Sunday, December 31, 2017

Santa Claus comes on New Year's Eve

Howitt's Journal of Literature and Popular Progress - January 1, 1848
The picture above shows what Santa Claus will look like tonight, around midnight. Santa Claus comes on New Year's Eve, as explained in the 1848 article in Howitt's Journal that accompanies the illustration of Santa Claus "sitting before the empty fire-place of an American house."
In Germany, the servants of tradesmen come for New-Year's gifts, as they do for Christmas-boxes with us; and your baker sends you a large cake, like a couple of great serpents wreathed into two connected circles, perhaps originally intended to represent the old year and the new. 
The Dutch, a kindred nation, carried over their national custom to America; but singular enough, one of the chief features of their New Year's-Eve is the arrival of Santa Claus, with gifts for the children, and whose figure as represented by an American artist, and which has been handed to us by an indefatigable American friend we present to our readers at the head of this article.
Howitt's Journal gives Santa a good, practical excuse for not showing up in the U. S. until New Year's. He's been working hard all month and only made it to northern Europe a couple of weeks before Christmas:
Santa Claus is no other than the Pelz Nickel of Germany and the North; he is in fact, the good Saint Nicholas of Russia, the patron-saint of children; he arrives in Germany about a fortnight before Christmas, but as may be supposed from all the visits he has to pay there, and the length of his voyage, he does not arrive in America, until this eve. Here he is, sitting before the empty fire-place of an American house, with his foot on the old fashioned dog, a little after midnight, all the family having retired to bed to be out of his way, and having hung up the stockings that he may fill them with gifts. Here he sits, smoking his pipe, and delighting himself with the thought of what he shall leave for the children, and of the delight and surprise in the morning.  --"New Year's Eve in Different Nations" in Howitt's Journal Volume 3
More testimony for the expected arrival of Santa Claus on New Year's night may be found in the "Address of the Carrier" on New Year's Day 1819, as published in the Weekly Visitor, and Ladies' Museum (January 9, 1819):
While young and old so gay and pleasant
Exchange their New Year's wish and present;
While children round their parents press
With clamor,—anxious to possess
The Stocking, hoped with riches fraught;
Which good Old Santaclaus has brought;
Who yearly down the chimney comes
With Rods and Toys and Sugar-Plums,
And leaves for naughty girls and boys
The whips—but for the good, the toys—
--1819 Carrier's Address
To be clear, New Yorkers in the 19th century might expect Santa Claus at Christmas, or New Year's, or both. As a letter signed "Jeptha" in the New York American explained,
"he sometimes comes on New-Year's night to dispose of the refuse of his Christmas luggage."  --New-York American for the Country, January 3, 1824.
"A Visit from St. Nicholas" had only just appeared, anonymously, in the Troy Sentinel (December 23, 1823), so the 1824 description of Santa's physical appearance by "Jeptha" offers a nice, detailed view of what Santa looked like before the influence of Moore's "Visit." A similar conception may have influenced the artist Robert Weir, whose 1837 "Santa Claus, or St Nicholas" in part resembles the "little short hump-backed man" depicted in 1824 by "Jeptha":
"... this Saint Nicolas, for that is his proper name, he is the tutelary saint of this city, and chiefly favours the rising generation, to whom, on every Christmas eve, he brings various presents, adapted to the age or capacity of the receiver—he is a little short hump-backed man, with sharp grey eyes buried beneath ponderous black brows, which curve forward to join the sides of a long crooked hawk-bill nose, which overhangs a toothless trench beneath, that serves him for a mouth, though the beaked chin curves up so near the end of the nose, that it is difficult to conceive of any thing passing between without being impaled on the one or the other; his head is immensely large, and sets like a huge extinguisher upon his small body beneath, whose form is concealed by an immense wrapper coat filled with pockets, each stuffed to its limits with cake, almonds, raisins, toys, &c.; his feet are armed with a pair of skates, indicating that he comes from Holland, and, thus accoutred, he skates up and down the nursery chimnies, leaving his largesses behind him in every direction, and there's not a grown person but recollects with pleasure, nor a child but anticipates with delight, the well stuffed stocking of Santa Claus."
Robert Walter Weir, Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas
1837 by Robert Walter Weir via Wikimedia Commons
Correspondence in Sedgwick Family Papers from the latter 1820's attests to the emerging custom, in western Massachusetts as well as New York, of receiving gifts from Santa on New Year's Day. As documented by Stephen Nissenbaum in The Battle for Christmas, Elizabeth E. Sedgwick wrote to her father William Ellery on January 12, 1828 that
Nothing could exceed the joy of the children on New Year's morning, when awakening with the first dawn of light, they jumped up eagerly to examine their stockings, which, certain of "Santa Claas" bounty, they had had suspended the evening before from the bed post--and which, according to their anticipations were full to overflowing." --quoted in The Battle for Christmas (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996), page 163.
As discussed in another post, one extant letter from Sophia Hawthorne to her daughter Una shows that even as late as 1852, children could rightfully expect presents from old St Nick on New Year's morning, after his annual visit on New Year's Eve.
"St Nicolas says he cannot put any of his presents into your funny long stocking, & so he asks me to write you a note & put it in, that you may not be disappointed; for he is a very kind old gentleman. So as it is the end of the old year, & in a few hours the new year will begin, I will say a few words of loving counsel...." --Sophia Hawthorne, letter to Una Hawthorne [1852] with a New Year's message from St. Nicholas. Accessible online courtesy of The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
In any event, by New Year's Eve 1832 the various traditions about when Santa Claus comes were pretty well mixed up, even (or rather, especially!) in New York City. Christmas or New Year's? Wait, how about St. Nicholas' Day, December 6th? On New Year's Eve a Philadelphia newspaper reprinted this item, without comment, from the New York Courier:

Poulson's American Daily Advertiser - December 31, 1832
via GenealogyBank
SANTA CLAUS.—A correspondent inquires of us under this signature "whether Santa Claus, with his stocking is not confined in his pretended visits to the eve of the new year and of course his introduction on Christmas eve inappropriate." Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas and his visitations always take place in Holland on Saint Nicholas' day, which falls we believe on the 6th December. How the day came to be celebrated here either at Christmas or on New Year's day we are unable to say.—
The last chapter in The Book of St Nicholas by James Kirke Paulding makes a fractured fairy tale out of "The Ride of Saint Nicholas on New Year's Eve."

In 1844, correspondent "L. P." of the Boston American Traveller described New Year's festivities in upstate New York. "L. P." especially loved the tradition of social visits as then still practiced in Waterford and urged Bostonians to adopt the "glorious" New York mode of celebrating the New Year:
"let us Yankees copy the glorious New Year's hospitality of the New Yorkers, in exchange for the compliment they have paid us in adopting our Thanksgiving."
Waterford, New York still expected presents from "old Santa Claus that honest house-breaker" on New Year's day.

Boston American Traveller - January 9, 1844
"A happy New Year! a happy New Year!" blessings on old Santa Claus that honest housebreaker, braying of penny trumpets and other boisterous mirth of the younger children (we are all children to-day) attests that the good Saint has not been remiss in his annual visits, now comes the display of stuffed stockings which have been duly hung up to receive the old fellow's favors and now you are fairly waked by the clamor, up you jump quickly for New Year's day dawns on no laggard, and you have the busiest day of your life before you." --"L. P." on New Year's Day in Waterford, New York; from the American Traveller [Boston, Massachusetts] January 9, 1844 via GenealogyBank.
Under the heading "New Year's Day," the holiday editorial in the New York Truth-Teller (December 28, 1839) affirms among other things the persistent belief that Santa comes on New Year's night:
"The children will of course have their stockings in the chimney nook, to receive the innumerable bounties of the generous "Santa-Claus" or St. Nicholas, in loading whose huge panniers many a confectionary and toy shop will be stuffed."

On January 2, 1841 The New York Mirror published an illustration titled ST. NICHOLAS, ON HIS NEW-YEAR'S EVE EXCURSION (AS INGHAM SAW HIM,) IN THE ACT OF DESCENDING A CHIMNEY." Printer and bookseller Daniel Fanshaw wrote the prose essay (signed "D. F.") that was featured along with the front-page picture by "Ingham."

New York Mirror - January 2, 1841
"... we prevailed upon our friend Ingham to give us a sketch of him, just as he saw him one bright, frosty, moonlight night, as he was returning home late from a party of friends. As we had not time for a copper or steel plate engraving, we got our young friend Roberts to do his prettiest on wood, that our subscribers might have an opportunity of becoming familiar with the good-natured countenance of our old patron, who, in these degenerate days, is very seldom seen among us New-Yorkers; and we feel that our friend Ingham has been a very highly favoured mortal in being permitted to see him whom we have so many years longed to get a peep at. St. Nicholas knows how often we have hung up our stockings by the fire, and hied off to bed on New-Year Eve a full hour earlier than usual, lest he might pass our house because we were not yet asleep, and we find our stockings empty in the morning in consequence of our being night spooks. He knows how often we have anxiously and fearfully peeped up the chimney to see if he was not yet there; and yet he has never deigned to show himself to us, but has allowed friend Ingham to have a full and deliberate view...."
"Ingham" by the way is Charles Cromwell Ingham (1796-1863) the Irish-American painter and a founder of the National Academy of Design. On another page in the same issue of the New York Mirror (January 2, 1841), editor George Pope Morris reprinted C. C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas," altering the first and last lines to make St. Nicholas arrive on New Year's night.

 'Twas the night before New-Year, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse....

Related post:

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

That ripe scholar and rare man

"The work is dedicated to that ripe scholar and rare man, C. C. Moore, LL.D."
--notice of Characters and Criticisms in The Church Review for July 1857.
Lorenzo Da Ponte co-dedicated his 1827 pamphlet History of Italian Language Literature in New York to English poet Thomas James Mathias and Clement C. Moore.

... ma volgendomi poscia all' altro mio Protettore, e sostenitore signor C. C. Moore, e presentandomisi agli occhi tutta la luce del sublimi suoi meriti personali, tutti i favori, le cortesie, e i benefizj da me per lo spazio di venti e più anni ricevuti non solo da lui, ma da tutta la sua onoratissima e varia famiglia; tutto quello che ha* fatto e che fa, per la gloria delle lettere italiane, di cui è sommo conoscitore, ed ammiratore; tutte le strade ch' egli cercò, di fare per me in Nova Jorca quello appunto che fece il signor Mathias in Inghilterra, mi credei ugualmente obbligato di fregiar del suo caro, ed onorevole nome le prime pagine della mia storia; che per evidenti ragioni gli apparteneva.
* Legga la prima parte del quarto volumetto delle mie memorie, chi desidera sapere più estesamente quello che ha fatto per me questo cortesissimo personaggio, quello che ha fatto e fa per l'estensione delle nostre lettere, e quanto grande è la mia gratitudine per lui e per tutti i rispettabili membri della sua famiglia. Non è perciò necessario ripeterlo, come non è necessario parlare delle rare sue qualità e come cittadino, e come padre, e come letterato, e come amico, qualità abbastanza note, abbastanza ammirate da tutti quelli che lo conosco. --Lorenzo Da Ponte on Clement C. Moore
The footnote refers readers to volume 4 of Da Ponte's Memoirs for details of the patronage extended by Moore and his family. Da Ponte did not need to elaborate the personal merits of his benefactor, since Moore's "rare qualities as a citizen, as a father, as a scholar, and as a friend" were already in 1827 "quite well known and sufficiently admired by all who know him."

Another volume dedicated to Clement C. Moore was Light in the Church: God's Word the Source of Divine Light by Moore's seminary colleague Samuel Hulbeart Turner.

Related posts:

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Melville on commentators

Illustrated London News - November 29, 1851
"Ye Gods! What a Commentator is this Ann Alexander whale. What he has to say is short & pithy & very much to the point. I wonder if my evil art has raised this monster."
--Herman Melville, Letter to Evert A. Duyckinck - November 1851; transcribed in Melville's Correspondence, ed. Lynn Horth (Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library, 1993) page 209.
Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library.
"1850-1851" The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "1850-1851" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1850 - 1851.

All this was accompanied by a running commentary of signs and gestures which it was impossible not to comprehend.

As he continued his harangue, however, Kory-Kory, in emulation of our more polished orators, began to launch out rather diffusely into other branches of his subject, enlarging probably upon the moral reflections it suggested; and proceeded in such a strain of unintelligible and stunning gibberish, that he actually gave me the headache for the rest of the day. --Typee, chapter 13 - Eloquence of Kory-Kory
OMOO (1847)
In Melville's first two books of South Sea adventure, humorous "commentary" and "comments" accompany or follow oratory. The context of commentary in Typee and Omoo is oral discourse, although in the example above from Typee, Kory-Kory employs "signs and gestures" as a physical "commentary" on his own speech or "harrangue." In both of these early works, Melville's narrator also reports spoken "comments" offered in reply to some formal or mock-formal speech by another person, a sailor or officer.
Many, and fierce, too, were the speeches delivered, and uproarious the comments of the sailors. --Omoo, chapter 20 - The Round Robin
Melville's whale-commentator makes his first appearance in Mardi, years before the Ann Alexander whale that Melville would identify both as "Commentator" and "Moby Dick himself." In chapter 104 (Wherein Babbalanja broaches a diabolical theory...) a "fiery fin-back whale" disrupts "that mad prince, Tribonnora," interrupting his aggressively fast and unfriendly sailing with "a high fountain of foam."

Tribonnora's sport interrupts Babbalanja in mid-sentence. What eventually enables Babbalanja to resume talking is the whale's dramatic intervention, succinctly described by Melville's narrator as "Comments" (on Tribonnora's mean speeding):
Comments over; "Babbalanja, you were going to quote," said Media. "Proceed."
--Mardi: And a Voyage Thither - volume 1, chapter 104.
Explicit invocations of commentators and commentary in Mardi (1849) occur in the second volume. Here Melville associates "commentary" with writing as well as talking. Two usages deal with reception of the supposed philosophical writings of Bardianna; one reference designates future critics of "Mardi" (the imagined archipelago or the book itself, or both), to whom the narrator leaves the decision of a difficult authorship question.
"A good commentary on old Bardianna, Yoomy," said Babbalanja....
--Mardi - Wherein Babbalanja bows thrice
But learning who he was, one of that old Ponderer's commentators.... 
--Mardi - They go down into the catacombs
So, each charged the other with its authorship; and there was no finding out, whether, indeed, either knew aught of its origin.... Indeed, the settlement of this question must be left to the commentators on Mardi, some four or five hundred centuries hence.
--Mardi - They hearken unto a voice from the gods
Our entrance excited little or no notice; for every body present seemed exceedingly animated about concerns of their own; and a large group was gathered around one tall, military looking gentleman, who was reading some India war-news from the Times, and commenting on it, in a very loud voice, condemning, in toto, the entire campaign.
--Redburn, chapter 46 - A Mysterious Night in London
In passing, Melville cites imposing legal, philosophical, and medical commentaries: by Blackstone (chapter 35, "Flogging Not Lawful"); and Simplicius on Aristotle on the heavens (chapter 38, "The Chaplain and Chapel..."); and "Bell on Bones." 
 "Surgeon Wedge," said Cuticle, looking round severely, "we will dispense with your commentaries, if you please, at present. --White-Jacket, chapter 63 - The Operation.
Melville specifically links "commentators" with German criticism and with Shakespeare.
Such are the principal divisions into which a man-of-war's crew is divided; but the inferior allotments of duties are endless, and would require a German commentator to chronicle. --White-Jacket, chapter 3, A glance at the principal divisions...
In chapter 41 on "A Man-of-War Library," Melville represents "the commentators" figuratively as a plague of locusts. Projected into a hypothetical future, Melville's dreadful swarm of locust-commentators would eat all of Shakespeare's "sacred" writings "clean up."
Then there was Walpole's Letters—very witty, pert, and polite —and some odd volumes of plays, each of which was a precious casket of jewels of good things, shaming the trash nowadays passed off for dramas, containing 'The Jew of Malta,' 'Old Fortunatus,' 'The City Madam,' 'Volpone,' 'The Alchemist,' and other glorious old dramas of the age of Marlowe and Jonson, and that literary Damon and Pythias, the magnificent, mellow old Beaumont and Fletcher, who have sent the long shadow of their reputation, side by side with Shakespeare's, far down the endless vale of posterity. And may that shadow never be less! but as for St. Shakespeare, may his never be more, lest the commentators arise, and settling upon his sacred text, like unto locusts, devour it clean up, leaving never a dot over an I. --White-Jacket, chapter 41 - A Man-of-War Library
Again in 1850 Melville links Shakespeare with his commentators.

And so, much of the blind, unbridled admiration that has been heaped upon Shakspeare, has been lavished upon the least part of him. And few of his endless commentators and critics seem to have remembered, or even perceived, that the immediate products of a great mind are not so great as that undeveloped and sometimes undevelopable yet dimly-discernible greatness, to which those immediate products are but the infallible indices. In Shakspeare's tomb lies infinitely more than Shakspeare ever wrote. And if I magnify Shakspeare, it is not so much for what he did do as for what he did not do, or refrained from doing. For in this world of lies, Truth is forced to fly like a scared white doe in the woodlands; and only by cunning glimpses will she reveal herself, as in Shakspeare and other masters of the great Art of Telling the Truth,—even though it be covertly and by snatches.
--The Literary World - August 17, 1850
In the vein of Irving on Diedrich Knickerbocker, Melville's unnamed narrator identifies himself at the start of Moby-Dick as a sympathetic "commentator" on the "Sub-Sub Librarian" and his miscellaneous "Extracts" of whales and whaling.
So fare thee well, poor devil of a Sub-Sub, whose commentator I am.--Moby-Dick, Extracts
In chapter 83 (Jonah Historically Regarded) Melville paraphrases a "German exegetist," then "other continental commentators" on the book of Jonah:
 Besides, it has been divined by other continental commentators, that when Jonah was thrown overboard from the Joppa ship, he straightway effected his escape to another vessel near by, some vessel with a whale for a figure-head; and, I would add, possibly called “The Whale,” as some craft are nowadays christened the “Shark,” the “Gull,” the “Eagle.”
The best lawyers and lawbooks have upheld the rights of royalty to the whale, once caught.
Says Plowden, the whale so caught belongs to the King and Queen, "because of its superior excellence." And by the soundest commentators this has ever been held a cogent argument in such matters. --Moby-Dick, chapter 90 - Heads or Tails
At sea, however, disputes about "Fast-fish and Loose-fish" like other controversies may be settled by spoken words, backed up with physical force, regardless of written "commentaries."
These are scientific commentaries; but the commentaries of the whalemen themselves sometimes consist in hard words and harder knocks—the Coke-upon-Littleton of the fist.
What a Commentator is this Ann Alexander whale. What he has to say is short & pithy & very much to the point. I wonder if my evil art has raised this monster. --Letter to Evert A. Duyckinck, November 1851.
Pierre avoids unnecessary "commentary" on his break-up with Lucy Tartan when writing ahead to his cousin Glen Stanley. After moving to the city with Isabel, now posing as his wife, the struggling hero wants to re-read the transcendentalist pamphlet on "Chronometrics," with the help of "commentary" in the form of the author's "mystic-mild face" which Pierre has glimpsed through a tower window.
Again he tried his best to procure the pamphlet, to read it now by the commentary of the mystic-mild face; again he searched through the pockets of his clothes for the stage-coach copy, but in vain.  --Pierre; Or, The Ambiguities - page 400
Plotinus Plinlimmon may look harmless but the commentary of his face as Pierre reads it is brutal:
Vain! vain! vain! said the face to him. Fool! fool! fool! said the face to him. Quit! quit! quit! said the face to him.
The war hero of Melville's Israel Potter, originally serialized in Putnam's magazine, has troubles enough, without ever being bothered by "commentators" as such.

Three of the four "comments" in Melville's 1856 collection The Piazza Tales occur in one story, Benito Cereno. First published in Putnam's Monthly, "Benito Cereno" features three usages of the word comment, singular. Each "comment" is described by a different adjective: "ominous": "dusky"; and "chalky." The different "comments" are all provided by Africans. All three are expressed in figures rather than words, and all of them seem menacing from the perspective of Captain Delano. The repeated clang of hatchets makes an audible commentary on Delano's private musings:
By a curious coincidence, as each point was recalled, the black wizards of Ashantee would strike up with their hatchets, as in ominous comment on the white stranger's thoughts. Pressed by such enigmas and portents, it would have been almost against nature, had not, even into the least distrustful heart, some ugly misgivings obtruded. 
As observed by Delano, the mannered silence of Babo complements and paradoxically comments on the "hollow," theatrical performance of Benito Cereno:
To Captain Delano's imagination, now again not wholly at rest, there was something so hollow in the Spaniard's manner, with apparently some reciprocal hollowness in the servant's dusky comment of silence, that the idea flashed across him, that possibly master and man, for some unknown purpose, were acting out, both in word and deed, nay, to the very tremor of Don Benito's limbs, some juggling play before him.
The figure-head of the San Dominick is alleged to be the skeleton of the murdered slaveholder, Don Alexandro Aranda. Melville dramatically presents what is supposedly the skeleton of Aranda as a "chalky comment" on the inscribed comment, "Follow your leader," complicating the usual association of comments with words only. With the reveal at the end, figure now comments on text, and vice-versa.
... But by this time the cable of the San Dominick had been cut; and the fag-end, in lashing out, whipped away the canvas shroud about the beak, suddenly revealing, as the bleached hull swung round towards the open ocean, death for the figure-head, in a human skeleton; chalky comment on the chalked words below, "Follow your leader."
The only other instance of the word comment in The Piazza Tales occurs in "The Encantadas," in the story of Hunilla originally published in Putnam's magazine as the eighth sketch in the series, mislabeled "Sketch Ninth" and titled Norfolk Isle and the Chola Widow. Again the comment is a visual one, here expressed in the "features" of Hunilla rather than her plain words. And the visual comment still requires a sympathetic reading to be rightly understood.
It needs not to be said what nameless misery now wrapped the lonely widow. In telling her own story she passed this almost entirely over, simply recounting the event. Construe the comment of her features as you might, from her mere words little would you have weened that Hunilla was herself the heroine of her tale. But not thus did she defraud us of our tears. All hearts bled that grief could be so brave. --Putnam's Monthly Magazine  - April 1854
Chapter 2 of The Confidence-Man opens somewhat in the manner of the Extracts in Moby-Dick, with "epitaphic comments, conflictingly spoken or thought, of a miscellaneous company." Diverse comments are provoked by the appearance and behavior of a "man in cream-colours," the mute and apparently deaf stranger who brandishes a slate and writes out lines from 1 Corinthians 13, on the true meaning of Love. In contrast to the three figural "comments" in "Benito Cereno," and one non-verbal "comment" in the Hunilla sketch, usages of comment and related words in the Confidence-Man are literal and occasionally bookish, appearing in more traditional and self-consciously literary contexts. Much as he would like to, the herb-doctor cannot regard autobiographical testimony by the unfortunate "cripple" Thomas Fry as a helpful "commentary" on real life.
The herb-doctor was silent for a time, buried in thought. At last, raising his head, he said: "I have considered your whole story, my friend, and strove to consider it in the light of a commentary on what I believe to be the system of things; but it so jars with all, is so incompatible with all, that you must pardon me, if I honestly tell you, I cannot believe it." --The Confidence-Man, chapter 19 - A Soldier of Fortune
Similarly, when the merchant Mr. Roberts sympathetically describes the sufferings of fellow travelers on board the riverboat Fidèle, another confidence man (transfer agent for the Black Rapids Coal Company) cheerily responds with a line from Shakespeare:
"Nature, he added, in Shakespeare's words, had meal and bran; and, rightly regarded, the bran in its way was not to be condemned." --Chapter 11, quoting Belarius in Cymbeline, Act 4, scene 2: "Nature hath meal and bran, contempt and grace."
Considering the source in Shakespeare, the merchant feels bound to endorse the metaphor of meal and bran, but not the transfer-agent's dubious interpretation:
The other was not disposed to question the justice of Shakespeare's thought, but would hardly admit the propriety of the application in this instance, much less of the comment. --The Confidence-Man, chapter 11 - Only a page or so
Two of the four occurrences of words related to comment in the Confidence-Man refer explicitly to Shakespeare. In conversation with the polished "Cosmopolitan" Frank Goodman, the con man Charlie Noble criticizes the advice of Polonius to Laertes in Hamlet as "false, fatal, and calumnious."
 "I believe you, my dear Charlie. And yet, I repeat, by your commentaries on Polonius you have, I know not how, unsettled me; so that now I don't exactly see how Shakespeare meant the words he puts in Polonius' mouth." --chapter 30, Opening with a poetical eulogy of the press
CLAREL (1876)
Comments abound in Clarel. It's all commentary--all comments, all the way down. Like Melville his pilgrims live for endless dialogue, not only on insoluble theological problems but also questions of history, art, geology, political economy, sex, love, and friendship. What Hawthorne said:
It is strange how he persists — and has persisted ever since I knew him, and probably long before —in wandering to and fro over these deserts, as dismal and monotonous as the sandhills amidst which we were sitting. --Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife
Forms of the word comment occur 21 times in Clarel (only once as a verb, when Rolfe "comments" on the "knightly hammer" of Margoth the geologist, picturing him as a modern Ivanhoe or Siegfried, the dragon-slayer:
"Yon knightly hammer. 'Tis with that 
He stuns, and would exterminate
Your creeds as dragons." --Clarel Part 2 - Canto 23 By the Jordan
Two of the twenty-one instances describe marginalia that Clarel discovers in books left behind by "B. L." the "fair young Englishman" once connected with St. Mary's Hall, University of Oxford. Marginal comments (not necessarily by B. L.?) undermine the "High Church" arguments of one book, and in another, express profound anguish ("More dole than e'en dissent") over the mythologizing and historicizing of sacred texts by the writer--evidently one of the Higher Critics, like David Friedrich Strauss only more revolutionary, more like Ludwig Feuerbach.

Of the twenty-one occurrences of comment and related forms, one denotes "commentators" and one identifies a particular "commentator." The context for the plural "commentators" is fascinating. At the Dead Sea, Rolfe flashes back to Lot and his daughters in the glare of Sodom, burning, while Derwent blithely reads a modern guidebook. Derwent defends the helpfulness of "book-comment"; but Rolfe urges deeper meanings screaming for attention in nature, there in front of them in their present campground by the Dead Sea. Nature now is like Shakespeare in White-Jacket and the "Mosses" essay: closely identified with truth and truth-seeking, uncomprehended by mere "commentators":
"But How if nature vetoes all
Her commentators? Disenthrall
Thy heart. Look round. Are not here met
Books and that truth no type shall set?" --Clarel Part 2 - Canto 32 The Encampment
David Urquhart (1805-1877)

Part 4 Canto 12 (Of Pope and Turk) gives dialogue between two unidentified speakers, overheard at breakfast by Rolfe. One stranger makes respectful references to David Urquhart as a notable "commentator on the East" who "stands for God." The other guy (a materialist resolved to "stand by fact") thinks Urquhart a vain and "eccentric ideologist."

For Melville, as the multi-sided view of Urquhart shows, a commentator can be "obsolete" and appealing at the same time.

As described in the prose headnote, Melville conceives "Profundity and Levity" as the lyrical "comment" of an old and most professorial owl on the lark and its carefree song. You can see this piece and all of "Weeds and Wildings" in manuscript in the Melville Electronic Library. My transcription below of "Levity and Profundity" follows the text as printed in Collected Poems of Herman Melville, edited by Howard P. Vincent (Hendricks House, 1947), pages 274-5. Now available also, hurrah! in Billy Budd, Sailor and Other Uncompleted Writings, edited by Harrison Hayford, Alma A. MacDougall, Robert A. Sandberg, and G. Thomas Tanselle, Historical Note by Hershel Parker (Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library, 2017), page 99.

Profundity and Levity

An owl in his wonted day-long retirement ruffled by the meadow-lark curvetting and caroling in the morning sun high over the pastures and woods, comments upon that rollicker, and in so doing lets out the meditation engrossing him when thus molested. But the weightiness of the wisdom ill agrees with the somewhat trilling expression; an incongruity attributable doubtless to the contagious influence of the reprehended malapert’s overruling song :—
     So frolic, so flighty,
Leaving wisdom behind;
     Lark, little you ween
Of the progress of mind.
While fantastic you’re winging,
Up-curving and singing,
A skylarking dot in the sun;
Under eaves here in wood
My wits am I giving
     To this latest theme:
Life blinks at strong light,
Life wanders in night like a dream—
Is then life worth living?
 -- Collected Poems of Herman Melville
As shown above, Melville repeatedly associated commentators with Shakespeare during the period between White-Jacket (1850) and The Confidence-Man (1857). In the margins of Timon of Athens. (4.3) Melville crossed out one footnote to the First Thief's line at 4.3.511.

First Thief. Let us first see peace in Athens; there is no time so miserable but a man may be true. --Timon of Athens - Act 4, scene 3
"There is no hour in a man's life so wretched, but he always has it in his power to become true, i.e., honest."
Exasperated after a string of such notes, explicating the obvious, Melville finally told him to shut up. You can see the marginal outburst courtesy of Melville's Marginalia Online, in Volume 5 of Melville's set of The Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare.
"Peace, peace! Thou ass of a commentator!"
 Some people just don't know when to quit.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Birth announcements, 1853

More than one newspaper in western Massachusetts indulged in a joke about authorship as a kind of fatherhood when announcing the birth on May 22, 1853 of Herman Melville's daughter Elizabeth "Bessie" Melville. The first item below is one I had not seen before, from the Franklin Democrat (May 30, 1853) courtesy of Fulton History

Franklin Democrat [Greenfield, Massachusetts] May 30, 1853


In Pittsfield, 22d, a daughter to Herman Melville, the well-known author of several literary, not physiological works.
Greenfield native Joseph Hussey Sprague edited and published the Franklin Democrat from 1852 to 1854.

As reported by Jay Leyda in Another Friendly Critic for Melville, this earlier notice of Melville's "new work" in the Springfield Republican for May 28, 1853 (page 2):

Springfield Republican - May 28, 1853
 refers to this birth announcement on the same page, different column:

Springfield Republican - May 28, 1853
Related posts:

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Number 18

As MacDonald P. Jackson demonstrates at the tail end of Who Wrote "The Night Before Christmas"? (Appendix III, pages 173-4), the broadsheet of "A Visit from St Nicholas" published by the Troy Sentinel and now owned by the great Museum of the City of New York served as the printer's copy for "Visit" in the 1844 volume, Poems by Clement C. Moore.

N. Tuttle. Account of a visit from St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus.
Museum of the City of New York. 54.331.17
Jackson documents numerous and distinctive textual features of the 1830 broadsheet that appear in the 1844 book version, as well as handwritten changes made by Moore himself, including the notable correction or revision of "Blixem" to "Blitzen."

Additional evidence, not cited by Jackson, supports his finding that Moore used the Sentinel broadsheet in 1844 when preparing "Visit" for republication by Bartlett & Welford. As still faintly visible, a faded or penciled "X" indicates deletion of all prefatory matter including the heading "A Gift for Christmas" and the delightful engraving by Myron King. At the very top of the page, above the ornamental, arabesque border in color, another direction for the printer can be seen, apparently also in pencil or faded ink: "Nu 18" or "No 18." Can this abbreviated "Number 18" refer to the Christmas poem? Yes, absolutely: counting down in the table of contents for Moore's 1844 Poems, A Visit from St. Nicholas is the eighteenth piece in the book. Voila!

  1. A Trip to Saratoga
  2. To My Children, with my Portrait
  3. To THE Fashionable part of my Young Countrywomen
  4. The Mischievous Muse — Translation,
  5. Lines written after a Fall of Snow
  6. To Young Ladies who attended Philosophical Lectures
  7. On seeing my Name written in the sand of the sea-shore
  8. On Cowper the poet
  9. To Petrosa
  10.  Translation of an Ode of Metastasio
  11.  A Song
  12. Old Dobbin
  13.  Apology for not accepting an Invitation to A Ball
  14.  Answer to the above, by Mr. Bard
  15. Translation of a chorus in Aeschylus
  16. Lines accompanying some Balls sent to a Fragment Fair
  17. To a Lady
  18. A visit from St. Nicholas
  19. From a Husband to his Wife
  20. Lines by my late Wife, written in an Album....

Monday, December 11, 2017

Book reviews in manuscript at NYPL, digitized and online

Melville's review (published as Mr. Parkmans' Tour) of The California and Oregon Trail - manuscript page 6
The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Newly available in the New York Public Library Digital Collections are five of Herman Melville's published book reviews in manuscript, filed in the Duyckinck family papers with Literary Correspondence of Evert A. and George L. Duyckinck under the subheading "Literary Manuscripts." Four of these are manuscript copies for the printer in Melville's handwriting; one ("Hawthorne and His Mosses") is a fair copy made by his wife Elizabeth with numerous, in places extensive revisions in Melville's hand.
  1. Review of Browne's Etchings of a Whaling Cruise
  2. Review of The California and Oregon Trail
  3. Review of Cooper's The Sea Lions
    1849 - Note from Melville to Duyckinck attached, 1 page. 
  4. A Thought on Book Binding
    1850 - review of the revised edition of The Red Rover by James Fenimore Cooper. 
  5. Hawthorne and His Mosses
    1850 - review of Mosses from an Old Manse by Nathaniel Hawthorne. 
Wonderful! It's one thing to know, as the dependable Northwestern-Newberry edition of The Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces told us thirty years ago, that Melville wrote the fair copy of "Mr. Parkman's Tour" on the back of legal forms "intended for use in cases involving debts," but now (if you're so inclined) you can see the other side for yourself.

Review of Parkman's Oregon Trail - manuscript page 1, verso
The New York Public Library Digital Collections

More substantively, you could look into manuscript page 2 of Melville's review-essay "Hawthorne and His Mosses" (in his wife's handwriting with Herman's revisions) and catch Melville exchanging the solemnity and alliterative punch of "the God in his glance" for the blander "heaven in his glance." Either way Melville verges on comparing Hawthorne to Jesus Christ, but the revision somehow makes the implied likeness sound less provocative. Well, that bit also made a graphic appearance in the editorial notes for the Northwestern-Newberry edition (see page 663), which offered generous helpings of reproductions and excerpts from the manuscript of "Hawthorne and his Mosses."

Without corresponding images to consult, descriptive lists of "Manuscript Alterations" can be discouraging and, depending on how long they are, even scary. Different things will stand out and invite further study now that readers can examine the digitized images online. For instance, a couple of corrections that Elizabeth herself made to the "Mosses" essay on manuscript leaf 6 strike me now as remarkable and perhaps worth a closer look, being suggestive of an unexpected word choice by her husband.

"Hawthorne and his Mosses" - manuscript page 6
The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Copying the passage about  Hawthorne's "Old Apple-Dealer," Elizabeth evidently had trouble reading Herman's word touches, twice:
But he has still other apples, not quite so ruddy, though full as ripe;—apples, that have been left to wither on the tree, after the pleasant autumn gathering is past. The sketch of "The Old Apple-Dealer" is conceived in the subtlest spirit of sadness; he whose "subdued and nerveless boyhood prefigured his abortive prime, which, likewise, contained within itself the prophecy and image of his lean and torpid age." Such touches as are in this piece cannot proceed from any common heart. They argue such a depth of tenderness, such a boundless sympathy with all forms of being, such an omnipresent love, that we must needs say that this Hawthorne is here almost alone in his generation,—at least, in the artistic manifestation of these things. Still more. Such touches as these,—and many, very many similar ones, all through his chapters—furnish clues whereby we enter a little way into the intricate, profound heart where they originated. --The Literary World-August 17, 1850
Apparently, Herman Melville's two "touches" were unexpected and hard to decipher in his copyist's crabbed exemplar. She made them "tones" in the first case, then "words" in the second. Very good guesses, both wrong. Later, she corrected her misreadings:
 "Such tones touches as are in this piece cannot proceed from any common heart."
"Such words touches as these...."
In the context of the "Mosses" essay and elsewhere, Melville's word touches evokes the visual arts of drawing, painting, engraving (and tattooing), and sculpture. By "touches" Melville in part means or implies the strokes of a brush, pen, pencil, chisel, or implements of etching. Parallels may be found in Typee (A Professor of the Fine Arts) and Moby-Dick (Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales):
In the vignettes and other embellishments of some ancient books you will at times meet with very curious touches at the whale, where all manner of spouts, jets d’eau, hot springs and cold, Saratoga and Baden-Baden, come bubbling up from his unexhausted brain. --Moby-Dick in Pictures
Examples occur also in Melville's magazine fictions Benito Cereno (Babo's "impromptu touches" as barber reveal, on multiple levels, "the hand of a master.") and "The Bell-Tower":

 "But the figures, they are not yet without their faults. They need some touches yet."
"... it was surmised that the mechanician must then have hurried to the bell, to give his final touches to its sculpture." --Putnam's Magazine 6 - August 1855; collected in The Piazza Tales (New York: Dix & Edwards, 1856).
More intriguingly, both usages in the "Mosses" essay occur in close proximity with the word heart. Touches by a gifted writer or visual artist be said to impart beauty to a "sketch," and also to reveal something of the of the artist's interior makeup and feelings--whatever qualities of spirit or soul may be conveyed by the complicated "heart." Decades later in Clarel (1876) Melville poetically speaks of aqua-fortis "touches" in engravings by Giovanni Battista Piranesi. There Melville reads Piranesi's Imaginary Prisons figuratively, as emblems of "labyrinths" in the human "heart."

This canto "Prelusive" on Piranisi feels crucial to Melville's art, and naturally elicits extended discussions in Melville criticism. Samuel Otter calls it
 The "Heart" of Clarel. --How Clarel Works in A Companion to Herman Melville, ed. Wyn Kelley (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015), page 476.
In The Mystery of Iniquity (University Press of Kentucky, 1972), William H. Shurr similarly concentrated on the passage about "touches bitten in the steel / By aqua-fortis," quoting Melville's reference to the process of "biting in," of etching with acid:
The reader must focus his attention upon these etchings and their import. One has the sense of being at one of the centers of the poem, forced by the author not to miss the point:
Dwell on those etchings in the night,
Those touches bitten in the steel
By aqua-fortis, till ye feel
The Pauline text in gray of light;
Turn hither then and read aright. [Clarel Part 2, Canto 35]
So then, sympathetic readers find "touches" at the heart of Herman Melville's Clarel, and here we graphically see them at the heart of "Hawthorne and His Mosses," too--courtesy of Elizabeth Shaw Melville and The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Related posts:

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Autograph note signed

Here you go, the perfect stocking-stuffer for that eccentric and hard-to-please Melville obsessive on your Christmas shopping list. A guest pass signed by Herman Melville is offered in Sotheby's upcoming auction of Fine Books & Manuscripts.

Catalogue Note

This pass was presumably issued for a lecture Melville delivered to the Mechanic Apprentices’ Library Association in Boston in 1859, this being the only lecture he is known to have given on the last day of January. Titled "The South Seas," it explored the author's experiences there, which had served as the inspiration for his first two books, Typee and Omoo.
This item was already known from catalogues of previous auctions. A transcription appears on page 333 in the 1993 Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Correspondence, edited by Lynn Horth.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Clement C. Moore, My Reasons for Loving (poem by Catherine Elizabeth Taylor)

Poem by Eliza Moore in Mary Moore Sherman's Recollections of Clement C. Moore (1906)
via William & Mary Digital Archive

Clement C. Moore

You ask me why I love him?
    I’ll tell the reason true:
Because he said so often
    With fervour “I love you.”

I loved him, yes, I loved him
    Because he told his flame
With such a skilled variety
    And whispered “Je vous aime.”

Because so sweetly tender
   As any swain on Arno,
In crowded streets he’d woo me,
   With Petrarch’s own “Vi amo.”

Because whenever coldly
    I’d answer him “Ah, no,”
He’d all my coldness banish
    By faltering “Te amo.”

Because when belles surrounded
    He’d still address to me
The words of love and learning,
    And sigh “Philea se.”

Because his English, French,
    Italian, Latin, Greek,
He crowned with noble Hebrew
    And dulcet “Ahobotick.”

 Moore's wife Catherine Elizabeth Taylor ("Eliza" in the family circle) composed these quatrains which were transcribed by Mary Moore Sherman and printed in the beautiful volume titled Recollections of Clement C. Moore, author of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1906). Available online from the Nancy H. Marshall collection in the William & Mary Digital Archive:
"Includes 2 poems by Clement C Moore, including "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Part of the Nancy H. Marshall Night before Christmas collection. Swem Library copy includes and undated letter about the book by Margaret N. C. Bradley, niece of the author."

The second poem by Clement C. Moore in this volume of Recollections by his granddaughter is the lovely snow poem, Lines Written after a Snow-storm.

Related post:

Monday, December 4, 2017

A Visit from St Nicholas in The National Gazette

Here is an early, anonymous reprinting of Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas," published in The National Gazette and Literary Register [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] on December 24, 1827.
On page 2 of the Christmas Eve issue, the editor of The National Gazette explained the decision to publish the Christmas poem on page 1 as follows:
"We do not know whether the verses in our first page be original or not. They possess merit and appropriateness, however; and are consequently entitled to the place which they occupy."  --National Gazette, December 24, 1827
Mon, Dec 24, 1827 – 1 · The National Gazette (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) ·


Account of a visit from St Nicholas or Sante Claus

Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hope that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nested all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plumbs danced in their heads,
And Mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap —
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter;
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name ;
“Now, Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,
“On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem;
“To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
“Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With a sleigh full of toys—and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof,
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof;
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
And he look'd like a pedlar just opening his pack;
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his lead like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly,
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread!
He spoken ot a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill'd all the stockings, then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team, gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight—
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."
As in The Casket for February 1826, the National Gazette printed "nested" instead of "nestled" in the fifth line. (Other readings in The Casket are not reproduced here, for instance the reindeer names"Dunter and Blixen." The National Gazette gives "Dunder and Blixem," as found in the earliest printing of the Christmas poem in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823.) Some newspapers, for example the Poughkeepsie Journal on January 16, 1828, explicitly credited "The National Gazette" when reprinting the 1827 version transcribed above.

Francis P. Lee in 1833 on Clement C. Moore's authorship of The Night Before Christmas

Another reason to love footnotes--not that we need one here at Melvilliana. As documented in a footnote to chapter 4 of Stephen Nissenbaum's The Battle for Christmas, Sandra D. Hayslette found an early reference to Clement C. Moore's authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas," aka "The Night Before Christmas," in the manuscript diary of Francis Prioleau Lee. While a student at General Theological Seminary in New York, Francis P. Lee on New Year's Eve, 1833 described a holiday fair in Morristown, New Jersey that
"was held...under the auspices of a figure called St. Nicholas who was robed in fur, and dressed according to the description of Prof. Moore in his poem."  --quoted by Stephen Nissenbaum in The Battle For Christmas, fn 85, page 345.
The footnote by Nissenbaum locates the diary of Francis P. Lee "in the archives of the General Theological Seminary."
However, the online finding aid for the Francis P. Lee Papers, 1727-1930 (Mss. 65 L51 and Acc. 2011.285) at the Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary. indicates that the William & Mary library now holds both the private journal and a transcription. Specifically, these items are held with Series 2: Acc. 2011.285 Addition, 1827-1933 in Box 11, Folders 2 and 3.

Preferred Citation
Francis P. Lee Papers, Manuscripts and Rare Books Department, Swem Library, College of William and Mary. 
Unless there are two diaries, this looks like the one referenced in The Battle for Christmas:
Folder 2: Francis P. Lee Diary, 1833-1835
Folder 3: Transcription of Francis P. Lee Diary, 1833-1835
Rev. Lee died young in Mobile, Alabama during the epidemic of yellow fever there in 1847. Below, the obituary of Francis Prioleau Lee in the Protestant Churchman, November 27, 1847: