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.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"The Western Trail": unsigned review of Thornton's Oregon and California in 1848

More than fifty years ago Norman E. Hoyle proposed that Herman Melville wrote more anonymous book reviews for the New York Literary World than the five we already knew about.  Like one we know for sure Melville reviewed, Parkman's Oregon Trail, four books Melville might also have reviewed concern travel and adventure in the American West.  Evert Duyckinck, then editor of the Literary World, apparently
"considered Melville his Far West specialist," 
according to Hoyle in his unpublished doctoral dissertation, "Melville as a Magazinist" (Duke University, 1960), p. 46.  No external documentary evidence for Melville's authorship (manuscripts, correspondence, diary entries, receipts) has been located for any of the possible Melville reviews identified by Hoyle.  What evidence Hoyle gives is in the form of internal evidence, textual parallels to Melville's known writings-- usually interesting, sometimes persuasive, often not.

Clearly more work needs to be done in the way of investigation and analysis of these unsigned reviews.  Little has been written on the subject since Hoyle's 1960 dissertation.  Here, for its own sake and hopefully to kick-start a fresh discussion in the "Did Melville Write It? department, we present the unsigned review of Thornton's Oregon and California in 1848 from
The Literary World 4 (March 3, 1849): 198-199.

Oregon and California in 1848. By J. Quinn Thornton, late Judge of the Supreme Court of Oregon, and Corresponding Member of the American Institute. 2 vols. 12mo. Harpers.

Mr. Thornton's book may be taken as an interesting addition to the stock of information which we possess of the great western routes of travel in the works of Fremont and Bryant. It covers the details of a numerous expedition from Independence, Mo., to the settlement of Oregon, in which are exhibited in an honest and impartial manner, the various trials, hardships, difficulties overcome, the many disappointments, the few alleviations of the great overland journey—a route of travel which will one day be looked back upon with the wonder and interest with which we now peruse the records of old oriental travel, or follow the disheartening explorations of the African desert. Very soon new and more practicable routes will be open to the emigrants to the Pacific, the ox will be supplanted by the horse on the plank road, or both will be superseded by the flying locomotive. The buffalo will be left to waste away into extinction, hunted solely by the Indian; while forts and depots, with some adequate surrounding cultivation, will supply the necessities of the traveller. When that period arrives, journals such as this before us will be matters of extraordinary interest as studies of the human race in novel situations, which can never again be repeated. It will then be seen how much of heroism, of romance, how many patiently developed virtues, how much latent villany suddenly brought to light, how much chivalry in man, endurance in woman, were acted in this present time, which it is accustomed to call barren and prosaic. There are incidents in this volume touching as any which attended the first emigration of Europeans to this continent; woes as afflictive as ever darkened the eyes of Virginia or New England colonists; deeds of manhood of as much nerve, sufferings as patiently borne. A man who would learn human nature rapidly, who would see it developed under the most vigorous forcing system which can be applied to that fertile soil, should join the party in an overland journey to the Pacific; or failing to do that, he should sit down quietly by his fireside to the reading of some such narrative as that of Judge Thornton. A sea voyage used to be thought a good opportunity for the study of character, but there are few sea voyages nowadays at all to be compared for this purpose to the voyage of the Prairie and the Desert. Our author gives it the preference even, though his taste for temperance has something to do with the choice, to wine—the old unmasker of truth. He found cold and hunger brought out scoundrelism, as fire applied to sympathetic ink; and quotes with naivete the aphorism of an old sailor of his party, named Grinnel, who remarked, "that if a man was a dog, and should enter upon the road, it would be impossible for him to conceal it, since circumstances would be sure to occur every day that would be certain to cause him to bark." Yet this was but one side of the picture. Doubtless there were some touches of the angelic as well as the diabolic nature in the camp. Nay, the traits of kindness and feeling are numerous. If there were groans there were also jests; good humor laughed twice for every sigh. There were springs even in the desert.
      A singular picture, however, of life, is that overland journey in its best conditions. The motley companies, hundreds in number, bring with them the full material for the acting of the old drama, childhood, youth, womanhood, and manhood, fresh with hope, or distracted by the thousand vexations of a disappointed career. The oddly-assorted body forms itself into a state, a kind of provisional government is adopted, there is a species of military organization, and captains lead on the emigrant squadrons. Here there is a trial of dispositions, but the primary difficulties are softened by the ease of the opening portions of the journey. There is considerable gaiety in the camp. Marriages even take place, and something of the etiquette of ball-rooms is transferred to the tent and carpet of the prairie. There are births too, but as the train goes on, it may be tracked by subsequent travellers, who note the graves, with their rude memorials, by the road side. The cattle, in this moving panorama, are not the least observable. The ox developes his patient virtues, and the kind-hearted emigrant looks upon him as his friend,—perhaps, when the last blade of grass is left behind, to shed tears as he leaves him to die in the desert.

