Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Alice C. Hyde on reading Moby-Dick aloud in 1921

"So every night four of us sat around a roaring, open fire in the raw, spring evenings and listened to “Moby Dick.” I did the reading aloud, and I know the sweep of the sentences, and the lift and thrill of their cadences. Never was such a book written before, so drenched with the sea." --Alice C. Hyde, North Cohasset; from her published letter to "As the World Wags" editor Philip Hale in the Boston Herald, July 5, 1921.
Boston Herald, July 5, 1921

The complete letter from Alice Charles Hyde (1872-1936), a graduate of Smith College, is transcribed below. Having looked into the renewed enthusiasm for Moby-Dick in England, Philip Hale introduces correspondence from Melville's American fans, thus:
Now for letters from Melvillians.


As the World Wags:

One cannot throw a match into dry tinder without starting a fire, perhaps a conflagration, so after reading the article in your column about “Moby Dick,” I must add to the conflagration and chorus with the others that it is the most remarkable, blood-stirring, romantic, and virile book of adventure that the English language contains. During last month’s cold weather, we—a household of three middle-aged people with a fourth over 70—found ourselves in a country house with everything to make life tolerable except human companionship. No neighbor had “moved” with us. So every night four of us sat around a roaring, open fire in the raw, spring evenings and listened to “Moby Dick.” I did the reading aloud, and I know the sweep of the sentences, and the lift and thrill of their cadences. Never was such a book written before, so drenched with the sea.

Now I know the difference between genius and talent and no academic admirer of style and finished English will ever confuse my mind on that subject again. Stevenson, the great stylist, wrote a toy book, about a toy ocean, with toy men playing around on toy ships, and called it “Treasure Island.” That’s talent. Then Melville wrote a book almost as great as the ocean itself with real men, sailing real oceans, and hunting real Leviathans, and facing awful perils; with the whole shot through with the smell and pull and mystery of the sea, and with more genius on one page of it than on all the pages of all the works of other sea writers put together. (Like your other correspondent, I insist that I am sane-minded.)

Last week I was in Martha’s Vineyard in the house of an old island family where we had the privilege of staying. On the mantel of the main room was a piece of bone about six inches long with a picture on it, rubbed in, in India ink, of a whale boat and three ships’ crews sailing up to those terrible jaws. Not a spark of interest could I get from any other member of the party about it; they saw nothing there to interest one. To me it was the biggest thing on Martha’s Vineyard, for I had read “Moby Dick.”

Couldn’t you get up a Moby Dick club so that a little of the inflammable enthusiasm which those of us who have read the book feel about it could have a safe outlet?

Still sanely-minded yours,

North Cohasset.

Melville is too fine a fellow for a club in his honor. Remember the cruel fate of Walt Whitman and Robert Browning. A letter from Mr. Earle E. Riser must wait its turn. —Ed. [Philip Hale]
First ever Moby-Dick Marathon? Held the previous month (June 1921) "in a country house," presumably the Jerusalem Road estate where the Hydes of 380 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston summered. The two other "middle-aged people" in her group were probably her sister Louvan W. Hyde and brother Benjamin D. Hyde, a Boston lawyer. The unnamed person "over 70" most likely would have been their mother: Mrs. Luvan Charles Hyde, who died the following year at the age of 80.
"Benjamin, Louvan, and Alice Hyde continued to live at 380 Commonwealth during the 1922-1923 winter season, after which they moved to The Charlesgate at 535 Beacon." --Back Bay Houses
Alice C. Hyde wrote and performed one-act plays ("Gladstone's Letter," "Cromwell's Letter") for the Cohasset Dramatic Club and is credited with providing much of the chapter on Cohasset in Agnes Rothery's The Old Coast Road.

Boston Herald - February 16, 1936
Related post:

Philip Hale as "Taverner" in the Boston Post, c. 1890

was engaged by the "Boston Post," in 1890, for which paper he wrote musical criticisms, editorials, and a column called "The Taverner."
In the great Pursuing Melville, 1940-1980, Merton M. Sealts, Jr. identifies "Taverner" as Alexander Young, who died in March 1891. However, ace librarian Charles Ammi Cutter in the Library Journal of September 1891 notes that "Mr. Young was only one of several who wrote in the column over that signature." People evidently assumed that Young was always "Taverner" because so many of his stories wound up in the "Here in Boston" column over that signature. On March 20, 1891 the new "Taverner" Philip Hale mourned the loss of his close friend in gracious terms, crediting Alexander Young as a frequent source of local information and inspiration while disavowing Young's actual authorship.

Found on

Excerpted in Nathan Haskell Dole's "Boston Letter" dated March 23, 1891, reprinted in The Critic -  March 28, 1891. As later revealed also in the Library Journal, Dole acknowledges multiple authors of the "Here in Boston" column by "Taverner." Alongside Hale's disclosure, Dole honors Young as one member in "a brilliant trinity, quaternity or rather fraternity" of "composite, ubiquitous and genial" men writing over the pseudonym of "Taverner." Besides Alexander Young and Philip Hale, another "contributor to the same column" was Arthur Hooper Dodd (Boston Herald, March 15, 1891).

As corroborated in the National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Philip Hale by this time had taken over as the reigning "Taverner." Additional support for Hale's authorship may be seen in the clipping above. The "Music" column signed "PHILIP HALE" immediately follows the "Here in Boston" column of March 20, 1891, in which "TAVERNER" eulogizes his friend and regular source, Alexander Young.
HERE IN BOSTON. The death of so old, so highly valued a friend as Alexander Young was a sharp and painful shock to me. I had known him long and intimately, and ever since I began to write my daily paragraphs in the POST I have drawn deeply on his wit, upon his rare stock of reminiscences, upon his notes on men and things here in Boston, upon his fund of literary information. That my name was associated with his, and that “Taverner” by many persons was considered to be no other than Mr. Young himself—this mistake I have always regarded as a great compliment to myself at the expense, perhaps, of my friend. In his way of life, in his character, he presented so close a resemblance to the ideal Taverner that the real Taverner has been led at times almost to doubt his own identity. 
Mr. Young was one of the kindliest of natures. His friendships were strong and enduring. He was a genial companion whose conversation was brilliant and sparkling, and whose wit was spontaneous and mellow, never harsh and biting. He was an ideal club man, a most delightful diner-out, a courteous gentleman of engaging manner, whose acquaintance was a delight, and whose friendship something to be cherished. He took life in a leisurely way, and while interested and in touch with all the activities of the town, he was never hurried or flurried. He was one of the founders of our Papyrus Club, and was active in bringing about the first meeting at which it was formed. It was he who interested the late N. S. Dodge and Frank Underwood in the movement, and at the first dinner at the old Park’s he added greatly to the pleasure of the occasion by his fund of information concerning the literary clubs of the past. 
It was to Dodge that he made, some time after, that witty remark which I quoted not so very long ago, without mentioning names, apropos of something or other, I’ve forgotten just what. Dodge, at the time president of the Papyrus, was sitting at one of the long tables at the Athenaeum talking with a friend. Young came in and stood at Dodge’s side, waiting for him to finish what he was saying. This disconcerted him and he made a little slip in grammar, which he was about to correct, when Young laid his hand upon his shoulder and said: "Dodge, don’t let the inaccuracies of your writing creep into your conversation.” Dodge looked a trifle stern at first, for the quality of his English, which indeed was fine, was a very tender point with him, but in a moment a smile came over his face and he joined the bystanders in the gentle laugh which Young’s remark had raised. Young’s familiarity with the English classics was notable, and his memory of what he had read remarkable. Of old-time Boston he was full of reminiscences, and I hope that the MS. of the book which I am told he was writing on Old Boston Town, is in condition to be printed. I am sure it will be a most agreeable as well as valuable volume.
The March 20, 1891 declaration of "Taverner" makes it desirable to revisit the attribution of several "Taverner" items exclusively to Alexander Young. Philip Hale is said in the American History and Encyclopaedia of Music to have started at the Boston Post in 1890. Too late to have contributed the 1889 items, perhaps, although Hale we also know came to Boston in 1889. Hale would take over as "Taverner" soon enough, so possibly he had something to do with at least the second of the two important 1889 items discussed by Sealts in Pursuing Melville, 1940-1980 and The Early Lives of Melville. The first Boston Post item focuses on Melville's South Sea adventures more exclusively than is usual for Hale in his later Melville notices. But in the September 13, 1889 article, references by "Taverner" to his "old friend" echo the 1891 acknowledgement of Alexander Young as "so old, so highly valued a friend." That one about Major Thomas Melville and his wife on Green Street must have been written for the Boston Post by some other "Taverner" than Alexander Young, who is surely the writer's (or collaborating writers'?) "old friend" and extremely knowledgeable informant. If Philip Hale is not yet the official "Taverner," at least he's in the area. We'll have to look for more evidence. Hopefully we can learn if this friendship between Alexander Young and Philip Hale is more than hypothetical.
  • Boston Post, September 9, 1889. "Here in Boston" by "Taverner." Calls for re-issue of Omoo and Typee; and a study of Melville's life "in the American Men of Letters series."
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  • Boston Post, Friday, September 13, 1889. "Here in Boston" by "Taverner." The writer and his informant are two different persons. Alexander Young most likely is the "old friend" who remembers Herman Melville's grandparents and their home on Green Street in Boston.
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Related melvilliana post: Forty Years of Philip Hale on Melville

