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


  1. Scott, what's the most complete online listing of book reviews written or thought to be written by Melville himself? I see the listing you have here on your magazine-writing page. I'm interested in knowing what periodicals he might have been writing reviews for in the early or mid-1840s, just before "New York Literary World" started up.

    Bob (RJO)

    1. Online there's a list of Melville's Uncollected Prose including book reviews, here:

      In print the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Piazza Tales has versions of Melville's known reviews, all from the Literary World:
      1. Etchings of a Whaling Cruise (Browne, also Ringbolt's Sailors' Life and Sailors' Yarns)
      2. Mr. Parkman's Tour (Oregon Trail)
      3. Cooper's New Novel (Sea Lions)
      4. A Thought on Book-Binding (Cooper's Red Rover)
      5. Hawthorne and His Mosses

      Norman Hoyle's dissertation on Melville as Magazinist proposes several more from the Lit. World on far western travel as Melville's, including the anonymous review of The Western Trail:

    2. Many thanks, Scott. So it looks like his reviewing for Literary World came about through his contact with Duyckinck, and so began when that journal began. I was asking because I think I may have found a source for a notable Melville passage, the source dating to about 1845 -- so I was interested to see what he might have been reviewing at that time. It looks like nothing (in print, that is). I'll keep investigating.

      Bob (aspiring sub-sub-librarian, seeking immortality in footnotes)