     The incidents which we have glanced at in the aggregate will be found in Mr. Thornton's volumes related in a simple unaffected manner, though with little of the art of the trained writer. Yet upon the whole we would not have the book altered, though it were to pass through the hands of the most accomplished magazinist. Narratives of this kind are valuable, as they bear the authentic marks of the author's personality. We know, then, how to appreciate his facts—but let the same facts be related by a Captain Marryatt, or other adept in book-making, and we lose a proper guide to their valuation. There is sufficient personality thus infused into Mr. Thornton's story to put us in communication with the man. We learn his tastes and education; we know the books he has read, and even the sermons which he has listened to. We see the miscellaneous education, the good heart and clear head of the best specimen of the western Colonist—the Judge, Governor, or Member of Congress of the new settlement. He has not the literary tastes and condensation of the educated circles of the metropolis; on the contrary, he is somewhat diffuse, but the man is there, simple, sagacious, and in earnest—and the man, on such a spot, is more essential than the author.

     We cannot well detach any separate passages from the most remarkable narratives in these volumes, of the sufferings of two parties in the deserts of Oregon, or in the snow-covered regions of California. They exhibit a picture of privation rarely equalled even in the most harrowing narrative of shipwreck and famine. The story of the Mountain Camp may be compared with the shipwreck of the Medusa.

     From the other parts of the volume we make a few extracts. And first, for a specimen of the author's good humor :—
"At this place the first open and very marked attempt was made to seize upon my property, and leave myself and wife in the wilderness, exposed to the tender mercies of the savages. David came to my wagon, with one Rice Dunbar, and coolly informed me that he intended to take from me two ox-yokes and their chains. He might have added —and two yoke of oxen, for the effect of the wickedness contemplated would have been to deprive me of that number. This would have left me helpless. Ere I could believe my senses, he had already carried away one yoke and chain.
" I now saw that the spirit I had for a long time observed must be met and promptly subdued, if I was not prepared to make up my mind to a very romantic death for Mrs. Thornton and myself in the wilderness. Having never read any works of fiction, except the story of Jack the Giant-killer, I had not by novel reading caught that spirit of romance under the influence of which I might have aspired to become the hero of some lachrymose story. I therefore determined that when this redoubtable Dutchman returned for the second yoke and chain, I would make an example of him for thus attempting by force to take away my property.
" He took up the second yoke, and loaded himself with it and the chain; and I took up a musket, which, though not loaded, had a bayonet upon it, and immediately came down upon him in a solid body, with fixed bayonet; charging with great spirit, in double quick time, I deployed, extended my flanks, and executed, with great skill and precision, a number of most masterly military manoeuvres; and, in fact, did everything but cut up myself into divisions, until I so cut up the enemy, that he dropped my property. Very .soon after this I succeeded in turning first his left flank, and then his right; when he commenced retreating, panic-struck and in great precipitation, disorder, and confusion, and so rapidly that his coat tail stuck out in very ludicrous style. I now concentrated all my forces for a full, vigorous, and final charge upon the enemy's rear; and accordingly bore down upon him with much enthusiasm, and was giving him great tribulation—indeed doing the most appalling execution—when Rice Dunbar and Albert reinforced him, and enabled him to make good his retreat, without further loss, behind a wagon; where he took post, shaking most terribly in his shoes, and crying, 'Plut and tunder.'  I then sprang into my wagon and got my six-shooter, and by making a forced march was soon before the enemy's works, which I forthwith stormed. I then marched him out, and marched him before me to the first yoke and chain taken by him, which, with great docility, he took up and carried back to my wagon."
The introduction of Capt. Applegate, whose misrepresentations of a route to Oregon were the cause of great suffering, is quaint and effective:—
"I never could learn how it was that Applegate obtained the title of' 'captain,' unless it was in some such way as that to which I once knew a 'major' resort for the purpose of obtaining a supply of linen. Captein comes from the Latin caput, a head.  But Captain Applegate has not enough head to make it appropriate to bestow upon him so great a title for the sake of a head which is not sufficiently large to be taken for the primitive of such a derivative."
As a specimen of the author's narrative, the description of a scene may be taken, which has also employed the pen of Mr. Bryant, in his "What I saw in California":—
"The Rev. Mr. Cornwall had made an appointment to preach at an encampment of emigrants, about one mile and a half distant; and we were about to set off, when a messenger arrived, desiring me to go over for the purpose of amputating a boy's leg, that had been fractured below the knee, and also above it. We went over, and upon examination of the limb, gangrene was found to have commenced about the wound made below the knee, by a protrusion of the fractured bone. The friends of the lad had sent back to the California company for Mr. Edwin Bryant, who had, I believe, in the early part of his life, studied medicine, and perhaps anatomy and surgery, but had never practised professionally. I had read books upon these subjects, for the sake of general information, and in connexion with medical jurisprudence, which constituted part of my studies as a lawyer. But I had not so much as seen a limb amputated. I declined amputating the limb, until Mr. Bryant should have had time to come up. There was a cattle-driver in camp, who had been several years a servant in a French hospital, and had frequently been present when limbs were taken off. He commenced making preparations for the work. Butcher knives and whetstones were soon in requisition. There was not a surgical instrument of any kind in either camp. Laudanum was given to the boy repeatedly without any effect, and he was taken from the wagon, and his body so bound to a shoe-box that his limbs did not rest upon it. The operator had just commenced operation immediately above the lower fracture, that is to say, about three inches below the knee, although I advised him to take it off above the upper fracture. About this time Mr. Bryant arrived, but declined to operate. He, however, conversed with me,and concurred with me in the opinion that it should be amputated, if at all, above the upper fracture. But our surgeon proceeded, until he had completed the incision in the flesh to the bone, all the way round, when a very offensive matter having followed the knife, my worst fears were realized, and the operator was at length convinced. A tourniquet was then applied above the upper fracture, and the operation was renewed. The boy bore his sufferings with the most wonderful fortitude and heroism. He seemed scarcely to move a muscle. A deathlike paleness would sometimes cover his face, and there cannot be a doubt that the pain was most intense; but, instead of groaning, he would use some word of encouragement to the almost shrinking operator, or some expression of comfort to his afflicted friends. It was only when the person who held the phial of the spirits of camphor to his nostrils, chanced to remove it, in his eagerness to watch the operation, that the boy manifested any extraordinary degree of suffering. Then his lips would become bloodless, and he would exclaim, while he eagerly sought with his hands to restore the phial, 'Oh ! no, oh! no, let me have it to my nose.'
"The limb was at length severed, the arteries were secured, and the flap brought down, in one hour and forty-five minutes from the time the incision was made in the lower part of the limb. I had frequently been compelled to retire from the painful and most afflictive spectacle. But at the time when the whole work was completed, I was present, and observing that he was much exhausted, I asked him in a soothing tone and manner if he was suffering much pain. He clasped his hands, and partially raising them, exclaimed, 'O, yes, I am suffering. I am suffering—so much.'  His lips quivered, his eyeballs gradually rolled back, and his spirit was gone.
"Preaching was omitted in consequence of the time being thus occupied. I then returned to our own encampment with Mr. Cornwall, taking with me Mr. Bryant, to receive such hospitalities as an emigrant might be able to offer. Mrs. Thornton having learned that Mr. Bryant had arrived at the camp of our neighbors upon the plain, and judging from the relations of friendship existing between us that I would bring him home with me, and anxious, moreover, to do whatever she believed would please me and afford me an agreeable surprise, had prepared an excellent supper of stewed bison and antelope flesh, which she had arranged upon a neat white cloth, spread in the open air upon a grass plot, and around which she had contrived to gather, I know not how, many little I kings to please tho fancy.
"All the company had, without much ceremony, been invited to attend a wedding, at the tent of Mr. Lard, at 9 o'clock that evening. We accordingly gathered round the altar, where we found the Rev. J. A. Cornwall ready to act as officiating priest, and Miss Lard and her affianced, Mootrey by name, as victims to be offered upon it. The bride was arrayed in a very decent but gay-looking dress. I was not sufficiently near to determine what were the materials of which it was made. The groom had on his best, and something more. Some of the young women were dressed with a tolerable degree of taste and even elegance. There were no long beards, dirty hands, begrimed faces, soiled linen, or ragged pantaloons; and all looked as happy as the occasion demanded. Indeed, at that very time there were four other persons present who expected to be married in a few days.
"I cannot say that I much approve of a woman marrying upon the road. It looks so much like making a sort of a hop, skip, and jump into matrimony, without knowing what her feet will come down upon, or whether they may not be wounded and bruised.
"The little sufferer before referred to, was buried in the night, and the silent and sad procession made a strange and affecting contrast, as it proceeded slowly, by the light of torches, to that lonely grave so hastily dug in the wilderness.
"Strange as it may seem, that same evening another interesting event transpired—the birth of a child, in another company, that was encamped upon the plain: so that the great epochs of life were all represented at nearly the same period of time."

