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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