Saturday, February 20, 2016

Notices of Redburn, White-Jacket, and Israel Potter in the Louisville Daily Courier, edited by Walter N. Haldeman

This one relates well I think to another melvilliana post about favorable notices in the Richmond Enquirer, showing the positive reception Melville received early on in southern newspapers.

For openers, here's a brief mention of the 1849 revised edition of Typee, from the Louisville Daily Courier, July 18, 1849; found at
TYPEE: a peep at Polynesian life, during a four months’ residence in a valley of the Marquesas; the revised edition, with a sequel. By Herman Melville. New York: Harper & Brothers. 
There are few persons who read, who have not heard of this famous work. We do not remember a more successful book of the kind, within our day, than this proved to be. It took the literary world by surprise, and it is yet one of the most fascinating books in the language. 
These books may be found at the Bookstore of MORTON & GRISWOLD
Except for ads, I've not located any previous notice of Typee or Omoo. However, on August 3, 1847 the Courier published an excerpt from Omoo under the heading, "Fun at Sea."

Found on

Likewise I'm still looking for a notice of Mardi (1849). Should one turn up it would have to be positive, since praise for Melville's fine writing continues in reviews of Redburn (1849) and White-Jacket (1850). [Update 05/30/2017: Found! Ecstatic as expected, the review of Mardi appeared May 1, 1849; see the later post on Haldeman's Review of Mardi in the Louisville Morning Courier.]

Salvator Rosa, Jacob’s Dream, c. 1665, oil on canvas
Jacob’s Dream by Salvator Rosa via Wikimedia Commons
There's nothing in the notice below about the plot of Redburn, which could mean the reviewer has not got 'round to reading it. Still, you have to love the comparison of Melville's books to paintings by acknowledged masters with such distinctive and contrasting styles. With White-Jacket unpublished and Moby-Dick unheard-of, one Kentuckian (call him Walter, for editor Walter Newman Haldeman) already dares to compare Melville with both Salvator Rosa and Raphael:
"His limnings have in them the wild grandeur of Salvator Rosa, blended with the grace and finish of Raphael."
Raphael - The Small Cowper Madonna - Google Art Project
Raphael via Wikimedia Commons
From the Louisville Daily Courier, December 6, 1849; found at
Redburn: His First Voyage. Being the sailor boy confessions and reminiscences of the son of a gentleman, in the merchant service. By Herman Melville. New York: Harper & Brothers. 
Jean Paul Richter once said: The French have the empire of the land, the English of the sea, and the Germans of the air. Mr. Melville has wrested the literary empirage of the sea from England, and has placed himself as triumphantly on the tripod, as though he was fated for the work. He has drawn pictures of sea life, and of Polynesia that will live as long as language has a charm. Over his enchanted pages it is impossible to feel fatigue or satiety. His limnings have in them the wild grandeur of Salvator Rosa, blended with the grace and finish of Raphael.

Redburn is just such a set of sketches as one might expect to hear in listening to “forecastle yarns.” It is replete with vivacity and the most charming interest, and cannot fail to plant a new laurel in Mr. Melville’s chaplet.—Old Christopher North, with all his antipathies to America, cannot withhold his tribute of praise to Melville. He says: “After the pungent and admirable written narrative of that accomplished, able seaman, Herman Melville, few books of the same class but must appear flat and unprofitable. Omoo would have found readers at any time; and that although twenty publishers had combined with fifty authors to deluge the public with the Pacific ocean during the previous five years.”
The reading public will be delighted once more to meet this popular author on the field of his glory. --Louisville [Kentucky] Daily Courier (December 6, 1849)
Again, the Louisville Courier was edited by Walter N. Haldeman.

Walter N. Haldeman (1821-1902) via Wikimedia Commons
Haldeman's notice of White-Jacket starts off with the same quote from Jean Paul Richter used previously in the notice of Redburn.
WHITE JACKET; or the world in a man-of-war. By HERMAN MELVILLE. 
Jean Paul Richter once said that Providence had given France the dominion of the land; England that of the sea, and the Germans that of the air. We are disposed to doubt England’s complete supremacy on the sea, for certainly her marine literature has nothing in it that can be compared to Melville’s extraordinary productions. He took the country by surprise, with his Typee, and through all his marvelous authorship of Omoo, Mardi, and Redburn, he has contrived to widen his reputation, and maintain his position. 
We are greatly deceived if this recent work, “White Jacket,” does not prove to be the most popular of Mr. Melville’s productions. 
It is filled to overflowing with all those striking merits that have made the author one of the celebrities of the times. In our judgment, WHITE JACKET is much the best of Mr. Melville’s works. A more entertaining companion for a journey, or in the family circle, we do not know.  --Louisville Daily Courier, April 11, 1850; found at
I don't see any notice of Moby-Dick (1851) or Pierre (1852) in Haldeman's Louisville Courier, other than the standard advertisements. On July 8, 1854 the survey of Putnam's magazine includes favorable mention of "Israel Potter, a 4th of July story," which "is from the pen of Herman Melville, and is of course full of life and interest." In reviewing the book version of Israel Potter on March 22, 1855, Haldeman followed up with the most substantive and thoughtful comments on Melville yet printed in the Louisville Courier.

Found on

New Books.

ISRAEL POTTER: His fifty Years Exile. By Herman Melville.—This story, originally published in Putnam’s Magazine, is now presented in book form. Like all of this authors productions, it is admirably written and full of interest. The story is of an American soldier and seaman, who was taken prisoner by the British and carried to England. He escaped from his vessel, and his subsequent adventures form the staple of the volume. Israel passes through various degrees of poverty and wealth, associates now with men of the highest distinction, and now, with his fluttering rags about him, begs for charity. Sometimes he is closeted with Dr. Franklin, or exchanges wit with Horne Tooke, and then he is found begging shelter in a country barn. Now he is a laborer in the King’s Garden, at Kew, and has a familiar talk with His Majesty, then he is standing in the cabin of Paul Jones’ ship, engaged in friendly chat with that redoubtable hero, and next he is moulding brick in an obscure country town; parading the streets crying “old chairs to mend,” or hiding in the sewers of London streets, a homeless beggar. Much of the interest of the volume depends on the characteristic sketches of the distinguished men referred to in its pages. Washington, Franklin, Ethan Allen, Paul Jones, Horne Tooke, George III, and many others are more or less strikingly daguerreotyped. The volume has claims far beyond the usual popular works of fiction of the day. It equals them in what is falsely called “interest,” that is, in the march of the story, and far surpasses them in beauty of style and execution. Indeed, it is almost offering an insult to this author, as well as to our readers, to institute a comparison between his well-written and tasteful volume and the clap-trap and coarseness of those books which a diseased state of sentiment has made popular. The work may be had of Mr. Ringgold, on Fourth street.  --Louisville Daily Courier, March 22, 1855; found at
Related post:

Friday, February 19, 2016

Gansevoort Melville in Columbus, Ohio: "I prefer to speak into the full blaze of beauty's light."

Herman Melville's big brother Gansevoort had a gift for bestowing memorable nicknames. Gansevoort re-baptized James K. Polk as "Young Hickory." In Ohio, his improvised gallantry left Columbus divorcee Adaline M. Gill with the new nickname, "Beauty's Light."

Found on

From the time of the divorce the heroine set out to catch a new husband. She dressed better than ever, and looked more beautiful, but the taint of suspicion was so strong upon her that she failed. She still paraded the streets, and was still the observed of all observers. In the Presidential campaign of 1844, when General Cass and Thomas L. Hamer made speeches in Columbus, they were accompanied by a young and flowery speaker, Gansevoort Melville, of New York City. The stand for the speakers was behind the long, low range of public offices fronting on High street. Behind that part of the public offices occupied by the State Library in the second story was a nearly flat roof, on which a large number of both sexes had chairs, immediately fronting the speakers. Toward the close of Cass and Hamer’s speeches Adaline got a seat. While Melville was closing the exercises the sun was shining on the face of the speaker. A proposition was made to draw the sail-cloth that covered the top of the stand forward, to keep the sun out of the eyes of the speaker. To this Melville objected. “I prefer,” he said, “to speak into the full blaze of beauty’s light,” pointing as he spoke, to the roof of the building, where Adaline, solitary and alone, sat on a chair, tilted up against the wall of the Library building. Instantly every eye was turned, and, as the crowd took in the situation, it fairly roared with delight, and, amid hisses and jeers, Adaline made her exit through the window of the Library. After that episode she went by the nickname of “Beauty’s Light.” --"Old-Time Politics," Letter to the Editor signed "F." in the Cincinnati Enquirer, November 7, 1881
As told by "F.," the back-story is the young lady's locally celebrated manipulation of Ohio legislators to secure a divorce from Daniel Parish on her terms, taking full advantage of a now archaic (by 1881) provision for granting legislative divorces. Gansevoort of course was just being his noble self.

Maybe Gansevoort had in mind the line from Coleridge's Genevieve, quoted years before by Herman in Fragments from a Writing Desk No. 2:
In beauty's light you glide along....

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Glimpse of "tall, very tall" Gansevoort Melville in March 1845

First fruits of a new subscription to another reference to the impressive height of Gansevoort Melville, Herman's older brother. This glimpse of Gansevoort as office-seeker in 1845 offers a rare physical description that confirms his being the tall man that Hershel Parker describes so well in Herman Melville: A Biography. Takes one to know one? 

As eventually settled (after a false start or two) in the popular melvilliana post on Gansevoort Melville's Height, and the sequel on Gansevoort as tall democratic spouter, slighting references by political opponents to Gansevoort as a "small man" refer to alleged unimportance, baseness, littleness of mind or spirit--not his physical stature. Writing on March 20, 1845 the Washington correspondent of the Baltimore Patriot described Gansevoort Melville as
"a tall, very tall, genteel, well-enough-looking young man, with a large nose and sandy whiskers, and quite a lady’s gallant..."
Yes he did, the Patriot correspondent also credited Gansevoort with a prominent schnoz. And "sandy" may have accurately registered Gansevoort's, what? reddish sideburns? but "sandy whiskers" was also another way of  saying "dandy" after the Whigs stuck Martin Van Buren with the nickname "Sweet Sandy Whiskers." Rumor was, Gansevoort the dandified Democratic orator had overreached in Washington by unreasonably demanding "a full foreign mission" as the most fitting reward for helping to elect the new president:
... Oh, if you could but know of the tricks, manoeuvres and log-rolling that have been going on here to obtain places, you would say great are the ways, windings, twistings and turnings of the “progressive democracy.” Men are hired to come on here from New York, if not from other places, to electioneer for their employers, and furnished with large sums of money to give parties, dinners, wine suppers, &c. &c. I would give to you names that would astonish you in some regards—in others, not. Ask Postmaster Graham—ask Prosper M. Wetmore—ask the famous Jonathan D. Stevenson—ask Gansevoort Melville—ask them what they know on the subject. 
By the way, Gansevoort, who is a tall, very tall, genteel, well-enough-looking young man, with a large nose and sandy whiskers, and quite a lady’s gallant, absolutely asks—what think you?—a full foreign mission!—And this for the flippant speeches he made in New York, and for going all the way to Tennessee to recite them over several times in that State! He is very poor, and may get a tolerable consulship or clerkship. That would do, Gansevoort; don’t look too high! 
Old Major Davezac is here, still unprovided for. He wants a Charge des Affair-ship, but will have to content himself with something of less note. He did far more in the campaign than Melville, however. He ought to be immortalized for the inimitable manner in which he repeated Gen. Jackson’s argument, in favor of the admission of Texas, from Old Hickory’s own mouth, to wit: that God made the Geography and Man made the Constitution of the country, and therefore we ought to support the former in preference to the latter! 
A friend of mine paid a social and political visit to the President this morning. He says the President talked as if he felt that he had made two or three appointments rather hastily—expressed his earnest wish to do right—could not help appointing Wetmore to the place he fills, for Marcy urged it—wanted time to look over and examine the recommendations and claims of applicants—would do this after the adjournment of the Senate—and above all things would appoint no one whom he should find had been intriguing here and log-rolling. His object would be to do right according to the best lights before him.  --Carolina Watchman [Salisbury, North Carolina], April 5, 1845; reprinting Washington correspondence of the Baltimore Patriot dated March 20, 1845
Responding to the same report, another Whig paper, the Nashville Tennessean Republican Banner delighted in the dandy figure:
GANSEVOORT MELVILLE.—This gentleman, who came all the way from New York to Tennessee last summer “to bring us straight,” was at the last accounts still hanging about Washington. His modesty, we believe, is proverbial, and he is giving an additional example of it, by only demanding “a full foreign mission for his services.” If Mr. Polk wishes to send abroad a “perfect pink” of the “young Democracie” of New York, Gansevoort Melville is the man. His very name is aristocratic, and savors of the Children of the Abbey, Pelham, and some of Mrs. Gore’s novels. Seriously we think that Mr. Melville ought to be satisfied with something less than a full mission.  --Nashville Republican Banner, April 4, 1845
That summer, when Gansevoort's appointment as Secretary of Legation in London was announced, southern Whigs again picked up on the dandy slur from earlier newspaper reports. The Louisville Daily Courier (July 19, 1845) tacked this on to the widely-circulated New York Evening Post view of Gansevoort's selection by Polk as "a bad appointment":
GANSEVOORT MELVILLE.—The appointment of this Broadway exquisite and pink of modern Democracy, does not meet with the approbation of the more respectable portion of the Democratic Press....
To the same effect, and evidently without any personal knowledge of Gansevoort, the North Carolina Star (July 30, 1845) called him "more remarkable as "an exquisite" of the first water than for intellectual superiority."

Earlier and closer to home, The Brooklyn Evening Star had acknowledged the "full foreign mission" rumor while confining its physical description to a nice notice of Gansevoort's "smiling face":
Mr. Gansevoort Melville left the Capital on Wednesday, for New-York. He wore a smiling face on his departure, from which the disciples of Lavater inferred that he had got something worth having, though not, perhaps, a “full foreign mission.” --Brooklyn Evening Star, Friday, March 28, 1845.
 Related melvilliana posts:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

1874 Herman Melville mention in newspaper verse about Henry Melvill Doak (1841-1928)

Tennessee journalist, poet and Shakespeare lover H. M. Doak (1841-1928) might have been named for Henry Melvil/l/e the eloquent Anglican preacher. A new edition of Rev. Melvill's sermons was just out in 1840, and was being advertised North and South as the production of a "gifted writer." In 1874, however, comic verse in the Clarksville Weekly Chronicle depicted H. M. Doak as Herman Melville's namesake. The Herman Melville mention appears in these lines from "An Introduction and Outline to a Forthcoming Novel," signed "LEW.":
An author's fame
Had given him the name
Of Herman Melville;
But for fear
Critics will loudly croak,
We'll tell you here,
His other name was D--k.
"Phoebus! what a name
To fill the speaking trump of party fame."
--from the Clarksville [Tennessee] Weekly Chronicle, June 13, 1874; found in the Historic American Newspapers at the Library of Congress-Chronicling America.
Since the verse escapade is all about Doak, I would guess "Lew." must be H. M. Doak himself--though I suppose Doak here could also be the satirical target of a rival editor or politician. Then again, who but Doak would bother, really...

Under the pseudonym A. T. Ramp, H. M. Doak wrote The Wagonauts Abroad (1892), a travelogue with scattered verses not unlike the sample above with the reference to Herman Melville. 

Below, a short biography of Henry M. Doak from the article on "Representative Southern Journalists" in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (July 3, 1880):


The present editor of the Nashville American, Henry M. Doak, was born August 3d, 1841, coming from a line of teachers—his grandfather having been one of the pioneer educators of Tennessee, and his father a distinguished college professor up to the time of his death, a short time subsequent to the late war. His education, therefore, was obtained at home and under the eye of his father, who was his chief instructor. He was being prepared for the Bar at the time of the breaking out of the war, when he enlisted as a volunteer in the Confederate service with Cummin's regiment, organized in East Tennessee, to which part of the State his father removed, from Clarksville, just before the commencement of hostilities. In the earlier part of the war he served with Zollicoffer's brigade in Eastern Kentucky, but later was attached to the naval service of the Confederacy. At the close of the war he married and settled at Clarksville, where he began the practice of the law. He soon after became editor of the Clarksville Tobacco-Leaf—a weekly Democratic newspaper—and rapidly acquired reputation as a vigorous and practical political journalist. In 1872, during the memorable triangular contest for member of Congress from the State at large, between Horace Maynard (Republican), General B. F. Cheatham (Democrat) and the late Andrew Johnson (Independent), he wrote and published over the nom de plume of “Montgomery,” a political brochure—a scathing review of the record of the late ex-President, and a merciless criticism of his public career, and especially of his administration, which attracted attention even beyond the State, and gave prominence to its author as one of the rising political journalists of his section. In 1876 he accepted a position on the editorial staff of the Nashville American, the leading Democratic newspaper in Tennessee, and, in this field, as chief political writer on the paper, soon took rank among the foremost journalists of the West and South, and gave to the American a character for candor, political prescience and independence previously attained by but few Southern political newspapers. The tone and dignity, the influence and progressive leadership of the American, which began to be generally recognized shortly after his connection with it, was in a good measure due to the daily contributions from his industrious pen. Descended from an ancient East Tennessee and North Carolina Whig family, he, no doubt, inherited some of its political philosophy, while in practical politics rather a progressive Democrat of the new school living in and for the present and future while drawing wisdom from the past.
Henry Melvill Doak (1841-1928)
 via Tennessee State Library and Archives