Thursday, July 31, 2014

Don't get it twisted

Frederick Douglass, A Lecture on Our National Capital
Library of Congress, Manuscript Division Folder 1 of 6, 30/76
Frederick Douglass gave his "Lecture on Our National Capital" in November 1875 in Washington, D.C., and May 8, 1877 in Baltimore, Maryland. The image above shows a page from one of several manuscript versions of the Baltimore lecture held by the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division. Also available online, the exhibition catalog at the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, Smithsonian Institution, with text of  Frederick Douglass: a lecture on our national capital

Update: On February 10, 1877 the Chicago Daily Inter Ocean published a lengthy report of Douglass's lecture on "The National Capital" at McCormick Hall the previous evening (February 9, 1877). The existence of so many different manuscript versions of the lecture suggest Douglass delivered this lecture on the national capital more times in more places than is generally known.

A previous Melvilliana post on what Douglass really said identified the reported remark by Douglass about his supposedly feeling like he wanted to steal something whenever he was in the vicinity of the Capitol Dome as a borrowing from Brownlow. This manuscript version makes the context of Douglass's reference to "Parson Brownlow" (later revised in manuscript to "Senator Brownlow") crystal clear. The point of the borrowed anecdote is the morally infected and infecting climate in Washington, D.C. Douglass does not wish to steal anything from anybody. The joke is, Washington is so corrupt a place that its very air begins to corrupt everybody who breathes it--even the most honest and upright of men, even a preacher (or senator) like Brownlow, even a U. S. Marshal. 

Clarification is in order, again, now that Ed Folsom's keynote address at the 2013 Melville and Whitman in Washington conference has been published in Leviathan. In print Folsom cites the book and blog of Douglass biographer John Muller for a version of this anecdote told on the floor of the U.S. House by Wisconsin Rep. Charles G. Williams. Good!  But Folsom's treatment still leaves a little too mysterious the meaning of Douglass's "enigmatically" expressed comment. The sense is really not so hard to figure out. Muller's hunch was right all along: Douglass was joking. Not in a self-deprecating way either, the joke is rather on corrupt politicians and the corrupting atmosphere in which they operate. Nothing so new in that, obviously. What's new to me this time around is the wonderful trove of archival material at the Library of Congress: six folders of manuscripts (and typescripts) relating to Douglass's Lecture on Our National Capital.

Another relevant resource is the Congressional Record from which John Muller quoted the statement by Charles G. Williams. Before now I could not find the 1878 volume that Muller cited on his blog. Thankfully Hathi Trust has it, digitized from the University of California volume 7.

We know from newspaper transcriptions of the lecture on Washington, D. C. that when Douglass quoted Brownlow's line he got the laughs he was looking for. Without reference to Brownlow, Congressman Williams used Douglass's paraphrase for exactly the same rhetorical purpose, to get laughs in discussion of a serious issue involving political corruption. Williams was having some fun while arguing for Republican Chester Bidwell Darrall in debate over the contested 1876 election in Louisiana. Eventually Darrall and the Republicans lost that battle, and the House seated his Democratic challenger Joseph H. Acklen. Here is an excerpt from the Congressional Record showing the fuller context of Williams's reference to Frederick Douglass:
Mr. WILLIAMS, of Wisconsin.. . . Mr. Speaker, if I may be allowed the expression, this portion of the testimony is “mighty rich reading.” He says that the office is damp. He says, “You can catch pneumonia or anything else there.” [Laughter.]

A MEMBER. It seems they caught 900 votes.

Mr. WILLIAMS, of Wisconsin. Yes, good clean votes not even soiled or crumpled by the handling! Reading of this infectious feeling in that office I was reminded of an ironical remark which I heard Mr. Frederick Douglass make some years ago. He said he could never account for it: but somehow, whenever he got in sight of the Dome of the Capitol in Washington, he always felt as though he wanted to steal something. [Laughter.] There might have been the same sort of contagious feeling about the dampness in this office. [Laughter.] There must have been something acting upon somebody who wanted to steal into or steal out of those boxes. The way the dampness acted upon the boxes was most peculiar. It was the most discriminating mildew I ever heard of.

Now, just note, Mr. Speaker—and I am speaking strictly by the evidence—whenever it resolved, in the very intensity of its dampness, to break the seal of one of these boxes, it only broke the seal of those where Darrall had a majority. [Laughter.] It is an undisputed and indisputable fact in this case that when the mildew determined to smash a seal it was upon a box that showed a majority for Darrall, while it did not leave so much as a breath of dew on the seals where Acklen had a majority. [Laughter.] . . . Congressional Record--House v. 7 (1878): 1227
As for Douglass, the theme for Williams is moral contagion leading to criminal behavior. What specifically concerns Williams here is the likelihood of election fraud by southern Democrats. (Acklen was a Tennessean, Darrall a native of Pennsylvania.)

Anybody who wishes to investigate further may read Frederick Douglass: a lecture on our national capital at the Library of Congress / American Memory site. For another online version, see the Lecture on Our National Capital by Douglass at Family Tree Legends. In print, the newest resource is the 2013 anthology by L. Diane Barnes, Frederick Douglass: A Life in Documents which includes an excerpt from the Lecture on Our National Capital.

In his book The Lion of Anacostia (pp 72-29) John Muller amply discusses the speech and its aftermath, including strong public criticism Douglass endured for the Baltimore reprise of his lecture on the national capital. Muller quotes from the splendid defense by Grace Greenwood which exposes the racist double-standard behind some of the most hostile reactions:
"If the predecessor of Mr. Douglass had delivered that lecture, no excitement would have followed except a little natural astonishment over the official eloquence and wit, and the capital points made on the capital."
--"Grace Greenwood" (Sara Jane Lippincott) quoted in The Lion of Anacostia
That keynote address at the Melville and Whitman conference by Ed Folsom offered valuable and stimulating insights about the symbolism of the Capitol Dome, in particular for the Reconstruction era. Now in Leviathan you can see how Folsom tells us what Williams said Douglass said. Hearsay, unfortunately. In the lecture source, Douglass does not mention the Capitol Dome in connection with his anecdote from Brownlow. So to close out this post, here are two things we know Douglass definitely did say about the Dome. In the suggestive vein opened by Folsom, one might make a good deal more than I can do here of Douglass's specific reference to "the figure upon the iron dome of the Capitol." Now there's an enigma for you. Possibly. More enigmatical anyhow than the Brownlow anecdote:
Her [Potomac river] borders, which ought to be alive with the hum and din of business and lined on either side with thriving villages, are about as silent as the figure upon the iron dome of the Capitol. (33)
The chief attribute of the figure as here noticed by Douglass is its silence.  

