|Geo Wm Curtis|
Brady-Handy photograph collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
In any case, George W. Curtis definitely liked to spice his own writing with allusive bits from Melville's. For example, references to Bartleby in Prue and I (and earlier, Sea from Shore in Putnam's for July 1854). Before 1895, Google Books and HathiTrust Digital Library give only two hits in searches for "infinite blueness": describing sky in "The Later Season," and sea in Moby-Dick, Chapter 134, The Chase — Second Day.
I'm not sure Melville or anybody could better this riff on roses:
|Harper's Bazar - June 25, 1870|
... But till boulevards and fountains come, and if they never come, every spring-time the roses will; will bud and bloom and hang their heavy heads—such roses as do not grow out of Paestum; roses that Sappho and that Hafiz Sang of, as the poets' dream; roses fit to crown Anacreon; deep red roses that seem to burn in the sun; delicate tea-roses with a petal like some perfect cheek; damask and blush and moss roses, the queenly Lamarque, the tiny, faultless Scotch, the pungent sweet-brier; roses that are almost black, so purply crimson is their richness; roses that are spotless white, all of them, without speck, long-stemmed, in generous clusters—and all making the air about them an intoxication of delicious odor. For one brief month it is politics and power set down in paradise; and sometimes as strangely out of place as the serpent there."The Later Season" is unsigned, as customary in Harper's Bazar:
The Harpers have an objection to crediting articles in their periodical publications to their authors, as is the custom with Fields, Osgood & Co., and it is a principle with them that the contributor should be subordinated to the publication. I cannot therefore furnish you with a full list of the writers for either the Bazar or Weekly, but most of them are persons already known to the public. --Springfield Republican (Springfield, MA), April 6, 1870.Here is the complete article, transcribed from Harper's Bazar for June 25, 1870:
THE LATER SEASON.
IT is a singular circumstance that nearly all the pleasure-seekers at the National Capital should make their resort thither in the chilly winter days, and never in the spring-time—the springtime, which there is something out of the land of dreams. In the winter the climate of the place is often, if not so keenly cold as the more northern climate, yet much more penetratingly so, with a disagreeable dampness in addition that brings about a hundred rheumatic aches and ails; and so high do the winds blow that, at the beginning of a storm, clouds of dust frequently rise to meet the clouds of snow that descend, already mud, upon your sleeve. But in the spring a delightful balm seems to fall upon the air and fill it; soft showers cool any fervent heat of the Sun, and keep the sod and sward as green as “freshly broken emeralds;” the sky seems to soar away in its infinite blueness with a life of its own; and the sunbeams pour over dome and obelisk and pillared lines of marble till they shine with dazzling lustre through their light screens of waving greenery, hardly developed into summer lushness yet, until one, experiencing an hour of all this, must needs declare the month of May in Washington to be all that ought to be demanded, either for the pride of the eye or the delight of the flesh.
It is probable that the wintry throngs are drawn to Washington largely—outside of the purely political gathering—in view of the ball-room gayeties before Lent; but the gayeties after Easter are quite as attractive—if one did but know it. There is quite as much opportunity of admiring and of displaying lovely faces and toilettes, and many of the enjoyments are of a healthier order both for body and soul, requiring the rounds of no physician with his poison bottles to sting into one the life and strength thrown away in the reckless abandonment of midnight revel.
For the tournaments of fashion during this later season, which follows with every long session of Congress, the reception of the President's wife presents a perfect Field of the Cloth of Gold, and all the rank and grace and beauty of the town, arrayed in purple and fine linen, adorn the scene—a scene more interesting and satisfying to behold than any of the winter receptions, as the thick velvets and silks, which give such sameness and heaviness to any large assembly, being discarded now, the lighter and airier fabrics are found floating round maid and matron, tissues capable of being transformed into various guises, each more delicate and exquisite than the other, and all giving the effect of works of art in their combinations of lace and net and flowers and jewelry, like cobwebs strung with dew, and all to be seen in rooms full of sunshine, whose open windows, letting in the outside fragrance, and songs of birds, and glimpses of charming landscape, add a lustre to every thing that neither the glow of wax-light nor the glare of gas can ever shadow forth; while, so long as the session lasts, as the corps of correspondents, the diplomats, and aids-de-camp linger, there are sure to be enough carpet knights to brighten or darken the picture according to its exigencies and their uniform.
Then, between the receptions and the few evening parties prized now for their rarity, and always made rich and rare to compensate for their lateness, as the popular prejudice runs, there come the riding-parties to the Falls, where fine equestrianship may do its best, and last night's Sylph be to-day's Amazon; the moonlit boating where the Potomac narrows between steep and romantic banks of a sylvan wildness; picnics to Rock Creek, a region of fabulous beauty, where the woods abound in blossoms, the purple lupine and the pink azalea, and the great white dogwood boughs stretch away into the darkness like a press of moonbeams; and excursions down the river to Mount Vernon, among its blooming magnolias and rosy Judas-trees, where the great tomb stands open to irreverent eyes, and where, with their mementoes, with Eleanor Custis's harpsichord, and the wonderful mantle-piece of carved Siena marble, the quaint old rooms and their verandas invite the guest, and the garden shelters wandering lovers, who tread down the wild hyacinths in the grass, between its breast-high hedges of spicy box. All day, too, the halls of Congress are open, with the drama there growing livelier as the adjournment draws nearer; and every evening the drives are thronged with splendid equipages winding down the Fourteenth Street way, out by the Soldiers' Home, across the Long Bridge into Virginia, or up the Anacostia branch and the wild hill roads, where wide stretching views open between the forest trees at every turn, and where sometimes one sees, with its two rivers, one red and turbid, one shining like silver, the city lying far away, much of its outline gone, and the color of its baked brick and stone and marble mellowed in the distance, till through the quivering air and amidst all its embowering trees it looks only and exactly like a vision of ancient temples in the midst of gardens of flowers.
Twice a week, too, the Marine Band blows out stirring music in the President's Grounds, and in the Capitol Park late in the afternoon; and it is a point of gentility for every one then to promenade in gala attire beneath the trees and over the shady slopes of the pleasant grounds till the music ceases in twilight; and many a long-delaying love affair, kindled beneath the winter lamps, culminates then as the stars come out and the perfumed wind casts down great shadows from the swinging branches overhead, and indulgent dowagers gossip on oblivious of decorum, dew, and mortal aches, since they have been there themselves. Finally, the festivities of this almost ideal spring season, where the world of fashion and the world of nature meet at their best, come to an end with Decoration day—the last day ere the spring brightens into the blaze of summer—a day that robs death of its terrors, and seems to carry one back to that primeval period when the old death-defying Egyptians made their festival with flowers, as we stand in that desolation of the dead on the heights of Arlington, and see the billows of graves stretching away to the horizon, wave after wave, crested with the line of white headstones, and every mound heaped with flowers that have been scattered to the tune of singing children's voices; while, below, the peaceful river floats out broadly, and far across its stream, over all the terraces whose turf was lately purple with violets, and above the tossing tree-tops that hide the arched and columned bases of its snowy splendor, the dome of the country's Capitol rises—a shining guardian of the slumbers of the dead.
And meantime the squares, the triangles, the gardens of the city are all a miracle of verdure, of spotless deutzia and golden laburnum, honeysuckle and Cape jasmine; half the houses are draped in ivy and in grape-vines; the Smithsonian grounds surround their dark and castellated group of buildings in a wilderness of bloom and leaf; Lafayette Square and the Capitol Park are dense and shadowy; and even the market-sheds are picturesque at night with a hundred torches flaring in the wind over the heads of mules and donkeys, of vendors and higglers, piles of crisp salads and heaps of strawberries. And since the place is so beautiful now, with its enormous tent of sky, one is lost in imagining what it may become when all the great avenues have been boulevarded with double rows of trees, and, the old love of and belief in the town returning to the people the country over, each one in all the land shall have given pennies more or less to plant the place with fountains, and the Potomac itself shall pause upon its seaward flight to shoot a hundred crystal columns in the air, setting their changing, shimmering shapes amidst the sculptured colonnades and façades of Treasury and Patent and Post offices and their embosoming trees. But till boulevards and fountains come, and if they never come, every spring-time the roses will; will bud and bloom and hang their heavy heads—such roses as do not grow out of Paestum; roses that Sappho and that Hafiz Sang of, as the poets' dream; roses fit to crown Anacreon; deep red roses that seem to burn in the sun; delicate tea-roses with a petal like some perfect cheek; damask and blush and moss roses, the queenly Lamarque, the tiny, faultless Scotch, the pungent sweet-brier; roses that are almost black, so purply crimson is their richness; roses that are spotless white, all of them, without speck, long-stemmed, in generous clusters—and all making the air about them an intoxication of delicious odor. For one brief month it is politics and power set down in paradise; and sometimes as strangely out of place as the serpent there. But let who will make holiday in Washington for the sake of the garish early season of January, the wise one, whom chance has ever given a glimpse of the other, will wait for the later season there and the garden month of May.The June 4, 1870 issue of Harper's Bazar (so, three weeks before publication of "The Later Season" in the same volume) contains one explicit reference to Melville and Moby-Dick in "Manners upon the Road: A Spring Travel," written by George William Curtis in the guise of "An Old Bachelor."
Some morning I throw open the blinds and put out my head to smell an apple blossom—for I am sure that 'twas only yesterday that what Herman Melville, in “Moby Dick,” would have called a perfumed whiteness lay lightly on all the orchards as we passed; and behold! instead of a lovely flower, here is a solid, straw-colored Porter apple.The apple-blossom "whiteness" pictured by Curtis verbally evokes Melville's chapter on The Whiteness of the Whale. In Moby-Dick, however, "perfumed" only occurs once, in Chapter 29, Enter Ahab; to Him, Stubb. In a string of adjectives, "perfumed" there describes deliciously mild days at sea, compared to
"Persian sherbet, heaped up—flaked up, with rose-water snow."
|Black Cherry Rose Water Sherbet via Olive to Eat|
- "George William Curtis" in Appleton's Journal Vol. 10, No. 34 (September 13, 1873), pages 321-2:
In addition to "The Easy Chair" and the political editorials in the Weekly, Mr. Curtis is the author of the charming series of papers in Harper's Bazar entitled "Manners upon the Road," in which, under the signature of" An Old Bachelor," he treats principally social topics of current interest. These articles were commenced in the first number of the Bazar, in January, 1868, and were continued weekly until he was obliged, as stated above, temporarily to lay aside his pen. They exhibit the same traits of versatile thought, graces of style, and refined culture, which characterize the "Easy Chair." (322)
- Edward Cary, George William Curtis. Google-digitzed volumes are also accessible courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library.
- Richard Bridgman, Melville's Roses in Texas Studies in Literature and LanguageVol. 8, No. 2 (Summer 1966), pp. 235-244. <https://www.jstor.org/stable/40753898>
- Billy Budd, Sailor and Other Uncompleted Writings, ed. Harrison Hayford, Alma A. MacDougall, Robert A. Sandberg, and G. Thomas Tanselle; Historical Note by Hershel Parker. Northwestern University Press, 2017.