     We must here pause. We have now several books of value on the first explorations and settlements of the Pacific territories. A new era is now opened, by the discovery of the gold mines, which will afford a fruitful source of matters of interest to future authors. Already the publishers begin to trench on their field—the present volumes, with several others of the kind recently published, having the accounts of Mason, Larkins, &c, appended—for the obvious purpose of introducing the magic word "gold" on the title page. These documents are useful, but we would humbly suggest that they have now been printed often enough, and that any repetition of them will be injurious to the publishers. They are to be found added to the new edition of Bryant, to Lieut. Revere's "Tour of Duty," to Thornton's Oregon, besides being at hand in various cheap compilations. We would add, too, that greater care and specialty in the maps published, would be of advantage to the reader. We look in vain on Colton's embroidered map, which accompanies these volumes, for some of the particular localities mentioned by Thornton.  --The Literary World, Volume 4 - March 3, 1849

Related posts:
  • Mr. Parkman's Tour - TEXT

speaking a whaler, homeward bound with a full cargo in Ruschenberger's 1848 journal and Moby-Dick

The Pequod meets the Bachelor (Frank Stella, 1988)
Remember the enviable Bachelor? Loaded with oil and homeward bound, The Bachelor is the happy whaler the depressed Pequod meets and "speaks" in chapter 115 of Moby-Dick:
And jolly enough were the sights and the sounds that came bearing down before the wind, some few weeks after Ahab's harpoon had been welded.

It was a Nantucket ship, the Bachelor, which had just wedged in her last cask of oil, and bolted down her bursting hatches; and now, in glad holiday apparel, was joyously, though somewhat vain-gloriously, sailing round among the widely-separated ships on the ground, previous to pointing her prow for home.

The three men at her mast-head wore long streamers of narrow red bunting at their hats; from the stern, a whale-boat was suspended, bottom down; and hanging captive from the bowsprit was seen the long lower jaw of the last whale they had slain. Signals, ensigns, and jacks of all colors were flying from her rigging, on every side. Sideways lashed in each of her three basketed tops were two barrels of sperm; above which, in her top-mast cross-trees, you saw slender breakers of the same precious fluid; and nailed to her main truck was a brazen lamp. 
Several descriptive details, highlighted above, of Melville's imagined encounter between the outward bound Pequod and homeward bound Bachelor are also found in the meeting between the outward bound sloop-of-war Plymouth and homeward bound whaler Aeronaut, as described in William S. W. Ruschenberger's 1848 journal.

