Monday, January 7, 2019

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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