Thursday, December 15, 2016

Keith Huntress on Henry Cheever's review of Typee in the New York Evangelist

All I ever wanted to do was read books and talk about them. --Keith Huntress
Found on

Randall Cluff does some neat detective work in his March 2001 Leviathan article on Henry Cheever's review of Typee, but Keith Huntress (1913-1990) first proposed Henry T. Cheever as the "H. C." who wrote the critical notice Typee published on April 9, 1846 in the New York Evangelist. Professor Huntress identified Henry Cheever in 1971 as the most likely author of the memorably negative review:
Henry Cheever's first contact with Melville was apparently a review of Typee which was published in the Evangelist April 9, 1846. This review is cited by both Jay Leyda and Hugh Hetherington. Leyda guessed that the review was written by George B. Cheever, but Hetherington states that the initials "H.C." were appended, and those initials, plus Henry Cheever's known connection with the Evangelist, plus his almost unique qualifications for reviewing a book about a whaleman in the South Seas, make it virtually certain that he was the author. --Keith Huntress, Melville, Henry Cheever, and "The Lee Shore" in The New England Quarterly 44.3 (September 1971): 470.
Citing additional notices in the Evangelist of Omoo, White-Jacket, Moby-Dick, and Israel Potter, Keith Huntress goes on to raise the
"strong possibility that Henry Cheever wrote all the reviews of Melville's work that appeared in the Evangelist."  --Melville, Henry Cheever, and "The Lee Shore" - page 472
The main point of his 1971 article in The New England Quarterly is to argue for Cheever's The Whale and His Captors as the source of Melville's "Lee Shore" conceit in Moby-Dick. In the June 2016 issue of Leviathan, Robert J. O'Hara cites Keith Huntress and his claim for Cheever while arguing for a more immediate source of Melville's theme and figurative language in Thomas Hood's poem The Lee Shore.

Below, some links to Melville-related publications by Keith Huntress. The first three items are listed in the Scholarship section of Mary K. Bercaw's Melville's Sources, numbers 154, 156, and 510.
2016 has turned out to be a mighty fine year in which to remember Keith Huntress, pioneer in the study of Melville's sources and old school Cubs fan.


1 comment:

  1. And you can find the Rev. Cheever's own whaling story right here, with an epigraph that will be familiar to Melville readers.

    (And I do believe this is the first time I've ever been a tag in someone's blog. :-)