Tuesday, March 31, 2015

William Brown Maclay on the Harpers' rejection of Typee

From the New York Sunday Times tribute to John Howard Payne by "W. B. M." as reprinted in Watson's Art Journal Vol. 7, No. 13 (Jul. 20, 1867), pp. 194-197 at 195.
Melville’s “Typee” was offered to Harper, who declined it. The book was published by another publishing house, and with such marked success that when “Omoo,” the next work of Melville, was written, it was accepted by the Harpers without a line of it being read, and at the author’s own price.  --Watson's Art Journal at JSTOR
So who is this "W. B. M.," and how does he know the inside story of how the Harper brothers rejected the Typee manuscript in 1845?

From here W. B. M. looks like none other than U. S. Congressman William Brown Maclay (1812-1882), described as "an old and personal friend of Mr. Payne" in Gabriel Harrison's 1885 biography, John Howard Payne.

William Brown Maclay
William Brown Maclay

Gabriel Harrison prints a letter in which Maclay recalls being "first introduced to Mr. Payne in Washington, many years before his death," in perfect agreement with the testimony of "W. B. M." in the Sunday Times piece, as reprinted in the first part of the article in Watson's Art Journal, July 13, 1867:
"I became acquainted with Payne in Washington, many years before his death, which occurred at Tunis, in the summer of 1852...."
As a New York lawyer and prominent Democrat, Maclay must have known Herman's older brother Gansevoort Melville. Confirmed! after a quick trip to the online newspaper archives at Fulton History. Maclay and Gansevoort Melville are both named as participants in the "great and enthusastic meeting" held in New York City on June 14, 1843 in support of the Irish Repeal movement. Summarizing fuller accounts in New York City newspapers The Plebian and Herald, the Troy, NY Budget names the distinguished "W. B. Maclay, M. C." as one of the honorary Vice Presidents. After the featured speech by John McKeon, other Repealers addressed the crowd including Gansevoort Melville, Thomas N. Carr and a "Mr. Barbour" (Daily Troy Budget, Saturday afternoon, June 17, 1843).

The June 15, 1843 Evening Post report of the "Great Repeal Meeting" gives the text of the "Adresss of the Repealers of New York to the People of France" delivered by Major Auguste Davezac. Another New York paper, the New York Express, gave Major Davezac's prefatory remarks, and also this report of what Herman Melville's brother Gansevoort said at the Great Repeal Meeting:
MR. GANSEVOORT MELVILLE, (whose first debut as a public orator was in favor of Dorr the Rhode Island runaway,) said a few words, but it was too dark on the stage to permit the reporter to follow him very accurately. He did not say much that was new; but alluded to Charles Carroll of Carrollton, General Montgomery, and other Irishmen who had benefitted America, in support of the position that we, too, as Americans, ought to sustain Ireland in this her extremity. He spoke also of the scorn, and indignation, and contempt, he felt for England and her Irish policy; said that America had men, money, and, if necessary, martyrs—that it was God’s cause, not man’s and it could not be lost. And he closed with a scrap of poetry, and the words, “Faugh-a ballagh,” (which, we believe, means “Clear the way!”). 
--N.Y. Express, as reprinted in the Richmond [Virginia] Whig, June 20, 1843; found in the online Newspaper Archives at Genealogy Bank.
As for the Typee scoop, Maclay could have heard it from Frederick Saunders, who contributed a reminiscence for Orrin B. Judd's 1884 Maclay memorial. Saunders is the previously known contemporary source for the Harpers' rejecting Typee, as Hershel Parker explains in Herman Melville: A Biography, V1. 376.  In the Appendix to Evenings with the Sacred Poets, Saunders had published Maclay's verses on "the name of Mary." Writing from the Astor Library on December 7, 1883 to William B. Maclay's surviving twin brother Archibald Maclay, MD, Saunders recalled his bonding with William over books and authors:
This allusion to your lamented brother, recalls many pleasant memories and recollections of his genial and courteous character. It was his wont for many years, occasionally to visit the alcoves of the Astor Library; and thus I had many opportunities of casual intercourse with him; for, as he had an innate love of books, we often had brief intervals of literary gossip together. He was fond of cracking historic nuts, and solving scientific problems, as well as other literary research, and consequently he was no stranger to "Notes and Queries," and similar works. His acquaintance, not only with books, but with their writers, was wide and comprehensive, and for a score of years, he was an habitué of the Library, and a very appreciative one, as well as an occasional contributor to its accumulative literary stores. I am glad that you have thus permitted me to bear my humble tribute to the memory of his amiable and symmetrical character,--for I shall ever remember him, as evincing the most uniform courtesy and kindliness of deportment, coupled with a sincere but unostentatious love of letters. I beg to subscribe myself very sincerely yours,

Frederick Saunders.
The part in Maclay's 1867 version about the Harpers' acceptance of Omoo sight unseen also agrees with the "Recollections" of Frederick Saunders--which you can see in Parker's biography V1.470.

The 1884 Maclay memorial by Orrin B. Judd is catalogued in the Open Library and accessible in the Internet Archive.

William Brown Maclay in the National Cyclopaedia of American Biography.

Maclay and the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Congressman Maclay came from a politically powerful family and was successfully elected to Congress to represent New York City three times during the 1840's. Maclay lived near the navy yard and took care to closely associate and find jobs (Maclay was a Baptist) for his districts Irish Catholic constituents. "When a person comes to me for employment I write a note suggesting his name to the master workmen..." Maclay later would recollect that he "very carefully selected some ten or twelve masters" that they remained in office during Democratic administrations and were subsequently removed when another party took office. Maclay was defeated by Whig Party candidate Walter Underhill in the election of 1848. -- Genealogy Trails


Monday, March 30, 2015


Sottolinea Malosti “Questo progetto, che non sarebbe stato possibile senza la monumentale e appassionata traduzione integrale del poema di Ruggero Bianchi, edita da Einaudi nel 1999,  deve alla forza dirompente dei versi di Melville l’averci indotto a cercare una forma spettacolare scabra, una sorta di concerto per voce, oud, chitarre e live electronics, in un tentativo di teatro musicale che vuole evocare l’invisibile e il mistero di un viaggio interiore e insieme reale.
 --News Spettacolo
Emphasizes Malosti "This project would not have been possible without the monumental and passionate full translation of the poem by Ruggero Bianchi, published by Einaudi in 1999.... 
Per la verità anche un’altra passione percorse la sua vita di studioso, quella per Melville, a cui dedicò un Invito alla lettura e di cui tradusse non solo il Moby Dick, ma anche i quasi ventimila versi di Clarel, che Einaudi pubblicò nel 1999.  
E tuttavia è per i suoi studi sul teatro che soprattutto sarà ricordato, per la sua passione nello studiare quanto di nuovo, provocatorio, stimolante nasceva sull’altra sponda dell’oceano. Il suo ultimo importante saggio, pubblicato nella Storia del teatro moderno e contemporaneo curata da Roberto Alonge e Guido Davico Bonino, si intitola significativamente Il teatro negli Stati Uniti: alla ricerca dell’innovazione permanente.   

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Edward Dahlberg on Melville

Photo: New Directions
Herman Melville could not spell very well, and even in modern Moby-Dick texts the helmet of Mambrino is wrongly lettered; and in the Encantadas, that widowed lament of the soul which has already become a waste island for huge turtles and potherbs, he has failed to meet the dictionary requirements in the way he has shaped the word Gallapagos. The Billy Budd Mss. was a grammar and punctuation bedlam also; but it is easy to find a page-proof reader to mend some of Melville’s syntax, but where is there another man to write Moby-Dick?   --Edward Dahlberg, "How Do You Spell Fool?"
Dahlberg must have been thinking of Clarel, specifically Clarel 2.20 where Margoth the irreligious geologist speaks of "Malbrino's helmet." These days "Malbrino's" is more often emended to "Mambrino's," thus:
"Mambrino's helmet is sublime--
The barber's basin may be vile:
Whether this basin is that helm
To vast debate has given rise--
Question profound for blinking eyes;
But common sense throughout her realm
Has settled it." --Clarel Part 2 Canto 20
But the 1924 Constable edition (reprinted by Russell & Russell in the 1963 Standard Edition) of Clarel preserves Melville's original 1876 spelling, "Malbrino's."

And potherbs looks like a typo for potsherds. Ha! here I am trying to mend questionable mistakes and illustrating Dahlberg's point in the process.
"Edward Dahlberg was a difficult character, a perennial misfit and a touchy misanthrope." --Carl Bankston
What's not to love?

Helmet of Mambrino design for cover of  Clarence King Memoirs
h/t : drizzz

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Gansevoort Melville's 1834 reading and the Albany Library catalog

In what's left of his 1834 Albany journal, Gansevoort Melville comments here and there on his current reading. Gansevoort specifically mentions visiting the Athenaem one Saturday to borrow two books from the library. As shown in a previous Melvilliana post, at that time the Albany Library was connected with the Athenaeum, and physically located in the Athenaeum building at 371 North Market street.

On January 4, 1834 Gansevoort recorded his approval of Byron's Zuleika after closely studying The Bride of Abydos. Gansevoort does not say if he owned the volume or where he got it. Possibly the Albany Library, if the two-volume edition of "Byron's (Lord) Works," catalogued as no. 1099, included Byron's popular "Bride." Other Byron titles in the Albany Library catalog are:
1288 Childe Harolde, 4th Canto.
1492 Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice
1555 Two Foscari
1601 Corsair
The next day Gansevoort commented on an extract from Thomas Skinner Surr's Winter in London which he found in Richard Griffin's Specimens of the Novelists and Romancers. The extract from Surr's novel appears in volume two of Griffin's anthology under the heading, "The Founder of a Family." Griffin's anthology was not published until 1831 and so of course does not appear in the 1828 catalogue of the Albany Library.
Specimens of the Novelists and Romancers, vol. 1 
Specimens of the Novelists and Romancers, vol. 2
On Saturday, January 18, 1834 Gansevoort says he did not leave home until noon. He went to the bank and then got two books from the library (open Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., in 1828): Jacqueline of Holland by Thomas Colley Grattan and Reginald Dalton by John Gibson Lockhart.

"Reginald Dalton, 2 v." is no. 1639 in the 1828 Catalogue--possibly an incomplete set or later (American?) edition. Jacqueline of Holland was published in 1831 so obviously does not show up in the 1828 Catalogue.
Jacqueline of Holland v. 1
Jacqueline of Holland v. 2
Jacqueline of Holland v. 3
Gansevoort read and took to heart "Watts on the Improvement of the Mind." Listed in the 1828 Albany Library catalog as no. 518, "Watts on the Mind."

Recuperating from a sore throat, Gansevoort read Cooper's The Prairie which is no. 484 in the 1828 Albany Library catalog.  The Albany Library also had Cooper's Precaution (No. 1432); The Spy (no. 1533); The Red Rover (no. 1437); Last of the Mohicans (no. 1736); and The Pilot (no. 1647).

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Albany Library, 1828 Catalogue

Watts on the Mind
"While the Melvilles were living in Albany they had access not only to the personal library of Peter Gansevoort but also to books drawn in his name from the Albany Library, of which he was a member." --Merton M. Sealts, Pursuing Melville
Sealts also points out that Gansevoort Melville belonged to the Athenaeum--but without noting the organizational and physical connections between the Albany Library and Albany Athenaeum. Or Atheneum as they sometimes spell it. Already by 1833 the Albany Library, located in the Athenaeum buildings, was reported as having 8,000 volumes. The New York Annual Register listed the address of the Albany Library as
Athenaeum Buildings, No. 371 North Market street. 
The early Library/Athenaeum link is confirmed by the notice in the Albany Argus for March 26, 1830 in which librarian J. [for Jacob] Covenhoven acknowledges miscellaneous “Donations to the Albany Library and Athenaeum, during the year 1829." Among the works listed are unspecified issues or volumes of "The Critic, a weekly review of literature, fine arts, and the drama" donated by S. De Witt Bloodgood. There's something to check out another day: The Critic at HathiTrust, digitized from a volume at NYPL.

On the last day of April, 1830 (months before Herman Melville's family relocated to Albany under financial duress) Covenhoven announced in the Albany Evening Journal:
"THE ALBANY ATHENEUM & LIBRARY will this day be removed to the large and spacious hall directly above the present apartments and will be closed a few days, for the purpose of making the necessary arrangements."
OK then, here's my question. When Gansevoort in his 1834 Albany Journal talks about fetching two books from the "Atheneum Library" for a rainy day and night, does he not mean the Albany Library in the Athenaeum buildings? Let's dust off this old library catalog and see... Reginald Dalton definitely is listed in the 1828 Catalogue of the Albany Library. How about Grattan's Jacqueline of Holland? Not listed, because not published until 1831. Another volume Gansevoort mentions reading in 1834 is "Watts on the Improvement of the Mind." Listed in the 1828 Catalogue? Yes: "Watts on the Mind." Back then Albany boasted numerous libraries, not to mention bookshops and reading rooms, but two in the same building with Reginald Dalton and Watts on the Mind? Nah.

North Market street. The Athenaeum and Library were at 371, and the Melvilles made their first Albany home at 338 North Market (as Hershel Parker reports, V1.50). Same block, right? Sometime in 1834 the Melvilles moved to "a new three-story brick house at 3 Clinton Square, at Pearl Street" (Parker, V1.95). Gansevoort Melville's fur shop was on the south end at 364 South Market street.

According to the 1836 Gazetteer of the State of New York,
The Albany Library, established in 1792, kept at and connected with the Atheneum, contains near 9,000 volumes. The Atheneum was established in 1827:
Joel Munsell in the Annals of Albany, vol. 3 still counts 9,000 volumes in 1852--by which time the Albany Library had moved to the Albany Female Academy on North Pearl street. When? I wonder. Early 1837 or before, judging from this notice in the Albany Argus, March 17, 1837:
ALBANY LIBRARY.—Any persons having books or pamphlets from the Albany Library are requested to return them to the library in the Female Academy, without delay, as the library is being examined and undergoing some improvements and alterations.
A. F. Lansing
Image Credit: Hoxsie!
Before 1838, for sure. According to the 1838 Report of the Regents:
There are three separate and distinct libraries attached to the academy, one of 114 volumes, selected expressly for the pupils of the 6th or lowest department; one of 210 volumes, for the 4th and 5th, and one of 6,000 for the 1st, 2d and 3d departments. It is proper to remark, in relation to this last library, that only between 1,000 and 1,200 volumes belong exclusively to the academy; and that the balance constitute the Albany library,but most of the stockholders, during the past year, have transferred their respective shares to the trustees of this institution; and that while the privileges of those who still retain theirs, remain unimpaired, the academy received the whole benefit of the library, as fully as they could, did they own the whole stock. 
The teacher of composition occupies the library-room, and is ready at all times, to refer the pupils to appropriate authors to consult in connection with the subjects upon which they may from time to time write.

The importance of these libraries, in creating a taste for reading, as well as in forming a classical style of writing, is too obvious to require a single remark.
--Annual Report of the Regents
Which means that as students in the Albany Female Academy, Herman Melville's younger sisters--Augusta and maybe Catherine (Kate) and Frances, too--enjoyed ready access to the impressive collection of books in the Albany Library. Couldn't hurt that their uncle Peter Gansevoort was elected (re-elected?) one of the Trustees of the Albany Library, and listed as a member of the Board of Directors (Albany Argus, April 3, 1837). So in 1837-8 when Augusta Melville was writing those school compositions, she had great material resources and support, not only from her brother Gansevoort. Hey, the comp teacher was also librarian!

All that was to introduce this: the 1828 Catalogue of Books in the Albany Libraryavailable online courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library.

Digitized by Google Books in August 2006 from the original volume in the New York Public Library.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Encantadas concluded in Putnam's, too soon for the NY Times

Image Credit: yachtpals
This item is interesting for the recognition of a larger, somehow thwarted project. According to the anonymous Times critic, Melville's "Encantadas" ultimately failed to deliver on the promise of a substantial book implied in its splendid opening.
We have reached the conclusion of the “Encantadas, or Enchanted Isles,”—a result which disappoints us. It commenced in the March number, with a display of preparation suited for a lengthened work,—and here, in May, it is suddenly brought to a close.” 
--New York Times, May 1854, Friday, May 5, 1854; found at Fulton History.
Melville in fact did contemplate and partially write a longer book on Tortoise Hunting. Harper & Brothers advanced him $300 for it, so Melville's literary career was not really destroyed by the supposed disasters of Moby-Dick (1851) and Pierre (1852).

The Encantadas in Putnam's Monthly Magazine Volume 3:
Online text has long been available at http://www.melville.org/encant.htm

Friday, March 13, 2015

Melville's "Hogarthian" Confidence-Man

The Cockpit / William Hogarth
Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University
From the New York Evening Express, Thursday, April 9, 1857:
THE CONFIDENCE MAN: His Masquerade. By Herman Melville.
12mo. pp. 394. New York: Dix, Edwards & Co. 1857.
Mr. Melville is what may be called a subjective writer; he paints from idealized images in the world of his own fancy; with delicate yet effective touches, each conveying a whole picture to those able to follow him appreciatively, but obscure to the careless view, by reason of the indefinite outlines. His books are most enjoyable, when the reader’s mind can be subdued to the dreamy quietude and mellowed tone of feeling with which the artist invests his quaint, rich, vivid sketches. His style has freedom, grace, and the finish that denotes highly cultivated intellect and a thorough acquaintance with the subject treated. That of the present volume is one of general interest—the exposure of the various impositions on society, most of which are submitted to by common consent, or because investigation is more trouble than the thing seems to be worth. The scene is laid on a Mississippi steamer bound from St. Louis to New Orleans—a fair field for the operations of “the confidence man,” who of course is in his element. The representations of cunning and credulity are hardly exaggerated, Hogarthian as they are. On the whole, the book is not so much to our taste as the “Piazza Tales,” though it will, no doubt, find a larger number of readers.
--found at Fulton History
New York Evening Express - April 9, 1857

Friday, March 6, 2015

Philo Logos Society in 1837: debate and elections

From the Albany Evening Journal, Wednesday, January 4, 1837:


The quarterly public debate of the Young Men’s Philologos Society will take place Jan 5th 1837, in the Chapel of the Albany Female Seminary, in Division st. commencing at half past [?] P. M.

Question— “Will the present republican form of government probably exist in the United States for a half century to come?”

The citizens generally are invited to attend.

By order. CHAS VAN LOON, Pres’t.
Wm. Lincoln, Sec’ty.
Found in the online newspaper archives at Fulton History: Albany NY Evening Journal 1837 -0614. Subsequently, this notice of thanks in the Albany Evening Journal, Saturday, January 7, 1837:
A CARD.—The young men of Philologos Society, tender their thanks to the Rev. J. N. Garfield, Principal of the Seminary, for the gratuitous use of the chapel of that institution on the occasion of their public debate.

--Fulton History archives: Albany NY Evening Journal 1837 -0623
Election news from the Albany Evening Journal, Saturday, April 29, 1837:
At the annual election of the Young Men’s Philologos Society, holden April 8th, 1837, the following gentlemen were duly elected officers for the ensuing year:

Charles Van Loon, President.
Abraham Burke, 1st Vice President.
[S?]. A. Phelps, 2d Vice President.
Wm. Lincoln, Recording Secretary.
Jacob A. Lansing, Corresponding Secretary.
Roswell Steele, Treasurer. 
--Found in the online newspaper archives at Fulton History: Albany NY Evening Journal 1837 -1014
Herman Melville was elected President of the Philo Logos Society on February 9, 1838, as announced in the Albany Evening Journal on February 13, 1838.

Related posts:

Philo Logos Society announces debate on the abolition of slavery (October 20, 1836)

Albany Evening Journal - Thursday, October 20, 1836

Found in Tom Tryniski's online newspaper archives at fultonhistory.com and transcribed below:

DEBATE.— The question, “ought Slavery to be immediately abolished in the United States,” will this evening be discussed by the members of the Young Men’s Philo Logos Society, in the Lecture Room of the Green street Baptist church. commencing at 7 precisely. All who feel an interest are invited to attend.
N. B. The members of the society are requested to meet at their hall at half past six.
By order. CHAS. VAN LOON, Pres’t.
V. B. Lockrow, Sec’ry.


 Related posts:

Philo Logos Society in the Albany Evening Journal, October 1836

Well how about this! The Philo Logos Society debates the abolition of slavery. From the Albany Evening Journal, Thursday, October 20, 1836:
DEBATE.—The question, “ought Slavery to be immediately abolished in the United States,” will this evening be discussed by the members of the Young Men’s Philo Logos Society, in the Lecture Room of the Green street Baptist church. commencing at 7 precisely. All who feel an interest are invited to attend.
N. B. The members of the society are requested to meet at their hall at half past six.
By order. CHAS. VAN LOON, Pres’t.
V. B. Lockrow, Sec’ty.
This cache of 1836 material offers a different glimpse into the early history of the Philo Logos Society, before the Microscope fireworks between Melville and Van Loon. Above, a previously unknown question for debate by the Philo Logos lads. Below, Van Loon identifies the friendly critic Heroditus as "an eminent Lawyer." But who is "Philologist"?

From the Albany Evening Journal, Friday, October 21, 1836:
Mr. Editor—Having learned that some Lawyers of Eminence, and Linguists of distinction, have taken the liberty of questioning the accuracy of the term and even of ridiculing the name by which our Society is known, (Philologos) we very respectfully tender those Gentlemen the invitation, to call at our Debating Room and examine the same: if more convenient through this print. PHILOLOGISTS.
Further correspondence about the Philo Logos Society from Albany Evening Journal, Thursday, October 27, 1836:


Mr. Editor—Please insert the following letters giving the result of an examination proposed by us, (thro’ the Journal) into the accuracy and propriety of the name by which our Society is known. The letter signed Heroditus is from the pen of an eminent Lawyer. 
Done by order of
CHAS. VAN LOON, President.
V. B. Lockrow, Secretary.
I was very well pleased to notice by the Journal of yesterday, that some young men of spirit, desirous of improving in that much neglected branch of study, extemporaneous debate, had formed themselves into a society for that purpose. But allow me to suggest to you, that you made a ridiculous mistake in giving a name to your society, to wit: Philo Logos. The object of your society I suppose to be, improvement in general debate. Now Philology applies to, and strictly means the science of words or of the construction of language, as the derivation of words, and the forming of those words into sentences &c., which you will find upon examination. At any rate, Philo Logos would not be correct as you use it, for thus, it is neither correct Greek, nor English. If you intend to form an English word, it should have been Philologean, but Philo Logos means nothing at all as you use it, for it is not correct Greek, and has no meaning, if you are at all acquainted with the Greek, (which I very much doubt.) You must be aware of this, if you think one moment.— Philologos in Greek, is a substantive, but you use it as an adjective. Philo Logos Society, the Philo and Logos should neither be thus separated. It is ridiculous in the extreme, to write a Greek word a Greek adjective, (if you had one) to an English substantive. Philologian would be good English. If you must have Greek, then call your association “Koinonia Philologian,” but Philomathian would be much better.


