Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Banks of The Blue Moselle

What Harry Bolton sang for Wellingborough Redburn "under the lee of the long-boat" on Redburn's return voyage from Liverpool to New York:


When the glow-worm gilds the elfin bower,
That clings round the ruin'd shrine,
Where first we met, where first we lov'd,
And I confess'd me thine ;
'Tis there I fly to meet thee still,
At sound of vesper bell ;
In the starry light of the summer night,
On the banks of the blue Moselle.

If the cares of life should shade my brow,
Yes, yes, in our native bowers,
My lute and harp might best accord,
To tell of happier hours ;
'Tis there I'd soothe thy grief to rest,
Each sigh of sorrow quell :
In the starry light of the summer night,
On the banks of the blue Moselle.
As the sheet indicates, music is by composer George Herbert Rodwell, a.k.a. G. H. Rothwell. Lyrics are by Edward Fitzball.

Images: JScholarship

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Morgan's History of Algiers

Ex Voto of a Naval Battle between a Turkish ship from Alger and a ship of the Order of Malta under Langon 1719.jpg
Ex-Voto of a Naval Battle between a Turkish ship from Alger
and a ship of the Order of Malta under Langon, 1719
via Wikimedia Commons.
But I found ample entertainment in a few choice old authors, whom I stumbled upon in various parts of the ship, among the inferior officers. One was "Morgan's History of Algiers," a famous old quarto, abounding in picturesque narratives of corsairs, captives, dungeons, and sea-fights; and making mention of a cruel old Dey, who, toward the latter part of his life, was so filled with remorse for his cruelties and crimes that he could not stay in bed after four o'clock in the morning, but had to rise in great trepidation and walk off his bad feelings till breakfast time.  --White-Jacket, A Man-of-War Library
Howard Vincent thought Melville had both Morgan's History and another book, Knox's Captivity in Ceylon, "at hand" when writing White-Jacket:
Melville's third paragraph about a couple of "choice old authors, whom I stumbled upon in various parts of the ship" is clearly his improvisation, or use, of two books from which he, now author in 1849, was then reading: Morgan's History of Algiers, and Knox's Captivity in Ceylon. That these were at hand in Melville's New York study is suggested by his adequately accurate quotation from the second work.
--The Tailoring of Melville's White-Jacket, 118
Vincent says "improvisation" to distinguish this section of more original writing from other passages in the same chapter of White-Jacket that Melville adapted from Mercier's Life in a Man-of-War.  John or Joseph Morgan's Complete History of Algiers does look like a potentially useful source-book for remarkable North African scenery and military history, with tales of captivity and piracy on the Barbary coast. For a start, what about that restless, remorseful Dey? Wonder if we can find any trace of him trying to "walk off his bad feelings" in either volume of Morgan's History. If he's there somewhere, it might be fun to compare the original text with Melville's paraphrase. I am guessing "breakfast time" at least is Melville's contribution.

Volume 1 at the Hathi Trust Digital Library:

Here's a link to the second volume: Morgan's Complete History of Algiers, vol. 2

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Old Whale Ship, New GoPro, Rookie in the Rigging

Melville scholar and Whitman College alumnus Robert K. Wallace, climbing the rigging of the whaleship Charles W. Morgan.

Wyn Kelley on Melville and Margins

As you might have guessed by now, we don't really get regular news here on the prairie.

For anybody else who missed the great Unbound symposium back in May 2012, MIT has video and podcasts of, among other exciting events, three different panels on the "Future of the Book."

The first panel of May 4, 2012  included Melville scholar Wyn Kelley who examined "the margin as a creative space for writers, critics, and artists" in her presentation (starting at 42:12), “Leaving an Open Margin: the Example of Herman Melville."

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Marginalia in Melville's lost Seneca (1620 second edition, not 1614?)

Looking for lost notes in a burned-up book? Leyda's grand old Log to the rescue, once again! VOLUME ONE gives the following marginalia in that lost volume of Seneca--the one Carl Haverlin used to have. In 1951 it was still in Haverlin's collection. And hold up, Leyda identifies this book as the second "Newly Inlarged and Corrected" edition of 1620. But as listed in the catalog at Melville's Marginalia Online, Sealts #457 is the 1614 first edition. Which is it? Or which was it? What fun it was to see the 1614 edition at Hathi Trust Digital Library, but maybe that's the wrong one. No luck yet turning up the1620 edition. Bauman Rare Books had the second edition for sale, but unfortunately somebody beat us to it. Anyway, Leyda assigns these markings and comments to the year 1848, reporting them as Melville's additions to very early annotations in this very old book:
On Epistle XIII M comments:
What a glorious confidance of Fame!
But how many have thought thus, yea written thus, & have been belied by the Future.

In the margin of the following page M comments:
Surely, if these things were recorded in Holy Writ, what force they would carry. It is indeed undeniable, that in Seneca & other of the old philosophers, we meet with maxims of actual life, & lessons of practical wisdom which not only equal but exceed any thing in the Scriptures.—But behold the force of example, & its omnipotence over mere precepts however lofty. Seneca's life belied his philosophy; But that of Christ went beyond his own teachings.

In "Of Providence," Chapter III M checks & scores the passage beginning:
There is nothing, saith [Demetrius the Stoick], more vnhappie then that man that hath neuer beene touched with aduersitie: for he hath not had the means to know himselfe.
M's comment: Glorious.

At the beginning of Chapter IV M scores:
Prosperitie falleth into the hands of the common sort, & betideth those of basest spirit: but to yoake and master calamities and mortall terrours, is the propertie of a great man.
M's comment on this has been cut from the page.
--The Melville Log, Volume 1 [285]
Searching at AbeBooks.com I see Old Erie Street Bookstore in Cleveland is offering the 1620 second edition of Seneca's Works in good condition for $1,950. Hesperia Libros of Zaragoza (Spain) has one for US $1,176.03.
Related post:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Herman Melville's Review of The Red Rover


The Red Rover. By J. Fenimore Cooper. Revised edition. Putnam.

THE sight of the far-famed Red Rover, sailing under the sober-hued muslin wherewith Mr. Putnam equips his lighter sort of craft, begets in us a fastidious feeling touching the propriety of such a binding for such a book. Not that we ostentatiously pretend to any elevated degree of artistic taste in this matter—our remarks are but limited to our egotistical fancies. Egotistically, then, we would have preferred for the "Red Rover" a flaming suit of flame-colored morocco, as evanescently thin and gauze-like as possible, so that the binding might happily correspond with the sanguinary, fugitive title of the book. Still better, perhaps, were it bound in jet black, with a red streak round the borders (pirate fashion); or, upon third thoughts, omit the streak, and substitute a square of blood-colored bunting on the back, imprinted with the title, so that the flag of the "Red Rover" might be congenially flung to the popular breeze, after the buccaneer fashion of Morgan, Black Beard, and other free and easy, daredevil, accomplished gentlemen of the sea.

While, throwing out these cursory suggestions, we gladly acknowledge that the tasteful publisher has attached to the volume a very felicitous touch of the sea superstitions of pirates, in the mysterious cyphers in bookbinders' relievo stamped upon the covers, we joyfully recognise a poetical signification and pictorial shadowing forth of the horse-shoe, which, in all honest and God-fearing piratical vessels, is invariably found nailed to the mast. By force of contrast this clever device reminds us of the sad lack of invention in most of our bookbinders. Books, gentlemen, are a species of men, and introduced to them you circulate in the "very best society" that this world can furnish, without the intolerable infliction of "dressing" to go into it. In your shabbiest coat and easiest slippers you may socially chat, even with the fastidious Earl of Chesterfield; and lounging under a tree, enjoy the divinest intimacy with my late Lord of Verulam. Men, then, that they are—living without vulgarly breathing—never speaking unless spoken to—books should be appropriately apparelled. Their bindings should indicate and distinguish their various characters. A crowd of illustrations press upon us, but we must dismiss them at present, with the simple expression of the hope that our suggestion may not entirely be thrown away.

