Saturday, June 14, 2014

Delmonico's, corner of 26th Street and Fifth Avenue

Here's another photograph of Delmonico's, site of the Saturday Night Club dinner for authors on April 28, 1888. Melville was invited but did not walk over from his house (two blocks away) to join the "ten literary gentlemen" who actually showed up for the party.  As published in The Illustrated American on February 18, 1893, over the following caption:
The restaurant is facing the avenue, the café is on the corner of Twenty-sixth street and Broadway, and the ball-room occupies the floor above the restaurant and café. The Worth monument and the Fifth Avenue Hotel are to the extreme left.
This is the Delmonico's that operated at 212 Fifth Ave at 26th Street, across from Madison Square, from September 1876 until April 1899. In manuscript, Melville's poem At the Hostelry is alternatively titled
A Symposium of Old Masters at Delmonico's.
Notice the William Jenkins Worth monument which Melville mentions in a sketch of Jack Gentian, also from the posthumously published Burgundy Club material.

For interesting background on Melville and club life in NYC, check out William Dillingham's book Melville and His Circle: The Last Years (12-15).

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ishmael's codpiece

".... nowadays our sex carries the purse."
"Ha, ha!" -- Mardi: and A Voyage Thither
Man these hoes couldn't ball with a testicle... Nicki Minaj, The Boys
It is important, however, that our balls be covered with leather, good & tough, that will stand banging & all "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." 
-- Herman Melville, August 24, 1851 letter to Samuel H. Savage; quoted on Fragments from a Writing Desk
Now, I consider that the phrenologists have omitted an important thing in not pushing their investigations from the cerebellum through the spinal canal. For I believe that much of a man's character will be found betokened in his backbone. I would rather feel your spine than your skull, whoever you are. A thin joist of a spine never yet upheld a full and noble soul. I rejoice in my spine, as in the firm audacious staff of that flag which I fling half out to the world. -- Moby-Dick, chapter 80 The Nut
"Firm audacious staff"? That's what she said! 

This being Moby-Dick and all, with so much ado about a sperm whale, you can't miss the phallic suggestiveness of "firm audacious staff." But what to make of Ishmael's figurative flag and its "half out" exposure? Harrison Hayford's long puzzlement lingers in a footnote to the Norton Critical Edition:
The Melvilles took good posture seriously, and even in his last years observers commented on Melville’s erect strides, but “half out” has not been satisfactorily explicated and may not be just what he wrote.
The puzzlement (if not the footnote) I attribute to Hayford only after stealing a glimpse of his communication to Stanton Garner, the part frankly requesting Garner's help on this very point:
"I’ve always been bothered by ‘half out’—what does that mean? As a flag expert… what do you make of it? Is some flag usage or jargon involved? Why not, as with Tashtego in Ch. 135: ‘the red flag… streamed itself straight out from him’? (And similar passages elsewhere.)”
--as quoted by George Cotkin in Dive Deeper: Journeys with Moby-Dick, p123
How Garner replied I don't know.

In the highly edifying and adventurous book Whipscars and Tattoos, Geoffrey Sanborn makes a brave case for Ishmael's beard as the flag he flings "half out to the world." Sanborn's beard-solution is super tempting in light of the "rebel beards" in White-Jacket that Melville depicts "streaming like a Commodore's bougee." That is, like a flag, the broad pennant of a flag-ship. As Sanborn points out, Melville's hero Jack Chase treats the captain's order to shave all beards in terms of surrender: "striking the flag that Nature herself has nailed to the mast." Melville's narrator swears to the cruelty of the enforced shaving "by this brown beard which now waves from my chin." -- White-Jacket

Still, why "half out"?

Half-out in this reading means at a 45-degree angle. Sanborn elaborates:
Despite being only half out, at a forty-five rather than a ninety degree angle, his beard is an outflung challenge to the world, a flag that will not be hauled down; like the "streaming beard" of the executed John Brown in "The Portent," it is a declaration of war. -- Whipscars and Tattoos p126
For some reason "half out" remains bothersome. For one thing, if Ishmael is that proud of his beard he ought to have mentioned it before. Even eagle-eyed readers like us need a clue now and then. Why so coy all of a sudden, after unrestrained eloquence on the same theme in White-Jacket? Then, too, your beard is pretty much all out there, for better or worse, at all sorts of angles. Not half-out, all out--pretty much by definition. And we're on The Pequod not The Neversink, so nobody is trying to haul down anybody's beard, flag, or any banner of masculinity. Thus we're stuck with the incongruity of "half-out" as a sad half-measure, only a fractional challenge to the world, after all.

Context! We need more context!  Most immediately, in this chapter Ishmael has been anatomizing the whale's head and spine. The spine discussion developed from consideration of phrenology, the science of reading cranial bumps. In a multidisciplinary mood, alluding to Goethe in an echo of Emerson, Ishmael urges a new kind of phrenology applied to the spine:
“For I believe that much of a man’s character will be found betokened in his backbone. I would rather feel your spine than your skull, whoever you are. A thin joist of a spine never yet upheld a full and noble soul. I rejoice in my spine, as in the firm audacious staff of that flag which I fling half out to the world.”
Literally, Ishmael discourses of spines and skulls. Metaphorically, the flagstaff of the spine holds up, what? Just about everything, the whole physical body. In this view the body or at least torso is the flag held up by the spine. Or, more particularly, say the head and chest, since we're looking for flags, things that stick out. Spine holds up head or skull, and also the ribcage (seat of chest/heart). Therefore also the SOUL, by Ishmael's imaginative extension from the natural and physiological facts to moral and spiritual reality. This conceit is a classical and medieval commonplace, body and soul strangely often antagonistically coexisting, as philosophically explored in Mardi.

Ishmael said it, "a full and noble soul" requires backbone.  Let's notice that, and appreciate the nifty transition from material to ideal, from profane to sacred. But as so often with Melville, the move is a set up that disappoints, humorously. The next sentence offers Ishmael's personal application of the previous statement about the relation of spine to head or soul. Because he grandly overplayed head into soul into "full and noble soul," we expect the personal application to develop from Ishmael's own upright spine to Ishmael's own virtuously upright soul.

Ishmael rejoices. That's how religious people talk. "Rejoice" keeps up the promise of piety after "full and noble soul." So after "rejoice" we expect a neat parallel to "full and noble soul" in the previous sentence. Instead, however, we get Ishmael's firm staff and flung flag.

Bathos, sort of. The result may not be entirely ridiculous, but the descent from lofty is palpable.

As the primary flag I'm staying with body, most particularly the proud chest and head. Half-out to the world, all-out to nobody but heart and brain surgeons. But there's another level, obviously. Melville's sexually suggestive adjectives "stiff" and "audacious" tease even monkish readers like me into contemplating two heads, the big and little heads of so much popular wisdom and comedy.

Speaking of monks and humor, some of those Old English riddles likewise work on different levels. Two tracks, as my truly great teacher and friend, the late and deeply missed Dr. James Anderson wrote:
"Some riddles, notably the obscene ones, are conceived as double-tracked metaphors, with a true and a false spur for simultaneous trains of analytical thought. Thus obscene riddles lead to an innocent solution and to entrapment in an obscenity at the same time." -- Two Literary Riddles in the Exeter Book
I love to remember translating from Old English in Jim's seminar--how he said with majestic simplicity at the beginning of class, midway through: "We're deep into Beowulf...and there's no turning back!"

On the lower level of Melville's little riddle, the obscene track, something's missing. Context, please: where are we exactly? Chapter 80, The Nut.

Bollocks! Mesmerized by the tiny nut as the whale' tiny brain, and by the hard nut as an emblem of universal inscrutability, in Samuel Otter's words, "a nut that cannot be cracked" (Melville's Anatomies), we forgot the spermy heaps in the whale's head. What to do with this big head and little nut of a chapter?

Quick, somebody get me a codpiece. Say what?
codpiece, noun: A bagged appendage to the front of the close-fitting hose or breeches worn by men from the 15th to the 17th c.: often conspicuous and ornamented. (OED)
... from Old English codd "a bag, pouch, husk," in Middle English, "testicles" (cognate with Old Norse koddi "pillow, scrotum") + piece (n.). --Online Etymology Dictionary
codpiece: an ostentatiously indelicate part of the male dress, which was put to several uses,—to stick pins in, to carry the purse in, etc.... (Alexander Dyce)
Hold up, I'm not trying to argue that veteran whalers like Ishmael actually and necessarily wore Renaissance Festival costumes. I don't suppose they have any old sailor codpieces in the collections of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

But here's the thing. You only need the chapter title. Codpiece is implied already in The Nut. Shakespeare and Rabelais, two big and bawdy influences on Melville, famously excel at codpiece jokes. (Sterne and Cervantes might have one or two as well, not to mention Shakespeare's forerunners and rivals, but on this subject Rabelais rules.) For example, the young Gargantua's governesses had great fun adorning his codpiece every day. In the most pertinent illustration from Rabelais, Panurge learnedly explains what the hard nut naturally and organically is: the nut protectively harnesses "sperm and semence." In other words, if the apple be nature's toothbrush, the nut is nature's codpiece. From the third book of Gargantua and Pantagruel:
.... Behold how nature, having a fervent desire, after its production of plants, trees, shrubs, herbs, sponges, and plant-animals, to eternize and continue them unto all succession of ages (in their several kinds or sorts, at least, although the individuals perish) unruinable, and in an everlasting being, hath most curiously armed and fenced their buds, sprouts, shoots, and seeds, wherein the above-mentioned perpetuity consisteth, by strengthening, covering, guarding, and fortifying them with an admirable industry, with husks, cases, scurfs and swads, hulls, cods, stones, films, cartels, shells, ears, rinds, barks, skins, ridges, and prickles, which serve them instead of strong, fair, and natural codpieces. As is manifestly apparent in pease, beans, fasels, pomegranates, peaches, cottons, gourds, pumpions, melons, corn, lemons, almonds, walnuts, filberts, and chestnuts; as likewise in all plants, slips, or sets whatsoever, wherein it is plainly and evidently seen, that the sperm and semence is more closely veiled, overshadowed, corroborated, and thoroughly harnessed, than any other part, portion, or parcel of the whole. -- Gargantua and Pantagruel 3.8
The passage above is from the chapter titled

Panurge goes for the gaudy, especially commending "a brave and gallant codpiece" such as the fig leaf described in Genesis, or in modern times:
"... the stately fashion of the high and lofty codpiece; as is manifest by the noble Valentine Viardiere, whom I found at Nancy, on the first day of May — the more flauntingly to gallantrize it afterwards — rubbing his ballocks, spread out upon a table after the manner of a Spanish cloak. Wherefore it is, that none should henceforth say, who would not speak improperly, when any country bumpkin hieth to the wars, Have a care, my roister, of the wine-pot, that is, the skull, but, Have a care, my roister, of the milk-pot, that is, the testicles. By the whole rabble of the horned fiends of hell, the head being cut off, that single person only thereby dieth. But, if the ballocks be marred, the whole race of human kind would forthwith perish, and be lost for ever.
-- Gargantua and Pantagruel
Rabelais! Who remembers now how much of Ishmael on The Whiteness of the Whale is plagiarized from Gargantua chapter 10, Of That Which is Signified by the Colours White and Blue? Whitney Hastings Wells crams the details all in one page:
Wells, Whitney Hastings. “Moby Dick and Rabelais.” Modern Language Notes 38, no. 2 (1923): 123–123.

Thankfully, Caleb Crain remembers how Howard P. Vincent thought "The Cassock" chapter "came from memory or from an imagination profoundly Rabelaisian.” -- Did Melville invent sperm-squeezing?

If Melville's Cassock is so Rabelaisian, and it is (Crain agrees), why not his Nut? As a paradoxically ostentatious yet protective covering for male genitals, the codpiece solves the essential dilemma of Ishmael's figurative flag which is audaciously presented "half out to the world."
"... they were designed, along with doublets with massive chests and coats with wide shoulders, to enhance and exaggerate the masculine attributes of the wearer, to ‘disclose’ rather than conceal or contain, the ‘sex they are’.... the codpiece served as an emblem for manhood, the part standing for the whole.... even after its demise, it retained its metaphorical associations with masculine essence." 
--codpiece facts at
For those who scorn anachronism, drop the codpiece and what do you have left? Nature's codpiece. Admit the anachronism, and codpiece beautifully suits the Renaissance trappings we encounter elsewhere in Moby-Dick: echoes of King Lear and other "Shakespearean Resonances" such as Sanford E. Marovitz critically surveys in his contribution to the 2001 volume of conference papers titled Melville among the Nations (267-76).

If Ishmael never actually wore one, perhaps his fancy Lima friends in the Town-Ho chapter, "those fine cavaliers, the young Dons, Pedro and Sebastian" did.

So then, which is the fittingest emblem of masculinity, beard or codpiece?  Some say both...,2833,311654,00.html

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Heywood's The Four Prentices of London

Well we know Melville loved English renaissance drama. In his last days, as Stedman tells, he read "old plays" in the Mermaid series.

Did Melville read The Four Prentices of London, or any old play by Thomas Heywood? The Mermaid Series volume of Thomas Heywood does not contain Four Prentices.

In February 1862 Melville had this message hand-delivered to Evert Duyckinck:
I want you to loan me some of those volumes of the Elizabethan dramatists. Is Deckar among the set? And Webster? If so, please put them up and let the bearer have them.—Send me any except Marlowe, whom I have read. --Melville's Correspondence p373
Lynn Horth in the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's correspondence quoted above figures that "Duyckinck probably sent Melville volumes three and six" from Collier's new edition of Dodsley's Select Collection of Old Plays. Sealts number 188 if you must know, confirm-able in the Online Catalog at Melville's Marginalia Online.

Hey hey, Heywood's Four Prentices of London is in vol. 6 of A Select Collection of Old Plays at the Hathi Trust Digital Library.  So Melville could have seen it then--for the first time?

Related posts:

Hawthorne and Jove in thunder, God in the street

Image Credit: thisisbossi 8641: St Petersburg - Hermitage - Jupiter

OK I get it. Hawthorne is God. After sleeping on it, I think that's Melville's grand truth about Nathaniel Hawthorne.

In Psalms God speaks from "the secret place of thunder" (Psalm 81, KJV)
I from the secret top of Sinai's mount
In thunder answered thee
--Psalm 81 in A New Version of the Psalms, in Blank Verse (London, 1808)
Melville's Nathaniel God Hawthorne dares to say "NO! in thunder" just like Jove the thunderer. And just like Thomas Heywood's outrageously audacious sky-assaulting Soldan of Babylon in The Four Prentices of London:
Soldan. No.  
Sophy.  Yes.   
Should Jove himself in thunder answer I,
When we say no; we'd pull him from the sky.
--Select Collection of Old Plays
What a Sunday sermon! Obviously all this is blasphemy, which is why Melville hems and haws about the limits of language, the problematic semantics of words like Me, a God, Nature. Out of the dictionary, in the street.

And Hawthorne as God absolutely fascinates Melville elsewhere--the communion and godhead talk in another letter, and that earlier ubiquitous Mosses essay where Melville proclaims Hawthorne, as Jonathan A. Cook shows, America's Literary Messiah.

Something else though, right alongside the blaspheming pride and pagan mythology behind "NO! in thunder" is the association with radical populism: NO! in thunder as an expression of Melville's self-described ruthless democracy. Melville calls the lying class of Yes-men, the Yes-gentry.  Gentry, upper-class snobs, not we the people. Not your average joe, not the sailors and working-men that Gansevoort rallied in 1842 and 1843 at James' Slip. As a celebrated democratic orator in 1844, Gansevoort Melville thundered from the stump, and without speaking the words, breathed the fire of NO! in thunder in that magnificent speech at the Jackson jubilee.

Little wonder then that NO in thunder as a phrase turns up in the Newspaper Archive at Genealogy Bank exactly once for the period 1819-1851, in a pro-Polk election-eve editorial headed

Charge, Freemen!—Charge!!

And here is the veteran Hero, the wise Statesman Jackson (long life to him yet) whose mind is yet strong, though is body is feeble—his opinion of Clay has long been before the people.—He believes that Clay, though a splendid orator, is an unprincipled and dangerous politician. And is this unprincipled and dangerous politician Clay (who indeed has proved himself such in his letters since his nomination) to be put at the helm of this nation? We say NO—and ere three weeks have passed over our heads the people will have said NO, in thunder tones which will echo from hill-top to hill-top—from State to State—from the Madawaska settlements to the Sabine—from the Atlantic to the far Pacific—and it is to be accompanied with the glad tidings of the triumph of Young Hickory, Dallas and Democracy, which will make millions of hears rejoice and be glad.

--Portsmouth New Hampshire Gazette, Saturday, November 2, 1844.

Just at the point where the people are urged to say "NO in thunder tones," the images, words and spirit of this New Hampshire editorial sound most like Gansevoort Melville.  Gansevoort, widely credited, or damned, for the blasphemous re-christening of James K. Polk as Young Hickory:


Gansevoort Melville, a tearing, screaming, flaming, shallow-headed orator, whose speech the Evening Post studiously omits reporting, is reported in all the papers to have said, in the Park meeting:  
‘As for James K. Polk, the next President of the United States, we, the unterrified Democracy of New York, will re-baptise him; we will give him a name such as Andrew Jackson in the BAPTISM OF FIRE AND BLOOD at New Orleans; we will re-Christen him. Hereafter he shall be known by the name that we now give him—it is Young Hickory.’
Is not this repulsive—is it not blasphemous? Had Mr. Clay uttered the like it would have been stereotyped in handbill style in every Locofoco paper in the country. But we do wrong to make the supposition. Happy are we to learn (from New York Courier) that its mingled spirit of blasphemy and butchery failed to excite even a laugh, much less a cheer, among those present. New Bedford Bulletin.
--as reprinted in the Springfield Republican, Friday, June 14, 1844;
found online in the Newspaper Archives at Genealogy Bank
 There's God in the street for you.

Personally, I'm a sort of monarchist (we desperately need a great Queen), but having worked myself up this morning into a democratic frenzy, I might as well finish off in that spirit, with an Opinion Poll.

What in the world did Melville mean when he wrote that Hawthorne "says NO! in thunder"?

You decide. The international people's choice will be determined by the perfectly accurate and trustworthy poll below. Make your views known please before August 1, 2014. This our first ever Opinion Poll is scheduled to end on Melville's 195th birthday. 

For complicated answers and any other observations, thoughts, corrections, arguments, rants, riffs, whatever you like--please do feel free to use the comment feature on this or any Melvilliana post.

UPDATE: Our original ballot boxes malfunctioned so we threw them out. New high-tech machine is up and running perfectly--in THE CLOUD. let the voting begin! Again!

Related posts:

Saturday, June 7, 2014

NO! in thunder

What did Melville mean when he proclaimed that Nathaniel "says No! in thunder"? To Hawthorne himself Melville wrote that, in one of those long loving endlessly quoted letters from Arrowhead to Lenox.

Without a second thought I always took Melville's meaning to be Hawthorne was so far from being a soulless YES-man that he aggressively shouted, yelled, roared, thundered his NO! to conventionality and conformity.  Protesting loud as thunder, as the capitalization and exclamation mark graphically confirm. (Julian Hawthorne printed NO!)

So I uncritically supposed until reading a footnote to the introduction of Geoffrey Sanborn's Whipscars and Tattoos, citing the 1986 book by William Dillingham, Melville's Later Novels. Sanborn agrees with Dillingham that Melville's "in thunder" means in the middle of a thunder-and-lightning storm, not in a loud "thunderous" voice.

Here's how Dillingham explains "No! in thunder":
Melville wrote Hawthorne in a letter that he admired him for saying “NO! in thunder.” By “in” Melville meant during or in the midst of, and he used thunder as he frequently did to mean lightning. He was complimenting Hawthorne not for writing thunderous prose which expressed a rebellious no, but for a refusal to seek shelter when, figuratively, lightning is striking all around. The lightning-rod salesmen of the world advise us to fear lightning, to run and hide from it, and to cringe in the knowledge of one’s own impotency. It might strike you if you are not prudent and methodical in your precautions. The extraordinary few say no to the fear, and no to the message of purposelessness, and they continue to say no—almost impossible though it is—even after they are struck. So it is with Ahab, though he has to fight mightily. --Melville's Later Novels page 73
Ooh is that good. Making the same connection to Ahab as "Old Thunder" Sanborn highlights warrior pride,
"the feeling that enables one to say "No!" in the midst of a ship-splitting thunderstorm, and to discover, in the act of utterance, that one is speaking in unison with a wide world of other beings, objects, and processes--that one is, in fact, speaking in unison with the thunderstorm." --Whipscars and Tattoos, page 15.
Wow! Thundering in a thunderstorm. So by the time we get to Ahab in the Candles chapter of Moby-Dick we have Hawthorne's "No! in thunder" realized every which way, in every sense. And this (remember?) is also Byron's romantic stance in those stanzas on the alpine storm from canto 3 of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Ahab is Byron's "live thunder" personified.

But have we not heard No in thunder somewhere before? Well there's a Civil War poem, Our Country's Call by John Pierpont:
Like a whirlwind in its course,
Shall again a rebel force,
Jackson's foot or Stuart's horse,
Pass our sleepy posts;
Roam, like Satan, "to and fro,"
And our Laggard let them go?
No! in thunder answer, "No! 
By the Lord of Hosts!"  --Rebellion Record
Aha, in thunder answer No! Way before Pierpont, a poem called Weeping Mary:
O one look of comfort give me,
Into pity's arms receive me,
From this heavy load relieve me.
Or in thunder answer—no.
--The Kilmarnock Mirror
Maybe we need our bibles now... Psalms, hymns.
The law is looked to for salvation, but the soul is brought to feel that it is in vain that he looks any where else than unto Jesus. "I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me: no man cared for my soul. I cried unto thee, O Lord, I said thou art my refuge, and my portion in the land of the living. Attend unto my cry, for I am brought very low." When the law is appealed to, it answers, "No," in thunder; and it is well the wretch can return and seek another refuge.
--David Charles, Sermons
Let's keep looking. Ho, what is this? Thomas Heywood, The Foure Prentices of London:
Soldan. Should Jove himself in thunder answer I [that is, Aye = Yes]
When we say no, we'd pull him from the sky.  --The Ancient British Drama
Jove himself!
And therefore three cheers for Nantucket; and come a stove boat and stove body when they will, for stave my soul, Jove himself cannot. --Moby-Dick Chapter 7, The Chapel
The context from Heywood is very much in the vein of Melville in that letter to Hawthorne, and more so in the figure of Ahab. Having the audacity to treat great powers of the universe as equals. Anybody that bold speaks in thunder, like Jove the god of thunder. Now I'm wondering did Melville read Thomas Heywood's Four Prentices or would he only have to have seen Alexander Dyce's footnoted comment on Tamburlaine in the preface to The Works of Christoper Marlowe? More later... (delivered at Hawthorne and Jove in thunder).

Related posts:

Hancock and Grant in Harper's Weekly, May 28, 1864

Major-General Winfield Scott Hancock made the front cover of Harper's Weekly for May 28, 1864. Inside, Grant's portrait takes up the full page 340.
"The face of General GRANT, of whom we publish a portrait today, is itself a victory. Its fixed resolution is terrible."

Lieutenant-General Grant's look is gloomy and "terrible," not "cheering" like the picture Melville describes in his poem On the Photograph of a Corps Commander.

On the chances of success for the Army of the Potomac under the newly promoted Grant, the Harper's Weekly editors express satisfaction that
"Every soldier trusts his commander, and every commander the General-in-Chief. There is a unity which that army has never known, a confidence which is unprecedented."
In notes for the 1963 edition of Battle-Pieces, Hennig Cohen identified Winfield Scott Hancock as Melville's most likely Corps Commander and called attention to the May 28, 1864 issue of Harper's Weekly with the "heroic three-quarter-length portrait of Hancock as its cover illustration."

Related posts on Melvilliana:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Essays on Melville now online at Henry S Salt Archive
"The chief characteristic of Herman Melville’s writings is this attempted union of the practical with the ideal. Commencing with a basis of solid fact, he loves to build up a fantastic structure, which is finally lost in the cloudland of metaphysical speculation."
 --Henry Stephens Salt
The great Henry S Salt Archive has lately added the following essays:

Herman Melville (The Scottish Art Review, November 1889)

Marquesan Melville (The Gentleman's Magazine, March 1892)

Memoir of Herman Melville (1893 Typee, London edition published by John Murray)

As in his Marquesan Melville article, Salt's 1896 essay on James Thomson (aka Bysshe Vanolis) as The Poet of Pessimism quotes from one of Melville's letters to James Billson (22 January 1885):
† “As to pessimism,” wrote Herman Melville, with reference to Thomson’s poetry, “although neither pessimist nor optimist myself, nevertheless I relish it in the verse, if for nothing else than as a counterpoise to the exorbitant hopefulness, juvenile and shallow, that makes such a muster in these days.”
The Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Correspondence reads "bluster" for Salt's transcription "muster." Melville's comments on pessimism are frequently quoted and re-quoted in Melville studies.

Checking further, the Internet Archive project has the 1892 Gentleman's Magazine volume with Salt's essay on Marquesan Melville.

The Scottish Art Review v.2 (1889) with Salt's essay on Herman Melville is at Hathi Trust Digital Library, which also has the

1893 London edition of Typee with Salt's Memoir of Herman Melville

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

1888 Dinner at Delmonico's

Delmonico's Restaurant, New York 1888
No invite from the Saturday Night Club is listed among "Letters Received" in the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Correspondence. If Melville got one and actually sent his written regrets for the 1888 authors' dinner, it would be another lost Melville letter.

Jan Whitaker points out there were multiple Delmonico's. Looks like the picture above from Wikimedia Commons shows the Delmonico's at 5th Avenue and 26th Street, before it became the Café Martin.

From the New York Herald, Sunday, April 29, 1888:



The Saturday Night Club entertained ten literary gentlemen last evening at Delmonico’s. After discussing a menu which was composed in bad French, but most excellent gastronomy, Mr. Benson J. Lossing was introduced as the “Nestor of American authors” in terms evincing the chairman’s probable recent familiarity with a handy treatise on “Rhetoric Made Easy.” Mr. Lossing was heartily applauded and gave some very Nestor-like reminiscences of his first efforts to write and to illustrate American history. These proved interesting. The only trouble was that they were much too brief.

The Chairman then proceeded to disclose to the club a most melancholy fact—to wit—that there were more gentlemen who had sent regrets for their absence than there were who had condescended to be present. In the former category were Andrew Car[neg]ie, Bill Nye, Rossiter Johnston [Johnson], George Parsons Lathrop, Brander Matthews, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, James Russell Lowell, Will Carleton, Frank R. Stockton, Edward Everett Hale, T. R. Sullivan, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Richard Watson Gilder, James Parton, Bronson Howard, Herman Melville, Edmund C. Stedman and several others. With the invitations which had been sent to the wished-for guests was a request that each of them would forward to the club his likeness to be lithographed on a card which was generously presented, together with the menu, to the gentlemen who sat around the festive board. The result was hardly more brilliant in an artistic sense than the label on a box of extra fine Havana Maduros.

Mr. Richard H. Stoddard, Mr. Julian Hawthorne, Mr. Moncure D. Conway, Mr. M. M. Pomeroy, A. Cleavering [Clavering] Gunter, Richard B. Kimball and Thomas W. Knox were present and spoke to personal toasts until a late hour.
--Found online in the Newspaper Archives at Genealogy Bank
Along with the convivial setting at Delmonico's, this reported plan of circulating lithographed likenesses with the dinner menu makes me think of Melville's poem At the Hostelry--alternatively titled, in manuscript, "A Symposium of Old Masters at Delmonico's." The specters of so many absent authors at the 1888 dinner weirdly resemble Melville's ghosts of departed artists, although I understand that scholars date the writing of Hostelry to the previous decade, and possibly much earlier. In textual notes for the 1947 Hendricks House volume Collected Poems (page 483), Howard Vincent suggested Hostelry in some form might have been included in Melville's rejected 1860 book of poems. In Making of the Poet (page 7) Hershel Parker raises the same possibility. The handiest version of At the Hostelry is in John Bryant's edition of Melville's Tales, Poems, and Other Writings (415-35).

Well after re-reading the 1888 Herald item, it seems that not so many invitees responded with photographs of themselves.  Only two or three, perhaps? hence the analogy to cigar-label art.