Monday, December 11, 2017

Book reviews in manuscript at NYPL, digitized and online

"Mr. Parkman's Tour" (Melville's review of The California and Oregon Trail ) manuscript page 6
The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Newly available in the New York Public Library Digital Collections are five of Herman Melville's published book reviews in manuscript, filed in the Duyckinck family papers with Literary Correspondence of Evert A. and George L. Duyckinck under the subheading "Literary Manuscripts."
  1. Review of Browne's Etchings of a Whaling Cruise
  2. Review of The California and Oregon Trail
  3. Review of Cooper's The Sea Lions. 43 f. 7
    1849 - Note from Melville to Duyckinck attached, 1 page. 
  4. A Thought on Book Binding
    1850 - review of the revised edition of The Red Rover by James Fenimore Cooper. 
  5. Hawthorne and His Mosses
    1850 - review of Mosses from an Old Manse by Nathaniel Hawthorne. 
Wonderful! It's one thing to know, as the dependable Northwestern-Newberry edition of The Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces told us thirty years ago, that Melville wrote the fair copy of "Mr. Parkman's Tour" on the back of legal forms, but now (if you're so inclined) you can see the other side for yourself.

"Mr. Parkman's Tour" - manuscript page 1, verso
The New York Public Library Digital Collections

More substantively, you could look into manuscript page 2 of Melville's review-essay "Hawthorne and His Mosses" (in his wife's handwriting with Herman's revisions) and catch Melville exchanging the solemnity and alliterative punch of "the God in his glance" for the blander "heaven in his glance." Either way Melville compares Hawthorne to Jesus Christ, but the revision somehow makes it sound less provocative. Well, that bit also made a graphic appearance in the editorial notes for the Northwestern-Newberry edition (see page 663), which offered generous helpings of reproductions and excerpts from the manuscript of "Hawthorne and his Mosses."

Without corresponding images to consult, descriptive lists of "Manuscript Alterations" can be discouraging and, depending on how long they are, even scary. Different things will stand out and invite further study now that readers can examine the digitized images online. For instance, a couple of corrections that Elizabeth herself made to the "Mosses" essay on manuscript leaf 6 strike me now as remarkable and perhaps worth a closer look, being suggestive of an unexpected word choice by her husband.

"Hawthorne and His Mosses" - manuscript page 6
The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Copying the passage about  Hawthorne's "Old Apple-Dealer," Elizabeth evidently had trouble reading Herman's word touches, twice:
But he has still other apples, not quite so ruddy, though full as ripe;—apples, that have been left to wither on the tree, after the pleasant autumn gathering is past. The sketch of "The Old Apple-Dealer" is conceived in the subtlest spirit of sadness; he whose "subdued and nerveless boyhood prefigured his abortive prime, which, likewise, contained within itself the prophecy and image of his lean and torpid age." Such touches as are in this piece cannot proceed from any common heart. They argue such a depth of tenderness, such a boundless sympathy with all forms of being, such an omnipresent love, that we must needs say that this Hawthorne is here almost alone in his generation,—at least, in the artistic manifestation of these things. Still more. Such touches as these,—and many, very many similar ones, all through his chapters—furnish clues whereby we enter a little way into the intricate, profound heart where they originated. --The Literary World-August 17, 1850
Apparently, Herman Melville's two "touches" were unexpected and hard to decipher in his copyist's crabbed exemplar. She made them "tones" in the first case, then "words" in the second. Very good guesses, both wrong. Later, she corrected her misreadings:
 "Such tones touches as are in this piece cannot proceed from any common heart."
"Such words touches as these...."
In the context of the "Mosses" essay and elsewhere, Melville's word touches evokes the visual arts of drawing, painting, engraving (and tattooing), and sculpture. By "touches" Melville in part means or implies the strokes of a brush, pencil, chisel, or implements of etching. Parallels may be found in Typee (A Professor of the Fine Arts) and Moby-Dick (Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales):
In the vignettes and other embellishments of some ancient books you will at times meet with very curious touches at the whale, where all manner of spouts, jets d’eau, hot springs and cold, Saratoga and Baden-Baden, come bubbling up from his unexhausted brain. --Moby-Dick in Pictures
Examples occur also in Melville's magazine fictions Benito Cereno (Babo's "impromptu touches" as barber reveal, on multiple levels, "the hand of a master.") and "The Bell-Tower":

 "But the figures, they are not yet without their faults. They need some touches yet."
"... it was surmised that the mechanician must then have hurried to the bell, to give his final touches to its sculpture." --Putnam's Magazine 6 - August 1855; collected in The Piazza Tales (New York: Dix & Edwards, 1856).
More intriguingly, both usages in the "Mosses" essay occur in close proximity with the word heart. Touches by a gifted writer or visual artist be said to impart beauty to a "sketch," and also to reveal something of the of the artist's interior makeup and feelings--whatever qualities of spirit or soul may be conveyed by the complicated "heart." Decades later in Clarel (1876) Melville poetically speaks of aqua-fortis "touches" in engravings by Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Melville reads Piranesi's Imaginary Prisons figuratively, as emblems of "labyrinths" in the human "heart."