Update: In another manuscript version Douglass also calls the figure "useless":
"... and the noble Potomac is otherwise as quiet and silent as the iron figure upon the dome of the capitol and almost as useless." 
--Lecture on Our National Capital, Library of Congress, Folder 6 of 6, 28/30
Different manuscript drafts of Douglass's lecture on Washington, D.C. refer to the bronze Statue of Freedom as merely an "iron figure" and "iron-like figure," perhaps reflecting displeasure over the compromised design of Crawford's statue, specifically the displacement of the original and vitally symbolic "liberty cap" at the urging of Jefferson Davis.  This implied critique of the iconography of Crawford's statue is consistent with Douglass's criticism of the subservient figure below Lincoln in Ball's Emancipation sculpture.  As reported to Henry Morris Murray Freeman by John W. Cromwell of Howard University, Douglass
" . . . was very clear and emphatic in saying that he did not like the attitude; it showed the Negro on his knees, when a more manly attitude would have been more indicative of freedom." --Emancipation and the freed in American sculpture
Further along in his lecture on the national capital (but on the same page as the iron dome comment),  Douglass relates the woeful inactivity and indolence of Washington to the legacy of slavery he calls "the black boy" phenomenon. A "disease" he calls it in several manuscript versions. Yet another manifestation of corrupt and corrupting Washington, D. C., this infectious phenomenon "seems to be in the air."  Figuratively speaking then, as symbols intertwined with the history and present legacy of slavery in the Federal City, the silent Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol Dome is associated for Douglass with another voiceless emblem, "the iron black boy at the front door of  a Washington gentleman." That's one way of looking at it. In the same lecture, Douglass gave another more promising view of the Capitol Dome and its significance:
No American now has a skin too dark to call Washington his home, and no American now has a skin so white and a heart so black as to deny him that right. Under the majestic dome of the American Capitol, as truly as under the broad blue sky of heaven, men of all races, colors, and conditions may now stand in equal freedom, thrilled with the sentiment of equal citizenship and common country. The wealth, beauty, and magnificence which, if seen elsewhere, might oppress the lowly with a sad sense of their personal insignificance, seen here, ennoble them to their own eyes and are felt to be only fit and proper to the capital of a great nation. 
--Library of Congress, Frederick Douglass: a lecture on our national capital

Monday, July 28, 2014

Battle-Pieces in De Peyster's biography of Philip Kearny

Gen. Philip Kearny
Photo: Matthew Brady / National Archives OPA
Among the five hundred plus Melville items compiled by George Monteiro in "Herman Melville: Fugitive References (1845-1922) is the 1869 biography of Philip Kearny by John Watts De Peyster.  Within the entry itself, Monteiro only notes that De Peyster
"Quotes twice from Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War"  --Resources for American Literary Study 33
Before Monteiro's citation, Kevin J. Hayes in the 2007 Cambridge Introduction to Herman Melville (88) noticed the invocation of Melville's poem "Chattanooga" in De Peyster's memorial tribute to Kearny, his cousin and the "American Bayard."

The excerpts provided by De Peyster are substantial. Both appear near the end of the book, one in each of the last two chapters. De Peyster's first quotation from Battle-Pieces is represented as an apt commentary on the death of Kearny.

Kearny's Charge, Battle of Chantilly
General Kearny's gallant charge
Augustus Tholey

From chapter 31 of the Personal and Military History of Philip Kearny:
In reflecting upon PHIL KEARNY'S untimely fall, the lines of HERMAN MELVILLE'S "Battle Pieces" (Chattanooga, 92) must recur to the mind of whoever has read them:
"Near and more near; till now the flags
   Run like a catching flame:
And one flares highest, to peril nighest —
    He means to make a name;
    Salvos! they give him his fame! 
*       *       *       *       *       *     
"But some who gained the envied Alp,
   And — eager, ardent, earnest there —
Dropped into Death's wide-open arms,
   Quelled on the wing like eagles struck in air.
*       *       *       *       *       *
   "The smile upon them as they died;
   Their end attained, that end a height:
Life was to those a dream fulfilled,
   And death a starry night!"
As an echo to the spirit of these lines and their apposite appropriateness, drifts back from the far distant past the kindred idea embodied in the words addressed by EPAMINONDAS to his surrounding and lamenting soldiery. "This is not the end of life, my fellow-soldiers — it is now your General is born!" Born indeed—born to Immortality, whether as regards Existence or Fame!  --Biography of Major-General Philip Kearny, pp 474-5
De Peyster's second long quotation from Battle-Pieces is the entire poem On the Photograph of a Corps Commander minus the title. And here's something interesting. Look how De Peyster has altered the fifth line of the first stanza. In order to make the verse more directly applicable to Kearny, De Peyster replaces "Spottsylvania's charge" (Hancock's celebrated attack on the Mule Shoe) in Melville's poem with "Williamsburg's hot charge."  Adding "hot" to "Williamsburg's" also allowed De Peyster to preserve the syllable count in the line:
Ay, man is manly. Here you see
The warrior-carriage of the head,
And brave dilation of the frame;
And lighting all, the soul that led
In (Williamsburg's hot) charge to victory,
Which justifies his fame.  --De Peyster, Epilogue p 483
De Peyster's omission of the poem's title and deletion of the reference to Spottsylvania show the significance of these elements as pointers to the identity of Corps Commander Winfield Scott Hancock. Yes Melville's verses are absolutely applicable to other military heroes, but the meditation on "manly" inspiration begins with the particular example of one who is precisely identifiable by his office (Corps Commander) and field of honor (Spotsylvania). That's why De Peyster drops both references, to Corps Commander and to Spotsylvania. Lacking the pointers to Hancock, Melville's verses more perfectly suit Kearny, widely lauded as a model of "manly" and "knightly conduct in war. The "eagle mien expressive" of Melville's original Corps Commander exactly matches the mien of Kearny, said to have "the face of an eagle."
When balls began to whistle, his eagle countenance (figure d'oiseau de proie) and clear eye assumed a resolute expression which inspired confidence in those around him.  --Comte de Paris, History of the civil war in America
De Peyster's memorial "Character of Phil Kearny" including the lines from Melville's On the Photograph of a Corps Commander, with the change from "Spottsylvania's charge" to "Williamsburg['s] hot charge," opened the first number of The Volunteer: A Weekly Magazine (New York, 1869).

For more online about the American Bayard, also known as that "One-Armed Devil," check out the entry for Kearny at Ohio Civil War Central. Below, the 1869 biography of Philip Kearny by John Watts De Peyster, digitized version of the volume in the Library of Congress courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

John Minor Maury stranded for two years at Nuku Hiva, in the coconut trees

The American fleet off Nuku Hiva in 1813

Image Credit: Wikipedia
This might be thought of as the back of the "back story" to Typee.  Melville's savviest contemporary critics recognized his romantic narrative of captivity in the Marquesas as a reenactment, in part, of real-life adventure tales already familiar in naval circles. This inside knowledge was alluded to by the reviewer of Omoo in the New York Literary World:
In the city of New York, especially, from which the three or four of Porter's surviving officers hailed originally, Typee was remembered in years far back as the theme of many a dinner-table yarn, when men used to tell longer and stronger stories over their Madeira than is now the fashion among modern sherry drinkers. 
--Literary World, May 8, 1847
One of the yarns about Porter's visit to Typee involved the misadventures of John Minor Maury (1795-1824), the older brother of Matthew Fontaine Maury. John Minor Maury and another sailor named Baker lived in the coconut trees for two years while stranded at Nuku Hiva.  David Porter picked them both up in the Essex.  The 1888 biography of Matthew Fontaine Maury by his daughter Diana Fontaine Maury Corbin relates the stranger-than-fiction story:
JOHN MINOR MAURY, Matthew's eldest brother, entered the Navy of the United States as midshipman when thirteen years old, and became one of the most distinguished young officers of his time. His whole professional career was one of active service and romantic adventure.
Just before the last war between the United States and England, John Maury procured a furlough, and went as first officer of a merchant ship, which had been chartered by Captain William Lewis of the United States Navy, who commanded her. They sailed on a trading voyage to China. Arriving at the Island of Nukahiva, one of the Marquesas group, Captain Lewis left Maury and six men there to procure sandal-wood and other articles of trade, for which the ship would touch on her return from China. The war with England broke out. English ships blockaded the American ships in the Chinese ports, and no relief came to Maury and his men for two years. It had, meantime, gone hard with them.

