Thursday, August 15, 2019

Moby-Dick and Clarel in the library of Richard Garnett

Richard Garnett Vanity Fair 11 April 1895
"Printed Books" by Spy [Sir Leslie Ward].
Caricature of Dr Richard Garnett, CB in Vanity Fair, April 11, 1895.
Richard Garnett (1835-1906) succeeded his father at the British Museum, serving there as Assistant Keeper and eventually Keeper of Printed Books. The Times of London eulogized the son as "a scholar and literary man of much distinction and wide knowledge." Notable publications include The Relics of Shelley (1862) and The Twilight of the Gods, and Other Tales (1888). As revealed in the catalogue of his personal library, Richard Garnett owned two great works by Herman Melville: the verse masterpiece Clarel (1876) in two volumes; and in prose, the three-volume Bentley edition of Moby-Dick (1851).

Catalogue of the library of the late Dr. Richard Garnett, C. B. (London, 1906) p. 17
158 Melville (Herman) The Whale, 3 vol. FIRST EDITION, slightly
soiled, uncut, 1851 — Clarel, a Poem, etc. 2 vol. New York, 1876 (5)
Accessible online courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library:
and Google Books
In the December 1929 Blackwoods Magazine article "Moby-Dick and Mocha-Dick," Richard Garnett's son Robert Singleton Garnett (1866-1932) recalled that his father had corresponded with Melville. Unlocated letters to and from Richard Garnett are assigned the uncertain date 1890? in the 1993 Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Melville's Correspondence, ed. Lynn Horth, pages 520 and 754.

Edward Garnett (1868-1937) was another of Richard's sons who "attained literary prominence," as noted by William Garnett Chisolm:
The other son, Edward Garnett, is an eminent critic and author, and first gave encouragement to Joseph Conrad, W. H. Hudson, John Galsworthy and Stephen Crane. He married Constance Black, whose translations of the novels of Turgeniev and other Russian writers, has gained her a wide reputation. Their son, David Garnett, is a writer of brilliant prose, and his latest novel, "Pocahontas", is a vivid and most interesting portrayal of that romantic Colonial figure. -- The Garnetts of Essex County, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 42, No. 1 (January 1934), pages 72-83 at 73.
The year after he married Constance, Edward Garnett wrote Melville about "remaking" Redburn, as Hershel Parker recounts:
"In July 1890 young Edward Garnett wrote Melville from the office of the publisher T. Fisher Unwin in London with an unusual proposal. For an adventure series, he hoped Melville would "recast Redburn, or preface it with an introduction, showing that whereas it was given to the world as a fiction remaking it from the class of fictitious to that of personal adventures." -- Herman Melville: A Biography Volume 2, 1851-1891 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), page 901.
For more on the Garnetts, check out Helen Smith's The Uncommon Reader: A Life of Edward Garnett where 
"Beyond his connections to some of the greatest minds in literary history, we also come to know Edward as the husband of Constance Garnett—the prolific translator responsible for introducing Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov to an English language readership—and as the father of David “Bunny” Garnett, who would make a name for himself as a writer and publisher."  -- Macmillan publishers
I'm reading the Kindle version now, with delight. The Uncommon Reader is reviewed by Amitava Banerjee on The Victorian Web. In the Times Literary Supplement review ("Father in letters," November 8, 2017), Andrew Motion highlights Garnett's editorial preference for evidence-based matter, plainly narrated:
The framework of everything Garnett said and did as an editor was defined by his wish to see literature adopt a large cosmopolitan spirit, while clearing itself of stylistic verbiage and abstraction, and embracing “documentary evidence”, unique physical details and real­istic dialogue.
Edward Garnett's 1890 pitch for a remake of Redburn would seem to illustrate this editorial "framework," although Helen Smith does not mention it. And Sir Andrew has decided that "Garnett's life will not need to be written again." Too bad for Melville fanatics, since the author of Moby-Dick and Clarel (both listed in the catalogue of his father's library) gets only one un-indexed mention. In chapter 23, Smith quotes a 1927 letter from Garnett to T. E. Lawrence that honors Melville as one of "the great spirits" like Dostoevsky and Dante who "don't hesitate about expressing themselves frankly." Perhaps some future edition of The Uncommon Reader could squeeze in a word or two more about Edward Garnett's inherited interest in Herman Melville.

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  1. Interestingly Garnett's papers (76 boxes) are housed in the Henry Ransom Center at the University of Texas.

  2. Well well. So now we know where RG got Clarel: Cabot, Samuel, 1850-1906. 2 ALS to Garnett, Richard, undated. Enclosure: receipt to Cabot for Herman Melville's Clarel, 4 March 1892.

    And on March 26, 1892 Samuel Cabot of 70 Kilby St in Boston, MA advertised in the International Bookseller for "Any of the poetical works of Herman Melville."

    1. Wow - very impressive - thanks.

    2. I'm amazed UT has Garnett's papers. Thank you! And 3 times 3 cheers for Joan Sibley and Apryl Voskamp who made such a great finding aid in 2015.

      Alright then: Container 6.4 has a letter from some

      "Unidentified author. ALS to Garnett, Richard, 10 March 1876." You don't suppose... probably not from HM, but I guess we have to check it out. Anybody headed for Austin?

    3. It would be nice if it was a Melville letter :)

    4. Samuel Cabot IV's company founded in 1877 produced household disinfectant, sheep dip, wood preservatives, and shingle stain using coal tar that was a by-product of his gas works in Boston. At this time I can't find the connection between Cabot and Garnett.

    5. Those two letters from Cabot may help. I will ask HRC about them and follow up.

    6. The receipt dated March 14, 1892 shows that Samuel Cabot bought Melville's Clarel, 2 vols 1876 from New York dealer John Anderson, Jr. Cabot forwarded Clarel to Richard Garnett and preferred not to be reimbursed. However, Garnett insisted on paying, hence the receipt. Cabot refers gratefully to Garnett's "kind assistance to me while in London," and his "superb Library."

      That ALS from "Unidentified author" dated 10 March 1876 refers to the death of Richard Garnett's mother-in-law Mrs. Singleton. Nothing to do with HM.