Saturday, April 23, 2016

Letter from James Lorimer Graham, Jr. to Evert A. Duyckinck, asking for address of Herman Melville

Image Credit: Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations
Used by permission.
This undated manuscript note from James Lorimer Graham, Jr. (1835-1876) is held at the New York Public Library in the Duyckinck Family Papers: Papers of Evert A. Duyckinck, General Correspondence, Undated and Unidentified (box 23). Published references to Graham's request for Herman Melville's address include the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Herman Melville's Correspondence, ed. Lynn Horth (766); and the second volume of Hershel Parker's biography: Herman Melville: A Biography - V2.484. (Both sources incorrectly identify the sender as "Sr." Graham's "J" does look like an "S," but the signature is definitely that of James Lorimer Graham, Jr.)

Graham's inherited wealth and fortunate alliance with Josephine Garner (daughter of cotton merchant Thomas Garner, sister of William T. Garner) justify the listing of his occupation in the 1860 U. S. Federal Census as "Gentleman." Later he found employment in business at 108 Broadway, serving as a Director and eventually as 2nd Vice President of the Metropolitan Insurance Company. While he resided in New York City, Graham belonged to the best associations, most notably the Century Club and Geographical Society. In New York and abroad, he befriended numerous authors and artists. Graham was known for "witty and brilliant conversation" in social gatherings and "was often mistaken for a Frenchman." As patron of the arts and convivial "prince of good fellows," James Lorimer Graham, Jr. ("Lorry" or "Lorrie" Graham, among friends) resembles the Marquis de Grandvin, sketched by Melville in manuscript as the charming personification of wine who inspirits conversation and poetry in the fictional "Burgundy Club." From 1869 until his death in 1876, Graham served as U. S. Consul General in Florence, Italy.

Although dated only "Wednesday," the letter to Melville's friend Evert Duyckinck must have been written before Graham and his wife left New York for Europe in December 1866. On Monday, March 26, 1866 (according to a newspaper report the next day) Melville socialized at Graham's home with distinguished members of "The Wanderer's Club."
New York Evening Post, Tuesday, March 27, 1866
Trow's New York City Directory "For the Year Ending May 1, 1866" gives the address for James Lorimer Graham, jr. as "3 E. 17th." That's the address his friend Bayard Taylor remembered as a "treasury of rare articles" from Graham's impressive  "collections of coins, autographs, drawings, and books" (1876 obituary - New York Tribune). Most likely the March 26, 1866 gathering took place at 3 East Seventeenth street. But as indicated in the transcription below, Graham wrote Duyckinck from "21 Washington Sq," The Washington Square mansion was the residence that James Lorimer Graham, Jr. shared with his uncle, James Lorimer Graham, in 1865 and earlier, according to Trow's and other New York City directories. According to the Tribune obituary by Bayard Taylor,  
"The years 1862 and ’63 he spent in Europe, and then returned to New-York until the close of 1866."  --New York Tribune obituary by Bayard Taylor
On January 18, 1862, Graham wrote Taylor a letter from London, the first of 96 letters from Graham now in the Bayard Taylor papers at Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University. On November 29, 1861 Graham wrote to his uncle from Edinburgh, Scotland. In view of Graham's absence from New York in 1862-3 and 1867-76, his note to Evert Duyckinck can reasonably be dated around 1864-1866, probably no later than March 21, 1866--the Wednesday before the party that Melville reportedly attended for "Wanderer's Club" members and invited guests.

21 Washington Sq
Dear Sir 
You will greatly oblige me by giving the bearer the address of Mr Herman Melville, for me.  
I am on my back (and have been for several days) with the diphtheria, or I would have done myself the honor of looking in upon you personally. 
Very truly yours 
Ja[me]s Lorimer Graham Jr.
Related melvilliana posts:
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