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.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"?
V. B. Lockrow, Sec’ty.
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:
FOR THE EVENING JOURNAL.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 at Fulton History: Albany NY Evening Journal 1836 - 0994Herman Melville was elected President of the Philo Logos Society on February 9, 1838, as announced in the Albany Evening Journal on February 13, 1838.