This canto "Prelusive" on Piranisi feels crucial to Melville's art, and naturally elicits extended discussions in Melville criticism. Samuel Otter calls it
 The "Heart" of Clarel. --"How Clarel Works" in A Companion to Herman Melville, ed. Wyn Kelley (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015), page 476.
In The Mystery of Iniquity (University Press of Kentucky, 1972), William H. Shurr similarly concentrated on the passage about "touches bitten in the steel / By aqua-fortis," quoting Melville's reference to the process of "biting in," of etching with acid:
The reader must focus his attention upon these etchings and their import. One has the sense of being at one of the centers of the poem, forced by the author not to miss the point:
Dwell on those etchings in the night,
Those touches bitten in the steel
By aqua-fortis, till ye feel
The Pauline text in gray of light;
Turn hither then and read aright. [Clarel Part 2, Canto 35]
So then, sympathetic readers find "touches" at the heart of Herman Melville's Clarel, and here we graphically see them at the heart of "Hawthorne and His Mosses," too--courtesy of Elizabeth Shaw Melville and The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Autograph note signed

Here you go, the perfect stocking-stuffer for that eccentric and hard-to-please Melville obsessive on your Christmas shopping list. A guest pass signed by Herman Melville is offered in Sotheby's upcoming auction of Fine Books & Manuscripts.

Catalogue Note

This pass was presumably issued for a lecture Melville delivered to the Mechanic Apprentices’ Library Association in Boston in 1859, this being the only lecture he is known to have given on the last day of January. Titled "The South Seas," it explored the author's experiences there, which had served as the inspiration for his first two books, Typee and Omoo.
This item was already known from catalogues of previous auctions. A transcription appears on page 333 in the 1993 Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Correspondence, edited by Lynn Horth.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Clement C. Moore, My Reasons for Loving (poem by Catherine Elizabeth Taylor)

Clement C. Moore

You ask me why I love him?
    I’ll tell the reason true:
Because he said so often
    With fervour “I love you.”

I loved him, yes, I loved him
    Because he told his flame
With such a skilled variety
    And whispered “Je vous aime.”

Because so sweetly tender
   As any swain on Arno,
In crowded streets he’d woo me,
   With Petrarch’s own “Vi amo.”

Because whenever coldly
    I’d answer him “Ah, no,”
He’d all my coldness banish
    By faltering “Te amo.”

Because when belles surrounded
    He’d still address to me
The words of love and learning,
    And sigh “Philea se.”

Because his English, French,
    Italian, Latin, Greek,
He crowned with noble Hebrew
    And dulcet “Ahobotick.”
Moore's wife Catherine Elizabeth Taylor ("Eliza" in the family circle) composed these quatrains which were transcribed by Mary Moore Sherman and printed in the beautiful volume titled Recollections of Clement C. Moore, author of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1906). Available online from the Nancy H. Marshall collection in the William & Mary Digital Archive:
"Includes 2 poems by Clement C Moore, including "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Part of the Nancy H. Marshall Night before Christmas collection. Swem Library copy includes and undated letter about the book by Margaret N. C. Bradley, niece of the author."
The second poem by Clement C. Moore in this volume of Recollections by his granddaughter is the lovely snow poem, Lines Written after a Snow-storm.

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Monday, December 4, 2017

A Visit from St Nicholas in The National Gazette

Here is an early, anonymous reprinting of Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas," published in The National Gazette and Literary Register [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] on December 24, 1827.
On page 2 of the Christmas Eve issue, the editor of The National Gazette explained the decision to publish the Christmas poem on page 1 as follows:
"We do not know whether the verses in our first page be original or not. They possess merit and appropriateness, however; and are consequently entitled to the place which they occupy."  --National Gazette, December 24, 1827

Found on


Account of a visit from St Nicholas or Sante Claus

Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hope that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nested all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plumbs danced in their heads,
And Mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap —
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter;
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name ;
“Now, Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,
“On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem;
“To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
“Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With a sleigh full of toys—and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof,
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof;
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
And he look'd like a pedlar just opening his pack;
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his lead like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly,
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread!
He spoken ot a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill'd all the stockings, then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team, gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight—
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."
As in The Casket for February 1826, the National Gazette printed "nested" instead of "nestled" in the fifth line. (Other readings in The Casket are not reproduced here, for instance the reindeer names"Dunter and Blixen." The National Gazette gives "Dunder and Blixem," as found in the earliest printing of the Christmas poem in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823.) Some newspapers, for example the Poughkeepsie Journal on January 16, 1828, explicitly credited "The National Gazette" when reprinting the 1827 version transcribed above.