Forty Years of Philip Hale on Melville, 1891-1933

40+ actually. This must be a preliminary inventory, a first look into a subject huger than I knew. Doubtless we're a long way from capturing anything close to all of Philip Hale's Melville notices, so this post is--you know, the draft of a draft. For one thing, the catalog below only covers two of the newspapers that Hale wrote for. And I don't pretend to have found all of Hale on Melville in the Journal and the Herald. Down the road I really hope to supplement and where necessary correct individual entries. Some day let's number them for more convenient reference. Too early for that now, however. Meanwhile it would be nice to open with a photograph of Philip Hale somewhere...
Here's one to start with, the portrait of Philip Hale c. 1900 for The Book Buyer

Images of Philip Hale including the Book Buyer portrait shown above are accessible also via the NYPL Digital Collections. There's a trove of photos in the Philip Hale Papers, 1850's-1936. Must get to the Mortimer Rare Book Room in the William Allan Neilson Library, at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. Looks like the 1851 first edition of Moby-Dick in the Rare Book Room of the Smith College library (825 M495m 185) might have belonged to Philip Hale. In 1938 Smith College got Hale's library of 2000 books from his widow, including first editions of Whitman's Leaves of Grass and Melville's Moby-Dick (Springfield Republican, Thursday, May 5, 1938). In 1937 some portion of the collection was on display at Harvard, in the front hall of Widener Library:
Philip Hale Collection
Also on view in the front hall of the Library, is an exhibition of books belonging to the well-known Boston music-critic, Philip Hale, presented by his wife. Hale was well known as a book collector, and part of his collection of first editions of Walt Whitman and Herman Melville are shown here.
Of interest is a letter from Good-speeds' the Boston bookseller, crediting Hale with the revival of public interest in Melville's work, and specifically with the sale of 200 copies of "Moby Dick."  --Collections and Critiques - The Harvard Crimson
Musician and newspaper columnist Philip Hale (1854-1934) is best known for vibrant musical and dramatic criticism, and for his brilliant program notes for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. As a young reader, Catholic journalist Michael Williams (first editor of Commonweal) found himself bedazzled by Hale's "splendidly lucid, colourful and musical prose style" and "vital, illuminating wit and irony" (The Book of the High Romance).

Nowdays? Still highly regarded as "Boston's Consummate Critic" by Jon Mitchell, Professor of Performing Arts at UMass, Boston. Professor Mitchell lectured on Hale in October 2012:
"As writer and critic, Hale was a powerful and influential figure in the artistic life of Boston." --University of Massachusetts-Boston, Center for the Study of Humanities, Culture, and Society
Although his name is not down on any map of Melville's critical reception, Philip Hale also deserves credit for three decades of perceptive and influential writing about Melville's works in the Boston Herald. And before that, for another dozen or so years of Melville mentions between 1891 and 1903, when Hale worked for the Boston Journal. Philip Hale was a one-man Melville band, as the inventory of his Melville promotions in the Herald and other Boston newspapers will show.

Bostonians knew what brought the Melville Revival when it came around in the early 1920's, and it wasn't Raymond Weaver. No need to seek for pioneering Melville enthusiasts in New York City or London. As Hale's colleague John Clair Minot put it in 1922:
A few lovers of the best in literature, remote from one another in time and place, have kept alive an interest in “Moby Dick,” “Typee,” “Omoo” and White Jacket” through the years. No one has done more to that end—as any Boston bookseller can tell you—than Philip Hale in his “As the World Wags,” which appears daily on this page except when he courteously gives my modest column a chance. --"Speaking of Books," Boston Herald, January 11, 1922.
In 1923, another tribute to Hale's sponsorship of the ongoing "Melville vogue":
"The Herman Melville vogue, for which Philip Hale of the Herald deserves a share of the credit that is commonly given to Frederick O'Brien, is not only bringing out new editions and de luxe sets of his works, but it is resulting in a small library of books about him.  --Boston Herald, February 3, 1923
In March 1929, the Herald promised a review of Lewis Mumford's new Melville biography by
Philip Hale, whose repeated allusions a few years ago to “Moby-Dick” and other of Melville’s books in his “As the World Wags” department was an important factor in bringing about the great revival of interest in this long neglected novelist. --Boston Herald, March 9, 1929
Philip Hale's bio in the 1910 National Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
HALE, Philip, journalist and musician, was born in Norwich, Vt., Mar. 5, 1854, son of William Bainbridge and Harriet Amelia (Porter) Hale and eighth in descent from Thomas Hale, who settled in Newburg, Mass., about 1638. His parents removed to Northampton, Mass., where he attended the public schools and took organ and piano lessons. He was organist in the Unitarian church when fourteen years old. He continued his studies at Phillips Exeter Academy, and was graduated at Yale College in 1876. While at college he took several prizes in composition, was pianist for the Yale Glee Club, and was one of the editors of the Yale “Record.” After graduation he studied the organ with Dudley Buck, meanwhile contributing to the New York “World,” and then went to Albany to study law in the office of his uncle. He was admitted to the bar in 1880, and practised for two years, but a considerable portion of his time was given to music. He was organist of St. Peter's (Episcopal) church, musical critic for the Albany “Times,” and a student of the piano and the theory of music. He spent five years in Dresden and Berlin studying the piano under Xaver Scharwenka, the organ under Albert Heintz and Carl Haupt, harmony under Heinrich Urban, and counterpoint and Partitur reading under Waldemar Bargiel. He was in Paris for a period studying composition as well as organ playing under Alexandre Guilmant. Upon his return to America in 1887 Mr. Hale settled again in Albany, becoming director of the Schubert Club of male voices, and organist and director of the choir of St. John's (Episcopal) church at Troy. During the two years that he held these positions he gave organ and harmony lessons, wrote musical and dramatic criticisms for the Albany “Express,” and was on the staff of the Albany “Union,” where he wrote editorials, attended concerts and theaters as critic, and edited “telegraph copy.” In the fall of 1889 he was called to the First Religious Society (Unitarian) of Roxbury, Mass., as organist and choir director, and held that position for seventeen years. Finding that he could not support himself by the organ alone, he took up newspaper work as a critic. His first employment in this capacity was with the "Boston Home Journal.” He was engaged by the “Boston Post” in 1890, for which paper he wrote musical criticisms, editorials and a column called “The Taverner.” Two years later he went to the Boston “Journal,” where his work was of the same character, his special column being called “Talk of the Day.” He remained with the “Journal” for twelve years and resigned in May, 1903, to take a position on the staff of the Boston “Herald,” to which he contributed, besides musical criticisms and editorials, a special column on “Men and Things.” Since 1908 he has had charge of both music and drama for the “Herald.” For several years during his residence in Boston he was the local correspondent for the New York “Musical Courier,” and he edited the “Musical Record” for two years, and the “Musical World” for one year. He has edited the Boston symphony programme book since 1901, and has contributed occasionally to various magazines. In the course of this busy career he also gave lectures at Columbia University, at Carnegie Institute, Pittsburg and elsewhere, but eventually withdrew altogether from lecturing because the work was distasteful to him. Mr. Hale is one of a small group of brilliant writers identified with musical criticism in America who command respect quite as much for the literary quality of their work as for the special knowledge upon which their observation and verdicts are based. He is conspicuous among critics by reason of his pronounced individuality and the extended range of his information. His influence on musical art bids fair to be as permanent as that of any of his contemporaries in criticism, because the force and pungent flavor of his utterance fix them in the memory, and because, beneath the wit that illuminates his dicta, and beneath the occasional outbursts of contempt for mediocrity and humbug, there is manifest devotion to high ideals that should, and often does, stimulate those who writhe temporarily under his lashing to stern endeavor toward improvement. The “Musical Record” during the brief years of its existence under his editorship was a vehicle for information and comment on musical affairs that upheld the art from contact with petty personalities and sordid commercialism, and not finding sufficient support to justify the publishers in continuing it, its disappearance was felt as a personal loss by those who had come to watch for it and know through it the lofty ideals of its editor. Mr. Hale was married in Berlin, Germany, July 9, 1884, to Irene, daughter of Peter Baumgras, of Washington, D.C.
When I started compiling Melville references in the Boston Journal, I noticed how most of them appeared in the "Talk of the Day" column. Written, as Jon Ceander Mitchell confirms, by Philip Hale:
The Boston Journal, not to be confused with the Boston Home Journal, beckoned and Hale was more than ready for the call…. Hale was hired as music critic, but he was also given full rein over a non-musical column, “Talk of the Day,” of the “cabbages and kings” variety. --Trans-Atlantic Passages: Philip Hale on the Boston Symphony Orchestra
In 1890 Philip Hale wrote the "Taverner" column in the Boston Post, according to the National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, cited above. In the great Pursuing Melville, 1940-1980, Merton M. Sealts, Jr. has identified "Taverner" as Alexander Young, who died March 19, 1891. However, in the Library Journal of September 1891 C. A. C. = Charles Ammi Cutter corrects an item from the New York Times about the identity of "Taverner." The renowned librarian notes that
"Mr. Young was only one of several who wrote in the column over that signature."


Inventory of Melville Notices by Philip Hale


Jon Ceander Mitchell dates the hiring of Philip Hale to late fall 1891. Before Hale's arrival, a few conspicuous but fairly isolated references to Melville in the Boston Journal were supplied by Edward W. Bok and John H. Drew, writing as "Kennebecker." "Talk of the Day" begins to appear in the Boston Journal on October 1, 1891--one day after Melville's obituary was reprinted in the morning edition.
Boston Journal - September 29, 1891
  • Mortuary notice, September 29, 1891; reprinted on September 30, 1891. Interesting and substantive Melville obituary with fuller than usual catalog of Melville's literary works, that includes Moby-Dick and alludes to Mardi as a "philosophical romance." Possibly by Philip Hale who knew the 1856 Dublin University Magazine article titled A Trio of American Sailor-Authors which the Journal obit plagiarizes in closing. In his signed "As the World Wags" column of May 6, 1927 Hale gives a quote from the Dublin journal slamming Mardi as "one of the saddest, most melancholy, most deplorable and humiliating perversions of genius of a high order in the English language."
  • October 31, 1891. Talk of the Day. Holmes's poem "The Last Leaf" and its subject Major Thomas Melville, Herman's grandfather. Reprinted the following Monday, November 2, 1891.
First Melville reference in Philip Hale's "Talk of the Day"
Boston Journal - October 31, 1891
  • August 18/19, 1893. Talk of the Day. Beluga whale really a dolphin, not "that famous malicious monster, Moby Dick, the white whale who played such a bloody part in the legends of Nantucket."
  • December 13, 1893. "Clangor of the Bells." Alludes to The Bell-Tower, "that ghastly, weird tale by Herman Melville."
  • July 11, 1894. Talk of the Day. Melville's Israel Potter features "the most singular use of Paul Jones in romance."
  • November 28, 1894. Talk of the Day. Quotes Mardi on patriotic naming of ships, "the whole federated fleet." Used again! for the Boston Herald, March 2, 1931; see below.
  • May 2, 1895. Talk of the Day. Quotes Melville in Mardi on the cigarret. Same subject as Hale's AWW column in the Boston Herald, March 27, 1916; see below.
  • June 18, 1895. Talk of the Day. Melville in Moby-Dick on the women of New Bedford.
  • October 2, 1896. Talk of the Day. Melville counted with notable writers of short stories in English. Contrasted favorably with Kipling.
  • April 13, 1897. Talk of the Day. Moby-Dick.
  • June 30, 1897. Typee mention.
  • October 8, 1897 "Our Filthy Lucre." "If the Marquesans had any microbe theories, Herman Melville did not mention them, though he found the savages both clean and healthful."
  • November 10, 1897. Books and Reading. Review of Hero in Homespun casually mentions "Father Taylor's sermons, which were used in fiction to such excellent advantage by Herman Melville." 
  • May 12, 1898. Moby-Dick quote about the sweet breath of Salem girls.
  • June 8, 1898. Riff on "joys of noon dinner," quoting Melville's White-Jacket.
  • October 12, 1898. Talk of the Day. Sweet breath of Salem women, again.
  • October 26, 1898. Melville good on "aesthetic pleasures of life among savages," along with Stoddard and Stevenson.
  • July 24, 1899. "Moby Dick escaped Captain Ahab...."
  • September 25, 1900. Talk of the Day. "Moby Dick, the whale that mocked Captain Ahab and his predecessors and followers."
  • November 21, 1900. "Current Literature." Unsigned.  Herman Melville in New Edition. Probably by Philip Hale.
  • October 3, 1900. Talk of the Day. Stevenson on Melville as "howling cheese."
  • October 4, 1900. Talk of the Day. More about Stevenson's use of "howling cheese"; Hale responds to reader "T. M. F."
  • March 27, 1900. Talk of the Town. Irritated by ignorance of the New York Sun, and Peter Toft in the NYT.
  • May 29, 1900. Talk of the Day. Queequeg's tall hat. Used again in Hale's AWW column in the Boston Herald, March 18, 1912.
  • May 4, 1901. Talk of the Day. Wharf-Rat. Superb column on O'Brien's poem and Melville's Encantadas.
  • April 28, 1902. "Talk of the Day Column" quotes NY Sun on Moby-Dick and real ships sunk by whales.
  • May 21, 1902. Not by Philip Hale? Current Literature. Favorable review of Deep Sea Plunderings by Frank T. Bullen, "in the distinguished class headed by our own Dana and Melville."
  • August 13, 1902. Talk of the Day. Lord Lovely's coroneted boot-heel in Redburn.
  • September 16, 1902. Introduces a Mr. Johnson (prototype of Herkimer Johnson in AWW) whose favorite books include "yarns by Herman Melville."
  • September 26, 1902. Talk of the Day. Moby-Dick.  "Herman Melville's story still remains the one great romance of whaling."
  • April 3, 1903. Talk of the Day. Moby-Dick. Again with the women of Salem.
May 22, 1905. Philip Hale admits to reading Melville "with special pleasure" in correspondence with the Walt Whitman Fellowship:
"You will laugh when I tell you that the three Americans I now read with special pleasure are Whitman, Poe and Herman Melville." --Philip Hale, letter from Boston of May 22, 1905 to the convention of the Walt Whitman Fellowship in New York as quoted in the June 1905 issue of The Conservator.
In 1903 Philip Hale joined the staff of the Boston Herald and wrote musical criticism, editorials and a special column on "Men and Things." --National Cyclopaedia of American Biography


AWW = As the World Wags

  • May 15, 1904. "Rich Sea Fruit." Unsigned. "This odorous fruit of ocean has served novelist and moralist as well as cook, physician and experimenter with aphrodisiacs. One of the finest chapters in Herman Melville’s 'Moby Dick' is that descriptive of the surgical operation on the whale—and what a marvelous romance is this same book, one that puts to shame and confusion all subsequent cetological novels."
  • July 5, 1904. "Suggestive Spelling." Unsigned. Fitz James O'Brien's Wharf-Rat, Encantadas.
  • February 23, 1907. "In Spotless White." On the whiteness of Mark Twain's favorite suit. Unsigned comment: "Not even a reading of Herman Melville's inquiry into the terror of the color white would disconcert him...."
  • July 17, 1907. "Dead Letters." Unsigned, probably by Philip Hale. "Bartleby, in Herman Melville's fantastical tale, had been a subordinate clerk in the dead letter office, and his duties had fed his natural hopelessness."
  • March 31, 1908. "More Stevensoniana." Unsigned. Evangelical "zeal is distressing to the romanticist, for its aim is to make prosaic the native life that to him, a foreigner, is full of poetry." Notes the anti-missionary vein of Melville's Omoo.
  • May 18, 1908. "Men and Things." Unsigned. Subject of teeth inspires thought that even "regular and white" teeth might "threaten and command, or recall Herman Melville's inquiry into the inherent and mysterious horror of the color white." As for instance in Poe's story "Berenice."
  • May 23, 1908. Item on "Trees and Thunderbolts" recalls "Herman Melville's fantastical tale, The Lightning-Rod Man." Probably by Philip Hale, who loves this story and repeatedly uses the word fantastical when describing Melville's writings.
  • July 27, 1908. "At Honolulu." Unsigned item; reception at Honolulu evokes Typee and the "enchanting Fayaway."
  • July 29, 1909. "Men and Things." Important critical survey of Melville's works a decade before the centenary of his birth. Style and substance of comments here (for example, on a naval battle in Israel Potter favorably compared with Walt Whitman) will resurface in "As the World Wags" columns by Philip Hale.
Melville in Philip Hale's "Men and Things" column
Boston Journal - July 29, 1909
    • August 22, 1909. "Men and Things." Herkimer Johnson counts Herman Melville with Artemus Ward and Jacob Abbott (after Jonathan Edwards, Poe, Emerson, Hawthorne, and Walt Whitman) among "the great writers of this country."
    • July 16, 1910. "Men and Things." Melville's "amusing" though "fictitious"description of Benjamin Franklin in Israel Potter.
    • July 17, 1910. "On the White House." Unsigned, by Philip Hale. Wonders if Melville's story contributed to the diminished reputation of the traveling lightning-rod salesman. Recalls that Melville's tale "The Lightning-Rod Man" had been "characterized by an unsympathetic reviewer at the time as  grotesque verbiage." 
    • January 25, 1911. "The Galapagos." Unsigned. With Hale's characteristic references to Fitz James O'Brien's Wharf-Rat, Melville's Encantadas.
    • December 18, 1911. AWW. High praise for Israel Potter.
    • December 25, 1911. Israel Potter, again. "The most satisfactory portrait of John Paul Jones is that drawn by Herman Melville."
    • March 18, 1912. AWW. Queequeg's hat. "Herman Melville's friend in 'Moby Dick,' the South Sea harpooner, whom he met at the New Bedford inn, began dressing in the morning by clapping a silker on his head."
    • April 27, 1912. AWW. Consideration of "Loblolly and Burgoo" includes reference to "Herman Melville's boy Redburn."
    • June 25, 1912. AWW.
    Melville's Squid.
    And now a question about the “great white squid” described by Herman Melville in “Moby Dick.” It was seen by Ishmael and others from the vessel captained by mad Ahab. It was stretching its beautiful and fearful length under a cloudless sky, and they that saw the squid shuddered, knowing that those who looked upon it at any time were doomed to perish and that soon. Not long after the white whale, pursued relentlessly, turned on his enemies and Ishmael alone was left to tell the wondrous tale. I can find nothing about this variety of squid in any book of reference.
    • June 15, 1912. AWW. "Veranda Traveller" named Hunkerton adventures out by train; quest for books of travel includes "trying to find a set of Herman Melville's sea tales."
    • June 29, 1912. Moby-Dick counted with "Strange Favorites"
    • July 12, 1912. AWW. High estimation of "The Lightning-Rod Man" and other of Melville's short stories. Protests old view of LRM  (by unnamed critic) as "grotesque verbiage."
    • August 24, 1912. "Irritating White." Excuse to consider Melville on whiteness of the whale--unsigned.
    • September 9, 1912. AWW. Whiteness of the whale discussed in the Herald.
    • May 23, 1913. AWW.
    The late Capt. De Friez was one of the whalers that made Nantucket famous the world over. The glory is departed, yet the tradition of pluck and daring will outlive the child born yesterday. The Capt. Ahab of Herman Melville’s vividly realistic and wildly fantastical story may yet be taken as a historically legendary character as Sinbad or Achilles, and the white whale Moby Dick may be classed with the monstrous kraken. In ‘Moby Dick” the adventurous dreamer Melville gave a lifelike picture of scenes in New Bedford, where now a statue stands in honor of the whaler.
     PH goes on to cite De Crevecoeur on opium use by Nantucketers, particularly women.
    • June 27, 1913. AWW. The killer whale according to Melville's system of classification.
    • June 28, 1913. AWW. Frank T. Bullen plagiarized from Moby-Dick. "Herman Melville is now little read. Mr. Bullen read him faithfully before he wrote his whale story and profited largely without due acknowledgement."
    • July 4, 1913. AWW. Letter from "C. F. A." of Cambridge informs AWW of Frank Bullen's letter of September 20, 1905 in the New York Times Saturday Review of Books, honoring Melville while disclaiming his influence on Cruise of the Cachelot. Philip Hale comments: "We are glad to be reminded of Mr. Bullen's letter for we would not do anyone injustice. We now recall the fact that the controversy did not end with the publication of this letter."
    • July 17, 1913. "With a Plume" Discussion of John Paul Jones leads to consideration of "the undeservedly forgotten novel" Israel Potter--and the writer makes Philip Hale's characteristic connection to Walt Whitman.
    • October 11, 1913. AWW. "Color Fancies." Whiteness of the Whale.
    • January 28, 1914. AWW. Nominal mention of "Melville" with other writers of "admirable short stories."
    • July 22, 1914.  Not by Philip Hale. "Literary Notes" signed "S. C. W." Notice of the reissue of Melville's romances by the Page Company "which acquired them with the book publishing business of Dana Estes & Co."
    • September 9, 1914. "Whale Meat." Unsigned, with informed references to "Herman Melville's 'Moby Dick,' the great epic of the sea."
    • January 12, 1915. AWW - Letter to AWW signed "Capt. Brassbound" cites Moby-Dick for definition of "old salts": "Every finger a fish-hook, every hair a rope-yarn, and blood of Stockholm tar."
    • March 19, 1915. AWW Another letter from Brassbound, this on the death of Frank Bullen. PH comments: "When all is said, the great book about the whale is not by Bullen; it is 'Moby-Dick,' of Herman Melville."
    • June 24, 1915. "Mr. Morris the Critic." Unsigned, on short stories with mention of Melville's "The Bell Tower."
    • January 5, 1916. AWW. "Ironical Nomenclature." On naming of ships, with favorite lines from Mardi on "the whole federated fleet."
    • January 12, 1916. AWW. Hale as editor vouches for the corporeality of his regular correspondents including Herkimer Johnson; will swear on a stack of bibles, like Melville (as Ishmael) "at the end of the Town-Ho's story."
      • March 7, 1916. AWW.
      So there’s a new book about whalers and whaling. Whenever we see a book of this kind advertised, we read Melville’s “Moby Dick” again. And Herman Melville, by the way, had been a whaler when he wrote that strange mixture of information, romance, imagination, mysticism and hysteria—the one great book of the sea.
      • March 27, 1916. AWW. Quotes from "Herman Melville’s wildly fantastical romance, 'Mardi'" on the pipe vs. cigarette, and wonders where Melville got the non-standard form "cigarret." 
      • June 6, 1916. "Sea-Fights and Poets." Unsigned, with Hale's characteristic references to Israel Potter and Walt Whitman.
      • July 4, 1917. AWW. Beer and ale, Ben Franklin and Israel Potter.
      • August 10, 1917. AWW. Survey of Melville's works in answer to query from reader "C. F. A." Some of this material including the closing reference to Allan Melville gets recycled two years later, in the centenary AWW published August 1, 1919.
      • September 24, 1917. Quotes from Moby-Dick on definition and classification of the whale.
      • June 20, 1918. AWW. Quotes from chapter 65 of Moby-Dick, treating Stubb's way of cooking whale steaks; and citing Melville's riff on universal cannibalism as "one of his delightfully fantastical digressions."
      • July 13, 1918. AWW. Letter from book collector W. E. K. accuses PH of "raising the price of literature" in Boston by commending Melville's "fascinating tale." "One can find 'Moby Dick' in the great libraries, but it deserves a place on one's private shelf." 
      • August 1, 1919. Centenary of Melville's birth. Unsigned biographical article, "Today's Centenary of Herman Melville" appears alongside AWW, where Philip Hale presents a critical survey of Melville's works. Hale urges merits of Piazza Tales and Israel Potter, and offers  concluding reminiscence of Herman's brother Allan Melville.
        Boston Herald - August 1, 1919
        Found in the historical Newspaper Archives at Genealogy Bank
        • August 16, 1919. AWW. Letter from Emil Schwab of Arlington informing AWW of Melville's frontispiece portrait in the 1892 edition of Typee.
        • October 31, 1919. Debussy's L'isle joyeuse evokes Melville, especially Mardi
        • April 19, 1920. AWW. "Salt Horse and Salt Tales" With mentions of Moby-Dick and Israel Potter.
        • September 8, 1920. AWW. Quotes from White-Jacket on the subject of keelhauling and adds, "There is a still fuller description in Marryat's 'Snarleyyow.'"
        • May 11, 1921. AWW - Exchange with reader Rory Dillon "Concerning Moby Dick." Philip Hale cites Viola Meynell; and gives excerpts from the "wildly enthusiastic" response to Moby-Dick by "H. M. T." =  Henry Major Tomlinson in The Nation, January 1, 1921.
        • May 19, 1921. AWW. Nobody reads Melville's Piazza Tales except "some old fogies who remember them as appearing in Putnam's Magazine."
        • June 22, 1921. AWW. "Moby Dick" Again. Tomlinson's "rhapsody" in the Nation; quotes response by "Wayfarer." With Hale's critical survey of Melville's works, more detailed than usual.
        • July 5, 1921. AWW.  "Let us talk again about "Moby Dick." More about the new enthusiasm in England sparked by publication of the Oxford Books Moby-Dick. Hale has been following the British revival in The Nation and The Athenaeum; quotes published letters from Michael Sadleir and James Billson. Letter to AWW from Alice C. Hyde reports on reading Moby-Dick aloud in North Cohasset (first ever M-D Marathon?) and asks, "couldn't you get up a Moby Dick club so that a little of the flammable enthusiasm which those of us who have read the book feel about it could have a safe outlet?" Philip Hale replies that "Melville is too fine a fellow for a club in his honor. Remember the cruel fate of Walt Whitman and Robert Browning."
        • July 8, 1921. AWW. Prints letter from Earle E. Riser, longtime admirer of Melville and his "masterpiece" Moby-Dick; Riser "gratified as well as amused" by current Melville Revival.
        • July 13, 1921 AWW. Letters by Melville collectors/fans Charles B. Hawes and Charlotte Reed White. They independently resent all the recent attention to Melville, particularly in AWW.
        • August 9, 1921. AWW - Brisk sales of Moby-Dick ("The Reprint, Of Course") in Boston bookstores.
        • August 29, 1921. AWW. editions of Moby-Dick.
        • August 30, 1921. AWW - Dough-Boy, with suggestions for future exam questions on Moby-Dick.
        • September 6, 1921. AWW.  Letter from E. H. B. of Boston commends White-Jacket. Hale remembers and quotes from the "appreciative editorial article" in the New York Times for the centenary of Melville's birth.
        • September 19, 1921. AWW - New Everyman editions; appeal and "picaresque" vein of Omoo.
        • September 23, 1921.  Letter to AWW from Boston reader "G. E." blames Hale for high prices of Melville's books now: "Your well-intentioned propaganda costs us ["Melvillians"] dearly." Reports on marginalia in volume of Melville's Piazza Tales discarded by the Watertown Public Library," at the end of "Bartleby": "This Herman Melville is a great humbug."
        • December 3, 1921. Reference to whale dissection in a lecture on Iceland recalls Moby-Dick.
        • December 17, 1921. AWW. Melville reference in verses by "LAND CRAB" titled "MOBY DICK'S DESCENDENT / IN LIBERATED LINES." Views appalling butchery of whales in recent film. Then "Home to Melville! To his horrors / He adds thrills!"
        • June 17, 1922. AWW Moby-Dick; influences on Melville include Rabelais and Sir Thomas Browne, doubts Strachey on proposed influence of Balzac.
        • June 25, 1922. AWW. Parenthetical comment on recent editions of Moby-Dick: "For full enjoyment of these reprints the introductions by belated admirers should of course be torn out, or the leaves pasted together."
        • July 3, 1922. AWW. High regard for The Piazza Tales.
        • July 5, 1922. AWW. "Calm Chowder" and Mrs. Hussey's Clam Chowder in Moby-Dick.  Also a bit on Mardi.
        • July 25, 1922. AWW. The Lightning-Rod Man. 
        • July 29, 1922. AWW. "The tortoises on the Galapagos Islands inspired Herman Melville to describe and moralize curiously and wildly in his account of these strange islands known to old Spanish sailors as 'The Enchanted.' These chapters with 'Benito Cereno,' 'Bartleby' and 'The Bell Tower'--all in 'The Piazza Tales'--should alone glorify the name of Melville."
        • October 2, 1922. AWW. Moby-Dick, "The Tail."
        • October 20, 1922. AWW. British praise for Melville and Moby-Dick in the September 30, 1922 Athenaeum review, "The Vogue of Herman Melville."
          • December 11, 1922. AWW. Prefers "old thumbed battered volumes" to new "sumptuous edition" of Melville's works. Appreciative quotes from Mardi
          • December 30, 1922. AWW. Quotes (again) and responds to the old Dublin University Magazine criticism of Mardi. "Tut-tut! Pish! Likewise, go to!" With longish excerpt titled "GOOD KING MEDIA ON JURIES." 
          •  January 6, 1923. Mentions The Bell-Tower.
          • January 31, 1923. AWW. 'A prominent bookseller in Boston writes to us that since the references to Herman Melville's 'Moby Dick' in The Herald he has sold over 2000 [sic] copies in various editions, and also many copies of Melville's other books." With comments on Israel Potter, "Benito Cereno," Lightning-Rod Man, Raymond Weaver, Elihu Vedder.
          • February 17, 1923. Salzedo performed by Boston Symphony Orchestra contrasted with Melville's Encantadas.
          • May 2, 1923. AWW. Percy A. Hutchinson on Conrad, unable to discern "psychology" in Melville. What, he "never read Melville's 'Moby-Dick'"?
          • May 12, 1923. "Moscow Players in Work by Gorky." Signed review of "The Lower Depths." "It was easy to guess that Luka was of kin to the gentle soul who roomed in the third floor back and to the stranger who boarded the steamboat in Herman Melville's fantastical story "The Confidence Man," if story it can be called."
          • May 23, 1923. Galapagos, Melville's Encantadas. H. M. Tomlinson in The Nation and The Athenaeum.
          • September 16, 1923. Moby-Dick and D. H. Lawrence
          • September 20, 1923. Letter to the Editor from Philip N. Sanborn gratefully credits Philip Hale for popularizing Melville in "As the World Wags."
          • October 9, 1923. A. A. Milne's Mr. Pim "reminded one in a way of Bartleby."
          • October 15, 1923. AWW. Praises Melville's "Encantadas"; quotes "Mr. A. N. Tomlinson" [in The Nation and The Athenaeum volume 30]: "In simple, firm, and nervous English, which in these days is salutary to read, he creates the Galapagos in a reader's vision till they loom with all the dark, sinister, and significant character of a nightmare in which reason plays only like fitful lightning."
          • October 23, 1923. Letter to AWW from "E. H. J." wonders about "Salvator Tarnmoor," the stated author of "The Encantadas" in Putnam's. "Was this the name under which Melville wrote?" Hale: "Why Melville chose to give a name of his invention to 'The Encantadas,' as if to conceal authorship, is not known; at least we have never seen an explanation."
          • November 18, 1923. AWW. Quote from The Confidence-Man, Melville's cosmopolitan on "that good dish, man."
          • October 7, 1924. Mentions Tacitus in The Confidence-Man.
          • June 3, 1925. AWW. Recommends "The Lightning-Rod Man" "to those who are afraid of thunder storms."
          • September 12, 1925. AWW. Encantadas.
          • October 16, 1925. AWW. Bartleby.
          • May 11, 1926. AWW. Favorable reception of Melville's books in England. 
          • May 26, 1926. AWW. Franklin in Paris, Israel Potter.  
          • February 15, 1927. Signed review of a three-act comedy "Mozart," at Opera House. Sacha Guitry as Grimm "in his make-up and in many of his comments, his irony, his common-sense, reminded one of Benjamin Franklin in Paris as described by Herman Melville in his "Israel Potter."
          • March 18. 1927. AWW. "Benito Cereno," new edition from Nonesuch Press with illustrations by E. McKnight Kauffer. "It seems to us that Melville told the gruesome story mighty well." 
          • March 30, 1927. AWW. "How many who are still 'discovering' Herman Melville could pass an examination on "Israel Potter."?  Hale thinks it "one of Melville's most characteristic and delightful books," offering "touches of Melville's irony."
            • April 8, 1927. AWW. Israel Potter, with identification of Melville's pamphlet source. 
            • May 6, 1927. Lots on and from Mardi. "What better book for summer reading than this strange, mystical, satirical, poetic, romantic 'Mardi'?" Rhapsodizing, smoking, etc. Naming battleships, again. Looks back on British reviews of Mardi, negative and positive. 
            •  June 8, 1927. AWW;  nominal mention of notes on Herman Melville by Van Wyck Brooks. 
            • May 23, 1928. Encantadas.
            • July 13, 1928. AWW.  Jonah and the Whale. Lots here about and from Moby-Dick. "Melville had Father Taylor of Boston in mind when he described Father Mapple." Melville also "was reminded of Perseus, the prince of whalemen, who harpooned the monster and bore away the maid Andromeda."
            • March 23, 1929. Major review of Mumford's biography. "... concerning Melville, the man, comparatively little is added to one's previous street and house acquaintance of him." All in all, in spite of occasional extravagances, "a book that no lover of Melville can afford to ignore."
            • April 30, 1929. "The 'Agatha' Letter." Summarizes NEQ article by S. E. Morison.
            • May 23, 1929. "Israel Potter." Unsigned, but probably by Philip Hale with elaborate discussion and characteristic reference to Walt Whitman.
            • June 2, 1929. "The Horse and His Rider." Unsigned; quotes from Melville's Civil War poem "Sheridan at Cedar Creek."
            • January 24, 1930. "Aids to the Conference." Signed, By Philip Hale. Ponders what might happen if international political conferences encouraged drinking and smoking; "if the outcome of King Media, Babbalanja and the other worthies known to the Herman Melville of 'Mardi' were to be commended...."
            • March 2, 1931. "Names, Not Numbers." Signed, By Philip Hale. On the subject of naming warships, quotes Melville's Mardi: "how glorious, poetically speaking, to range up the whole federated fleet, and pour forth a broadside from Florida to Maine." 
            • April 21, 1931. "Out of the Whale." Signed, By Philip Hale. On ambergris.
            •  May 14, 1931. "Melville and Hawthorne." Article signed, By Philip Hale.
            • June 24, 1931. "Illustrated by—" Signed, By Philip Hale. Books of fiction by some authors "are best illustrated by the authors' descriptions of characters and scenes....Who would not rather see Captain Ahab as Herman Melville saw him than as imagined by a recent illustrator?" [Rockwell Kent???] 
            • December 9, 1931. "Phil Sheridan and Poets." Signed By Philip Hale. Gives the first stanza of Melville's "stirring poem" Sheridan at Cedar Creek.
            • February 24, 1932. "Whales and the League." Signed, By Philip Hale. Protection of whales by The League of Nations, from perspective of Moby-Dick.
            • April 16, 1932. "Appropriately Bound." Notice of NEQ article by John Birss on Melville's review of The Red Rover by James Fenimore Cooper
            • May 30, 1932. "Twisted Meanings." Signed, By Philip Hale. Consideration of calligraphy inspires hypothetical reference to scriveners in Dickens and Melville:
            The scrivener, whether he were a poor devil working for some Tulkinghorn, or a Bartleby who finally rebelled, as in Herman Melville’s story, wrote what was described as a legal hand, often a fine example of calligraphy.
            •  July 11, 1933. "A Note on Bluffing." Signed, By Philip Hale. Contra Donald A. Laird,
            “literature owes much to exaggeration, learned professor, and not only the writings of early American humorists, but Shakespeare and other Elizabethans, Rabelais, Milton coming down to Herman Melville in his 'Mardi' and still later writers.”
            Philip Hale's review of Raymond Weaver's "engrossing and irritating" Melville biography; here from "The Atlantic's Bookshelf," The Atlantic Monthly (February 1922):
            Hale's review of Weaver's Melville biography in
            The Atlantic's Bookshelf - The Atlantic Monthly - February 1922
             Related posts:

            Monday, August 29, 2016

            Henry Major Tomlinson's ecstatic first take on Moby-Dick

            Henry Major Tomlinson
            vintage snapshot print, 1922 by Lady Ottoline Morrell
             Image Credit: National Portrait Gallery, London
            Or, one conversation starter for the 11th International Melville Conference next year in London... 

            In Moby-Dick as Doubloon, editors Hershel Parker and Harrison Hayford present four pieces by H. M. Tomlinson in praise of Melville's great whale book:
            1.  [The Odd Priorities of American Professors: Time for Wordsworth but not Melville] (1921)
            2. [A Supreme Test of a Reader] (1921)
            3. [Melville's Emergence from Limbo] (1923)
            4. [The Great War and Moby Dick] (1926)
            The second of four extracts by Tomlinson (editorially titled "A Supreme Test of a Reader") is from The Literary Review of the New York Evening Post, Nov. 5, 1921. In More Evidence of H. M. Tomlinson's Role in the Melville Revival, Mary A. Taylor gives a related piece, Tomlinson's juicy letter to Christopher Morley from the New York Evening Post, February 5, 1921. This earlier 1921 item was reprinted in The Publishers Weekly, Volume 99 - February 12, 1921:

            There's the letter to Morley and more Tomlinson in Critical Essays on Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, edited by Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker. Tomlinson also wrote the insightful preface to the 1929 E. P. Dutton edition of Melville's Pierre. Hershel Parker has a good deal to say about H. M. Tomlinson in the "Historical Note" to the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Moby-Dick. Reprised and developed engagingly in Reading Billy Budd; and in Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative. The 1922 photo of Henry Major Tomlinson (with Lord David Cecil) shown above is one of several by Lady Ottoline Morrell in the Photographs Collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London. As remarked in the Northwestern-Newbery edition of Moby-Dick (page 748), "a surprising number of Lady Ottoline Morrell's friends came to know The Whale or Moby-Dick."

            But here's something I don't remember seeing before: the first ecstatic response to Moby-Dick (World's Classics edition, Oxford University Press) signed "H. M. T." in The Nation Volume 28 (January 1, 1921): 483. "H. M. T." is definitely Henry Major Tomlinson (1873-1958), author of The Sea and the Jungle and literary editor of The Nation. Tomlinson's review appeared in the first number of 1921, only a month before The Nation (edited by H. W. Massingham) merged with The Athenaeum to become The Nation & The Athenaeum. This then will be H. M. Tomlinson's first public take on Moby-Dick, bringing us closer than ever to the "consternating ecstasy in the office of The Nation" that Hershel Parker reenacts in the back of the Northwestern-Newberry Moby-Dick. Tomlinson gets so excited he relocates Father Mapple's chapel from New Bedford to Nantucket.

            The World of Books.


            IT was a book I had always known I was fated to read, but it never came my way till recently, when the Oxford University Press, as the unconscious agent of Providence, sent it to me in its new dress as a World’s Classic. There being 700 pages of it (but only at half-a-crown, and for the pocket), and each page full of lively words that, like the colors of the kaleidoscope, flowed incessantly to form new pictures and strange, I was, of course, carrying the book about with me, as a ready means of escape from these latter days. I met a friend whose opinions of books must be listened to with respect, and occasionally with pain and annoyance, and having this packet of newly-found magic in my pocket I said to him: "Do you know ‘Moby-Dick '?" Usually he is prompt with a creditable comment, but this time he hesitated, as though I had touched crudely on a matter that was personal and difficult. “I have known it for years,” he said presently; “but it is a book I seldom recommend, as I am hardly ever sure that the other fellow deserves it." He had never recommended it to me.

            * * *
            Perhaps my friend is right. Perhaps “ Moby-Dick" ought not to be divulged, except with care. But there is another way of looking at it. If a reader of books wants to know the truth about his understanding of English prose, whether it is natural and genuine, or whether his interest in it is but artificially suggested, like going to church or voting at elections, there is a positive test. Let him read this book by Herman Melville about a whale. If he doesn’t like it, then he—well, he can go to church.“Moby-Dick," written when Melville was thirty-two, was first published in New York in 1851. This edition from the Oxford Press has an introduction by Viola Meynell, who says that in it Herman Melville has endowed human nature with writing that she believes to be absolutely unsurpassed. “To read it and absorb it is the crown of one’s reading life." That may seem somewhat extravagant. When I read her introductory praise of the book (though not before I had followed the whale to the end) I thought, first, it was extravagant; though extravagance in praise of such a work is naturally the way one’s surprise and gratitude would instantly go. But now I am not sure. There is an important sense in which Miss Meynell is exactly right. I think it very likely that anyone who finds he cannot read “Moby-Dick” with delight, wonder, and some fear, has reason to doubt that he is more than learning to read.

            * * *
            A WELL-KNOWN literary critic once assured me that there were not more than 5,000 people who could read English. As soon as imagination begins to sport with the language, then the familiar words are changed; they take a look of mockery; they seem a little mad; they become free of our rules; they behave indecorously, seem giddy, are translated from dull, well-known lumps into shadows and wraiths uncanny with varying lights and implications; they startle us with half-suggestions of powers we never knew existed; they flit too perilously near the horizon of what we call sanity, and become speculative symbols in the distance weaving a mazy pattern of which we can but guess at the purport. Our own words then seem to have nothing in common with us. That gentleman who thought he had been using “prose" all his life was wrong. All he had been doing was to make noises, prompted by a few primitive instincts, which experience had taught him would be understood by his neighbors. So Miss Meynell is right when she calls this book the crown of one’s reading life. There is no other book like "Moby-Dick." It is about the sea and ships, and a remarkable voyage with some queer characters, and it is also a natural history of the sperm whale. Moby-Dick himself, the whale, is a principal character, but we do not meet him till we are ending the voyage. Yet, as in all great books, something in it is suggested that is beyond and is greater than anything it tells us. Melville’s narrative is drama, and over the little figures of men who move in it there fall shadows and lights from what is ulterior and tremendous. The men, whales, and ships in it, busy weaving the interest of the story, are felt to be relative to a greater and undivulged motive of which the author knows no more than the reader. Through the design made by their voyages and encounters there is determined, as by chance, a purpose not theirs.

            * * *
            Now I wish to say something about the book, critically, I find it is like trying to criticize the Congo, or the precession of the equinoxes. The book defies the literary critics, who are not yet familiar with sperm whales. Standing before this drama in a scientific spirit is like being a child with a spade and pail determined to investigate the Pacific Ocean. While reading “Moby-Dick” you often feel that the author is possessed, that what he is doing is dictated by something not himself which sometimes makes him use our accepted symbols with obliquity, with an apparent abandon; you fear, now and then, the sad and steady eye of this fascinating Ancient Mariner is on the point of flaring into a mania that may be prophecy, or may be incoherence. His words soar to the limit of their hold, on the known and reasonable. Yet they do not break loose. Nevertheless, we know Herman Melville became mad; and, knowing that, we are forced after reading “Moby-Dick,” to question whether our common-sense is really sanity at all. It is possible we have not sufficient intelligence to raise it to the height at which Melville lost his. After all, what is common-sense? The commonest sense, Thoreau tells us, is that of men asleep, which they express by snoring.

            * * *
            ALL one can say of “ Moby-Dick " is that it is unique. There is no other book of the sea the least like it. And how should one write of great whales, missing ships, and the Southern Ocean? Perhaps in the mind of the man who would do it the shadows not thrown by what is visible should be already stirring. They should darken and mystify his words, they should be like the forms of the unknown glimpsed deep below us in the pellucid but unfathomed sea. Yet “Moby-Dick ” is not a sad book. There are chapters in it of days along the equator which are radiant. There is an account of an attack by boats on an armada of sperm whales in Japanese seas which, for most of the uses to which English prose has been put, is miraculous in what it conveys. Somehow, Melville’s words are consonant with so immense a spectacle. And is there in all our literature such a picture of a church service as Melville gives us of Father Mapple’s church in Nantucket? Is there a better sermon than that on Jonah and the Whale which we hear preached there to Whalers, and the wives and widows of Whalers? Is there in Dickens or anywhere else such a remarkable inn as the Nantucket “Try Pots"? In fact, I find I have scored almost every page of “Moby-Dick” for quotation. But it is no good trying to quote from the rainbow and the eclipse.

            H. M. T.
            --The Nation v28 - Saturday, January 1, 1921 - page 483 This is the Google-digitized volume from the University of Michigan, now accessible online courtesy of the Hathi Trust Digital Library.
            After his New Year's Day effusion (composed actually at the end of 1920, the night before New Year's Eve), Tomlinson received numerous "letters of genuine gratitude" which he playfully acknowledged in The Nation on February 12, 1921--again in the "World of Books" section:
            A few weeks ago THE NATION shook out some signal bunting (There she Blows!) on sighting “ Moby Dick." The signal, it must he confessed, was more like dressing the ship rainbow-fashion, irregular if you like, but certainly the sign that something very unusual was in view. The result may be interesting to those who, before they address themselves once more to the golf-cure, hold that the public has no more interest in literature than themselves. “Moby Dick" is not a book which a bookish man would consider to be one that would draw a large and pressing crowd to the shop-windows. Yet if I had recommended a prayer in answer to which the Income Tax Commissioners would assuredly let go their hold of a victim, I could hardly have received more letters of genuine gratitude. Several of the letters were incoherent, because, I suppose, written immediately after reading the last chapter, when Ahab has perished, and the white whale has sounded once again and for ever. It was evident that some of those letter-writers would not have noticed it if, at that moment, the Income Tax had made another of its terrifying leaps. I have the certain assurance of a miracle. During the past month a certain number of men and women have been fascinated—and possibly changed, in a lasting way, in very nature—not by a grave speech by the Premier, not by the fall in prices, not by the immediate promise of revolution, not by the noble eloquence, choked with emotion, of Bottomley, not by the nervous agitation in Sunday papers for the family circle as to whether the ladies really do intend to lengthen their skirts again; no. By nothing the Press even mentioned. By something of which its tape machines are utterly ignorant. By a sperm whale which never existed, except as a bee in a sailor’s bonnet.
            --The Nation v28 - February 12, 1921 - page 665
            Maybe the earliest published response to Tomlinson was that of  "A Wayfarer," writing three weeks later in The Nation, January 21, 1921 as follows:
            IT is clear that the wind of the spirit, when it once begins to blow through the English literary mind, possesses a surprising power of penetration. A few weeks ago it was pleased to aim a simultaneous blast in the direction of a book known to some generations of men as “Moby Dick.” A member of the staff of THE NATION was thereupon moved in the ancient Hebrew fashion to buy and to read it. He then expressed himself on the subject, incoherently indeed, but with signs of emotion as intense and as pleasingly uncouth as Man Friday betrayed at the sight of his long-lost father. While struggling with his article, and wondering what the deuce it could mean, I received a letter from a famous literary man, marked on the outside “Urgent,” and on the inner scroll of the MS. itself “A Rhapsody." It was about “Moby Dick.” Having observed a third article on the same subject, of an equally febrile kind, I began to read “ Moby Dick” myself. Having done so I hereby declare, being of sane intellect, that since letters began there never was such a book, and that the mind of man is not constructed so as to produce such another; that I put its author with Rabelais, Swift, Shakespeare, and other minor and disputable worthies; and that I advise any adventurer of the soul to go at once into the morose and prolonged retreat necessary for its deglutition. And having said this, I decline to say another word on the subject now and for evermore.
            This last bit of controlled excitement appeared in The Nation along with other items in the regular "London Diary" of "A Wayfarer"--pseudonym of editor H. W. Massingham, as Kevin J. Hayes points out in The Critical Response to Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. It's reprinted in the Hayes volume on page 44 as "[A Moby-Dick Testimonial]." Massingham's verdict must have been valued at Oxford University Press as weighty and authoritative. A snippet of the early and almost sobering response to Tomlinson by "A Wayfarer" was rapidly incorporated in the advertisement for the Oxford Moby-Dick which appeared in The Nation and The Athenaeum on February 19, 1921:
            "... I hereby declare, being of sane intellect, that since letters began there never was such a book, and that the mind of man is not constructed so as to produce such another; that I put its author with Rabelais, Swift, Shakespeare, and other minor and disputable worthies; and that I advise any adventurer of the soul to go at once into the morose and prolonged retreat necessary for its deglutition."

            Related post:

            • Reade's Whale

            Saturday, August 27, 2016

            Herman Melville regarded in Boston as "a cosmopolitan" at heart, his widow as "the comrade of his literary labors"



            Four of the most notable marine romances of Herman Melville—“Typee” and “Omoo,” stories of the South Seas, “Moby Dick, or the White Whale,” and “White Jacket—the World in a Man-of-War”—have been published in an attractive new edition by Dana Estes & Co. “Moby Dick” is perhaps Melville’s masterpiece. It is the most vivid picture of the whale fishery ever drawn. The imaginative quality is strong in all of Melville’s work, but these four volumes are really autobiographical. The author in his youth sailed many seas and had his full share of perilous adventures.

            Herman Melville’s works should be better known than they are to the present generation of Americans. Rarely has such consummate talent won such ephemeral reward. At times it has seemed as if his brilliant romances were forgotten, but there has always come a revival of interest. In Massachusetts especially should Melville’s name be held in lasting honor, for he was of Boston lineage, and his wife, the comrade of his literary labors, was a daughter of Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw.

            Melville had the eccentricities of genius. A dreamy, philosophical habit of mind into which he fell in the later fifties helped to dim his fame as a popular romancer. For a season his writings were more than mystical—they were actually incomprehensible. And yet Melville passed the later years of his life in the matter-of-fact vocation of a Custom House officer. It is a just estimate which sets Melville second only to Richard H. Dana as a writer of sea tales. Marryat is a bungler compared with him. But Marryat was a Briton through and through, who even now makes a powerful appeal to British national spirit, while Melville stirs no such chord in the American breast, for Melville was—or tried to be—a cosmopolitan.  --Boston Journal, Wednesday, November 21, 1900; found in the online Newspaper Archives at Genealogy Bank.
            Who wrote book reviews for the Boston Journal c. 1900? This is somebody who rightly regards Melville as "a cosmopolitan" at heart, and refers with great respect to his wife Elizabeth as "the comrade of his literary labors."

            Frank Foxcroft? seems a good guess to start with, educated in Boston and Pittsfield, 1871 graduate of Williams College.
            “Mr. Foxcroft retained his editorial connection with the Boston Journal from 1871 to 1904, as literary editor, editorial writer, and associate editor." --A History of Cambridge, Massachusetts
            On the other hand, as a warrior for Temperance Foxcroft seems like the Anti-Melville. And Frank Foxcroft is so mightily Against Woman Suffrage you have to wonder if he would really recognize Elizabeth Shaw Melville as Herman's equal, his co-worker, "the comrade of his literary labors."

            Wait, better check the range of meanings for comrade: mate, companion, or associate--especially in arms; more literally "one who lives in the same chamber, chamber-fellow." Room-mate. Not yet "my fellow Bolshevik," although Melville (in his late Weeds and Wildings dedication To Winnefred) did write of himself and his wife as "communists" on their Berkshire farm, in their enjoyment of common Red Clover. The speaker in Foxcroft's 1894 poem Little Esther Margaret refers to his daughter as "Little comrade tried and true." Later in time but closer to the context of the reference to Elizabeth Shaw Melville as "comrade" of Herman's "literary labors" is the partnership of Edwin Markham and his wife Catherine, as described by Bailey Millard in Suburban Life Volume 9:
             His wife, the Catherine Markham whose name is seen sometimes in print under the title of a short story or a poem, is a highly cultivated, robust, active woman, and she is a helpmeet to him in every sense of the word; for not only does she take full charge of the house, but is of the greatest assistance in his literary labors. He has beautifully alluded to her in his poem, "My Comrade."
            Regarding Elizabeth Shaw Melville, the Boston Journal reviewer in essence has paraphrased what Arthur Stedman wrote about Melville's "devoted wife" being
            "a constant assistant and adviser in his literary work." --Introduction to Typee
            Anyhow, the progression of Foxcroft's work from "literary editor" to "associate editor" makes it sound like he no longer does the literary dirty work of mere book reviews.

            We want a real book reviewer. Possibly a woman, definitely a feminist. How about Grace Weld Soper (1859-1917); married December 6, 1893 to William Andrews Dole...
            “With him [Frank Foxcroft] are associated as editorial writers Mr. W. L. Marvin, Mr. Geo. A. Rich and Miss G. W. Soper, all of whom have been connected with the Journal for a number of years…Miss Soper devotes her attention to literature, and serves the Journal in the capacity of book reviewer. As a writer of short stories she is a contributor to the Harper’s Young People and Bazaar, St. Nicholas and Wide Awake. Mr. W. W. Hill, the day editor, is also a contributor to this page." --"Our Staff, Personnel of Those Who Make the Journal" - Boston Journal, Monday, April 24, 1893.
            A Cornell alumna
            "one of the most reliable reporters of the conservative Boston Journal. Miss Soper was a student here in the palmy days when journalism was a university study."  --The Cornell Era
            who enjoys tennis and automobiling, and yes! favors woman suffrage. Grace Soper Dole was a founder of the New England Women's Press Association. The 1914 Woman's Who's Who entry states her occupation as "Journalist before marriage." So I'm not sure if or how long Grace Soper continued working at the Boston Journal after she married William A. Dole in 1893.

            For a sample of fine writing by Grace Weld Soper, Google Books has her article Among the Friendly Indians at Mashpee in The New England Magazine Volume 2 (March-August 1890).

            Alas, Google Books gives only a snippet about "this interesting and distinguished figure" from the History of the New England Woman's Press Association, 1885-1931.

            Question: would Mrs. Grace Soper Dole call Frederick Marryat "a bungler"? I'd like to think so. If not, let's consider Philip Hale (1854-1934), Soper's colleague (for several years at least) on the editorial staff of the Boston Journal and music critic there from 1891-1903. After that, Hale enjoyed a long career (1903-1934) as music and drama critic for the Boston Herald. Philip Hale's column "As the World Wags" in the Boston Herald featured many knowledgeable references to Herman Melville over the years--great stuff for another day.

            On October 22, 1921 Herman Melville's granddaughter Eleanor Melville Metcalf wrote Philip Hale to thank him for his articles on Melville's writings.

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            Friday, August 26, 2016

            Also by Charles G. Whiting: "Concerning Herman Melville" in the Springfield Republican - October 18, 1891

            A long follow-up to Whiting's exceptional memorial to Herman Melville of October 4, 1891 appeared two weeks later in the Springfield Republican on October 18, 1891 under the title "CONCERNING HERMAN MELVILLE." This later piece took notice of the article on Melville's funeral in the New York Tribune (reprinted in The Critic Number 406) and of Arthur Stedman's October 11, 1891 article in the Sunday New York World (reprinted as "Melville of Marquesas" in the Review of Reviews, Volume 4). Along the way, the Republican writer echoes Stedman when commenting on "shallow" English admirers, namely Robert Buchanan:
            "It is a pet notion of a few of these English men of letters of the lesser sort that they were born to discover the great writers of America, and Buchanan couples Melville with Walt Whitman as abiding in shadow to their own countrymen."
            The Republican writer calls attention to Arthur Stedman's youth in relation to Melville "whom he knew well, as a young man knows a veteran."
            Internal evidence that the writer is Charles Goodrich Whiting (1842-1922) appears in the paragraph where the writer makes a point of correcting misinformation in the October 4, 1891 memorial about the location of Melville's Pittsfield home:
            Melville wrote his “Moby Dick” at Arrow Head, as we have stated, but it appears that we were in error in identifying that residence with the Van Schaack house in Pittsfield. Melville’s uncle lived in that house when Herman taught school in Pittsfield, but he “boarded round,” as we learn. The author’s house was about three-fourths of a mile from the Van Schaack mansion, on a road parallel with the South road. There was a cross-road running from one house to the other, and Herman Melville owned land on both sides this road clear up to the Van Schaack house. It was at Arrow Head that he used to receive visits from Hawthorne and other guests of note…. --"Concerning Herman Melville," Springfield Republican, Sunday, October 18, 1891
            As confirmed in numerous places, for example the notice in the New York Times April 4, 1903, Whiting had been literary editor for the Springfield Republican since 1874. The whole piece "Concerning Herman Melville" immediately follows Whiting's Sunday column and graphically appears as a second item, after "THE LITERARY WAYSIDE," under the major head of "BOOKS, AUTHORS AND ART."

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