The above was written before I saw your communication in the Evening Journal; but I confess I don’t understand what you mean by calling at your Debating Room, “and examining the same.” Examine what? The word or the Society?  H.
ALBANY, Oct. 24, 1836.

Sir—Your epistle has been received, and although you are most egregiously mistaken in relation to the world Philologos, we are obliged to you, believing, from its tenor, that your motives in writing it were good. The object of our society is, as you suppose, “Improvement in general debate;” and this is precisely the import of its name.

Philology, you inform us, “applies to and strictly means the science of words, or of the construction of words.” Philology, according to most English Lexicographers, is applied to the science of words: but according to the Greek, from whence it has its origin, it is applied to and strictly means the study of speaking and debating, (“studium descrendi.”) But, “Philologos, as you use it, means nothing at all.” To this we need only reply, consult your Lexicon, and you will at once acknowledge the following to be correct:— “Philologos, (from Philos, fond, and Logos, discourse,) fond of discussion or argument.” In a Lexicon, as ancient as fifteen hundred, (probably the first compiled) the word is defined: “Sermonis vel studii amator, loquax, eloquentiae studio sua Plato unde Philologia, literarum amor.” You will be satisfied, too, from the definition, that the word may without impropriety be used as an adjective. As to its being “ridiculous in the extreme to write a Greek adjective to an English substantive,” we reply, that the practice is common at our Colleges, and is mentioned by the best Linguists, as is also the practice of writing the words (Philo Logos) as we do separately. The first name you recommend (Koinonia Philologian) would certainly be proper; and even more proper than Philomathian, as the former specifies what is to be learned, or what we love to learn; and the latter does not.

We do not pretend that the name of our Society is original with us; a Society of the same name, at one of the first Literary Institutions in the western part of this State has been in operation for several years; the Greek Professor at which institution is, perhaps, as well acquainted with the language as even Heroditus himself.—

Pardon us for having written the article in the Journal of Thursday, in a style beyond your comprehension. But since you have confessed with the characteristic modesty of your letter, that it was so, we will endeavor to simplify.— The article you allude to was an invitation to call at our debating room and examine into the accuracy of that which was questioned, viz: the word Philologos. We should feel honored, however, by a visit from so extraordinary a Critic.


-- Albany Evening Journal, Thursday, October 27, 1836. Found in the online newspaper archives of Tom Tryniski at fultonhistory.com
Herman Melville was elected President of the Philo Logos Society on February 9, 1838, as announced in the Albany Evening Journal on February 13, 1838. 

"Juvinis" urges support for debating society of the Albany Young Men's Association, December 1837

For, happily in this our favored land, no mitred priesthood, nor titled nobility, or gowned lawyers, are self-constituted pilots of our noble ship the Republic....

The democratic flourish is very much in Gansevoort's line, though his continued involvement with theYoung Men's Association seems doubtful: Gansevoort, a former president of the YMA debating society (Hershel Parker, Herman Melville: A Biography V1.104), had resigned from the Executive Committee in April 1837 after his business went bankrupt (Parker, V1.113). Following the example of "Juvinis," Herman Melville would endorse the same YMA debating society (not Philo Logos) in his final letter as "Philologean" to the editor of The Albany Microscope, published March 31, 1838.

So the debating society season ran from November to April 1st.

Albany Evening Journal - December 22, 1837
via GenealogyBank


Mr. EDITOR—Permit me, through your columns, to call the attention of the Young Men of Albany to one, and that not the least important of the means of improvement extended to them by the Young Men’s Association; and one which they have shamefully neglected. I mean the Debating Society which, by the rules of the association, holds a meeting in the Lecture room once in each week from the first of November to the first of April. The exercises of the debating Society are by no means exclusively for the Professions which make public speaking their almost daily occupation. For, happily in this our favored land, no mitred priesthood, nor titled nobility, or gowned lawyers, are self-constituted pilots of our noble ship the Republic; but here the merchant, the lawyer, the physician, the mechanic, and every other honest man is privileged—nay, bound, so far as circumstances will permit, to exert his influence, not only in the primary meetings, but in the legislative halls of his country. The study of books, attendance upon lectures, and habits of though and observation may partially qualify him for these duties of an American citizen; but unless he acquire by practice a confidence and a habit of arrangement and perspicuity which will enable him to deliver the result of his study and observation to his fellow citizens in a manner that shall not compel them to exchange attention to his subject for feelings of pity and perhaps contempt for the man who presumes to waste their time by attempting to address them, his days of study and nights of thought will only serve to aggravate his confusion. I therefore beg young men in future to show that they value their privileges, and will exercise them; and not suffer the officers of the Debating Society to hold their formal meetings—with scarce none but themselves in attendance, which has too frequently been the case. 
Every member of the association has a right to become a member of the Debating Society by signing the list in possession of the Secretary; and all members, both regular and honorary, have a right to attend its meetings. And permit me to suggest that the presence of the honorary members, who have leisure, might serve to stimulate the exertions of the debators. The meetings for this and the coming week will be on Friday evening, after then on Thursday. Yours truly,

--Albany Evening Journal, Friday, December 22, 1837

For some advertised subjects of discussion by the YMA Debating Society in 1837-8, see the previous post on questions for debate in Melville's Albany.

Related posts:

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Questions for Debate in Melville's Albany, 1837-8

Albany Evening Journal - February 2, 1838

Herman Melville resided with his family in Albany, New York from 1830 to 1838. Early in 1838 Melville got himself elected as president of an Albany debate club then calling itself "Philo Logos." Published letters full of high-sounding snark, mostly to and from Charles Van Loon (1819-1847), indicate Herman Melville's brief but intense period of involvement with the debate club, reportedly starting in 1837. These Philo Logos letters are collected in the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Correspondence.

As pointed out a few years back on Hershel Parker's blog, published 1858 recollections by newspaper editor William J. Moses supply additional details. Thanks to Fulton History archives (the legible parts) anyone can see that Moses remembered Philo Logos as a club of two dominant antagonists, Van Loon and Melville:
"they being a tight match for each other, and delighting in nothing more than in being pitted against each other in intellectual combat."
--Auburn [New York] Daily American, January 4, 1858; found at Fulton History.

Moses freely admitted to having been stumped when Melville asked him to define "Philo Logos." Searching Fulton History for "Philo Logos" also gets you to the Albany Evening Journal for October 27, 1836, where then "President" Charles Van Loon submits an earlier 1836 exchange of letters on that tendentious topic of the meaning of Philo Logos. Critic "HERODITUS" (said to be a lawyer) judged Philo Logos ungrammatical and meaningless, and specifically recommended the term Philologean as an intelligible alternative. In the reply dated October 24, 1836, the writer signed "PHILOLOGIST" defends Philo Logos as traditional and grammatically sound. This published (but previously unknown?) 1836 exchange complements the 1858 recollections of William J. Moses in supplying background for Melville's Philologos correspondence, including his long-known use of the pseudonym "Philologean" / "Philologian."

Herman Melville like his older brother Gansevoort belonged for a time to the Albany Young Men's Association, but Philo Logos was a kind of upstart, intended apparently to rival the older and more formally organized debating society of the YMA. Before 1840 the YMA debating society met in the Association rooms at Knickerbocker Hall, which "then stood on Broadway between Maiden Lane and State Street" (Young Men's Association). Philo Logos met in Stanwix Hall.

Image Credit: drinkdrank

The Northwestern-Newberry Correspondence volume seems mistaken in a headnote equating the two debating societies (18). Herman Melville's final published letter in the Albany Microscope of March 31, 1838 (headed YOUNG MEN'S ASSOCIATION) only promotes the unnamed debating society of the Albany Young Men's Association and never names the Philo Logos Society.

Before now, the only known question for debate by Philo Logos was the definition of Philo Logos. A few more topics for debate by the Philologos Society are uncovered in Melvilliana posts on the Philo Logos Society in 1837 and Philo Logos Society debate on abolition of slavery. As it happens, however, the debating society affiliated with the Albany Young Men's Association (not Philo Logos) advertised some wonderfully appealing and controversial questions for debate during the period of Melville's known involvement with Philo Logos. Presumably Herman would have been interested in these questions even if he did not participate in or attend the actual YMA debates:

"Should the administration of oaths be abolished?" -- Albany Argus, January 16, 1837

Albany Argus - January 31, 1837

The question for debate this evening is, "Has the general diffusion of knowledge a tendency to diminish crime?" Meeting at 7 o'clock in the Lecture Room.
T. W. LOCKWOOD, Sec'y. -- Albany Argus for Tuesday, January 31, 1837se

"Ought the Elective Franchise to be restricted to property qualifications?"
--Albany Argus, December 7, 1837

"Should capital punishment be abolished?"
-- Albany Argus, Thursday, December 14, 1837

Albany Evening Journal - December 22, 1837
“Is the mind of woman of equal capacity with that of man?” --Albany Evening Journal, Friday, December 22, 1837

"Have the public laws of the U. States been, and are they beneficial to the country?" -- Albany Evening Journal, December 29, 1837

"Should Representatives be bound by the will of their Constituents?"  --Albany Evening Journal, January 11, 1838
“Should the benefits of the copyright law be extended to foreign authors?” --Albany Evening Journal, Thursday, January 18, 1838
"Are prose works of fiction beneficial?” --Albany Evening Journal, February 1, 1838
"Does an individual on entering into society, surrender any of his natural rights?"
--Albany Argus, February 22, 1838
“Is the removal of the Indians beyond the Mississippi by the U. S. Government, politic or just?” --Albany Argus, April 12, 1838
"Was the banishment of Napoleon by the allied powers justifiable?" --Albany Evening Journal, Thursday, April 26, 1838

Herman Melville was elected President of the Philo Logos Society on February 9, 1838, as announced in the Albany Evening Journal on February 13, 1838. By the end of March he was urging support for the debating society of the Young Men's Association. For an earlier letter with the same aim of endorsing the YMA debating society, see the Melvilliana post on the December 1837 letter by Juvinis. 

Albany, New York: Broadway from Maiden Lane, 1863
Image Credit: new york heritage
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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Zodiac digitized

Published monthly in Albany, New York from July 1835 to January 1837, The Zodiac is loaded with fine and fascinating writing (much of it locally produced) on a variety of literary, cultural, and scientific subjects. Of particular interest to Melville fans is the publication in 1835-6 of lectures on American literature by Simeon DeWitt Bloodgood. Prior to their appearance in The Zodiac these lectures had been delivered before the Albany Young Men's Association--which Herman Melville joined in January 1835. Hershel Parker takes on The Zodiac and Bloodgood's "pioneering" lecture series in Melville: The Making of the Poet (also the basis of Parker's Historical Note in the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Melville's Published Poems).

The HathiTrust Digital Library makes available volumes of the Albany Zodiac from libraries at Cornell, Princeton, and the University of Minnesota. Here is the Cornell volume, which happens to be the 1980 facsimile helpfully introduced by historian Don Ritter:

Below, more links to digitized volumes of The Zodiac at Google Books:

Monday, March 2, 2015

Charles Sprague on "The Character and Extirpation of the Indians of New England"

If you sang "John Henry" as many times as me – "John Henry was a steel-driving man / Died with a hammer in his hand / John Henry said a man ain't nothin' but a man / Before I let that steam drill drive me down / I'll die with that hammer in my hand." If you had sung that song as many times as I did, you'd have written "How many roads must a man walk down?" too.  --Bob Dylan
Taking Dylan's hint about sources and influences: if as a kid you read (recited? heard recited or declaimed?) Charles Sprague on "Extirpation of the Indians," you might write this in your first book:
The Anglo-Saxon hive have extirpated Paganism from the greater part of the North American continent; but with it they have likewise extirpated the greater portion of the Red race. --Herman Melville, Typee


ROLL back the tide of time; how powerfully to us applies the promise: "I will give thee the heathen for an inheritance." Not many generations ago, where you now sit, circled with all that exalts and embellishes civilized life, the rank thistle nodded in the wind, and the wild fox dug his hole unscared. Here lived and loved another race of beings. Beneath the same sun that rolls over your heads, the Indian hunter pursued the panting deer; gazing on the same moon that smiles for you, the Indian lover wooed his dusky mate. Here the wigwam blaze beamed on the tender and helpless, the council fire glared on the wise and daring. Now they dipped their noble limbs in your sedgy lakes, and now they paddled the light canoe along your rocky shores. Here they warred; the echoing whoop, the bloody grapple, the defying death-song, all were here ; and when the tiger strife was over, here curled the smoke of peace. Here, too, they worshipped; and from many a dark bosom went up a pure prayer to the Great Spirit. He had not written his laws for them on tables of stone, but He had traced them on the tables of their hearts. The poor child of nature knew not the God of revelation, but the God of the universe he acknowledged in every thing around. He beheld him in the star that sunk in beauty behind his lonely dwelling; in the sacred orb that flamed on him from his mid-day throne; in the flower that snapped in the morning breeze; in the lofty pine, that defied a thousand whirlwinds; in the timid warbler that never left its native grove; in the fearless eagle, whose untired pinion was wet in clouds; in the worm that crawled at his foot; and in his own matchless form, glowing with a spark of that light, to whose mysterious source he bent, in humble though blind adoration.

And all this has passed away. Across the ocean came a pilgrim bark, bearing the seeds of life and death. The former were sown for you; the latter sprang up in the path of the simple native. Two hundred years have changed the character of a great continent, and blotted forever from its face a whole, peculiar people. Art has usurped the bowers of nature, and the anointed children of education have been too powerful for the tribes of the ignorant. Here and there, a stricken few remain, but how unlike their bold, untameable progenitors; The Indian of falcon glance, and lion bearing, the theme of the touching ballad, the hero of the pathetic tale, is gone! and his degraded offspring crawl upon the soil where he walked in majesty, to remind us how miserable is man, when the foot of the conqueror is on his neck.  
As a race, they have withered from the land. Their arrows are broken, their springs are dried up, their cabins are in the dust. Their council fire has long since gone out on the shore, and their war-cry is fast dying to the untrodden west. Slowly and sadly they climb the distant mountains, and read their doom in the setting sun. They are shrinking before the mighty tide which is pressing them away; they must soon hear the roar of the last wave, which will settle over them forever. Ages hence, the inquisitive white man, as he stands by some growing city, will ponder on the structure of their disturbed remains, and wonder to what manner of persons they belonged. They will live only in the songs and chronicles of their exterminators. Let these be faithful to their rude virtues as men, and pay due tribute to their unhappy fate as a people.
I started looking at Fowle's The New Speaker because it has several pieces that were declaimed at the awards ceremony held by Albany Academy on August 4, 1831. Herman Melville received a prize that day for his superior ciphering books. The extract above from Sprague's 4th of July oration might be the one assigned to Albany Academy student Nathan Hawley, which is identified in the Albany Argus announcement only as "Extract from an Oration by C. Sprague." The New Speaker gives four extracts from orations by Charles Sprague, and "Extirpation of the Indians" comes first--so Herman Melville possibly could have heard it recited the day he received his award for excellent arithmetic.

Or not. Here's another possibility: it could be that Nathan Hawley gave them the extract from Sprague on the "Devotion of La Fayette to the Cause of America." Six years later, Sprague on Lafayette is specifically named as one of the selections to be presented by students in a similar awards ceremony, as announced by the Albany Academy in the Albany Argus on Friday, August 11, 1837.

Other pieces in the 1831 program which appear in Fowle's New Speaker:
  • "Ames on the British Treaty" delivered first by Griffith W. Griffiths at the 1831 ceremony is the first selection in The New Speaker
  • "Harper, on Resisting French Agggressions"
  • "Dewitt Clinton's address before the Phi Beta" (identified in The New Speaker as Clinton's 1823 discourse at Schenectady)
  • "Wayland on Missionary Efforts"
  • "Belshazzar's Doom" by Croly
  • "Extract from Story’s Address before the Phi Beta Kappa"
  • Casabianca
  • Marco Bozzaris

Orations heard August 4, 1831 by ciphering whiz-kid Herman Melville

For a glimpse of Herman Melville's name listed among numerous award-winners at The Albany Academy, see the previous melvilliana post on Melville's 1831 prize for ciphering books. That old news is in the good old Melville Log, of course, and gets expert handling in volume 1 of Hershel Parker's Biography.

But here's something I don't recall seeing before, the list of orations delivered at the 1831 awards ceremony in City Hall. After the opening prayer by the Rev. Dr. Ludlow and a selection of music comes the "Delivery of Pieces, in Prose and Poetry, in the following order":
1. Griffith W. Griffiths. Extract from Ames’ Speech on the British Treaty.
2. William Cassidy Extract from Harper’s Speech on French Aggressions, 1794.
3. Nathaniel Niles. Extract from Clinton’s Address before the Phi Beta Kappa.
4. Henry Q. Hawley. Character of Columbus—Irving.
5. Charles Knower. Extract from Mr. Phillips’ Speech on the Destinies of America.
6. Charles E. Groesbeeck. On Missionary Efforts—Wayland.
7. John M. Bradford. Belshazzar’s Doom—Croly.
8. Abraham G. Lansing. Extract from “Hyperion,” by Josiah Quincy, 1768.
9. Wm. N. McHarg. Regulus—Dale.
10. Henry Waldren. The Star Spangled Banner—Key.
11. Wells. S. Hammond. Extract from Story’s Address before the Phi Beta Kappa.
12. Rensselaer Van Schelluyne. Speech of James Otis—Mrs. Childs.
13. Maunsell Van Rensselaer. Extract from an Address before the Albany Military Association, July 4, 1814.
14. John Furlong. Hotspur’s Description of a Fop—Shakespeare.
15. Isaac Staats. Marco Bozzaris—Halleck.
16. Wm. Austin. Extract from Rush’s 4th July Oration, 1814.
17. De Lancey Kane. Extract from Webster’s Speech, U. S. Senate.
18. Wm. J. Pohlman. Extract from an Address of Rev. Robert Hall, on the Prospect of an Invasion.
19. Thomas Frothingham. Cassabianca—Mrs. Hemans.
20. Nathan Hawley. Extract from an Oration by C. Sprague. [Possibly on Extirpation of the Indians?]
21. Stephen La Grange. Extract from John Hancock’s Oration, Boston, 1774.
22. Oliver H. Lee. Extract from the Speech of Robert Emmet.
--From the Albany [New York] Argus, Friday, August 5, 1831, Found in the newspaper archives at GenealogyBank
All these names show up in the List of Students in back of the 1863 volume, Celebration of the Semi-centennial Anniversary of the Albany Academy.

Isaac Staats (future Oregon emigrant) recited Halleck's poem Marco Bozzaris, which Melville's big brother Gansevoort had performed at the High School in New York City years before (December 1826). Halleck's poem and many other of the "Pieces" done at the 1831 awards ceremony may be found in The New Speaker, Or Exercises in Rhetoric by William Bentley Fowle. Here's another one, Belshazzar's Doom, recited in 1831 by John M. Bradford--a son let's suppose of the Melvilles' local minister (also named John M. Bradford), and brother of Gansevoort Melville's good friend Alexander W. Bradford.

For many interesting and significant details of Melville's schooldays, check out the great article by David K. Titus, "Herman Melville at the Albany Academy" in Melville Society Extracts 42 (May 1980): 1 and 4-10).

George Croly
Rev. George Croly (1780-1860)
via Wikimedia Commons


Hour of an Empire's overthrow! —
The Princes from the feast were gone,
The Idol flame was burning low ; —
'Twas midnight upon Babylon.

That night the feast was wild and high,
That night was Sion's gold profaned;
The seal was set to blasphemy —
The last deep cup of wrath was drained. 
'Neath jewelled roof and silken pall,
Belshazzar on his couch was flung;—
A burst of thunder filled the hall!
He heard — but 'twas no mortal tongue:— 
"King of the East! the trumpet calls,
That calls thee to a tyrant's grave;
A curse is on thy palace walls,
A curse is on thy guardian wave;

"A surge is in Euphrates' bed,
That never filled its bed before;
A surge, that, ere the morn be red,
Shall load with death its haughty shore. 
"Behold a tide of Persian steel !
 A torrent of the Median car;
Like flame their gory banners wheel:
Rise, King! and arm thee for the war!" 
Belshazzar gazed; the voice was past —
The lofty chamber filled with gloom;
But echoed on the sudden blast,
The rushing of a mighty plume.

He listened: —all again was still:
'He heard no chariot's iron clang; —
He heard the fountain's gushing rill,
The breeze that through the roses sang. 
He slept:—in sleep wild murmurs came;
A visioned splendor fired the sky,
He heard Belshazzar's taunted name;
He heard again the Prophet cry— 
"Sleep, Sultan! 'tis thy final sleep,
Or wake, or sleep, the guilty dies.
The wrongs of those who watch and weep,
Around thee and thy nation rise."

He started; 'mid the battle's yell,
He saw the Persian rushing on;
He saw the flames around him swell;—
Thou'rt ashes! King of Babylon.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Prize for Ciphering Books, 1831

Old news, but it's nice to find the newspaper announcement of Herman Melville's 1831 school prize for "Ciphering Books" available online via Fulton History:
Herman Melville named
in the Albany Argus, Saturday, August 6, 1831
We know also the actual prize Melville received: a volume of The London Carcanet, now in the Beinecke Library at Yale.
Stamped in gilt on the front board: "Herman Melville." Labeled on the front pastedown: "Albany Academy. To Herman Melville the first best in his class in [words erased]. T. Romeyn Beck, Principal." Contains the bookplate of Alexander Orr Vietor. An article in the Albany Argus for 6 August 1831 mentions Melville's award: the first premium in the second class in ciphering books in the fourth department.  --Melville's Marginalia Online
But do we know what "Ciphering Books" means? Ciphering books are workbooks for doing exercises in practical arithmetic. Daboll's Schoolmaster's Assistant loomed large as the standard textbook.
"I'll get the almanack and as I have heard devils can be raised with Daboll's arithmetic...."  --Moby-Dick, The Doubloon
David K. Titus gives a detailed description of the arithmetic course in his important article on Herman Melville at the Albany Academy in Melville Society Extracts 42 (May 1980): 1 and 4-10).

Citing the Albany Argus of a few days later (August 9, 1831), Hershel Parker informs that Herman would have received his prize "at a solemn ceremony in the City Hotel." Our Argus article of the 6th indicates "Thursday last," following examinations from July 29th to August 3rd, which puts the City Hotel ceremony on Thursday, August 4, 1831. Three days after Herman's 12th birthday, if my math is right.

We might as well give the entire announcement of August 6, 1831 detailing the various premiums awarded by the Albany Academy. Looks like Frederick Leake had superb penmanship...But William Austin took the gold.
And something else: several class textbooks are named including Jamieson's Rhetoric.
Found in the great newspaper archives at Fulton History: Albany NY Argus 1831 -0745.