Slightly revised, Ruschenberger's report of meeting the triumphant Aeronaut was printed in the June 1852 installment of "Notes and Commentaries on a Voyage to China," Southern Literary Messenger 16 (June 1852): 327. Transcribed below, the encounter with the Aeronaut as Ruschenberger originally described it in his manuscript journal entry for April 29, 1848:
U. S. Ship Plymouth at Sea April 29th 1848.  Latitude 18.15 South - Longitude 35° 49' West. Air 84° F.
A great event has happened to day in our cruise; nothing less than the first despatches from the ship since losing sight of the United States having been this day put on board the whaling barque "Æronaut" or "Argonaut," bound direct to New London, Ct. Our [?illegible word] were closed before twelve o'clock, and therefore, the latitude and longitude were guessed at. My Mary had directed to her a packet of three ounces, the postage on which will be some 68 cents; it will afford her [? illegible word or figure] months of reading, for it contains eleven sheets of diary, besides four or five desultory sheets on private matters.
When will the Aeronaut, [marginal note with carat: "Mystic"] reach New London? She has been now five months without seeing the land, has been absent thirty months, and has a full cargo of oil. She should be at her port at the end of 45 days, and you should get my packet about the 15th of June. And by the 1st of July, you will probably receive this also.
It was pleasant to see the excitement produced by the speaking this whaler, all sea-worn as she seemed; her sails thin and white; her bunting streaming bright, and the hull well sunk in the sea, indicating that she was full. A whale's jaw bones decorated the stern, and her whale-boats rested bottom upwards, between the masts, and at her main mast-head she wore a large black ball, one foot in diameter, fixed on a staff, which, it was said by [old? Fisher?], was a signal of triumph to other whalers that her cargo was complete.
When her commander answered to our hail, "bound to New London", and signified that she would receive a letter-bag on board, every body rushed to seal up their packets. And we all followed the boat with our eyes as she bore the little letter-bag (a very short distance to be sure) on its way to our home. I wished myself in the shape of a letter. I cannot tell how it was, that I at first doubted whether I would send my numerous sheets, & therefore, at the last moment, wrote two words in a sheet and directed it to you. Then, Gedney told Lt. Hunter who was sent in the boat, if the vessel was not bound directly home, to bring back the bag; I sent forward all at the last instant. How pleased you will be, I am sure, when the packet first reaches your hand, if it arrive as I hope before any thing sent forward from Rio.
I wished myself in the shape of a letter. As Ruschenberger tells it, the Plymouth crew intently and emotionally watched the boat transporting their letters to the homeward bound whaler. A poignant moment, the feeling of which Melville replicates in Moby-Dick at the close of chapter 115, "The Pequod Meets the Bachelor":
and so the two vessels parted; the crew of the Pequod looking with grave, lingering glances towards the receding Bachelor...
The business of the letter-bag in Ruschenberger's 1848 manuscript journal is hugely important for an understanding of how Herman Melville might possibly have got hold of said manuscript, or chunks of it, early enough to make use of during the writing of White-Jacket (1850). On apparent borrowings from Ruschenberger's 1848 journal in Melville's White-Jacket, check out earlier Melvilliana posts on the belaying pin incident and the flogging of John and Peter.

Ruschenberger's service aboard the USS Plymouth ended sometime in 1849; exactly when I am not sure yet, but certainly he was back home in Philadelphia by May 24, 1849. That's before Melville started writing White-Jacket, but then again, we need to allow for the time it takes to hand-write and distribute a fair copy.

But here's the great thing about Ruschenberger's journal entry, transcribed above. Ruschenberger as we learn "mailed" his first packet home on April 29, 1848 via the whaler Aeronaut. That first shipment contained eleven diary pages and more, including Ruschenberger's dramatic narratives about the belaying pin incident and flogging of John and Peter. Ruschnberger hopefully calculated this first installment would reach his wife Mary by June 15, 1848. He planned to send more pages from Rio in a few weeks, and, again hopefully, anticipated his wife's receipt of those (including the story of the encounter with the Aeronaut) in July 1848.

Thus,  even allowing for delays, Mary Ruschenberger would have received early parts of her husband's journal, and could have begun making legible copies as instructed, by September or October 1848. Without question, Melville wrote White-Jacket fast, "within two months, July and August 1849."  Voila! Plenty of time for Melville to have procured a copy in the early months of 1849, even before May 1849 or so when he started writing Redburn.

This feat of copying to which the manuscript journal itself physically testifies (count the instances of the word "copied" in the top margins) strikes me as remarkable if not miraculous, and existentially ironic.

Think of it! Mary B. Wister Ruschenberger, in the last months of 1848 or early in 1849, copying, or having others copy her husband Willie's manuscript journal, written at sea--already working away while Willie was sailing home.

Related posts: 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Flogging John and Peter in Ruschenberger's 1848 journal and Melville's White-Jacket

 Related posts at melvilliana: 

Now when you want to fight again, apply to me. -- Tom Gedney
I allow no man to fight on board here but myself.  I do the fighting. -- Captain Claret
 Earlier posts alerted Melville fans to
Today I want to transcribe another dramatic passage from Ruschenberger's 1848 journal, a flogging scene, which appears to have been used by Melville while writing White-Jacket (1850).

As mentioned previously, the belaying pin incident was censored and does not appear in the edited version of Ruschenberger's journal as printed in the April and May 1852 numbers of the Southern Literary Messenger.  But Ruschenberger's flogging narrative was published (with revisions and interpolations) in the May 1852 installment of "Notes and Commentaries on a Voyage to China," Southern Literary Messenger 16 (May 1852): 262-263.

Here is the scene as originally described by WSW Ruschenberger in his manuscript journal entry for April 12, 1848:
Wednesday April 12.  [18]48 Lat. 6. 17' N.  Long. 37. 58' W.  Therm - 81.
I am sorry to note that I am unwell today; but I hope that my indisposition will not pass over one or two days. I am really suffering from the heat, which you know my dear Mary is novel in me. You see we are advancing by the difference in the latitude and longitude between yesterday and to day. The crew has been exercised at "general quarters." Again, "all hands" were called to witness punishment. The subjects were negroes; two ward-room servants, one a stout athlete, remarkable for his strength, the other smaller, slender and in no respect above mediocrity in corporeal power. Peter, the smaller one, had been drawn into a dispute with John, the stout black, who struck Peter a blow, which was promptly returned—in short a fight came off between the two. John had been charged with stealing a pair of boots from one of the officers (or passenger Mr. Gibbs) and with selling them to one of the crew. The charge was admitted by the accused, who had admitted on a former occasion, he had stolen raisins &c. Several articles had been missed from the ward-room, & for this reason, the first Lt. suggested that John "should be made an example of."
When all hands were assembled, the two negroes were made to take off their shirts, and a cat o' nine tails was put in the hand of each. No reason for this proceeding was given to the assembled crew. The Capt. said "Now, you wanted to fight; go to work and lick each other." The big negro John used his cat pretty sharply, but Peter did not return the blows at first.  The Capt. cried, "Why the devil don't you use your cat," & then Peter returned the blows irregularly and without much effect. John held Peter's cat in one had and flogged him with the other. After two or three rounds to the great amusement of the spectators, who testified their approbation in shouts of laughter, the Capt. said "That will do: Now when you want to fight again, apply to me." — A grating was next placed on the deck, and John was seized up in the usual way, and the boatswain's mate struck him over the bare back twelve blows with the cat o' nine tails. Prior to the infliction the Capt. said "I suppose you know what you are to be licked for"— John replied affirmatively "Go on with him, Boatswain's mate." This is a specimen of the brutal, bestial, silly manner of controlling men. The scene was one of amusement; as much as a bull-bait to a Spanish audience. And the very worst passions were appealed to.  I did hope to find more common sense, & higher notions of justice in the popular "Tom Gedney" — heaven save us. 
Peter Peppinger, poor fellow, got the worst of the fight, and the worst in the punishment, although clearly the least culpable of the two. His sense of right and wrong is violated by the act of a man whom he is bound to regard as a superior in mind, morals, power, &c. If he thinks at all, it must be to regard contemptuously the commanding officer's notion of propriety. John, too, must think that however just it might be to flog him for stealing the boots, it was not fair to give him an opportunity to flog Peter in public, after he had already beaten him in private.
The flogging incident transcribed above from WSW Ruschenberger's 1848 journal seems to have supplied important details in Melville's treatment in White-Jacket of a flogging incident on board The Neversink. Below, compare select portions from Melville's account in chapter 33 ("A Flogging") of White-Jacket:
If You begin the day with a laugh, you may, nevertheless, end it with a sob and a sigh.
Among the many who were exceedingly diverted with the scene between the Down Easter and the lieutenant, none laughed more heartily than John, Peter, Mark, and Antone—four sailors of the starboard watch. The same evening these four found themselves prisoners in the 'brig,' with a sentry standing over them.
They were charged with violating a well-known law of the ship— having been engaged in one of those tangled, general fights sometimes occurring among sailors. They had nothing to anticipate but a flogging, at the captain's pleasure.
Toward evening of the next day, they were startled by the dread summons of the boatswain and his mates at the principal hatchway—a summons that ever sends a shudder through every manly heart in a frigate:  'All hands witness punishment, ahoy!'
* * *
At the summons the crew crowded round the mainmast; multitudes eager to obtain a good place on the booms, to overlook the scene; many laughing and chatting, others canvassing the case of the culprits; some maintaining sad, anxious countenances, or carrying a suppressed indignation in their eyes; a few purposely keeping behind to avoid looking on; in short, among five hundred men there was every possible shade of character.
* * *
'You John, you Peter, you Mark, you Antone,' said the captain, 'were yesterday found fighting on the gun-deck. Have you anything to say?'
* * *
John—a brutal bully, who, it seems, was the real author of the disturbance—was about entering into long extenuation, when he was cut short by being made to confess, irrespective of circumstances, that he had been in the fray.
* * *
Peter declared that he had been struck twice before he had returned a blow. 'No matter,' said the captain, 'you struck at last, instead of reporting the case to an officer. I allow no man to fight on board here but myself.  I do the fighting.'
'Now, men,'he added, 'you all admit the charge; you know the penalty. Strip! Quarter-masters, are the gratings rigged?'
 * * *
The fourth and last was Peter, the mizen-top lad. He had often boasted that he had never been degraded at the gangway. The day before his cheek had worn its usual red, but now no ghost was whiter. As he was being secured to the gratings, and the shudderings and creepings of his dazzlingly white back were revealed, he turned round his head imploringly; but his weeping entreaties and vows of contrition were of no avail. 'I would not forgive God Almighty!' cried the captain. The fourth boatswain's mate advanced, and at the first blow the boy, shouting 'My God! Oh! my God!' writhed and leaped so as to displace the gratings, and scatter the nine tails of the scourge all over his person. At the next blow he howled, leaped, and raged in unendurable torture.
'What are you stopping for, boatswain's mate?' cried the captain. 'Lay on!' and the whole dozen was applied.
'I don't care what happens to me now!' wept Peter, going among the crew, with blood-shot eyes, as he put on his shirt. 'I have been flogged once, and they may do it again if they will. Let them look out for me now!'
'Pipe down!' cried the captain; and the crew slowly dispersed.
Obviously Melville's treatment is far more elaborate. Melville powerfully renders the cruelty of corporal punishment--so powerfully that his passionate indictment in White-Jacket was widely credited with helping to bring about the abolition of flogging in the navy. As in the narrative of the belaying pin incident, again we see a doubling of Ruschenberger's details. Two belaying pins for Ruschenberger's one. Not two, but four flogged men, adding Mark and Antone to the company of Ruschenberger's John and Peter.

