Sunday, August 31, 2014

Author of Omoo "a thorough scamp"

Papeete Bay, Tahiti
Le Magasin Pittoresque (Paris, 1843) via Shutterstock
OMOO, OR ADVENTURES IN THE SOUTH SEAS, by Hermann Melville. (Murray’s Home and Colonial Library) two parts.
This is a clever and amusing book, and if no higher qualities were demanded to entitle it to a place in Murray’s Library, it might pass muster. But the general character of the series is so high, that we confess we must regard it, like the Typee and Toby of the same author, as no better than an intruder. It is impossible to judge from internal evidence whether the book is fact or fiction, or, what is most likely, a mixture of both. One thing at least is certain, that Mr. Melville, by his own shewing, is a thorough scamp, utterly destitute of principle, and as far as we can discover in the picture he gives of himself in this his personal narrative, without one redeeming quality. It is impossible to trust to his facts, and the nature of his book forbids it to be received as fiction.

--Royal Cornwall Gazette, Friday, 28 May 1847; found at The British Newspaper Archive

Friday, August 29, 2014

Herman Melville's burned-up Seneca

UPDATE 2: Check out the later Melvilliana post on marginalia in Melville's lost Seneca, as reported by Jay Leyda in vol. 1 of The Melville Log. Leyda described this volume of Seneca's Workes from the collection of Carl Haverlin as the 1620 second edition, not the 1614 edition.

Two volumes of Seneca, old (London, 1746) and older (1614!), are listed in the catalog at Melville's Marginalia Online. One survives in the NYPL Gansevoort-Lansing collection: the 1746 London edition of Seneca's Morals (Sealts 458). That's the volume Herman inscribed to his brother Tom:
"Thomas Melville from Herman Melville"; "My Dear Tom, This is a round-of-beef where all hands may cut & come again. Jan: 26th 1854. Pittsfield. Mass:"
Yow! For more on the book that does exist still in the physical world, see the update at the end, please. Ishmael definitely knew his Seneca:
"What matters it how many masters we have, when it is but one slavery?"
--
Seneca's Morals: By Way of Abstract
The 1614 volume (Sealts 457) most likely burned up in a fire. Reportedly it contained Melville's annotations as well as markings:
This copy of Seneca's Works was described to Merton M. Sealts, Jr., by Carl Haverlin, whose library in California was destroyed by fire on 4 January 1954. Among the contents of this 1614 edition of Seneca's Works is "The Life of Lucius Annaeus Seneca Scribed by Iustus Lipsius." --Melville's Marginalia Online
That lost, probably incinerated 1614 volume was published in London by William Stansby. First, let's see if we can find it. No luck just yet at Google Books. How about trusty Hathi Trust? Bingo! And what a treasure! Now that we have in a way rescued Seneca (not Melville's annotated copy you understand, but the same edition he had) from oblivion, let's check and see if this precious volume has Seneca's Letters from a Stoic.

 

His Epistles I see listed second in the Contents. Would those include Letter 47 on masters and slaves? I want to know, being lately re-interested in Seneca as perhaps the guiding spirit behind Ishmael's interrogative challenge, "Who aint a slave? Tell me that" in the first chapter of Moby-Dick.

Yes, that letter XLVII is here.

Only in this volume Seneca's servus "slave" is translated servant. So the whole letter deals with the right treatment of and relation to "servants" which is to say, slaves:
Is hee a servant? But happily a free man in minde. Is he a servant? Shall this hurt him? Shew one that is not. One serveth his lust, another his avarice, another ambition, another feare. I will shew you a man that hath beene Consul, serving an old woman. I will let you see a rich man serving a poore maid: I will shew you the noblest yong men, the very bond-slaves of Players. There is no servitude more foule, then that which is voluntarie. For which cause, thou hast no reason that these disdainfull fellowes should deterre thee from shewing thy selfe affable to thy servants, and not proudly superiour. --The workes of Lvcius Annaevs Seneca p238
But later the more usual translation of servus is "slave," thus:
Is he a slave? His mind may yet be free: is he a slave? Why should this prejudice you against him? Shew me the man who is not a slave. One is a slave to lust; another to covetousness; another to ambition; and all to fear. I can shew you a man of consular dignity, a slave to an old woman; a very rich man a slave to his handmaid; and many a young nobleman, who are the very bond-slaves of players. No slavery is more infamous than that which is voluntary: there is no reason, therefore, that some over-nice persons should deter you from shewing yourself affable and good-humour'd to your servants; instead of carrying yourself proudly as their superior. --The epistles of Lucius Annaeus Seneca
As Ishmael's subtext, Seneca aint no stretch. In the paragraph immediately before the one where Ishmael asks "Who aint a slave?" Ishmael invokes the Roman Stoic by name, presenting his brand of moral philosophy as the most consoling one around for downwardly mobile intellectuals:
The transition is a keen one, I assure you, from a schoolmaster to a sailor, and requires a strong decoction of Seneca and the Stoics to enable you to grin and bear it. --Moby-Dick, Loomings
Well, you can see why Melville liked old books. There's so much to marvel over in the 900-plus pages of this rich and rare old book, The Workes of Lucius Annaeus Seneca, both Morrall and Naturall. Translated, I almost forgot to mention, by Thomas Lodge.

More later--time to read.

UPDATE 1: Great news! that one surviving volume of Seneca from Melville's library (Sealts 458), the one he gave to his brother Tom in January 1854, also has the letter on masters and slaves. Numbered 17 for some reason--EPISTLE XVII.--, not the usual 47.

So let's cut again, now from the book Melville lovingly bestowed, Seneca's Morals: By Way of Abstract. Though not from his fifteenth edition which I don't yet see online. This passage I take to be the classical basis not only of Ishmael's "Who aint a slave?" challenge, but also Melville's critique of elitism in Francis Parkman's Oregon Trail:
When we affect to contemn savages, we should remember that by so doing we asperse our own progenitors; for they were savages also. Who can swear, that among the naked British barbarians sent to Rome to be stared at more than 1500 years ago, the ancestor of Bacon might not have been found? Why, among the very Thugs of India, or the bloody Dyaks of Borneo, exists the germ of all that is intellectually elevated and grand. We are all of us—Anglo-Saxons, Dyaks, and Indians—sprung from one head, and made in one image. --Melville's review Mr. Parkman's Tour
Here you go, Seneca on virtue as the true nobility, in this 1806 edition printed by John Prentiss under the headings, "We are all equal by blood" and "Tenderness to servants":
. . . The original of all mankind was the same, and it is only a clear conscience that makes any man noble: for that derives even from heaven itself. It is the saying of a great man, that, If we could trace our descents, we should find all slaves to come from princes, and all princes from slaves: but fortune has turned all things topsy turvy, in a long story of revolutions. It is most certain, that our beginning had nothing before it, and our ancestors were some of them splendid, others sordid, as it happened. We have lost the memorials of our extraction; and, in reality, it matters not whence we came, but whither we go. Nor is it any more to our honor the glory of our predecessors, than it is to their shame the wickedness of their posterity. We are all of us composed of the same elements; why should we then value ourselves upon our nobility of blood, as if we were not all of us equal, if we could but recover our evidence?

