Saturday, December 1, 2018

Early publisher's notices of Typee, reprinted in Virginia by Edgar Snowden

Wiley & Putnam's Literary News-Letter (March 1846) page 17
via HathiTrust Digital Library
Shown below, two Virginia items announce the first British and American editions of Melville's Typee. Both notices are naturally favorable, being reprinted from Wiley & Putnam's Literary News-Letter in one column of the Alexandria Gazette and Virginia Advertiser on March 7, 1846; found at GenealogyBank among articles added "within 1 month."

The Gazette was an important Whig newspaper then owned and edited by Edgar Snowden (1810-1875). In the 1844 presidential campaign, Snowden had campaigned hard for Henry Clay, against Gansevoort Melville's man. Polk was now President, but Snowden did not hold it against Gansevoort's literary brother.

Alexandria Gazette and Virginia Advertiser - March 7, 1846
via GenealogyBank
Mr. Murray will bring out simultaneously with the New York edition, a curious and very interesting book, called "Typee; or A Peep at Polynesian Life," being a narrative of a residence at the Marquesas, by Herman Melville, of New York. This is no fiction, but a veritable picture of life among the cannibals, from actual observation; and the narrative is worthy of Robinson Crusoe in style and in interest, with the additional advantage of being a simple record of facts...
... In the “Library of American Books,” a work of great novelty will be immediately issued—simultaneously with its publication by Murray, in London—entitled “TYPEE: a Peep at Polynesian Life; during a Four Months' Residence in a valley of the Marquesas, with notices of the French occupation of Tahiti and the provisional cession of the Sandwich Islands to Lord Paulett. By HERMAN MELVILLE.”
Again, Snowden did not write the friendly notices but only copied them along with other items of "Literary Intelligence" including mentions of "Hood's Serious Poems" and Hawthorne's forthcoming "Mosses from an Old Manse." So far, however, I have not found another verbatim reprinting of the particular news about Herman Melville's first book in the March 1846 number of Wiley & Putnam's Literary News-Letter. Alright, nearly verbatim. In copying the notice of Murray's London edition, the Gazette omitted the interesting reference by the original writer to "the one hundred pages I have read."

Harold W. Hurst calls Edgar Snowden "a serious literary critic" in Alexandria on the Potomac: The Portrait of an Antebellum Community (University Press of America, 1991), page 77:
The Gazette also lent enthusiastic support to the city's artistic and intellectual endeavors. No activity at the Library Society or Lyceum was too insignificant to warrant its patronage. The paper's columns carried sermons, poems, book reviews, and drama criticism alongside its lengthy reports of shipping, railroad, and industrial activities. Snowden was, indeed, a serious literary critic who devoted considerable space to reviews of works by Charles Dickens, Washington Irving, Robert Burns and other authors.
The 1954 bio by Carrol H. Quenzel is scarce, but accessible online courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library.

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