Monday, January 29, 2018

More newspaper reprintings of Melville's chapters on Ethan Allen in captivity

In the "Historical Note" for the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Israel Potter, Walter E. Bezanson mentions two nineteenth-century printings of "Ethan Allen's Captivity," compiled from two chapters (21 and 22) in Melville's story of Israel Potter that originally appeared in the February 1855 issue of Putnam's magazine and were duly incorporated in the 1855 book version. One reprinting, in the Western Literary Messenger for September 1855, had been cited by Jay Leyda in volume 2 of The Melville Log. Another reprinting, from the New York Leader of June 8, 1856, was listed by Steven Mailloux and Hershel Parker in the pamphlet Checklist (Melville Society, 1975), later revised by Kevin J. Hayes and Hershel Parker in their Checklist of Melville Reviews (Northwestern University Press, 1991).

Putnam's Monthly Magazine - February 1855
Titled "Ethan Allen's Captivity" or in later reprintings, "Ethan Allen in Captivity," newspaper texts reverse the sequence of chapters as given in Putnam's magazine and the book version. The first three paragraphs come from Melville's chapter 22. More or less abridged, depending on the version, these opening paragraphs lifted from chapter 22 now serve to introduce the matter of chapter 21, highlighted by Ethan Allen's witty and chivalrous dialogue with visiting ladies--the "comic courtship," as Bezanson terms it, being Melville's invention. In compressing the introductory paragraphs some of the later items titled "Ethan Allen in Captivity" delete Melville's characterization of Ethan Allen as sociable "Pagan" and "Roman." Of those found so far, all newspaper reprintings qualify the sentence in which Melville denies the influence of Ethan Allen's New England roots on his personality. Melville wrote:
Though born in New England, he exhibited no trace of her character. --Putnam's magazine, February 1855; and Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile (New York: G. P. Putnam and Co., 1855)

To which the newspaper versions unfailingly add,
 "except that his heart beat wildly for his country's freedom."
Washington, D. C. Evening Star - May 20, 1856
For a bridge back to the matter of chapter 21, newspaper reprintings employ the following sentence, or something like it, which does not appear either in the magazine or book versions of Melville's Israel Potter:
"Israel Potter, an exiled Englishman, while strolling around Pendennis Castle, where Allen was confined, chanced to hear him in one of his outbursts of indignation and madness, of which the following is a specimen...."
Israel Potter was of course American, not "an exiled Englishman" as stated in many nineteenth-century reprintings, for example in the Wellsborough, Pennsylvania Agitator, and the Western Literary Messenger. With specific reference to the Western Literary Messenger version, Alide Cagidemetrio points out the "exiled Englishman" bit as a "rare, historically humorous twist" (Fictions of the Past: Hawthorne & Melville, University of Massachusetts Press, 1992, page 113). But however ironic in effect, the turning of Melville's unfortunate war hero into "an exiled Englishman" was not unique and did not originate in the Western Literary Messenger, as will be seen. And some reprintings quietly corrected the error, making Israel Potter "an exiled American."

The "Ethan Allen" extract from Melville's story of "Israel Potter" in Putnam's magazine enjoyed a wider circulation in contemporary newspapers than previously recognized. Below are listed additional reprintings, not cited in the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Israel Potter. "P" indicates that Melville's descriptor "Pagan" or "pagan" has been retained; EE = "exiled Englishman" in reference to Israel Potter; EA = "exile (or "exiled") American."
  • The Agitator (Wellsborough, Pennsylvania), May 3, 1855. P, EE.
From Putnam's Magazine
Found on

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