Friday, June 30, 2017

Henry T. Tuckerman remembers the smiling face of "dear old Clement Moore"

Herman Melville's friends held Clement C. Moore in high regard. As shown in an earlier post, Evert A. Duyckinck honored the author of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" as
"one of the best of men" --Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly (June 1884).
Writing in 1866 for The Atlantic Monthly, Henry T. Tuckerman counted
"the benign smile of dear old Clement Moore"
among his most cherished reminiscences of Broadway in New York City. Other departed friends that Tuckerman remembered in the same class of "endeared figures and faces" were Dr. John W. Francis and Charles Fenno Hoffman. Melville knew them, too, when he lived in New York City.

And then, to the practised frequenter, how, one by one, endeared figures and faces disappear from that diurnal stage! It seems but yesterday since we met there Dr. Francis’s cheering salutation, or listened to Dr. Bethune’s and Fenno Hoffman's genial and John Stephens’s truthful talk,—watched General Scott‘s stalwart form, Dr. Kane’s lithe frame, Cooper’s self-reliant step, Peter Parley’s juvenile cheerfulness, — and grasped Henry Inman’s cordial hand, or listened to Irving’s humorous reminiscence, and met the benign smile of dear old Clement Moore. As to fairer faces and more delicate shapes,—to encounter which was the crowning joy of our promenade,—and “cheeks grown holy with the lapse of years,” memory holds them too sacred for comment. “Passing away” is the perpetual refrain in the chorus of humanity in this bustling thoroughfare, to the sober eye of maturity. The never-ending procession, to the sensitive and the observant, has also infinite degrees of language. Some faces seem to welcome, others to defy, some to lower, and some to brighten, many to ignore, a few to challenge or charm,—as we pass. And what lessons of fortune and of character are written thereon,—the blush of innocence and the hardihood of recklessness, the candid grace of honor and the mean deprecatory glance of knavery, intelligence and stupidity, soulfulness and vanity, the glad smile of friendship, the shrinking eye of fallen fortune, the dubious recognition of disgrace, the effrontery of the adventurer, and the calm, pleasant bearing of rectitude,—all that is beautiful and base in humanity, gleams, glances, and disappears as the crowd pass on.
--Henry T. Tuckerman, "Through Broadway" in The Atlantic, Volume 18
 Related posts:

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Piazza Tales in Milwaukee

Milwaukee, Wisconsin Daily Free Democrat - June 5, 1856
The Milwaukee Daily Free Democrat was edited by Sherman M. Booth, a native of western New York State, Yale grad, and prominent abolitionist. The year before this notice of Melville's Piazza Tales appeared in the Daily Free Democrat, Booth had been sentenced in federal court to "a month's imprisonment and a fine of $1,000" for his role in the rescue of Joshua Glover.
THE PIAZZA TALES: By Herman Melville.

This pleasant book contains five excellent stories, the first of which is an exquisite word-picture, and is worth twice the price of the book.

DIX & EDWARDS—321 Broadway—Publishers.
For sale at ARNOLD'S

Notice of The Piazza Tales in the NY Evening Express

New York Evening Express - June 20, 1856
The "Piazza Tales," by Herman Melville, presents some half dozen attractive short stories originally published in Putnam's Magazine. Under the caption of "The Piazza" a pleasing introductory idyl is given, after which, the stories "Bartleby" "Benito Cereno" "The Lightning-rod Man" the "Encantadas," and the "Bell Flower" [Bell Tower] are supposed to be recited. It forms a very pretty parlor volume.  
--New York Evening Express, June 20, 1856

Friday, June 23, 2017

Short notice of Clarel in the New York Observer

New York Observer - June 29, 1876
CLAREL: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land. By Herman Melville. In Four Parts. 1, Journalism. 2, The Wilderness; 3, Mar Saba; 4, Bethlehem. G. P. Putnam's Sons.
This is a dreary pilgrimage of two volumes of miserable poetry (if such it can be called) which few readers will be able to complete. --New York Observer, June 29, 1876
So Melville was right when he described Clarel as "eminently adapted for unpopularity," in his letter to James Billson dated October 10, 1884. The first book is titled "Jerusalem," not "Journalism."

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Philip Jenkins on Melville's Dualism in "Lost Gnostic Poem"

Philip Jenkins reads a Timoleon poem and locates Melville's poetical Fragments on the Albigensian part of the "Dualist/Gnostic continuum."
More curious is why it is allegedly “of the twelfth century.” All the Patristic sources concerning Gnosticism were focused on the first three or so centuries of the Christian era. Now, there were medieval Dualist movements in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries like the Bogomils and Albigensians, and many writers (including myself) have suggested possible continuities from ancient Gnosticism. I have even spoken of the Dualist/Gnostic continuum. In that sense, you could even imagine an Albigensian poem of the twelfth century, say, being described as Gnostic in a very broad sense.
Along the way, the Baylor historian raises interesting questions pertaining to the study of Melville's sources. Did Melville read Jules Michelet or Madame Blavatsky? Check out the enlightening blog post by Philip Jenkins for The Anxious Bench, on Patheos via the Evangelical Channel:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Clement C. Moore disclaimed authorship of the charity hymn, "Lord of life, all praise excelling"

In 1866, Reverend Samuel R. Johnson wrote a letter to the editor of the Utica, New York Gospel Messenger in which he reported a conversation with Clement C. Moore that had taken place around 1856-7, "six or seven years before his death." Johnson was curious about the authorship of Hymn 117, a charity hymn often attributed to Moore. When asked by his fellow churchman, Moore disclaimed authorship of the Episcopal hymn, "Lord of life, all praise excelling."
"Do you know who wrote that Hymn 117, for charitable occasions, beginning 'Lord of life, all praise excelling?'" He replied, "I do not know." Why, said I, Dr. Moore, do you know that I have repeatedly heard that hymn attributed to you, confidently, and by clergymen of reputation; more than that, I have seen the assertion several times in print. "No," said he, "it is a mistake; I did not write it, nor do I know who did write it." So his disclaimer settles that question forever. It was some six or seven years before his death, while his memory was evidently clear and firm.  --Gospel Messenger, January 25, 1866
As shown in a previous melvilliana post, the words to the hymn beginning "Lord of life, all praise excelling" were in fact written by Samuel Birch, the dramatist, pastrycook, and in 1814 Lord Mayor of London.

The published letter from Samuel R. Johnson provides additional testimony that Clement Clarke Moore did not compose the charity hymn commonly attributed to him. As also confirmed in Johnson's 1866 letter to the editor of the Gospel Messenger, Moore had no trouble denying authorship of widely beloved lyrics when he did not write them.
... Long years after, when the discussion concerning the authorship of the hymns was going on in the Church papers, especially in Philadelphia, this hymn was attributed by several to Prof. Moore. Some years after, endeavoring to verify the authors, at the request of a friend, I said to myself "Why was not this hymn, written so long ago, which was deemed good enough even for the Church's use, inserted in Dr. Moore's volume of poems, prepared by his own hand, published under his own eye? and as I met him weekly, why should I leave the matter at all in doubt, so easily determined by his very word? Accordingly, on visiting him, I turned the conversation to the authorship of these hymns, and put the question plainly, "Do you know who wrote that Hymn 117, for charitable occasions, beginning 'Lord of life, all praise excelling?'" He replied, "I do not know." Why, said I, Dr. Moore, do you know that I have repeatedly heard that hymn attributed to you, confidently, and by clergymen of reputation; more than that, I have seen the assertion several times in print. "No," said he, "it is a mistake; I did not write it, nor do I know who did write it." So his disclaimer settles that question forever. It was some six or seven years before his death, while his memory was evidently clear and firm.  --Gospel Messenger and Church Record of Western New York, January 25, 1866

Gospel Messenger and Church Record of Western New York
 January 25, 1866 (1 of 2)
Gospel Messenger and Church Record of Western New York
January 25, 1866 (2 of 2)
Related post:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Daniel Webster on the Bunker Hill Monument as orator

View of Bunker Hill & Monument, June 17: 1843
via Library of Congress
Speaking in 1852 at the annual Printers' Banquet, Melville's friend Dr. John W. Francis opened by recalling what Daniel Webster famously had said about the Bunker Hill Monument:
WHEN the great defender of the Constitution delivered the oration at Bunker Hill, he pointed to the just completed monument and exclaimed, “There stands the Orator of the Day.”  --Reminiscences of Printers, Authors, and Booksellers in New-York
Dr. Francis paraphrased and condensed, making one great line out of the well-known passage in which Webster personified the Bunker Hill Monument as "itself the orator of this occasion." As reported by Richard Frothingham and painted in oil by an unknown hand, Webster dramatically gestured to his superior when he said,
"The powerful speaker stands motionless before us."
Daniel Webster, 1843 Speech at Bunker Hill Monument
via Gallery 76 Americana & Folk Art
Herman Melville made a similarly humble move when he dedicated Israel Potter to the Bunker Hill Monument:

Your Highness will pardon me, if, with the warmest ascriptions on this auspicious occasion, I take the liberty to mingle my hearty congratulations on the recurrence of the anniversary day we celebrate, wishing your Highness (though indeed your Highness be somewhat prematurely gray) many returns of the same, and that each of its summer's suns may shine as brightly on your brow as each winter snow shall lightly rest on the grave of Israel Potter.

Your Highness'
Most devoted and obsequious,

JUNE 17th, 1854.  --Herman Melville - Israel Potter
For background and context, here is a fuller selection from Daniel Webster's 1843 Address, his second Bunker Hill oration. (The first of Webster's famous Bunker Hill Monument speeches was delivered on June 17, 1825 at laying of the corner-stone of the Bunker Hill Monument at Charlestown, Massachusetts.) The text of the 1843 speech would have been available to Melville in (for one example) the first volume of The Works of Daniel Webster (Boston, 1851).
The Bunker Hill Monument is finished. Here it stands. Fortunate in the high natural eminence on which it is placed, higher, infinitely higher in its objects and purpose, it rises over the land and over the sea; and, visible, at their homes, to three hundred thousand of the people of Massachusetts, it stands a memorial of the last, and a monitor to the present and to all succeeding generations. I have spoken of the loftiness of its purpose. If it had been without any other design than the creation of a work of art, the granite of which it is composed would have slept in its native bed. It has a purpose, and that purpose gives it its character. That purpose enrobes it with dignity and moral grandeur. That well-known purpose it is which causes us to look up to it with a feeling of awe. It is itself the orator of this occasion. It is not from my lips, it could not be from any human lips, that that strain of eloquence is this day to flow most competent to move and excite the vast multitudes around me. The powerful speaker stands motionless before us. It is a plain shaft. It bears no inscriptions, fronting to the rising sun, from which the future antiquary shall wipe the dust. Nor does the rising sun cause tones of music to issue from its summit. But at the rising of the sun, and at the setting of the sun; in the blaze of noonday, and beneath the milder effulgence of lunar light; it looks, it speaks, it acts, to the full comprehension of every American mind, and the awakening of glowing enthusiasm in every American heart. Its silent, but awful utterance; its deep pathos, as it brings to our contemplation the 17th of June, 1775, and the consequences which have resulted to us, to our country, and to the world, from the events of that day, and which we know must continue to rain influence on the destinies of mankind to the end of time; the elevation with which it raises us high above the ordinary feelings of life, surpass all that the study of the closet, or even the inspiration of genius, can produce. To-day it speaks to us. Its future auditories will be the successive generations of men, as they rise up before it and gather around it. Its speech will be of patriotism and courage; of civil and religious liberty; of free government; of the moral improvement and elevation of mankind; and of the immortal memory of those who, with heroic devotion, have sacrificed their lives for their country. 
--Daniel Webster on the Completion of the Bunker Hill Monument (June 17, 1843).
In Monumental Melville: The Formation of a Literary Career Edgar A. Dryden quotes extensively from the 1843 Address, including Daniel Webster's depiction of the monument as "orator" and "powerful speaker." In Dryden's view, Israel Potter gives Melville's "antithetical version of the national myth that not only destabilizes Webster's vision of the monument supporting the myth of the nation, but demystifies both public and literary monumentality." For the freshest discussion to date, check out John Hay's article in the June 2016 New England Quarterly, titled Broken Hearths: Melville's Israel Potter and the Bunker Hill Monument. Rightly estimating Dryden's reading as "persuasive," Hay nevertheless offers a welcome counterbalance to the constant and by now wearisome valorizing of irony in Melville criticism.

Friday, June 16, 2017

William Alfred Jones's dedication to Clement C. Moore

Literary critic William Alfred Jones dedicated his two-volume collection of Characters and Criticisms (New York, 1857) to Clement C. Moore, who had been a close friend of Jones's father, the lawyer David S. Jones (1777-1848). Moore's friend David S. Jones was
for nearly half a century one of the most active and influential members of the New York bar and was the first judge of Queens county and received the degree of LL.D. from Allegheny College. --The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography
In his published dedication, W. A. Jones thanked Moore for "many kindnesses."









--W. Alfred Jones, Characters and Criticisms, Volume 1
As shown in a previous Melvilliana post, W. A. Jones had favorably reviewed Moore's 1844 volume of Poems in the July 17, 1847 issue of The Literary World. Jones reprinted the review in his 1849 anthology, Essays upon Authors and Books. The review of Moore's Poems appears yet again in volume 2 of the 1857 work that Jones dedicated to Moore. As Columbia Librarian, W. A. Jones also wrote admiringly of Moore in his published history, The First Century of Columbia College.
For some years W. A, Jones had been associated with his friends Evert A. Duyckinck and Cornelius Mathews as champions of Young America. Jones is generally credited (wrongly?) with authorship of the unusually positive review of Herman Melville's Mardi in the July 1849 issue of The United States Democratic Review.

In his signed work, William Alfred Jones studiously ignores Herman Melville. No treatment of Melville appears in his anthologies of previously published literary criticism. The anonymous reviewer of Mardi in John O'Sullivan's U. S. Democratic Review exhibits a reform agenda that Jones once shared as a Liberal Democrat writing for Democrats. However, the reviewer seems oddly abstemious for one of Duyckinck's Rabelaisian Knights of the Round Table. He does not know, or pretends not to know, if Herman Melville smokes and drinks in real life the way his fictional characters do. He hopes not, but has to admit:
"there is a little murkiness in Mardi, that smells of the smoke of the vile weed."
--Review of Melville's Mardi in the U. S. Democratic Review, July 1849
The anonymous review of Mardi appeared in the year after Jones's dramatic split with Evert A. Duyckinck. As Perry Miller relates in The Raven and the Whale, Duyckinck broke with his loyal friend over the married Jones's scandalous flirtations with Catherine Clark Panton, then teenage sister of Duyckinck's wife Margaret. Miller's blockbuster ends poignantly with the image, not of Poe-Raven or Melville-Whale, but of William Alfred Jones as
"an amusing eccentric, with no concerns except his whimsies. The sole survivor of Young America, he endured until May 6, 1900." --The Raven and the Whale

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dylan's Melvillean intro

"We have small respect for authors who are wilful, and cannot be advised; but we reverence a man when God's must is upon him, and he does his work in his own and other's spite." --The United States Democratic Review - July 1849

Dylan cops Melville's best book best when he talks about internalizing songs:
You know what it's all about. Takin' the pistol out and puttin' it back in your pocket. Whippin' your way through traffic, talkin' in the dark. You know that Stagger Lee was a bad man and that Frankie was a good girl. You know that Washington is a bourgeois town and you've heard the deep-pitched voice of John the Revelator and you saw the Titanic sink in a boggy creek. And you're pals with the wild Irish rover and the wild colonial boy. You heard the muffled drums and the fifes that played lowly. You've seen the lusty Lord Donald stick a knife in his wife, and a lot of your comrades have been wrapped in white linen.  --Bob Dylan - Nobel Lecture
 By "Melville's best book" I mean Mardi, obviously:
Yet, again, I descend, and list to the concert. 
Like a grand, ground swell, Homer’s old organ rolls its vast volumes under the light frothy wave-crests of Anacreon and Hafiz; and high over my ocean, sweet Shakespeare soars, like all the larks of the spring. Throned on my sea-side, like Canute, bearded Ossian smites his hoar harp, wreathed with wild-flowers, in which warble my Wallers; blind Milton sings bass to my Petrarchs and Priors, and laureats crown me with bays.
In me many worthies recline and converse. I list to St. Paul, who argues the doubts of Montaigne; Julian the Apostate cross-questions Augustine; and Thomas-a-Kempis unrolls his old black letters for all to decipher. Zeno murmurs maxims beneath the hoarse shouts of Democritus; and though Democritus laugh loud and long, and the sneer of Pyrrho be seen, yet, divine Plato, and Proclus, and Verulam are of my counsel; and Zoroaster whispered me before I was born. I walk a world that is mine; and enter many nations, as Mungo Park rested in African cots. I am served like Bajazet: Bacchus my butler, Virgil my minstrel, Philip Sidney my page. My memory is a life beyond birth; my memory, my library of the Vatican, its alcoves all endless perspectives, eve-tinted by cross-lights from Middle-Age oriels.... --Herman Melville - Mardi

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Stockbridge correspondent "Jeannie Deans" on Berkshire in 1855

Glendale via RootsWeb -
A native "westerner," formerly of Galena, the poet and journalist who signed herself "Jeannie Deans" after the heroine of Scott's The Heart of Midlothian (but not Jane Grey Swisshelm, the better known "Jeannie Deans") was a regular correspondent of the St. Paul Minnesotian in the early to mid 1850's. In the summer of 1853, "Jeannie Deans" visited Baltimore and Norfolk, Virginia. In August of that year she wrote about socializing with G. P. R. James in Nags Head, North Carolina (Weekly Minnesotian, September 24, 1853). In 1854 the Minnesota editor politely declined to reveal the identity of his gifted correspondent:
We have been asked a thousand times, "who is Jeannie Deans?" That question we are not at liberty to answer as yet. We can only say, although now residing in Massachusetts, she is a lady identified with the West from infancy, and with the North-West since the first settlement of northern Illinois. Galena particularly should be proud to claim one who has it within her power to assume a position in literary circles alongside of "Grace Greenwood," Miss Cummings, or any other famous names among our younger lady authoresses. --St. Paul Weekly Minnesotian, June 17, 1854
By that time "Jeannie Deans" had moved to Stockbridge. In the summer of 1855 she would move again, to New Jersey. Transcribed below, her piece "For the Minnesotian" dated March 26, 1855 features the obligatory reference to Berkshire resident Herman Melville and his "charming Typee." However, this particular selection of "Village Sketches" by "Jeannie Deans" seems more interesting and important for her contemporary description of the Glendale Woolen Mills.

From the St Paul Daily Minnesotian, April 13, 1855; reprinted in the Weekly Minnesotian, April 14, 1855.

[For the Minnesotian]

Village Sketches.

Our village is like any other village. It has the same broad street, swept clean just now, by the old woman March, who has come down from the sky, and clashes the branches of old trees together into a rude timbrel music. Well, to retrace our steps, return to our street. On each side of it are ancient elms, turf and white fences, with here and there beautiful cottages nestling like birds, closing their wings around the house tree. Cottagesornee and gabled, in every variety of architectureporches, bay-windows and verandah "all around the house." We have one Doctor, ditto Shoemaker, the Store, a Blacksmith, Carpenters, Cows, Horses, fowl and flesh. A poor-house, crazy man, two superannuated colored people, a gossip and a bad boy. But it is unlike any other little place in its wealth of intellect, high orders of mindrefinement, cultivation and accomplishment. The air is filled with inspiration. Where congregates more genius than in Berkshire? Is not Monument Mountain a granite column to Bryant, that no time shall effect, but stand his soul-marks through eternity? Is not every tree, rock and stream, around her native place crowned with the ever living wreath of fame by the talented Authoress of Berkshire?
Near us are Dr. Griswold, Herman Melville, the author of charming Typee, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and in the summer, Henry Ward Beecher and others. We catch glimpses of these shining lights sometimes. Shakespeare must have had a prophetic one, when he said,
"How far that little candle throws his beams."
Now-a-days we see all the great minds face to face, thanks to Photography and Railroads.

Aproprosthe latter brings to mind a ride of last week. Seven ladies and one gentleman took the eleven o'clock train for Glendale, a beautiful place two miles distant; beautiful as its name; but doomed to bloom unseen, for utility had turned it into that destroyer of beauty, a manufacturing town. Its rippling stream was damned. Its finest rocks became a gas fixture, and its trees fell in its defence. We were going to the Glendale Mills, "Woolen Factory," (as the card expressed it,) to see all that was to be seen. And we didfrom the commencementthe great furnace, with its red jaws, glowing and flaming, setting all the machinery in motion, to the spinning room, next the roof. 
"Here are the dyeing rooms;" a general smell of bark, a huge vat of boiling indigo, two gloomy phantoms looming up in the mist, "true blues," rolling up cloth on windlasses from the tubs beneath. A peculiar, cloudy, damp feeling, a dyeing sensation prevailed.

"Oh! the ladies' bonnets, the ladies' bonnets," screamed the foreman. "Mr. G., they will all dye!"

A concert scream and a rush followed. I am sorry for the sake of mankind to add, that the one gentleman was just as much afraid of dyeing as the ladies, and his new hat gave him courage to precede us in the melee. We who wore black bonnets and hoods returned, those whose new felts and velvets vanity had prompted to wear, stood
"Like Tantalus without the pale."
The finishing room was filled with roll upon roll of shining cloths of every hue, "grey, black and brown." The carding was new to all of us; each machine keeps one man busy. One little boy, scarcely fourteen years of age, had the care of one.

The spinning room at the top of the building employed but five men. One of these attracted our attention and interested us. His years numbered more than fifty; his clothes were poor and threadbare, but scrupulously clean; his face wore a resigned, melancholy look. Mr. G. told us that he had been absent from that mill but three days in the last eighteen years. Regular as clock-work he entered the door and walked fourteen hours daily in the winter, behind that machine. Think of it. What a tread mill life. Day after day to stand in the same room, on the same boards, rolling that pile of springing machinery. What is winter, summer, year in, year out, to him? Is it any wonder that he has grown mechanical, subdued, with a vacant, thoughtful face, chained to a rock by poverty. I felt as though he must fly. I wondered he did not open the window and dash out, down four stories; "anywhere, anywhere, out of the world." 
The weaving room was airy and spacious, the floor white, for the girls "holy-stone" it. Pillars through the center of the room and many windows. The whirr and clash of the shuttles was deafening. Here we had more interest. This was the woman's department. One had the charge of the looms, and it was quite enough to keep them busytaking out empty bobbins and replacing them with filled ones; tying weaver's knots and heading pieces. One little girl of twelve years was commencing the web of her life. Her looms wove and wove and the little hands flew from one to another without cessation. Her cheeks had an unnatural glow; want of air and exercise were weaving the warp of disease through the woof of nature.

Each factory girl had her window, filled with green plants, prayer books, looking glasses, bits of colored papers, and treasures that looking at helped to cheer them. Here was a casement void of green, a little red shoe and a half made apron and sewing implements filled the seat. The owner of these looms was a tall, slender woman, transparently white, hollow-eyed and negligently dressed. She seemed exhausted and harrassed. She dropped into a chair after feeding, as though she could stand no longer. I imagined her thinking of a little one at home; perhaps it was sick, or would not receive attention. Her face haunted me all day.

In contrast to her, the next looms were under the care of a bright, rosy Irish girl, neat and tidysinging at her task, as pretty and healthy a specimen of the country girl as I have seen. Two roses were in full bloom in her window, and a vine with a small yellow blossom twining the pillar in the sunshine.

The shears and napping were inspected and then we went to the store while the gentlemen went to dinner; officiated and rummaged the drawers, dined on crackers, raisins, confections and cinnamon. Were obliged to wait two hours for the cars at the depot, some of the party took high seats on the desk for want of chairs, others played "Tee-to-tum." Several poetical discussions took place, with a general dissention of mind. Did any two ever agree entirely on Religion or Medicine, on Poetry or Philosophy? The boys who had been playing base around the station, called vociferously, "the cars; the cars." Imagine the sensation we created in the cars. I heard a gentleman whisper that we must have been to a woman's convention. I wonder if we looked strong-minded, or which he took for the Rev., the Dr. or the Lawyer.

Stockbridge, March 26, 1855
St. Paul Daily Minnesotian - April 13, 1855

Lines Written on Reading a Celebrated Infidel Book

The reprinting of this pseudonymous poem (taking "Melville" as a nom de plume) in the Boston Recorder enables me to improve my earlier transcription with the correct reading "stoic sage" in the third line of the first stanza. Whoever wrote it, the speaker's bout with unbelief presents the quintessential Melvillean quandary. The figure of the stoic as a model of cold philosophical comfort adds a favorite device of Melville's to the familiar theme. The stoic figure seems all the more Melvillean when contrasted, as here in these 1838 "Lines," with the consoling promise of heaven. In Melville's religious epic Clarel (1876), the Anglican priest Derwent will invoke "The Stoic" to argue the same point in dialogue with the divinity student Clarel:
What if some camp on crags austere
The Stoic held ere Gospel cheer ?
There may the common herd abide,
Having dreamed of heaven? Nay, and can you?
--Herman Melville, Clarel 3.21 - In Confidence
First published in the Christian Watchman on March 2, 1838, the poetic "Lines" signed "Melville" were reprinted in the Boston Recorder for March 9, 1838. "Melville" also contributed the six-part essay on Missions to the Western Indians that appeared in the Christian Watchman between November 10, 1837 and July 13, 1838.

For the Watchman. 

Well, be it thus;— renounce the page
   Which tells of brighter worlds on high;
Then rest content, as stoic sage,
   In gloomy doubt, to grope and die.
Shut out the light which shines from heaven;
   To boastful creed of reason keep;
Say brutish life to men is given,
   And death is but eternal sleep.

But leave thy neighbor’s spirit free,
   Nor, with rash hand, the hope destroy,—
Blest hope of immortality,
   Which all dilates the heart with joy;
Nor wake the peaceful dreamer thou,
   The bitter dregs of life to taste:
If vain the hopes which bind us now,
   O, let the sweet delusion last! 
If life a false speck can be shown,
   The ocean of eternity
Up from its heaving depth has thrown;
   If hapless man may never see
Aught when this anxious being dies,
   But sink to nothingness again,
As on the earth he shuts his eyes,
   O, let him wish and hope till then!

Go to the mother, as she gives
   Her first-born to the arms of death;—
How sinks her heart, which anguish rives
   Its chords to mark the final breath!
And wilt thou soothe her frenzied thought,
   With words of cold philosophy;
Or say the infant soul is nought,
   As her’s, anon, shall surely be?

Away, away, a voice within
   Gives thy vain sophistry the lie;
It pleads for that which is,—hath been,—
   And, all divine, can never die.
Hope, reason, Scripture,—all proclaim,
   To virtue’s ear, a nobler rest:
‘Tis writ, in characters of flame,
   On ev’ry heart, in ev’ry breast.

The holy light of day; the sun,
   Bright image of the Lord Supreme;
The clouds, the viewless wind; in one,
   All things which vast or lovely seem;
The hoary earth, the deep blue sea,
   Each with ecstatic life replete;
The thin, free air, o'er land and sea,
   Where nature’s subtler wonders meet;—
The sombre majesty of night,
   As o’er the pensive mind it steals;
The calm, bright moon, whose silver light
   In vain the fleecy cloud conceals;
The stars, so eloquent, which seem
   Of silent consciousness possest,
Which active fancy well might deem
   Kind heralds of the heavenly rest. 
Speak to the soul, and wake its glow,
   While the far-vault of heaven on high
Wide echoes to the deep below
   Its soft and sacred minstrelsy.
All mind, the universe, where’er
   A thought has ranged, or science trod,
With voice united, all declare
   A Spirit, and that Spirit’s God.     

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Moby-Dick in the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser

Found on

Much but not all of the Buffalo review is borrowed from the review of Moby-Dick in the New York Commercial Advertiser on November 28, 1851. The earlier review in the New York Commercial Advertiser is reprinted on page 388 in Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews, ed. Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker (Cambridge University Press, 1995).

From the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, December 3, 1851:

New Publications.


This is an extraordinary book, neither good, nor wholly badas was said of Rob Roy, it is "o'er bad for blessing, and o'er good for banning." We have never partaken of the intense admiration excited in many quarters by the productions of MELVILLE. At the same time we cheerfully accord to him unusual merits of a certain kind. He has fine descriptive powers, when applied to natural scenery and stirring events; but in the delineation of character, he utterly fails. There is not a being of this earth in the book before us. If any such creatures exist, they are to be found on some other planet. But in the course of his wild, incoherent, and impossible story, we presume he has let us into all the realities of the whale-fishery, more minutely and with greater fidelity than has ever before been done by any author, living or dead. We think the moral effect of all his writings is decidedly pernicious. There is a vein of sneering sarcasm, directed against all things which we are taught to reverence, running through his work like the rogue's yarn through the rigging of the British navy. In Moby Dick, he makes his hero, "a good Christianborn and bred in the bosom of the infallible Presbyterian Church," unite with a Polynesian in worshipping and offering incense to an idol, and in this connection virtually questions the authenticity of the first commandment. The book is a strange jumble of "fact, fiction and philosophy, composed in a style which combines the peculiarities of CARLYLE, MARRYATT and LAMB. Moby Dick is an old white whale, of extraordinary magnitude and malignity, and he escapes with impunity from so many attacks, that the superstitious whalemen believe him to be a sort of supernatural creature. Capt. AHAB, in one of these attacks, is struck by the monster's tail, and loses a leg. Thus maimed, he devotes his life to revenge, and pursues Moby Dick through divers seas, making frequent assaults upon him, but always without success. In the last encounter, the infuriated whale rushes headlong against the Pequod, the ship in which Capt. AHAB sails, and all the crew perish, except one ISHMAEL, who survives to tell the story."

Sold by GEO. H. DERBY & CO.

Moby-Dick in Pittsburgh

Godey's Lady's Book, Graham's and Sartain's Magazines for December are all illustrated with an extra number of fine plates. They are for sale at Holmes' Literary Depot, Third street, opposite the Post Office. Also, Moby Dick, or the Whale, a sea tale by Herman Melville, Esq., author of "Typee," "Omoo," "Redburn," "White Jacket," etc. Persons who have read the author's former works should read Moby Dick, as it is equal to any of them.  --Pittsburgh Daily Post, November 18, 1851

Friday, June 9, 2017

Charles Rockwell on "that precocious chap Melville"

Navy chaplain and Congregational minister Charles Rockwell mentioned Herman Melville in the fourth and final installment of "Western Travel," a series of newspaper sketches published in the Boston Recorder in July and August 1846. Rockwell was the author of the two-volume work, Sketches of Foreign Travel, and Life at Sea (Boston, 1842). Volume 2 ends with two long chapters on the Navy of the United States, conveying a chaplain's perspective with a good deal of first-hand information about life on board a man-of-war. Charles Rockwell co-dedicated Sketches of Foreign Travel, and Life at Sea to Ralph Emerson and his cousin and Yale classmate Julius Rockwell (who was later a good friend to Herman Melville, in Pittsfield).

Charles Rockwell's "Western Travel" series ran in the Boston Recorder as follows:
  • No. I. - Boston Recorder, July 9, 1846
  • No. II - Boston Recorder, July 16, 1846
  • No. III - Boston Recorder, July 23, 1846
  • No. IV - Boston Recorder, August 6, 1846
From the Boston Recorder, August 6, 1846, under the heading "Western Travel.--No. IV":
In returning from Michigan, I left Detroit in the steamer Rochester. It was one of the old, slow class of high pressure boats, with its breathing pipe thorough which it was constantly wheezing and gasping as it went along, like a horse with the asthma, or an overstuffed alderman. The captain was a Nantucket man, who preferred a steamer on the Lakes, to a three masted Blubber Hunter around Cape Horn. Another of these Nantucket captains was with us when on our way to Michigan. He is now a farmer at Ann Arbor, in that State. His past life has been a very eventful one in the way of shipwrecks, imprisonment, &c., and he had twice amputated limbs of those who sailed with him with perfect success. After listening to the tale of his adventures at sea, and as a dweller in distant lands and a consular agent of our government at the Sandwich Islands, I said to him, "Captain, why don't you publish an account of your life?" "I would" said he, "if I could write as well as you can." "Well," I replied, "if you will furnish me the materials, I will write your life and we will divide the profits." "Agreed," said he, and so in due time the public may hope to be entertained with the life and adventures of Capt. T., by the author of Foreign Travel and Life at Sea, in which Robinson Crusoe will live again, and that precocious chap Melville, author of Typee, will receive his deserts, as Capt. T. was familiar with him, his movements and character when he was in the Pacific.
It would be nice to identify the ex-whaleman who according to Rockwell knew, or knew of Herman Melville in the Pacific--not so very long ago, as Rockwell is writing this in 1846. Let's see... some other native of Nantucket, not the captain of the steamer Rochester, but a different Nantucket whaleman. Formerly "a consular agent of our government at the Sandwich Islands," and "now a farmer at Ann Arbor." Who is "Capt. T."?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

MELVILLE on William Bebb's 1846 campaign rally in Akron, Ohio

First published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on June 15, 1846 and transcribed below, this juicy critique of a Whig rally for gubernatorial candidate William Bebb in Akron, Ohio takes the form of a letter to editor Joseph W. Gray signed "Melville." Bebb won the election and would serve one term as Ohio's 19th governor. The partisan report from "Melville" is dated June 13, 1846 and gives the place of writing as Western Reserve College in Hudson, Ohio. 

Herman Melville wrote his Uncle Peter Gansevoort from Lansingburgh the same day, June 13, 1846, on which the Ohio letter is dated. I don't know how he could have been in two places nearly five hundred miles apart at once, but this "Melville" who writes of deluded Millerites, Bob Acre's valor, a dancing elephant, Aesop's Ass, a notably "stretchy" conscience, and "grandiloquent presages" sounds, well, remarkably like Herman Melville.

For instance, Ohio Melville compares attempts at humor by Thomas Ewing to "an elephant essaying the dance of a harlequin." Herman Melville made a very similar comparison in an erased annotation to Book 6 of Milton's Paradise Lost. As reported in the June 2015 Leviathan by Peter Norberg and Steven Olsen-Smith in consultation with Dennis Marnon, Melville wrote:
"These two brigades [of] artillerymen, in their heavy maneuvers, suggest the idea of a couple of Siam elephants essaying to dance the Polka."  --Newly Recovered Erased Annotations in Melville's Marginalia to Milton's Poetical Works
Both Melvilles use the dancing elephant as an image of incongruity, and both use the word essaying. At Melville's Marginalia Online you can see Melville's recovered annotation (via the enhanced image feature), and all the other markings in Melville's two-volume set of The Poetical Works of John Milton.

Hudson, Ohio Melville writes of the dull Whig meeting that:
"A general indifference and coldness seemed to pervade all"
while Herman Melville had just written to Gansevoort (deceased) that
"A military arder pervades all ranks."  --Correspondence, ed. Lynn Horth - page 40
At the Akron rally Bebb "manfully stood his ground" in a downpour, while his auditors were rapidly "dispersing." In a scene yet to be written from Herman Melville's next book, Omoo, the drunken first mate Jermin "stood his ground manfully" against murderous sailors until "they dispersed."

In Lansingburgh, Herman Melville was dealing with the sudden loss of his older brother Gansevoort Melville, who had died on May 12, 1846 in London. On behalf of the grieving family, Herman had the duty of writing James Buchanan (Secretary of State), William L. Marcy (Secretary of War), and even President Polk himself for the necessary financial support to settle Gansevoort's affairs and bring home his body. Hershel Parker gives a full account of Gansevoort's death and the impact on Herman in the first volume of Herman Melville: A Biography (see especially pages 424-5).

The Whig rally for William Bebb that Ohio "Melville" describes took place in Akron on Friday, June 12, 1846. Did Herman Melville ever visit anybody at Western Reserve College, now Case Western Reserve University, in Hudson, Ohio? By any chance, could Herman Melville actually have been in Akron, Ohio with a "companion" on June 12, 1846? Or, how about Allan Melville? Where was he?

Update 6/10/2017: Paying more attention to the heading, the likeliest Melville might be found in the roll of students at Case Western College. Among 1847 graduates listed in A Register of the Graduates of Western Reserve College is one Luther Melville Oviatt.

At the 1846 graduation exercises, Luther Melville Oviatt spoke on "The Literature of the Day." At his own graduation ceremony the next summer (August 1847), Luther Melville Oviatt gave the Valedictory Address, with an oration titled "The Progress of Human Rights." Soon thereafter he was hired as a schoolteacher. By 1850 he was Principal of Prospect St. school in Cleveland. In 1869, Luther M. Oviatt would become the first librarian of the Public School Library, later the Cleveland Public Library.
Luther Melville Oviatt (1821-1889)
via Cleveland Metropolitan School District
The Hudson correspondent appears to have been in Ohio for some weeks, long enough to have seen "grandiloquent" advance notices of the Akron stop by William Bebb: 
"More than two weeks ago, huge placards, flaunting in all the magnificence of letters six inches long or less, announced, in grandiloquent language, preparations for a Mass Meeting, at Akron, of the citizens of Summit county...."
The letter from "Melville" (Luther Melville Oviatt, probably) on the Whig rally in Akron first appeared in the June 15, 1846 issue of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Democratic newspaper founded and edited by Joseph William Gray. Melville's letter to the editor "Mr. Gray" was reprinted in the Weekly Plain Dealer on June 17, 1846.

Cleveland Plain Dealer - June 15, 1846
found in the Archives of Historical Newspapers at

Whig "Mass Meeting" at Akron. 

SUMMIT CO., June 13, 1846.
MR. GRAY:— Perhaps some random notes from this benighted region of Whiggery may not be wholly devoid of interest, amid the more exciting topic of Mexican campaigning. This seems a sore subject for the Whigs to meddle with, since, with the experience of the Past before them, they feel assured that, should they openly condemn the prosecution of a war forced upon us by Mexican bravado and arrogance, the indignation of the people would descend with crushing weight upon their heads, and annihilate their hopes of prospective power.

More than two weeks ago, huge placards, flaunting in all the magnificence of letters six inches long or less, announced, in grandiloquent language, preparations for a Mass Meeting, at Akron, of the citizens of Summit county, at which individuals of no less importance that "Solitude" EWING, of scrip memory, WILLIAM BEBB, Coon candidate for Governor, and other "distinguished speakers," not of sufficient importance to merit naming beside Ewing and Bebb, were expected to be present. Strenuous efforts were made by leading Whigs in the various townships in the county to induce a general attendance, in order, I imagine, that the imposing array, the "pomp and circumstance," might infuse foreboding terror into the hearts of the "Locos." Well, the day arrived; the air was kind and genial; and there was naught, save lack of inclination, to prevent a general attendance of the "mass" of Whigs of Summit. Ewing was programmed to appear in the performance at 10 o'clock A. M.; but, at that time, none of the Stumpers had appeared, and a number of zealous Coons set out to usher them en route from Massillon. Their advent seemed an object of as much anxiety to some, who feared lest the projected fandango should result in a failure, as did that of a mightier personage to the Millerites of the same place but a short time since. However, to their great relief, the cavalcade at last appeared. I did not see it when it arrived, or I should give you a description of its appearance. I, credulous "Loco," had imagined there would be at least some slight demonstrationa roar from a 6 pounder, or at least a shout to hail the advent of men whom I had supposed they "delighted to honor," as erst in the days of '40. But no! their enthusiasm had, like Bob Acre's valor, oozed out of their fingers' ends; and if there was any token of exultation at their arrival, it never reached my ears. It was far more like a funeral procession, I must imagine, than anything else, for I came into the main street of Akron, and seeing it full of men intent upon their several occupations, I supposed that Ewing, Bebb, & Co., had not yet arrived; but seeing certain stragglers wending their lonely way to the east, myself and my companion followed, and after a walk of half a mile came upon the "stumping" ground. I first caught sight of Seabury Ford elevated upon a stand four feet high, making strange gestures and stranger remarks and explanations upon the Tax Law. It was a hard subject for him; he endeavored to deal in sophisms in illustrating the manner in which Farmers and Bankers were taxed, but not being skillful in metaphysical reasoning, involved himself in absurdities; and finally, with an expression of face that might be interpreted into "this is a nut that the Devil may crack," vacated the stand, when the meeting was adjourned till half past one, when it was announced that Thos. Ewing would hold forth. There were not on the ground more than three hundred, all told. A general indifference and coldness seemed to pervade all. 
At the appointed time, "Solitude" took the stand. He is rather unprepossessing in appearance, owing to his small, half closed eyes, bald on the top of his head, with a face somewhat full. His subject was "The Tariff." Worn out and frittered into rags by the spouting of magniloquent Whig orators and the labored essays of Greely and the mimic tribe who howl in unison when their master gives the token, it receives no new light from the dull, prosy speech of Ewing. He endeavored to raise a laugh from the crowd at some of his miserable witticisms, but his efforts were a burlesque on the ludicrous—about as easy as an elephant essaying the dance of a harlequin, or as the Ass, in Aesop, imitating the sportive antics of the kitten. His mind dwells on the past. He is emphatically one of the "Old Hunkers" of the Whig party—one who has fed at the public crib when Whiggery was in the ascendant, till he fancies that he has a right, like the daughters of the Horse Leech, to cry continually, "give, give." He flatters himself that the country cannot dispense with his services—that he shall yet be invested with power. Yet, while the voice of the Revolutionary patriots, of the widows and orphans who suffered by his unholy chicanery in the scrip speculations cry out against him, I trust that we shall never see him elevated to dignities he is unworthy to obtain. He spoke two hours or more, and to my mind performed marvelously in the form of the "disappointed politician." 
Bebb next took the stand, and to my utter amazement at his versatility, in five minutes launched headlong into a dozen different themes, hitting at random, both in remark and gesture, upon every thing,Texas, Mexico, Presidential measures, alleged duplicity in the Administration, defeat of the people's will in the Baltimore Convention, coalition between Polk and Southern members, Ohio Tax Law, etc etc. His manner struck me as that of a fawning politician, who will "crook the pliant hinges of the knee, that thrift may follow fawning." I saw him at a private house, subsequent to the "speechifying," bowing, scraping and curvetting to those introduced in rather an undignified manner. He had not spoken more than ten minutes, when a shower came up and instantly there was hurry, confusion, and dispersing. Bebb, however, manfully stood his ground, resolved to "say his say" though waterspouts descended.

The rain, however, was not very severe, and a portion remained for about three-quarters of an hour, when they adjourned, most of them "pretty considerably soaked." Auditor Wood was on the platform, but if he had desired it, had no opportunity to evince his talent for "stumping." The whole number of auditors could not, I think, by any stretch of the imagination, exceed 800. My own opinion is that it was less than that number. Whigs, with consciences like india rubber, actually declare there were two thousand on the ground! But no man, without a particle of prejudice, could estimate the number, including all who lounged about the cake and beer stands, 250 higher than I have done. About 150 ladies were present, a part of whom, with a perseverance worthy of all credit had it been otherwise directed, remained till the close and with dripping bonnets and soiled dresses wended their cheerless route homewards. I myself did not hear Bebb through, as to me the rain was at variance with comfort, but went to the village and noted the comers-in, whose doleful countenances attested the penance they had undergone in endeavoring by their presence to prop a sinking cause.

Thus ended this day ushered in with such grandiloquent presages, whose result was mortification and disappointment to Summit County Whiggery. As for the Democrats, they merely laughed in their sleeves at the paltry subterfuges to which the Whigs resort to "keep up appearances." The Democracy of Summit are firm, and though outnumbered by the deluded votaries of Alfred Kelley humbuggery, will present an unyielding front to the enemy; and, though defeated, shrink not, but "push on the column," till, like the gallant Perry, they can shout—"We have met the enemy, and they are ours!" Fear not for the Democracy of Summit.
Sincerely yours, MELVILLE.

Re-printings of 1853 Pittsfield news that "Herman Melville has gone to New York to superintend the issue of a new work."

As Gary Scharnhorst reported in Melville Society Extracts 75 (November 1988), news of Melville's working trip to New York in June 1853 originally appeared in the Springfield Republican on June 11, 1853. Melville's "new work" sounds like a book, probably the one his mother had said (in a letter to her brother Peter Gansevoort on April 20, 1853) was nearly ready for the press. Later the same year, in November 1853, Herman alluded to his having been "prevented from printing" it in New York. The only work in progress we know about for sure is the Agatha project, which Hershel Parker logically relates to the working title "Isle of the Cross," mentioned twice in family letters from Herman Melville's cousin Priscilla to his sister Augusta.

I have a different view, admittedly conjectural and based on just nothing in the way of satisfying documentary evidence. Inspired by what strikes me as unusually strong internal evidence, I've long been holding out for a project of re-writing by Melville called "Fragments of Military Life," the working title of the book that Philip St. George Cooke eventually published as Scenes and Adventures in the Army. Both parts of Scenes and Adventures were previously published in the Southern Literary Messenger, and the 1851-3 series Scenes Beyond the Western Border which became Part II would be concluded in the August 1853 issue. Hypothetically, the job of "superintending" that project would have meant providing Harper & Brothers with printed copies of the magazine installments, much in the same way that, a few years later, Melville did publish the book version of Israel Potter. Either the Harpers' lawyers or then Lt. Colonel Cooke himself might have "prevented" Melville from publishing a ghost-written or ghost-edited narrative of western travel that did not properly credit the well-known, highly regarded cavalry officer whose journals supplied most of the raw material.

Well, that Christmas business chastened me all over again. It's always been hard to voyage chartless, with no external evidence anywhere in the historical record linking Melville and the wandering dragoon, Philip St George Cooke. The revived claim for Henry Livingston's authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" perfectly exemplifies how wrong one can go without reliable facts.

For the record, here is the original notice that Scharnhorst found in the Springfield Republican, June 11, 1853. Images of this and the following items are available in the online archives of Historical Newspapers at Genealogy Bank.
Springfield Republican / June 11, 1853
"Herman Melville has gone to New York to superintend the issue of a new work."
Four days later the Pittsfield news was reprinted verbatim in the Boston Weekly Messenger (June 15, 1853):

Boston Weekly Messenger / June 15, 1853
The Franklin Democrat [Greenfield, Massachusetts], June 20, 1853 reprinted the same Melville item under the head of "LOCAL INTELLIGENCE. / BERKSHIRE COUNTY.":
"Herman Melville has gone to New York to superintend the issue of a new work."
In early July the news from Pittsfield about Melville's trip to New York showed up in the Boston Flag of our Union (July 2, 1853) under the heading, "Editorial Inkdrops":

Boston Flag of our Union / July 2, 1853

First installment of Scenes Beyond the Western Border
Southern Literary Messenger - June 1851

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