Wednesday, August 31, 2016

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.

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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

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