Monday, February 8, 2016

Identifying the good fellows with Herman Melville at "Lorry" Graham's, March 1866

The previous post found Herman Melville partying at the Manhattan residence of James Lorimer Graham, Jr. (as the 1865 Trow's NYC Directory indicates, JLG Jr. had moved back to his father uncle JLG Sr.'s place at 21 Washington Square North) on the evening of March 26, 1866.

UPDATE: But wait, Fold3 comes through with images from the better source here, Trow's New York City Directory "For the Year Ending May 1, 1866." A-ha. Now Trow's gives the address for James Lorimer Graham, jr. as "3 E. 17th." That's the address Bayard Taylor remembers in his 1876 obit. Most likely the March 26, 1866 gathering happened here, at 3 East Seventeenth Street.

Fold3: Military Records

Melville would count as one of the "invited guests," I'm guessing, rather than an official member of "The Wanderer's Club." Possibly the newspaper notice should say "Wanderers,'" plural. This Wanderers' Club resembles the "Travellers" who likewise met on Monday nights, as we know from the invitation Bayard Taylor sent to Melville on February 24, 1865. In that 1865 letter Taylor identified two fellow Travellers (Darley and Bierstadt) who also would be named as guests of James Lorimer Graham, Jr. on Monday night, March 26, 1866. Hershel Parker muses about the mutual interests of this bunch in Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative.

By late March 1866, Melville was a confirmed New Yorker, again, as well as a working and (at last!) published poet. Two Civil War poems from his forthcoming volume Battle-Pieces were already out in Harper's (with a third, "Sheridan at Cedar Creek," soon to appear under the title "Philip" in the April 1866 issue), but Melville had not yet written the prose "Supplement." So he could hold his head up among the poets there at "Lorry" Graham's soiree: William Cullen Bryant, Henry T. Tuckerman, Bayard Taylor, and Richard Henry Stoddard. At least two of Melville's fellow guests (Richard Henry Stoddard and "Barry Gray") would soon enough be his co-workers at the New York Custom House. A fine time for socializing, though deep griefs awaited Melville and his family the very next year--his wife Elizabeth contemplated leaving him by May 1867, then in September their eldest son Malcolm killed himself.

The Wanderer's Club. 

The members of the "Wanderer's Club," together with invited guests, were pleasantly entertained last evening at the residence of Mr. James Lorimer Graham, Jr. The gathering was of a social character, and allowed a free and agreeable interchange of thought among the guests. The many rare and curious books, old engravings, valuable autograph letters and articles of vertu, to be found in Mr. Graham's library, were a source of unfailing interest and enjoyment to every one present. Among the guests were Messrs. Bryant, Bancroft, Tuckerman, Herman Melville, Bayard Taylor, Ripley, Duyckinck, Stoddard, Savage, "Barry Gray," W. T. Blodgett, John Van Buren, Leutze, Kensett, Gifford, Bierstadt, Laing, H. P. Gray, Launt Thompson, Darley, Ehninger, Hunt, Key, Baron Osten Sacken, Gilman, and others.  --New York Evening Post, Tuesday, March 27, 1866
Let's go through the list and try to identify the good fellows at Lorrie Graham's party:
  • Savage = probably the Irish-American journalist and poet John Savage (1828-1888). Contributed to the satirical weekly magazine, The Lantern.
  • John Van Buren (1810-1866): Albany lawyer and politico, second son of President Martin Van Buren. JVB must have known Herman's brother Gansevoort in the old days.
In the late 1840s he joined his father in opposing the spread of slavery as a member of the Free Soil Party. John Van Buren, nicknamed "Prince John" by the press, was a highly regarded trial lawyer, famed nationwide for his tall, commanding appearance and his eloquence. He was Chairman of the New York Democratic Party in 1862, and was the party's unsuccessful candidate for state Attorney General in 1865. During the Civil War he continued his opposition to slavery by organizing "Union League" clubs of Democrats and Republicans loyal to the United States. He was known to alternate between periods of overwork followed by periods of dissolution, including excessive drinking and gambling that often left him in financial distress. He died at sea of kidney failure while traveling from Liverpool to New York. --Bill McKern - Find A Grave  
Albert Bierstadt - A Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie - Google Art Project
A Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie - Albert Bierstadt via Wikimedia Commons
After writers and critics, the Evening Post names many artists in attendance. Shades, intimations perhaps of the departed artists and their dialogue in Melville's poem "At the Hostelry" (text available in John Bryant's edition of Tales Poems and Other Writings, and in the 1963 Russell & Russell issue of Melville's Works, volume 16 at the HathiTrust Digital Library). As mentioned already in the previous post, their radiant patron James Lorimer Graham, Jr. was a lot like Melville's conception of the Marquis de Grandvin.
  • Launt Thompson = Launt Thompson (1833-1894), Irish-American sculptor, protege of Erastus Dow Palmer and close friend of Edwin Booth, 
  • Ehninger = John Whetten Ehninger (1827-1889). Aka John Whetton Ehninger, portrait painter and etcher--1847 graduate of Columbia University, with European training.
Last but not least, a brace of academic diplomatists, or diplomatic academics:
  • Gilman = ?? Only problem is having so many distinguished Gilmans to worry about Daniel Coit Gilman (1831-1908), the Yale librarian, scholar, professor, and future first president of Johns Hopkins University. Gilman's early diplomatic experience "as attaché of the United States legation at St. Petersburg, Russia from 1853 to 1855" (Wikipedia) would seem to intersect somehow with that of Russian general consul in NYC and former secretary to the Russian legation, Baron Osten Sacken--which may be why the two names appear together at the end of the guest-list.
Lots here to absorb and ponder. For one thing, was the writer one of the persons listed in the Evening Post report, or a different, unnamed guest? Parke Godwin?

The University of Virginia Library has a manuscript poem to James Lorimer Graham dated November 16, 1866--the night of the honorary dinner at Delmonico's referenced by Edmund Clarence Stedman in the 1894 Century Club memorial. I'm trying to get a scan or other image of the
"Poetic tribute to Graham by an unidentified writer"
who might be Stoddard or Taylor or Stedman, or another of the select company.

And speaking of good fellows, what happened to that precious manuscript book, listed in the Century Club memorial to James Lorimer Graham, Jr. as
Ye Booke of ye Goode Fellowes
 Does The Century Association still have "Ye Booke of ye Goode Fellowes" in the archives?

Related melvilliana post:


  1. The Wanderers and Graham are mentioned in an 1869 letter written by the painter Frederic Edwin Church: "J. Lorimer Graham, Jr. is here and recently gave a fine entertainment in the name of the "Wanderers Club"--It was the most agreeable and successful gathering of the season--'tis said." Frederic Church (in Rome) to William Henry Osborn (in New York), January 23, 1869, typescript transcription of original in the Frederic Church Archives, Olana Historic Site, Hudson, NY. Church was invited but did not attend because of his wife's advanced pregnancy. I believe, but am not yet sure, that the original of the letter is in the Osborn and Dodge Family Papers at Princeton University.

  2. Thank you! Good to learn more about the Wanderers and JLG Jr in Italy. Had to Google Osborn.