That we have said thus much concerning the mere outside of the book whose title prefaces this notice, is sufficient evidence of the fact, that at the present day we deem any elaborate criticism of Cooper's Red Rover quite unnecessary, and uncalled for. Long ago, and far inland, we read it in our uncritical days, and enjoyed it as much as thousands of the rising generation will, when supplied with such an entertaining volume in such agreeable type.
--The Literary World 6 (March 16, 1850): 276-7 
For more online texts of book reviews by Herman Melville, see

Digital images of Melville's known book reviews in manuscript including "A Thought on Book Binding" are accessible via NYPL Digital Collections.

Critical texts of the five known book reviews by Herman Melville are presented in the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Melville's Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860.

Herman Melville's Review of The Sea Lions by James Fenimore Cooper

Vincennes amongst Ice-bergs
from Charles Wilkes, Narrative, 1845 via The Linda Hall Library


The Sea Lions; or, the Lost Sealers: a Tale of the Antarctic Ocean. By J. Fenimore
Cooper. 2 vols. 12mo. Stringer & Townsend.

AN attractive title, truly. Nor does this last of Cooper‘s novels disappoint the promise held forth on the title-page.

The story opens on the seacoast of Suffolk County, Long Island; and turns mainly upon the mysterious existence of certain wild islands within the Antarctic Circle, whose precise whereabouts is known but to a choice few, and whose latitude and longitude even the author declares he is not at liberty to make known. For this region, impelled by adverse, if not hostile motives, the two vessels, the Sea Lions, in due time sail, under circumstances full of romance.

After encountering a violent gale, described with a force peculiarly Cooper’s, they at last reach the Antarctic seas, finding themselves walled in by “thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice.” Few descriptions of the lonely and the terrible, we imagine, can surpass the grandeur of many of the scenes here depicted. The reader is reminded of the appalling adventures of the United States Exploring Ship in the same part of the world as narrated by Wilkes, and of Scoresby’s Greenland narrative. In these inhospitable regions the hardy crews of the Sea Lions winter—not snugly at anchor under the lee of a Dutch shore, nor baking and browning over the ovens by which the Muscovite warms himself—but jammed in, masoned up, bolted and barred, and almost hermetically sealed by the ice. To keep from freezing into crystal, they are fain to turn part of the vessels into fuel. All this, and much more of a like nature, is told in a style singularly plain, downright, and truthful.

At length, after many narrow escapes from icebergs, ice-isles, fields, and floes of ice, the mariners, at least most of them, make good their return to the North, where the action of the book is crowned by the nuptials of Roswell Gardiner, the hero, and Mary Pratt, the heroine. Roswell we admire for a noble fellow; and Mary we love for a fine example of womanly affection, earnestness, and constancy. Deacon Pratt, her respected father, is a hard-handed, hard-hearted, psalm-singing old man, with a very stretchy conscience; intent upon getting to heaven, and getting money by the same course of conduct, in defiance of the scriptural maxim to the contrary. There is a good deal of wisdom to be gathered from the story of the Deacon.

Then we have one Stimpson, an old Kennebunk boatsteerer, and Professor of Theology, who, wintering on an iceberg, discourses most unctuously upon various dogmas. This honest old worthy may possibly be recognised for an old acquaintance by the readers of Cooper’s novels. But who would have dreamt of his turning up at the South Pole? One of the subordinate parts of the book is the timely conversion of Roswell, the hero, from a too latitudinarian view of Christianity to a more orthodox, and hence a better belief. And as the reader will perceive, the moist, rosy hand of our Mary is the reward of his orthodoxy. Somewhat in the pleasant spirit of the Mahometan, this; who rewards all the believers with a houri.

Upon the whole, we warmly recommend the Sea Lions; and even those who more for fashion’s sake than anything else, have of late joined in decrying our national novelist, will in this last work, perhaps, recognise one of his happiest. 
-- The Literary World 4 (April 28, 1849): 370
For more online texts of book reviews by Herman Melville, see
Critical texts of the five known book reviews by Herman Melville are presented in the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860.

Related post:

Herman Melville's Review of Etchings of a Whaling Cruise by J. Ross Browne

Except for the widely anthologized review essay Hawthorne and His Mosses, Herman Melville's known book reviews have been hard enough to find in print, and impossible to get online. Melvilliana began to fill the online gap with exclusive images and text of Mr. Parkman's Tour, Melville's unsigned 1849 review of The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman, Jr. To continue with this project of making Melville's book reviews more generally accessible, here is the first of Melville's known reviews for the New York Literary World, published March 6, 1847. Melville looks into two books, actually: Browne's Etchings together with Sailors' Life and Sailors' Yarns by John Codman, writing under the pseudonym of Captain Ringbolt.

In print, edited manuscript-based versions of the complete text are available in the Northwestern-Newberry editon of Melville's Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860; and in the Norton Critical Edition of Moby-Dick. The New York Public Library, Archives & Manuscripts Division has the manuscript of this review in Melville's handwriting with the Duyckinck family papers, along with other reviews by Melville for the Literary World.

Text below is transcribed from pages 105-6 of The Literary World Volume 1 - 1847 at the University of Minnesota, as digitized by Google Books.


Etchings of a Whaling Cruise, with Notes of a Sojourn on the Island of Zanzibar. To which is appended, a Brief History of the Whale Fishery; its Past and Present Condition. By J. Ross Browne. Illustrated with numerous Engravings on Steel and Wood. Harper & Brothers: 1846. 8vo.
Sailors’ Life and Sailors’ Yarns. By Captain Ringbolt. New York: C. S. Francis & Co. 1847. 12mo.

FROM time immemorial many fine things have been said and sung of the sea. The days have been, when sailors were considered veritable mermen; and the ocean itself as the peculiar theatre of the romantic and wonderful. But of late years there have been revealed so many plain, matter-of-fact details connected with nautical life, that, at the present day, the poetry of salt water is very much on the wane. The perusal of Dana’s “Two Years before the Mast," for instance, somewhat impairs the relish with which we read Byron’s spiritual “Address to the Ocean.” And when the noble poet raves about laying his hands upon the ocean’s mane (in other words manipulating the crest of a wave), the most vivid image suggested is, that of a valetudinarian bather at Rockaway, spluttering and choking in the surf, with his mouth full of brine.

Mr. J. Ross Browne’s narrative tends still further to impair the charm with which poetry and fiction have invested the sea. It is a book of unvarnished facts, and with some allowances for the general application of an individual example, unquestionably presents a faithful picture of the life led by the twenty thousand seamen employed in the seven hundred vessels which now pursue their game under the American flag. Indeed, what Mr. Dana has so admirably done in describing the vicissitudes of the merchant-sailor’s life, Mr. Browne has very creditably achieved with respect to that of the hardy whaleman’s. And the book which possesses this merit, deserves much in the way of commendation. The personal narrative interwoven with it, also, cannot fail to enlist our sympathies for the adventurous author himself. The scenes presented are always graphically and truthfully sketched, and hence fastidious objections may be made to some of them, on the score of their being too coarsely or harshly drawn. But we take it, that as true, unreserved descriptions, they are in no respect faulty; and, doubtless, the author never dreamed of softening down or withholding anything with a view of rendering his sketches the more attractive and pretty. The book is eminently a practical one, and written with the set purpose of accomplishing good by revealing the simple truth. When the brutal tyranny of the Captain of the “Styx” is painted without apology or palliation, it holds up the outrageous abuse to which seamen, in our whaling marine, are actually subjected, or rather, which demands legislation. Mr. Browne himself, it seems, was, to some extent, the victim of the tyranny of which he complains, and, upon this ground, the personal bitterness in which he at times indulges, may be deemed excusable.

As the book professes to embrace a detailed account of all that is interesting in the business of whaling, and essentially possesses this merit, one or two curious errors into which the author has unaccountably fallen, may, without captiousness, be pointed out. We are told, for example, of a whale’s roaring when wounded by the harpoon. We can imagine the veteran Coffins, and Colemans, and Maceys of old Nantucket, elevating their brows at the bare announcement of such a thing. Now the creature in question is as dumb as a shad, or any other of the finny tribes; and no doubt, if Jonah himself could be summoned to the stand, he would cheerfully testify to his not having heard a single syllable, growl, grunt, or bellow engendered in the ventricle cells of the leviathan, during the irksome period of his incarceration therein.

That in some encounters with the sperm whale a low, indistinct sound apparently issues from the monster, is true enough. But all Nantucket and New Bedford are decided as to the causes which produce the phenomenon. Many suppose, however, that it is produced, not by the creature itself, but by the peculiar motion, in the water, of the line which is attached to the harpoon. For, if upon being struck, the whale “sounds” (descends), as is usually the case, and remains below the surface for any length of time, the rope frequently becomes as stiff as the cord of a harp, and the struggles of the animal keep it continually vibrating.

Considering the disenchanting nature of the revelations of sea-life, with which we are presented in Mr. Browne's book, we are inclined to believe that the shipping agents in our various cities, by the merchants of New Bedford, will have to present additional inducements to “enterprising and industrious young Americans of good moral character,” in order to persuade them to embark in the fishery. In particular, the benevolent old gentleman in Front street (one of the shipping agents of whom our author discourseth), who so politely accosted Browne and his comrade, upon their entering his office for the purpose of seeking further information touching the rate of promotion in the whaling service—this old gentleman, we say, must hereafter infuse into his address still more of the suaviter in modo.

As unaffectedly described by Browne, the scene alluded to is irresistibly comic. The agent’s business, be it understood, consists in decoying “green hands” to send on to the different whaling ports. A conspicuous placard, without the office, announces to the anxious world, that a few choice vacancies remain to be filled in certain crews of whalemen about to sail, upon the most delightful voyages imaginable (only four years’ long). To secure a place, of course, instant application should be made.

Our author and his friend, attracted by the placard, hurry up a ladder, to a dark loft above, where the old man lurks like a spider in the midst of his toils. But a single glance at the gentlemanly dress and white hands of his visitors, impresses the wily agent with the idea that, notwithstanding their calling upon him, they may very possibly have heard disagreeable accounts of the nature of whaling. So, after making a bow, and offering a few legs of a chair, he proceeds to disabuse their minds of any unfavorable impressions. Succeeding in this, he then becomes charmingly facetious and complimentary; assures the youths that they need not be concerned because of their slender waists and silken muscles, for those who employed him were not so particular about weight as beauty. In short, the captains of whaling vessels preferred handsome young fellows who dressed well, and conversed genteelly—in short, those who would reflect credit upon the business of tarring down rigging, and cutting up blubber. Delighted with the agreeable address of the old gentleman, and with many pleasant anticipations of sea-life, the visitors listen with increased attention. Whereupon the agent waxes eloquent, and enlarges upon his animating theme in the style parliamentary. “A whaler, gentleman,” he observes, “is the home of the unfortunate—the asylum of the oppressed,” &c., &c., &c.

Duped Browne! Hapless H———! In the end they enter into an engagement with the old gentleman, who subsequently sends them on to New Bedford, consigned to a mercantile house there. From New Bedford the adventurers at length sail in a small whaling barque bound to the Indian Ocean. While yet half dead with sea sickness, the unfortunate H——— is sent by the brutal captain to the masthead, to stand there his allotted two hours, on the look-out for whale-spouts. He receives a stroke of the sun which, for a time, takes away his reason, and endangers his life. He raves of home and friends, and poor Browne, watching by his side, upbraids himself for having been concerned in bringing his companion to such a state. Ere long the vessel touches at the Azores, where H———, being altogether unfit for duty, is left, to be sent home by the American consul.

He never recovered from the effects of his hardships; for, in the sequel, Browne relates that, after reaching home himself, he visited his old friend in Ohio, and found him still liable to temporary prostrations, directly referable to his sufferings at sea.

With a heavy heart our author, after leaving the Azores, weathers the Cape of Good Hope, and enters upon the Indian Ocean. The ship’s company, composed mostly of ignorant, half-civilized Portuguese from the Western Islands, are incessantly quarreling and fighting; the provisions are of the most wretched kind; their success in the fishery is small; and to crown all, the captain himself is the very incarnation of all that is dastardly, mean, and heartless.

We cannot follow Browne through all his adventures. Suffice it to say, that heartily disgusted with his situation, he at length, with great difficulty, succeeds in leaving the vessel on the coast of Zanzibar. There he tarries for some months, and his residence in this remote region (the eastern coast of Africa, near Madagascar) enables him to make sundry curious observations upon men and things, of which the reader of his work has the benefit. From Zanzibar he ultimately sails for home in a merchant brig, and at last arrives in Boston, thoroughly out of conceit of the ocean.

Give ear, now, all ye shore-disdaining, ocean-enamored youth, who labor under the lamentable delusion that the sea—the “glorious sea” is always, and in reality, “the blue, the fresh, the ever free!” Give ear to Mr. J. Ross Browne, and hearken unto what that experienced young gentleman has to say about the manner in which Barry Cornwall has been humbugging the rising generation on this subject. Alas! Hereafter we shall never look upon an unsophisticated stripling, in flowing “duck" trowsers and a light blue jacket, loitering away the interval which elapses before sailing on his maiden cruise, without mourning over the hard fate in store for him. In a ship’s forecastle, alas! he will find no Psyche glass in which to survey his picturesque attire. And the business of making his toilet will be comprised in trying to keep as dry and comfortable as the utter absence of umbrellas, wet decks, and leaky forecastles will admit of. We shudder at all realities of the career they will be entering upon. The long, dark, cold night-watches which, month after month, they must battle out the best way they can; the ship pitching and thumping against the bullying waves—every plank dripping—every jacket soaked—-and the captain not at all bland in issuing his order for the poor fellows to mount aloft, in the icy sleet and howling tempest. “Bless me, Captain, go away up there this excessively disagreeable night?” “Aye, up with you, you lubber—bare, I say, or look out for squalls”—a figurative expression, conveying a remote allusion to the hasty application of a sea-bludgeon to the head.

Then the whaling part of the business.—My young friends, just fancy yourselves, for the first time, in an open boat (so slight that three men might walk off with it), some twelve or fifteen miles from your ship, and about a hundred times as far from the nearest land, giving chase to one of the oleaginous monsters. “Pull, pull, you lubberly hay makers!” cries the boat-header, jumping up and down in the stern-sheets in a frenzy of professional excitement, while the gasping admirers of Captain Marryatt and the sea, tug with might and main at the truckling oars—“Pull, pull, I say; break your lazy backs!” Presently the whale is within “darting distance,” and you hear the roar of the waters in his wake. How palpitating the hearts of the frightened oarsmen at this interesting juncture! My young friends, just turn round and snatch a look at that whale. There he goes, surging through the brine, which ripples about his vast head, as if it were the bow of a ship. Believe me, it’s quite as terrible as going into battle, to a raw recruit.

“Stand up and give it to him!" shrieks the boat-header at the steering oar, to the harpooner in the bow. The latter drops his oar, and snatches his “iron.” It flies from his hands—and where are we then, my lovelies? It‘s all a mist, a crash,—a horrible blending of sounds and sights, as the agonized whale lashes the water around him into suds and vapor—dashes the boat aside, and at last rushes madly through the water, towing after him the half-filled craft, which rocks from side to side, while the disordered crew clutch at the gunwale to avoid being tossed out. Meanwhile, all sorts of horrific edged tools, lances, harpoons, and spades, are slipping about; and the imminent line itself—smoking round the logger-head, and passing along the entire length of the boat—is almost death to handle, though it grazes your person.

But all this is nothing to what follows. As yet, you have but simply fastened to the whale; he must be fought and killed. But let imagination supply the rest; the monster staving the boat with a single sweep of his ponderous flukes; taking its bows between his jaws (as is frequently the case) and playing with it as a cat with a mouse. Sometimes he bites it in twain, sometimes crunches it into chips, and strews the sea with them.

But we forbear. Enough has been said to convince the uninitiated what sort of a vocation whaling in truth is. If further information is desired, Mr. Browne’s book is purchasable, in which they will find the whole matter described in all its interesting details.

After reading the “Etchings of a Whaling Cruise," a perusal of “Sailor’s Life and Sailor’s Yarns” is, in one respect at least, like hearing “the other side of the question.” For, while Browne's is a “Voice from the Forecastle,” Captain Ringbolt hails us from the quarter deck, the other end of the ship. Browne gives us a sailor’s version of sailors’ wrongs, and is not altogether free from prejudices acquired during his little experience on ship-board; Captain Ringbolt almost denies that the sailor has any wrongs, and more than insinuates that sea-captains are not only the best natured fellows in the world, but that they have been sorely maligned. Indeed, he explicitly charges Mr. Dana and Mr. Browne with having presented a decidedly one-sided view of the matter; and he manfully exclaims that the Captain of the Pilgrim—poor fellow!—died too soon to vindicate his character from unjust aspersions. Now, as a class, ship-owners are seldom disposed partially to judge the captains in their employ; and yet we know of a verity, that at least one of the owners of the Pilgrim, an esteemed citizen of the good old town of Boston, will never venture to dispute, that to the extent of his knowledge, at least, Mr. Dana‘s captain was a most “strict and harsh disciplinarian,” which words, so applied by a ship-owner, mean that the man in question was nothing less than what Mr. Dana describes him to have been. But where is Browne’s captain? He is alive and hearty, we presume. Let him come forward then, and show why he ought not to be regarded in the decidedly unfavorable light in which he is held up to us in the narrative we have noticed. Now, for aught we know to the contrary, this same captain of the Styx, who was such a heartless, domineering tyrant at sea, may be quite a different character ashore. In truth, we think this very probable; for the god Janus never had two more decidedly different faces than your sea-captain. Ashore his Nautical Highness has nothing to ruffle him, friends grasp him by the hand, and are overjoyed to see him after his long absence—he is invited out, relates his adventures pleasantly, and everybody thinks what lucky dogs his sailors must have been to have sailed with such a capital fellow. But let poor Jack have a word to say. Why, sir, he will tell you that when they embarked, his Nautical Highness left behind him all his “quips and cranks and wreathed smiles." Very far, indeed, is the captain from cracking any of his jokes with his crew—that would be altogether too condescending. But then there is no reason why he should bestow a curse every time he gives an order—there is no reason why he should never say a word of sympathy to his men. True, in this respect all sea-captains are not alike; but still, there is enough of truth in both Mr. Dana’s and Mr. Browne's statements to justify nearly to the full, the general conclusions to be drawn from what they have said on this subject.

But Captain Ringbolt’s book is very far from being a mere plea for the class to which he belongs. What he has to say upon the matter is chiefly contained in one brief sketch under the head of “Sailor’s Rights and Sailor's Wrongs.” The rest of the book is made up of little stories of the sea, simply and pleasantly told, and withal entertaining.
--The Literary World - March 6, 1847
For more online texts of book reviews by Herman Melville, see
Critical texts of the five known book reviews by Herman Melville are presented in the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860.

Related posts:

Monday, September 15, 2014

"The Kennebecker" (John H. Drew) remembers Tranque

by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen via Wikimedia Commons
John H. Drew (1834-1890) of Hallowell, Maine sailed to Ireland with Captain Knott on The Sandwich. After tours of Dublin Castle and Trinity College, Drew visited the museum of the Royal Dublin Society where a view of the great whale skeleton there led naturally to thoughts of Moby-Dick:
"Herman Melville ought to see the skeleton of a whale that is in the grand hall. He never would write any more about that one in the island grove of his."
(From "The Kennebecker in Ireland Or, the Cruise of the 'Sandwich,' Capt. A. M. I. Knott" in the Boston Journal, Saturday, March 29, 1879)
Two whale skeletons (neither of a sperm whale) now hang from the ceiling of the National Museum of Ireland-Natural History in Dublin:
". . . of a fin whale, found at Bantry Bay in 1862, and a Humpback whale, which was found stranded at Inishcrone in County Sligo in 1893." --Paramount Hotel
Drew must have seen the Bantry Bay skeleton of a fin whale. Writing as "The Kennebecker," Drew pretends to think this fin whale skeleton even more impressive than the sperm whale skeleton at Tranque that Ishmael describes and ventures to measure in "A Bower in the Arsacides":
The ribs were hung with trophies; the vertebrae were carved with Arsacidean annals, in strange hieroglyphics; in the skull, the priests kept up an unextinguished aromatic flame, so that the mystic head again sent forth its vapoury spout; while, suspended from a bough, the terrific lower jaw vibrated over all the devotees, like the hair-hung sword that so affrighted Damocles. 
It was a wondrous sight. The wood was green as mosses of the Icy Glen; the trees stood high and haughty, feeling their living sap; the industrious earth beneath was as a weaver's loom, with a gorgeous carpet on it, whereof the ground-vine tendrils formed the warp and woof, and the living flowers the figures. All the trees, with all their laden branches; all the shrubs, and ferns, and grasses; the message-carrying air; all these unceasingly were active. Through the lacings of the leaves, the great sun seemed a flying shuttle weaving the unwearied verdure. Oh, busy weaver! unseen weaver! pause! one word! whither flows the fabric? what palace may it deck? wherefore all these ceaseless toilings? Speak, weaver!—stay thy hand!—but one single word with thee! Nay—the shuttle flies—the figures float from forth the loom; the freshet-rushing carpet forever slides away. The weaver-god, he weaves; and by that weaving is he deafened, that he hears no mortal voice; and by that humming, we, too, who look on the loom are deafened; and only when we escape it shall we hear the thousand voices that speak through it. . . . (Moby-Dick, A Bower in the Arsacides)
This 1879 Melville mention by John H. Drew is earlier than others noted in previous Melvilliana posts on The Kennebecker: on the Plum Duff yarn about Herman's younger brother Tom, fondly remembered by the Kennebecker as a rollicking dare-devil sort of sailor; and Kennebecker identified.

Bird’s-eye View of Hallowell, Kennebec County, Maine, 1878
Image Credit: World Maps Online
More on Captain Drew from Emma Huntington Nason's Old Hallowell on the Kennebec (Augusta, Maine, 1909) pages 325-6:
One of the most familiar and honored names in the long list of later Hallowell sea-captains is that of John H. Drew, well known as an able and efficient ship-officer, and as the author of a series of breezy sea-letters and picturesque descriptions of "foreign parts," which, under the signature of "The Kennebecker," appeared in the columns of the Boston Journal.

Captain Drew was born in Chelsea, formerly a part of Hallowell, on the east side of the Kennebec. He was the son of Allen Drew, ship-carver, and a man of marked individuality in the town.

Born and bred in a seafaring community, the son of the old ship-carver early manifested a strong love of the sea and an irresistible longing for the life of the sailor. When but a boy of eleven years, John Drew set sail in the forecastle, and by his own energy and ability rose to the office of captain of the Fearless. He afterwards commanded the Franklin and the Sea Witch, and sailed in many seas and visited almost every foreign port frequented by American vessels. He "doubled the Cape" many times, and was often in the Chinese and East Indian waters.

In reference to Captain Drew and his literary work, the Boston Journal prints this tribute: "Captain Drew was a self-taught man, and the large fund of information which he possessed was the fruit of reading and observation and travel in every part of the globe. He wrote without affectation or straining for effect, in a vigorous, straightforward style, breezy and original, and with the savor of the sea in every line. His racy and vivid descriptions of life on shipboard and of strange experiences in distant ports were widely popular, and few New England writers in this particular department were better known than he."

Captain Drew was always a loyal son of Hallowell, and the Kennebec was the one river of the world to him. His letters abound in local allusions and interesting reminiscences that appeal to many readers. His life was marked by the wild longings and aspirations of the boy, and the well-earned success of a brave, persistent, and genuine lover of the sea. He spent the last two years of his life in the comforts of his own home in Farmingdale, where he died in 1891 [December 11, 1890 according to the obituary notice in the Boston Journal on Friday, December 12, 1890]. The following brief tribute expresses the sentiment of many who knew and esteemed the Kennebecker: "Captain Drew was our friend. When we looked into his flashing eyes and frank, manly countenance, and received his cordial hand-grasp, we could make no mistake in the man. His friendship was unfailing, his helpfulness of the sort that assisted without embarrassing, and his heart was as free from guile as that of a child. Verily, a manly man has gone from the loving embrace of home and friends to join the innumerable multitude." -- Old Hallowell on the Kennebec