Friday, December 30, 2016

Israel Potter in St. Paul

From the St. Paul Daily Minnesotian, July 4, 1854; found at Genealogy Bank:
PUTNAM. — Howitz & Co., will receive by the next boat Putnam for July. This number of the popular American magazine contains a portrait of the author of the Potipher papers; a commencement of a capital American story by Herman Melville; a new poem by Longfellow; a noble composition by Bayard Taylor; articles by Curtis and several other special attractions.
The Daily Minnesotian noticed the opening installment of Melville's "capital American story" in the July 1854 issue of Putnam's Magazine. When the book version of Israel Potter came out in 1855, it received this favorable notice the St. Paul Daily Pioneer:

St Paul [Minnesota] Daily Pioneer - March 28, 1855

"Israel Potter."

This is the title of a work recently issued from the press of G. P. PUTNAM & Co., New York, written by HERMAN MELVILLE, author of "Omoo" and "Typee." In it, says the Chicago Press, PAUL JONES is sketched with picture-like dinstinctness, and his portrait thus drawn corresponds with what we know of his daring, adventurous character. We present him as he appeared when on a visit to Dr. FRANKLIN, at Paris, to obtain a vessel and a privateer's commission:
"He was a rather small, elastic man, with an aspect as of a disinherited Indian Chief in European clothes. An unvanquishable enthusiasm, intensified to perfect sobriety, couched in his savage, self-possessed eye. He was elegantly and somewhat extravagantly dressed as a civilian; he carried himself with a rustic, barbaric jauntiness, strongly dashed with a superinduced touch of the Parisian salon. His tawny cheek, like a date, spoke of the tropic. A wonderful atmosphere of proud friendlessness and scornful isolation invested him. Yet there was a bit of the poet as well as the outlaw in him, too. A cool solemnity of intrepidity sat on his lip. He looked like one who of purpose sought out harm's way. He looked like one who never had been and never would be, a subordinate."
 The book is characteristically dedicated "To His Highness the Bunker Hill Monument."
--St. Paul Daily Pioneer, March 28, 1855
Deletion of the word swarthy from Melville's description of John Paul Jones, and replacement of Melville's strangely with "strongly," may be accidental errors of transcription, possibly originating in the cited Chicago Press review.
"He was a rather small, elastic, swarthy man, with an aspect as of a disinherited Indian Chief in European clothes."  --Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile


  1. It's interesting that this notice and the last one identify HM as the author of Omoo, Typee, Redburn, Piazza Tales, etc. (maybe even 'Piddledee'), but never seem to say, "By the author of Moby-Dick."

    It would be interesting to chart "By the author of..." citations over time and see if they exhibit a pattern.

  2. For _Israel Potter_ the St Paul editor's cue might be the title page, identifying HM as

    Title page of _The Confidence-Man_ leads with PIAZZA TALES, the previous Dix, Edwards & Co. title.

    No _Mardi_ either, not to mention _Pierre_. Interesting question, I'll look into when and where HM gets associated with M-D.