Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Scored in Melville's New Testament

These verses are marked in Luke 2, as shown at Melville's Marginalia Online:
9  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. 
10  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 
14  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds / 1833-34, Thomas Cole
The Chrysler Museum of Art
Herman Melville lived in Albany from October 1830 to April 1838, so hey! he could have seen Cole's great new painting The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds when it was on display in City Hall (1834) or at the Albany Museum (1835). From the Albany Argus, Tuesday, March 18, 1834, reprinting early praise in the New York Evening Post (Thursday, March 13, 1834) for Cole's picture which was then on exhibit at the American Academy of Fine Arts: 
COLE has just executed a large picture of the Angel appearing to the shepherds of Bethlehem, which is now exhibiting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Barclay street. The right of the picture represents the towers, houses, and cottages of Bethlehem, grouped on the borders of a lake and drawn with great beauty of disposition and coloring. In the sky directly over the stable which is supposed to shelter the infant Saviour, is seen the miraculous star shedding its cool light over that part of the landscape, and partially reflected in the water below.—On the left of the picture appears the Angel floating on roseate clouds in the midst of a flush of light which seems to proceed from the opened heavens. Three shepherds occupy the foreground, one of whom is prostrate with his face on the earth, another appears just recovering from the awe and amazement excited by the glorious apparition, and a third, a venerable old man, stands leaning on his staff, gazing with an air of mingled curiosity and veneration at the spectacle, and listening to the proclamation of the reign of peace and benevolence uttered by the celestial messenger. This group is happily imagined and well executed. Around are scattered their flocks over a broken rocky country, and in the distance other shepherds with their flocks are all descried. The contrast between the solemnity and repose of the right hand portion of the picture and the splendor of the left has a delightful effect. The work does great credit to the genius and skill of Mr. Cole.—[ N. Y. Evening Post.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Rabelais, Tutivillus, and the Devil's parchment in White-Jacket

"There is a story told somewhere of the Devil taking down the confessions of a woman on a strip of parchment, and being obliged to stretch it longer and longer with his teeth, in order to find room for all the lady had to say. Much thus was it with our Purser's steward, who had to lengthen out his manuscript sick-list, in order to accommodate all the names which were presented to him while we were off the pitch of Cape Horn. What sailors call the "Cape Horn fever," alarmingly prevailed; though it disappeared altogether when we got into the weather, which, as with many other invalids, was solely to be imputed to the wonder-working effects of an entire change of climate." 
Although he chooses not to specify where he found it, Melville probably got the story of the Devil's stretching parchment with his teeth from Rabelais' obscene account of the birth of the giant Gargantua:
Whereupon an old ugly trot in the company, who had the repute of an expert she-physician, and was come from Brisepaille, near to Saint Genou, three score years before, made her so horrible a restrictive and binding medicine, and whereby all her larris, arse-pipes, and conduits were so oppilated, stopped, obstructed, and contracted, that you could hardly have opened and enlarged them with your teeth, which is a terrible thing to think upon; seeing the Devil at the mass at Saint Martin's was puzzled with the like task, when with his teeth he had lengthened out the parchment whereon he wrote the tittle-tattle of two young mangy whores.  --Gargantua and Pantagruel
Footnotes in the 1807 London edition give a note from Du Chat by way of further explication, citing the Collection of Cato's Golden Sayings by Pierre Grosnet and offering the following lines of verse in translation:
“ Two gossips prating in a church,
The dev’l, who stood upon the lurch,
In short-hand, on a parchment roll
Writ down their words; and when the scroll
Would hold no more, (it was so full)
His devilship began to pull
And stretch it with his teeth, which failing,
He knocked his head against the railing.
St. Martin laugh’d, though then at mass,
To see the devil such an ass,
To think a parchment roll, or e’en a skin,
Would hold two women's chat, when they begin."
These Englished verses present the story as a vision of St. Martin and were reprinted as witty indictments of "female loquacity" in several early 19th century miscellanies, sometimes given as "from Rabelais."

