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

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