There were two tribes on that island hostile to each other, a volcanic ridge dividing them. The king of the tribe with whom the Americans made their home was friendly and true to them; but frequent incursions were made over the ridge, which was the barrier of his dominion, by the savages beyond it, and one by one the white men were slain, until Maury and a man named Baker alone remained alive.

They adopted every precaution against surprise, and the friendly king gave them notice of coming danger when he could. With the handiness of sailor-men, they found four cocoa-nut trees growing together, and in their tops made their home, not larger than a frigate's maintop, yet sufficient for their resting-place by day or night, and safe from discovery. A rope ladder was the means of ascent and descent, for this curious residence.

One bright morning, two years since their eyes had seen such a sight, a large square-rigged ship stood into the anchorage, and soon to their joy she displayed the American flag. Maury and his mate Baker came down from their perch, took a canoe, and pulled for the ship.* Their costume was as scant as that of the naked savages, who also sought to board this man-of-war, and the whole party were ordered by the sentry to keep off.

Maury returned to his nest in the cocoa-nut tree. Very soon, however, a launch from the frigate was sent ashore, and a group of officers came within hail, amongst whom Maury recognised an old shipmate, Lieutenant McKnight. At his hail the party looked up, and were astonished to see two white men, arrayed like Adam before his fall, descending from the tree-tops.

They were warmly greeted, taken on board the United States frigate 'Essex,' Captain David Porter commanding, were enrolled on the ship's books, and rated and equipped according to their rank.

Porter assembled his recent prizes in this anchorage, and refitted and watered his ship; he then pursued that famous cruise which swept the English commerce from the seas over which the 'Essex' sailed. Amongst his captures was a very fast sailer: he equipped and armed her as his consort, and named her the 'Essex Jr.' Lieutenant Downes was appointed her commander, with John Maury as his first lieutenant.
 * See Porter's Journal of the Cruise of the "Essex."' 
--A Life of Matthew Fontaine Maury
Coconut trees near the sea
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
JMM's son, Dabney Herndon Maury tells basically the same story:
IN 1824, my father, Captain John Minor Maury, while serving as flag captain of Commodore David Porter's fleet against the pirates of the West Indies, died in the twenty-eighth year of his age. He had been an officer of the Navy since his thirteenth year, and had led a most active and adventurous life; and at the time of his death he was the highest ranking officer of his age in the service. Some years previously he sailed with Captain William Lewis as first officer of a ship bound for China. They had both obtained furloughs for this voyage. Maury, with six men, was left on the island of Nokaheeva to collect sandal-wood and other valuable articles of trade against the return of the ship.

The war with England broke out, and Captain Lewis was blockaded in a Chinese port. Maury and his men were beset by the natives of one part of the island, though befriended by the chief of that portion where ships were accustomed to land, and at last all of the party save Maury and a sailor named Baker were killed by the savages. These two constructed a place of refuge in the tops of four cocoanut trees which grew close enough together for them to make a room as large as a frigate's maintop. A rope ladder was their means of access. Here they were one day, when their eyes were brightened by the sight of a frigate bearing the American flag. It proved to be the Essex, Captain David Porter commanding, which had touched at the island for fresh water. Captain Porter had with him a very fast British ship which he had just captured. He named her the Essex Junior, and armed her as his consort, placing Lieutenant Downs in command, with Maury as first lieutenant. After refitting they sailed away to Valparaiso, where the British ships Cherub and Phoebe, under Captain Hilliard, fought and captured them.
--Recollections of a Virginian
According to biographer Miles P. Duval, Jr., JMM's career inspired younger brother Matthew Fontaine Maury to go to sea, rather than attend West Point or medical school:
Inspired by the adventures of his oldest brother, John Minor Maury, who had served under David Porter on the famous cruise of the Essex in the Pacific during the War of 1812, Matthew determined to enter the Navy . . . .
--Miles P. DuVal, Jr., Matthew Fontaine Maury: Benefactor of Mankind
Wikipedia cites the biography of Matthew Fontaine Maury by Charles Lee Lewis on the same point, but adding an alluring reference to JMM's romantic letters home:  --John Minor Maury - Wikipedia
John Minor Maury's letters of his adventures in the navy that were sent home are considered to be a major reason why Matthew Maury decided on a naval career.
Letters home from John Minor Maury?  Zounds! does any such letter survive, anywhere?

Matthew Fontaine Maury sailed with Herman Melville's cousin Thomas Wilson Melville; the two served together as midshipmen on the Vincennes (along with Chaplain Charles S Stewart):
. . . the Vincennes, on July 4, 1829, sailed from Callao toward the Far East. The first stop was at Nukahiva Island in the Marquesas, the island where Maury's oldest brother, John, had been marooned for 2 years and later rescued. 
To learn the story directly from the native chief, Midshipman Maury studied the native language and, within a period of 3 weeks, became able to converse with the man who had saved his brother's life.

The next visit was at Tahiti, after which the Vincennes sailed to the Hawaiian Islands. On Hawaii, Maury saw the Cascade of the Rainbow and, no doubt, visited the volcano of Kilauea; on Oahu, he saw Diamond Head and enjoyed Honolulu. 
--Benefactor of Mankind
The Vincennes reached the Marquesas in July 1829.

As the best critics recognize, "Tommo" the narrator of Typee is named after Melville's cousin Tom:
The full impact on young Herman of the “romantic” Tom, who may have regaled his cousins about his exploits at sea during his brief moments at home, should not be underestimated. And it is undeniable that in searching for a name for himself in Typee, Herman chose the cover of “Tom,” or Tommo, in honor of his cousin, who, like himself for a while, gave up "home and mother" and was lost at sea, but who, unlike Herman, did not make it back. --John Bryant, Melville Unfolding p69
So Melville named his narrator "Tommo" after his cousin Thomas Wilson Melville, who sailed with Matthew Fontaine Maury, whose older brother John Minor Maury beat all of them to Nuku Hiva.

Wonder how much of John Minor Maury's wild story reached Herman Melville by way of younger brother Matthew Fontaine Maury, in yarns shared with MFF's shipmate Thomas Wilson Melville?

