Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Clement C. Moore's published letter on his authorship of "Visit from St. Nicholas"

Good news at The New York Public Library! Yesterday on microfilm (*ZY 86-140 Reel 17 Mar 1-Dec 28, 1844) of the New York American (relocated now and accessible in the Milstein Microform Reading Room, First Floor Room 119--many thanks to the fine library staff there), I found the published letter from Clement C. Moore to editor Charles King in which Moore corrects a mistaken attribution of his poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Writing from New York on February 27, 1844, Moore responds to a December 25, 1843 item in the Washington National Intelligencer that falsely attributed the already well-known Christmas poem to the deceased artist Joseph Wood. Moore's chagrined friend Charles King published the letter on March 1, 1844 and requested the National Intelligencer to remedy the "plagiarism" by reprinting "Mr. Moore's note" of correction. The National Intelligencer reply on March 6, 1844 is what led me to look for Moore's published claim of authorship. In answer to Charles King's complaint, the editor of the Intelligencer pointed out that his newspaper had promptly published a correction, so there was no need to reprint Moore's letter.

From the New York American, March 1, 1844:

New York American - March 1, 1844
LINES TO ST. NICHOLAS.--The following note from our friend C. C. Moore, the author of those lines which every child among us delights to hear, about Christmas, and which parents with not less delight recite, brings to our notice, one of the boldest acts of plagiarism of which we have any recollection. We ask the National Intelligencer to have the goodness to insert Mr. Moore's note--and if possible to elucidate the mistake, if such it be, or fraud attempted in respect of such well known lines. 
New York, Feb. 27, 1844 
Dear Sir--My attention was, a few days ago, directed to the following communication, which appears in the National Intelligencer of the 25th of December last.
"Washington, Dec. 22d, 1843.

The enclosed lines were written by Joseph Wood, artist, for the National Intelligencer, and published in that paper in 1827 or 1828, as you may perceive from your files. By republishing them, as the composition of Mr. Wood you will gratify one who has now few sources of pleasure left. Perhaps you may comply with this request, if it be only for 'auld lang syne.'" 
The above is printed immediately over some lines, describing a visit from St. Nicholas, which I wrote many years ago, I think somewhere between 1823 and 1824, not for publication, but to amuse my children. They, however, found their way, to my great surprise, in the Troy Sentinel: nor did I know, until lately, how they got there. When "The New York Book" was about to be published, I was applied to for some contribution to the work. Accordingly, I gave the publisher several pieces, among which was the "Visit from St. Nicholas." It was printed under my name, and has frequently since been republished, in your paper among others, with my name attached to it.  
Under these circumstances, I feel it incumbent on me not to remain silent, while so bold a claim, as the above quoted, is laid to my literary property, however small the intrinsic value of that property may be. 
The New York Book was published in 1827 [1837]. 
Yours, truly and respectfully,   
Chas. King, Esq.
The "New York Book" to which Moore refers is of course the 1837 New-York Book of Poetry, edited by Moore's friend (and some years later, Herman Melville's friend) Charles Fenno Hoffman. On microfilm the date of publication that Moore gives for the New York Book appears to read "1827," a typo for 1837.

Some related posts:

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Herman Melville slept here: The Van Ness House in Burlington, Vermont

The Van Ness House, Burlington, VT

From the Burlington [Vermont] Daily Free Press and Times, Friday Evening, August 1, 1873:


F. B. Perkins of Boston, and Herman Melville of New York, are among the guests of the Van Ness House.
Found on Newspapers.com 
The same item appeared in the morning edition of the Burlington Free Press on Saturday, August 2, 1873. The Van Ness House in Burlington, Vermont had opened on October 25, 1870, so it was still a new hotel. As shown in later photographs, the oldest section featured the
"two-story frame verandah wrapping the corner of Main and St. Paul Streets." --University of Vermont - Historic Preservation Program

F. B. Perkins is Boston librarian Frederic Beecher Perkins (1828-1899). Author of Connecticut Georgics and My Three Conversations with Miss Chester, Perkins like Melville had been a contributor to Putnam's Magazine in the glorious 1850's.  Nephew of Henry Ward Beecher, father of Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Evidently, taking the Free Press for gospel, Herman Melville celebrated his 54th birthday in Burlington, Vermont. Burlington?

Melville biographers only locate him in Pittsfield, where he and his wife Elizabeth definitely were for a good part of Herman's two-week break from his Custom House job. The Springfield Republican informed readers on August 4, 1873 that
"Herman Melville, the well-known author, now employed in the New York custom house, is spending a short vacation in Pittsfield."
The same announcement appeared in the Pittsfield Sun on August 6, 1873.

