Monday, August 26, 2019

Reformer Samuel Leavitt on Moby-Dick and White-Jacket

Herman Melville gets several mentions in an obscure, densely allusive, anonymously published reform novel titled Exit of Caliban and Shylock (Philadelphia: A. Winch, 1868). One copy is held by the Library of Congress in the Rare Book/Special Collections Reading Room (Jefferson LJ239):
 PS991.A1 E88.
Harvard has another one at Widener Library, Offsite Storage AL 4314.5:
The NYPL copy is Google-digitized and accessible via Google Books
and Hathi Trust Digital Library
Notes in the Folger Library Catalog indicate that the book is
"Attributed to a Mr. Leavitt."
Joshua King Ingalls reliably identified the author of "Caliban and Shylock" as lifelong reformer Samuel Leavitt:
I should apologize perhaps to Mr. Samuel Leavitt, for not mentioning his name before. But he has been met on so many different platforms, I scarce know where to place him, particularly. We were in accord on the land and interest problems: but differed politically on the tariff and the greenback questions, although I acted as treasurer for the Liberty Bell, which he published in the Peter Cooper Presidential campaign. He advocated rational divorce for mismated couples. He has been a newspaper man ever since I knew him. He was the author of "Caliban and Shylock," "Peace Maker Grange," a social romance, and "Our Money War," a most elaborate and exact statement of the history of our money metallic or paper, since the existence of our nation, with a bias in favor of fiat money.  -- Reminiscences of an Octogenarian in the Fields of Industrial and Social Reform (New York, 1897) pages 153-4; h/t Shawn P. Wilbur on The Libertarian Labyrinth.
Described by Chester McArthur Destler in American Radicalism, 1865-1901 as a "veteran reform journalist," Samuel Leavitt (1831-1899) was a son of John Wheeler Leavitt (1790-1870) and Cecilia Kent Leavitt (1798-1892).

Here's a helpful plot summary of Leavitt's book from the Springfield Republican of April 14, 1869:
Exit of Caliban and Shylock is the odd name of an odd, crude book, published by A. Winch, 505 Chestnut street, Philadelphia. It is the spiritual autobiography of a young New Englander, Clement Romain [Clarence Romain, actually] who is brought up a Calvinist, and studies divinity, then becomes a spiritualist, and in New York and Brooklyn falls in with a wretch named Merlin, a spiritual medium, married to a wife of whom Clement falls in love after a time, and finally marries. But in the interim he passes through all sorts of conditions and experiences at the west, and finally settles down as a proof-reader at Cincinnati. He is always seeking to reform the world and to live a true life himself; but he is entangled in speculations about marriage and divorce, Fourierism and spiritualism, and does not make a very brilliant figure in the eye of the world. The book has many passages of truth and power, together with much rubbish and many tiresome discursions. It inculcates a pure morality, too, but one somewhat at variance with the laws and usages of society. It cannot be read by all persons, but to those enlightened enough to see what is best in the author, it is a thoughtful and suggestive book.
Springfield Republican (Springfield, MA) April 14, 1869
The notice in the Springfield Republican is critical yet sympathetic, too. With fewer reservations, Exit of Caliban and Shylock was promoted in Susan B. Anthony's The Revolution, the weekly newspaper of the National Woman Suffrage Association, edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Parker Pilsbury. On November 5, 1868, The Revolution published a long extract, and this strong recommendation from Eleanor "Nellie" Ames, aka Eleanor Kirk:

To our friends of “THE REVOLUTION” who have not read the “Exit of Caliban and Shylock,” I will say, get it immediately and have a feast. I have no knowledge of the author, not even his name: but that he has launched a work upon the world destined to prove a brilliant success, requires no gift of prophecy to foretell. The title is a strange one, and not at first thought particularly happy or suggestive; but a careful reading will convince all, of its singular appropriateness. The “Exit of Caliban and Shylock” is a scholarly emanation from a thoughtful, earnest, live man; and as such cannot but commend itself to the refined and discriminating. Its exquisite and classical quotations and allusions make it invaluable to the metaphysical student. It so combines the ideal and the actual—the visionary and the practical, making so plain that blending which with the most of us is such a mystery—that as I finished the last page I was constrained to say— woman! woman! where have your senses been wandering these years” that you could not see “some things as well as others”! 
Previously noticed in The Revolution on October 8, 1868:
EXIT OF CALIBAN AND SHYLOCK. A tale of Captive lady, Knight, Tourney and Crusade. Philadelphia: A. Winch, 505 Chestnut street. 
A large octavo pamphlet of nearly a hundred and fifty pages, treating of the Woman Question in more aspects than any other work of its size yet produced. Its price is 75 cents, one-third too much, most buyers will think, and not unreasonably. And yet we venture to say, that those who do like it, will never complain of its cost. It will have foes, too, as well as friends, as readers of "THE REVOLUTION" will see, and perhaps become, should we give them some specimens of its pages, as we hope to do soon.
Ads for Exit of Caliban and Shylock in The Revolution ran through August 1869.
It treats Catholicism, Universalism, Socialism, Swedenborgianism. Spiritualism, Woman’s Rights and Free-Divorce as candidly as Hepworth Dixon or Parton.  
Treats of the Woman Question in more aspects than any other work of its size. — Revolution, Oct 8. 
Singularly profound, and crammed full of thoughts. Affords volumes of suggestions.— Banner of Light. 
One of the most astonishing and mysterious books ever issued. Bold sometimes brilliant. — Phila. City Item. 
Large 8 vo. 50 cents, postpaid. American News Co., New York; A. Winch, Phila. ; N. E. News Co., Boston. (See advertisement Oct 8.)
References to Melville appear in chapter 29 at page 94, and in chapter 40 at pages 128-9. The first occurs when the diarist-hero Clarence Romain quotes and endorses "the wild-souled author of 'Moby Dick'" on the parable of Dives and Lazarus:
The poverty of the very poor for instance, presses me sorely. 'Tis hard for me to realize how the affluent can be so little effluent toward the needy. I say with the wild-souled author of “Moby Dick:” “Now that Lazarus should lie stranded on the curbstone of Dives, this is more wonderful than that an iceberg should be moored to one of the Moluccas.” Yet the sight and hearing of the strange medley of modern reforms and reformers and philanthropists tempt me to say, Uses avast! Put money in thy purse! It is enough to make one doubt the possibility of human disinterestedness to see the latter class so like the “very contentious gentlemen,”described in “Bleak House,” who “said it was his mission to be every body's brother, but seemed to be on terms of coolness with the whole of his large family.”   -- Exit of Caliban and Shylock, page 94.
Here Leavitt's protagonist fixes on a warm, reform-minded passage in chapter 2, The Carpet-Bag that was cut in the first British edition. In chapter 40 he looks back to White-Jacket, after lamenting that now (thinking of The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade, perhaps) "Herman Melville is evidently soured, blase, and going to the bad generally."

The right column on the digitized image of this page is cut off before the end of each line. That's all I have for now, hence the bracketed guesses--easy enough where the text is from White-Jacket, chapters 18 and 22.
Feb. 10th.—Though Herman Melville is evidently soured, blase, and going to the bad generally, his sharp criticisms are often very just. I have elsewhere said that the alms-house appears to be about the only substitute now-a-days for the monastery as a place of refuge for jaded spirits. According to Melville we may rate the frigate's hold among the last refuges of able-bodied males of this sort. In “White Jacket” [chapter 18] he says: “Indeed from a frigate's crew might be culled out men of all callings and professions, from a back-sliding parson to a broken-down comedian. The na[vy is] the asylum for the perverse, the [home] of the unfortunate. Here the [sons of] adversity meet the children of cal[amity] and the offspring of sin. Ba[nkrupt] brokers, bootblacks, blacklegs and [black]smiths here assemble together[; and] cast-a-way tinkers, watchmakers, drivers, cobblers, doctors, farmers[, and] lawyers compare past experience [and] talk of old times.” A sorry [sight?] truly for the weary and heavy [laden] and a poor purgatory for the [?]. How few of them all could resi[st the] healing influence of a genuine ph[alans]tery; how few of them would hav[e gone] astray had they been raised in this [?] sought normal school of life. 
Another point I gain from Mel[ville's] corroboration of my theory that civ[ilians?] would fare better if they made les[s fren]zied, life-destroying effort toward [diur?]nal progress and perfection, and re[served] their strength more for heart c[ure?]. He insists that our men-of-war are too clean [chapter 22]. “Now against this [invar]iable daily flooding of the three de[cks of] a frigate, as a man-of-war’s [man], White Jacket most earnestly pr[otests.] In sunless weather it keeps the s[ailor's] quarters perpetually damp—so mu[ch so,] that you can scarcely sit down w[ithout] running the risk of getting the lumbago, &c." He also complains that most officers force the sailors to a great deal of unnecessary polishing of brass knobs, while the more sensible supply a permanent coat of paint. So I say about the phalanstery; there may be less show and glitter than in some communities where the strong force the weak to unnecessary labor, but there will be more general comfort. -- Exit of Caliban and Shylock, page 128.
The Revolution - October 8, 1868




This story, written by an experienced journalist, has the merit of being entirely different in subject and treatment from any other. Its hero was led into a series of singular--some will say Quixotic--adventures, by indignation at the
The Democrats might make a campaign document of it, and call it
Its Tournaments and Crusades are mostly in behalf of woman. It is, then, a book for this hour of excitement on the
Without much regard for fig leaves, it lifts the veil of DOMESTIC LIFE and shows man the DOMESTIC TYRANT. It does this plainly, but in all serious decency.

It is full of ISMS, but extreme in nothing. It treats the "Evangelical" bugbears--Catholicism, Universalism, Socialism, Swedenborgianism, Spiritualism, Women's Rights and Free-Love as candidly as Hepworth Dixon.

It has blood-curdling stories for Spiritualists, and hard-cash facts for the Materialists.

It shows the poor a "door of hope" in CO-OPERATION and CHRISTIAN SOCIALISM, and both rich and poor that no modern quackery supplants Christ as the soul's healer.

It is condensed to a fault; original, quaint, pathetic, drily humorous, boiling over with indignation; full of the mysteries of this life and the next. It gives the words of many Sages and the gist of many Books concerning the great Questions of the day.

It is sensational without intending it.  
Some will call this book a FIRE BRAND, others a BALM; some very devout, others blasphemous; some very moral, others very immoral. It will enrage or delight, sadden or gladden, as seen through diverse spectacles.
A. WINCH, Author's Agent,
505 Chestnut street, Philadelphia.
Large Octavo. Paper. Price 75 cents.
For further study:

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