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 With White-Jacket unpublished and Moby-Dick unheard-of, one Kentuckian (call him Walter, for editor Walter Newman Haldeman) already dares to compare Melville with both Salvator Rosa and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
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1 comment:

  1. > On July 8, 1854 the survey of Putnam's magazine ...

    If the newspapers were surveying the magazines, see if you can turn up any mention of the 1854 C-F story were were looking into a while ago. Perhaps they knew the author at the time.