But Herman and Elizabeth planned to leave New York City on July 26th and are not reported in Pittsfield until August 4, 1873--their 26th wedding anniversary. Burlington on Lake Champlain was a hub for summer travel with many wonderful attractions. Herman Melville reportedly got that far north, at least, on the front end of his brief summer vacation. Maybe he went looking for the lake monster, Champ. 1873 was the year P. T. Barnum offered a $50,000 reward for the
"hide of the great Champlain serpent to add to my mammoth World's Fair Show."
--Lake Champlain Region
After their stay in Pittsfield, Elizabeth went on (without Herman) to Boston. On August 15, Elizabeth Melville wrote Kate Gansevoort from Boston with news of the "delightful visit in Pittsfield" that "did us both much good."
We spent nearly all the time walking, or driving, or sitting out doors--and it seemed as if we could not get enough of the reviving air, after being nearly suffocated in the heat and smell of New York.  --quoted in Jay Leyda, The Melville Log Vol. 2, pages 734-735.
Hershel Parker has all this and more in Herman Melville: A Biography V2.761-3, including the happy news Herman got first about the engagement of Milie Melville and Willie Moorewood.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Moby-Dick in the Western Literary Messenger

This excerpt from chapter 81 of Moby-Dick appeared in the Western Literary Messenger for January 1852 under the heading "Death Scene of the Whale." Edited by Jesse Clement, the Western Literary Messenger was published in Buffalo, New York from August 1841 through April 1857.

The next month, in February 1852, Jesse Clement's Western Literary Messenger reprinted all of chapter 85 under the heading, "The Whale's Fountain":

In August 1854 the Western Literary Messenger reprinted Melville's story "Poor Man's Pudding and Rich  Man's Crumbs" from Harper's magazine. Excerpts from "Israel Potter" in Putnam's Monthly appeared in the September 1855 number of the Western Literary Messenger under the heading Ethan Allen's Captivity.  The 1854 and 1855 excerpts are noted by Merton M. Sealts in Pursuing Melville, 1940-1980 and the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Piazza Tales.

Related post:

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Ben Jonson and Melville's "In a Bye-Canal"

Fronted I have, part taken the span
Of portents in nature and peril in man.
I have swum — I have been
'Twixt the whale's black flukes and the white shark's fin;
The enemy's desert have wandered in
And there have turned, have turned and scanned,
Following me how noiselessly,
Envy and Slander, lepers hand in hand.
--from In a Bye-Canal by Herman Melville
Robert Penn Warren half-suspected the influence of Ben Jonson on Melville's poem "In a Bye-Canal." In a footnote to the speaker's claim there of having literally and figuratively lived between "the whale's black flukes and the white shark's fin," Warren wonders:
Can this be an echo of the "wolf's black jaw" and the "dull ass' hoof" in Ben Jonson's "An Ode to Himself" (Underwoods)? In both Jonson and Melville, the content is the same: the affirmation of independence in the face of a bad and envious age.
--Melville the Poet, number 160 in the Scholarship section of Melville's Sources by Mary K. Bercaw.
Short answer: Yes.
And since our dainty age
Cannot endure reproof,
Make not thyself a page
To that strumpet, the stage,
But sing high and aloof,
Safe from the wolf's black jaw and the dull ass's hoof.
--from An Ode to Himself by Ben Jonson
The next question would be, did Melville adapt the phrasing from "An Ode to Himself" as Robert Penn Warren suggests, or was Melville remembering the same line as it appeared in Jonson's "Apologetical Dialogue"? Melville owned the 1692 Works of Ben Jonson (Sealts 302 / Bercaw 405); his copy has survived and is now held by the New-York Historical Society. So Melville could have recalled "wolf's black jaw" and "dull ass's hoof" from the Apologetical Dialogue that follows Poetaster in the Folio edition. Jonson introduces the appended Dialogue as his only "Answer" to critics:
"only once spoken upon the Stage and all the Answer I ever gave to sundry impotent Libels then cast out (and some yet remaining) against me, and this Play."
In concert with certain additions to the Quarto text of Poetaster, the Apologetical Dialogue thus presents, as David Bevington explains, Ben Jonson's
"supreme defence of his position in the War of the Theatres and more broadly in the writing of drama for the London stage." --Poetaster: Textual Essay
Jonson's much-quoted line may be found in a variety of later contexts. Isaac Disraeli, for one example, includes it in the second volume of his Miscellanies of Literature, with generous extracts from what he calls the "Apologetical Epilogue to the Poetaster":
Leave me! There's something come into my thought
That must and shall be sung, high and aloof,
Safe from the wolfs black jaw, and the dull ass's hoof.
Friend. I reverence these raptures, and obey them." --Quarrels of Authors
In Disraeli's version, speeches by Jonson's companions "Nasutus" and "Polyposus" are assigned to one Friend in dialogue with the Author.

Isaac Disraeli commends "the noble strain in which Jonson replied to his detractors in the town, and to his rivals about him." Disraeli also records Jonson's revelation that his Dialogue had been suppressed. Melville owned four of Disraeli's popular books in 1859 editions, including The Calamities and Quarrels of Authors (Sealts number 185) with the chapter on Jonson and Decker.

The influence of Ben Jonson, particularly in the context of Poetaster and the War of the Theatres, nicely illuminates Melville's concern in "Bye-Canal" with Envy and Slander. Jonson was notably preoccupied with Envy, one of the seven deadly sins and long affiliated with slander:
The intimate relationship between envy and slander is one that pervades medieval and early modern literature. Before Jonson, the poet most attuned to the problem of slanderous defacement was Spenser.  --Lynn S. Meskill - Ben Jonson and Envy
Melville personifies Envy and Slander as a pair of lepers, following the "tradition in which leprosy represents the sin of Envy" (Byron Lee Grigsby, Pestilence in Medieval and Early Modern English Literature) that Spenser models in The Faerie Queene. In Book 1 Canto IV,  Envy spews "Poison" out of his "leprous Mouth." The toxic discharge by Envy is a figure of malicious criticism aimed specifically at writers:
And eke the Verse of famous Poet's Wit
He does backbite, and spightful Poison spues
From leprous Mouth, on all that ever writ:
Such one vile Envy was, that first in row did sit. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

2017 Moby-Dick Marathon on Livestream

Battle-Pieces in the New York Commerical Advertiser

New York Commercial Advertiser
August 23, 1866

The following notice of Melville's Battle-Pieces appeared in the New York Commercial Advertiser on September 5, 1866. In my transcription, ellipses within brackets indicate deletions from the text of Melville's prose Supplement as originally published in Battle-Pieces.


Harper & Brothers publish "Battle Pieces and Aspects of the War," by Herman Melville. Mr. Melville has not been heard from for a long time, and a book, even of poetry, will be welcomed from his pen. The present volume is full of poems suggested by the war, and concludes with a prose supplement, in which the author ventilates his political "policy," and offers some suggestions to his countrymen. We quote a few lines:
It is enough, for all practical purposes, if the South have been taught by the terrors of civil war to feel that secession, like slavery, is against destiny; that both now lie buried in one grave; that her fate is linked with ours; and that together we comprise the nation. [...] Is it probable that the grandchildren of General Grant will pursue with rancor, or slur by sour neglect, the memory of Stonewall Jackson? [...] Supposing a happy issue out of present perplexities, then, in the generation next to come, Southerners there will be yielding allegiance to the Union, feeling all their interests bound up in it, and yet cherishing, unrebuked, that kind of feeling for the memory of the soldiers of the fallen Confederacy that Burns, Scott and the Ettrick Shepherd felt for the memory of the gallant clansmen, ruined through their fidelity to the Stuarts—a feeling whose passion was tempered by the poetry imbuing it, and which in no wise affected their loyalty to the Georges, and which, it may be added, indirectly contributed excellent things to literature. But, setting this view aside, dishonorable would it be in the South were she willing to abandon to shame the memory of brave men who with signal personal disinterestedness warred in her behalf, though from motives, as we believe, so deplorably astray. Patriotism is not baseness, neither is it inhumanity. The mourners who this Summer bear flowers to the mounds of the Virginian and Georgian dead are, in their domestic bereavement and proud affection, as sacred in the eye of Heaven as are those who go with similar offerings of tender grief and love into the cemeteries of our Northern martyrs; and yet, in one aspect, how needless to point the contrast. Frankly let us own—what it would be unbecoming to parade were foreigners concerned—that our triumph was won not more by skill and bravery than by superior resources and crushing numbers; that it was a triumph, too, over a people for years politically misled by designing men, and also by some honestly erring men, who, from their position could not have been otherwise than broadly influential; a people who though indeed they sought to perpetuate the curse of slavery, and even extend it, were not the authors of it, but (less fortunate, not less righteous than we) were the fated inheritors, a people who, having a like origin with ourselves, share essentially in whatever worthy qualities we may possess. [...] The blacks, in their infant pupilage to freedom, appeal to the sympathies of every human[e] mind. The paternal guardianship which, for the interval, Government exercises over them, was prompted equally by duty and benevolence. Yet such kind[li]ness should not be allowed to exclude kind[li]ness to communities who stand nearer to us in nature. For the future of the freed slaves we may well be concerned; but the future of the whole country, involving the future of the blacks, urges a paramount claim upon our anxiety. [...]
The maintenance of Congressional decency in the future will rest mainly with the North. Rightly will more forbearance be required from the North than the South, for the North is victor. [...] The (test) oath is alterable; and in the wonted fluctuations of parties not improbably it will undergo alteration, assuming such a form, perhaps, as not to bar the admission into the National Legislature of men who represent the populations lately in revolt. [...] --New York Commercial Advertiser, September 5, 1866
Among other fine things, the 1866 newspaper excerpt omits Melville's careful and, for academic essayists and conference goers, still exemplary way of grounding his discussion in respect for the human dignity of every person. Before Melville says one word about "slaves" or "blacks," he gets us thinking about people as people: "our unfortunate fellow-men late in bonds." In case we lost the point (somehow missing or dismissing his relabeling of slavery as "atheistical iniquity") Melville reminds us: "fellow-men." The New York Commercial Advertiser deliberately skipped this essential and repeatedly stated ground-rule of Melville's discussion.
Long extracts from Melville's "Supplement" also graced the favorable review of Battle-Pieces published in the New York Herald on September 3, 1866. The Herald did not reprint Melville's view of slavery as "an atheistical iniquity." Unlike the Commercial Advertiser, however, the Herald did give one reference by Melville to "the blacks, our fellow men."

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Biography of the heart of Clement C. Moore

Minerva Shielding a Sleeping Youth from the Arrow of Cupid
1797 - Attributed to Thomas Sully - The Walters Art Museum
Portions of this seven-page manuscript poem by Clement C. Moore appear on pages 61-64 of Samuel Patterson's 1956 biography The Poet of Christmas Eve. The entire "Biography of the heart of Clement C. Moore" has never been published. Presented below for the first time, the complete text is transcribed from a photocopy of the manuscript held at the New-York Historical Society Library (AHMC - Moore, Clement C.). I am grateful to the world-class librarians and staff there for expert assistance with locating and properly identifying this item. According to a later bibliographical note on the back of one manuscript page, Moore's "Biography" was
"Probably written in 1813 to commemorate his marriage to Catherine Elizabeth Taylor on November 20, 1813."
Moore's allegorical "Biography" unfolds in 152 lines of iambic tetrameter as a contest for mastery between Minerva the Goddess of Wisdom and Cupid the boy God of Love. The supposed speaker is not Moore himself but an invented female "auth'ress," perhaps a disappointed servant of Minerva or one of the Muses. The important thing is, Love wins.

Biography of the heart of Clement C. Moore

Minerva, o’er this western world
In vain her banners had unfurl’d;
No bosoms own’d a kindred cause;
No youths submitted to her laws:
For in a land so pure, so free
From all but Love’s sweet tyranny,
Content each guileless bosom bless’d;
Lull’d each ambitious wish to rest; 
And, if for wisdom rose a sigh,
Swift as the wind, Love made it fly;
His light wings o’er the student shook,
Soon chas’d the magic of a book!!
Indignant, this the goddess viewed,
And turn’d to leave a shore so rude,
To seek her native east again,
And, for the last time, cross the main.
Already were her pinions spread,
And rais’d in air her lofty head;
But one foot touch’d the unclassic ground;
When, as her bright eyes roll'd around,
To cast for e'er a farewell glance,
She saw a trembling youth advance;
"Oh! stay, most injur'd Goddess, stay,
"Nor let thy suppliant vainly pray.
Oh! stay; and if a nation’s crime
“Can be repair’d, the task be mine.
“For this, from other powers free,
“My heart, my life alone to thee
“I will devote. Oh! then, he cried,
“Be thou my tut’ress, friend and guide.
“Not only for myself I pray,
“But for my country, goddess, stay.
“Leave not fore’er this wretched land,
Wretched without thy guiding hand.”

A prayer so earnestly preferred,
In pity to the youth, was heard:
For ne’er Minerva turns aside
When she is sought for as a guide;
But lends to those a favouring ear
Whose love for wisdom is sincere.
She stay'd to lead the enraptur'd youth
Through every winding maze of truth:
And had the auth'ress of this rhyme
Some portion of her power, and time,
The inquiring eye should here have view'd
The plans she with the youth pursu’d.
Suffice it, years most swiftly ran;
And when the boy was lost in man,
French and Italian he could speak,
As well as Hebrew, Latin, Greek;
Whilst, treasur'd in his well-stored mind,
Was learning by good sense refin'd,
He shone not with the fire-fly's light,
Which shows itself in flashes bright,
But with the glow-worm's steady ray,
The constant lustre of the day.
Needless it is to say, that love
His breast with passion did not move.
Perhaps the God, with careless eye,
Forever might have pass'd him by;
Grown heedless by unbounded sway,
E'er left him with his guide to stray;
E'er left him with a harden'd heart
Fill'd with contempt for woman's art,
Had not Minerva's pointed quill
Arm'd him with all a poet's skill
Full many a brilliant page to swell
Against Love's officer—a Belle.
Well did the little God repay
The daring, the obtrusive lay;
Well did he make the traitor feel
That vain was e’en Minevera’s steel;
For now, to his rebellious heart
He sent by every belle a dart.
The angry Goddess vainly strove
To shield him from the shafts of Love.
She sought her empire to regain,
By filling him with thirst of fame,
By bringing to his mind the hour
When he swore but to own her power.
She tore him from that dangerous street
Where beaux & beauties daily meet;
She tore him from the giddy town,
That Nature's charms his breast might own,
Hoping that they would strength impart
To make him shun all those of art;
Hoping they would the mist dispel
That arm'd with charms a fluttering belle.
How little wisdom knows of love,
A step to wrong will surely prove.
For now the God triumphant view’d
His flames increas’d by solitude;
Whilst she, still more indignant grown,
The perjur’d man fore’er had flown,
Had not the diffidence she gave
Still cheer’d her with the hope to save,
And once more by her precepts guide
Her pupil, and till late, her pride:
For, with a beam of joy, she found
His tongue with chains of silence bound
Upon that subject which opprest
With grief and pain his troubled breast;
And whilst the wond’ring giddy crowd
Thought he to learning only bow’d,
With heart of flame and looks of snow,
With thoughts of love and studious brow,
Those fires which can the coldest melt,
Unheeded, he in secret felt;
For Cupid, to his eye, array'd
With every charm the worshipp'd maid,
Whilst Wisdom's handmaid, Modesty,
Whisper'd to him, not worthy he
Of daring to such charms aspire,
Daring to show his bosom's fire.
Now Pallas saw, with joy, that time
Had robb'd him of his youthful prime:
For she had hop'd that riper years
Would banish all her cares and fears;
Hop'd that in his maturer age
Again she should his heart engage.

A year, the God, with deepest guile,
Had left him to enjoy her smile
But that he might more fully prove
The sov'reign power of mighty Love:
For doubly painful is the dart
That enters the long sleeping heart.
Late from his guardian's favorite isle,
An ardent votary of style,
A youthful, giddy, flirting maid,
Had come, her Cupid's plans to aid
With sparkling eye, with rosy cheek,
With tongue that lov’d full well to speak
In ev'ry way that best could tell
She was a laughter-loving belle.
Ah! who could dream, this fluttering fair,
This outcast from Minerva's care
Could make her pupil heave a sigh,
And fill with love his thoughtful eye?
But, though it ne'er was dreamt nor thought,
Such was the wonder Cupid wrought.

The Goddess, fill'd with lasting hate,
Now left him to his dreadful fate;
Nor, ere she sought those of his nation
In whom he’d waken’d emulation,
Did she on him denounce a doom;
For well she saw that very soon
The fault its punishment would bring;
She saw that to the thoughtless thing,
When she withdrew her guardian care,
His passion he would then declare,
And that, soon settled as his wife,
The fluttering belle would rule for life.
--Clement C. Moore
Manuscript poem, The New-York Historical Society Library
(AHMC - Moore, Clement C.)
Related post:

Review of Battle-Pieces in the Sacramento Daily Union

The battle of Malvern Hill, Va. July 1st 1862 via Library of Congress
From the Sacramento Daily Union, October 10, 1866; found in the online Newspaper Archives at GenealogyBank:


BATTLE-PIECES AND ASPECTS OF THE WAR. By Herman Melville. Harper & Bros., New York. A. Roman & Co. and H. H. Bancroft & Co., San Francisco.
The author of "Omoo" and "Moby Dick," after a long silence, during which many of his admiring readers assumed that his literary career had closed, comes before the public again with a volume of lyrics. In his quiet retirement Melville was a sympathetic observer of the people's war for the salvation of the Union, but while the clash of arms continued his pen was idle. He tells us that the pieces in this volume "originated in an impulse imparted by the fall of Richmond," the crowning triumph of a long and sometimes doubtful struggle. He had no plan. "Yielding instinctively," he says, "one after another, to feelings not inspired from any one source exclusively, and undmindful, without purposing to be, of consistency, I seem, in most of these verses, to have but placed a harp in the window, and noted the contrasted airs which wayward winds have played upon the strings." These poems are of very unequal merit—several evincing the true feeling and rich imagination of a poet, while others seem to be the mere aimless and reinless rhyming of eccentricity. Excepting the occasional carelessness of rhyme, the following is an admirable treatment of the wonderful transition from apathy to enthusiasm in 1860-'61:
O the clammy cold November,
    And the Winter white and dead,
And the terror dumb with stupor,
    And the sky a sheet of lead;
And events that came resounding
    With the cry that all was lost,
Like the thunder-cracks of massy Ice
    In Intensity of frost—
Bursting one upon another
    Through the horror of the calm.
The paralysis of arm
    In the anguish of the heart;
And the hollowness and dearth.
   The appealings of the mother
To brother and to brother
    Not in hatred so to part—
And the fissure in the hearth
    Growing momently more wide.
Then the glances ’tween the Fates,
    And the doubt on every side,
And the patience under gloom
In the stoniness that waits
The finality of doom.
So the Winter died despairing,
   And the weary weeks of Lent;
And the ice-bound rivers melted,
   And the tomb of Faith was rent.
O, the rising of the People
   Came with springing of the grass,
They rebounded from dejection
   After Easter came to pass.
And the young were all elation
   Hearing Sumter’s cannon roar,
And they thought how tame the nation
    In the age that went before.
And Michael seemed gigantical,
    The Arch-fiend but a dwarf;
And at the towers of Erebus
    Our striplings flung the scoff.
But the elders with foreboding
    Mourned the days forever o’er,
And recalled the forest proverb,
    The Iroquois’ old saw:
Grief to every graybeard
    When young Indians lead the war.
And this stanza, from "Ball's Bluff," picturing the passage of the Union troops southward, is fresh and vivid;
They moved like Juny morning on the wave,
    Their hearts were fresh as clover in its prime
    (It was the breezy Summer time),
                    Life throbbed so strong,
How should they dream that Death in a rosy clime
   Would come to thin their shining throng?
Youth feels immortal, like the gods sublime.
"Donelson," like some of Brownell's later war lyrics, has thrilling lines disfigured by such colloquial common-place as this:
“Ugh! ugh!
’Twill drag along—drag along,”
Growled a cross patriot in the throng,
His battered umbrella like an ambulance-cover
Riddled with bullet-holes, spattered all over.
“Hurrah for Grant!” cried a stripling shrill;
Three urchins joined him with a will,
And some of taller stature cheered.
Meantime a Copperhead passed; he sneered.
“Win or lose,” he pausing said,
Caps fly the same; all boys, mere boys;
Any thing to make a noise.
Like to see the list of the dead;
These ‘craven Southerners’ hold out;
Ay, ay, they’ll give you many a bout.”
“We’ll beat in the end, sir,”
Firmly said one in staid rebuke,
A solid merchant, square and stout.
“And do you think it? that way tend, sir?”
Asked the lean Copperhead, with a look
Of splenetic pity. “Yes, I do.”
His yellow death’s head the croaker shook:
“The country’s ruined, that I know.”
A shower of broken ice and snow,
In lieu of words, confuted him;
They saw him hustled round the corner go,
And each by-stander said—Well suited him.
"The Scout toward Aldie" has the distinction of being the longest effort in the volume. "Malvern Hill" is the finest in color, spirit and rhythm; this we quote:
Ye elms that wave on Malvern Hill
In prime of mom and May,
Recall ye how McClellan's men
Here stood at bay?
While deep within yon forest dim
Our rigid comrades lay —
Some with the cartridge in their mouth,
Others with fixed arms lifted South —
Invoking so
The cypress glades? Ah wilds of woe!

The spires of Richmond, late beheld
Through rifts in musket-haze,
Were closed from view in clouds of dust
On leaf-walled ways,
Where streamed our wagons in caravan;
And the Seven Nights and Days
Of march and fast, retreat and fight.
Pinched our grimed faces to ghastly plight —
Does the elm wood
Recall the haggard beards of blood?

The battle-smoked flag, with stars eclipsed,
We followed (it never fell!) —
In silence husbanded our strength —
Received their yell;
Till on this slope we patient turned
With cannon ordered well;
Reverse we proved was not defeat;
But ah, the sod what thousands meet! —
Does Malvern Wood
Bethink itself, and muse and brood?
We elms of Malvern Hill
    Remember everything;
But sap the twig will fill:
Wag the world how it will,
   Leaves must be green in Spring.
Sacramento Daily Union - October 10, 1866

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Melville on Tuesday, Greeley Saturday

Independent Democrat - November 19, 1857

Pennacook Lyceum Lectures.

The next lecture before the citizens of Concord, will be delivered on Tuesday evening November 24th, by Herman Melville Esq., of Pittsfield, Mass. Subject "Roman Statuary." Mr. Melville, although little known to the public as a lecturer, has an extensive reputation as a writer of fiction, and his Typee and Omoo, Mardi and a Voyage Thither, Moby Dick or the Whale Catcher, Israel Potter or Fifty Years of Exile, and other works have had a most extensive circulation both in this country and in England.
We learn also that Horace Greeley Esq. will deliver several lectures in New England on Thanksgiving week, and will deliver one of the regular course of Lyceum Lectures in Concord on Saturday evening November 28th. The lecture of Mr. Melville on Tuesday evening and that of Mr. Greeley on Saturday evening will give our citizens an abundance of lecture entertainment on Thanksgiving week. --Concord, New Hampshire Independent Democrat, November 19, 1857; found in the online Newspaper Archives at GenealogyBank.
The inventive title bestowed on Moby-Dick ("Moby Dick or the Whale Catcher") seems to betray a virtuous desire for fair play in New Hampshire. Melville drew a good crowd in Concord for his lecture on Roman Statuary. From the Manchester Mirror and Farmer, November 28, 1857:
"The lecture last evening before Pennacook Lyceum, by H. Melville, Esq. was highly spoken of by those who attended. Phenix Hall, the largest in the city, was well filled by an attentive audience."
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Monday, January 2, 2017

Angus Bethune Reach on Melville's The Whale

via B Street Books

Angus Bethune Reach (1821-1856) is the "A. B. R." who wrote the early notice of Herman Melville's The Whale (as the British edition of Moby-Dick was titled) in his regular column "Town Talk and Table Talk" for the Illustrated London News (1 November 1851).

... The excitement of the Exhibition over, the disturbed publishing trade is beginning to resume its activity, and a fair outburst of works of all classes is announced. Railway books hold a conspicuous place in the list—the growing habit of wiling away the hours upon the rail by reading being apparently likely to exercise as much, and I hope a more, salutary effect upon popular literature than even circulating libraries. The peculiarity of railway books is that they must be pithy, short, and cheap; and if I am not much mistaken, they will speedily give the spun-out thirty-shilling three-volume novels a blow which will greatly accelerate the downward progress which has been observable for some time in the class of books in question. Among the works of travel announced, Hungarian adventures take the lead; and all opinions about the late revolution and its champions will, no doubt, find their advocates. As to the works of fancy, two, in two very different departments, seem to be attracting most attention—one a controversial and pro-Catholic novel called "Cecile," and understood to be the production of the Count de Jarnac, under the nom-de-guerre of Sir Charles Rockingham; and the other Herman Melville's last and best and most wildly imaginative story, "The Whale." The controversial novel [Cecile] is remarkable for fairness, good temper, and good humour—most rare qualities in books of the kind; and the personages are so conceived as to be types of the principal different parties and classes into which the late Aggression agitation split up the community. Mr. Melville's romance will worthily support his reputation for singularly vivid and reckless imaginative power—great aptitude for quaint and original philosophical speculation, degenerating, however, too often into rhapsody and purposeless extravagance—an almost unparalleled power over the capabilities of the language.
Thus, everybody says a whale is not a fish. "Pooh, pooh!" replies Herman Melville, "don't talk such fiddle faddle to me; an animal who is not amphibious, and who lives totally in the sea, is, if the common sense of language is to be preserved, a fish, and nothing but a fish, his lungs and warm blood to the contrary, notwithstanding." Here, indeed, is Melville's definition of a whale—"A spouting fish with a horizontal tail." Now, porpoises spout, or at all events have a spout-hole, and perpendicular tails. Mr. Melville is no whit daunted. "Good," he replies, “and porpoises are nothing but small whales."
--Angus Bethune Reach in The Illustrated London News - Volume 10
The 1851 notice of The Whale signed "A. B. R." is reprinted in Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews. However, the writer's identity has not been more exactly established (so far as I know) in published Melville scholarship. Nevertheless, "A. B. R." of the Illustrated London News unquestionably is Angus Bethune Reach--as long recognized in scholarship on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
"Renowned for his vivid descriptive writing, comic inventiveness and prodigious powers of work, Angus B. Reach at mid-century had become one of London's best known literary men. In addition to a vast output of miscellaneous writing, he made signal contributions to two of the most characteristic periodical genres of the 1840's: detailed social investigation and illustrated comic journalism. His illness and death at an early age removed from the literary scene one of its most popular and promising talents, and was universally construed as a warning against the dangers of authorial overwork." --Patrick Leary - Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland, ed. Laurel Brake and Marysa Demoor
During the latter 1840's Angus Bethune Reach co-edited The Man in the Moon, briefly a rival of Punch. As Theodore R. Ellis III reports in his article Another Broadside into Mardi, the May 1849 issue of this London humor magazine featured a burlesque of Mardi, probably written by Reach's colleague Albert Smith:
A Page by the Author of Mardi
In the second volume of Jay Leyda's Melville Log, Reach shows up on Elizabeth Shaw Melville's 64th birthday. On June 13, 1886, Herman Melville gave his wife Lizzie a set of four books including the copy of Angus B. Reach's London on the Thames; or, Life above and below. This work is Sealts Number 418 in the online catalog at Melville's Marginalia Online.

Besides his "Town Talk and Table Talk" column for the Illustrated London News, Angus B. Reach was known for his vivid reporting on economic and social conditions in manufacturing districts, via published letters in The Morning Chronicle:
Thereafter he served as the Chronicle's principal reviewer of drama and art, while also writing a weekly 'London Letter' for the Inverness Courier as well as the 'Town and Table Talk' column for the Illustrated London News--Patrick Leary
The entry for ANGUS BETHUNE REACH in Chambers's Cyclopædia of English Literature emphasizes Reach's strong, early association with the London Morning Chronicle.
"He was a native of Inverness; but before he had reached his twentieth year he was in London, busily employed on the Morning Chronicle, as reporter and critic, and let us add, honourably supporting his parents, on whom misfortune had fallen." --Chambers's Cyclopædia of English Literature
The long, intensely engaged review of The Whale in the London Morning Chronicle on 20 December 1851 is partly a retrospective on Melville's whole career to date. Did Angus Bethune Reach write it? His excited mini-review of The Whale in the Illustrated London News contains the kernel of the far more elaborate analysis in the Morning Chronicle. Both notices weigh Melville's characteristic weakness for "rhapsody" and "extravagance" against exceptional "power."

Mr. Melville's romance will worthily support his reputation for singularly vivid and reckless imaginative power—great aptitude for quaint and original philosophical speculation, degenerating, however, too often into rhapsody and purposeless extravagance—an almost unparalleled power over the capabilities of the language.
We could not shut our eyes to the fact that constantly before us we saw, like a plague spot, the tendency to rhapsody—the constant leaning towards wild and aimless extravagance....
... reads like a ghost story done with rare imaginative power and noble might of expression.
And here's something more like a clincher: ABR and the Morning Chronicle writer similarly confuse the terms "horizontal" and "perpendicular" when discussing Melville's unscientific definition of the whale as "a spouting fish with a horizontal tail." 

The Morning Chronicle reviewer for some reason replaces Melville's word horizontal with "perpendicular":
Flinging overboard—not, however, by any means after stating satisfactory reasons why—the commonly received hypothesis that a whale is not a fish, as a mere empty and useless mystification—Melville defines a whale to be "any spouting fish with a perpendicular tail," and under that definition he ranges numerous tribes of animals, such as the porpoise, which are not above four feet long.
"A. B. R." in the Illustrated London News correctly gave "horizontal tail" when quoting Melville's definition, but he then assigned "perpendicular tails" to whale-like porpoises:
Here, indeed, is Melville's definition of a whale—"A spouting fish with a horizontal tail." Now, porpoises spout, or at all events have a spout-hole, and perpendicular tails. Mr. Melville is no whit daunted. "Good," he replies, “and porpoises are nothing but small whales." 
For Herman Melville, perpendicular flukes on a whale signify only a "prodigious blunder" of pictorial representation. The phrase perpendicular tail (or tails) occurs nowhere in Melville's whaling epic. Not in the British edition, not in the American. Among the known contemporary reviews of The Whale, only the ones in the Illustrated London News and the London Morning Chronicle say "perpendicular tail" or "perpendicular tails."

Angus Bethune Reach had been employed by the Morning Chronicle for a decade when the extensive review of Melville's The Whale appeared there. He definitely wrote the notice signed "A. B. R." in the Illustrated London News. Considering his distinctive usage there of "perpendicular tails," it seems likely (or if you prefer, not unlikely) that Angus Bethune Reach wrote the Morning Chronicle review, too.
"For many years he was musical and art critic, as well as principal reviewer, for the 'Morning Chronicle.'" --Dictionary of National Biography: REACH, ANGUS BETHUNE
With a little help from his friend? Wouldn't you know it, Reach's close friend and literary collaborator Shirley Brooks was a huge fan of Melville's The Whale, his "favourite book" as Hershel Parker documents in Herman Melville: A Biography V2.710. Charles Mackay in Forty Years' Recollections devotes a substantial chapter to "Newspaper Work" and a richly detailed memoir of Angus Bethune Reach. In a separate chapter on The Morning Chronicle, Mackay names Shirley Brooks immediately after Angus B. Reach in the register of notable staff members. Recalling Shirley Brooks's generous aid in the last year of Reach's life, Mackay acknowledges that Brooks
"owed his connection with the press and with the Morning Chronicle to the good offices of Angus Reach."  --Forty Years' Recollections
In personal correspondence with Edward Bradley writing as "Cuthbert Bede" in the London Sketch-Book, Blanchard Jerrold similarly linked Shirley Brooks and Angus Bethune Reach as close friends and co-laborers:
"His [Shirley Brooks's] house became the resort of many men who were then rising, and have since risen, in the realms of literature and art. Angus Reach was his intimate friend, and they worked together for years on the Morning Chronicle." --quoted in The London Sketch-Book - June 1874
Another possibility then: perhaps Shirley Brooks collaborated with Angus Bethune Reach on the long review of Melville's The Whale for the Morning Chronicle. Certainly they were working together on other projects at that time. Brooks and Reach co-wrote A Story with a Vengeance, first published in 1852. Biographer and bibliophile George Somes Layard portrays them in those days as "brothers-in-arms":
Working together, and showing their mettle in the pages of the Man in the Moon, fighting side by side in the ranks of the Morning Chronicle, to the editor of which Angus had also been his introducer, together they laid siege to Punch, and together they eventually, as Mr. Spielmann says, carried the position by assault. They were brothers-in-arms and, as such, must succour one the other when knocked out of time. And Shirley was good at helping lame dogs over stiles.

In 1852 Reach and he, in addition to their other work, collaborated in a little volume entitled "A Story with a Vengeance," now only valuable to the collector as containing wood-engravings after Charles Keene. This was the first and, as it proved, the last of their joint-ventures, for soon after Reach showed signs of brain failure. 
--Shirley Brooks of Punch