Francis P. Lee in 1833 on Clement C. Moore's authorship of The Night Before Christmas

Another reason to love footnotes--not that we need one here at Melvilliana. As documented in a footnote to chapter 4 of Stephen Nissenbaum's The Battle for Christmas, Sandra D. Hayslette found an early reference to Clement C. Moore's authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas," aka "The Night Before Christmas," in the manuscript diary of Francis Prioleau Lee. While a student at General Theological Seminary in New York, Francis P. Lee on New Year's Eve, 1833 described a holiday fair in Morristown, New Jersey that
"was held...under the auspices of a figure called St. Nicholas who was robed in fur, and dressed according to the description of Prof. Moore in his poem."  --quoted by Stephen Nissenbaum in The Battle For Christmas, fn 85, page 345.
The footnote by Nissenbaum locates the diary of Francis P. Lee "in the archives of the General Theological Seminary."
However, the online finding aid for the Francis P. Lee Papers, 1727-1930 (Mss. 65 L51 and Acc. 2011.285) at the Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary. indicates that the William & Mary library now holds both the private journal and a transcription. Specifically, these items are held with Series 2: Acc. 2011.285 Addition, 1827-1933 in Box 11, Folders 2 and 3.
Unless there are two diaries, this looks like the one referenced in The Battle for Christmas:
Folder 2: Francis P. Lee Diary, 1833-1835
Folder 3: Transcription of Francis P. Lee Diary, 1833-1835
Rev. Lee died young in Mobile, Alabama during the epidemic of yellow fever there in 1847. Below, the obituary of Francis Prioleau Lee in the Protestant Churchman, November 27, 1847:

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Melville in Cleveland, 1858

Herman Melville gave his lecture on Roman Statuary in Cleveland, Ohio on January 11, 1858. Melville sounded pleasantly intoxicating if not in fact intoxicated to one listener who noted his "boozy elocution" in a review published the following week in The Ohio Farmer. As for the substance of the talk on Statues in Rome, this remarkably perceptive Ohio reviewer liked what Melville said about art, but deplored his criticism of Christianity.

According to the masthead, Ohio Farmer was owned and edited by Thomas Brown. After his death in 1867, Brown was remembered as "a writer of no ordinary ability" in Appleton's Annual Cyclopaedia.

The Ohio Farmer - January 23, 1858
via GenealogyBank


This gentleman, already well known to the readers of light literature, as the author of "Typee," "Omoo," "Moby Dick," &c., lectured before the Library Association last week, on "Roman Statuary."

The lecture, in point of style, was very good; superior, in that respect, to nine-tenths of the lectures usually delivered. There is a dreamy beauty about the utterances of the author, suggestive of the balmy atmosphere of the South Pacific. If we are not mistaken, there is a kind of hazy-lazy air common to both; at all events, as we sat and listened to the boozy elocution of the speaker, an intoxication, as of opium or profuse odors, "lapped us in Elysean pleasures."

We think the lecturer would have it so. It seemed to us as if the writer had never forgotten his imprisonment among the Pacific cannibals, and half regretted his extradition from that physical paradise. We would venture a bet that Mr. Melville, with all his admiration for the Medicean Venus, thinks Fayaway worth a score of cold unhabited marbles.

It seemed to us as if the writer had never recovered from his captivity. His affection for heathenism is profound and sincere. He speaks of the heathenism of Rome as if the world were little indebted to christianity; indeed, as if it had introduced in the place of the old Roman heroism, a sort of trusting pusillanimity.

This under-current of regret, or sorrow, or malice, at the introduction of christianity, seemed to pervade the whole lecture, and marred one's enjoyment of the fine observation and the deep sympathy manifest in every part of the performance. His beautiful sentiments, felicitous diction, and exquisite choice of terms were merely so many chaplets to adorn a corpse. Hung about heathen manners and heathen morals, they flung their beauty and fragrance over death and corruption.

So far as the lecture was confined to the limits of the title, it was masterly and without offense. The portraiture of character was very fine. We could have sat for hours witnessing this skillful and appreciative master of ceremonies taking the robes from the pictured pages of Tacitus and putting them upon the lifeless marbles of the Vatican, and there breathing into them the breath of life, till Rome became living Rome again; but we can not reverse the proverb and believe that a dead dog is better than a living lion. The carrion-feeding eagle is not nobler than the lion of the tribe of Judah.

In Melville as Lecturer (Harvard University Press, 1957), Merton M. Sealts, Jr. credits David Mead with the earliest mention of the Ohio Farmer review, citing Mead's Yankee Eloquence in the Middle West: The Ohio Lyceum, 1850-1870 (Michigan State College Press, 1951), pages 75-6 and 256. Mead quoted the Ohio Farmer on Melville's reportedly "boozy elocution," a phrase that Sealts omits in summarizing. George Kummer's 1936 article "Herman Melville and the Ohio Press" is available online courtesy of Ohio History Connection.

Reconstructed texts of "Statues in Rome" and Melville's other lectures are available in the Northwestern-Newberry edition of The Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860.

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Devil to pay, and no pitch hot

Love. Or an exquisite at his devotions
1825 by Alfred Crowquill via The British Museum
In his great speech at the 1844 Jackson Jubilee, Gansevoort Melville recycled a joke from two years before about the "fashionable" way of restating the common expression, "There's the devil to pay and no pitch hot." Here's one 1842 version of the joke, from the Elmira Gazette, March 10, 1842:

Elmira Gazette - March 10, 1842 via Fulton History
It is not customary at the present day to say--"There's the devil to pay and no pitch hot;" the fashionable phrase being--"There is a certain liability due to the 'old gentleman,' and no bituminous matter of the proper temperature to liquidate the obligation."
In 1844 Gansevoort ascribed the "fashionable" phraseology to Whigs whom he portrayed as anti-democratic Broadway dandies or "exquisites":
Now, my fair countrywomen, with your permission, a word with you. I grant ye that the whigs have the advantage of us plain-spoken democrats in scented hair, diamond rings, and white kid gloves—[roars of laughter]—in the language of compliment and the affectation of manner, and most particularly, in their style of dressing. If one of these exquisites wished to express the idea contained in the home-spun adage, “There is the devil to pay and no pitch hot,” he would say, “There is a pecuniary liability due to the old gentleman, and no bituminous matter, of the proper temperature, wherewith to liquidate the obligation.” [Uproarious laughter and applause, in which the ladies joined.]
The term Broadway exquisite was a stereotype of affectation and elitism that the Louisville Courier Journal (July 19, 1845) later applied to Gansevoort himself, after his appointment as Secretary of Legation in London. In New York City, the Morning Courier and Enquirer questioned Gansevoort's understanding of the word pay in "the devil to pay."

A General Dictionary of Provincialisms
(London, 1840)
Criticizing Gansevoort's flourishes, the Whig newspaper pointed out the nautical meaning of pay as tar or "pitch" used to caulk the seams of a ship. As further explained on the Official Website of the United States Navy along with other instances of Navy Terminology,
The "devil" was the wooden ship's longest seam in the hull. Caulking was done with "pay" or pitch (a kind of tar). The task of "paying the devil" (caulking the longest seam) by squatting in the bilges was despised by every seaman.
Gansevoort's Whig critic seems to have realized, eventually, that the misunderstanding of the nautical metaphor could also be regarded as part of the joke, attributable to the clueless dandy being described. From the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer, March 22, 1844; found at Fulton History:
Mr. Gansevoort Melville, who seems to be aiming at a rivalry with Anacharsis Cloots for the honor of being considered "Orator of the Human Race," emptied his last bag of blarney into the laps of the ladies and gentlemen who assembled the other night at the Tabernacle to celebrate the seventy-seventh birthday of Gen. Jackson. The whole oration appears to have been a budget of beauties, a congeries of "unstrung pearls," with now and then a boquet of blossoms, fragrant as a poppy bud and redolent of odours from a newly blown swamp cabbage. The following figure, however, is a "metaphor of another smell," and shows a versatility of conception, and stretchiness of imagination worthy of Orator Henley himself. Mr. Melville, addressing himself to the ladies with one of his archest and blandest smiles, said,
"Now, my fair countrywomen, with your permission, a word with you. I grant ye that the Whigs have the advantage of us plain spoken Democrats in scented hair, diamond rings, and white kid gloves—(roars of laughter)—in the language of compliment and the affectation of manner, and most particularly, in the style of dressing. If one of these exquisites wished to express the idea contained in the home-spun adage, 'There is the devil to pay, and no pitch hot,' he would say, 'There is a pecuniary liability due to the old gentleman, and no bituminous matter of the proper temperature, wherewith to liquidate the obligation.'"
This is peculiarly beautiful we acknowledge, and the euphuism put into the mouth of the modern "poodle dog of society" would have charmed Sir Piercie Shafton; but it strikes us that a nautical critic would be apt to accuse Mr. Melville of having no knowledge of his own metaphor. It is not generally understood that the phrase implies any pecuniary obligation to the old rascal from Sulphurdom. When a sailor says there is "the devil to pay and no pitch hot," he simply means that his seams are to be caulked and payed over, and there is no hot tar to do it with. However, we repeat that the figure is decidedly pretty and poetical, and we dare say appropriate to the occasion and the audience ———, or Mr. M. would not have used it.
Portrait of John Henley via The British Museum
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