Monday, January 28, 2019

Pretty truly

In Benito Cereno (1855) Melville introduced the words "pretty" and "truly" when transforming the narrative prose of his source into dialogue. Where Amasa Delano had called assault with a knife "rather serious sport" (not the child's play represented by Benito Cereno), Melville made his Delano say, "Pretty serious sport, truly."


Amasa Delano, Narrative of Voyages and Travels (Boston, 1817)
"I told him it appeared to me to be rather serious sport, as the wound had caused the boy to lose about a quart of blood."

Benito Cereno in Putnam's Monthly - October 1855
"Pretty serious sport, truly," rejoined Captain Delano.
 Look at what Melville keeps, and what else he adds in the rewrite:

I saw this and inquired what it meant.
In amazement, Captain Delano inquired what this meant.
The captain replied,
... the pale Benito dully muttered,
 that it was merely the sport of the boys
that it was merely the sport of the lad
Added by Melville to his source, just in this short bit: Delano's "amazement"; calling the Spanish captain by his first name, "Benito"; Benito's "pale" appearance and defeated manner of speaking when he "dully muttered" his reply; and the substitution of "lad" where Delano reported "boys."

So what? is the next question. In answering or say pre-answering, I don't automatically have to knock the work of Amasa Delano. Even the best old-school source studies have on occasion devalued source texts for no good reason, beyond perhaps a perceived need to absolve Melville from the sin of plagiarism. Writing on Melville the Poet, page 130 in The New Cambridge Companion to Herman Melville, edited by Robert S. Levine (Cambridge UP, 2014), Elizabeth Renker urges "a new approach" which at its best might helpfully check groundless discounting.

For a humble start, let's try this. So what? So the changes Melville made here in this small portion of his rewrite of Amasa Delano reveal, on closer scrutiny, not only certain mechanics of his plagiarism creative borrowing, but also certain creative aims. Melville's changes achieve interesting and possibly, arguably, characteristic results. Some notable effects of Melville's retouching here are
  • Dramatizing with dialogue.
  • Personalizing through names, thereby inviting more empathy.
  • Particularizing with descriptive details. Most obviously, added details help develop character and plot. Some embellishments also work to humanize dubious, possibly devilish characters. (Here, Benito Cereno the captain of a slave ship as "pale" and pitiable sufferer.) Melville's singular "lad" replaces Delano's undifferentiated grouping. No longer just one of the "boys," Melville (or Melville's Benito) particularizes and familiarizes the assailant, now a "lad."
  • Ennobling. As in Israel Potter, a similar project of rewriting, descriptive additions can work to ennoble the person described. Here the suffering Benito, elsewhere Delano and Babo. The ennobling effect applies to others, too, not only major players. 
  • Self-authenticating, truly.
Old-school or new, source study is more fun than ever, now that we have Melville's writings and many of his sources Google-digitized and conveniently accessible via institutional research libraries and amazing places like these:
Even with splendid digital resources and Melville's writings swelling the PUBLIC DOMAIN, it's a great blessing for scholars to have a haven in print--meaning in this case the 1987 Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Melville's Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860. Amasa Delano's Chapter 18 is there for ballast in the back, reproduced with handy marginal cross-references to the main text of "Benito Cereno."

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Parke Godwin on Melville and Typee

The Author of "Our New President" [Parke Godwin]
Putnam's Monthly Vol. 4 - October 1854

Two 1915 columns by Elisha Jay Edwards record interesting reminiscences about Herman Melville by Parke Godwin. According to Edwards in the first article below, Godwin at 80 (so, on or after February 28, 1896) thought Melville, along with Richard Henry Dana and Francis Parkman, excelled at writing factual narratives of personal experience. In the second article, "When the Government Encouraged Authorship," Parke Godwin says that he talked with Melville beforehand about his plans to make a book of his Marquesan adventures. Melville was "doubtful" but Godwin, as quoted by Edwards, assured him of its certain popularity.
"When he [Herman Melville] returned to New York I [Parke Godwin] met him, and he told me that he was going to narrate these experiences, although he was somewhat doubtful about finding a publisher for the book. I was satisfied that he would find no difficulty in obtaining readers and in that judgment I was correct. He called his book 'Typee,' and it was published in the same year that Parkman started out upon his adventures across the continent, which he described in a very successful book, now a classic, which he called 'The Oregon Trail.'" --E. J. Edwards, When the Government Encouraged Authorship in the Raleigh, North Carolina News and Observer, August 28, 1915.
Parke Godwin at 80 remembers Melville with Dana and Parkman for their Parke Godwin at 80 remembers Melville with Dana and Parkman for their "high-grade reporting." Fri, Aug 27, 1915 – Page 4 · The Washington Herald (Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America) ·
... Mr. Godwin, as one of the editors of Putnam's Magazine, in the years when that periodical was at the height of its prosperity, was brought into association with all those who were achieving greatly as authors who were Americans and also some distinguished English writers, especially Thackeray. These authors were accustomed to make the editorial offices of Putnam's Magazine a sort of informal club, for they gathered there frequently.

"It is an interesting fact," said Mr. Godwin, "that, leaving out of consideration those who gained permanent fame as historians, like Motley, Prescott, Bancroft, and one or two others, the most successful literary work was done by men who recorded things just as they saw them.

"Almost all the fiction which had for a time great notoriety is now forgotten. I suppose that Mrs. Stowe's novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin,' is the only one that will maintain a permanent place in our literature, and that is due to a special reason.

"There were three writers of narratives--Herman Melville, Richard Henry Dana, and Francis Parkman--whose works, at least the works of two of them, will be embodied in a list of permanent American literature. I knew all three of these men, although I was not acquainted with Mr. Dana until he was in flourishing practice as a lawyer.

"The literary triumph and the assured fame which Parkman's book, "The Oregon Trail,' and Dana's book, 'Two Years Before the Mast,' and I was going to say Melville's book, 'Typee,' have gained were due entirely to the ability these three men showed for very high-grade reporting. They told their stories as they saw things, exactly as they would if they had been repeating to friends some of their experiences...." --E. J. Edwards, "History Builders / What a Famous Book Brought its Author" in the Washington, D. C. Herald, August 27, 1915.

Parke Godwin on Herman Melville, as quoted by Elisha Jay EdwardsParke Godwin on Herman Melville, as quoted by Elisha Jay Edwards Sat, Aug 28, 1915 – Page 4 · News and Observer (Raleigh, Wake, North Carolina) ·

New News of Yesterday

(By E. J. Edwards)


"One of the most interesting and personally charming of all of the American writers whom it was my good fortune to meet was Herman Melville," said the late Parke Godwin to me, at a time when he was speaking to me reminiscently of some of the great writers with whom he was associated as editor of Putnam's Magazine. Mr. Godwin had said to me that he looked upon Richard Henry Dana's narrative entitled "Two Years Before the Mast" and Francis Parkman's story of his adventures in the Far West, which was called "The Oregon Trail," as two works which were sure of permanent fame. They had already become American classics. Mr. Godwin was an admirable critic, and he ascribed the phenomenal success of these two books to the fact that the writers of them told a story of adventure in simple, yet vigorous language, reporting the things that they saw exactly as they saw them, so that the readers of the books could thereby form a perfect mental picture of these scenes. Furthermore, Mr. Godwin said incidentally that the American writers of later years should study these works, for in them they would find the secret of that permanent success, which is called fame. 
"I include Herman Melville in the list of great American writers," said Mr. Godwin. "Like Richard Henry Dana, he sailed around Cape Horn on a whaling vessel, expecting to be gone two years. He was marooned upon an island in the Pacific, which was occupied by the Typees, a tribe of warlike Indians. He had plenty of experiences; some of them far more exciting and dangerous than any which Mr. Dana describes in his book. When he returned to New York I met him, and he told me that he was going to narrate these experiences, although he was somewhat doubtful about finding a publisher for the book. I was satisfied that he would find no difficulty in obtaining readers and in that judgment I was correct. He called his book 'Typee,' and it was published in the same year that Parkman started out upon his adventures across the continent, which he described in a very successful book, now a classic, which he called 'The Oregon Trail.' 
"For a long time Melville's book maintained an even greater success than did Dana's 'Two Years Before the Mast.' It was successful for the same reason that Parkman and Dana gained great successes with their books. It told an exciting story of adventure with all the picturesque details that the experience made possible in appropriate language.  
"I have heard that in recent years it has not maintained its popularity as compared with Dana's and Parkman's books, but I am certain that this is only a momentary lapse. The book is sure to become a great American classic. 
"By the way, Melville was one of the great American writers whom the United States government fostered indirectly, for a place was given to him in the New York custom house. There, too, many of the men gained fame as writers secured a regular income, and it was not until recent years that the government abandoned its general policy whereby writers were assured of regular and permanent income. I suppose we should never have had the masterly essays of Richard Grant White and the evidence of his Shakespearian scholarship had not the government provided him with a comfortable position in the custom house." --E. J. Edwards, When the Government Encouraged Authorship in the Raleigh, North Carolina News and Observer, August 28, 1915; accessible via and GenealogyBank.
In a letter to the editor of The People's Journal dated July 17, 1847 Parke Godwin confirmed "the real existence of Mr. Herman Melville" for skeptical Brits:
"... let me say that I saw him in Albany the other day as large as life, where he and his family are well known, and his narratives bearing a little artistic ornament, are held to be perfectly authentic. The writer under no assumed name, but under his own veritable Christian and patronymic designation. It is no unusual thing, by the way, for our young men of fortune to go as sailors, to the South Seas, in quest of adventure."  --The People's Journal v. 4

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

"Rasselas re-written by Irving": George M. Wharton aka Stahl on Typee

Sun, May 16, 1852 – 2 · The Daily Delta (New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America) ·
Herman Melville has described Tahiti in a book, ('Typee,'), which I can compare but to Rasselas re-written by Irving. --"Pee-Wi Ho-Ki, The Tahitian Cannibal" in the New Orleans Daily Delta for May 16, 1852; reprinted in The New Orleans Sketch Book.
Later reprinted in William E. Burton's Cyclopedia of Wit and Humor, the same volume with Melville's short fiction, The Lightning-Rod Man. The New Orleans Sketch Book was illustrated by Herman Melville's friend Felix Octavius Carr Darley.

Typee is set on Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas; Omoo is the book of Melville's romanticized adventures in Tahiti.

For more on Wharton, see Frederick Jonas Dreyfus, Life and Works of George Michael Wharton, M.D., (Pseudonym "Stahl"), 1825-1853 in Tennessee Historical Quarterly 6.4 (December  1947): 315-336. <>

Thu, Sep 8, 1853 – Page 2 · Nashville Union and American (Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee) ·