. . . It is worthy of observation, that the most imperious masters over their own servants are, at the same time, the most abject slaves to the servants of other masters. I will not distinguish a servant by his office, but by his manners. The one is the work of fortune, the other of virtue. But we look only to his quality, and not to his merit. Why should not a brave action rather dignify the condition of a servant, than the condition of a servant lessen a brave action? I would not value a man for his cloathes, or degree, any more than I would do a horse for his trapping. What though he be a servant! Shew me any man that is not so, to his lusts, his avarice, his ambition, his palate, to his mistress; nay, to other men's servants; and we are all of us servants to fear: insolent we are, many of us at home; servile and despised abroad; and none are more liable to be trampled upon than those that have gotten a habit of giving affronts by suffering them. What matters it how many masters we have, when it is but one slavery? and whosoever despises that is perfectly free, let his masters be never so many. --Seneca's Morals: By Way of Abstract, 1806 ed.
Related post:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dana's 1869 N-words

Photo: J. N. Bartfield Fine and Rare Books
For the first of two epigraphs to the chapter on White-Jacket in The New Cambridge Companion to Herman Melville, Jeannine Marie DeLombard chooses a vivid passage on flogging from Dana's Two Years Before the Mast featuring two exclamatory uses of the N-word, the second in all capital letters.

In parentheses, DeLombard gives the date as 1840, thus presenting the doubly loaded epigraph as a quotation from the first edition of Two Years Before the Mast.

This date is important for historically grounding the ensuing argument, as DeLombard makes sure to point out early on, at the start of the second paragraph:
"My epigraphs indicate antislavery rhetoric's pervasive influence on antebellum culture." 
(White-Jacket: Telling Who Is--and Aint--a Slave, New Cambridge Companion p51)
Maybe so for the second epigraph from Moby-Dick, although a case can be made for Seneca as the inspiration for Melville's philosophical question "Who aint a slave?"
   "He is a slave." His soul, however, may be that of a freeman. "He is a slave." But shall that stand in his way? Show me a man who is not a slave; one is a slave to lust, another to greed, another to ambition, and all men are slaves to fear. I will name you an ex-consul who is slave to an old hag, a millionaire who is slave to a serving-maid; I will show you youths of the noblest birth in serfdom to pantomime players! No servitude is more disgraceful than that which is self-imposed. --Seneca, EPISTLE XLVII
Plato Seneca Aristotle - medieval via Wikimedia Commons
But that first epigraph from Dana's book rather exemplifies the rhetoric of postbellum culture. At any rate, the Dana epigraph is not taken from any publication in 1840 or any year before the Civil War. It really comes from 1869 and after. Dana's 1840 edition reads as follows:
"You see your condition! You see where I've got you all, and you know what to expect!"—"You've been mistaken in me—you didn't know what I was! Now you know what I am!"—"I'll make you toe the mark, every soul of you, or I'll flog you all, fore and aft, from the boy, up!"—"You've got a driver over you! Yes, a slave-drivera negro-driver! I'll see who'll tell me he is n't a negro slave!" --1840 Two years before the mast
 This same passage with "negro-diver" and "negro" instead of the capitalized N-word was quoted in the New York Knickerbocker review.

Now perhaps Dana in 1869 was aiming to restore the sadistic captain's offensive language as he originally heard it, not as first printed in 1840. OK but even so, you would need to explain that line of reasoning. You can't give 1840 as the publication date of a text first published in 1869. Well you can, it turns out, but you shouldn't. For comparison, Hathi Trust digital library also has the 1869 revised edition with the passage that DeLombard excerpts for her epigraph.

You could say the vocabulary does not matter a bit for DeLombard's argument, that either way, in either version, Dana's sailors are explicitly compared to and treated as slaves. Yes indeed! So why bother at all with the anachronistic (in a discussion focused on Melville's 1850 White-Jacket and antebellum culture) and for us in our time gratuitously offensive 1869 version?

The crazy thing is, in her book In the Shadow of the Gallows, DeLombard did accurately quote the 1840 passage from the 1981 Penguin edition where editor Thomas Philbrick followed "the text of the original Harper edition." And as in the New Cambridge Companion, DeLombard there juxtaposed Dana with Ishmael.
 
What's going on?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Northeast and sequestered

http://www.wdl.org/en/item/65/
Chart of the Galapagos / Surveyed in the Merchant-Ship Rattler
and Drawn by Capt. James Colnett of the Royal Navy in 1793, 1794 ; Engraved by T. Foot
Adapted from my post to the Google group Ishmailites back on 7/10/2011:

Far to the northeast of Charles's Isle, sequestered from the rest, lies Norfolk Isle, and, however insignificant to most voyagers, to me, through sympathy, that lone island has become a spot made sacred by the strangest trials of humanity.

So Melville begins (after three fine poetic epigraphs, that is) his tale of "Norfolk Isle and the Chola Widow" from "The Encantadas."  Great prose, bad geography? 

John Woram in chapter 9 of his book Charles Darwin Slept Here (Rockville Press, 2005) points out that Melville's Norfolk Isle "would seem to identify the place known today as Isla Santa Cruz.  But it doesn't....The island with this name actually lies due north of Charles, not far away at all, and certainly not sequestered from the rest." 

However, Woram in these appreciative remarks is not reckoning with the geography or rather cartography of Colnett, one of Melville's principal Galapagos authorities.  Colnett's earliest maps show Norfolk Isle in the same relation to Charles that Melville gives, northeast and apart from the others.

Not the later improved version,

but the older one shown above, drawn in 1793-4 and published in A voyage to the South Atlantic (1798).

Yep, there's lonely little Norfolk Isle sitting there northeast of Charles and appearing, just like Melville says in the sketch, sequestered.

Melville probably knew at least one of the other names for Norfolk Isle, Indefatigable. When and how did Norfolk get the name Santa Cruz? Could Melville have possibly known the name Isla Santa Cruz or Isle of the Holy Cross as an alternative for Norfolk Isle? If so, oh my! Perfect. If not, the current name gives us a wonderful literary coincidence to consider in light of the literal crosses in "Norfolk Isle and the Chola Widow" (cross of sticks over the grave of Hunilla's husband Felipe, the crossed letter X in her brother's name Truxill, Hunilla's worn crucifix, her donkey's cross), and remembering too how Melville introduces the place as "sacred." Maria Felisa López Liquete points out in print that
"if Saint/Holy Cross were the island’s name instead of Norfolk, the tale would start and finish with the same word, 'cross' . . . ." --When Silence Speaks: The Chola Widow, in Melville and Women, page 221.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hunilla's lonely pregnancy

The real-life story of Agatha Hatch that so moved Melville testified to the heroic endurance of suffering by island women abandoned by sailors.

When Agatha's sailor husband left her, she was pregnant with their daughter.

Many critics link Agatha with Hunilla, the grief-struck hero of Norfolk Isle and the Chola Widow in Melville's Galapagos sketchbook "The Encantadas." Maybe Hunilla is similarly situated by her creator Herman Melville: pregnant and abandoned (effectively, through accidental death) by her new husband.

Pregnant?! You would never guess it from most of the published commentaries on Melville's "Chola Widow" sketch. Most critics read the narrator's artificially elaborated silence regarding "two unnamed events" in the Galapagos experience of Hunilla as crafty allusions to violence and treachery at the hands of passing sailors. Those unmentionable two events would in that case have involved two different incidents of rape. Or possibly one crime of rape, followed by unspeakably cruel abandonment counting in the narrator's mind as a separate "event." Somewhere one critic has called attention to the further possibility that Hunilla became pregnant as a result of rape. Regarding that or any scenario so terrible, what is not much explored is whom the narrator wants to protect by his silence. His artificially elaborate non-revelation protects not only the dignity of a serially victimized Hunilla, but the reputation of sailors. As a class, sailors were already regarded in some circles (also prone to criticize the immorality of Melville's writings) as stereotypically licentious. Melville's narrator will not disclose evidence "for scoffing souls to quote, and call it firm proof upon their side" of damnable criminal debauchery by brother sailors. What he will disclose is the admirable, reverent treatment of Hunilla by a group of devoted sailors, her rescuers. Booze occasionally does some good.

But there is reason enough to imagine Hunilla pregnant before the chance landing of a whaleboat. Remember, Hunilla and Felipe are newlyweds. Hunilla might be naturally and unsurprisingly pregnant with the child of her loving new husband. One of Melville's probable early sources highlights the married status of a Female Crusoe and tragic (though voluntary, sort of) separation from her heartbroken husband. The relentless critical fixation on rape neglects the emphasis Melville places on the romance of married lovers, tragically severed.

One notable exception to the general neglect of Hunilla and Felipe as a couple is available online in this comment by the keen reader at SparkNotes:
After her husband dies, the narrator speaks of two terrible things, which he should not mention, that happened to Hunilla. What are those things? They are buried in the semantics of Melville's writing, but: 1.) Hunilla actually becomes pregnant and has to try and have the baby herself because her husband and brother died on the catamaran. 2.) After she gives birth, the baby dies, and she is raped by men on a ship that boards the island. They leave after they rape her, leaving her alone again. 
--Readers' Notes for Melville Stories
The sharp SparkNotes reader (self-named The Great and Powerful Ass) errs in figuring the 180 days carved into Hunilla's reed-diary as 9 months.  That's only 6 months, of course, as pointed out by a skeptic in reply. However, reading again closely, which is what the narrator's conspicuous silences demand, we can see the pains Melville takes to construct a time frame that allows for a nine-month pregnancy. To the notched six months we have to add more time:
  • First, add 7 weeks.  Nearly seven weeks have passed when Hunilla's husband Felipe and brother Truxill (See, another CROSS there in the middle of his name.) are tragically killed at sea (joyfully celebrating their success catching tortoises, not trying to escape). 
  • Then "week after week" went by.  So add at least 2, possibly 4 more weeks of absent-minded mourning, after burying by hand her husband's corpse and building "a rude cross of withered sticks" to mark his grave.
  • + "some further weeks" of vainly hoping/trying not to hope for rescue. 2 or 3, probably.
 7 weeks  + 3 (splitting the difference) weeks + 2 = 12, and there we have those supposedly missing three months. Pretty close, anyway.

Add those three to the six months of notches to get the sum of 9 months that Hunilla was on the island before she stopped marking time. (Note the emphasis on Hunilla's trouble sleeping, such a common experience of pregnant women.) 

And thus we refute the skeptic at SparkNotes in enthusiastic defense of The Ass. The inexactness of Melville's "weeks" allows for a total of something more (but not that much more) than 9 months. Adding more weeks simply increases the probability that Hunilla conceived on the island.

Melville or if you prefer his narrator (originally named Salvator R. Tarnmoor) specifies "two unnamed events" during Hunilla's three years on Norfolk Isle. The narrator's insistence on "two unnamed events" directly parallels the Captain's two main questions of Hunilla.  One set of questions concerns passing vessels, but the earlier question concerned passing days: the Captain first asked why Hunilla had stopped counting them.

Let's say Hunilla stopped counting the days when her lonely pregnancy ended in another grief. Then the ships passed by, or not. Melville does not permit us the scoffer's security of knowing every cruel fact of Hunilla's existence--but he does invite us to think about her story, with feeling.

Now I'm curious to know who has discussed or even mentioned the possibility that Hunilla might have been pregnant on Norfolk Isle. And I still wonder if Melville ever knew Norfolk Isle by its Spanish name of Santa Cruz.
Photo: AssN9 Ranch

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Melville's "friendly critic" at the Springfield Republican, as rediscovered by Jay Leyda

Josiah Gilbert Holland (1816-1881)
Biographical Encyclopedia of Massachusetts via Wikimedia Commons
Let's don't forget about Jay Leyda's 1954 survey of pro-Melville notices and reviews in the Springfield Republican. Leyda published his Springfield Republican findings in "Another Friendly Critic for Melville" in the New England Quarterly, Vol. 27 (June 1954): 243-249.

Contemporary Reviews at p80 has the favorable notice of the revised edition of Typee in the Holland-era Republican from July 7, 1849, but lacks any citation of the earlier and "perfunctory" Omoo review that Leyda found in the May 8, 1847 Republican, before the announcement of Holland's arrival.

Gary Scarnhorst's "Sheaf of Uncollected Excerpts" in Melville Society Extracts 75 includes an item from the Springfield Republican (May 28, 1853) about the birth of Melville's third child and first daughter, Elizabeth ("Bessie," born May 22, 1853). Scharnhorst incorrectly identifies the newborn as Malcolm, but Leyda had it right when he introduced the same item:
[W]hen the birth notices included a line on a new daughter for the Melvilles, a joshing but not unfriendly item appeared in the same issue:
   By reference to our natal department, it will be seen that Herman Melville, author of "Omoo and Typee," "Pierre, or the Ambiguities," &c., has just issued a new work, which will doubtless be considered more original than any of his former ones."  --Another Friendly Critic p246.
Weirdly enough, Leyda apparently missed what became the next and last item on Scharnhorst's list in Extracts 75, also from the friendly Springfield Republican (June 11, 1853):
"Herman Melville has gone to New York to superintend the issue of a new work."
That "new work" did not appear in 1853, evidently because Melville was for some reason "prevented from printing" it, according to his 24 November 1853 letter to Harper & Brothers. Hershel Parker logically identified Melville's rejected 1853 book with the "Isle of the Cross" manuscript revealed, as Parker was the first to discover, in a letter to Melville's sister Augusta from his cousin Priscilla. Pointing out room for reasonable doubt, Basem L. Ra'ad introduced textual evidence for associating the Isle of the Cross project (presumably fruits of Melville's work on the Agatha story) with the tale of Hunilla the "Chola Widow" on one of the Galapagos Islands. Melville's story of Hunilla on an island with a cross was first published as part of "The Encantadas, Or Enchanted Isles" in the April 1854 issue of Putnam's magazine. In a previous attempt to sort all this out, enchantingly preserved to this hour at Moby-Dick™ (Wolf, wo bist du?) I volunteered my non-peer-reviewed two cents which briefly re-stated is this:

We don't now know for a certainty what "new work" Melville took to New York in June 1853 but was unable to publish then. We do know Melville's November 1853 letter to Harper & Brothers offers yet another book, about tortoise hunting. What if that book, the unfinished "The Tortoise-Hunters," contained the essence of "Isle of the Cross" along with other stuff that afterwards turned up in The Encantadas? In that case the other work, the one Melville was "prevented from printing" in June 1853, could have been something else, maybe even something unknown and unrecorded in the surviving archives--possibly one of the contemplated works for which he wanted "fifty fast-writing youths" in December 1850, or one related to the "silly thoughts and wayward speculations" he confessed to being preoccupied with in September 1851.

Here I might as well direct attention to two of the more popular posts at Melvilliana, one remarking the relatively early date at which Melville began acquiring source-material for The Encantadas, and another on the real-life Hunilla.

Whew! Alright, end of digression. So as Leyda explained way back when, the friendly critic of the Springfield Republican was associate editor J. G. Holland. 

Folder 13 in the Jay Leyda Collection, Melville Society Archive apparently has one offprint at least of the New England Quarterly article--and who knows what else:
9: Folder 13
Leyda, “Another Friendly Critic for Melville” 1954   (9 items)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Melville's Politics

Today's lesson in Political History comes from on high, delivered via this eerily familiar Voice from the Gods in Mardi; and a voyage thither (1849):
Rambling on, we espied a clamorous crowd gathered about a conspicuous palm, against which, a scroll was fixed.

The people were violently agitated; storming out maledictions against the insolent knave, who, over night must have fixed there, that scandalous document. But whoever he may have been, certain it was, he had contrived to hood himself effectually.

After much vehement discussion, during which sundry inflammatory harangues were made from the stumps of trees near by, it was proposed, that the scroll should be read aloud, so that all might give ear.

Seizing it, a fiery youth mounted upon the bowed shoulders of an old man, his sire; and with a shrill voice, ever and anon interrupted by outcries, read as follows:—

“Sovereign-kings of Vivenza! it is fit you should hearken to wisdom. But well aware, that you give ear to little wisdom except of your own; and that as freemen, you are free to hunt down him who dissents from your majesties; I deem it proper to address you anonymously.

“And if it please you, you may ascribe this voice to the gods: for never will you trace it to man.

“It is not unknown, sovereign-kings! that in these boisterous days, the lessons of history are almost discarded, as superseded by present experiences. And that while all Mardi’s Present has grown out of its Past, it is becoming obsolete to refer to what has been. Yet, peradventure, the Past is an apostle.

“The grand error of this age, sovereign-kings! is the general supposition, that the very special Diabolus is abroad; whereas, the very special Diabolus has been abroad ever since Mardi began.

“And the grand error of your nation, sovereign-kings! seems this:— The conceit that Mardi is now in the last scene of the last act of her drama; and that all preceding events were ordained, to bring about the catastrophe you believe to be at hand — a universal and permanent Republic.

“May it please you, those who hold to these things are fools, and not wise.

“Time is made up of various ages; and each thinks its own a novelty. But imbedded in the walls of the pyramids, which outrun all chronologies, sculptured stones are found, belonging to yet older fabrics.
Image Credit: Guillaume Blanchard via Wikimedia Commons
And as in the mound-building period of yore, so every age thinks its erections will forever endure. But as your forests grow apace, sovereign-kings! overrunning the tumuli in your western vales; so, while deriving their substance from the past, succeeding generations overgrow it; but in time, themselves decay.
“Oro decrees these vicissitudes.
“In chronicles of old, you read, sovereign kings! that an eagle from the clouds presaged royalty to the fugitive Taquinoo; and a king, Taquinoo reigned; No end to my dynasty, thought he.

“But another omen descended, foreshadowing the fall of Zooperbi, his son; and Zooperbi returning from his camp, found his country a fortress against him.
Tarquinius Superbus makes himself King; Image by John Leech
from The Comic History of Rome by Gilbert Abbott à Beckett (c. 1850s)
No more kings would she have. And for five hundred twelve-moons the Regifugium or King’s-flight, was annually celebrated like your own jubilee day. And rampant young orators stormed out detestation of kings; and augurs swore that their birds presaged immortality to freedom.

“Then, Romara’s free eagles flew over all Mardi, and perched on the topmost diadems of the east.

“Ever thus must it be.

“For, mostly, monarchs are as gemmed bridles upon the world, checking the plungings of a steed from the Pampas. And republics are as vast reservoirs, draining down all streams to one level; and so, breeding a fullness which can not remain full, without overflowing. And thus, Romara flooded all Mardi, till scarce an Ararat was left of the lofty kingdoms which had been.

“Thus, also, did Franko, fifty twelve-moons ago.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Abukir_%281799%29
The Battle of Abukir, 25 July 1799 by Antoine-Jean Gros (1806)
Thus may she do again. And though not yet, have you, sovereign-kings! in any large degree done likewise, it is because you overflow your redundancies within your own mighty borders; having a wild western waste, which many shepherds with their flocks could not overrun in a day. Yet overrun at last it will be; and then, the recoil must come.

“And, may it please you, that thus far your chronicles had narrated a very different story, had your population been pressed and packed, like that of your old sire-land Dominora. Then, your great experiment might have proved an explosion; like the chemist’s who, stirring his mixture, was blown by it into the air.

“For though crossed, and recrossed by many brave quarterings, and boasting the great Bull in your pedigree; yet, sovereign-kings! you are not meditative philosophers like the people of a small republic of old; nor enduring stoics, like their neighbors. Pent up, like them, may it please you, your thirteen original tribes had proved more turbulent, than so many mutinous legions.
Free horses need wide prairies; and fortunate for you, sovereign-kings! that you have room enough, wherein to be free.
“And, may it please you, you are free, partly, because you are young. Your nation is like a fine, florid youth, full of fiery impulses, and hard to restrain; his strong hand nobly championing his heart. On all sides, freely he gives, and still seeks to acquire. The breath of his nostrils is like smoke in spring air; every tendon is electric with generous resolves. The oppressor he defies to his beard; the high walls of old opinions he scales with a bound. In the future he sees all the domes of the East.

“But years elapse, and this bold boy is transformed. His eyes open not as of yore; his heart is shut up as a vice. He yields not a groat; and seeking no more acquisitions, is only bent on preserving his hoard. The maxims once trampled under foot, are now printed on his front; and he who hated oppressors, is become an oppressor himself.

“Thus, often, with men; thus, often, with nations. Then marvel not, sovereign-kings! that old states are different from yours; and think not, your own must forever remain liberal as now.

“Each age thinks its own is eternal. But though for five hundred twelve-moons, all Romara, by courtesy of history, was republican; yet, at last, her terrible king-tigers came, and spotted themselves with gore.

“And time was, when Dominora was republican, down to her sturdy back-bone. The son of an absolute monarch became the man Karolus; and his crown and head, both rolled in the dust.
Image Credit: Philadelphia Print Shop
And Dominora had her patriots by thousands; and lusty Defenses, and glorious Areopagiticas were written, not since surpassed; and no turban was doffed save in homage of Oro.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Areopagitica

“Yet, may it please you, to the sound of pipe and tabor, the second King Karolus returned in good time; and was hailed gracious majesty by high and low.
Charles II of England
Coronation portrait by John Michael Wright, c. 1661
“Throughout all eternity, the parts of the past are but parts of the future reversed. In the old foot-prints, up and down, you mortals go, eternally traveling your Sierras. And not more infallible the ponderings of the Calculating Machine than the deductions from the decimals of history.

“In nations, sovereign-kings! there is a transmigration of souls; in you, is a marvelous destiny. The eagle of Romara revives in your own mountain bird, and once more is plumed for her flight.
Her screams are answered by the vauntful cries of a hawk; his red comb yet reeking with slaughter. And one East, one West, those bold birds may fly, till they lock pinions in the midmost beyond.

“But, soaring in the sky over the nations that shall gather their broods under their wings, that bloody hawk may hereafter be taken for the eagle.
“And though crimson republics may rise in constellations, like fiery Aldebarans, speeding to their culminations; yet, down must they sink at last, and leave the old sultan-sun in the sky; in time, again to be deposed.

“For little longer, may it please you, can republics subsist now, than in days gone by. For, assuming that Mardi is wiser than of old; nevertheless, though all men approached sages in intelligence, some would yet be more wise than others; and so, the old degrees be preserved. And no exemption would an equality of knowledge furnish, from the inbred servility of mortal to mortal; from all the organic causes, which inevitably divide mankind into brigades and battalions, with captains at their head.

“Civilization has not ever been the brother of equality. Freedom was born among the wild eyries in the mountains; and barbarous tribes have sheltered under her wings, when the enlightened people of the plain have nestled under different pinions.

“Though, thus far, for you, sovereign-kings! your republic has been fruitful of blessings; yet, in themselves, monarchies are not utterly evil. For many nations, they are better than republics; for many, they will ever so remain. And better, on all hands, that peace should rule with a scepter, than than the tribunes of the people should brandish their broadswords. Better be the subject of a king, upright and just; than a freeman in Franko, with the executioner’s ax at every corner.

“It is not the prime end, and chief blessing, to be politically free. And freedom is only good as a means; is no end in itself. Nor, did man fight it out against his masters to the haft, not then, would he uncollar his neck from the yoke. A born thrall to the last, yelping out his liberty, he still remains a slave unto Oro; and well is it for the universe, that Oro’s scepter is absolute.

“World-old the saying, that it is easier to govern others, than oneself. And that all men should govern themselves as nations, needs that all men be better, and wiser, than the wisest of one-man rulers. But in no stable democracy do all men govern themselves. Though an army be all volunteers, martial law must prevail. Delegate your power, you leagued mortals must. The hazard you must stand. And though unlike King Bello of Dominora, your great chieftain, sovereign-kings! may not declare war of himself; nevertheless, has he done a still more imperial thing:— gone to war without declaring intentions. You yourselves were precipitated upon a neighboring nation, ere you knew your spears were in your hands.
Genl. Taylor at the battle of Resaca de la Palma (Currier & Ives).jpg

“But, as in stars you have written it on the welkin, sovereign-kings! you are a great and glorious people. And verily, yours is the best and happiest land under the sun. But not wholly, because you, in your wisdom, decreed it: your origin and geography necessitated it. Nor, in their germ, are all your blessings to be ascribed to the noble sires, who of yore fought in your behalf, sovereign-kings! Your nation enjoyed no little independence before your Declaration declared it. Your ancient pilgrims fathered your liberty; and your wild woods harbored the nursling. For the state that today is made up of slaves, can not tomorrow transmute her bond into free; though lawlessness may transform them into brutes. Freedom is the name for a thing that is not freedom; this, a lesson never learned in an hour or an age. By some tribes it will never be learned.

“Yet, if it please you, there may be such a thing as being free under Caesar. Ages ago, there were as many vital freemen, as breathe vital air today.

“Names make not distinctions; some despots rule without swaying scepters. Though King Bello’s palace was not put together by yoked men; your federal temple of freedom, sovereign-kings! was the handiwork of slaves.
Slave Labor Commemorative Marker

“It is not gildings, and gold maces, and crown jewels alone, that make a people servile. There is much bowing and cringing among you yourselves, sovereign-kings! Poverty is abased before riches, all Mardi over; any where, it is hard to be a debtor; any where, the wise will lord it over fools; every where, suffering is found.

“Thus, freedom is more social than political. And its real felicity is not to be shared. That is of a man’s own individual getting and holding. It is not, who rules the state, but who rules me. Better be secure under one king, than exposed to violence from twenty millions of monarchs, though oneself be of the number.

“But superstitious notions you harbor, sovereign kings! Did you visit Dominora, you would not be marched straight into a dungeon. And though you would behold sundry sights displeasing, you would start to inhale such liberal breezes; and hear crowds boasting of their privileges; as you, of yours. Nor has the wine of Dominora, a monarchical flavor.

“Now, though far and wide, to keep equal pace with the times, great reforms, of a verity, be needed; nowhere are bloody revolutions required. Though it be the most certain of remedies, no prudent invalid opens his veins, to let out his disease with his life. And though all evils may be assuaged; all evils can not be done away. For evil is the chronic malady of the universe; and checked in one place, breaks forth in another.

“Of late, on this head, some wild dreams have departed.

“There are many, who erewhile believed that the age of pikes and javelins was passed; that after a heady and blustering youth, old Mardi was at last settling down into a serene old age; and that the Indian summer, first discovered in your land, sovereign kings! was the hazy vapor emitted from its tranquil pipe.
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adriaen_van_der_Donck
New Netherland - smoking the peace pipe
Image Credit:  Wikimedia Commons
But it has not so proved. Mardi’s peaces are but truces. Long absent, at last the red comets have returned. And return they must, though their periods be ages. And should Mardi endure till mountain melt into mountain, and all the isles form one table-land; yet, would it but expand the old battle-plain.

“Students of history are horror-struck at the massacres of old; but in the shambles, men are being murdered today. Could time be reversed, and the future change places with the past, the past would cry out against us, and our future, full as loudly, as we against the ages foregone. All the Ages are his children, calling each other names.

“Hark ye, sovereign-kings! cheer not on the yelping pack too furiously: Hunters have been torn by their hounds. Be advised; wash your hands. Hold aloof. Oro has poured out an ocean for an everlasting barrier between you and the worst folly which other republics have perpetrated. That barrier hold sacred. And swear never to cross over to Porpheero, by manifesto or army, unless you traverse dry land.

“And be not too grasping, nearer home. It is not freedom to filch. Expand not your area too widely, now. Seek you proselytes? Neighboring nations may be free, without coming under your banner. And if you can not lay your ambition, know this: that it is best served, by waiting events.

“Time, but Time only, may enable you to cross the equator; and give you the Arctic Circles for your boundaries.”

So read the anonymous scroll; which straightway, was torn into shreds.

“Old tory, and monarchist!” they shouted, “Preaching over his benighted sermons in these enlightened times! Fool! does he not know that all the Past and its graves are being dug over?”

They were furious; so wildly rolling their eyes after victims, that well was it for King Media, he wore not his crown; and in silence, we moved unnoted from out the crowd.

--Herman Melville, Mardi

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

More thoughts and facts about Christopher Freeburg's "major intervention"

So for light summer reading I bought Christopher Freeburg's book Melville and the Idea of Blackness and Johnathan Cook's Inscrutable Malice but I kind of bogged down and still had to finish The False Heir and Zanoni, and Corinne (in progress, still). One positive result from reading Freeburg already is my identification of Parke Godwin as the author of several unsigned articles related to Manifest Destiny in Putnam's Monthly Magazine. Allan Moore Emery and others have discussed the articles but nobody recognized the hand of Godwin. (Yay for Google!)

Before trying to finish Corinne and start another of Bulwer's novels (probably The Last Days of Pompeii), I have a few more thoughts on Freeburg's book. One chapter of which, on "The Encantadas," comes highly recommended as the 2012 winner of the Hennig Cohen Prize.
To start with, my favorite passage is from the chapter on blackness in Moby-Dick which does not so much end as erupt in this eloquent protest:
Critics interested in racial difference in this novel too often limit Melville's disquieting critique to various idolators  of white supremacy. What I submit about the pitfalls of mastery is not relevant only for advocates of imperialism and slavery; it also suggests that all advocates for antiracist progressivism and abolitionism should come to grips with their own human frailty, weakness, selfishness, and potential to be consumed by the Truth they espouse, which no political or social paradigm has yet been able to traverse.--Christopher Freeburg, Melville and the Idea of Blackness p60
Freeburg's volcano blast at hitherto unassailable agendas and criticism to me is the best part of his recent book, along with fine insights into the associations in Melville's writings of blackness with existential panic and, crucially, the problem of self-mastery. In other words, it's not always or just about race.  Freeburg sees how Melville's game is bigger than many politicizing critics imagine. The welcome focus on self-mastery reminds me of Melville's own notion, thinly veiled in Mardi as a "voice from the gods":
"Thus, freedom is more social than political. And its real felicity is not to be shared. That is of a man's own individual getting and holding. It is not, who rules the state, but who rules me." --Mardi; and a voyage thither
Freeburg pursues his theme of self-mastery and agency in the chapter on "Benito Cereno" ("Thwarting the 'Regulated Mind'") where he argues in part against "social death" theorists and for the shocking idea that so-called "slaves" might have been human beings who could not be so totally controlled (by other human beings who were not, after all, God) as some academic commentators think. Now get this. On exactly this point, Leviathan reviewer Jeannine Marie DeLombard complains, albeit gently. According to DeLombard, Freeburg needs to engage scholarship after Orlando Patterson "on the legal culture of slavery." Especially, DeLombard counsels, Freeburg needs to learn the legal terms, so he won't confuse legal person-hood with humanity and mistakenly think that, legally speaking, persons are necessarily real people.

But guess what? Freeburg gets that, and more. It's just that he does not necessarily or uncritically accept the primacy of law and legalese:
Scholars discuss how despite designating slaves as property, in order to ensure masters' interests slaves also had to be recognized as people. Interestingly enough, this "double character" does not produce two separate stable categories of "human" and "property," both under the master's total control. In my view, once the law acknowledges the "human" in the slave in order to  protect the masters' economic, social, and political interests, the enslaved "property" is marked as someone who cannot be rendered effectively under another's total control; the law contains an antagonism that undermines the very notion of the power it authorizes. --Melville and the Idea of Blackness, p99
In support of her mild critique, DeLombard cites the calculated exploitation of a mother's loving attachment to her children as recognition of her humanity. Honestly that idea struck me as evilly sick, leading me to think I must be missing something. What better example of men and women as merchandise? But then I find pretty much the same claim from similar-sounding evidence made in the introduction to DeLombard's book, In the Shadow of the Gallows: “Far from dismissing blacks’ affective ties on purely ideological grounds, masters and mistresses manipulated these human relationships so as to maximize slaves’ tractability and profitability.” Notice DeLombard's focus, which is absolute control over slaves (however regarded) by masters. Absolute control, considered in beautifully calm scientific detachment. DeLombard's review and book intro actually bear witness to Freeburg's point that
"even with the abundance of scholarly arguments affirming slaves' agency, Patterson's social death model still thrives under various guises as a viable sociological, theoretical, and historical concept." (98)
What DeLombard seems not to grasp is what Freeburg nails, how distressing and discomfiting Melville's revolutionary blackness can be.

DeLombard thus chooses to fault Freeburg for one of his best and strongest arguments.

Well! In my roundabout way I am starting to get what William Gleason means--or could mean, or maybe should mean--by favorably designating Freeburg's Melville and the Idea of Blackness "a major intervention in Melville studies."

Intervention is sorely needed, particularly in the arena of academic criticism dogmatically driven by theoretical and political agendas. I say nothing here of scholarship. Freeburg seems content with the honorable role of Critic and makes no pretensions to scholarship in this book. Its real weakness is not the failure to comprehend any special critical bias or revelation.

No, the great and glaring weakness of this book is Freeburg's astounding failure to quote Melville's words correctly. I want to say it's a scandal. Here I may be wrong, having been out of the game so long. What is this? Vast to the point of being laughable carelessness in a new expensive book from the Cambridge University Press? I'm thinking the only way it's not a scandal is if everybody gets to do it now. Whatever you want to call it, nearly every longer quotation from Melville's writings is wrong somewhere--as are most of the shorter ones. A couple of examples for now. . . .

Freeburg quotes Melville on Silence:
All profound things and emotions of things are preceded by Silence. What a silence is that with which the pale bride precedes the responsive I will, to the priest's solemn question, Wilt thou have this man for thy husband? In silence, too, the wedded hands are clasped. Yea, in silence the child Christ was born into the world. Silence is the general consecration of the universe. Silence is the invisible laying on the Divine Pontiff's hands upon the world. Silence is at once the most harmless and the most awful thing in all nature. It speaks of the reserved forces of Fate. Silence is the Voice of our God.  (--as quoted by Christopher Freeburg p127)
Melville, from p204 of the cited Northwestern University Press text of Pierre:
ALL PROFOUND THINGS, and emotions of things are preceded and attended by Silence. What a silence is that with which the pale bride precedes the responsive I will, to the priest's solemn question, Wilt thou have this man for thy husband? In silence, too, the wedded hands are clasped. Yea, in silence the child Christ was born into the world. Silence is the general consecration of the universe. Silence is the invisible laying on of the Divine Pontiff's hands upon the world. Silence is at once the most harmless and the most awful thing in all nature. It speaks of the Reserved Forces of Fate. Silence is the only Voice of our God.
Freeburg's quotation omits Melville's italics and key capital letters; and also drops words in three different places: "and attended"; "of"; and "only."

Freeburg also quotes from the pamphlet of Plinlimmon in Pierre:
That in things terrestrial (homological) a man must not be governed by ideas celestial (chronometrical); that certain minor self renunciations in this life his own mere instinct for his own every-day general well-being will teach him to make, but he must by no means make a complete unconditional sacrifice of himself in behalf of any other being (like Christ), or any cause, or any conceit. 
The cited Northwestern-Newbery text of Melville's Pierre:
That in things terrestrial (horological) a man must not be governed by ideas celestial (chronometrical); that certain minor self-renunciations in this life his own mere instinct for his own every-day general well-being will teach him to make, but he must by no means make a complete unconditional sacrifice of himself in behalf of any other being, or any cause, or any conceit.
Here Freeburg's faulty transcription makes "homological" out of Melville's "horological" and adds an explanatory comment in parentheses that is not in the original.

At p32 Freeburg incorrectly and misleadingly applies what is stated conversationally and hypothetically about any misanthrope as a statement about the "Indian-Hater" Moredock:
Melville's description of Moredock's final moments fully exposes the effects of his relentless Indian hating. Melville paints this moment in dark terms: Moredock is "alone, at the dead of night," besieged "by fusillades of thunder" (158). Under assault in total darkness, he feels naked to the elements.
Not true. Moredock gets forwarded in Melville's book as paradoxical proof of something else, "that nearly all Indian-haters have at bottom loving hearts; at any rate, hearts, if anything, more generous than the average." The lines Freeburg quotes are from dialogue in which Melville's cosmopolitan, as a professed lover of mankind, wonders hypothetically how a misanthrope feels:
"What sort of a sensation is misanthropy?"

"Might as well ask me what sort of sensation is hydrophobia. Don't know; never had it. But I have often wondered what it can be like. Can a misanthrope feel warm, I ask myself; take ease? be companionable with himself? Can a misanthrope smoke a cigar and muse? How fares he in solitude? Has the misanthrope such a thing as an appetite? Shall a peach refresh him? The effervescence of champagne, with what eye does he behold it? Is summer good to him? Of long winters how much can he sleep? What are his dreams? How feels he, and what does he, when suddenly awakened, alone, at dead of night, by fusilades of thunder?" --The Confidence-Man
Freeburg mishandles Moredock elsewhere, when for example he asserts (employing added italics for emphasis) at p31:
His antisocial reality, despite his confrontations with Indians, becomes his own oblivion. Moredock drowns within "straggling vapors that droop in from all sides. . . . An intenser Hannibal, he makes a vow, the hate of which is a vortex from whose suction scare the remotest chip of the guilty race may reasonably feel secure. . . . "
Melville's twice-repeated word in The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating chapter from The Confidence-Man is "troop" not "droop"; and Melville wrote "scarce" not "scare."

(Moredock is himself the metaphorical vortex that drowns others, Moredock's vortex figuratively drowns Indians his victims. I would feel bound to make that explicit first, before attempting the finer sort of "Myself am hell" claim for Moredock as victim of his own hatred.)

Freeburg does not mishandle only Melville's words. Even that preferred chapter on The Encantadas erroneously gives Parke Godwin's phrase "savage and intractable race" as "savage and untraceable race."

What makes things worse there is that Freeburg's wrong reading "untraceable" subtly enhances (unintentionally and unnecessarily, to be sure) his claims for unhistorical, non-progressive "timelessness" as a theme in the writings of Manifest Destiny champions. Furthermore the contrast Parke Godwin draws between warlike enemies and "stationary" friends would undermine Freeburg's argument--if he had not glossed over what the writer most likely means by "savage and stationary tribes who are nearest to us."

Hopefully that's enough to show the embarrassing unreliability of Freeburg's quotations. Let me know if you need more.

So far, the Leviathan review and early blurbs make me think readers have sailed over so happily and fast they missed seeing all these wrecks of quotations littering Melville and the Idea of Blackness.

O! what a shame the author did, too. I am praying hard for a second edition.

Related post:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sarah Boyd on Melville's poem "The Coming Storm"

From the first of hopefully more fine annotations by Sarah Boyd in the category of Melville and Art, this one about "The Coming Storm" from Battle-Pieces:
Indeed, mournfulness might have been the emotion Gifford hoped to evoke with this painting: the artist was still in mourning over the death of his brother and seeking solace in his work. The “coming storm” comes close to overwhelming the almost morbid autumnal tints edging the placid lake.  Only the barest hint of a clearer, calmer dawn hovers in the distant skies.

Melville too was “fixed and fascinated” with the “felt” experience of the “awful silence” expressed in the image, but his interest is multivalent.  Opening with the suggestion that “All feeling hearts must feel for him / Who felt this picture” (1-2), Melville’s ambiguous “he” is most likely Booth, but could also stand for Gifford, who, in grief, painted a picture that so fascinated such a captivating figure as the popular Shakespearean actor.  The question of whether artist or patron “felt” in this image the “Presage dim” of the coming storm (which could encompass the assassination of President Lincoln or the fallout from the Civil War and its the problems with Reconstruction), is “dimly” answered in the subsequent lines. 
--Sarah Boyd, Melville's "Coming Storm"
See Melville's poem, Gifford's picture, and the rest of Sarah Boyd's notes here:
Melville's "Coming Storm"
Robert Penn Warren identified the wrong Gifford in his notes to Selected Poems of Herman Melville, probably following the lead of Howard P. Vincent in the Hendricks House Collected Poems.   Hennig Cohen tried to set everybody straight in his explanatory notes to Battle-Pieces by correctly naming Melville's "S. R. Gifford" as Sandford Robinson Gifford. (Nowadays spelled Sanford Robinson Gifford.) But you can find the erroneous attribution to R. S. Gifford (Robert Swain Gifford) repeated in various other places, some surprisingly recent.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Parke Godwin on intractable not untraceable Indians

We won't bow down
Not on that ground . . .
Finally I'm reading Christopher Freeburg's provocative and mind-expanding book Melville and the Idea of Blackness. Here's a correction to pencil-in now, and later (hopefully) incorporate in the next edition:

At p140, the quoted phrase from the article on "Annexation" in Putnam's Magazine should read "savage and intractable race," substituting the correct word "intractable" for the unfortunate error of  "untraceable":
"This picture of irredeemable African rule before European intervention shares the same historical perspective as depictions of the Indians in the Americas before the arrival of Europeans. Consequently, in another Putnam's article pushing for the United States to annex Africa, Indians are commonly referred to as a stationary, uncivilized, "savage and untraceable race." --Melville and the Idea of Blackness, p140
Here is the whole sentence, transcribed from the 1854 source:
A small, but savage and intractable race suddenly surrounded in the Providence of God by a powerful and civilized people, whose laws and customs it cannot or will not accept, but whose vices are readily spread among them, has no other destiny but to die of its corruptions, to perish in arms, or to be removed by gentle methods to some more remote and untroubled hunting grounds.  --Annexation, Putnam's Monthly Magazine (February 1854): 189

Freeburg's readers will want to know also that veteran New York journalist and editor Parke Godwin wrote the unsigned article on "Annexation," which is collected with other of his topical contributions to Putnam's and published in book form as Political Essays. By Parke Godwin. (New York: Dix, Edwards & Co., 1856).

Another quotation, oddly ascribed by Freeburg to "Putnam's on Cuban annexation," is from Godwin's essay titled "What Impression Do We, And Should We, Make Abroad?" in the October 1853 issue of Putnam's Monthly Magazine, reprinted as "Our Foreign Influence and Policy" in Godwin's collected Political Essays. Here too we find mistakes in Freeburg's transcription needing correction. The original reads:
"We must be the masters of our own destinies, and not mere ciphers in the world, like the savage tribes of our western wilderness, or the remote, feeble, degraded despised islanders of the Pacific."  --Putnam's October 1853 p349
Freeburg makes a singular "master" where Godwin wrote "masters" and leaves out one of Godwin's alliterating adjectives, "despised."

Update: Uh-oh, reading on in this prize-winning chapter I see the long quotation from the Hunilla sketch as printed at pp. 159-60 is only distantly related to the cited text from the Northwestern Newberry edition of Melville's Piazza Tales. Do I have to do all the work around here?

Still later: Wow! Most (all?) of the longer quotations from Melville's works in Freeburg's book are wretchedly transcribed. Really messed up, like this bit from Moby-Dick (The Castaway):
Wisdom, revealed his hoarded ships; and among the joyous, heartless, ever-ever juvenile eternities. . . --Christopher Freeburg, Melville and the Idea of Blackness p52
Actually I sort of like the poetical ring of "ever-ever," but I miss Melville's heaps.

While I'm at it, the phrase "primitive families in the wilderness" that Freeburg quotes at p141 is from the Putnam's article on Bancroft in the March 1853 Putnam's, p. 302. Only the second quote in Freeburg's sentence, "stationary tribes" is from the footnoted Putnam's essay on "Annexation." Freeburg's footnote properly credits "Annexation," but this and another quotation of "stationary" from "Annexation" make me think Freeburg does not understand the term "stationary" as Godwin employs it. In this particular context, "stationary" primarily means "settled." Godwin following many writers before him wants to distinguish peaceful, friendly, settled tribes from warlike, hostile, nomadic peoples.  This is important to get because Godwin regards the stationary tribes, dwellers in villages, as well on their way to being civilized, hence not backwards or frozen in unprogressive "timelessness." By contrast, Godwin would have perceived roving hunters of the plains, of the great Sioux and Comanche nations for example, as the warlike and intractable ones.
We won't bow down
Not on that ground . . .
Son-in-law of William Cullen Bryant and at one time a passionate Fourierist, Godwin dedicated his volume of Political Essays to friend Charles Sumner.

Godwin once publicly vouched for HM as a real and mostly truthful person.



Writing from New York on July 17, 1847 Parke Godwin confirmed to the editor of The People's Journal that he had personally seen Herman Melville "in Albany the other day as large as life, where he and his family are well known, and his narratives bearing a little artistic ornament, are held to be perfectly authentic."

via Wikimedia Commons
Related post:

Monday, August 4, 2014

Who is B. L.?

http://www.marcus-beale.com/projects/infopage.php?projectid=128
Junior Library, Oriel College
(formerly the chapel of St Mary's Hall)
Wondering if Melville's mysterious "B. L." in the first book of Clarel (Canto 41, On the Wall) could be modeled after some real historical person, as The Dominican is based on Lacordaire.

Some clues and considerations regarding the person twice-named B. L.:
  •  Englishman, young and good-looking ("fair")
  • writes poetry . . . regular poet, or author of only fugitive verses?
  • associated with Matthew Arnold. "Faith's gathering night" captures theme and spirit of Arnold's poem Dover Beach, confrontation at night with receding Sea of Faith and now pointless contest between "ignorant armies." From his study of Melville's marginalia Walter E. Bezanson judged:
“It was Arnold’s despondencies, his acute sense of the modern plight, that attracted Melville most.” --“Melville's Reading of Arnold's Poetry.” PMLA 69 (1954): 391
  • Pilgrim to Jerusalem as a young man (unless that part is invented?).
  • Studied at St Mary Hall, Oxford and thus connected to Oriel College, home of
    Oxford Movement.
  • Complexly disaffected as verses and marginalia reveal; critical of Anglican rites and revolutionary politics. Hence convert or prospective convert to Catholicism, like John Henry Newman. Blessed John Henry Newman. BL, Bl. for Blessed? 
  • If not based on any one individual, why these particular initials, "B. L."? Echo of Bartleby? Billy? Bulwer-Lytton?
From Clarel, book 1: Jerusalem, canto 41 (On the Wall):
He read: obscurely thus it ran :—
'For me who never loved the stride,
Triumph and taunt that shame the winning side—
Toward Him over whom, in expectation's glow,
Elate the advance of rabble-banners gleam—
Turned from a world that dare renounce Him so,
My unweaned thoughts in steadfast trade-wind stream,
If Atheists and Vitriolists of doom
Faith's gathering night with rockets red illume—
So much the more in pathos I adore
The low lamps nickering in Syria's Tomb.'—
'What strain is this ?—But, here, in blur, —
"After return from Sepulchre:
B. L." '—On the ensuing day
He plied the host with question free:
Who answered him, 'A pilgrim—nay,
How to remember! English, though—
A fair young Englishman. But stay ':
And after absence brief he slow
With volumes came in hand: 'These, look—
He left behind by chance.'—One book,
With portrait of a mitred man,
Treated of High Church Anglican,
Confession, fast, saint-day—deplored
That rubric old was not restored.
But under Finis there was writ
A comment that made grief of it. 
The second work hath other cheer—
Started from Strauss, disdained Renan—
By striding paces up to Pan;
Nor rested, but the goat-god here
Capped with the red cap in the twist
Of Proudhon and the Communist.
But random jottings in the marge
Disclosed some reader of the text
Whose fervid comments did discharge
More dole than e'en dissent. Annexed,
In either book was penciled small:
"B.L.: Oxford: St. Mary's Hall."
  Such proved these volumes—such, as scanned
By Clarel, wishful to command
Some hint that might supply a clew
Better enabling to construe
The lines their owner left on wall. --Clarel, Hendricks House ed.