Saturday, January 2, 2016

"Bohemian of the ocean": Melville in the National Police Gazette (April 8, 1882)

From "Our Boys in Blue"
Supplement to the Police Gazette of New York, No. 237 (April 8, 1882)
Anyone who wants to obtain a good idea of the life of a man-of-war man enjoys the advantage, at least, of having books to refer to. We have remarked on the fact that the soldier has no historian. The sailor, however, is better off in that respect. 
Numbers of clever, bright and able writers have painted Jack Tar’s life in more or less accurate terms and vivid colors. One of the best books ever written of the sea, both for correctness and interest, is Herman Melville’s “White Jacket.” The sprightly Bohemian of the ocean who has ended his adventurous life by marrying a judge’s daughter and becoming a New York Custom House official, has contributed no little to the literature of Neptune, and of his numerous works “White Jacket” is not the least fascinating. 
Another naval litterateur whose works have done much to familiarize the public with his profession was Lieutenant Wise, U. S. N. The author of Los Gringos, in that entertaining book introduces us to the life of the forecastle and the quarter deck in admirable terms and the only regret one experiences in buying one of his books by, is that there is not more of it.

The life of Wise and Melville painted, though, belongs to the past, to the days of wooden walls and sails. Iron and steam have revolutionized the ways of naval existence until now a navy is principally manned by engineers and firemen. The hard and practical spirit of the age has robbed the schoolboy’s dream of perfect bliss of its chiefest charms and the “wet sheet and flowing sea” days of our navy are over forever....
--from "Our Boys in Blue," Supplement to the Police Gazette of New York, No. 237, April 8, 1882; found at Fulton History

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