Medieval versions often delegate the Devil's role to a subordinate demon named Tutevillus or Tutivillus.  From a modern anthology of Devil Stories, crediting Francis Oscar Mann, "The Vision of Saint Simon of Blewberry":
According to mediaeval tradition the devil has his agents even in the churches. In the administration of hell where the tasks are carefully parcelled out among the thousands of imps, the church has been assigned to the fiend with the poetic name of Tutevillus. It is his duty to attend all services in order to listen to the gossips and to write down every word they say. After death these women are entertained in hell with their own speeches, which this diabolical church clerk has carefully noted down. Tradition has it that one fine Sunday this demon was sitting in a church on a beam, on which he held himself fast by his feet and his tail, right over two village gossips, who chattered so much during the Blessed Mass that he soon filled every corner of the parchment on both sides. Poor Tutevillus worked so hard that the sweat ran in great drops down his brow, and he was ready to sink with exhaustion. But the gossips ceased not to sin with their tongues, and he had no fair parchment left whereon to record their foul words. So having considered for a little while, he grasped one end of the roll with his teeth and seized the other end with his claws and pulled so hard as to stretch the parchment. He tugged and tugged with all his strength, jerking back his head mightily at each tug, and at last giving such a fierce jerk that he suddenly lost his balance and fell head over heels from the beam to the floor of the church.  
Mann's tale of Tutevillus appears in The Devil in a Nunnery, and Other Medieval Tales.

Image Credit: Jeanne de Montbaston
As explained in the online entry for Tutivillus at Feminae: Medieval and Gender Index:
"Tutivillus is very popular on English misericords as he tempts women to gossip and then notes their chatter. Women were first included by Robert Mannyng of Brunne in his Handlyng Synne, and often the list is so long that the scroll has to be stretched. On a misericord in Ludlow parish church the infamous ayle-wife is delivered to Hell with the aid of the scribbling Tutivillus." --Feminae
Image Credit: Great English Churches / Ludlow

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Allan Melvill's New French Goods Store

Image Credit: Tea in a Teacup
In early October 1818 Allan Melvill advertised the latest in "fashionable French goods" for sale at his new store on Pearl Street. From the New York Evening Post:


No. 123 Pearl St. (up stairs) corner of Sloat-lane.
ALLAN MELVILL has imported by the late
arrivals from Havre, 60 cases choice and
fashionable French goods, selected by himself in
France expressly for this market; viz.
Florences, velvets, extra fine crapes and
Tulle laces.
Plain and pearl edged heavy lustring ribbons.
Soft satin and fancy garnitures do.
Rich raw silk, in imitation of real Cashmere
Embroider'd muslin bands, caps sad spensers
Superb embroidered robes for ladies and children
Linen cambrics and handkerchiefs
A large and elegant assortment of laces, footings
and edgings
Mecklin laces and black and white lace veils
Superior Courtray linens, lawns and sheetings
Habit and extra kid gloves
Silk hose; ostrich and fancy feathers
Flowers and wreaths
Ball dresses and trimmings
Rich ornamented combs, plush trimmings
Morocco ridicules with steel chains
Broad lustring ribbons for sashes
And a variety of other new, fancy and staple
articles, direct from Paris.
What in the world are Morocco ridicules? Aha, a ridicule is a reticule, a lady's purse.
1. (Clothing & Fashion) (in the 18th and 19th centuries) a woman's small bag or purse, usually in the form of a pouch with a drawstring and made of net, beading, brocade, etc.
--The Free Dictionary
Reticule / French / early 19th century
Image Credit:
Allan Melvill also promoted his new business establishment with a slightly different ad in the Albany Argus:

Albany Argus, October 27, 1818
At the time Allan and Maria Melvill had two young children, Gansevoort (b. December 6, 1815) and Helen (b. August 4, 1817). Herman their second son was born as everybody knows on August 1, 1819.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

From our legal department: about Gansevoort Melville's autograph on the old Common Pleas Roll

New York, NY about 1842 / Image Credit: AES Online
An 1897 article in the New York Sun lists the name of Herman Melville's older brother Gansevoort among "noteworthy autographs" entered on "sundry loose foolscap sheets containing signatures of the attorneys who had been specially admitted to the bar in the Common Pleas between the years 1823 and 1846." Retired court clerk Nathaniel Jarvis, Jr. is credited with having the loose sheets bound in one volume, eventually to be placed (the writer of the article speculates) with the"Bar Institute."

OK, we need our lawyer now. Would that be the New York City Bar Association, or something like it? Does this volume of the old Common Pleas Roll now exist? Where? Maybe it's in the New York City Department of Records. Historic records including some Common Pleas archives are held at the Division of Old Records at 31 Chambers Street.

The lengthy 1897 tally of "noteworthy" names on the old Common Pleas Roll includes (for 1842, between Aaron Vanderpoel, Sr. and Richard B. Kimball):
"Gansevoort Melville, honored in Tammany Hall."
Wonderful and surprising, really, to find Gansevoort remembered this late as a Tammany orator.

One early and illustrious signature on the Common Pleas roll is "the cramped autograph of Charles Fenno Hoffman, who soon gave up law for literature, and wrote lyrics and songs." Other friends of Herman Melville with autographs entered in the roll are Cornelius Mathews (1837), Theodore E. Tomlinson (remembered as "the young man eloquent of the bar"), and George L. Duyckinck (1846).

The 1897 New York Sun article titled THE COMMON PLEAS ROLL is available via Fulton History:

The same old roll was described by James Wilton Brooks in his 1896  History of the Court of Common Pleas of the City and County of New York:
The original roll of the Court from 1821 to 1848, during which period every aspirant to the bar of the City of New York had first to be admitted to practice in the Common Pleas, shows almost every New York name which was prominent at that period, whether in the legal, social or business world. In those days every would-be lawyer had to pass several examinations before he was admitted to full practice.
He was first admitted to the Common Pleas as attorney at law. After three years of active practice he applied for admittance as counsellor at law to the Supreme Court. He had also to pass a special and supposedly equally thorough examination in the Court of Chancery.  (28-29)
Brooks in his Preface mentions having contributed the May 19, 1895 report for the NY Sun on the "End of the Common Pleas," so possibly he also wrote the 1897 Sun article that mentions Gansevoort Melville. Then again, the Sun writer's considerable knowledge of long-gone lawyers suggests an older writer or accomplice--perhaps A. Oakey Hall.

As reported also in the 1897 NY Sun article, Brooks's 1896 History notes that besides promising to uphold the Constitution, attorneys had to take the anti-duelling oath and swear never to participate “directly or indirectly in any duel.”

Monday, November 24, 2014

J. E. A. Smith's Biographical Sketch of Herman Melville (1891)

1902 postcard with Tennyson's Lady Clara Vere de Vere
Marcus Stone / Image Credit: TuckDB Postcards


was in 1885 when he was for some days a guest at the Homestead Inn, the Pomeroy homestead on East street, which was for a short time converted into a fashionable hotel. While there, he did not show even the changes which time commonly works on men in the number of years which had elapsed. He did not evince the slightest aversion to society but appeared to enjoy the hearty welcome which it gave him; time having enhanced instead of diminishing the local pride in and regard for him. Perhaps his manner was a little more quiet than in the old time; but in general society it had always been quiet. It had eminently that repose which stamps the caste of Vere de Vere, although it covered no heartlessness, and savored nothing of arrogance. The Melvilles were never forgetful of the patrician character of their family, while they never manifested their consciousness of it to the outer world, except by their scrupulous obedience to that grand law which is grandly condensed in the axiom, noblesse oblige, which imperatively demands of all who claim high rank that their acts should always be noble, never ignoble; grandly assuming that each individual recognizes what constitutes nobility of action. --J. E. A. Smith's 1891 Biographical Sketch
According to Smith, Melville's quiet manner resembled the aristocratic "caste of Vere de Vere," but without the heartlessness of Tennyson's cruel and lofty Lady Clara. Smith's sketch was originally published in the Pittsfield Evening Journal. Digitized volume from Harvard is at the Hathi Trust Digital Library...

For edited text and background, get The Early Lives of Melville by Merton M. Sealts, Jr.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

After the Pleasure Party and Hogarth's Madhouse

William Hogarth 019
"And kept I long heaven's watch for this,
Contemning love, for this, even this?
O terrace chill in Northern air,
O reaching ranging tube I placed
Against yon skies, and fable chased
Till, fool, I hailed for sister there
Starred Cassiopea in Golden Chair.
In dream I throned me, nor I saw
In cell the idiot crowned with straw."

--from the poem After the Pleasure Party by Herman Melville 
Repressing her romantic and sexual urges, Melville's passionate astronomer Urania makes herself crazy. Eventually she recognizes her own self delusion, though she does not welcome the truth and will even regret the hard, irreversible experience of disillusionment. In the stanza from the poem "After the Pleasure Party" (first published in the 1891 volume Timoleon) quoted above, the figure of the constellation "Cassiopea in Golden Chair" represents the speaker's obsessive pursuit of astronomy as a grandiose hallucination or "dream" of scientific glory. As Urania now recognizes, the intellectual lure of astronomy kept her from seeing the imprisoned lunatic she herself was becoming.  Cassiopea symbolizes Urania's exalted, stellar vision of herself as royalty, while the "idiot crowned with straw" represents her actual state of self-imposed isolation and mental instability.

Melville's images of astronomy and mental illness in "After the Pleasure Party" strikingly correspond to particular images in William Hogarth's The Madhouse, the eighth and last painting in the series A Rake's Progress.
"The eight paintings in William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress (1733) tell the story of Tom Rakewell, a young man who follows a path of vice and self-destruction after inheriting a fortune from his miserly father. It was Hogarth's second 'modern moral subject', and followed the hugely successful A Harlot's Progress (1730).
The series is principally known through the engravings made by Hogarth from his paintings in 1735." --Sir John Soane's Museum
Also as described at the great Soane Muesum website, inmates of Hogarth's madhouse

"include a tailor, a musician, an astronomer and an archbishop. In the door to one of the cells is a man who thinks he is a king - he is naked and carries a straw crown and sceptre.
Like the real Bedlam, Hogarth's Madhouse is open to the public. Two fashionable ladies have come to observe the poor suffering lunatics as one of the sights of the town."  --Soane Muesum

In Melville's poem, Urania oddly depicts her telescope as a "reaching ranging tube" pointed skyward. In the center of Hogarth's painting, the mad astronomer squints through a homemade tube of a telescope, which looks like a rolled-up newspaper. The mad astronomer of Hogarth's engraving has even been characterized as a "victim of science":
"In the hospital science has claimed two victims. The fellow peering at the ceiling through a roll of paper which he imagines to be a telescope is an astronomer. Behind him the fellow who has drawn the ship, mortar and shot, earth, moon and various geometric patterns is attempting to discover a scheme for calculating longitude."
--Darvill's Rare Prints
Like Melville's Urania, Hogarth's deluded astronomer is not able to see the ludicrous figure in the cell who wears a straw crown and has, again like Urania, proudly throned himself. In manuscript versions of "After the Pleasure Party," discarded alternatives for "idiot" included "mad one"; "elated mad one"; and "loon." (As shown in editorial notes for the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Published Poems, pages 773-4.)

The moral message or "tendency" that Rev. John Trusler finds in Hogarth's Madhouse portraits gets remarkably near to the meaning of Melville's figures of the astronomer's telescope and crowned lunatic in "After the Pleasure Party":
By these expressive figures we are given to understand that such is the misfortune of man, that while, perhaps, the aspiring soul is pursuing some lofty and elevated conception, soaring to an uncommon pitch, and teeming with some grand discovery, the ferment often proves too strong for the feeble brain to support, and lays the whole magazine of notions and images in wild confusion. --Works of William Hogarth (London, 1833)

William Hogarth - A Rake's Progress, Plate 8 (Orig, unfinished)
A Rake's Progress, Plate 8 from The genius of William Hogarth or Hogarth's Graphical Works
William Hogarth via Wikimedia Commons
Melville certainly knew Hogarth's popular works and in Omoo refers specifically to the first of Hogarth's Rake paintings, showing The Heir:
"...a folio volume of Hogarth lay open, with a cocoa-nut shell of some musty preparation capsized among the miscellaneous furniture of the Rake's apartment, where that inconsiderate young gentleman is being measured for a coat."  --Omoo
In Moby-Dick, Melville through Ishmael humorously criticizes the sea monster in Hogarth's Perseus Descending as one of many bad monstrous pictures of whales.

Later: Melville's Wellingborough Redburn owns an "old quarto Hogarth." And in White-Jacket, chapter 90 opens with an elaborate appreciation of the fifth plate from Hogarth's Industry and Idleness series:
"The gallows and the sea refuse nothing," is a very old sea saying; and, among all the wondrous prints of Hogarth, there is none remaining more true at the present day than that dramatic boat-scene, where after consorting with harlots and gambling on tomb-stones, the Idle Apprentice, with the villainous low forehead, is at last represented as being pushed off to sea, with a ship and a gallows in the distance. But Hogarth should have converted the ship's masts themselves into Tyburn-trees, and thus, with the ocean for a background, closed the career of his hero. It would then have had all the dramatic force of the opera of Don Juan, who, after running his impious courses, is swept from our sight in a tornado of devils.  -- White-Jacket, The Manning of Navies
William Hogarth - Industry and Idleness, Plate 5; The Idle 'Prentice turn'd away, and sent to Sea
William Hogarth - Industry and Idleness, Plate 5; The Idle 'Prentice turn'd away, and sent to Sea
From The genius of William Hogarth or Hogarth's Graphical Works via Wikimedia Commons
Related post:

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fakes, Lies, and Forgeries Exhibit at the George Peabody Library - In The News

Baltimore fans of The Confidence-Man will love this. Exhibit opens Sunday at 3pm which now looks like bad timing since the Orioles game at Detroit starts right about then. Fortunately the show runs through Sunday, February 1, 2015:

Fakes, Lies, and Forgeries Exhibit at the George Peabody Library - In The News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sealts and Kier on Elizabeth Shaw Melville

Elizabeth Shaw Melville.jpg
Elizabeth Shaw Melville in 1885
via Wikimedia Commons
"...the desire of my heart has been to see my husband’s books resurrected, as it were, to call forth as they have begun to do, the recognition which their birthright might reasonably claim."  --Elizabeth Shaw Melville
In The Early Lives of Melville, Merton M. Sealts, Jr. highlighted contributions to Melville biography by Arthur Griffin Stedman, among others. Sealts acknowledged the crucial role of Melville's wife in republishing Typee, Omoo, White-Jacket, and Moby-Dick:
"The 1892 edition, published with Stedman's indispensable help, was her primary effort...." --Early Lives, page 78; and Pursuing Melville, page 215

And Sealts recognized additional "examples of Mrs. Melville's realization of every new opportunity to keep her husband's name and fame before a larger audience" such as her supplying "a previously unpublished portrait of Melville for use in the Century Magazine" and assisting her friend Harriette M. Plunkett with materials for Plunkett's article in the Springfield, Massachusetts Sunday Republican (July 1, 1900).

The chapter in Early Lives on "Family Reminiscences" transcribed Elizabeth Shaw Melville's notebook memoranda, but Sealts did not consider her independently of Stedman in the chapter on "Biographers of the Nineties."

With proper credit to Sealts and also the 1969 doctoral dissertation on Elizabeth Shaw Melville by Amy Elizabeth Puett, Kathleen E. Kier supplements and to some extent counterbalances the history of early biographies by focusing on the gracious agency of Melville's "sharp-witted" and "stoic" wife.
My focus here is on Elizabeth, and my purpose is to establish that she herself provided the principal impetus behind the crusade, though she was well aware that a professional man of letters would have to handle the particulars.
Lizzie’s correspondence reveals that even near the end of her life this sharp-witted lady’s first priority was re-establishing Melville’s stature in the literary world.  
--"Elizabeth Shaw Melville and the Stedmans, 1891-1894," Melville Society Extracts 45 (February 1981) page 3.
Here is the conclusion of Kier's article "Elizabeth Shaw Melville and the Stedmans, 1891-1894" in Melville Society Extracts 45 (February 1981) pages 3-8 at page 8:
When Arthur’s personal problems become overwhelming, Lizzie gently lets him off the hook, excusing his absence from her life: “I can understand—as perhaps few can so well, the absorption of a busy literary man.” This last statement, in light of current discussion of the problematic nature of the Melville marriage, says a great deal about the gentle, stoic Elizabeth and her relations with her husband. Whatever storms their fragile marriage had earlier encountered, they were over at the end and mattered little, if at all, to her. That a woman involved for over forty years in the intense and complicated business of writing and publishing books should choose to continue the struggle after her husband’s death, when she might have been grateful for respite, should silence those who have questioned her spirit or her wisdom relating to Melville’s works. --Kathleen E. Kier, Melville Society Extracts 45, page 8
Photo Credit: Maisons d'écrivains

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Banks of The Blue Moselle

What Harry Bolton sang for Wellingborough Redburn "under the lee of the long-boat" on Redburn's return voyage from Liverpool to New York:


When the glow-worm gilds the elfin bower,
That clings round the ruin'd shrine,
Where first we met, where first we lov'd,
And I confess'd me thine ;
'Tis there I fly to meet thee still,
At sound of vesper bell ;
In the starry light of the summer night,
On the banks of the blue Moselle.

If the cares of life should shade my brow,
Yes, yes, in our native bowers,
My lute and harp might best accord,
To tell of happier hours ;
'Tis there I'd soothe thy grief to rest,
Each sigh of sorrow quell :
In the starry light of the summer night,
On the banks of the blue Moselle.
As the sheet indicates, music is by composer George Herbert Rodwell, a.k.a. G. H. Rothwell. Lyrics are by Edward Fitzball.

Images: JScholarship

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Morgan's History of Algiers

Ex Voto of a Naval Battle between a Turkish ship from Alger and a ship of the Order of Malta under Langon 1719.jpg
Ex-Voto of a Naval Battle between a Turkish ship from Alger
and a ship of the Order of Malta under Langon, 1719
via Wikimedia Commons.
But I found ample entertainment in a few choice old authors, whom I stumbled upon in various parts of the ship, among the inferior officers. One was "Morgan's History of Algiers," a famous old quarto, abounding in picturesque narratives of corsairs, captives, dungeons, and sea-fights; and making mention of a cruel old Dey, who, toward the latter part of his life, was so filled with remorse for his cruelties and crimes that he could not stay in bed after four o'clock in the morning, but had to rise in great trepidation and walk off his bad feelings till breakfast time.  --White-Jacket, A Man-of-War Library
Howard Vincent thought Melville had both Morgan's History and another book, Knox's Captivity in Ceylon, "at hand" when writing White-Jacket:
Melville's third paragraph about a couple of "choice old authors, whom I stumbled upon in various parts of the ship" is clearly his improvisation, or use, of two books from which he, now author in 1849, was then reading: Morgan's History of Algiers, and Knox's Captivity in Ceylon. That these were at hand in Melville's New York study is suggested by his adequately accurate quotation from the second work.
--The Tailoring of Melville's White-Jacket, 118
Vincent says "improvisation" to distinguish this section of more original writing from other passages in the same chapter of White-Jacket that Melville adapted from Mercier's Life in a Man-of-War.  John or Joseph Morgan's Complete History of Algiers does look like a potentially useful source-book for remarkable North African scenery and military history, with tales of captivity and piracy on the Barbary coast. For a start, what about that restless, remorseful Dey? Wonder if we can find any trace of him trying to "walk off his bad feelings" in either volume of Morgan's History. If he's there somewhere, it might be fun to compare the original text with Melville's paraphrase. I am guessing "breakfast time" at least is Melville's contribution.

Volume 1 at the Hathi Trust Digital Library:

Here's a link to the second volume: Morgan's Complete History of Algiers, vol. 2

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Old Whale Ship, New GoPro, Rookie in the Rigging

Melville scholar and Whitman College alumnus Robert K. Wallace, climbing the rigging of the whaleship Charles W. Morgan.

Wyn Kelley on Melville and Margins

As you might have guessed by now, we don't really get regular news here on the prairie.

For anybody else who missed the great Unbound symposium back in May 2012, MIT has video and podcasts of, among other exciting events, three different panels on the "Future of the Book."

The first panel of May 4, 2012  included Melville scholar Wyn Kelley who examined "the margin as a creative space for writers, critics, and artists" in her presentation (starting at 42:12), “Leaving an Open Margin: the Example of Herman Melville."

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Marginalia in Melville's lost Seneca (1620 second edition, not 1614?)

Looking for lost notes in a burned-up book? Leyda's grand old Log to the rescue, once again! VOLUME ONE gives the following marginalia in that lost volume of Seneca--the one Carl Haverlin used to have. In 1951 it was still in Haverlin's collection. And hold up, Leyda identifies this book as the second "Newly Inlarged and Corrected" edition of 1620. But as listed in the catalog at Melville's Marginalia Online, Sealts #457 is the 1614 first edition. Which is it? Or which was it? What fun it was to see the 1614 edition at Hathi Trust Digital Library, but maybe that's the wrong one. No luck yet turning up the1620 edition. Bauman Rare Books had the second edition for sale, but unfortunately somebody beat us to it. Anyway, Leyda assigns these markings and comments to the year 1848, reporting them as Melville's additions to very early annotations in this very old book:
On Epistle XIII M comments:
What a glorious confidance of Fame!
But how many have thought thus, yea written thus, & have been belied by the Future.

In the margin of the following page M comments:
Surely, if these things were recorded in Holy Writ, what force they would carry. It is indeed undeniable, that in Seneca & other of the old philosophers, we meet with maxims of actual life, & lessons of practical wisdom which not only equal but exceed any thing in the Scriptures.—But behold the force of example, & its omnipotence over mere precepts however lofty. Seneca's life belied his philosophy; But that of Christ went beyond his own teachings.

In "Of Providence," Chapter III M checks & scores the passage beginning:
There is nothing, saith [Demetrius the Stoick], more vnhappie then that man that hath neuer beene touched with aduersitie: for he hath not had the means to know himselfe.
M's comment: Glorious.

At the beginning of Chapter IV M scores:
Prosperitie falleth into the hands of the common sort, & betideth those of basest spirit: but to yoake and master calamities and mortall terrours, is the propertie of a great man.
M's comment on this has been cut from the page.
--The Melville Log, Volume 1 [285]
Searching at I see Old Erie Street Bookstore in Cleveland is offering the 1620 second edition of Seneca's Works in good condition for $1,950. Hesperia Libros of Zaragoza (Spain) has one for US $1,176.03.
Related post:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Herman Melville's Review of The Red Rover


The Red Rover. By J. Fenimore Cooper. Revised edition. Putnam.

THE sight of the far-famed Red Rover, sailing under the sober-hued muslin wherewith Mr. Putnam equips his lighter sort of craft, begets in us a fastidious feeling touching the propriety of such a binding for such a book. Not that we ostentatiously pretend to any elevated degree of artistic taste in this matter—our remarks are but limited to our egotistical fancies. Egotistically, then, we would have preferred for the "Red Rover" a flaming suit of flame-colored morocco, as evanescently thin and gauze-like as possible, so that the binding might happily correspond with the sanguinary, fugitive title of the book. Still better, perhaps, were it bound in jet black, with a red streak round the borders (pirate fashion); or, upon third thoughts, omit the streak, and substitute a square of blood-colored bunting on the back, imprinted with the title, so that the flag of the "Red Rover" might be congenially flung to the popular breeze, after the buccaneer fashion of Morgan, Black Beard, and other free and easy, daredevil, accomplished gentlemen of the sea.

While, throwing out these cursory suggestions, we gladly acknowledge that the tasteful publisher has attached to the volume a very felicitous touch of the sea superstitions of pirates, in the mysterious cyphers in bookbinders' relievo stamped upon the covers, we joyfully recognise a poetical signification and pictorial shadowing forth of the horse-shoe, which, in all honest and God-fearing piratical vessels, is invariably found nailed to the mast. By force of contrast this clever device reminds us of the sad lack of invention in most of our bookbinders. Books, gentlemen, are a species of men, and introduced to them you circulate in the "very best society" that this world can furnish, without the intolerable infliction of "dressing" to go into it. In your shabbiest coat and easiest slippers you may socially chat, even with the fastidious Earl of Chesterfield; and lounging under a tree, enjoy the divinest intimacy with my late Lord of Verulam. Men, then, that they are—living without vulgarly breathing—never speaking unless spoken to—books should be appropriately apparelled. Their bindings should indicate and distinguish their various characters. A crowd of illustrations press upon us, but we must dismiss them at present, with the simple expression of the hope that our suggestion may not entirely be thrown away.

That we have said thus much concerning the mere outside of the book whose title prefaces this notice, is sufficient evidence of the fact, that at the present day we deem any elaborate criticism of Cooper's Red Rover quite unnecessary, and uncalled for. Long ago, and far inland, we read it in our uncritical days, and enjoyed it as much as thousands of the rising generation will, when supplied with such an entertaining volume in such agreeable type.
--The Literary World 6 (March 16, 1850): 276-7
For more online texts of book reviews by Herman Melville, see

Digital images of Melville's known book reviews in manuscript including "A Thought on Book Binding" are accessible via NYPL Digital Collections.

Critical texts of the five known book reviews by Herman Melville are presented in the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Melville's Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860.

Herman Melville's Review of The Sea Lions by James Fenimore Cooper

Vincennes amongst Ice-bergs
from Charles Wilkes, Narrative, 1845 via The Linda Hall Library


The Sea Lions; or, the Lost Sealers: a Tale of the Antarctic Ocean. By J. Fenimore
Cooper. 2 vols. 12mo. Stringer & Townsend.

AN attractive title, truly. Nor does this last of Cooper‘s novels disappoint the promise held forth on the title-page.

The story opens on the seacoast of Suffolk County, Long Island; and turns mainly upon the mysterious existence of certain wild islands within the Antarctic Circle, whose precise whereabouts is known but to a choice few, and whose latitude and longitude even the author declares he is not at liberty to make known. For this region, impelled by adverse, if not hostile motives, the two vessels, the Sea Lions, in due time sail, under circumstances full of romance.

After encountering a violent gale, described with a force peculiarly Cooper’s, they at last reach the Antarctic seas, finding themselves walled in by “thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice.” Few descriptions of the lonely and the terrible, we imagine, can surpass the grandeur of many of the scenes here depicted. The reader is reminded of the appalling adventures of the United States Exploring Ship in the same part of the world as narrated by Wilkes, and of Scoresby’s Greenland narrative. In these inhospitable regions the hardy crews of the Sea Lions winter—not snugly at anchor under the lee of a Dutch shore, nor baking and browning over the ovens by which the Muscovite warms himself—but jammed in, masoned up, bolted and barred, and almost hermetically sealed by the ice. To keep from freezing into crystal, they are fain to turn part of the vessels into fuel. All this, and much more of a like nature, is told in a style singularly plain, downright, and truthful.

At length, after many narrow escapes from icebergs, ice-isles, fields, and floes of ice, the mariners, at least most of them, make good their return to the North, where the action of the book is crowned by the nuptials of Roswell Gardiner, the hero, and Mary Pratt, the heroine. Roswell we admire for a noble fellow; and Mary we love for a fine example of womanly affection, earnestness, and constancy. Deacon Pratt, her respected father, is a hard-handed, hard-hearted, psalm-singing old man, with a very stretchy conscience; intent upon getting to heaven, and getting money by the same course of conduct, in defiance of the scriptural maxim to the contrary. There is a good deal of wisdom to be gathered from the story of the Deacon.

Then we have one Stimpson, an old Kennebunk boatsteerer, and Professor of Theology, who, wintering on an iceberg, discourses most unctuously upon various dogmas. This honest old worthy may possibly be recognised for an old acquaintance by the readers of Cooper’s novels. But who would have dreamt of his turning up at the South Pole? One of the subordinate parts of the book is the timely conversion of Roswell, the hero, from a too latitudinarian view of Christianity to a more orthodox, and hence a better belief. And as the reader will perceive, the moist, rosy hand of our Mary is the reward of his orthodoxy. Somewhat in the pleasant spirit of the Mahometan, this; who rewards all the believers with a houri.

Upon the whole, we warmly recommend the Sea Lions; and even those who more for fashion’s sake than anything else, have of late joined in decrying our national novelist, will in this last work, perhaps, recognise one of his happiest. 
-- The Literary World 4 (April 28, 1849): 370
For more online texts of book reviews by Herman Melville, see
Critical texts of the five known book reviews by Herman Melville are presented in the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860.

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