ship Perseverance, of Boston, falls in with them — boards the vessel — and reinsates the Spaniards in possession of their cargo of Human Live Stock. For this "gallant" action it is not sufficient that "the Government of Chili" have presented "our brave Fellow-citizen," with 8000 dollars; and that "the King of Spain" has directed his ambassador to honor him with "a gold medal," &c. &c. but the good people of the United States are called upon to join in the "tribute of gratitude" so justly due for this "service rendered to humanity." —
For shame — let slave merchants reward their protectors and tyrants honor the bravery that is prostituted in their cause — but let free-born Americans reprobate the Quixotic valour that saved a handful of White Russians, at the expence of two or three hundred Victims of their insatiable avarice, whose only crime was that of rising upon their Oppressors, to regain that freedom with which God and Nature had endowed them.Delano's 1817 Narrative of Voyages and Travels included a chapter on "the Capture of the Spanish Ship Tryal, at the island of St. Maria; with the Documents relating to that affair."
"Putnam's Monthly.... Among the continuation papers is a second portion of HERMAN MELVILLE'S "Benito Cereno," (rather heavy reading, so far,)…." --New York Daily Times, October 30, 1855.Benito Cereno in The Piazza Tales (New York: Dix & Edwards, 1856) via Google Books: