Sunday, November 13, 2011

barbarous involation of a transcendental allegory

After further review the word involation looks like a typo or alternate spelling for involution, meaning the "action of involving or enfolding" and "state of being entangled" according to Webster's Complete Dictionary (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1846).

Another find at which has a good run of the Picayune, with plenty of "New York Correspondence" from "R" and others. Mardi is a great book that will get some respect, one of these days. And we love "R" anyhow for saying "I know not his equal in English literature" after three two-and-a-half books.

The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA) August 18, 1849
From the New Orleans Daily Picayune, August 18, 1849
New York Correspondence.
NEW YORK, August 7, 1849.
… I am glad to see the announcement of a new work in press by the Harpers, of the brilliant but erratic Herman Melville. It is entitled “Redburn, or the Sailor-Boy—Confessions and Reminiscences of a Gentleman’s Son.” Melville is at home on the deck of a vessel, and can tell as good a forecastle story as any tar that ever handled a marlin-spike. He made a blunder in “Mardi,” by winding up his jovial and flashing pictures of the sea in the barbarous involation of a transcendental allegory, in which all truth was intended to be shadowed forth on poetry, philosophy, politics, religion, love, literature, good eating, and what not; but he broke down dead before he got half through the work, and every reader I know of who has tried to finish it, has shared the same fate. But let Melville “fling away ambition” and content himself with spinning a regular yarn, I declare, I know not his equal in English literature. His “Typee” set half the young men in New York and Boston mad after the peerless vision of his Eve-like Fayaway, and if it had not been for the fear of being eaten alive, they would have gone off in a body to the spicy Eden groves of Nukaheva. “Rudburn,” [sic] I think, will beat “Typee,” as reality is often better than romance.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Matthew Henry Buckham, a.k.a. "Maherbal"

M. H. Buckham
from The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography
Thanks to the thrilling finish of the first volume (1819-1851) of Hershel Parker's two-volume biography, Melville fans know "Maherbal" as the Berkshire correspondent of the Vermont Journal who reported Melville's curiously formal dinner engagement with Nathaniel Hawthorne in the dining room of a Lenox hotel. From Lenox on January 10, 1852, "Maherbal" wrote to the Windsor, Vermont newspaper:
Not very long ago, the author of the "Scarlet Letter" and the author of "Typee," having, in some unaccountable way, gotten a mutual desire to see one another, as if neither had a home to which he could invite the other, made arrangements in a very formal manner to dine together at a hotel in this village. What a solemn time they must have had, those mighty conjurors in the domain of the imagination, all alone in the dining-room of a hotel!
Richard E. Winslow III found this and other letters from "Maherbal" in microfilm archives of the Vermont Journal. At his blog Fragments from a Writing Desk, Parker recounts years of searching that led to Winslow's exciting discovery. In the same post Parker explains the evidence, chronology, and reasoning behind his depiction of the hotel scene in Volume 1 as the November 1851 "publication party" at which Melville must have presented a copy of his new book Moby-Dick to his "solitary guest," the dedicatee.

"Maherbal" wrote more of Melville in that January 1852 letter, about his reputation for "exclusiveness" in Pittsfield, about the rough treatment Melville received from unruly students in his early career as a schoolteacher. "Maherbal" wrote too of G.P.R. James and other famous Berkshire residents. In one of his earlier letters from Lenox (dated November 29, 1851), "Maherbal" had focused on Hawthorne, giving colorful details and commentary on Hawthorne's physical appearance and notoriously reclusive lifestyle.

So the other day I was playing around in the newspaper archives at

Searching for "maherbal" (and maybe "maherbal + vermont") I found three "Letters from England" in the Vermont Journal (September-October 1855), submitted by their old Lenox correspondent "Maherbal," who was now writing from London. No mention of Melville, but another hit for "maherbal" turned up another article in the Vermont Journal from May 25, 1855--not a "Maherbal" letter at all, but an editorial on "America and the Russian War."

In "American and the Russian War" the editor of the Vermont Journal replies to criticism of American newspapers by "Griffith," a foreign correspondent of another Vermont paper, the Burlington Free Press. At the end of the article the Journal editor unmasks (in a friendly way, I take it) this complaining "Griffith":
... Our readers will be interested to know that the correspondent of the Free Press is none other than "MAHERBAL," whose letters in THE JOURNAL from Berkshire county, Mass., a year or two since, attracted so much interest; and the friends of MR. MATTHEW H. BUCKHAM, formerly of Chelsea, and more recently a tutor in the University of Vermont, and may be gratified to learn that he is both "GRIFFITH" and "MAHERBAL." -- Vermont Journal, May 25, 1855
Also accessible via

Fri, May 25, 1855 – 2 · Vermont Journal (Windsor, Vermont) ·

Aha! "Maherbal" = Matthew Henry Buckham (1832-1910)
Matthew Henry BUCKHAM, of Burlington [Chittenden County, Vermont], was born 04 July 1832 at Hinckley, Leicestershire, England, son of Rev. James BUCKHAM. He pursued his preparatory studies in the academy at Ellington [Tolland County], Connecticut, and also at a private school in Canada. Entering the University of Vermont in September 1847, he graduated from it in August 1851. He was principal of the Lenox Academy at Lenox [Berkshire County], Massachusetts, from 1851 to 1853. In September 1853 he became tutor of languages in the University of Vermont. In August 1854 he sailed for Europe, spent two years there in travel and study, and returned in 1856 to enter upon a professorship in the University of Vermont. He occupied the chair of Greek in that institution from 1856 to 1871, and also performed the duties of professor of English literature from 1865 to 1871.  --  Men of Vermont
Pittsfield Culturist and Gazette - October 1, 1851
via GenealogyBank
Buckham was nineteen and just out of college when he became principal of the Lenox Academy and began sending letters from Lenox to the Windsor, Vermont newspaper. The Bibliography of Vermont credits Buckham as "one of the authors of a 12mo. volume of about 200 pages, relating to Berkshire County, Mass., published in 1852 or 1853." That would be Taghconic (1852), wherein putative author "Godfey Greylock" (real name Joseph Edward Adams Smith) credits "Mr. BUCKHAM, of Lenox" with two chapters:
10 Lenox and its Scenery
11 Lenox as a Jungle for Literary Lions
Sure enough, chapter 11 of Taghconic contains most of Maherbal's letter dated November 29, 1851 and published in the Vermont Journal on December 12, 1851. The following passage from Taghconic is nearly verbatim from the Journal, but with some interesting changes. For example, where the book version critiques Hawthorne's "unsympathising, morbid spirit," the original letter from "Maherbal" called it "a sort of dreamy, unsympathizing spirit." From Taghconic, chapter 11, by "Mr. Buckham, of Lenox":
Mr. Hawthorne, even for a man of letters, leads a remarkably secluded life. He has a few literary friends with whom he cherishes an intimacy congenial to a mind of such cultivation and sensibility, and a friendship which does honor to his heart, but he shows no disposition to mingle largely in society. This aversion to social intercourse has been remarkable in him during his literary career, and even far back into his youth, if we may credit the accounts of his acquaintances. Not only in his private life, but all through his writings, there seems to breathe an unsympathising, morbid spirit, — a spirit that seems to take a satisfaction in keeping itself aloof from those who are guilty of the foibles which it takes a still greater satisfaction in contemplating. This spirit he could never have inherited from his ancestors, else those progenitors of his, who for so many generations " followed the sea," were a strange set of tars! Perhaps all his better sympathies were chilled in those speculations with his dreamy brethren of the Brook Farm Community; perhaps he and Emerson, enraptured with the mystic perfection of their own fantasies, abjured all communion with this our gross humanity; he certainly could not have had his feelings frozen into hate by contact with the genial and sympathizing intellect of Ellery Channing, or at the warm hearth-stone of Longfellow.
From the letter of "Maherbal" dated November 29, 1851 on "Nathaniel Hawthorne," published in the Vermont Journal on December 12, 1851:
Mr. Hawthorne, even for a man of letters, leads a remarkably secluded life.  He has, doubtless, a few literary friends, with whom he cherishes a friendship congenial to a mind of such cultivation and sensibility, but he shows no disposition to mingle in the highly intellectual society of our village, and even studiously declines any advances which are made towards a familiarity with him on the part of those whose acquaintance he might find ample reason to prize.  This aversion to society has been so remarkable in him during his literary career, at least, and even far back into his youth, if we may credit the accounts of his acquaintances, that it seems to be constitutional with him.  At any rate, a sort of dreamy, unsympathizing spirit, seems to breathe through all his writings, and to manifest itself in various acts of his life, as far back as we have any means of tracing it.  We are sure he could not have inherited it from his ancestors, or else those progenitors of his, who for so many generations “followed the sea,” were a strange set of tars!  Perhaps all his better sympathies were chilled in those speculations with this dreamy brethren of the Brook Farm community—perhaps he and Emerson, in their rapt fantasies, abjured all communion with their fellows of this our gross humanity; he certainly could not have had his feelings frozen into hate by contact with the genial and sympathizing intellect of Ellery Channing, or the warm hearthstone of Longfellow.
Possibly more of Mr. Buckham's letters from Lenox in 1851-1853 will be discovered, either in the Vermont Journal or another Vermont newspaper. As we now know, in 1855 Buckham wrote to the Burlington Free Press under the name "Griffith." It remains to be seen whether the Free Press ever published any communications from a Griffith, or even Maherbal, during Matthew Henry Buckham's tenure as principal of the Lenox Academy.


  • Prentiss Cutler Dodge, Encyclopedia, Vermont Biography (Burlington, 1912) pages 132-133.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Melville's prose headnote to "John Marr" and Carleton's Oregon Emigrants

Alfred Jacob Miller - Prairie Scene - Mirage - Walters 371940149
Prairie Scene: Mirage. Watercolor by Alfred Jacob Miller. 

A sailor on the prairie. Does it get any lonelier than that? It doesn't help when you're surrounded like Melville's John Marr by unsympathizing farmers. Nice enough people, but no sympathy for sailors or sailor talk:
But the past of John Marr was not the past of these pioneers. Their hands had rested on the plow-tail, his upon the ship's helm. They knew but their own kind and their own usages; to him had been revealed something of the checkered globe. So limited unavoidably was the mental reach, and by consequence the range of sympathy, in this particular band of domestic emigrants, hereditary tillers of the soil, that the ocean, but a hearsay to their fathers, had now through yet deeper inland removal become to themselves little more than a rumor traditional and vague.

They were a staid people; staid through habituation to monotonous hardship; ascetics by necessity not less than through moral bias; nearly all of them sincerely, however narrowly, religious. They were kindly at need, after their fashion; but to a man wonted--as John Marr in his previous homeless sojournings could not but have been--to the free-and-easy tavern-clubs affording cheap recreation of an evening in certain old and comfortable sea-port towns of that time, and yet more familiar with the companionship afloat of the sailors of the same period, something was lacking. That something was geniality, the flower of life springing from some sense of joy in it, more or less. This their lot could not give to these hard-working endurers of the dispiriting malaria,--men to whom a holiday never came,-- and they had too much of uprightness and no art at all or desire to affect what they did not really feel....
Melville's depiction of Illinois "emigrants" in 1838 seems partly inspired by the chapter on "The Oregon Emigrants" in J. Henry Carleton's "Occidental Reminiscences / Farther West," a serialized account of the 1845 dragoon expedition to the Rocky Mountains which ran in the New York Spirit of the Times from December 1845 to May 1846. Happily on, Old Fulton NY Post Cards by Tom Tryniski has the very page from the May 16, 1846 Spirit of the Times with  Carleton's take on the "Oregon Emigrants":
Nearly all who have gone to the shores of the Pacific, with a view of making a permanent settlement there, have been born and nurtured in the interior counties of the States lying in the Valley of the Mississippi, and are, therefore, as a class, practical agriculturalists. They may be regarded as a straight-forward, simple, and well-meaning people, and shrewd and thrifty withal; and as having a fair share of good common sense. It is true, in the aggregate they are somewhat deficient in even the primary branches of education, and have but a limited knowledge of the usages of society, and a still narrower, of what is denominated “the world”; but there are many amongst them of creditable attainments, and of talents which in any country would be regarded as respectable. -- J. Henry Carleton, The Oregon Emigrants
Now accessible via EBSCO in the American Antiquarian Society Historical Periodicals Collections, Hobbies, Socialization, and Sport Periodicals, 1775-1889. Citation:
“Farther West; Or, Rough Notes of the Dragoon Campaign to the Rocky Mountains in 1845.” Spirit of The Times, vol. 16, no. 12, May 1846, pp. 139–140. EBSCOhost,

Later on Carleton quotes the leader of a pioneer group from Illinois. Back in Illinois the Oregon emigrants had endured regular intervals of illness very much like Melville's Illinois "pioneers":

"...for two or three months every year, we have been, more or less, prostrated with sickness, which in itself not only caused us much suffering, but deprived us of the power of taking a proper care of what we had already accomplished..." 
Carleton's emigrants were unaccustomed to the "usages" of "the world"; Melville adopts the word "usages" and applies it to the plainer pioneer customs, in contrast to the ways of the world or in Melville's phrase, "checkered globe." Melville's phrase "a staid people" compactly paraphrases Carleton's description of the Oregon emigrants as "a straight-forward, simple, and well-meaning people."

Carleton's writings in the New York Spirit of the Times have been edited by Louis Pelzer under the attractive but inaccurate title Prairie Logbooks (University of Nebraska Press, 1983).

The complete texts have yet to be presented in a modern edition. The original title of Carleton's 1845-1846 series in the Spirit of the Times was "Occidental Reminiscences. Farther West; Or, Rough Notes of the Dragoon Campaign to the Rocky Mountains in 1845."

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Elizabeth Shaw Melville sighted (mistakenly?)

Update 2: In yet another society page mention, the second wife of Herman Melville's deceased brother Allan appears in connection with a stage performance by Lydia Thompson:
Mrs. Allan Melville, of New York, gave a box party to see Lydia Thompson, on Saturday evening to Senator Fair, Judge and Mrs. MacArthur, Miss Carrie Lathers and Mr. Coleman. After the play a supper was partaken of at Wormley’s.
-- Evening Star, April 5, 1886; found at Genealogy Bank
Lydia Thompson was then appearing in Oxygen, "one of the stupidest burlesques that have ever been placed upon the stage" according to one contemporary critic who nevertheless praised its star as a "true burlesquer":
"She dances with her old agility, sings fairly and is graceful in her acting."
--Washington, D. C. Critic-Record, May 22, 1886
At any rate, this attending and hosting parties in high society was very much in the line of Jane Louise Dempsey Melville

Update 1: The newspaper notice lists "Mrs. Herman Melville" among the reception guests, but is that a mistake for "Mrs. Allan Melville," widow of Herman's deceased younger brother?

Certainly Elizabeth Shaw Melville was well connected as the daughter of Judge Shaw, especially in Boston, but those elite names in the New York Graphic society item seem more like social acquaintances of Jane Dempsey Randolph Melville (1824-1890).  And neighbors, maybe? Mrs. Allan Melville's home was still on 35th Street, near to the Townsends' home on 34th where the party for Madame Lucca took place. In the New York Tribune for December 3, 1886, "Mrs. Allan Melville" is listed under the heading "Musical and Dramatic Notes" among subscribers for a "substantial farewell testimonial" to Steve Massett (celebrated "Jeems Pipes" of Pipesville in California).

I meant to follow up on this before now, but forgot about it until seeing this one show up in the gallery of popular posts at Melvilliana.

And in high society.  From the New York Daily Graphic, Friday, May 1, 1874:
... A very pleasant reception was given by Mrs. John D. Townsend, at her residence in West Thirty-fourth street, on Wednesday evening, in honor of Madame Lucca. Among the guests were Mrs. ex-Judge Roosevelt and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Turnure, Mrs. Herman Melville, and Mrs. John T. Beeckman. The music was by Professor Eben's orchestra, and the floral display is understood to have been very fine. 
Found at
Later, to clarify: Despite the impression created by Google search results, the portrait below is a Guy Little Theatrical Photograph in the V&A collections, of opera singer Pauline Lucca--not Herman Melville's wife! Pauline Lucca (1841-1908) was a "prominent operatic soprano," born in Vienna.  Rivalry with Mathilde Mallinger reportedly motivated her triumphant US tour, 1872-1874. 

Photograph of Pauline Lucca, late 19th c. Guy Little Collection 
Copyright: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Mrs. John D. Townsend was Elizabeth A. Delano Swan Townsend, the former Miss Delano Swan of Boston.  Her husband was the "well-known criminal lawyer" John Drake Townsend (1835-1896).  Townsend wrote the posthumously published indictment of Tammany Hall, New York in Bondage (1901).  Both Townsends made the news for their support of women's suffrage.

"Mrs. ex-Judge Roosevelt" is probably the former Cornelia Van Ness"for many years queen in the leading society of New York" and wife of then ex-Judge James John Roosevelt (1795-1875).  Appleton's Cyclopaedia acknowledges her "good service in organizing hospital and charitable associations for the aid of the National troops during the civil war" and later support of New York charities.

Lawrence Turnure at his death in 1899 was "one of the best-known bankers of New York."  Mrs. Lawrence Turnure was the former Jane Redfield.

Mrs. John T. Beeckman and her husband are unknown to me at this point.  Connected with the old Albany Beeckmans?

Looks like Eben's Orchestra kept busy playing at all kinds of New York social events...

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Manitou Stone in Newbury, MA
Image Credit: Mary Gage via Stone Structures of North America
"No more now you sideways followed the sad pasture's skirt, but took your way adown the long declivity, fronting the mystic height. In mid field again you paused among the recumbent sphinx-like shapes thrown off from the rocky steep. You paused; fixed by a form defiant, a form of awfulness. You saw Enceladus the Titan, the most potent of all the giants, writhing from out the imprisoning earth;—turbaned with upborn moss he writhed; still, though armless, resisting with his whole striving trunk, the Pelion and the Ossa hurled back at him;—turbaned with upborn moss he writhed; still turning his unconquerable front toward that majestic mount eternally in vain assailed by him, and which, when it had stormed him off, had heaved his undoffable incubus upon him, and deridingly left him there to bay out his ineffectual howl...."
"Not unworthy to be compared with that leaden Titan, wherewith the art of Marsy and the broad-flung pride of Bourbon enriched the enchanted gardens of Versailles;—and from whose still twisted mouth for sixty feet the waters yet upgush, in elemental rivalry with those Etna flames, of old asserted to be the malicious breath of the borne-down giant;—not unworthy to be compared with that leaden demi-god—piled with costly rocks, and with one bent wrenching knee protruding from the broken bronze;—not unworthy to be compared with that bold trophy of high art, this American Enceladus, wrought by the vigorous hand of Nature's self, it did go further than compare;—it did far surpass that fine figure molded by the inferior skill of man. Marsy gave arms to the eternally defenseless; but Nature, more truthful, performed an amputation, and left the impotent Titan without one serviceable ball-and-socket above the thigh."
(1852), 470-471

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Plagiarizing Napoleon's Praise in "Jimmy Rose"

In his glory days before bankruptcy, Jimmy Rose is said by the narrator of Melville's short story "Jimmy Rose" (first published in Harper's magazine, November 1855) to have plagiarized a compliment. Plagiarized in a good way, since done in praise of a hero:
"Sir," said he, in a great drawing-room in Broadway, as he extended toward General G----- a brace of pistols set with turquois. "Sir," said Jimmy with a Castilian flourish and a rosy smile, "there would have been more turquois here set, had the names of your glorious victories left room." 
Ah, Jimmy, Jimmy! Thou didst excel in compliments. But it was inwrought with thy inmost texture to be affluent in all things which give pleasure. And who shall reproach thee with borrowed wit on this occasion, though borrowed indeed it was? Plagiarize otherwise as they may, not often are the men of this world plagiarists in praise.
Melville assures us the compliment to General G (for Gaines, as in Edmund P. Gaines?) was "borrowed wit," without identifying any source.
Melville is not kidding here, the praise is plagiarized--from Napoleon.  In complimenting General G----- on the number of his victories while making a presentation of pistols, Jimmy Rose adapts the eloquence anecdotally attributed to Napoleon when doing the same thing:
He [Napoleon] presented Moreau, on one occasion, with, a magnificent pair of pistols as a cadeau. "I intended," said he, " to have got the names of your victories engraved upon them, but there was not room for them."
Quoted from "Eloquence of the Camp--Napoleon Bonaparte" in the December 1847 Dublin University Magazine, reprinted in Littell's Living Age (January 29, 1848) and the February 1848 Eclectic Magazine.

An earlier version of the same anecdote more closely matches Melville's conceit, with diamonds on Moreau's pistols described as competing for space with the desired engraving of the recipient's many martial triumphs:

It was in 1796 that the directory first introduced the practice of giving arms of honour to those individuals who had distinguished themselves in the field. Buonaparte, on becoming consul, abandoned this custom, and only recurred to it once, in favour of Moreau. Soon after the winter campaign, which had been distinguished by the battle of Hohenlinden, Napoleon presented the victor with a pair of pistols richly set with brilliants, and taking them out of his hands immediately after, gave them to the minister of the interior (Lucien), with directions that the general's victories should be engraven on them. "But not all of them," he added; "for in that case there will be no room for the diamonds!"
Quoted from The Napoleon Anecdotes, ed. W. H. Ireland, vol. 3 (Boston, 1830), 179,
Battle of Hohenlinden

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

the view from Jupiter

Earth and moon

"'Fellow-men! we must go, and obtain a glimpse of what we are from the Belts of Jupiter and the Moons of Saturn, ere we see ourselves aright."

--Mardi: And a Voyage Thither Volume 2, chapter 71 - A Book from the "Ponderings of Old Bardianna"

the finest thing Herman Melville never said

Library of Congress
Sorry, wrong Melville:

We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.  HERMAN MELVILLE
Hillary Clinton
"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men."
Brainy Quote
"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects."  Quotations Page
"We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.” 
Garrison Keillor
NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg


Interaction Institute for Social Change

All these lovely quotes and misquotes about "sympathetic threads" and "invisible fibers" (or in some versions, "sympathetic fibers" and "invisible threads") connecting humanity derive from a sermon by the once famous Anglican preacher Henry Melvill (1798-1871).

via East India Company at Home

On Tuesday morning, June 12, 1855, the Rev. Henry Melvill gave a sermon on "Partaking in Other Men's Sins" at St. Margeret's Church, Lothbury.  No. 2,365 in the "Penny Pulpit" series, Melvill's exposition of 2 John 11 was reprinted in a book of Melvill's Golden Lectures for 1855.  Here's the original quote in its original context, Henry Melvill's sermon on the evil consequences of setting a bad example:

You see, then, how in a variety of ways the fact that every man may set an example generates this other fact, that every man may be partaker of the sins of other men. We allow no man to shelter himself under the plea of insignificance. We deny that a man can be insignificant; he was formed in the image of his God, he is destined to be immortal. We deny yet more strongly a Christian to be insignificant; he is "a city set upon a hill;" penury cannot make him insignificant, lowliness of station cannot make him insignificant; he is a new creature, and as a new creature must attract attention and become a centre of influence. There is not one of you whose actions do not operate on the actions of others—operate, we mean, in the way of example. He would be insignificant who could only destroy his own soul; but you are all, alas! of importance enough to help also to destroy the souls of others; and henceforwards we would have you remember, that whensoever you act you act for a multitude; eyes are upon you, many or few, according to the position that you occupy ; some are either watching to take pattern, or waiting for your halting. Be vicious, and viciousness may go down as an heir-loom in half a hundred families; be inconsistent, and enmity to the gospel may be propagated over a parish ; give occasions of offence, and many may fall; those who are entering in the narrow way may be discouraged, and those who have already entered may be made to stumble. Ye live not for yourselves; ye cannot live for yourselves ; a thousand fibres connect you with your fellow-men, and along those fibres, as along sympathetic threads, run your actions as causes, and return to you as effects. Ye sin not for yourselves; ye cannot sin for yourselves; ye are members of a body, and as no member can suffer alone, neither can any be injurious alone. Oh! fearful but unquestioned power which every one of us possesses—the power through the influence of example of multiplying ourselves, so that we may sin in places where we have never been, and in times when we shall not be alive. Example is like the press; a thing done is the thought printed; it may be repeated, if it cannot be recalled; it has gone forth, with a self-propagating power, and may run to the ends of the earth, and descend from generation to generation. So then, my brethren, appear we must at the tribunal of God; judged we must be by things done in the body; but when our personal actions have all been examined and weighed in themselves, alas! alas! there may remain a catalogue which thought itself can hardly measure; and these may be made up of infractions—infractions through example, for example may be justly said to bid God speed to evil doers—infractions to the prohibition contained in the words—" He that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."  -- Henry Melvill, The Golden Lectures page 454.

Here's the quotation from a nineteenth-century collection, correctly attributed to "H. Melvill": 

EXAMPLE—Evil Influence of.
Be vicious, and viciousness may go down as an heirloom in half a hundred families; be inconsistent, and enmity to the Gospel may be propagated over a parish; give occasions of offence, and many may full; those who are entering in the narrow way may be discouraged, and those who have already entered may be made to stumble. Ye live not for yourselves; ye cannot live for yourselves; a thousand fibres connect you with your fellow-men, and along those fibres, as along sympathetic threads, run your actions as causes, and return to you as effects.

Six Thousand Illustrations of Moral and Religious Truths (London, 1885), ed. John Bate, 311-12. In 1885 the deceased preacher was far more famous than the living writer, and readers on both sides of the Atlantic could be expected to know "H. Melvill" meant the Reverend Henry Melvill. If they didn't the index told them: "Melvill, Rev. H."

It's a simple case of mistaken identity.  Showing among other things how error multiplies, and also the deceptive authority of numbers.  A thousand false iterations, in this case a thousand (at least?) mis-attributions of the "sympathetic threads" quote to Herman Melville, do not validate the statement. 

Not that Herman Melville would necessarily have disclaimed the fine words of Reverend Melvill.  While visiting London in 1849, Herman made a point of going to hear Henry preach.  Melville on Melvill:

This morning breakfasted at 10, at the Hotel de Sabloneire (very nice cheap little snuggery being closed on Sundays)  Had a "sweet ommelette" which was delicious.  Thence walked to St: Thomas's Church, Charter House, Goswell Street, to hear my famed namesake (almost) "The Reverend H Melvill."  I had seen him placarded as to deliver a Charity Sermon.  The church was crowded--the sermon was admirable (granting the Rev: gentleman's premises).  Indeed he deserves his reputation.  I do not think that I hardly ever heard so good a discourse before--that is from an "orthodox" divine.  [entry for December 16, 1849, Melville's Journals]

 Update: see more proof here, if you need it...

The Rev. Henry Melvill on Partaking in Other Men's Sins


 Related posts:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lacordaire, the model for Melville's Dominican in Clarel

"The people once elected me
To be their spokesman. In this gown
I sat in legislative hall
A champion of true liberty--
God's liberty for one and all--
Not Satan's license. Mine's the state
Of a staunch Catholic Democrat."
--Clarel 2.25
Melville’s portrait of the Dominican priest in Clarel as “A champion of true liberty” draws heavily on the real life and times of Father Henri–Dominique Lacordaire (1802-1861). "Dieu et la Liberté!" was the motto of the journal L’Avenir (The Future), founded in 1830 by Lacordaire with Montalembert and others dedicated to the extension of civil liberties including basic freedoms of religion and education (separation of church and state), freedom of the press, freedom of association, and the extension of voting rights. In the 1862 review essay on "Lacordaire and Catholic Progress," Melville's converted countryman Orestes Brownson praised Lacordaire as:
"inherently a brave man, what we call a manly man, the hero of the pulpit, and the champion of free speech, free education, free thought, and free discussion." --Brownson's Quarterly Review - July 1862

In her 1867 biography, Dora Greenwell calls Lacordaire
"the tried champion of popular liberty."  (130)  --Dora Greenwell, Lacordaire
Melville's democratically inclined Dominican distinguishes true liberty from a worldly, carnal understanding of freedom or "Satan's license." So too, Lacordaire, from the pulpit of Notre Dame preached that without Christ and the Church, "liberty becomes license"  (in the paraphrase by Greenwell, 72).

Melville's Dominican "sat in legislative hall" as an elected representative of the people. Likewise Lacordaire was famous in his time for briefly serving in the French National Assembly. Historian Robert Gildea explains:
"Lacordaire was elected in Marseille, one of twenty priests and three bishops to be elected to the National Assembly, and took his place there dressed in his white Dominican robes."  Children of the Revolution: the French, 1799-1914 (Harvard University Press, 2010), 130.
Closer to Melville's milieu, volume 24 of Bentley's Magazine (1848) features a report on the National Assembly that laments the absence of Lacordaire:
"The strange white robe of the eloquent Dominican monk, the Pere Lacordaire, has disappeared: he has retired in disgust before the tumultuous nature of the National Assembly."  (77)  --Bentley's Miscellany, Volume 24
Writing in the London Theological Review 11 (1874), Charles Beard included the white robe in his catalog of essential traits and accomplishments of Lacordaire:
One of the great religious sensations of the times was the appearance of the white Dominican robe in the pulpit of Notre Dame, after so many years during which the public wearing of the dress of any religious order had been prohibited. Lacordaire lived to exhibit the same habit upon the benches of the National Assembly of 1848... But much more curious and interesting than this episode of religious reaction in France, is the completeness with which the mediaeval idea of holiness took possession of Lacordaire's mind, and the reconciliation which to a certain extent he effected in himself between the ascetic saint and the orator, the politician, the man of letters.
--The Theological Review, Volume 11
Lacordaire's monastic asceticism is quite visibly shared by Melville's Dominican. Indeed, it's practically the first thing Clarel, Derwent, Rolfe, Vine, and company notice about the stranger, after his white robe:
Surprise they knew, yet made a stir
Of welcome, gazing on the man
In white robe of Dominican,
Of aspect strong, though cheek was spare,
Yellowed with tinge athlete may wear
Whom rigorous masters overtrain
When they with scourge of more and more
Would macerate him into power.

Inwrought herewith was yet the air
And open frontage frankly fair
Of one who'd moved in active scene
And swayed men where they most convene.  --Clarel 2.25
Melville seems to have picked up his word "macerate" from The Inner Life of the Very Reverend Père Lacordaire, of the Order of Preachers (Dublin, 1867), which thus recalls Lacordaire's monastic "austerities":
"every kind of maceration in use among the saints; —hair-cloths, disciplines, scourges of every kind and description, were all known and practised by him!" (343)  --Bernard Chocarne, Inner Life

Melville's Rolfe looks "incredulous" at the Dominican's description of himself as a "Catholic Democrat." "Hardly those terms ye reconcile, " observes the priest, yet that's what Lacordaire was all about, "reconciling democracy with Catholicity" ("Two Catholic Reformers," Annals of St Joseph 27-28, 73). Orestes Brownson, again, cited
"the democratic tendencies so apparent in Pere Lacordaire"
--Brownson's Review - July 1862
 as essential and characteristic qualities.

James Trenor, in the translator's preface to Montalembert's Memoir of the Abbé Lacordaire (London, 1863) attests to Lacordaire's reputation for the very attributes that Melville gives his Dominican priest:
He fought for liberty; he was for twenty years the idol of the French youth. He was one of the greatest of modern orators. He was sent to represent France in the National Assembly at a time when the frock of the monk was looked upon with anything but favor.  (vi-vii)
In the introduction to American Risorgimento, Dennis Berthold summarizes Melville's take on the Dominican as "a satirical portrait of the Dominican priest" (Introduction, 23).  In his 2004 article in
Nineteenth-Century Literature, Professor Berthold pointed out that the Dominican’s confidence in Rome oddly ignores the curbed authority of the Pope in recently unified Italy (359-366). But "satirical portrait" ought to be reconsidered now, in light of Melville's use of defining details from Lacordaire's real-life story as the basis for his treatment of the Dominican. Even the historical incongruity remarked by Berthold nicely registers the influence of Lacordaire, who died nearly a decade before the 1870 annexation of Rome.

Lacordaire’s earlier activism in the cause of democratic liberties, his memorable election in 1848 to the French National Assembly, his eloquence in the pulpit of Notre Dame, and even his rumored “austerities” in the exercise of monastic self-discipline—all widely reported in contemporary sources—gave Melville ample material for his portrait of the
“Disinterested, earnest, pure
And liberal” --Clarel 2. 26
exponent of Roman Catholicism.

Here's Lacordaire himself, writing in February 1861 on "Christianity and Democracy":
...the union of liberty and Christianity is the sole possible salvation of the future. Christianity alone can give liberty its real nature, and liberty alone can give Christianity the means of influence necessary to it.

M. de Tocqueville understood this, and this is the great feature of his life. Christianity made him a complete liberal, pure, disinterested, superior to the parties which divided the men of his day, and God willed that despite this superiority, he should win the unanimous homage of France, Europe and America. His opinions, like his memory, should be the compass of all those who think like you, Sir, and in the eulogium which I passed upon him, on a memorable occasion, I had no other intention than to throw into relief a figure evidently given us as a model. --Montalembert, Lacordaire's Letters to Young Men, trans. James Trenor (London, 1865), 200-201.
Aha! So Melville puts Lacordaire's own words in Derwent's mouth (Derwent? I think that's right) in sympathetically describing the Dominican as disinterested, pure, liberal. In his portrait of the Dominican, Melville seems even to have appropriated the memorializing project that Lacordaire attempted for de Tocqueville, only applying it to Lacordaire himself. Just as Father Lacordaire says  he aimed to eulogize de Tocqueville, so Melville, too, through his borrowings from the life of the historical Lacordaire, has attempted
"to throw into relief a figure evidently given us as a model." 
Related posts:
  • Saints as Syrens
  • Clarel's name

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Old Mortality and Melville's approach to rewriting history

renewing with his chisel the half-defaced inscriptions....
Renewing gravestones with hammer and chisel was the unpaid business of Old Mortality, the source (not the main subject) of Sir Walter Scott's Old Mortality (1816).  
Rennovating or "retouching" old inscriptions:  what a great metaphor for Melville's habit of re-writing from sources!  Melville thought so.  Acknowledging a pamphlet autobiography as the primary source for Israel Potter (1856), Melville in the fanciful dedication compares his inventive rewrite of the original narrative to
"a dilapidated old tombstone retouched."  
Fittingly, Melville returns to the tombstone image and finishes the job of retouching in the last chapter, which as Alide Cagidemetrio points out in Fictions of the Past is titled Requiescat in PaceCagidemetrio (and who else, I wonder?) gets the allusion to Scott's Old Mortality, and writes with fine insight about its significance for Melville's characterization of Israel Potter, and more broadly as a poet's approach to the rewriting of history:
The “old tombstone retouched” is a topos for the “poetics” of historical fiction.  The Cameronian tombstones in Walter Scott’s Old Mortality may serve as its most illustrious example.  The introduction to the novel is in fact the introduction to a character of the past, Old Mortality.  He is a forgotten, poor, and aged patriot turned by historical events, like Melville’s Israel, into a wanderer.”  Fictions of the Past:  Hawthorne & Melville (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992), 182.
"'Poetics' of historical fiction" is wonderful.  Aesthetics too or an aesthetic seems also implied.  Some day we might try elaborating on that theme, here at Melvilliana, Melville's aesthetics of the rewrite.

The use of multiple personae is interesting, too, and reminds me of Melville's experimenting with imaginary narrators and editors in his manuscript "Burgundy Club" sketches.  For great insight into that strategy check out Robert A. Sandberg's 1989 article on "the adjustment of screens."  Similarly the story of Old Mortality, as one of Walter Scott's Tales of My Landlord, has been redacted supposedly through various authorial and editorial personae, including (besides Scott himself and the landlord of the Wallace inn), the fictive narrator Peter Pattieson (deceased) and fictive editor Jedediah Cleishbotham.

From the description of Old Mortality's occupation as Peter Pattieson allegedly gave it in manuscript, according to Jedediah Cleishbotham in the "preliminary" first chapter of Old Mortality (Tale II in Tales of My Landlord:
"During this long pilgrimage, the pious enthusiast regulated his circuit so as annually to visit the graves of the unfortunate Covenanters, who suffered by the sword, or by the executioner, during the reigns of the two last monarchs of the Stewart line....In the most lonely recesses of the mountains, the moor-fowl shooter has been often surprised to find him busied in cleaning the moss from the grey stones, renewing with his chisel the half-defaced inscriptions, and repairing the emblems of death with which these simple monuments are usually adorned.
"... As the wanderer was usually to be seen bent on this pious task within the precincts of some country churchyard, or reclined on the solitary tombstone among the heath, disturbing the plover and the black-cock with the clink of his chisel and mallet, with his old white pony grazing by his side, he acquired, from his converse among the dead, the popular appellation of Old Mortality.
"... Conversing with others, he was grave and sententious, not without a cast of severity. But he is said never to have been observed to give way to violent passion, excepting upon one occasion, when a mischievous truant-boy defaced with a stone the nose of a cherub's face, which the old man was engaged in retouching."
Old Mortality LH Philly
Old Mortality / sculptural group at Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia
by James Thom (c. 1836) via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, August 22, 2011

"Aye my men! That is the talk!"

"The history of the British Government can be written under three heads: Fraud, Crime, and the Strong-hand.... Her government is the most cunningly devised machinery that was ever forged to keep the masses in subjection, and perpetrate a race of hewers of wood and drawers of water."  --Gansevoort Melville
Earlier posts here and here transcribed newspaper reports of 1843 speeches for Irish Repeal by Herman Melville's older brother Gansevoort. Here's another one, delivered November 9, 1843 at Washington Hall before the United Irish Repeal Association. Transcribed below from the Pittsfield Sun (Pittsfield, Massachusetts) of November 30, 1843 (reprinting the account in the New York Freeman's Journal). A somewhat expanded version was also reported in the New York Daily Tribune for November 20, 1843; accessible online via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress; and Old Fulton NY Post Cards.
New-York daily tribune. [volume] (New-York [N.Y.]), 20 Nov. 1843. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress. <>


An immense meeting of the friends of Ireland was held in New-York, upon the receipt of the intelligence that the British Government had suppressed the Clontarf Meeting, and arrested O’Connell. The N. Y. Freeman’s Journal contains a glowing account of the meeting, showing that the deepest and most earnest spirit pervaded the assembly. The speeches on the occasion were truly eloquent. We copy from the Journal the report of Mr. Melville’s speech.

GANSEVOORT MELVILLE, Esq. rose to second the resolutions, and spoke nearly as follows:

Irishmen and Friends of Ireland!—Let us approach the momentous question which has called us together in all calmness, all candor, and all resolution. The eyes of our enemies are upon us, and let no indiscretion on our part give them cause to rejoice. We all know that Mr. O’Connell has been arrested and held to bail—but in what sum?—the paltry sum of £ 1000. Years ago, in other trying times, when he was before arrested, he was held to bail without any previous palaver in £ 30,000!— The circumstances of the case doubtless require the Government to insist on an increased rather than a diminished amount of bail. [NY Tribune adds: Does not this striking disparity in the amount of bail demanded, and alteration in the manner of conducting the present proceeding, look like a sham fight on the part of the British Ministry?] Does it not seem as if, afraid of the recoil of their own blunderbuss, they had taken care to put in a light load? And for what is he arrested? For a conspiracy and misdemeanors. A conspiracy to do what? A conspiracy to ameliorate the condition of the people of Ireland—to elevate them socially, politically, and morally—to make them feel more directly their responsibilities as human beings. These honest efforts in the view of the British Government are misdemeanors. They constitute a conspiracy. If this be a conspiracy, I hope that the world will soon be full of such conspiracies. If a combination of the powers of good against those of evil—of the powers of heaven against those of hell, be a conspiracy—this is one—not else. The patriot-hero may become the patriot martyr—but he is DANIEL O’CONNELL still. He is the impersonation of the popular feeling of his country—he is the foremost man of his time—the leader of the great moral movement of the age. 

I am about to make a call upon you, and those who are unfriendly need not respond to it. Let no man join in what I will now propose unless his heart goes with his voice, and his whole soul is in it. I call for three times three for the champion of the people—Daniel O’Connell! [The outburst here was literally startling. Those who were sitting sprung to their feet, and those who had been standing, seemed to bound from the floor in their excitement. Hats, canes, and hands waved in the air. The three times three were given, and three times three again. We can safely say that in all our experience of public meetings we never saw the like. There was a vividness, a deafening volume, and a sustained vigor in that tremendous shout, the spontaneous addresses of the stout Repealers of New-York, to Daniel O’Connell, such as we never heard before; and for full ten minutes the roar of cheering and applause was maintained without intermission.] And now to mark our utter scorn of the pitiful conduct of the Government, I call for nine groans for the persecuting Tory brood [Such groans and hisses, and noises of abhorrence and contempt as were sent forth by that multitude, went a little beyond anything of the kind ever attempted, at least, on this side of the ocean.] Aye my men! That is the talk! It will be heard on the other side of the water. It will inspirit our friends, and discourage our foes. They may deprive Daniel O’Connell of his personal liberty. They may immure him in a dungeon. But, he will have more power in his prison cell, than if he was installed in Dublin Castle as Lord Lieutenant of the realm. His power is a moral power, and physical means cannot impair it. The rabble of Toryism, led on by the hedgehog Graham, the viper Stanley, and the ferocious and blood-thirsty Times, cry aloud as did the unbelieving Jews of old, “crucify him, crucify him!” But, now, as then, they know not what they do—they know not whom they would crucify. There is not power enough in the British Government to sacrifice that man.

Harry Flood said, long ago, that “England had sowed dragon’s teeth in Ireland.” Let her but fertilize the soil with the blood of martyrs and the crop will need no gathering. It will gather itself—it will be such a crop as the world never saw before. A harvest of a million fighting men. And what sort of men?—Men hardy, patriotic, temperate and brave. It may be that they have no arms; but I have somewhere read, that willing hand never lacked weapon. Remember what Sir Ralph Abercrombie said, and he spoke from a little experience, that he would rather face a legion of devils than the headlong charge of the Irish pikemen. But it may not come to this. The contest may be peaceful—and—[a pause]—it may not! If not—we know, and we do not seek to conceal the fact, that armies and navies, gold and munitions of war, are with the adversary. And of these we have little or none. We know all this—and yet, with calmness we abide the issue. We fear her not, were she ten times as powerful. We fear her not, so long as there is such a thing as Justice—so long as Truth has vitality—or God an existence. 

The history of the British Government can be written under three heads: Fraud, Crime, and the Strong-hand. Her horizon is overcast. The world at large begins to understand her hollow professions and her mock philanthropy. Intelligence is diffusing itself among her enslaved millions. She has sowed the wind, and she will reap the whirlwind. Her government is the most cunningly devised machinery that was ever forged to keep the masses in subjection, and perpetrate a race of hewers of wood and drawers of water. And yet, stupendous as is its fabric of force and fraud, it will be upheaved from its foundations of a thousand years, and whelmed beneath a tide that knows no ebb—the tide of human progress—of equal rights and equal laws.
Battle of Clontarf (Hugh Frazer, 1826)
Turn we now to the field of Clontarf. We are all familiar with the facts. It is needless to recapitulate them. And we charge the British Government, then and there, with a preconcerted and fiendlike attempt to exasperate and surprise the Irish people into sudden rebellion. We charge upon them a calculating and cold-blooded atrocity that might call a pang to the heart of a fallen Archangel—but thank God, and under Providence [and] O’Connell, not De Gray—that failed. Although it eventuated in failure, it is an action for which Great Britain will yet be called to an account by the Great Ruler of the world. In bye-gone days, some 800 years ago—on the field of Clontarf the invading Dane was stricken to the ground by the Irish arm. Now, on the same auspicious sod—in the self-same cause of country—the sons of Ireland have been spared the necessity of striking, for the swollen and purse proud Englisher has dug the grave of his own political power with his own felon hand. The sun of Ireland’s freedom once more rose from the field of Clontarf—bloody red;--it now struggles up, virgin white; but it is the same sun of victory. In future days, when you, and I, and all of us, will be as the dust of the valley, and have gone to our long account, men will look upon Clontarf as a holy and consecrated spot—the moral Marathon of Ireland—the birth-place of a nation.

And now for ourselves—for depend upon it, Ireland, even if left alone, can take care of herself. However that may be, we must not be wanting.
[NY Tribune adds:]  ...we must not be wanting. The good cause must not suffer in our hands. We must do our duty, our whole duty, conscientiously and fearlessly, and let the consequences take care of themselves. The man who heretofore has been with us, and who now forsakes the standard of Repeal, is a traitor and a dastard. Are there any such here? Is there a man in this Association who wishes to turn back? (A deafening shout of “no! no!” from, as it seemed, every part of the hall.) If there be so base a recreant let him go; but let him go with the mark of Cain upon his brow. Then there are none such here. We are all united as one man.— And now I ask ye—will you sustain O’Connell and Repeal? Will you stand by the cause of Freedom and of Ireland?— Will you be true to yourselves, your kinsmen, your country and your God? (This was received with one overwhelming shout of stern, almost fierce determination.) (As it subsided a deep, manly voice cried out—“To the death! aye to the death.) Now, in the sight of both God and man…
[A good strong voice cried out, “To the death!”] Aye, to the death. Now, in the sight of both God and man, we have pledged ourselves to sustain this cause, and we will redeem our pledge. We will not permit it to be mixed with any other. By every lawful and honorable means, living and dying, we will uphold it. Whether its green banner streams in triumph, or draggle in defeat, by that banner will we be found. We hold in our hands that sword of Truth, before which error must shrink and tyrants tremble. The enemies of Ireland and Liberty shall yet be taught, that
“Freedom’s battle, once begun,
Bequeathed from bleeding sire to son,
Though baffled oft, is always won.”
Here Mr. Melville resumed his seat, amid the most enthusiastic and protracted applause.

Combat Between the Giaour and the Pasha (Delacroix, 1826)
Related posts:

another Repeal speech by Gansevoort Melville

The Battle of Fontenoy, 11 May 1745 (Horace Vernet)
UPDATE 2/22/2015: This newspaper transcript of Gansevoort's Repeal speech was also reprinted from the New York Freeman's Journal and Truth-Teller under the heading AMERICA--REPEAL in the Belfast, Ireland Vindicator, Wednesday, July 5, 1843.

Sydney Morning Chronicle, November 29, 1843
reprinting from “Progress of Repeal,” Dublin, Ireland Weekly Freeman’s Journal, July 1, 1843:
We regret that space will not permit us to give the speeches at any length, but we cannot deny our readers the pleasure of perusing the following sentences from the address of Mr. Gansevoort Melville, a gentleman evidently of Dutch extraction:—

What, then, will Sir Robert Peel do? He has but one other resource and that is force; and this he dare not try. As honest Tom Steele said on the Dublin Corn Exchange, “Sir Robert Peel talks of civil war, let him try it if he dare.” (Terrific cheering, waving of hats, handkerchiefs, &c.) If force be used, it will add but another and an apt illustration of the old adage; 
“Quos deus vult perdere, prius dementat.”

Force? force! physical force! to put down a peaceful, sublime, moral movement like this on the part of an arisen, awakened, and united people for the recovery of their inherent and inalienable rights. The very heavens would cry out shame upon such conduct. But if England wills it, on her be the guilt. Let but one drop of a Repealer’s blood be shed by a British bayonet, and the accumulated and reiterated wrong of seven hundred years will bring upon their authors a fitting, a self-induced, and a righteous retribution. The volcano would burst, and the Saxon be swept from the face of the land. The Repealers will rally under the standard of the green:

“For the green—oh! the green, is the colour of the true,

And we’ll back it ‘gainst the orange (terrific shouts):
And we’ll back it ‘gainst the orange, and we’ll raise it o’er the blue.
The colour of our fatherland alone should here be seen—
‘Tis the colour of our martyred dead, our own immortal green” (prolonged cheering).

If the Irish do so rally, it will be because England unsheathes her weapon to strike, the sword of Ireland must be drawn to defend (cheers). Our ancestors here in America did not wait to be smitten. They saw the blow impending, and in the language of a great orator, “Our forefathers went to war against a preamble. They draw their swords against the recital of an act of parliament.” The sword of Ireland has slumbered long and peacefully. It has not seen the light since Limerick and Fontenoy; but it has not rested. It is as keen, as bright, and as true as ever, and if Ireland be compelled in self-defence to draw it, she’ll throw away the scabbard, and the blade will leap into the free light and air of God, to blaze meteor-like in the van of a people’s death-struggle for freedom, never to be laid aside till “Ireland be a nation.”

(“Here,” in the language of a daily paper, “the enthusiasm beggared description; the whole audience rose to their feet, and the cheering for several minutes was perfectly astounding.”)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

rousing speech for Irish Repeal by Gansevoort Melville, September 1843

From the New York Evening Post, Friday Evening, September 29, 1843.
SUBSTANCE OF MR. MELVILLE [‘S] SPEECH, at the last repeal meeting in this city. Gansevoort Melville, Esq., rose and spoke nearly as follows:
On the 25th day of July—scarce two months since—a paper published in this city, called The Journal of Commerce, announced that this association had dissolved. (Laughter, and cries of oh! oh!) At various other times it and its kindred prints have proclaimed that the cause of repeal in this country is declining. All this is news with a vengeance! The wish is father to the thought. Those journals do not know—to use the expressive language of an honest Irishman, which he applied to De Witt Clinton, but which is strictly applicable to the case in hand—that repeal is like old brass, the harder it’s rubbed the brighter it shines. (Loud cheers.) I wonder if the editor of the veracious Journal of Commerce was present at the reception we gave in this very hall to Robert Tyler—(cheers)—and if he was present, what he thought of it? — and whether that savored of dissolution? (Renewed cheers.) I wish he had been here then. The deafening shouts, the tempestuous applause, would have assured him of that which as a philanthropist must have afforded him gratification, and that is, that our lungs are sound and our constitutions unimpaired. (Laughter and cheers.) I would that he were here now. The animation every where visible, the sincerity speaking from every countenance, must force the conviction upon the most incredulous that we are in earnest—devoted, enthusiastic in supporting and advocating a cause that is our glory and our pride—a cause that is right, honest, and true—(vehement applause)—which, while it commands the assent of judgment, irresistibly enlists the noblest and holiest sympathies of our nature—that is worthy of the best exertions of the greatest and purest men—a cause which, resting on the basis of truth, bids its rancorous foes defiance to their teeth—(most emphatic cheering)—a cause that is
“Vital in every part,
And cannot but by annihilating die.”
(Tremendous cheers.) The great question of repeal, its why and its wherefore, and our right and duty as freemen to sustain and befriend it, have been so often thoroughly discussed by word of mouth and in the public press, that I will not now weary you with repetitions of arguments with which you are familiar—which have been repeatedly advanced—that have never been fairly met, and cannot be overthrown. So, with your permission, we will leave our enemies to gnaw on the file at their leisure, while we glance at the progress of repeal on this side of the Atlantic. (Cheers.) In every city where the cause has taken root, it flourishes and has a strong hold on the affections of the people. It is so in Boston, Providence, Albany, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Cincinnati, St Louis, New Orleans, and others too numerous to mention. Nor is it confined to the cities alone—towns, villages and hamlets have caught the flame. In Savannah, our spirited brethren have lately collected nearly $700 in two meetings. (Cheers) They have erected our flag-staff over the grave of Pulaski, whence the banner of Repeal floats fair and free, proclaiming to every breeze that blows that the same spirit which animated the patriot here when alive, still breathes above his tomb (Enthusiastic cheering.)—The tide of Repeal has carried away the barrier that was erected against it, and now sweeps strong for Ireland.
Pulaski Monument, Savannah GA
The whole Southern country which, at one time misled by falsehood and prejudice, wavered in its support and threatened to desert the cause, has again come forward to join the ranks of the great army which is marshaled under the standard of “Justice to Ireland.” (Great cheering) In fact, they are hardly content to abide there, and seem determined to lead the advance guard. But that they will find it difficult to do for we—The Repealers of New York—are the body who occupy that post of honor, and we mean to keep it.—(Vehement and prolonged applause.)
In the Far West, in the fertile valley of the Mississippi—a valley destined to be the granary of the world—Repeal flourishes as such a cause should on such a soil. There, the brave Col. Richard M. Johnson, (cheers) the hero of the Thames, and late Vice-President of the United States, has over and over again uplifted his influential voice in our behalf. (Renewed cheering.) On the borders of Wisconsin, in the little town of Galena, a first meeting was recently held at which $158 were collected and more promised. And beyond the Mississippi, at Dubuque, in Iowa Territory, among the stalwart backwoodsmen who level our forests and herald civilization, even there the flame of Repeal spread fast and far. (Tremendous cheers) Even the Orangemen of Upper Canada are aroused, and contributing money to aid the cause. The liberal press—the only portion of the press worth having—are with us. Thanks to them for their valuable co-operation. The letters of Thurlow Weed—(deafening shouts)—the letters of Thurlow Weed (renewed cheering) are effecting incalculable good. I recognize in him a staunch and true Repealer. I am diametrically opposed to him in politics—but on this occasion I say Honor and Gratitude to him. (It is difficult to describe the deep and strong feeling here manifested by the entire auditory, and the universal and prolonged cheering which ensued, the ladies waving their handkerchiefs, and hardly had it subsided when a voice cried out, “Three cheers for Thurlow Weed,” and again and again the Hall re-echoed to the shouts) Without poetical exaggeration, continued Mr. Melville, we can proudly proclaim that—
“The war that for a space did fail,
Now trebly thundering swells the gale,
And Ireland is the cry.” 
(Great cheers.)
Thurlow Weed
It is difficult to over-estimate the beneficial effect which the Repeal movement in this country has had across the water. It has strengthened the hands of our friends. It has dismayed our foes. It has spoken to the hearts of the Irish people. They know that if the shadowed day and the evil hour come, they can fall back on us—and so they can—and we’ll sustain them to the last. (This sentiment was received with shouts of the most vehement, almost fierce, enthusiasm.) But not alone here does Ireland reckon her friends by scores and hundreds of thousands. Turn to France—the land of the olive and the vine—glorious, enthusiastic, liberty loving France—the home of the most martial people in Europe—and remember that in every Frenchman, Ireland has a friend. (Deafening applause)

And now, when we turn to Ireland itself, what eye is there that does not sparkle? What bosom that does not heave as we call to mind the million of Repealers on the hill of Tara? (Great cheering.) “Tara of the Kings”; Tara hallowed by a thousand recollections; the seat of Ireland’s early royalty; before the hoof of the Saxon profaned the sod; when Ireland was a nation—(profound silence and a marked sensation in the meeting, while after a pause, the speaker resumed)—she is not one now. But her time is coming. She is going to her place. To avail ourselves of the vivid imagination of John Bunyan—Ireland has just toiled from out the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The sunshine is around her and upon her. She is standing upon the top of the Delectable Mountains, and the shining city is in full view. That shining city is Repeal—the total repeal of the miscalled, tyrannical, and accursed Union between Great Britain and Ireland. Aye, her time is coming. She is going to her place—and with the blessings of Providence we’ll yet live to see her “throned in the senate hall of nations.” (Enthusiastic and continued cheers.) Oh! there is an antique and breathing sublimity about that gathering on Tara Hill, which stamps it as an era, not only in the history of Ireland, but of the world. It is wholly unprecedented. It stands alone. The records of the past cannot produce its parallel. (Loud cheers.) There is no time to linger on it. I would there were. We cannot now speak of its vast physical strength, its moral restraint, and above all, its religious sanction. I cannot, however, pass over in silence the devotion manifested by the peasants to the memory of the hundred brave men who were slaughtered there by British steel in ’98, and whose bodies, thrown together in a trench, were buried on the sacred hill of Tara. The people knelt upon the rude grave of their butchered, martyred countrymen—who
“Vainly brave,
Died for a land they could not save.”
Prayers were offered up for the repose of their souls. Silent, sad and stern there they knelt—and when they rose—the tear drop in the eye—they rose “prayer strengthened for the trial.” (Universal sensation.) At the call of their country, the men who knelt upon that grave would willingly re-fill it. The true patriots—who give their money to the cause of Ireland—would, if need be, still more freely and gladly give her the last drop of their blood. (Wild and terrific cheering.) Well may we exclaim—    
Who fears to speak of ’98,
Who blushes at the name?
Where cowards mock the patriot’s fate,
Who hangs his head for shame?
He’s all a knave, or half a slave
That slights his country thus—
Be a true man, like you, man,
And go Repeal with us.”
(Enthusiastic and continued cheers.) Mr. Melville here said that, having consumed much time, he would no longer trespass on the attention of the audience, but was met with cries of “Go on,” “Go on,” from a thousand throats—one ardent repealer shouted “Speak on—speak forever.” Mr. Melville according resumed—and continued speaking with unabated energy and eloquence for some fifteen minutes longer—until the stirring strains of music announced the coming of the Hibernian Burial Benevolent Society—when proposing three cheers for that charitable and patriotic institution, he took his seat amid the most tumultuous acclamations.

In the course of the evening, Mr. Melville was again called out, and on responding to the call, again met with the same warm reception. His second speech occupied about half an hour. It was fully equal in interest and ability to his previous effort of the same evening, a portion of which we have given above, and elicited throughout, the same marked and enthusiastic commendation.