Matthew Fontaine Maury
Image Credit: Ocean Motion
Later: In 1859 Matthew Fontaine Maury was still telling tales about his older brother John Minor Maury at Nuku Hiva. Traveling with Nathaniel Parker Willis, MFF revealed that John Minor Maury had been tempted to remain on the island by the offer of "a princess for a wife." Willis got it all wrong in The Home Journal, as Patricia Jahns explains:
Commander Maury told of his brother John Minor s adventures on Nukahiva and how the old native king had offered him a princess for a wife if he'd stay there. Among his hearers was N. P. Willis, one of the fashionable writers of the day and a close member of the Paulding circle. His recollection of the events recounted by Maury left something to be desired on the score of accuracy. The Home Journal, over his signature, carried a lengthy description of the sedate Commander Maury s marriage, while a young sailor, to a princess of the Sandwich Islands. Maury had to laugh harder than anyone else or he never would have lived it down. The apology he requested was not for himself, he said, but for the princess, who was a most respectable lady. Willis, obviously fearing a libel suit, wrote Maury a letter so fulsome in its praises as to be ludicrous. He also added, well aware of Maury's troubles, that he had secretly vowed his pen to Maury s cause. But the damage was done, and Maury s name no longer looked so brilliant to the public. --Matthew Fontaine Maury and Joseph Henry

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Father Mapple's Hymn in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Temple de Lyon, Nommé paradis / Jean Perrissin, 1564
Image Credit: Chrétiens et Sociétés XVIe-XXIe siècles
Under the headline "Father Mapple" the Philadelphia Inquirer on November 22, 1851 published a long passage combining segments from chapters 8 and 9 of The Whale.

The Inquirer took this excerpt on Father Mapple from Moby-Dick (the London edition, titled The Whale), reprinting the text of the British edition from "I had not been seated very long . . ." to "Beloved shipmates, clinch the last verse of the first chapter of Jonah, 'and God had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.' "

Seamen's Bethel
Photo: Trip Advisor
. . . like most old-fashioned pulpits, it was a very lofty one. . . .
Father Mapple rose, and in a mild voice of unassuming authority ordered the scattered people to condense. "Starboard gangway, there! side away to larboard—larboard gangway to starboard! Midships! midships!" There was a low rumbling of heavy sea-boots among the benches, and a still slighter shuffling of women's shoes, and all was quiet again, and every eye on the preacher. He paused a little; then kneeling in the pulpit's bows, folded his large brown hands across his chest, uplifted his closed eyes, and offered a prayer so deeply devout that he seemed kneeling and praying at the bottom of the sea. This ended, in prolonged solemn tones, like the continual tolling of a bell in a ship that is foundering at sea in a fog—in such tones he commenced reading the following hymn; but changing his manner towards the concluding stanzas, burst forth with a pealing exultation and joy:
"The ribs and terrors in the whale,
    Arch'd over me a dismal gloom, 
While all God's sun-lit waves roll'd by,
    And left me deepening down to doom.

"I saw the opening maw of hell,
    With endless pains and sorrows there:
Which none but they that feel can tell—
    Oh, I was plunging to despair!

"In black distress, I call'd my God,
    When I could scarce believe Him mine,
He bowed his ear to my complaints—
    No more the whale did me confine.

"With speed he flew to my relief,
    As on a radiant dolphin borne:
Awful, yet bright, as lightning shone
    The face of my Deliverer God.

"My songs forever shall record
    That terrible, that joyful hour;
I give the glory to my God,
    His all the mercy and the power."
Nearly all joined in singing this hymn, which swelled high above the howling of the storm. A brief pause ensued; the preacher slowly turned over the leaves of the Bible, and at last, folding his hand down upon the proper page, said: "Beloved shipmates, clinch the last verse of the first chapter of Jonah—" 'And God had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.'  "

The Mapple excerpt printed in the Washington Daily Union (November 30, 1851) stopped at the end of chapter 8 and thus did not include the altered psalm with Melville's radiant dolphin.  The passage from the Philadelphia Inquirer (November 22, 1851) is the first and only newspaper excerpt from I have seen with Mapple's hymn.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Elijah Burritt on the constellation Delphinus, The Dolphin; also known as Job's Coffin


Elijah Hinsdale Burritt gives the alternative name for the constellation known as The Dolphin: Job's Coffin. A most suggestive name for readers of Moby-Dick, considering the huge presence of the biblical Job throughout Melville's narrative, the white whale as a Job's whale, the rescue of Ishmael by means of Queequeg's coffin turned lifebuoy.
The historical section of Burritt's entry for Delphinus in The Geography of the Heavens exhibits the prevailing conflation of the mammal dolphin or porpoise with the dolphin-fish (Mahi-Mahi, Dorado), the same confusion we observed previously in Leigh Hunt's Indicator. And probably Moby-Dick, in the figure of the radiant dolphin as re-imagined by Melville in Father Mapple's sermon.
In Melville Society Extracts 38 (May 1979), John Gretchko identified Burritt's Atlas as the best candidate for Melville's "Atlas of the Heavens," now Sealts number 101a as shown in the catalog at Melville's Marginalia Online. Gretchko distinguishes Burritt's Atlas from the companion volume Geography of the Heavens which he argues in Melvillean Ambiguities ("Herman Melville and Elijah Burritt's Astronomy") that Melville also read.


The Dolphin. This beautiful little cluster of stars is situated 13° or 14° N. E. of the Eagle. It consists of eighteen stars, including 5 of the 3d magnitude, but none larger. It is easily distinguished from all others, by means of the four principal stars in the head, which are so arranged as to form the figure of a Diamond, pointing N. E. and S. W. To many this cluster is known by the name of Job's Coffin; but from whom, or from what fancy, it first obtained this appellation, is not known.

There is another star of the 3d magnitude, situated in the body of the Dolphin, about 3° S. W. of the Diamond, and marked Epsilon. The other four are marked Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta. Between these are several smaller stars, too small to be seen in presence of the moon.

The mean declination of the Dolphin is about 15° N. It comes to the meridian the same moment with Deneb Cygni, and about 50 minutes after Altair, on the 16th of September.
"Thee I behold, majestic Cygnus,
On the marge dancing of the heavenly sea,
Arion's friend; eighteen thy stars appear—
One telescopic."


The Dolphin, according to some mythologists, was made a constellation by Neptune, because one of these beautiful fishes had persuaded the goddess Amphitrite, who had made a vow of perpetual celibacy, to become the wife of that deity; but others maintain, that it is the Dolphin which preserved the famous Lyric poet and musician Arion, who was a native of Lesbos, an island in the Archipelago.

He went to Italy with Periander, tyrant of Corinth, where he obtained immense riches by his profession. Wishing to revisit his native country, the sailors of the ship in which he embarked, resolved to murder him, and get possession of his wealth. Seeing them immoveable in their resolution, Arion begged permission to play a tune upon his lute before he should be put to death. The melody of the instrument attracted a number of Dolphins round the ship; he immediately precipitated himself into the sea; when one of them, it is asserted, carried him safe on his back to Taenarus, a promontory of Laconia, in Peloponnesus; whence he hastened to the court of Periander, who ordered all the sailors to be crucified at their return.
But, (past belief,) a dolphin's arched back
Preserved Arion from his destined wrack;
Secure he sits, and with harmonious strains
Requites his bearer for his friendly pains.
When the famous poet Hesiod was murdered in Naupactum, a city of Etolia in Greece, and his body thrown into the sea, some dolphins, it is said, brought back the floating corpse to the shore, which was immediately recognized by his friends; and the assassins being afterward discovered by the dogs of the departed bard, were put to death, by immersion in the same sea.

Taras, said by some to have been the founder of Tarentum, now Tarento, in the south of Italy, was saved from shipwreck by a dolphin; and the inhabitants of that city preserved the memory of this extraordinary event on their coin.

The natural shape of the Dolphin, however, is not incurvated, so that one might ride upon its back, as the poets imagined, but almost straight. When it is first taken from the water, it exhibits a variety of exquisitely beautiful but evanescent tints of colour, that pass in succession over their bodies until they die. They are an extremely swift swimming fish, and are capable of living a long time out of water; in fact, they seem to delight to gambol and leap out of their native element.
"Upon the swelling waves the dolphins show
Their bending backs; then swiftly darting go
And in a thousand wreaths their bodies show."
[Burritt's Footnote]: Where is the constellation Delphinus situated? What is the number and magnitude of its stars? How is this constellation distinguished from all others? What singular name is sometimes given to this cluster, and whence was it derived? Can you mention any other stars in the Dolphin? How are the others denominated? What is the mean declination of the Dolphin, and when is it on the meridian?  
--The Geography of the Heavens, 1843 ed.127-8

The possible allusion in Melville's "radiant dolphin" to the cosmic dolphin in the stars naturally makes me think of that angel with the jar in the star map of Cellarius. Again, John Gretchko takes the lead here in his Melvillean Ambiguities, the chapter on "Herman Melville and Andreas Cellarius."

Related posts:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Melville's magnificent dolphins

Dolphins show up repeatedly in Herman Melville’s writings on the sea, in poetry as well as prose. But what to make of them is often problematic. Some commentators appear confused about what they are, whether biologically or symbolically regarded. Certainly I have been confused about the nature and significance of Melville's dolphins, especially the "radiant dolphin" in chapter 9 of Moby-Dick. Melville's "radiant dolphin" inhabits the hymn preceding Father Mapple's sermon on Jonah and the Whale. In Mapple's hymn, God rides to the rescue of a distressed mariner on the back of a dolphin:
With speed he flew to my relief,
As on a radiant dolphin borne….  --Moby-Dick, The Sermon
As David H. Battenfeld and more recently Steven Olsen-Smith have demonstrated, the image of the “radiant dolphin” is Melville’s substitute for “winged cherub” in Psalm 18 of the Dutch Reformed hymnal. Olsen-Smith cites Battenfeld's term "ingenious" for Melville's change from cherub to dolphin, then helpfully summarizes its function:
Conspicuous and arresting, the image of the dolphin-borne deity brings the hymn to noteworthy climax and carries more effectively than any other trope its theme of deliverance. --Steven Olsen-Smith on The Hymn in Moby-Dick, Leviathan 5.1 (March 2003): 43
Symbolically, the redemption of the psalmist-as-Jonah in Father Mapple’s hymn foreshadows the rescue of Ishmael who gets saved by a coffin-lifeboat. Brilliant!

The substitution of dolphin for cherub suggests Melville may have had in mind the iconography of angel figures on the back of dolphins, something like the painting of Cupid riding on a dolphin by Peter Paul Rubens.
Cupid Riding a Dolphin / Peter Paul Rubens, 1636

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Even more important for an understanding of Melville's "radiant dolphin" in Moby-Dick is the enduring myth of Arion and his miraculous rescue by dolphins. The Arion story from Herodotus (also retold by Plutarch) and Ovid has obvious parallels to the biblical account of Jonah which is the subject of Father Mapple's sermon. In a later chapter of Moby-Dick, Ishmael stands with "orthodox pagans" of the classical era who accept the story of Arion and the dolphin as historical fact.
Arion, having put on his robes, took up his lyre, and standing in the stern performed a song in honor of Apollo. As soon as he had finished, he jumped into the sea, just as he was in all his apparel. The crew sailed away back to Corinth but (so the story goes) a dolphin took Arion on his back and brought him to Taenarum (the central promontory of the soutnern Pelopnnese).  --Classical Mythology
UPDATE: Here's Ovid on Arion:
At once, he plunged, fully clothed into the waves:
The water, leaping, splashed the sky-blue stern.
Then (beyond belief) they say a dolphin
Yielded its back to the unaccustomed weight.
Sitting there, Arion gripped the lyre, and paid his fare
In song, soothing the ocean waves with his singing.
The gods see good deeds: Jupiter took the dolphin
And ordered its constellation to contain nine stars.
--Fasti Book 2
Ovid points us to the stars. In the night sky we find what we're looking for, a celestial dolphin in the constellation Delphinus.
Sidney Hall, cartographer
Image credit: Anna Bates on Pinterest

And get this:
The constellation was once popularly called Job’s Coffin, presumably from its elongated box-like shape. . .  --Star Tales-Delphinus
Job's Coffin, are you kidding me? Well I already pointed out how the dolphin in Father Mapple's hymn functions as a symbol of redemption like Queequeg's coffin for Ishmael, but I never knew the dolphin IS a coffin in the heavens. But to return, before my head explodes:

A popular subject in the visual arts, Arion on a dolphin is represented in well-known works by
Francesco Bianchi Ferrari

Arion riding on a Dolphin
Francesco Bianchi Ferrari, c. 1509-10

Image Credit: Ashmolean

and Albrecht Dürer

and François Boucher

Arion on the Dolphin / François Boucher, 1748
Photo: Bruce M. White

Image credit: Princeton University Art Museum

Bianchi, Boucher, Dürer, and Rubens render their subjects differently, but these artists' dolphins have one thing in common: every one of them is ugly. Alien ugly, monstrous or verging on it.

Melville had the Arion tradition in mind, yet he makes his dolphin angelically "radiant," a glittering figure of supernatural beauty.

Out here on the prairie, any sort of dolphin reference makes you think of SeaWorld and if you're really old, Flipper.  Dolphins? Fun-loving fellow mammals, and smart as whips! Never actually seen one myself, but I've heard rumors of them cavorting in foreign waters.

In real life way better looking than Arion's chariot in those old paintings, for sure. But radiant?

No, these little whales of the order Cetacea are black and white, blue, grey, everything but radiant. So what's up with that "radiant dolphin"? Try this: Melville's image of the radiant dolphin fuses the old Arion story from classical history and mythology with another tradition which is both natural and poetical, the dying dolphin. That dolphin is a fish: Coryphaena hippurus.

A.k.a. Mahi-Mahi and Dorado. Mahi-Mahi are said to change colors as they die. Beautiful, spectacular colors. This dolphin, the dying dolphin, is a much rehearsed theme of sailors and poets.