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Presbyterians on Pierre

Etty Youth 1832
Youth on the Prow, and Pleasure at the Helm by William Etty
via Wikimedia Commons
"How any man, even if in some mad hours of excitement he had written such a book, could read the proof-sheets and not heave the whole mass upon the fire, we cannot conceive." --Benjamin J. Wallace on Melville's Pierre
From The Bard: A Pindaric Ode in The Works of Thomas Gray
The unsigned review essay on "Young America" in the June 1853 issue of The Presbyterian Quarterly Review features a substantial treatment of Herman Melville that includes criticism of Melville's widely reviled novel, Pierre; or The Ambiguities. The "Young America" piece was written by editor Benjamin J. Wallace, as later revealed in the memorial article on the Death of Rev. Benjamin John Wallace, Presbyterian Quarterly Review (October 1862), page 295. McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia, citing Joseph M. Wilson, The Presbyterian Historical Almanac (Philadelphia, 1863), confirms that Wallace
"wrote all the book-notices during the ten years of his editorial charge, and forty-one articles on various subjects."
For this reviewer, Typee and Omoo exhibit Melville's characteristic "voluptuousness," Mardi his "dreamy scepticism."  Nothing about Moby Dick. Among other interesting points here, Rev. Wallace prefers Dickens and Esther Summerson over Melville and Isabel. From The Presbyterian Quarterly Review, Volume 2 (June 1853): 124-155.
The same "foul flowering" that shows itself in society, appears appallingly in literature. Instead of any general review of the books that our sons and daughters read with so much eagerness, we will select the works of one Author—a man of genius, else we should not think it worth our while to notice him—a writer of a most beautiful, not to say delicious style, at least in his earlier productions, a man of sufficient ability to concentrate, and then spread, the miasmata of the country, and so to become an exponent of the disease which is preying upon its vitals. Whom can we mean but Herman Melville? When the foul vapors of the land are pervaded with the light of his brighter genius, or made lurid with the glare of his phosphorescent flashings, they take with tolerable distinctness the form of a voluptuous dreaminess and beauty which first invests all truth with a fair hue, and ends by dissolving it. The pupil in this school is left without fixed principles, or a sure compass; and then by an Epicurean process as old as the world, but never more dangerously realized than now, his leading propensities, carried out without restraint, become the chief good. If we be the victims of a dark fate, if with the semblance of free will, man vainly struggles in a net-work of influences utterly beyond his power to unmesh; if it be doubtful whether God or the devil govern the universe, or whether they exist at all; or if potentially, both are in man, the angelic in the shape of aesthetic beauty, and the demoniac in the shape of pain and low spirits, and so that which theologians call God be simply the aggregate of joy, and love, and beauty, rosy wine and rosy sunsets, and that called devil be only poverty and old age, and icy cold, heartlessness and contempt, hatred and sorrow; if the ministry are a body of cunning men who have taken advantage of a weakness in humanity to climb to place and wealth; if the Church is a vast conventional worldly machine which rebukes only the vice which is not respectable, and winks hard at sin amongst vestrymen, ruling elders, and bank directors; then there is nothing better, muses the young neophyte, than that I should launch my bark,
Youth at the prow, and pleasure at the helm.
[Thomas Gray, The Bard: A Pindaric Ode 2.2; earlier verse at 1.3 personifies "huge Plinlimmon" with "his cloud-topt head"]
He does it. He meets many disciples of the same school, of both sexes, and the revellings described in Putnam's Magazine [in Our Best Society by George William Curtis, February 1853 issue with Fitz-James O'Brien's article, Our Young Authors — Melville] are the result, as natural and legitimate as the flow of water down hill, or the upheaving of the tides beneath the influence of a summer moon. This is the ultimate efflorescence of the choice mingling of voluptuousness and dreamy scepticism.

That we are doing no injustice in speaking of the tendency of these books, we shall attempt to prove by a slight analysis. It pains us to speak evil of any thing. We never do so, except of the works of one who voluntarily appears before the public, and so loses his right of privacy, as an author. That we distinguish between the author and the man appears in this, that we charge on Mr. Melville no intention of evil. For aught we know, he may write purely for amusement, or money, or fame. But the tendency of his writings is public property. Of that only we mean to speak.

"Typee," in point of descriptive power and beauty of style reminds us both of Defoe and Washington Irving. The impression produced by it as a work of genius was both natural and deserved. With Irving, Willis and Curtis, Melville has shown a peculiar power, hitherto supposed to be like picturesque ruins, or very refined manners, only possible in an old country, aristocratic in its institutions. Many ideas of this kind, however, are destined to be exploded by our Western republic. In this beautifully written book, the character of Fayaway has been admired by men and women as its chief gem. Lady writers of high reputation have recorded their admiration in permanently printed words. Yet if the book is truthful, the hero lived in careless ease among these poor Polynesians, without any one effort to benefit them, and both the descriptions and the story of the beautiful central figure imply—shall we use a soft word ?—voluptuousness. This ought to have given the alarm on the threshhold of Mr. Melville's authorship.

"Omoo" advanced another step, not, we presume, in any deliberate design to do mischief, but certainly in the wrong direction. Not content, to say the least, with carelessness as to the welfare of the simple beings amongst whom his hero is represented as amusing himself, in Omoo a deliberate effort is made to hold up to contempt the men and women, who at great cost of labor and sorrow, went to those islands to Christianize and civilize their degraded fellow-men. If these arrows have fallen harmless at their feet, it is not Mr. Melville's fault. If America received the attempt with disgust, it was because America is sagacious, and can appreciate enterprise and virtue. It is too late to sneer at Christian missionaries.

Mr. Melville presently gave us "Mardi." This strange book, it is true is so fashioned, that the author may very readily say that ho had no intention to teach any thing whatever. It professes to be a rhapsody. It sets out to be a South Sea romance; a floating amid sunny and stormy waves, water-lilies and plantains, beautiful women and orientally philosophic and poetic men, kings and courtiers, maidens and attendants, after a peculiar South Sea fashion. But the book has genius, and will be read, and therefore we have something to do with it. It is our business to analyze subtle potions, because we are physicians of the soul. We have said that these books are pervaded with two essences, ever mingling, voluptuousness and dreamy scepticism. By scepticism, we do not mean infidelity, technically so called, or opposition to the Christian religion, but doubt as to almost every thing. In Typee and Omoo, the former element predominates; in Mardi, as is natural, the latter appears more prominently. We have a king, or powerful ruling practical man, a philosopher, who has examined all manner of systems of belief and thought, a poet rich in genius and melody, a mystic maiden whom they ever pursue, who may possibly represent "truth" or "happiness." They voyage the world around, in their Polynesian way, examine all climes, and discuss all methods of existence, find savage and civilized much the same in essence, and end the search as unsatisfactorily as they began. They are amused; their intellect, imagination and sensibilities are played upon by the way; but the result is nought—Pyrrhonism, like the old Greek, or "Nothing," like that celebrated Japanese school of philosophy, of which we read, in which the professors discoursed so eloquently of this ultimate outcrop of human things, that their disciples would cry out for hours, like the Ephesians of Diana, "great is nothing!" "nothing! nothing!" If all this of "Mardi" had been written, mutatis mutandis, in Greece, before the Christian era, we might admire it, and amuse ourselves with it, while lamenting that over such a mind the true light had not risen. But the case is widely different when "the times of this ignorance" have passed away. There is no kind of excuse for dwelling in darkness or penumbra when God hath spoken, and the man that weaves a frail artificial summer-house of leaves and flowers over and around him, that in his twilight arbor he may not see things clearly, but dream amid sensuous enjoyment and skeptical doubt, will presently learn with all like-minded, that it is not with them in responsibility, as with those who moved in procession in Cyprus and at Corinth, where genius and pleasure wove their wreaths around youth and beauty, and gods and demi-gods smiled from heaven and on earth, to their fancy, over their voluptuousness. The true light now shineth, into the noonday must men come with their principles and deeds, or presently God will bring them into a brighter light than the sun at noonday, before men and angels!

If Mr. Melville agrees with us in these statements, and Mardi was written to teach some such lesson, then we have but to inquire the meaning, last of all, of a book called "Pierre, or the Ambiguities." How any man, even if in some mad hours of excitement he had written such a book, could read the proof-sheets and not heave the whole mass upon the fire, we cannot conceive. We will give the reader an idea of it, by tracing the plot in the simplest possible language. A young man is born and brought up in a village where his ancestors had lived and owned a large part of the soil for generations. He is handsome, physically brave, cultivated, an only child, left with his mother, who is a widow, but proud and beautiful. He becomes engaged to a lovely girl, who is devoted to him. He suddenly discovers that his father had an illegitimate child, who exists in the shape of a young lady of remarkable beauty. He determines to protect her, and in order to do so, persuades her to pass for his wife. His mother disowns him, and dies soon after, leaving the entire estate, which was her's by will of the father, to his cousin. The hero flies the village, and presently passes through a number of romantic phases, into incest with his sister. His betrothed bride, who had been on the verge of death at his desertion, now insists on coming to live with him, of course without being married to him, and against the wish of all her relatives. The end of it is, that he murders his cousin, he and his sister commit suicide, and the betrothed bride falls dead at his feet—all before he is of age.

We would inquire whether it is at all necessary to import Parisian novels, in order that we might have the French school full fledged among us, if such books as Pierre are to be tolerated as American literature?

If it be asked whether we charge the author with approving the conduct of his hero, and of any other character in Pierre, (for nearly every one is vicious or silly,) we reply, of course, in the negative. But there is in man a strange passion of sympathy and imitation. The constant familiarity with murder, produces murder; sensuality begets sensuality; a nightmare literature is both cause and effect of a vicious state of society. God creates the beautiful and pure in nature, he establishes it in his kingdom of grace, He "sets the solitary" in no unnatural and horrible position, but in "families." And such influences carried out benignantly, create a pure and virtuous society. With all his faults compare Dickens with Melville, the death of poor Jo with the death of Pierre, Esther Summerson with Isabel. The one* is the breath of morning driving away the pestilence that walketh in darkness, the other the enervating south wind relaxing our vigor, or the hot simoom of the desert, withering the nerves and turning life itself bitter within us. Mr. Melville is a young man. Let him listen to the friendly voices which urge him to a better path.

* We wish Mr. Dickens could be persuaded for once, if only for the sake of variety and truth to nature, to become acquainted with one decent minister of any denomination, and give us his portrait as an offset to the disgusting hypocrites he delights to paint. Is there no such thing as an honest man in England preaching the Gospel?
Multiple volumes with the "Young America" article are also accessible courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library:
    Digitized by Google - Original from Cornell University
    via HathiTrust Digital Library
    Specifically criticizing the putdown of "Young America," the Cleveland, Ohio Plain Dealer dismissed the Presbyterian Quarterly Review as "an old fogy institution of the first magnitude."

    Cleveland Plain Dealer - June 22, 1853
    via GenealogyBank
    However, the "Young America" essay received a favorable response in most newspapers that noticed it, not only in the religious press. For example, the Washington Weekly National Intelligencer, June 18, 1853 extracted "very just and forcible passages," none of which mentioned Herman Melville. And the footnoted request for a good preacher from Dickens was frequently reprinted, again without reference to Melville or Pierre.

    Sat, Jul 2, 1853 – 2 · New England Farmer (Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America) ·

    Extracts on Pierre from the 1853 Presbyterian Quarterly Review essay did make their way into the "Our Weekly Gossip" section in Joseph M. Church's Bizarre: for Fireside and Wayside (June 18, 1853), pages 155-6. Introduced there with a fresh hit at Melville's latest book as "the abomination of all abominations, in the shape of romance."
    — The last number of the Presbyterian Review has an article entitled "Young America," from which we select the following touching Melville's last work—the abomination of all abominations, in the shape of romance—entitled "Pierre or the Ambiguities:" ...

    Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews, edited by Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker (Cambridge University Press, 1995; paperback 2009) has the earlier notice of Pierre ("wild, wayward, overstrained in thought and sentiment, and most unhealthy in spirit"), as first published in Church's Bizarre: for Fireside and Wayside on August 21, 1852.

    Saturday, January 19, 2019

    In one sentence

    "The chief characteristic of Herman Melville's writings is this attempted union of the practical with the ideal." --Henry S. Salt in The Scottish Art Review Volume 2 (November 1889): 186-190 at page 189.

    Related post:

    Wednesday, January 16, 2019

    Amasa Delano, news and views

    Amasa Delano

    Wed, Sep 2, 1807 – Page 3 · Poughkeepsie Journal (Poughkeepsie, Dutchess, New York, United States of America) ·
    Captain Amasa Delano, of the ship Perseverance, of Boston, has received from the King of Spain a Gold Medal, with his Majesty's likeness, as an acknowledgment to captain D. for the humane and spirited exertion of himself and his crew, in rescuing a Spanish merchant ship, in the Pacific Ocean, with a cargo of slaves who had risen upon and massacred the greater part of the Spaniards on board.  --Poughkeepsie Journal, September 2, 1807.
    Mon, May 19, 1806 – Page 3 · Weekly Raleigh Register (Raleigh, Wake, North Carolina) ·

    Mon, May 19, 1806 – Page 3 · Weekly Raleigh Register (Raleigh, Wake, North Carolina) ·
    From The United States Gazette, reprinted in the Baltimore, Maryland Telegraphe and Daily Advertiser, April 24, 1806; and the Weekly Raleigh Register, May 19, 1806.
    It is with pleasure we record the following heroic conduct of Amasa Delano, of Boston, as well as the liberality with which he has been rewarded by the king of Spain and the government of Chili. 
    Captain Delano commanded the ship Perseverance of Boston; off the island of St. Mary's he fell in with a Spanish merchant ship called the Trial, Captain Don Benito Serien, with a cargo of slaves who had mutinied, and in a most cruel manner butchered the greatest part of the Spanish crew. Capt. Delano did not hesitate a moment in taking the most effectual means of affording the Spaniards every assistance in his power. He laid his vessel along side of the Trial, and boarded her in a resolute manner, at the head of his gallant but small crew, and notwithstanding the vast superiority of numbers, he over came and secured the blacks, and thereby saved the lives of the few remaining Spaniards, whom he also abundantly supplied with water and provisions which began to fail them. Capt. Delano, it is said, has received eight thousand dollars from the government of Chill, and the king of Spain has charged his ambassador near the United States to write to Captain Delano a letter expressive of his thanks, and to present him at the same time a gold medal as a token of gratitude for saving the lives of his subjects on board of the Trial. 
    Capt. Delano is yet absent, but is expected to return to Boston next October; we do not wish, however to delay laying before the public the above particulars, which at the same time that they do honor to our brave fellow citizen are equally honorable to a monarch and a nation who so justly appreciates and rewards the service rendered to humanity.
    U. S. Gaz.  
    The glorifying of Delano in the United States Gazette was protested by a correspondent of Poulson's American Daily Advertiser; transcribed below from the Baltimore Telegraphe and Daily Advertiser of April 28, 1806:
    From the American Daily Advertiser.
    A correspondent has observed, with surprise, your re-publication (from the Gazette of the United States) of an instance of American bravery, which is trumpeted forth as an act of "humanity," deserving of the "tribute of public gratitude."— What is the story? Stripped of those fascinating epithets, which contribute so much to blind even the eyes of the wise, with the dazzling lustre of heroic prowess. The poor Negroes, otherwise called "a Cargo of Slaves" (mark, no lustre here) on board of a Spanish Merchantman" (mark, again, no infamy here) had risen upon their Oppressors—what do I say—their Murderers: but the strife was yet undecided when a captain Delano, of the ship Perseverance, of Boston, falls in with them — boards the vessel — and reinsates the Spaniards in possession of their cargo of Human Live Stock. For this "gallant" action it is not sufficient that "the Government of Chili" have presented "our brave Fellow-citizen," with 8000 dollars; and that "the King of Spain" has directed his ambassador to honor him with "a gold medal," &c. &c. but the good people of the United States are called upon to join in the "tribute of gratitude" so justly due for this "service rendered to humanity." — 
    For shame — let slave merchants reward their protectors and tyrants honor the bravery that is prostituted in their cause — but let free-born Americans reprobate the Quixotic valour that saved a handful of White Russians, at the expence of two or three hundred Victims of their insatiable avarice, whose only crime was that of rising upon their Oppressors, to regain that freedom with which God and Nature had endowed them. 
    Delano's 1817 Narrative of Voyages and Travels included a chapter on "the Capture of the Spanish Ship Tryal, at the island of St. Maria; with the Documents relating to that affair."

    Amasa Delano, A Narrative of Voyages and Travels via Google Books:
    A narrative of Voyages and Travels courtesy of  HathiTrust Digital Library
    As documented in the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of The Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860, Delano's Narrative is Melville's main source for Benito Cereno, originally published in Putnam's magazine and reprinted in The Piazza Tales.

    Melville's Benito Cereno in Putnam's Monthly Magazine volume 6 (October-November-December 1855) courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library:
    Benito Cereno in Putnam's magazine via Google Books:

    Tue, Oct 30, 1855 – Page 1 · The New York Times (New York, New York, New York, United States of America) ·
    "Putnam's Monthly.... Among the continuation papers is a second portion of HERMAN MELVILLE'S "Benito Cereno," (rather heavy reading, so far,)…." --New York Daily Times, October 30, 1855.
    Benito Cereno in The Piazza Tales (New York: Dix & Edwards, 1856) via Google Books:

    The Piazza Tales courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library:

    Benito Cereno on Manifold Scholarship at CUNY

    Thursday, January 10, 2019

    More centennial poems and one Centennial Counterblast

    The fable of the physical world becomes the fact of the political; and after alternate sunshine and storm, after heavings of the earth which only deepened its roots, and ineffectual blasts of lightning whose lurid threat died in the air, under a sky now raining on it benignant influence, the century-plant of American Independence and popular Government bursts into this magnificent blossom, of a joyful celebration illuminating the land!  --Oration by Rev. Richard S. Storrs, here from The Centennial Celebration of American Independence.
    Like The Blossoming of the Aloe, the 1876 poems transcribed below all feature The Century Plant or American Aloe (Agave, actually) as a figure of America and American independence. The conceit is developed straightforwardly in the first two, satirically in the third.
    1. The Century Plant by John Cruikshank
    2. The Century Plant by Mrs. Frances L. Mace 
    3. A Centennial Counterblast by Frank Cowan, attributed to "a wretched western poet, in the city of brotherly love." 
    Among other things, Frank Cowan's "Counterblast" shows that Melville was not the only poet in America to offer a contrarian perspective on the centennial hoopla.

    Washington, D. C. Capital - May 28, 1876
    For The Capital


    O, sad is the life of the Century Plant!
    It blooms but once in a hundred years.
    'Though long and wearily we wait,
    Still but for a night its flower appears;
    Yes, wearily wait for a hundred years,
    And but for a night the flower appears.

    "O long expectance; short-lived joy,"
    This was our sires' despairing cry.
    As through the ages the flower they watched,
    They saw it bloom and they saw it die;
    They watched the flower as the years went by;
    They saw it bloom and they saw it die.

    But we have taken the Century Plant
    And fixed it firmly in chosen ground,
    We have brought the food it loves the best,
    The secret of its life have found;
    As it firmly stands on chosen ground,
    The mystery of its life is found.

    We have called the four great winds to blow
    And breathe on the plant with tempered air,
    And round it rich commingled soils
    We've placed with labor and with care:
    As it grows in the free and tempered air,
    Rich mingled soils its glory share.

    The time approaches--nay 'tis now,
    In which the flowers should appear,
    And thirteen buds are opening wide
    Our hopes to fill, our hearts to cheer;
    Watch, brothers, watch, the time draws near,
    In which the century flowers appear.

    We have watched all night, and soon will come
    The crisis of the century flower,
    And very soon we will know its fate,
    And whether this is its dying hour;
    Pray, brothers, pray, for the century flower,
    May it escape its dying hour!

    O, long expected glorious day,
    The hour of death is safely past:
    Away forever with transient bloom,
    The century flower lives at last;
    Shout, brothers, shout, for the hour is past,
    The century flower lives at last.

    'Twas living then, and is living still,
    And now has bloomed for a hundred years,
    And at times from the fruitful parent stem
    A flowret new its head uprears;
    Yes, once in a while, in a hundred years,
    A bright new flower its head uprears.

    And ever will live our century plant,
    So wondrous is its rich new birth;
    It still will breathe the tempered air
    And firmly stand on the mingled earth;
    And this is the secret of its birth,
    The free, pure air and the mingled earth.


    Daily Albany Argus - June 10, 1876

    The Centennial.

    [From New York Journal of Commerce.]

    Most of the Centennial poetry that we have seen has been beneath criticism: but the following from a fair contributor to our paper is full of exquisite beauty:


                   In days of old,
    In solitude and silence grew the hour
    When God and Nature first beheld unfold
                   The solitary flower.

                   Purple as night
    Its petals opened in the forest gloom,
    And the winds, pausing in the seaward flight,
                   Inhaled the strange perfume.

                   The hoary oak
    Felt in its branches a responsive thrill,
    The eagle from his lonely eyrie spoke,
                   And all again was still.

                   Unwritten ages rolled
    Into the past, and as each century's bell
    Struck the full hour, the blossom would unfold,
                   With none its tale to tell.
                   At last the silence ceased.
    The desert wilderness a voice had found.
    Strange wanderers from the overflowing East,
                   Sought here a hunting-ground.

                   The shadow-haunted glades
    Echoed the savage song--the warrior cry--
    And wild, barbaric worship filled the shades
                   With awful mystery.

                   Life warm and new
    Through the dull fibres of the tree was shed;
    The swelling buds revealed a living hue--
                   Tinge of the morning red.
                   Not unblest
    The thousand years of silence and of night;
    Unto the hidden gardens of the west,
                   God said, "Let there be light!"

                   And behold
    It blooms again, the latest flower of Time!
    In the dark ages who could have foretold
                   The glory of its prime!

                   Palmiest days
    Of Grecian grandeur or of Roman pride
    Saw not their century bloom in such a blaze
                   Of fame, full-orbed, world-wide.

                   Heaven, bend low!
    From the last lingering gloom our land release!
    Let the perfection of the ages blow
                   White as the plume of Peace!

    --Mrs. Frances L. Mace.
    BANGOR, May, 1876.  --as reprinted in the Albany Argus, June 10, 1876.
    Century Plant - Floral Hall (1876)
    The Library Company of Philadelphia

    Portland Oregonian - August 24, 1876
    via GenealogyBank

    — 1876 —



       After three and a half years' service in the treadmill of a newspaper office, involving — ad nauseam — the thousand and one odes of the day, the brass bands and flag displays, the slang of the period, and the general conviviality of the Centennial Year of the Republic: involving, as it were, by imbibition.

    I say, damn this clatter! —
    That's what's the matter ( hic )
        With Hannah!  
    'Nough to make a man cuss —
    This ( hic ) confounded fuss!
    This ( hic ) ridiculous muss! —
    Gettin' ( hic ) wuss and wuss!

    Singin' hosanna!
    Wipin' your chin with a flag ( hic ) of bandana!
    Shoot the whole caboodle —
    The 'Merican eagle — the Fourth of July—
    The Little Hatchet that couldn't lie —
    John Hancock and ( hic ) Yankee Doodle!
    Shoot the whole Centennial biz ( hic )
    From the Big that was to the Little that is!


    Bombs bustin' in air ! —
       I wish I was deef! —
    An' the rockete' red glare ! —
        Or blind, I'd as lief! —
    An' this sulphurous smell
    Would stifle all ( hic ) — Well,
    Even the beer
    Tastes confoundedly queer!
    An' a man cannot touch,
    But he's all over ouch!
    A man has no sense,
        But it's outraged outright! —
    No sense? A ( hic ) suggestion — No cents!
                 Ne'er a red!
                 Broke — dead!
    Busted higher 'an a kite!
    Lit out for that Kingdom Come
    Where the Rag-baby's eye-teeth are cut ( hic ) chewin' gum!


    And what for?
    O ( hic ) lor'!
    Give us room! give us room!
    The American Century Plant's in full bloom!


    The American Century Plant!
        I'd like to meet it! —
    I've seen the Centennial elephant —
       I wonder if he ( hic ) could have eat it!


    Where is it? — There's room for conjecture!
    What is it? — That's food for a lecture!
    Some pumpkins for independence pie? —
    An' ( hic ) sass?
    Or small potatoes for equality?
    Or beans ( hic ) for gas?
    Or that buncombe bosh
    The reformer's squash?
    Or this ( hic ) dead beet? —
    I'd like to see't —
    This wonderful century plant,
    But ( hic ) can't!
    However, let's have, if you please,
    Some Centennial ( hic ) peas.

    Pull down your vest!— ( hic )
    Young man, go west! —
    And ( hic ) give us a rest! —
    This whole Centennial fuss
    Isn't worth a ( hic ) Continental cuss!
    And that's the blizzard,
    From a to izard,
    Of my Centennial ( hic ) blunderbuss!
    --"A Centennial Counterblast" in Frank Cowan, Southwestern Pennsylvania in Song and Story (Greensburg, PA, 1878).
    In 1865, Mary Kellogg Johnson (aka Mrs. M. O. Johnson or M. O. J.) movingly eulogized Abraham Lincoln as The Century-Plant that flowers and dies:
    Yes: we who loved thee, watched the blossoming
         Of thy life's earnest hour,
    Forgetting that is ripening were its fall,—
         Lincoln, our Aloe-Flower!

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    Wednesday, January 9, 2019

    The Blossoming of the Aloe

    The Aldine: The Art Journal of America - July 1876
    During the centennial year 1876 poets liked to imagine America at 100 as the Century Plant or "American Aloe" that flowers only once in a hundred years. In Melville's Clarel (3.27) fragments of monastic graffiti cryptically picture a nation scarred by Civil War as an Aloe that can't blossom.
    What's here
    Half faded: '. . . teen . . six,
    The hundred summers run,
    Except it be in cicatrix
    The aloeflowersnone.' —
    In "The Blossoming of the Aloe" Augusta von Bubna recalls the fratricidal strife and its horrors as "a fierce south wind that scorched the leaves" of the metaphorical century plant. More hopefully though, this poet represents the Civil War as a pruning-knife instead of the "blighting breeze" it seemed to pessimists. Transcribed from The Aldine: The Art Journal of America (July 1876): 208; HathiTrust Digital Library does not have volume 8, but JSTOR and Melvilliana do.

    July 4th, 1876.

    The seed was sown one hundred years ago to-day;
    A little band of men stood on their ground
    Of noble independence, and looked round
    Defiant on the whole wide world. Dismay
    Shone on the pallid faces of the crowd,
    But not within the stalwart hearts of those
    Who, smarting 'neath the tyranny of foes,
    Threw off the yoke, and in brave voices loud,
    Cried boldly: "Liberty or Death!" And then
    The seed took root. 'Twas watered, true, by tears,
    And oft with blood: the storms of many years'
    Hard struggles told upon its growth; but men
    Watched vigilant its slender, tender root,
    And when it 'gan to put forth branch on branch,
    And grew each year more firm, and free, and stanch,
    They whispered hopefully of its first fruit.
       Then came a fierce south wind that scorched the leaves
    And turned them angry red, as brother's blood;
    And all the mighty tree swayed with the feud
    Of the great tempest. "'Tis a blighting breeze!"
    Cried some. "The century plant is doomed, for ay,
    A young Republic's life is that of men
    Who fail and falter at three score and ten,
    Then shamble feebly, totter on, and — die!"
    The nations, watchful, stood afar and cried,
    "The ax is at the roots; it can not live!"
    When  — 'twas the pruning-knife that made it thrive
    And knit the roots still closer! Has it died?
    Ah, no!  The aloe blooms! and here to-day
    A great Republic wears its starry crown
    More proudly than a monarch on his throne,
    While nations come to praise its grand array!

    Augusta von Bubna.
    Von Bubna, Augusta. “The Blossoming of the Aloe. July 4th, 1876.” The Aldine, vol. 8, no. 7, 1877, pp. 208–208. JSTOR, JSTOR,
    "The Blossoming of the Aloe" was reprinted from "Aldine for July" in Every Evening (Wilmington, Delaware) on September 7, 1876.

    Joel Munsell, Annals of Albany v. 10
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    Monday, January 7, 2019

    Missing Table of Contents

    "For good reason, then, we regard the Harper edition as the text that Melville wanted published in his lifetime. We have silently corrected obvious printers' errors, but otherwise present the novel as it first appeared in July 1852, which means that there are some inconsistencies.... We have decided not to choose among such variants but to reproduce what the first printing presented." --Robert S. Levine and Cindy Weinstein, A Note on the Text and Annotations in Pierre; or, The Ambiguities (W. W. Norton & Company, 2017), pages xix-xx.

    I bought this NCE edition partly because I was curious to learn what if anything the editors made of Melville's reference early in Book I to the "excellent English author of these times." Do they point to Wordsworth in a footnote, I wondered. Yes with two qualifiers, "unclear" and "perhaps." No mention of The Prelude.

    On my way to Book I and Wordsworth I noticed (after a side-trip through Melville's illy) the NCE Pierre lacks Melville's original Table of Contents, despite the promise to "present the novel as it first appeared in July 1852." Subsequent page headings in the NCE Pierre do give individual "Book" titles or abbreviated versions, but in the 1852 Harper edition only "PIERRE." appears throughout, at the top of each page after the first page of a new "Book."

    Fortunately Harvard University has a first edition of Pierre; or, The Ambiguities, digitized by Google and accessible online in several formats. Students with just the NCE Pierre can get the missing Table of Contents via the Internet Archive.

    Alternatively, the same Google-digitzed Harvard volume is also accessible online courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library.
    Print editions that do provide a Table of Contents with Melville's individual Book titles include Pierre, or, The Ambiguities  (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1929); the 1949 Hendricks House edition of Pierre; or, The Ambiguities edited by Henry A. Murray; and the 1992 Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Melville's Pierre, or The Ambiguities edited by Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle.

    Transcribed below from the 1852 Harper edition.


    BOOK I.


    BOOK II.

    LOVE, DELIGHT, AND ALARM . . . . . . . . . 26 



    BOOK IV.

    RETROSPECTIVE . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89 

    BOOK V.

    MISGIVINGS AND PREPARATIVES . . . . . . . . 116 

    BOOK VI.




       WITH ISABEL AT THE FARM-HOUSE . . . . . . 173


       EFFECT UPON PIERRE . . . . . . . . . . . 194

    BOOK IX.


    BOOK X.


    BOOK XI.

    HE CROSSES THE RUBICON . . . . . . . . . . 247




    THEY DEPART THE MEADOWS . . . . . . . . . 273





    BOOK XV.

    THE COUSINS . . . . . . . . . . . . .  294




    YOUNG AMERICA IN LITERATURE . . . . . . . . 333




    THE CHURCH OF THE APOSTLES . . . . . . . . 360

    BOOK XX.

    CHARLIE MILLTHORPE . . . . . . . . . . . 374







       EASEL AND TRUNKS AT THE APOSTLES' . . . . . 418


    LUCY AT THE APOSTLES' . . . . . . . . . . 439


       ENCELADUS . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  450


       END . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  475

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    • Melville's illy

    Melville's illy

    Introducing the 2017 Norton Critical Edition of Pierre, editors Robert S. Levine and Cindy Weinstein warn readers about Melville's problematic deployments of "new words" and cite illy as one them, taking it for a neologism like battalionings. But illy in 1852 ain't isn't exactly a new word even for Melville, who used it in Redburn, and tried to in "Hawthorne and His Mosses." In manuscript, thanks to NYPL Digital Collections, you can see Melville's illy in the handwriting of the scribe his wife Elizabeth.

    Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "“Hawthorne and his mosses”" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1850.
    Melville originally wrote:
     "Nevertheless, it would argue too illy of my country were this maxim to hold good concerning Nathaniel Hawthorne...."
    In print the Literary World gave the standard form "ill" for Melville's "illy":

    The Literary World 186 - August 24, 1850

    Most versions of "Hawthorne and His Mosses" after 1987 restore Melville's illy, following the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860. The editorial Notes on Mosses at 672-3 include a characteristically illuminating discussion.
    Changed to "ill" in LW...As an adverbial form "illy" was becoming ill regarded....
    Consulting OED the Northwestern-Newberry editors found usages before Melville's by Jefferson (1785), Southey (1795), Lowell (1848), and Irving (1849).

    The Norton Critical Edition of Pierre forgoes Northwestern-Newberry texts as well as end notes. Instead, NCE gives the 1852 text of Pierre (silently corrected, as acknowledged in "A Note on the Text")

    and a selection from the 1850 text (silently silently-corrected) in the New York Literary World of "Hawthorne and His Mosses." I guess "silently silently corrected" because the NCE version reads "sane madness" for the 1850 misprint "same madness" without explanation. (Which on reflection makes it look like the NCE reading "sane madness" is only accidentally correct, a fortuitous typo for the Literary World typo "same madness.")

    The grammar police in Melville's day called illy improper or "Bad English," which is doubtlessly doubtless why Evert Duyckinck or a compositor changed it in "Hawthorne and His Mosses."

    New York Commercial Advertiser - September 12, 1846
    via GenealogyBank
    We commend to the writer in question, as a fault worthy of his censure, the increasing disposition to make new adverbs by the addition of ly where it is not wanted. In very many of the newspapers we find illy substituted for ill--the writers seeming to imagine that ill is always an adjective, and must be changed to illy where an adverb is required. It is not so. Ill and well are adverbs as well as adjectives--adverbs when used in connection with a verb, adjectives when used when with a noun. Nobody, as yet, says "welly done"--why, then, do we meet with "illy done"? "Well done" and "ill done" are the proper modes of expression.  --New York Commercial Advertiser, September 12, 1846

    Besides being bad English, "illy" for ill was also regarded as an Americanism according to Webster as quoted in Seth T. Hurd's  A Grammatical Corrector (Philadelphia, 1847).

    Nevertheless, the author of Pierre also wrote illy into Israel Potter four times. Ignorantly? Patriotically, as peculiarly American? Carelessly? Defiantly? Whatever the original motive, Melville later repented, as shown by corrections he made in a volume "From the Library of Herman Melville" now at Houghton Library, Harvard University, AC85.M4977.855ic (A).
    As noted in the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Israel Potter (page 247), duly cross-referenced in the NN Piazza Tales,
    Four of the alterations consist of striking the "y" from "illy" ...
    Perhaps then Melville would also have wanted to revise the four instances of illy in The Confidence-Man (1857), were there any chance of getting out another edition after the failure of his original publisher, Dix, Edwards & Co.

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