Saturday, June 29, 2019

Tryphon on Mardi in the Boston Investigator

Here is one freethinking reader's favorable response to Mardi, transcribed from the Boston Investigator of June 13, 1849 (Elizabeth Shaw Melville's 27th birthday). Founded by Abner Kneeland, the self-proclaimed "Infidel Paper--Devoted to the Promotion of Universal Mental Liberty" was then published by Josiah P. Mendum and edited by Horace Seaver.

"Tryphon" had already contributed a series of provocative articles on Reason (April 18, 1849), Atheism (April 25, 1849), Theism (May 2, 1849); Internal Evidence (May 16, 1849); Paley's Evidences (May 23, 1849), and Bishop Wilson (May 30, 1849), answered by a Jersey City "Atheist" and "Anti-Superstition," among other correspondents. "Tryphon's reply" to critics appeared in the Boston Investigator on June 6, 1849, one week before the appreciative review of Mardi.

Mardi and a Voyage Thither--By Herman Melville.

I have not read Typee, nor have I read Omoo, and it was by mere chance that I commenced the perusal of Mardi, so recently issued from the press. A work of fiction, it was my intention to read it as is my wont with most books; to glance at its pages, as I turn the leaves, reading a few words here, and a paragraph there, as the fortune-hunter in the newly discovered El Dorado stops not to wash each foot of soil. Contrary to my usual custom, I commenced with the first sentence; and I had read some 30 or 30 pages before I discovered that I was devouring every word as eagerly as if the loss of a syllable would break the spell. Two volumes, containing 750 pages, were before me; but it was too late for retreat. I had left the "Arcturion," and was in for the voyage; but I had no cause for regret. I do not know how others may like the book, but I was not so imprisoned by Macaulay or by Lamartine.

Mardi is an archipelago of small islands, unconnected with the rest of the world, neir the Friendly Islands, apparently, but not laid down upon the maps. Of the voyage thither, I will only say here, that I was almost sorry when it was concluded and the fabled land was reached. But I had hardly commenced, with Zaji [Taji] and his companions, the tour of the islands, before I was forcibly reminded of Volney's Ruins, and yet I could hardly explain the reason. Babbalanja reminded me of the Genius and the legislators; yet the style of the two works is widely dissimilar. Mardi is not merely an imaginary group of islands, reflecting the follies of Christendom; it is impossible not to recognise in Franko, Bello, Vivenza, and other islands, the nations of France, Great Britain, and America. Nay, even personal allusions can hardly fail to be recognised. The warlike speech of Alanno, of Hishio [Hio-Hio] and the "steel gray hair and wondrous eye" of Nulli, mark the Boanerges of the Senate, and the Nullifier of the South, too strongly to be mistaken. I will not attempt to carry the explanation further. A reperusal alone will satisfy my own mind, and, reader, you can do the same.

I intended to mention a few examples of decided hits; but really, I fear I shall encroach upon your columns, if I begin to quote. The "rich store of reliable information" furnished to Donjalolo; the "canonised derelictions" of the ancients of Ohonoo; the teachings of the blind guide up the mountain of Ofo, with the faith of his followers therein; the story of the nine blind men searching for the true trunk of a banian tree, all confident in having discovered it, clinging to their several branches, and each in leaving his post for a moment to abuse the others for a different faith, returning to a different branch, but still confident that he is and has been right from the first, because it is acknowledged by all that there is but one tree and one trunk in the place; the discovery of a book among the rubbish of an antiquary, wonderful because written by a heathen who had never heard of Alma the son of Oro himself; and the general meditations of Babbalanja, though "possessed of a devil," are too forcible not to be regarded, and at the same time so veiled in the change of names, and so humorously recited, that they cannot offend.

But I cannot refrain from copying a few detached sentences, though I am perfectly conscious that they will convey no more idea of the book, than the brick which the Grecian fool carried, of the house he had to sell.

"As for the possible hereafter of the whales; a creature eighty feet long without stockings, and thirty feet round the waist before dinner, is not inconsiderately to be consigned to annihilation."

"I do not so much quote Bardianna, as Bardianna quoted me, though he flourished before me; and no vanity but honesty to say so."

"My lord, at bottom, men wear no bonds that other men can strike off; and have no immunities of which other men can deprive them. Tell a good man that he is free to commit murder,--will he murder? Tell a murderer that at the peril of his soul he indulges in murderous thoughts,--will that make him a saint?"

"I could weep that Comparative Anatomists are not so numerous now as hereafter they assuredly must become; when their services shall be in greater request; when, at the last, last day of all, millions of noble and ignoble spirits will loudly clamor for lost skeletons; when contending claimants shall start up for one poor, carious spine; and dog-like we shall quarrel over our own bones."

After giving the "celebrated Sandwich system" of creation, our philosopher concludes:--

"Thus fared the old diluvians; arrant gormandisers and beef-bolters. We Mardians famish on the superficial strata of deposits; cracking our jaws on walnuts, filberts, cocoanuts, and clams. My lord, I've done."

"And bravely done it is. Mohi tells us that Mardi was made in six days; but you, Babbalanja, have built it up from the bottom in less than six minutes."

"Nothing for us geologists, my lord. At a word we turn you out whole systems; suns, satellites, and asteroids included. Why, my good lord, my friend Annonimo is laying out a new Milky Way, to intersect with the old one, and facilitate cross-cuts among the comets."

And so saying, Babbalanja turned aside.

 "Communications." Boston Investigator, 13 June 1849. Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers, Accessed 29 June 2019.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Melville's comic-Nautical-Sinbadic style

"Moby-Dick; or, the Whale. By Herman Melville, author of 'Typee,' 'Omoo,' &c. 1 vol, 12mo, 635 pages. Harper and Brothers."

We think Mr. Melville has almost surpassed himself in this last fish story of his. Certainly a better yarn was never spun; nor one the reader is so anxious to find the end of: when found his next regret is that it comes so soon. Melville has the romance of Defoe, the "tarriness" of Marryatt, the vigor of Bulwer, and in one word produces the pleasantest fictions of the day in his style, which may be termed the comic-Nautical-Sinbadic-style. Long may he write, for he will never lack readers, while imagination and humor are appreciated.
Accessible online courtesy of Hathi Trust Digital Library. This Google-digitized volume from the University of Minnesota has Volume 15 ( July-December 1851) bound in with Volume 14.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Typee in Cassius M. Clay's True American

Cassius M. Clay via New York Public Library Digital Collections

This item is from the True American for April 22, 1846, the anti-slavery newspaper owned and edited by Cassius Marcellus Clay and then printed in Cincinnati. Found on GenealogyBank among items "added within 1 month":

Christian Slave-holders Abroad.

We give the following extracts from Herman Melville's work upon Polynesian Life. The reason why it is not necessary to send the bible to the South, is, they are already enslaved.

The foreign business is more profitable! Girls, where are your Sewing Societies? Your foreign "keepers of the poor" need horse-covers! [Excerpt from Typee chapter 26:]
"Look at Honolulu, the metropolis of the Sandwich Islands!—a community of disinterested merchants, and devoted, self-exiled heralds of the Cross, located on the very spot that twenty years ago was defiled by the presence of idolatry. What a subject for an eloquent Bible-meeting orator! Nor has such an opportunity for a display of missionary rhetoric been allowed to pass by unimproved! But when these philanthropists send us such glowing accounts of one half of their labors, why does their modesty restrain them from publishing the other half of the good they have wrought?—Not until I visited Honolulu was I aware of the fact that the small remnant of the natives had been civilized into draught horses, and evangelized into beasts of burden. But so it is. They have been literally broken into the traces, and are harnessed to the vehicles of their spiritual instructors like so many dumb brutes! 
"Among a multitude of similar exhibitions that I saw, I shall never forget a robust, red-faced, and very lady-like personage, a missionary's spouse, who day after day for months together took her regular airings in a little go-cart drawn by two of the islanders, one an old grey-headed man, and the other a rogueish stripling, both being, with the exception of the fig-leaf, as naked as when they were born. Over a level piece of ground this pair of draught bipeds would go with a shambling, unsightly trot, the youngster hanging back all the time like a knowing horse, while the old hack plodded on and did all the work.

"Rattling along through the streets of the town in this stylish equipage, the lady looks about her as magnificently as any queen driven in state to her coronation. A sudden elevation, and a sandy road, however, soon disturb her serenity. The small wheels become embedded in the loose soil,—the old stager stands tugging and sweating, while the young one frisks about and does nothing; not an inch does the chariot budge. Will the tenderhearted lady, who has left friends and home for the good of the souls of the poor heathen, will she think a little about their bodies and get out, and ease the wretched old man until the ascent is mounted? Not she; she could not dream of it. To be sure, she used to think nothing of driving the cows to pasture on the old farm in New England; but times have changed since then. So she retains her seat and bawls out, 'Hookee! hookee!' (pull, pull.) The old gentleman, frightened at the sound, labors away harder than ever; and the younger one makes a great show of straining himself, but takes care to keep one eye on his mistress, in order to know when to dodge out of harm’s way. At last the good lady loses all patience; 'Hookee! hookee' and rap goes the heavy handle of her huge fan over the naked skull of the old savage; while the young one shies to one side and keeps beyond its range. 'Hookee! hookee!' again she cries— 'Hookee tata kannaka!’' (pull strong, men,) — but all in vain, and she is obliged in the end to dismount and, sad necessity, actually to walk to the top of the hill.

"At the town where this paragon of humility resides, is a spacious and elegant American chapel, where divine service is regularly performed. Twice every Sabbath, towards the close of the exercises, may be seen a score or two of little wagons ranged along the railing in front of the edifice, with two squalid native footmen in the livery of nakedness, standing by each, and waiting for the dismissal of the congregation to draw their superiors home."
Lexington, KY True American - April 22, 1846
via GenealogyBank
American Portrait Gallery by Abner Dumont Jones (New York, 1869)
 From George W. Ranck's History of Lexington, Kentucky (Cincinnati, 1872), page 351:
On the 18th of August, 1845, at a great meeting, in Lexington, of the best citizens of Central Kentucky, irrespective of party, it was resolved that the press and materials of the "True American," an anti-slavery newspaper conducted in Lexington by Mr. Cassius M. Clay, should be sent beyond the confines of the state. A committee was accordingly appointed, which proceeded immediately to safely box up the articles, and ship them to Cincinnati, after which, Mr. Clay was notified of the address of the house to which they had been sent, subject to his order, with all charges and expenses paid. Mr. Clay subsequently obtained a judgment for $2,500 against two of the committee, which amount was paid by citizens of Fayette and adjoining counties. The office of the "True American" was located on Mill street, in the rear part of the building now known as Whitney's drug store.

Cassius Marcellus Clay is a son of General Green Clay, and was born in Madison county, Kentucky, October 19, 1810. He was a student at Transylvania University, but graduated at Yale College, in 1832. He has represented Madison and Fayette each in the legislature. In 1839 he removed to Lexington, and on June 3,1845, issued the first copy of the "True American," devoted to the overthrow of slavery in Kentucky. He commanded the "Old Infantry" in the Mexican War, was captured at Encarnacion, and was a prisoner for some time. On his return home, he was presented with a sword. Subsequently, Mr. Clay was minister to Russia. Mr. Clay is dauntless and unfaltering in whatever he believes is right. He resides at present in Madison county, Kentucky. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Clement Clarke Moore and Daughter

The collection of Nathaniel Fish Moore Photographs in the Columbia University Libraries Online Exhibition includes this unique image of Clement C. Moore, at chess with one of his daughters.

Moore, Nathaniel Fish, 1782-1872, “Clement Clarke Moore and Daughter,” Columbia University Libraries Online Exhibitions, accessed June 4, 2019,
In the December 1963 issue of American Heritage, Richard M. Ketchum introduced a holiday profile of Moore with this description of the photograph shown above:
The image is all but gone from the glass plate; what remains is a faded shadow of the man and his daughter, frozen forever in the interrupted moment of their chess game. When this picture was taken, Clement Clarke Moore was past middle age, with most of his achievements behind him, with the way of life he had known in rural Manhattan disappearing. Born midway through the Revolution, he would die seven days after the Battle of Gettysburg, his eighty-four years spanning the birth and breakup of the Union....
--Faces from the Past
The daughter must be Mary Clarke Ogden or one of Moore's unmarried daughters, either Katharine or Maria Theresa.

Children of Clement C. Moore (1779-1863) and Catherine Elizabeth Taylor Moore (1795-1830):
  • Margaret Elliott Moore (Ogden) 1815–1845 
  • Charity Elizabeth Moore 1816–1830 
  • Benjamin Moore 1818–1886
  • Mary Clarke Ogden 1819–1893
  • Clement Moore 1821–1889
  • Emily Moore 1822–1828
  • William Taylor Moore 1823–1897 
  • Katharine Van Cortlandt Moore 1825–1890 
  • Maria Theresa Barrington Moore 1826–1900

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Charles F Deems on Typee

Charles F. Deems via Greensboro College
... it seems to read itself without any effort on the part of the reader.
Notice of Typee, the revised edition (Harper & Brothers, 1849) in the Southern Methodist Pulpit Vol. 3 (1850), page 246:
(2.) Harper & Brothers. "Typee; a Peep at Polynesian Life; during a Residence of Four Months in a Valley of the Marquesas. By Herman Melville." This book produced quite a sensation upon its first appearance. The present is a revised edition. We have not read it all, for the simple reason that we have found it so pleasant that we have concluded to leave enough for one day's stage reading on a long journey. It is the book for that exactly. All the author need demand is that the first four pages be read. The reader will be in for it then. We were. We took the book to the sofa where our siesta is usually enjoyed, and the result was that we lost an afternoon by the operation. The pictures in this volume have a Robinson Crusoe life-likeness about them which makes the whole story very attractive. The style is so perfectly easy that it seems to read itself without any effort on the part of the reader. The description of tropical richness of climate and productions and of Polynesian life are very fascinating. We shall thank our friends, the publishers, if in their next package to us they will send Omoo and whatever other Melville books they publish.
Edited by Charles Force Deems (1820-1893), then President of Greensboro Female College. After the Civil War, Deems went to New York where he edited Frank Leslie's Sunday Magazine for three years, 1876-1879. One of his sons, Edward Mark Deems, served as chaplain of Sailors' Snug Harbor from 1913 to 1927.