Byron turned the dying dolphin into a fine figure of sunset:
". . . parting day
Dies like the dolphin, whom each pang imbues
With a new coulour, as it gasps away,
The last still loveliest, till — ’tis gone — and all is grey.  --Childe Harold, 4.29
Image Credit:

Cooper makes the same comparison:
the entire character of the sunset was that of a grand picture of ocean magnificence and extent, relieved by a sky in which the tints came and went like the well-known colours of the dolphin.... --Homeward Bound
Lydia Huntley Sigourney wrote of the "dying dolphin's brightness" in her poem The Broken Vase.
Sigourney's poem The Destroyer makes a figurative rainbow of the dying dolphin, which is explicitly a "radiant dolphin":
Confess his power,—the wounded whale
With crimson stains the tide.
The radiant dolphin waxeth pale,
As though a rainbow died,—  (collected in The Western Home and Other Poems
Elegiac verses on "Autumn" signed "E. B. C." in the Knickerbocker magazine for November 1833 also call the dying dolphin a "radiant dolphin":
Death draws latent beauty upon the palest cheek,
And flashing glances of the eye Consumption's power bespeak;
The Dolphin while expiring with varied lustre glows,
And day is ever fairest when waning to its close.
Thus glorious is Autumn—but mournful as 'tis bright,
For who can mark the hectic's flush with feelings of delight?
Who on the radiant Dolphin with gay regard can gaze,
Nor mourn approaching darkness in sunset's richest blaze?  --Knickerbocker magazine
Preeminent among literary treatments is the passage on the dying dolphin in Falconer's The Shipwreck:
What radiant changes strike th' astonish'd sight.'
What glowing hues of mingled shade and light!
Not equal beauties gild the lucid west,
With parting beams all o'er profusely drest.
Not lovelier colors paint the vernal dawn, ,
When orient dews impearl th' enamel'd lawn,
Than from his sides in bright suffusion flow,
That now with gold imperial seem to glow:
Now in pellucid sapphires meet the view,
And emulate the soft celestial hue:
Now beam a flaming crimson on the eye;
And now assume the purple's deeper dye.
But here description clouds each shining ray.
What terms of art can nature's powers display? --from The Book of Shipwrecks

Confusion about these dolphin-fish reigns in unexpected places, as illustrated in these comments on Falconer's dolphins by a puzzled Leigh Hunt:
Now Falconer, it is true, in his Shipwreck, Canto 2, speaks of Dolphins in the Mediterranean sea, as beaming " refulgent rays;" and describes them, in particular, as shifting into a variety of most brilliant colours, when dying. But this may only prove, that Sandys was wrong in excluding the fish in question from the Mediterranean; and it is remarkable that Falconer, notwithstanding his own poetical tendencies, does not take occasion of the appearance of what he calls Dolphins, to make the least allusion to ancient stories, nor speaks of their tumbling, nor otherwise seems to have recognized in them his old poetical friends. The writers too, who distinguish the Dolphin from the porpus, make no mention of these brilliant colours. . . . --The Indicator
To clear all this up, just ask a native:
Growing up in Florida, these were always called Dolphins. But Whenever you talked about "a Dolphin", people knew which kind you were talking about by the context it was used in--if you said "Man, we caught and ate some good Dolphin last weekend", you knew they were talking about a fish. If they said "Hey, we went to the Miami Seaquarium and saw these Dolphins do all kinda cool tricks", you knew they were talking about a porpoise. If they said "Man, the Dolphins really suck this year", you know they were talking about a football team. --Reddit
Another commenter at Reddit further clarifies: "When dolphin fish became a popular menu item they had to come up with another word so the Yankee snowbirds knew they weren't eating Flipper steaks."

Critics of Moby-Dick falter when they think of Mapple's "radiant dolphin" only as an ordinary porpoise. Imagined as kin to Flipper, Melville's radiantly redemptive dolphin diminishes into a “folksy touch” (David S. Reynolds in Beneath the American Renaissance) or the comical conveyance for some “absurd aquatic deity” (Yvonne Sherwood in A Biblical Text and its Afterlives).

Here's Yvonne Sherwood again, in the same vein from the same volume:
. . . Herman Melville tips his Dutch Reformed hymn just over the brink of absurdity with the image of deity riding 'as on a dolphin borne' . . . (258)
Notice this time Sherwood forgot the radiant part. Hey, no fair. Radiant!

Inspired by the radiant dolphin of sailors and poets, the magnificent creature of Melville’s imagination races to the rescue invested with divine and dazzling grandeur.

Melville's poetry offers additional evidence for the redemptive function of Melville’s radiant dolphin-fish. Witness “Jack Roy” in John Marr and Other Sailors (1888), for example, and Clarel (1876).

The brilliantly colored dolphin aptly figures the heroically hearty sailor Jack Roy and his transcendent nobility:
Like the dolphin off Africa in rainbow a’sweeping—
Arch iridescent shot from seas languid sleeping.  --Jack Roy
To similar effect in Clarel, the priest Derwent counterbalances Mortmain’s despair with hope in the form of a dolphin once glimpsed near floating debris, making a glittering rainbow with its arched body:
. . . yet Derwent said
At close: "There's none so far astray,
Detached, abandoned, as might seem, 
As to exclude the hope, the dream
Of fair redemption. One fine day
I saw at sea, by bit of deck--
Weedy--adrift from far away--
The dolphin in his gambol light
Through showery spray, arch into sight:
He flung a rainbow o'er that wreck." --Clarel Part 2 Canto 4
Derwent’s dolphin revives the “radiant dolphin” of Father Mapple’s hymn and, before that, the “winged rainbows” that circled the isle of Flozella in Mardi, and still may be seen by sailors and poets from Madeira to Maui:
And round about the isle, like winged rainbows, shoals of dolphins were leaping over floating fragments of wrecks….”  --Mardi; and, A Voyage Thither
Image Credit: Rvenitsa /

Related melvilliana post:

Destiny of Mardi

 What were we saying about Mardi? From the London Standard, Tuesday, April 10, 1849:
Herman Melville. — The remarkable work of this most interesting writer just published has by this time been read by thousands. "Mardi" is certainly, for imagination, for picturesque beauties, for profound thought and eloquence, mixed up occasionally with soarings in which we confess we cannot follow him, one of the most interesting and remarkable books to which our attention has been called for a long time. There are pictures for the poet and painter, profound thought for the philosopher, curious speculations for the students of human character, and entertainment for these who seek to be amused. Herman Melville's genius is unquestionable, and "Mardi," like "Gulliver's Travels," is destined to never ending popularity.

--found at The British Newspaper Archive
The same review appeared on Thursday, April 12, 1849 in the London Morning Post, credited to the Evening Paper.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Duncan McLean (1811-1896), Sailor--Newspaper Man

The Flying Cloud at Pier 20 in the East River
clipper ship by Donald McKay, described in the Boston Atlas by Duncan McLean
As promised in our last, more about the author of Whaling in the Straits of Timor from the lengthy mortuary notice published in the Boston Journal on Saturday, October 17, 1896:


Death of Old Sailor—Newspaper Man.

Used to Swim With Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Well-Known as a Sea Yarn Writer and Ship Editor.

Duncan McLean, the well-known journalist, died today, aged 85 years.

Capt. Mclean’s death occurred at his residence, 119 Princeton Street, East Boston.

Duncan McLean was born in Kirkwall, Orkney, one of the scenes of Sir Walter Scott’s “Pirate,” on Oct. 14, 1811, and was familiar with the sea from the time he could scramble into a boat. Most of the boys who live along the coasts of the Orkneys take to the sea as naturally as ducks, and soon become expert boatmen.

At an early age McLean left home in a schooner named George Canning, and made his first passage to Leith, the seaport of Edinburgh, and from thence sailed to Newcastle and engaged in the coal trade between that port and London. Disliking the trade he volunteered on board the Perseus sloop-of-war lying off the town of London, was transferred from her to the Hind cutter, and from her to the old line-of-battle ship Ramillies, lying in the Downs, as a guard ship.

She was commanded by Capt. Pigot, brother of the captain of the Hermione frigate, whose crew rose in mutiny on account of harsh treatment, killed nearly all the officers, and delivered the frigate to the Spaniards at Porto Cabello, from which she was subsequently cut out by boats from a British squadron, and most of her mutineers were either hanged or transported.

Capt. Pigot of the Ramillies was about to flog a man, who protested his innocence of the offence with which he was charged in vain. He was seized to the grating, the boatswain was about to apply the lash, when the sailor sang out, “Captain Pigot, remember your brother!” “Cut him adrift! Pipe down!” were the orders, and the captain called his gig and left for the shore. Those in the boat said that he cried like a child, for he dearly loved his unfortunate brother.

From the Ramillies McLean volunteered for the Gloucester, 74, and was up the Mediterranean at the close of the Greek Revolution. He remained in her between two and three years, during which time she was twice struck by lightning, and was so badly damaged by striking a rock off Cabrita Point that she had to put into Gibraltar, where she was hove down—a great undertaking—and was repaired so that she reached Chatham in safety.

Flogging was very common on board. The day she was paid off some six men who had gone ashore without leave received two dozen lashes each. She was commanded by a Capt. Coffin, some relative of Sir Isaac Coffin. When he commanded a frigate his own barge’s crew waylaid him outside of Portsmouth, tied him to a tree, and every one had a lash at him, which gave him a nervous twitch in the back ever afterward.

From the Gloucester McLean sailed in the East India trade, then went three years sperm whaling, returned to the merchant service, and in 1837 joined the ship Kensington, Capt. Curtis, in Liverpool, his first American ship. Half passage out the second mate was taken sick. McLean was appointed in his place, and when he arrived in New York was recommended as chief mate to Capt. Palge, long since deceased. Not being naturalized he was not eligible to take command, and therefore had to wait the usual time; but before this expired he left the sea and settled in Boston.

Here he made the acquaintance of Col. Greene, and entered his office to learn the art of printing at 3d. per week and $15 per year. He was then 26, his hands were hard, and his sense of feeling blunt, but he persevered and made a fair compositor.

In two years he was assistant editor and second foreman of the Boston Post, and was earning by a new arrangement from $10 to $12 per week. When shipbuilding was most active he took to describing them, and his sketches soon attracted so much notice that he had plenty of work in that line, and was often well paid for it. He described all the clippers built by Mr. Donald McKay and most of the East Boston shipbuilders.

He left the Boston Post and purchased into the Atlas when Col. Schouler was its editor and Dr. Brewer its leading literary writer. When the Atlas was merged in the Traveller he took charge of its commercial and shipping department, a position he held 30 years. He considered his connection with the Atlas the best part of his newspaper life, because all the proprietors were gentlemen—there was not a doubtful character among them.

Mr. McLean was a religious man and firmly believed the revelations of Swedenborg, though a member of Rev. W. H. Cudworth’s church, and many years an active teacher in his Sunday School. He was very fortunate in his social relations, his wife was an American lady, and he was often heard to say when past 72 years of age that if he were once more young, and were to choose a wife, he would take her in preference to all others whom he had ever seen.

In 1881 he was elected an honorary member of the Boston Marine Society, which he esteemed as the best compliment ever paid to him. He wrote many sea stories for Mr. M. M. Ballou, and for the papers with which he was connected over the nom de plume of Capt. Oakum, and always had a good word to say for the men of the sea when they went up higher. Capt. R. B. Forbes was his personal friend many years, and continued so until the close of his life. The deceased said that he had described more ships and steamers and had written more obituary notices of shellbacks than any other man connected with the press.

He was not only a practical printer, but a good short-hand reporter, and flattered himself that he could conduct every department of a live newspaper. The late Chas. C. Hazewell, who prepared the first article he ever wrote for the press, was his devoted friend for 42 years. They loved each other as brothers. McLean was one of the liveliest old men who frequented the Merchants’ Exchange, and will be long remembered by hosts of friends.

In writing a letter to a friend in 1886, Mr. McLean jocularly spoke of being out of work and “taking a vacation,” the “first one I ever had” before again settling down to business.

During the palmy days of Fr Taylor’s ministry he was one [of] his right-hand men. Subsequently he wrote his obituary and furnished some of the matter for his biography, which was written by Bishop Haven. He was a sailor, a practical printer, a short-hand writer, a typewriter, and could swim like a fish. During his career he used to say that he had been dead four times, had falls enough to break every bone in his body, and thanked God that he owed no man anything but love.

In 1884 Mr. McLean had a hot controversy with Roland Worthington of the Boston Traveler Association, finally ending by the sale of Mr. McLean’s stock to Mr. Worthington and the discharge of the former.

Mr. McLean had a celebration of his 82d birthday three years ago and seemed hale and hearty then.


Many anecdotes are and might be related of Duncan McLean.

Once when he was on a whaling ship, the vessel was lying becalmed in the Soo Loo Sea, with a large dead sperm whale alongside. A boatsteerer, whose duty it was to hook on, sprang from the gangway overboard and struck the back of his head on the whale.

This no doubt stunned him, for he went down and never came up. Sharks were swarming about the ship, and probably tore him in places. Mac was appointed in his place.

A few days after he was made boatsteerer he was ranging up alongside a large sperm whale, when the mate whispered impressively, “Fasten!” Mac whispered back, calmly, “Lay on!” (That meant nearer.) Again the mate breathed, italics, saying “D—n your eyes! Fasten, or I’ll run a lance through you!”

Mac, with the iron poised ready for a dart, whispered back “Lay on!” The mate was frantic, and with one stroke of the steer oar, brought the bow of the boat head on and stern off, when Mac, quick as light, sent home on after the other, two irons, socket up, into the whale, which trembled, as if paralyzed, for a few seconds. The third mate’s boat came up on the other side, and put two more irons in him, which woke him from his stupor. He raised his flukes gently, as if feeling, and tipped Mac’s boat over. Then, with a savage swing, he cut the third mate’s boat clean in two, and away he went, spouting thick blood in his flurry.

Here were twelve men overboard in bloody water among sharks, and a mad whale circling around in the throes of death.

A cooper’s mate, a fat Englishman, who could not swim, was grabbed by the hair by Mac, who shoved an oar under his chin. When the water was out of his mouth he sung out,

“O, Mac, save me; I’ve got a dear wife and five children,” and then made a grab at him, but Mac gave him a dig in the ribs and told him to “shut his mouth and save his wind.”