Fighting is the grounds for punishment in both narratives. Fighting is also the punishment for fighting in Ruschenberger's account, as captain Thomas R. Gedney makes the offenders fight each other again before having them flogged.

Melville makes sailors of Ruschenberger's wardroom servants. Fascinatingly, however, the basic characters and roles of John and Peter as described by Ruschenberger persist throughout Melville's embellishment. Just as in Ruschenberger's narrative, John is portrayed as the stronger man, and the instigator of the trouble.  Melville goes ahead and calls John the "bully" he seems in Ruschenberger's account. Also as in Ruschenberger's narrative, Peter suffers the most, as if Melville took to heart Ruschenberger's remark that
"Peter Peppinger, poor fellow, got the worst of the fight, and the worst in the punishment, although clearly the least culpable of the two."
Ruschenberger emphasizes the amusement of the assembled sailors, calling attention to their laughter. The audience's unfeeling laughter compounds the brutality of the scene. But where Ruschenberger perceives only laughter and amusement, Melville takes pains to describe the variety of human responses to the flogging. As if offended by Ruschenberger's exclusive focus on the brutal laughter of common sailors, Melville makes a point of noticing far different expressions, indicative of sadness, anxiety, and suppressed outrage:
"...among five hundred men there was every possible shade of character."  

-- White-Jacket chapter 33 

As elsewhere in White-Jacket, Melville's long elaborate description of a flogging borrows heavily from Samuel Leech's book Thirty Years from Home, as Howard P. Vincent shows in The Tailoring of Melville's White-Jacket (see especially pages 90-97). The passage in Leech from which Melville borrowed describes the punishment of one unnamed "poor fellow" who was flogged for "the very sailor-like offence of getting drunk."  (Vincent, 90).

Leech gives the gruesome details that Ruschenberger leaves out. Melville appropriated many of these details as well as the outrage, the indignation driving Leech's indictment of "the brutal practice of flogging." (Vincent, 90).

But Leech lacks John and Peter, and lacks the backstory of fighting which Ruschenberger seems to have provided Melville, along with the complicated portrait of a loud and lame, intractable and troubled captain, the still popular Tom Gedney.