Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Arthur Cleveland Coxe on Clement C. Moore

Arthur Cleveland Coxe
Arthur Cleveland Coxe via Wikimedia Commons
In the first of a planned series of articles (uncompleted?) for The Churchman titled "Anecdotes of a Century in the American Church," the Rt. Rev. A. Cleveland Coxe (1818-1896), Bishop of Western New York, honored his former seminary teacher Clement C. Moore as
"one of the most accomplished laymen I have ever known."
From The Churchman - July 13, 1895:
Chelsea, where now stands the seminary, was a beautiful estate, as even I recall it; for there, while yet a little boy, I played with the grandsons of Bishop Moore. A grand old colonial dwelling was the bishop's house; venerable trees adorned the park-like gateway, and its garden extended to the river, on the other side. A home of saintly virtues it was under the venerable prelate who owned it; and not less so when his son succeeded him in the inheritance. Learning, poetry and taste, were also the endowments of this son, Clement Moore, one of the most accomplished laymen I have ever known, and of whom I may have more to say in due time. This delightful old homestead was the scene of his fanciful description of Christmas Eve, and the visit of St. Nicholas.
Bishop Coxe's poetical depiction of his father's Manhattan at the turn of the century, and his own reminiscences from the 1820's, will interest fans of Herman Melville, Coxe's contemporary and fellow poet as well as fellow New Yorker.

In Hawthorne studies, Coxe is famous for "hysterically" denouncing The Scarlet Letter in the January 1851 number of The Church Review and Ecclesiastical Register. Nevertheless, in "The Writings of Hawthorne" Coxe's indictment of book reviewing in 1851 is in much the same vein as Melville's satire, late in Pierre (1852), of the puffing system of book promotion.

Anticipating the author of Pierre in the chapter on Young America in Literature, Coxe regarded most contemporary literary journals as "repositories of sophomorical eulogy, or ribaldry, upon literary toys and trifles."

And, Coxe's idea that Hawthorne (like every "Bay School" transcendentalist) could use more "roast beef" in his diet was echoed by Melville, in a letter to Evert A. Duyckinck. Coxe longed to invite Hawthorne
"to a bit of roast beef and a bottle of brown stout, in a plain, family way, with a benevolent idea of invigorating his constitution in time to prevent the process of evaporative dissolution."

That was in January 1851. The next month, Melville wrote of Hawthorne:

"He does'nt patronise the butcher--he needs roast-beef, done rare."
--Letter to Evert A. Duyckinck, 12 February 1851; Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Melville's Correspondence - page 181.
In the same letter, Melville's view that "Irving is a grasshopper" compared with Hawthorne reverses the judgment of Coxe in "The Writings of Hawthorne" that "Irving is the better artist."

Along with Arthur Cleveland Coxe, Frank Luther Mott names Clement C. Moore as one of the "leading contributors of literary criticism" to the Church Review. That association invites further study. No pieces of literary criticism later than Moore's 1806 introduction to A New Translation with Notes of the Third Satire of Juvenal are listed in "Appendix A, Writings of Clement Clarke Moore" in Samuel W. Patterson's biography, The Poet of Christmas Eve.


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