He told him he would take care of him, and he did, as well as of another man.

He was, he says, probably more frightened than either of them, for more than once he felt himself in contact with a shark, and stabbed one of the monsters with a sheath knife. The whale soon ‘turned up,’ that is, died; and all hands were saved, for two other boats were close at hand.

In company with the late Hon. Charles C. Hazewell and Leonidas Ingraham of the Journal, Mac used to have swims in the Back Bay from Braman’s bathing house. Frequently he was in the water with Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and noticed that the doctor was a good diver and an expert swimmer, always very quick in his movements, but not inclined to remain long in the water. His first movement from the stage was a spring head foremost, and when he rose he bounded up almost to the waist, struck out a few times, turned on his back, went hand-over-hand, ploughed a little on his side, took a porpoise dive, heels up and then went out, whereas Mac and his companions often remained in the water an hour.

--found in the Newspaper Archives at Genealogy Bank.
In August 1852 McLean's close friend Charles Creighton Hazewell wrote a stinging criticism of Melville's Pierre. Hazewell
"denounced Melville personally in the Boston Daily Times, calling him a would-be reformer thwarted in his goals by lack of personal experience with suffering." 
--Hershel Parker, Herman Melville: A Biography Volume 2, 1851-1891 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), pages 123-4.
In April 1859, McLean named the hero of his Knickerbocker whaling story "Melville."

Related post:

Whaling in the Straits of Timor

Whaling in the Straits of Timor, a first-hand narrative of adventure on a London whaler, was published in the April 1859 issue of The Knickerbocker magazine.

A British newspaper erroneously credited Herman Melville with the authorship of "Whaling in the Straits of Timor," introducing excerpts from the story under the heading "A Massacre of Whales":
A recent number of the “Knickerbocker, or New York Merchant’s Magazine,” contains the following interesting description of a whale hunt, which we may undoubtedly attribute to the versatile and graphic pen of Mr. Herman Melville, whose talents in describing such scenes are unequalled:—  (Luton Times and Advertiser, May 7, 1859)
The transparently and uniformly cheerful style of the piece is nothing like Moby-Dick, but five times the captain of the whale-ship "Diana" addresses the narrator as "Melville."
It was eight bells, (noon,) and I was about descending into the half-deck to dinner, when Captain Hunter called me to him, and said: ‘Melville, I want you to go aloft, and take a long look and strong look for whales; the chaps at the mast-heads I think are all asleep, they are so quiet. I would almost swear there are whales in sight, for I can smell them. Look sharp to windward.’
The reason he selected me, was my luck. I had seen three-fourths of the whales during the voyage; and the ship now only required a couple of hundred barrels to fill up. It was therefore conceded fore and aft that I had the best eyes in the ship. Five bottles of rum had been won by me in succession for having seen whales. . . . (351-352)
In the Index to volume 53 of The Knickerbocker (January-June 1859), the author of "Whaling in the Straits of Timor" is identified as Duncan McLean.

WorldCat likewise names Duncan McLean as the author.

On May 23, 1859 The Boston Traveler reprinted McLean's story as a "spirited description of sperm-whaling incidents" from "the time when whales were more plentiful than at present, and before the invention of bomb-lances and whaling-guns." 

The month before Whaling in the Straits appeared, The Knickerbocker published an article by McLean titled "Seamanship of the Atlantic Monthly.”
Its author, Duncan McLean, asserts that an article called “Men of the Sea,” from the January 1859 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, which describes sailors as degraded, was written out of inexperience, ignorance, and stupidity. His own assertion that “the seamen of our day have not degenerated” seems more in keeping with publications such as Harper’s and Leslie’s, where the activities of ships and sailors are extolled rather than bemoaned. -- Jill B. Gidmark, Encyclopedia of American Literature of the Sea
Not much is known about Duncan McLean. Or rather, not much is remembered. McLean the author of "Seamanship" was from Boston, according to the Springfield Republican (March 5, 1859). Presumably then he is the same Duncan McLean who wrote letters to the Boston Traveler on behalf of a "Sewing Teacher of the Adams School" from his residence at No. 96 Princeton street, East Boston" (Boston Traveler, September 27, 1865).

Published in the month before Herman Melville's death, the Boston Herald article "Father Neptune's Visit" records the reminiscences of a "Capt. Duncan McLean" on the nautical traditions connected with Crossing the Line:
In old times, when most ships crossed the equator, Neptune and his suite came on board and shaved the greenhorns—those who had not crossed it before,. But this ancient ceremony, like the “shells” who invented it, has passed away, never, perhaps to be revived. As late as 60 years ago, it was quite common, and has been frequently described by nautical writers.
“The last time I crossed the line, outward bound,” said Capt. Duncan McLean the other day, “I belonged to a sperm whaler, when sperm whaling was in the zenith of its glory, and sperm oil brought $1 a gallon. . ." --Boston Herald, August 9, 1891; found in the Newspaper Archives at Genealogy Bank.
On Sunday, October 18, 1896 McLean's obituary appeared in the Worcester Daily Spy:


Boston, Oct. 17.—Duncan McLean, the well known journalist, died today, aged 85 years. Capt. McLean’s death occurred at his residence, 119 Princeton street, East Boston.

Duncan McLean was born in Kirkwall, Orkney, one of the scenes of Sir Walter Scott’s “Pirate,” on Oct. 14, 1811, and was a sailor in early life. He used to swim with Oliver Wendell Holmes. He was particularly well known as a writer of sea stories and as a ship editor. He had an interest in several newspaper enterprises. 
So now we can supply dates for the life of Melville's contemporary Duncan McLean (1811-1896).

The Boston Herald obituary confirms that Duncan “was well known in newspaper circles" and adds:
... he was actually the oldest newspaper man in this city. He was born in Kirkwell, Orkney, Scot., Oct. 14, 1811.
Deceased went to sea at an early age. He acquired a fund of nautical information. He had charge of the shipping department of the Boston Post when it was under Col. Greene’s management. He subsequently purchased an interest in the Boston Atlas. When the Atlas and various other papers were joined to the Traveler, McLean took charge of the shipping and commercial departments of that paper, and remained with it 30 years. 
He leaves two daughters and a son. (Boston Herald, October 18, 1896)
In a speech on “Old Time Editors,” Benjamin F. Stevens remembered McLean and his contributions to Boston journalism:
The Atlas was, besides its strong political views, a thoroughly excellent newspaper, as were the others of that day. It was especially noted for its ship news—a portion of the paper conducted in the forties by the late Duncan McLean, a thorough-going Scotchman of genuine worth as a writer as well as a gatherer of news. --Boston Herald, Sunday, January 31, 1897
The Boston Journal on Saturday, October 17, 1896 provides a long detailed tribute in the Mortuary Notice for Duncan McLean. Among other fascinating facts, the Journal obituary reveals that McLean wrote nautical tales "over the nom de plum of Capt Oakum."

After a break, we will give the whole tribute from the Journal in another post.

Related post: