Monday, January 27, 2014

Links to Reginald Dalton

If you want to pursue Jay Leyda's idea about the influence of Lockhart's hero on Pierre, here is a link to the Internet Archive version of Reginald Dalton.

For something closer to what the Albany Melvilles were reading in 1834:

1823 Reginald Dalton-Volume 1

1823 Reginald Dalton-Volume 2

1823 Reginald Dalton-Volume 3

Sunday, January 26, 2014

1834 Albany Journal of Gansevoort Melville

Update: since September 2016, the volume of The Boston Public Library Quarterly with Gansevoort Melville's 1834 Albany Journal has been accessible courtesy of the great Internet Archive:

A lot of this never made it into The Melville Log, and you can't get it on Google Books. Scans below are from my own copy of the October 1950 issue of The Boston Public Library Quarterly, which I bought through AbeBooks.

Jay Leyda published the fragment as "An Albany Journal by Gansevoort Melville" in The Boston Public Library Quarterly Volume 2, Number. 4 (October 1950): 327-347.

The manuscript back then belonged in the Morewood family.  Where it is now, who knows?








Gansevoort's thoughts on elephants after riding one at the menagerie

February 27 Thursday 1834 
… At 8 o’clock Alex. W. Bradford and myself went to the Menagerie and were very agreeably entertained. I noticed pa[r]ticularly the very easy, quick trot of the one humped camel. A perfectly White Raccoon taken in South Carolina. The Tiger cat or Hunting leopard that the Asiatic princes carry on their saddles when hunting, a most beautiful animal. They had a gigantic saddle for the male elephant which would comfortably accommodate six persons, my friend & self got on it, the elephant kneels down to receive its load, and has a very pleasant gait a kind of long walk. In ancient times they must have been a terrible weapon in the hands of an army, by giving loose rein to Imagination I could almost fancy to myself the army of Pyrrhus King of Epirus when he invaded the Roman Territory, what an awful, fear inspiring sight to see 100 Elephants drawn up in line, each carrying 5 or 6 armed men on his back, and ready to tread down, fairly by mere animal weight to crush the opposing ranks of Roman citizens. It is not strange that when the Romans first saw these huge masses of animated clay, drawn up in battle line against them, that they experienced fear—nor is it strange that they, the elephants, turned the scale of victory in favor of their daring, gallant leader. They feed the elephants hay entirely. The Polar bear experienced the pleasurable feelings arising from the unintermitted discharge for two hours of a stream of cold water about ½ inch in diameter. This I presume is done to keep his coat white, as I presume his majesty would not tolerate the exercise of a brush & manual labor on it.  
After leaving the menagerie Alexander came to my mother’s and remained till ½ after 11 o’clock. He strongly advised me to take up a course of reading, evenings after I come home Kent’s Commentaries, & Blackstone.
The passage above is excerpted from Jay Leyda, "An Albany Journal by Gansevoort Melville" in the Boston Public Library Quarterly 2.4 (October 1950).

Introducing the 1834 journal fragment, Leyda makes a number of suggestive connections, for example:
Look also in Reginald Dalton, particularly in those opening chapters admired by Gansevoort ("The character given of Reginald before he leaves home, and the manner in which he is situated is true to nature, and almost inimitable in description—“), for an artistic ancestor of the character and situation of Herman Melville’s Pierre. It is startling for readers of Pierre to hear Reginald Dalton's heroine strum a guitar and to read of betrayed "Lucy!" [Leyda’s footnote: Lockhart’s novel may even have provided a hint for one of Pierre’s greatest images, in the reference in Vol. I to “Enceladus, jaculator audax.”] Startling, too, to follow Gansevoort's thoughts on seeing the elephants at the Menagerie—forward to the elephants of Moby Dick.

This day 180 years ago

January 26, 1834. A snowy Sunday in Albany, New York. Herman Melville, 14 years old, was where?

Where he was supposed to be, in church.... From the 1834 journal of Herman's older brother Gansevoort Melville:
January 26th Sunday

On rising this m’g was glad to see snow, it is wanted very much for our streets have been perfectly bare for 10 or 12 days. Uncle Herman still remains with us, he is a very pleasant man in a family, more so than any man I am acquainted with. The snow storm prevented the female members of the family from going to church—Uncle Herman, Herman and Allan were all that went. My throat continues inflamed. (Boston Public Library Quarterly, October 1950)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Dix the Cosmopolitan as Confidence-Man

Letter from "C. D. S." to the editor of the New York Sun, as quoted in the Boston Evening Transcript, December 10, 1846:
I hear considerable talk about one John Ross Dix, the “Cosmopolitan” of the Boston Atlas. Nobody can find his whereabouts, and there are several anxious to get a peep at him. I have been told at Wiley & Putnam’s that he is in the habit of stealing indirectly, by borrowing books and pawning them. A large lot of letters for him, addressed to the care of that house, to the proprietors of which he was introduced by a letter from Mr Goodrich, the Peter Parley, I believe, awaiting his appearance. A gentleman of the house has been paying for some books thus made away with by “Cosmopolitan” whose character is considered decidedly bad. This information is for all whom it may concern.
Various analogues and possible sources have been suggested for Frank Goodman in The Confidence-Man. In Melville and Repose, John Bryant considers possible models like Bayard Taylor and Vincent Nolte as depicted by Donald MacLeod in "The History of a Cosmopolite." Hershel Parker has a whole book on Thomas Powell, subtitled "A Confidence-Man Amok Among the Anglo-American Literati."

This Dix might be one to watch. The link between con-artist and cosmopolitan is rarely so explicit as in the cautionary paragraph above from the Boston Evening Transcript.
Update: For more Dix at Melvilliana, see No trust in Jack Ariel; also John Ross Dix notices Typee and Dana mentions Melville (where we find Dr. J. Ross Dix named as an honorary secretary in 1853 at the public award ceremony for John Parker Hale.)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

John Ross Dix writing as "A Cosmopolitan" notices Typee

Or is it John Dix Ross? From "Etchings in England" by "A Cosmopolitan":
Mr. Melville’s Narrative of a Residence in the Marquesas Islands has been exceedingly well received here, and favorably reviewed.  It has, I hear from the author’s brother, been by this time re-printed in America; and this renders any further allusion to it unnecessary.
Boston Daily Atlas, Saturday, April 25, 1846
So apparently the biographer of Chatterton--one of them, anyhow--conversed in London with Gansevoort Melville.  Before returning to his native England in October 1845, John Ross Dix had already won fans as the presumed author of "Pen and Ink Sketches" also written for the Boston Daily Atlas.

Some say Dix's real name was George Spencer Phillips. Hmmmm.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

1845 Parody of Gansevoort Melville on the Oregon Controversy

Here's a contemporary parody of Gansevoort Melville's roaring style, full of western or southwestern flourishes, adapted to one of his favorite themes. From the Illinois Weekly State Journal, November 13, 1845. Available at


We cannot now say from what paper the following elegant extract was taken. It is however, from one of Mr. Melville’s speeches, delivered by that accomplished New York orator in Alabama during the Presidential canvass of 1844. If we are not mistaken, the memorandum, was handed to the original publisher, by Mr. Pickens, of South Carolina, at Mr. M’s own request.

“Whar, I say whar, is the individual who would give up the first foot, the first outside shadow of a foot of the great Oregon. There aint no such individual. Talk about treaty occupations to a country over which the great American Eagle has flown! I scorn treaty occupation; d—n treaty occupation. Who wants a parcel of low flung, ‘outside barbarians’ to go in cahoot with us, and share alike a piece of land that always was, and always will be ours? Nobody. Some people talk as though they were afeered of England. Who’s afeered?

Haven’t we lick’d her twice, and can’t we lick her again? Lick her! Yes; just as easy as a bear can slip down a fresh peeled sapling. Some skeery folks talk about the navy of England, but who cares for the navy. Others say she is mistress of the ocean. Suppose she is—ain’t we the masters of it? Can’t we cut a canal from the Mississippi to the Mammoth cave of Kentuck, turn all the water into it, and dry up the ocean in three weeks! Whar, then, would be the navy? It would be no whar. There never would have been any Atlantic ocean, if it hadn’t been for the Mississippi, nor never will be after we’ve turned the waters of that big drink into the Mammoth cave! When that’s done, you’ll see all their steam-ships and their sail ships they splurge so much about, lying high and dry, floundering like so many turtles left ashore at low tide. That’s the way we’ll fix e’m. Who’s affered?”

Monday, January 13, 2014

Cool Comparison at MEL: Augusta Melville's Essay on Human Achievement, with Gansevoort's Revisions

Not the whole composition but a good chunk of it survives at NYPL among other juvenile compositions by Augusta.  It's great to have this writing by Augusta and revising by Gansevoort online and available for study, fruits of John Bryant's archival research.  Check out Bryant's transcriptions using Juxta Commons and his engaging introduction at the Melville Electronic Library.  Among other things the comparison at MEL shows
"Augusta's idealism and reverence interfused with Gansevoort's ambition, politics, and nationalism." --John Bryant, Gansevoort Revises Augusta
Augusta in a couple of places obviously copied from encyclopedias--and scrupulously indicated her borrowings with quotation marks.

Browsing the Albany newspapers, I see that in July 1837 Augusta Melville appeared near the top of her class at the Albany Female Academy.  Augusta is named second (after Cornelia Van Rensselaer) among young ladies in the Second Department to whom the Board awarded "the highest expression of their approbation" (Albany Argus, Friday, July 21, 1837)

For more of Gansevoort's ambition, politics, and nationalism see his Jackson Jubilee speech or one of the earlier Repeal speeches: like this one or that one.  In Albany Gansevoort himself had received public recognition for his achievements at school, as early as 1831.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

George Catlin's Letters in the NY Commercial Advertiser, 1832-1837

So George Catlin's celebrated Indian Gallery debuted in Herman Melville's back yard on May 15, 1837. Admission 50 cents, children half price. Ok, just about debuted. In Wild West Shows Paul Reddin mentions Utica first.

From Albany Catlin traveled with his exhibit to Troy, whose citizens were no less prompt than their Albany neighbors in honoring Catlin with printed testimonials of thanks.

In Removals Lucy Maddox ventures the reasonable guess that Melville read Catlin's 1841 book, Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of the North American Indians before writing Typee.  Now we know a bit more, that Melville possibly could have seen Catlin's Indian exhibit at Stanwix Hall and heard Catlin's conversational lecture, just like "Z" did.

That admission price of fifty cents might well have seemed prohibitive to all the Melvilles, considering Gansevoort's bankruptcy and the family financial crisis then underway (see Hershel Parker's biography, V1.113).  But the imposing Stanwix Hall was built and owned by Gansevoorts.  Uncle Peter had his law office there at No. 5--where Herman's younger brother Allan was sent in early June. You would think Allan and Herman and Gansevoort could manage to see Catlin's Indians if they wanted to.  And how could they not want to?

Another thing to keep in mind, about those Letters of Catlin.  Maddox cites the 1841 London edition of the book, but Catlin's letters had already appeared in the pages of the New York Commercial Advertiser. And of course other newspapers reprinted Catlin's fascinating contributions from the prairie.

The Smithsonian has an incomplete and hard to read collection of photostatic copies online, dating from July 24, 1832 to September 30, 1837. Has any editor or intrepid sub-sub collected and compared all of Catlin's original letters with the book version?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Lucy Maddox on Catlin and Melville

In Removals: Nineteenth-Century American Literature and the Politics of American Indian Affairs, Lucy Maddox considers the similar views of Herman Melville and George Catlin on the condition and doom of native peoples. For instance, as Maddox observes, both Melville and Catlin critique misuse of the term "savage." Melville like Catlin favorably contrasts natives against "civilized" predators, sympathizing with Marquesans as victims of European oppression to such an extent that, for Maddox:
"Melville's shipboard world is the equivalent of Catlin's American Frontier."
But of course there's a catch. Maddox perceives in both Melville and Catlin an association of "otherness" with presumed inferiority.  That's obviously debatable.  With a different take, Robert Milder counters:
"... the ethical superiority of Western civilization is precisely what Typee questions." 
--Exiled Royalties page 22
Strangely there is no citation in Removals of the passage in Typee where Melville explicitly talks about the "Red race" of North America, i.e. Indians.  Melville links Polynesian islanders and American Indians as victims of violent and widespread destruction:
Let the savages be civilized, but civilize them with benefits, and not with evils; and let heathenism be destroyed, but not by destroying the heathen. The Anglo-Saxon hive have extirpated Paganism from the greater part of the North American continent; but with it they have likewise extirpated the greater portion of the Red race. Civilization is gradually sweeping from the earth the lingering vestiges of Paganism, and at the same time the shrinking forms of its unhappy worshippers.
I'll have to get Maddox's book to be sure about this, but I did search at Amazon using the LOOK INSIDE! feature:
"0 results for extirpated"
Update: now with book in hand, I am able to confirm that Maddox (in the published volume) did pass up the chance to quote Melville's specific comment on the destruction of North American Indians. Melville's comment was removed from chapter 26 in the American revised edition of Typee. Expurgated along with this lament for the future of his Marquesan hosts, which Maddox does quote in her chapter on Melville titled "Writing and Silence":
Ill-fated people! I shudder when I think of the change a few years will produce in their paradisaical abode.
Appealingly, Removals by Maddox offers substantial discussions of Indian and Western themes in Benito Cereno and The Confidence Man.

As for the question of influence, Maddox finds it "likely" that Melville had read in Catlin's Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of the North American Indians before the writing of Typee.

Related posts:

The Anglo-Saxon hive have extirpated Paganism from the greater part of the North American continent; but with it they have likewise extirpated the greater portion of the Red race. Civilization is gradually sweeping from the earth the lingering vestiges of Paganism, and at the same time the shrinking forms of its unhappy worshippers.
The Anglo-Saxon hive have extirpated Paganism from the greater part of the North American continent; but with it they have likewise extirpated the greater portion of the Red race. Civilization is gradually sweeping from the earth the lingering vestiges of Paganism, and at the same time the shrinking forms of its unhappy worshippers.
The Anglo-Saxon hive have extirpated Paganism from the greater part of the North American continent; but with it they have likewise extirpated the greater portion of the Red race. Civilization is gradually sweeping from the earth the lingering vestiges of Paganism, and at the same time the shrinking forms of its unhappy worshippers.
The Anglo-Saxon hive have extirpated Paganism from the greater part of the North American continent; but with it they have likewise extirpated the greater portion of the Red race. Civilization is gradually sweeping from the earth the lingering vestiges of Paganism, and at the same time the shrinking forms of its unhappy worshippers.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

More on George Catlin in Albany, May 1837

Big Elk, Omaha chief “with his tomahawk in his hand, and face painted black, for war”
George Catlin, 1832
Below, early praise for George Catlin's exhibit and lecture at Stanwix Hall, in a letter to the editor of the Albany Evening Journal signed, "Z." The writer urges a larger attendance, four days after Catlin's Indian gallery opened on May 15, 1837.

Albany Evening Journal - May 19, 1837
via GenealogyBank


Mr. EDITOR:— I was not less astonished than delighted at the unique and almost magical entertainment, which was afforded me last evening by Mr. Catlin’s collection of Indian portraits and spirited sketches, illustrative of the manners and customs of the different tribes inhabiting the northern continent, and also by his unrivalled collection of dresses, weapons, &c. many of them rare even among the nations themselves, and of surpassing beauty. The interest attached to these was enhanced by a lecture, or rather conversation, abounding in anecdote and new information relating to this extraordinary people, and it was delivered in simple, unaffected, but eminently descriptive language, which absorbed the attention of his audience from the commencement to the end of his discourse.

There is no exaggeration in saying, that this gentleman has created a name for himself which will descend to the latest posterity—he has labored unceasingly for years, sacrificed the comforts of his home, and perilled his life, to procure the hitherto only perfect history of a people fast passing away. The task has been nobly and faithfully fulfilled. It will hardly be credited after this, that the number of his audience was comparatively few. But soon, I predict, no room will be capacious enough to contain the crowds who will be attracted by his fame. As he himself gratefully acknowledged, it was owing to the fostering patronage of the Albanians, that a Forrest has risen to the pinnacle of his art, and proudly stands without a rival; nor is he a solitary instance of their correct application of genius and talent. Then let it not be said that it is at fault when the far higher claims of science are submitted to their judgment.
 --Albany Evening Journal, Friday, May 19, 1837

Catlin and his Indian Pictures Wow Albany, May-June 1837

Wah-ro-née-sah (The Surrounder), a chief of the Otoe tribe.
George Catlin, 1832.
Seven or eight years ago I found this item on microfilm at the New York State Library. Herman Melville's uncle Peter Gansevoort and 36 other eminent citizens of Albany joined to endorse Catlin's recent lectures and paintings in a public testimonial of thanks. From the Albany Evening Journal, Friday, June 30, 1837. Now also available online in the archives of historical newspapers at

Albany Evening Journal - June 30, 1837
via GenealogyBank


We publish with peculiar satisfaction, the following testimonial of a portion of our citizens, in favor of the exceedingly rich, various and valuable collection of Indian portraits, costumes and curiosities in Mr. Catlin’s gallery.  It is a tribute justly paid to genius and merit.  And it is the more valuable, being a spontaneous offering from those who have seen and admired this splendid collection of paintings—a collection which, in coming ages, when time shall have touched the canvass with its mellowing tints, will give the artist a name among the brightest that adorn at the annals of genius.  Mr. CATLIN goes from this city to New York, where there is taste to appreciate and munificence to reward, an enterprise of genius, enthusiasm and philanthropy, which reflects so much honor on the American character—:


Having attended Mr. Catlin’s Lectures, recently delivered at Stanwix Hall, upon the character, manners, and customs of the various tribes of the North American Indians, we deem it due to him to express the great pleasure and instruction which we have derived from them.  Never before have we heard this interesting subject treated by one equally well qualified to do justice and communicate full and accurate information in relation to it.  Mr. C. having for many years past, been engaged in exploring the far west, visiting all the various Indian tribes, from the most northerly regions to the borders of Texas—and as far west as the Rocky Mountains, has in this manner, aided by his personal address and talent as an artist; been enabled to secure the confidence and good will of the Indians, to obtain portraits from life, of the most interesting individuals in each tribe, to take sketches from nature, of all that was new or remarkable in the productions, animals and scenery of the country, to witness their sports, and their religious and warlike ceremonies, (of all of which he has drawings taken on the spot,) to procure specimens of their finest dresses, ornaments, domestic and warlike implements, and to become better acquainted than any other person whom we have ever before had an opportunity of hearing, with their history, traditions, feelings and opinions.

Interesting as are his remarks, they are rendered more so, by being accompanied in all cases, with the exhibition at the same time of the portraits of the persons or sketches of the scenes or the occurrences he is describing.  His collections of portraits and drawings, several hundred in number, independently of the merit many of them possess as mere works of art, are highly valuable and interesting, as conveying vivid and accurate impressions of the appearance of the country, its inhabitants and most striking objects.

Mr. Catlin possesses, and has both the ability and the disposition to communicate, a fund of knowledge in relation to this subject, which can rarely if ever again be acquired, and it is therefore to be hoped, that the opportunity now presented of obtaining authentic and valuable information upon it, will not be suffered to pass unimproved.
H. RECTOR,                        D. D. BARNARD,
L.F. NEWLANDS,               J. WINNE, JR.,
JOHN MEADS,                   JOHN DAVIS,
P. BULLIONS,                     JOHN S. WALSH,
THOMAS LEE,                    GIDEON HAWLEY,
W. B. HASKIN.                   A. C. FLAGG,
P. H. TEN EYCK,                R. M. MEIGS,
WM. JAMES,                      THURLOW WEED,
                         HERMAN V. HART.
 Albany, June 27, 1837.
Stanwix Hall, Albany c. 1880
Catlin's exhibit opened in May, as reported in the Albany Evening Journal on Saturday, May 13, 1837:
Catlin’s Indian Portraits and Curiosities.—We call the attention of our citizens to this splendid and deeply interesting collection, now open for exhibition at Stanwix Hall. Mr. Catlin has been employed in completing it for more than six years among the Western wilds, and has succeeded to an extent that will richly repay public patronage. The collection contains 200 portraits of individuals from 38 of the wildest of the Western tribes, painted from life, and all certified to be correct likenesses. There is also a series of 40 landscape views on the Upper Missouri, which are most striking, novel and picturesque, together with other paintings, splendid specimens of native costume, &c. &c. The exhibition of the paintings is accompanied with suitable explanations by Mr. C. We advise all to improve this unequalled opportunity of becoming acquainted with the actual appearance, dress, condition, &c. of these savage tribes—the last uncontaminated specimens of their race—who, unchanged by civilization, yet find shelter among the remote fastnesses of the “Far West.”
 Related posts: