|James Brooks via Library of Congress|
The dismissive view of Melville's Civil War poetry seems too crude and ill-informed for old hands like the Brooks brothers. The writer does not know or remember that before the War, The Piazza Tales (1856) and Melville's "Hogarthian" Confidence-Man (1857) had received favorable notices in the Evening Express. Former associate editor James F. Otis aka "Gemotice," a veteran music and drama critic, was then back in New Orleans, in failing health. (More on Gemotice later, in another post.) Apprentice work by the summer help? Whoever wrote it, the following notice of Battle-Pieces appeared on August 25, 1866 with the implied blessing of both Brooks brothers, since the masthead of the New York Evening Express still proclaimed it their paper. Found at Fulton History.
|New York Evening Express - August 25, 1866 (1 of 2)|
|New York Evening Express - August 25, 1866 (2 of 2)|
BATTLE PIECES: Harper & Brothers, New York.
This is a volume of pieces upon the late war, in rhyme, written by Herman Mellville, whose strange novels, "Typee," "Omoo," &c., have given him a kind of reputation. War poetry and war histories are afflictions which the late struggle has entailed on an already suffering community, and, like the soldiers' itch, are pretty hard to get rid of. Let us pray for resignation under the affliction! The book is put out in a handsomeness of type and binding beyond its worth, by the Harpers, and its principal "piece" appears to be a versification and attempted idealization of the bulletin board of some daily newspaper office during the Fort Donelson excitement.
For instance, some of the verses are made to begin thus:--
"IMPORTANT.And how does this do for a verse in capital "head" lines:
We learn that General Grant,
Marching from Henry overland,
And joined by a force up the Cumberland sent,
(Some thirty thousand the command") etc.
* * * * * *
LATER FROM THE FORT!
Grant's investment is complete,
A semi-circular one.
Both wings the Cumberland's margin meet, etc.
* * * * * *
GLORIOUS VICTORY OF THE FLEET!
FRIDAY'S GREAT EVENT!
THE ENEMY'S WATER BATTERIES BEAT!!
WE SILENCED EVERY GUN!
THE OLD COMMANDER'S COMPLIMENTS SENT
PLUMP INTO DONELSON!
--New York Evening Express, August 25, 1866