Saturday, August 10, 2019

THE SEA, 1859-60 journal for sailors, Herman Melville listed among Special Contributors

Mary A. Denison via Northern Illinois University Libraries
'THE SEA' is the title of a fortnightly journal, edited by Rev. C. W. DENISON, designed for the instruction and entertainment of seamen. Judging from the three or four numbers which we have seen, it fulfils its purpose admirably. The editor and proprietor is assisted in his literary labors by his wife, Mrs. M. A. DENISON, a lady of talent, and an attractive writer, as will be seen upon a perusal of The Chest with Silver Bands, in our last number, which was from her prolific pen. --Editor's Table, The Knickerbocker Vol. 56 (October 1860), page 443.
Charles Wheeler Denison was a Baptist clergyman and social reformer, and founding editor of the New York Emancipator; his wife Mary A. Denison (aka Clara Vance, M. A. D., and N. I. Edson) a writer of popular fiction and poetry. According to some accounts they previously collaborated on the Boston Olive Branch. However, city directories name only Mary A. Denison as assistant editor, for example The Boston Directory for the Year 1852 and Boston Directory for the Year 1856. For their new enterprise The Sea, the Denisons enlisted a crew of twenty "Special Contributors" that included "Herman Melville."

The American Antiquarian Society Historical Periodicals Collection: Series 4 has a good but incomplete run of The Sea from April 20, 1859 to December 01, 1860. Digitized issues of The Sea are accessible to patrons of subscribing institutions via EBSCOhost.

All extant copies of THE SEA name Herman Melville as one of the "Special Contributors" listed on the front page.

Vol. 1 No. 5 April 20, 1859


Capt. A. H. FOOTE, U. S. N.
Rev. J. B. RIPLEY, Philad.
Rev. T. STILLMAN, West. N. Y.
Rev. A. McGLASHEN, Ala.
Lieut. MAURY, U. S. N.
Rev. J. P. ROBINSON, Mass.

Rev. M. J. GONSALVES, Cal.
Rev. W. F. DAVIDSON, Pa.
The next available issue (Vol. 1 No. 10, July 13, 1859) continues to list "Herman Melville with "Special Contributors," reduced now in number from twenty to fourteen. Added names are J. S. Inskip, NY; and J. D. Butler, New Bedford; but dropped are Webster, McGlashen, John S. Sleeper, R. F. Stockton, Rufus Choate, Caleb Cushing, Joseph Story, and M. J. Gonsalves.

Vol. 1 issue 19, December 14, 1859. Sixteen names of Special Contributors,  including "Herman Melville." Adding Rev. T. F. Boggs of Virginia and Rev. Robert Given, U. S. N.

Vol. 1 issue 20, December 28, 1859. Twenty names including "Herman Melville, Mass." Adding "Paul Jones," U. S. N. and Lieut. Preble, U. S. N. Also added, Lieut. W. F. Spicer, U. S. N.; and Mrs. H. C. Knights, N. H.

Vol. 1 issue 23, February 15, 1860. "Herman Melville, Mass." listed among twenty "Special Contributors."

Vol. 1 issue 24, February 29, 1860. Herman Melville, Mass.

Vol. 2 issue 1, March 14, 1860. Herman Melville, Mass.

Vol. 2 issue 2, March 28, 1860. Herman Melville, Mass.

Vol. 2 issue 3, April 11, 1860. Herman Melville, Mass.

Vol. 2 issue 5, May 16, 1860. Herman Melville, Mass.

Vol. 2 issue 8, July 28, 1860. HERMAN MELVILLE, MASS.

Vol. 2 issue 9, August 15, 1860. HERMAN MELVILLE, Mass.

Vol. 2, issue 12, September 15, 1860. HERMAN MELVILLE, Mass.

Vol. 3, issue 12 [No. 1] November 17, 1860. Rev. Moses Cummings takes over as publisher and proprietor; now listed as co-editor with Rev. C. W. Denison. Formerly "Associate Literary Editor" with her husband, Mrs. M. A. Denison now listed as "Assistant Editor." Regular list of twenty Special Contributors still includes "HERMAN MELVILLE, Mass."

Vol. 3, No. 2, December 1, 1860. Last extant issue of THE SEA. Special Contributors include "HERMAN MELVILLE, Massachusetts." Now twenty-one in number with addition of the assistant editor, "Mrs. M. A. Denison, New-York City."

Melville may have agreed to contribute something for THE SEA without ever doing so. That happened with the new Atlantic Monthly: in 1857 Melville agreed to contribute but never did, as Hershel Parker relates in Herman Melville: A Biography Volume 2, 1851-1891 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002; paperback 2005) page 355.

Mon, Nov 16, 1857 – Page 1 · The Buffalo Daily Republic (Buffalo, New York) ·

In May 1859 Melville submitted "two Pieces" of something to some "Magazine," perhaps Harper's New Monthly Magazine.
Pittsfield May 18 [1859]

Here are two Pieces, which, if you find them suited to your Magazine I should be happy to see them appear there. — In case of publication, you may, if you please, send me what you think they are worth.
Very Truly Yours
H Melville. --The Letters of Herman Melville, ed. Merrell Davis and William H. Gilman (Yale University Press, 1960), page 194; and the 1993 Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Melville's Correspondence, ed. Lynn Horth, page 336.
Possibly Melville contributed to THE SEA around the same time, anonymously or over a pseudonym. One would think anything from Herman Melville must have been submitted before May 30th of the next year, 1860, when he sailed for San Francisco on The Meteor. If he did contribute any pieces of poetry or prose, his work might have appeared in lost issues of THE SEA. The first extant issue, Volume 1 No. 5 (April 20, 1859) supplies these tantalizing examples of "original articles" forthcoming in the next issue, unfortunately missing:
"CAPT. SPUNYARN'S STORY," A VOICE FROM THE OLD NORTH," "FORECASTLE" No. 2, and other first class original articles in our next." 
As best I can tell from here on the prairie, the run of The Sea in the AAS Historical Periodicals Collection Series 4 lacks the following issues:
  • Volume 1 missing numbers 1-4; 6-9; 11-18; and 21-22. 
  • Volume 2 missing numbers 4; 6-7; 10-11; and 13-?? [September 29, 1860; also October 13 and 17, 1860?]  
Research opportunities abound, nevertheless.

Related post:

Fri, May 27, 1910 – 7 · The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) ·


  1. Is this the same Rev. C. W. Denison?

    1. The same. Formerly editor of the "Sheet Anchor" and "Light Ship" according to announcements in the back. Thanks for the link!

    2. Here is another magazine edited by Denison?

    3. It was The Sailor's Magazine, and Naval Journal.

    4. Thank you. I see the January 1882 issue of the later periodical, Sailor's Magazine and Seamen's Friend, has Denison's poem "Sir Humphrey Gilbert's Last Voyage" on pages 12-13, then this obituary on page 26:

      REV. C. W. DENISON.

      This life-long and large-hearted friend of seamen, whose contributions to the pages of the SAILORs' MAGAZINE have for many years given great pleasure to its readers, will write for them no more. He died at Washington, D. C., where he had passed the last years of his life, Nov. 14th, 1881. Rev. Mr. Denison will long be remembered by those who ever knew him, with the kindest regard, and the fact that but a few days after he sent to us his graceful poem, “Sir Humphrey Gilbert's Last Voyage,” printed on page 12 of our current number, he was called away from earth, will invest it, in their minds, with peculiar interest."