Wednesday, October 28, 2015

New Orleans Commercial Bulletin at Google News

As Hershel Parker tells in Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative (91-2; 161-3), A. Oakey Hall wrote regular letters from New York to the New Orleans Commerical Bulletin over a succession of pseudonyms: first "Gotham," then "Croton," and finally "Hans Yorkel."

As Parker also relates, in 1854 Augustus Kinsley Gardner, writing as "Caleb Quotem," took over the job of New York correspondent from Hall/Hans Yorkel. Dr. Gardner is the one who wrote about Sunday night gatherings at the Manhattan home of Dr, John Wakefield Francis:
Of an evening one may drop in, and find a genial gathering, surrounded by the smoke of their own cigars. One is at home here—and so is the Doctor, if not professionally engaged. Tuckerman keeps his classicallity for his Addisonian books, and is full of anecdote and humor; Griswold, fiery, sarcastic, and captious; Duyckinck, cynical [critical]; Melville (when in town) taciturn, but genial, and, when warmed-up capitally racy and pungent; painters and sculptors men of deeds, not words, and among them, rarely seen abroad, the friend of Shelly and Byron.  --letter from CALEB QUOTEM dated November 24, 1854; published in the New Orleans Commercial Bulletin, Tuesday, December 5, 1854 (misprinted December 4, 1854, at top of page)
Augustus Kinsley Gardner
Image Credit: Images from the History of Medicine
Gardner as Caleb Quotem goes on to describe Dr. Francis's home as "the literary headquarters of this city [New York], where everybody is to be seen sooner or later."

Here are links to various versions of the anecdote from Dr. Augustus Kinsley Gardner writing as "Caleb Quotem" in the New Orleans Commerical Bulletin, Tuesday, December 5, 1854:
New Orleans Commercial Bulletin, Tuesday, December 5, 1854 (scroll across to page 6 of 8)
New York Times, January 24, 1855, article titled "The New-York Antiquarian."
The Knickerbocker, August 1858 (identifies writer as "Our friend Dr. A. K. Gardner")
Old New York, Appendix to Biographical Essay by Henry T. Tuckerman
Mindful of so much cultural history in columns by New York correspondents, Parker urges the importance of collecting and publishing them:
"in our digital age all the Commercial Bulletin letters from New York ought to be put online as a great resource for historians."
For now that work still remains to be done, since letters from Gotham, Croton, Hans Yorkel, and Caleb Quotem are nowhere transcribed or even (so far as I know) cataloged. Nevertheless, it's a good step forward to have the Commercial Bulletin online finally with images available via Google News.

Browsing today I see the departure of "Hans Yorkel" explained and lamented in this notice of December 29, 1854:
“HANS YORKEL.”—The following compliment to our late correspondent, the versatile, able and eloquent “Hans Yorkel,” we copy from that sterling paper, the Vicksburg Whig, of the 22d. It is as true as it is deserved. But to quote obituary language, as our loss, and the loss of our readers, is “Hans Yorkel’s” gain, we and they must submit to the deprivation as best we can. Says the Whig
The readers of one of the very ablest and most interesting papers in this country—the New Orleans Commercial Bulletin—have recently been at a loss to understand why they heard nothing “now-a-days” from “Hans Yorkel”—admitted by all to be one among the very fine New York correspondents of the southern papers, who combine, in a very eminent degree, talent, information, humor, wit and honesty. For our part, we can frankly say, that the correspondence of “Hans Yorkel” was not only read by us with very great pleasure, but we looked to it for information upon all topics exciting the people of Gotham, or worth writing about. The loss of this valued correspondence is now accounted for. “Hans Yorkel” of the past was no other than the present A. Oakey Hall, Esq., recently elected to the most important and lucrative office of District Attorney for the city and county of New York. During the contest waged in New York, we were greatly pleased with Mr. Hall’s prospect of success, and much gratified when we learned that he was elected; but we think if we had known that he was “Hans,” we should have sent on a protest against his election, unless he coupled with his election a promise to continue his correspondence. --New Orleans Commercial Bulletin, December 29, 1854 (at Google News under December 28, scroll to page 6 of 8).
Below are links to some of those fine Melville "plums" (Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative, pages 92 and 419) in the letters from A. Oakey Hall that Parker found at Tulane in the late 1980's:
  • May 3, 1849-CROTON ("Melville's Mardi--a regular Mardi-gras of a novel, to judge from the richness of its prose. Prose! It is a poem; and you can pencil out of its pages blank verse enough to set up an hundred newspaper poets, for the balls of bowling critics to roll at.")
  • November 27, 1851-HANS YORKEL (Moby-Dick "is a book which well sustains his reputation as a tale writer and sketcher, while it enhances in a high degree his fame as an original thinker and illustrater of every day sailor men, and every day sailor scenes....Mr. 'Melville’s' book is a valuable one for its accounts of the manners, haunts and natural history of Leviathan. He paraphrases JOB, to the affirmative nod of his readers, 'Canst thou pull out Leviathan with a book?'")
  • August 23, 1852-HANS YORKEL (... a new "fit" by MELVILLE--Pierre. or the Ambiguities. It is a land story, and barring the air of a seventh heaven of rhetoric, not only interesting, but beau ideal of a novel.")
A. Oakey Hall via Library of Congress
You can see why Parker calls Oakey Hall
"one of Herman's most perceptive admirers."  --Herman Melville: A Biography, Vol. 2 page 534


  1. Thank you, oh alert Scott! The COMMERCIAL BULLETIN is a great resource for anyone interested in NYC--any aspect of NYC. I remember when the Library of Congress assured me that the Windsor Vermont JOURNAL was not extant--and now it's online! I remember the Scotch-taped COMMERCIAL BULLETIN at Tulane, tape on the floor under and around me like rattlesnakes. What bounty for young aspirants now!

  2. Scott, Hall's letter to EAD on news of George's death is one of the most moving documents I encountered in all my work on Melville and his associates. Can you post it? What a wonderful man Hall was.

    1. Yes, done.