Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Arvin on Derwent

Meanwhile, one misses much of the intellectual tragicomedy of Clarel, much of its deceptively quiet play of irony, if one fails to observe how the cheery Derwent, who begins by striking one as a merely fatuous Yea-sayer, grows in grace as the poem proceeds, developing lights and shades of personal quality one had not suspected, inspiring a more and more genuine liking in the very Melvillean Rolfe, and giving expression in his modest and kindly manner to insights that Melville elsewhere expresses as his own. One must attend to both Ungar and Derwent, as well as to some of the others, if one wishes to distinguish all the intonations of Melville’s own voice.  --Newton Arvin

Herman Melville's Clarel (1876) 4.20

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