Saturday, February 18, 2017

Melville as "poetical trimmer" in Battle-Pieces

From the New York Christian Advocate, September 6, 1866:
BATTLE PIECES AND ASPECTS OF THE WAR, By Herman Melville. New York: Harper & Brothers.

The excitements and events of the war of rebellion (for so we must name it, though the term may grate harshly on such sensitive ears as Mr. Melville's) have proved the occasion of a great deal of poetizing—some good, some very poor, and very much neither good nor bad. The author of this volume—a voluminous and much read writer of other days—here gives poetical remembrances of many of the chief military affairs of the war. These "battle pieces" have but little enthusiasm about them, for evidently his heart was on both sides of the conflict, and his appended notes, and especially the supplement to the volume, still more clearly evince his sympathy with the South. These pieces, while not specially remarkable, possess some real poetical merit, but in thought, they are only of the most superficial kind. There is throughout a sad lack of all deep and strong sentiments in favor of the right and the true. He is indeed the laureate of that class of men who sought to conduct the late so-called "Union" convention at Philadelphia, but who found themselves to be mere puppets in the hands of men of more decided and positive convictions; men whose outspoken sympathies with the South during the rebellion would not permit them to float away with the current of patriotism that the war aroused and sent through the land. Mr. Melville here presents himself as a poetical trimmer, nominally favoring the Union cause, but much more careful of the rebellious South than of the loyal and patriotic Unionists of all portions of the country.
Published in New York, the Christian Advocate in 1866 was edited by Daniel Curry and William Harrison De Puy.

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