Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Sterling Allen Brown on Benito Cereno

Sterling A. Brown via BlackPast
Benito Cereno (1855) is a masterpiece of mystery, suspense and terror. Captain Delano of the Bachelor's Delight, discovering a vessel in distress along the uninhabited coast of Chile, boards her to render aid. He is interested in the many Negroes he finds on the decks: “ like most men of a good blithe heart he took to Negroes not philanthropically, but genially, just as other men to Newfoundland dogs." He is mystified, however, when the gamesome Negroes flare up in momentary rage, and especially by their continual clashing their hatchets together. Only when Don Benito, in desperation, escapes to Delano's ship, does the real truth dawn. 
There had been a revolt on board the San Dominick; the Negro sailors and the slaves had killed many of the whites, and had kept the others alive only for their skill as navigators in order to reach a Negro country. The mutineers and revolters are overcome in a bloody battle, carried to Lima, and executed. The contrast between the reputed gentleness of Negroes "that makes them the best body-servants in the world," and the fierceness with which they fight for freedom is forcibly driven home. Certain Negroes stand out: Babo who, resembling a "begging friar," engineered the revolt with great skill and is almost fiendish in his manner of breaking down Cereno's morale; Francesco, the mulatto barber; Don José, personal servant of a Spanish Don; and Atulfa [Atufal], an untamed African chieftain, all filled with hatred for whites. Melville graphically pictures the slave mothers, "equally ready to die for their infants or fight for them”; the four old men monotonously polishing their hatchets; and the murderous Ashantees. All bear witness to what Melville recognized as a spirit that it would take years of slavery to break.

Although opposed to slavery, Melville does not make Benito Cereno into an abolitionist tract; he is more concerned with a thrilling narrative and character portrayal. But although the mutineers are bloodthirsty and cruel, Melville does not make them into villains; they revolt as mankind has always revolted. Because Melville was unwilling to look upon men as “Isolatoes," wishing instead of discover the "common continent of man,” he comes nearer the truth in his scattered pictures of a few unusual Negroes than do the other authors of this period. 
-- Sterling Allen Brown, The Negro in American Fiction (Washington, DC, 1937) pages 12-13.
"Brown's analysis of Benito Cereno is the best I have seen...." --Joseph Schiffman, Critical Problems in Melville's Benito Cereno, Modern Language Quarterly volume 11 issue 3 (September 1950) pages 317-324 at page 323, footnote 23. 

Brown's The Negro in American Fiction is on Google Books
https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Negro_in_American_Fiction.html?id=rXhBAAAAIAAJ
and also available courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library
https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc1.b4376173?urlappend=%3Bseq=20
Digitized images of this item (in the public domain under U.S. laws) are accessible via  NYPL Digital Collections. Citation:
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. "The Negro in American Fiction" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1937. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/f0a11c90-080b-0135-79ca-0d6aeeb931ad
Sterling A. Brown on Melville
The Negro in American Fiction page 11

Sterling A. Brown on Moby-Dick and "Benito Cereno"
The Negro in American Fiction page 12

Sterling A. Brown on "Benito Cereno"
The Negro in American Fiction page 13

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Toronto Globe notice of Moby-Dick

Looking for something else I finally ran across the favorable notice of Moby-Dick in the Toronto Globe. Reprinted by Hershel Parker in "Five Reviews Not in MOBY-DICK as Doubloon," English Language Notes (March 1972) pages 182-185 at 185. 

From The Globe (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), November 29, 1851: 
MOBY DICK, OR THE WHALE: by HERMAN MELVILLE; Author of Omoo, Typee, &c. New York, HARPER & BROTHERS. Toronto, A. H. ARMOUR & Co.

It is only necessary to say of this work that it is equal to any of Melville's former productions; by some it is thought even superior. This author is evidently not exhausted; he has yet stores within him untouched; although there is a close resemblance in his subjects, there is yet a difference in the handling, which gives constant variety. As a describer of the manners of the class of men he has chosen to depict, as a close observer and a striking limner of nature, Mr. Melville has few equals and no superiors among living authors, and there is a store of information upon all sorts of subjects, sacred and profane, landward and seaward, which surprises and delights one in a work of fiction. The volume is got up in capital style by Harper & Brothers. 

Disappointingly short on specifics, OK, but 100% positive. Put it on the board! Which ups the count of favorable reviews by one in our official 2020 Melvilliana census of reviews and notices of Moby-Dick1851-2.  

Here's the latest tally:

Grand Total = 116


  😍    79
  😬    20

 👍👎 17

 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Confidence-Man in Yonkers

Here is a contemporary notice of The Confidence-Man from the Yonkers NY Examiner of April 16, 1857. This one turned up on Newspapers.com among digitized pages just added within the past month. 

Founded in 1856, The Examiner was published by Matthew F. Rowe (1829-1914), formerly editor of The Republican in Peekskill. Excerpts from this 1857 notice are given by Gary Scharnhorst in the second part of his two-part article, "Melville Bibliography 1846-1897: A Sheaf of Uncollected Excerpts, Notices and Reviews," Melville Society Extracts 75 (November 1988) pages 3-8 at page 7. It's listed as CM21 in the 1992 Checklist of Melville Reviews, edited by Kevin Hayes and Hershel Parker. Not reprinted in Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews, edited by Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker (Cambridge University Press, 1995).

Thu, Apr 16, 1857 – 2 · Yonkers Examiner (Yonkers, New York) · Newspapers.com
THE CONFIDENCE-MAN: His Masquerade. By Herman Melville, author of "Typee," &c. 12 mo. Dix, Edwards & Co., New York.

That Melville is a man of genius is generally admitted by critics and by a large portion of the reading public. That his genius sometimes exhibits itself in eccentric and provoking shapes, his readers are all well aware. This "Confidence Man" has an air and manner which seems to imply the utmost "confidence" in his success; and in truth there is something to admire, or at least to wonder at, that the masquerade of and adventurer in various disguises, during a single trip on a Mississippi steamer, should suffice for the entire story which fills this good-looking volume of four hundred pages. It is true that on this slender thread the author has strung a good many shrewd and quaint observations on human nature and matters and things in general, but on the whole, although the book is readable enough it scarcely justifies the author's reputation.

Friday, September 11, 2020

H Melville in New York City

 Guest post by John M. J. Gretchko


Although an abbreviated H Melville, found as such in New York City newspapers, can echo the person of Herman Melville, one must be careful drawing an easy conclusion, since a couple of H Melvilles existed in mid-century New York. However, at least two instances of H. Melville point to Herman Melville. 

1846

New York Evening Express - July 11, 1846

On 11 July 1846 in “ARRIVALS AT THE CITY HOTELS” from the New York Evening Express, H. Melville of Lans, so abbreviated from Lansingburgh, was checked into Dunning’s Hotel at 66 Cortlandt Street (Ground Zero on 9/11), diagonally across from the house where Herman had been a child. The proprietor was Smith Dunning. At this time Herman was in town to receive cuts to the expurgated edition of Typee and to make revisions to it and possibly to collect $150 from Wiley and Putnam from his Typee account (Jay Leyda, The Melville Log Volume 1 pages 221-2). This H. Melville is undoubtedly Herman Melville, who may have been staying at Dunning’s for several days.

1862

In chapter 92 of Moby-Dick, “Ambergris,” Melville facetiously speaks of curing the dyspepsia of a whale by administering “three or four boatloads of Brandreth pills.” 

Brandreth's  Pills
National Museum of American History

Nine years later on 10 December 1860, Allan Melville, Herman’s brother, filed a complaint before the Supreme Court of the City and County of New York for plaintiffs Maunsell B. Field and Ward McLean, real estate brokers, against Benjamin Brandreth, famed and wealthy purveyor of purgative pills. (Field, also a lawyer, along with the illustrator Felix O. C. Darley had visited Herman at Arrowhead one summer in the early 1850s). 

via NYPL Digital Collections

Brandreth had employed Field and McLean to negotiate a loan for $155,000 secured by a mortgage for the Brandreth House, a first-class hotel, at 294 Canal Street and the intersection of Broadway, Canal, and Lispenard Streets in New York City. Plaintiffs agreed to accept one percent commission. But the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, at first willing, declined to finance the loan, and Brandreth refused to pay the commission. But on 17 October 1862, Allan won the case for the plaintiffs against Brandreth, and the plaintiffs were paid their one percent and then some (case B-40). Curiously, an H. Melville of Massachusetts had checked into the Brandreth House the month before on 6 September 1862. 

New York Evening Express - September 6, 1862

Barring a weird coincidence, this H. Melville should be Herman. In Albany Peter Gansevoort had written in his diary that after tea on 4 September Herman had taken the boat for New York (Leyda, Melville Log Volume 2 page 654).

Hershel Parker comments in Herman Melville: A Biography Volume 2, 1851-1891 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), page 515: “What his purpose was in going is not known.” Had Allan sent Herman to inspect and assess the state of Brandreth’s collateral? If the hotel had deteriorated, then the failure of the loan was Brandreth’s fault. 

Brandreth House, as described in the 1866 directory, Miller's New York As It Is, or Stranger's Guide-Book on page 69: 
“The rooms are elegantly furnished---many of them in suites of communicating parlors and chambers, suitable for families and parties traveling together. Being kept on the European plan, guests may live in the most economical or luxurious manner. Meals served at all hours at the shortest notice.”  

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

BATTLE PIECES in the New York Weekly Journal of Commerce

From the New York Weekly Journal of Commerce for Thursday October 4, 1866; found on genealogybank.com. Before 1852, this newspaper was titled The Mercury, and weekly journal of commerce.

New York Weekly Journal of Commerce - October 4, 1866
via GenealogyBank

HERMAN MELVILLE, well known in former years as the author of several very readable books of travel and fiction, makes his appearance again as a poet. HARPER & BROTHERS publish BATTLE PIECES AND ASPECTS OF THE WAR from his pen. He writes, as he always did, with spirit, vigor, and an admirable conception of the value of words. Some of his verses, which are exceedingly rude in structure, derive great force from that very rudeness. The volume is supplemented by a prose article, in which Mr. Melville urges an instant close of the quarrel between North and South, of which, at present, it looks as if the war were only the commencement.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Saints as Syrens



Read at the École Biblique, Jerusalem on Friday, June 19, 2009 during the Seventh International Melville Conference, Melville and the Mediterranean


SAINTS AS SYRENS:

THE OLD FAITH AND MELVILLE’S NEW MYTHOPOEIA


When the saints go marching in Clarel (1876) they exemplify the bravery of unbounded, unsophisticated faith—a heroism of credulity, as it were—and affirm the catholicity of Melville’s aesthetic vision. The Roman Catholic bent is pronounced, as William Ellery Sedgwick found (213-17), and structural, in that the “poem-pilgrimage” happens, as Hilton Obenzinger has reminded us, in liturgical time (76). The favorable treatment of Catholicism is examined by William Potter as part of Melville’s larger fascination with “the intersympathy of creeds.” In a similar vein, Brian Yothers credits the sympathy for Catholicism, which for conservative Protestants in Melville’s day could still mean Sympathy for the Devil, as the impetus for the “broader consideration of religious pluralism” in Clarel. The high regard “for saints and icons” has been recognized by Vincent Kenny (140), and Joseph G. Knapp notices the “special fondness for Catholic saints” in Melville’s correspondence (99).

But no critic elaborates Melville’s affinity for saints as charmers, most obvious in versified views of Saints Louis, Francis, and Cecilia, and warm praise for virgin martyrs. Nehemiah is a “saint” but no siren. Even granting his credentials as a venerable wanderer, his lonely evangelism converts nobody. Catholic saints are the dangerous ones. Their seductive charms for a wayward Protestant like Rolfe (or Melville) are cheerfully confessed when Derwent the Anglican priest compares virgin saints to the sirens of classical mythology. Through Derwent, Melville contemplates a bold project of mythopoeia or “myth-making” in recommending Catholic “legends” as “the poet’s second mine,” a new treasure trove (better than the old Greek myths) awaiting versifiers in the sweet, non-sectarian future.

The French Biblical School makes a fitting place to consider Melville in relation to what he appreciatively called “the Old Faith.” Here we are doubly indebted to Dominicans: first, for the hospitality of this important center of Catholic biblical scholarship; and second, for the example of Henri–Dominique Lacordaire (1802-1861), who in the early 1840’s revived the formerly banned Dominican order in France. Melville’s sympathetic portrait of the Dominican in Clarel as “A champion of true liberty” draws heavily on the life and times of Father Lacordaire, memorialized by one biographer as “the tried champion of popular liberty” (Greenwell 130). As Dennis Berthold has suggested, the Dominican’s confidence in Rome oddly defies new strictures on the political authority of the Pope in recently unified Italy (359-366). And yet, the historical incongruity nicely registers the influence of Lacordaire, who died nearly a decade before the 1870 annexation of Rome. Lacordaire’s earlier activism in the cause of religious freedom, his memorable election in 1848 to the French National Assembly, his eloquence in the pulpit of Notre Dame, and even his rumored “austerities” in the exercise of monastic self-discipline—all widely reported in contemporary sources—gave Melville ample material for his characterization of the “Disinterested, earnest, pure / And liberal” exponent of Roman Catholicism.

What draws the Dominican into the narrative action of Clarel is a song, Ave maris stella, “Hail, thou Star of Ocean.” Rolfe leads off the Vespers hymn to Mary, in observance of a pilgrim rite at the Jordan River. Derwent and Vine join in. Hearing the hymn in three-part harmony, the Dominican strolls over for what Larry David would call a “stop and chat.” The French guest gets a canto (2.25) to make his case as a “staunch Catholic Democrat” for Roman orthodoxy: Catholicism appeals to the heart and offers supremely adaptable and enduring modes of consolation to suffering humans when protestant reform, scientific rationalism, and revolutionary politics fail to comfort.

After the “new St. Dominick” leaves, the long talk “Of Rome” (2.26) between Rolfe and Derwent elicits Derwent’s admiration for Catholic saints―especially “sainted virgin ones.” He pictures the virgin martyrs as temptresses, “syrens” more captivating than fabled sea nymphs like Parthenope whose sweet songs lured mariners to destruction (lines 71-72). But Derwent fears not the siren’s snare of Catholicism. Securely lashed to his liberal theology, the Anglican priest esteems miracle tales for their aesthetic merits, devoid of dogma:
Her [Rome’s] legends—some are sweet as May;
Ungarnered wealth no doubt is there....
When much that sours the sects is gone,
Like Dorian myths the bards shall own—
Yes, prove the poet’s second mine. (Clarel 2.26:86-93)
Although Derwent never precisely defines “legends,” the context suggests the genre of saints’ lives, conventionally termed legendaries. His enthusiasm for saints’ lives as a literary goldmine is Melville’s. Writing to his brother-in-law on “Saturday in Easter Week” 1877, Melville praised “legends of the Old Faith” as “really wonderful both from their multiplicity and their poetry” (Correspondence 452). To illustrate, he commended the biography of St. Elizabeth of Hungary by the Count of Montalembert, the same “book of the sainted queen” which he had presented in October 1875 to his cousin Kate.

Derwent’s notion of Catholic legends as the “second mine” of future poetry likely derives from this passage in the introduction, as translated by Mary Anne Sadlier:
With regard to poetry, it would be difficult to deny that [popular religious traditions] contain an inexhaustible mine….a source of poetry infinitely more pure, abundant, and original, than the worn-out mythology of Olympus. (Life of Saint Elizabeth, pages 88-89)
Along with the mine metaphor, Melville was impressed by the critique of “worn-out” Greek myths. Absent the scorn, Montalembert’s comment underlies Melville’s idea that for “multiplicity” and “poetry,” legendaries like the Life of St. Elizabeth “far surpasses the stories in the Greek mythologies” (Correspondence 452). Montalembert’s long introduction, an effusive overview of religion, politics, and art in the thirteenth-century, repeatedly extols the poetry in saints’ lives. By “poetry” he means chiefly the imaginative, romantic display of “charming incidents, illustrative of all that is freshest and purest in the human heart” (84). Replete with “ineffable sweetness” (90), tales of saintly bravery and piety reflect “the implicit faith” held by Christians of every class in medieval Europe. Nevertheless, the poetic charm of saints’ lives is also an inherent quality that exists “independent of their theological value” (88).

More debts to the Life of St. Elizabeth appear in the canto “Huts.” Melville’s main source, unidentified before now, for the ritual separation of lepers in the middle ages is chapter 24 on the heroine’s poverty and spiritual development. Elizabeth grew in humility and mercy through her irrepressible devotion to the poor and sick, lepers above all others. As Montalembert explains (296), believers in those days identified the leper with Christ on the authority of Isaiah 53:4: “…we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted.” Melville adapts the verse and its medieval Christian exegesis in saying that Jesus “as a leper was foreshown” (1.25: 27).

From the solemn liturgy for the exile of lepers as described by Montalembert (294-298), Melville appropriated the Mass for the Dead, procession to the leper’s assigned dwelling place, ritual blessing of household utensils, and consecration of the hut with graveyard dirt. He borrowed the priest’s admonition, “Be thou dead to the world, living again to God,” as well as the closing benediction and provision of the leper’s hut with cross and alms-box. Melville’s “chance citation” (1.25: 79) of Sybella, sister to King Baldwin III of Jerusalem, again mimics Montalembert, who cited Sybella as a medieval “heroine of charity” for her saintly ministrations to the lepers of Palestine (297).

In focused takes on saints, Clarel further explores the possibilities for poetry mined from Catholic legends. St. Louis and St. Francis receive the most significant attention. Louis IX (1214-1270) of France, thirteenth-century king and crusader, was legendary for lifelong piety. We might find more to mourn than praise in some deeds of the historical Louis, who oppressed Jews to war on Islam. His two crusades were both disasters in deserts. Ironically, however, the spectacular failures of Louis in Africa heighten his appeal for Melville as a figure of the hapless enthusiast. Rolfe, wanting the confidence to journey through the Judean wasteland, invokes St. Louis as an icon of blind faith in blank places: “King, who betwixt the cross and sword / On ashes died in cowl and cord … St. Louis! rise, / And teach us out of holy eyes / Whence came thy trust.” In ten lines Melville glosses the archetypal virtues of Louis: his humility, symbolized by the monastic garb of “cowl and cord”; his courageous heart, seemingly undaunted by suffering; and his childlike trust, baffling in the face of unrelieved misery (2.13: 1-10).

Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) combines the “simple faith” of Louis with charm and love. Devoted spouse of poverty and now patron saint of animals and ecology, Francis lived on alms and preached to the birds, yet somehow reformed his world. Two cantos in book 4 of Clarel focus on St. Francis. In canto 13, the saint illumines Salvaterra, the Franciscan guide in Bethlehem. The noble-looking novice reminds the pilgrims of the young St. Francis (4.13: 176), but his zeal alarms them. Rolfe is pained by visual evidence of Salvaterra’s ascetic lifestyle. That, or his too-fervent belief in miracles also bothers Derwent, who kindly hopes the lad will learn to relax.

In the next Bethlehem canto, Rolfe approves the role of Franciscans as custodians of Christian shrines, justified he argues by the uniquely Christ-like life of the original begging friar:
Through clouds of myth investing him--
Obscuring, yet attesting him,
He burns with the seraphic glow
And perfume of a holy flower.
Sweetness, simplicity, with power! (Clarel 4.14: 69-73)
Melville’s phrase seraphic glow alludes to the reception of the stigmata as related in Bonaventure’s early Life of St. Francis. As Francis prayed on a mountain side for a physical experience of the crucifixion, his devotions became so heated they produced a “seraphic glow of longing” that transported him skyward (Salter 138). The crucified Jesus appeared to Francis in the likeness of an angel who imprinted on his body the five wounds of Christ’s Passion.

“Perfume” like “seraphic glow” marks the saint. But positive proofs of sainthood may overwhelm the mundane subject in divine attributes, “obscuring” the historical person while “attesting” the saint. Myths are all we know, “clouds of myths” to which Melville through Rolfe contributes. In times of spiritual dearth, as Northrop Frye argued, “poets have to hammer out their own archetypes…. hence the whole tradition of recreated mythology” (91). Here, myths that hallow Francis blur his ordinary humanness but confirm his best and most exemplary charms as Melville recreated them: “Sweetness, simplicity, with power!”

Derwent perceives the sweet humility of Francis as a feminine weakness, unbecoming in a “manly” man. Rolfe exalts the supposedly feminine side of Francis as entirely Christ-like. Derwent’s objection to sweet St. Francis betrays a gender bias or double-standard that Rolfe does not share, and forces Rolfe to defend compassion, sensitivity, and yielding love as redeeming Christian virtues. Rolfe rightly fears his case for Christian charity will seem “too orthodox” in its assumption of sinful human nature (4.15: 108). Rather than hear Rolfe preach on innate depravity, Derwent changes the subject. Still, Rolfe’s tribute to the “sweetness” of St. Francis echoes Derwent’s springtime simile, “sweet as May,” even if its inventor meant exclusively to honor women saints.

Of the women Cecilia enjoys the status of a favorite in Melville’s private calendar of saints. In Italy he had seen Raphael’s St. Cecilia, and he read and marked high critical praise for the painting in travel narratives, as Douglas Robillard has shown. And, as Robert K. Wallace reports, Melville owned a print of Cecelia after Domenichino. In Clarel Melville glances twice at Cecilia. Her stamped image, enthroned “'Tween angels with a rosy crown,” graces the cover of Rolfe’s hymnal. Attributes of Cecilia also convey the allure of Vine, whose uncanny “charm of subtle virtue” operates like
…that perfumed spell
Of Paradise-flowers invisible
Which angels round Cecilia bred. (Clarel 1.29: 24-26)
Timothy Marr reads these fragrant paradise flowers as a sign of Melville's "islamicist imagination," particularly evoking the cultural fascination with peris as beautiful and otherworldly female spirits. Another source for the scent of unseen “Paradise-flowers” is the section on Cecilia in the second volume of Anna Jameson’s Sacred and Legendary Art. As Jameson relates, Cecilia made a secret vow of chastity before marrying a wealthy Roman named Valerian. After converting and receiving baptism, Valerian found the maiden sanctity of his bride divinely approved by the presence of “an angel, who was standing near her, and who held in his hand two crowns of roses gathered in Paradise, immortal in their freshness and perfume, but invisible to the eyes of unbelievers” (585; emphasis mine). Chaucer’s “Second Nun’s Tale,” another possible source, lacks two words used by Melville, perfume and invisible, that are to be found in Jameson’s prose sketch of Cecilia, the first of “Four Great Virgins of the Latin Church” (along with Agnes, Agatha, and Lucia). Holy fragrance links Cecilia and Francis as bona fide saints, and reveals more than we knew of Melville’s reading in hagiography and art history.

Jameson’s influential study of Christian iconography contains saints’ lives in abundance, with rich treatments of virgin martyrs. But Melville leaves them alone, mostly. “Arm ye, forearm!” warned Derwent, urging Rolfe to beware those virgins, lest their heroism convert him. The allure is real, the response ambiguous. Even Rolfe, the most catholically inclined of the non-Catholic pilgrims, stops short of acceptance. For one thing, outright conversion would terminate his job as philosophical rover, a seeker not a finder. And Rolfe like Melville is enamored of myths and rituals from many cultures and eras, not exclusively Roman Catholic ones. To follow the example of, say Cardinal Newman or Orestes Brownson would be to stop wandering, which truly Melvillean pilgrims never do. Had Melville gone Catholic and systematically devoted himself to writing sonnets on Jameson’s virgin saints he would not be Melville. He would be…

Commander William Gibson, United States Navy (1825-1887). In 1877, just one year after the publication of Clarel (1876), this unsung navy poet quietly turned out nine sonnets collectively titled “The Brides of Christ.” The whole sequence was first published in the Catholic World, and then reprinted with other verses on saints including Francis of Assisi in the 1881 collection, Poems of Many Years and Many Places. Gibson’s major source for sonnets on Dorothea, Cecilia, Agnes, Catherine, Margaret, Barbara, Agatha, Lucia, and Ursula was Jameson’s Sacred and Legendary Art. The cycle offers both the “multiplicity” and “poetry” that delighted Melville in “Legends of the Old Faith.” As Derwent preferred, Gibson keeps the legends “sweet as May,” and remarkably innocent of Church doctrine.

Sweetness, simplicity, with power. Fragrance and fire. These distinguishing features of Rolfe’s feminized aesthetic also distinguish Gibson’s virgin saints. Childlike simplicity defines Agnes and Margaret. The martyred Agnes inherits pastoral “meads of asphodel,” eternally preserving her employment as Christ’s shepherdess: “I lead his lambkins by my lily bell, / Where the pomegranates shade the softest sward.” No virgin saint, says Gibson, is “more meek and mild / Than sweet St. Margaret.” Sweet but strong, too: she’s a “Daisy” who overmastered the dragon Satan. Other “Brides of Christ” blaze, like Francis in Clarel, with fire and fragrance. Dorothea the “little martyr-maid” commissions an angel “with hair like odorous flame” to confound doubters with the fragrant testimony of flowers and fruit from Paradise. Barbara, though “soft as rosy May,” is also the “Christian Bellona,” as terrifying as the Roman goddess of battle. Proving her might, a cannon blast of “instant fire” incinerates her murderous father. Agatha’s power lives on in her veil, a relic strong enough to thwart the destruction of a convent by arresting molten lava in full flow from Mount Etna: “That Red Sea curdled by Saint Agatha!”

Fire and fragrance are again conjoined in “The Ecstasy of St. Theresa,” too daringly erotic perhaps for the Catholic World but appended to “The Brides of Christ” in Gibson’s 1881 volume. Theresa, the foremost of “unworldly yearners” in Clarel (3.1: 14-15), “swim[s] in flowers and flames,” overwhelmed in the sensuality of her longing for Christ as mystical lover. Inspired by the Bernini sculpture in Rome, the sonnet likens the “voluptuous agony” of Theresa’s desire to the yearning “of pagan maidens” for Apollo. Christ as Apollo, and St. Barbara as war goddess creatively associate Classical and Christian ideals, much in the same way that Melville’s Rolfe, as Walter E. Bezanson notes, habitually links Christian traditions with settings and motifs from Greek mythology (NN Clarel 817; 831).

As we have seen, the mythology of Olympus seemed a “worn-out” mine to Montalembert and Derwent after him. Earnestly working that first mine of Greek myths, William Gibson had published some fine longer poems in Harper’s magazine on Persephone, Apollo and the Sibyl, and Empedocles. In Jameson’s sainted virgins, however, he found a “second mine” of poetic inspiration. So Gibson proved Melville right about the literary gold in “Legends of the Old Faith.” When prophesied by Derwent, the new “Era” of verse-making from “the poet’s second mine” was surprisingly imminent. Versified saints’ lives by Commander William Gibson, USN, would triumphantly enact the catholic mythopoeia that Melville projected in Clarel but relinquished to unknown bards and better days.

Works Cited

Bercaw, Mary K. Melville’s Sources. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1987.

Berthold, Dennis. “‘The Italian turn of thought’: Risorgimento Politics in Clarel.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 59 (December 2004): 340-371.

Frye, Northrop. Northrop Frye’s Notebooks on Romance. Ed. Michael Dolzani. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004.

Gibson, William. “The Brides of Christ.” I. St. Dorothea; II. St. Cecelia; III. St. Agnes. The Catholic World 25 (June 1877): 420-421.

_____. “The Brides of Christ.” IV. St. Catherine; V. St. Margaret; VI. St. Barbara. The Catholic World Volume 25 (July 1877): 556-557.

_____. “The Brides of Christ.” VII. St. Agatha; VIII. St. Lucia; IX. St. Ursula. The Catholic World Volume 25 (August 1877): 701-702.  
_____. Poems of Many Years and Many Places. Boston: Lee and Shepard; and New York: C. T. Dillingham, 1881. 
Goldman, Stan. Melville’s Protest Theism: The Hidden and Silent God in Clarel. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1993.

Greenwell, Dora. Lacordaire. Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1867.

Jameson, Anna. Sacred and Legendary Art. Third Edition. 2 vols. London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, & Roberts, 1857.

Kenny, Vincent S. Herman Melville’s Clarel: A Spiritual Autobiography. Hamden, Connecticut: Archon Books, 1973.

Knapp, Joseph G. Tortured Synthesis: The Meaning of Melville’s Clarel. New York: Philosophical Library, 1971.

Marr, Timothy. The Cultural Roots of American Islamicism. Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Melville, Herman. Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land. Ed. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle. Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and the Newberry Library, 1991.

_____. Correspondence. Ed. Lynn Horth. Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and the Newberry Library, 1993.

Montalembert, Charles Forbes René. The Life of St. Elizabeth, of Hungary. Translated by Mary Hackett. Introduction translated by Mrs. J. Sadlier. New York: Sadlier, 1870.

Obenzinger, Hilton. American Palestine: Melville, Twain, and the Holy Land Mania. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Parker, Hershel. Herman Melville: A Biography. 2 vols. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996 and 2002.

_____. Melville: The Making of the Poet. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2008.

Potter, William. Melville’s Clarel and the Intersympathy of Creeds. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2004.

Robillard, Douglas. Melville and the Visual Arts: Ionian Form, Venetian Tint. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1997.

Salter, Emma Gurney, ed. Life of Saint Francis by Saint Bonaventura. London: J. M. Dent, 1904.

Sealts, Merton M. Jr. Melville's Reading: Revised and Enlarged Edition. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988.

Sedgwick, William Ellery. Herman Melville: The Tragedy of Mind. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1944. Reprinted, New York: Russell & Russell, 1962.

Wallace, Robert K. “Melville’s Prints and Engravings at the Berkshire Athenaeum.” Essays in Arts and Sciences 15 (June 1986): 59-90.

Yothers, Brian. “‘Remember Hospitable Rome’: The Allure of Democratic Catholicism in Herman Melville’s Clarel.” Unpublished paper, presented at the 18th Annual Conference of the American Literature Association (Boston, MA), 24 May 2007.

_____. The Romance of the Holy Land in American Travel Writing, 1790-1876. Aldershot, Hants, England and Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, 2007.
 Related posts:
  • Clarel's name
    https://melvilliana.blogspot.com/2019/11/clarels-name.html

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Melvilliana: Fake News from the Mediterranean

Melvilliana: Fake News from the Mediterranean: Some few weeks after the execution, among other matters under the head of News from the Mediterranean , there appeared in a naval chronicl...

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Mariah Melville, Lady

Maria Gansevoort Melvill (Mrs. Allan Melvill), c. 1815
Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington
As old hands know, the Christian name of Herman Melville's mother Maria Gansevoort Melville (1791-1872) was pronounced "Mariah" with a long "i" as in "ice" and "nine." Like Mariah Carey. That's how the U. S. Federal Census for 1860 recorded her name, Mariah Melville.

Occupation:
"Lady."
United States Federal Census, 1860 via Ancestry.com 
https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7667/images/4237084_00369
1860 was the first year federal census takers asked about the occupations of women:
At the census of 1860 the inquiry relating to occupations, contained on the schedule for free inhabitants, was made to apply to each person, male or female, over 15 years of age, instead of being confined, as it was in 1850, to males only. --United States Census Office, Twelfth Census of the United States
Occupation? How else could the daughter of General Peter Gansevoort answer? Lady. Ditto for her daughters.

Mariah Melville, Lady, had just turned 69 years old in April 1860; her age is given as 68 on the federal census dated June 25, 1860. Maria's brother Herman Gansevoort, age 80, is named "Harman" and listed head of household at the Gansevoort mansion in Saratoga County. Also present at the Mansion House in 1860 were Herman Melville's sisters Augusta and Fanny (each a lady); along with Jane Taylor, eighteen years old and employed as domestic servant. "Serving," so not designated "Lady." Augusta (39 in June 1860) and Fanny (age 33) were both older than the Census for 1860 indicates.

Herman Melville's uncle Herman Gansevoort died in 1862. The 1865 State Census for Saratoga County in New York gives the name of Herman's mother as Maria G. Melville, now listed first as head of household.

New York, State Census, 1865 via Ancestry.com
https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7218/images/004238325_00021
Herman Melville's brother Thomas Melville is also there in 1865 with sisters Augusta and "Fannie V" (that is, Fanny P? for Priscilla?). Tom's occupation is "Sea Captain."

In 1860, Herman Melville's mother and daughters held the honorable and aristocratic occupation of "Lady." As far as I can tell, no other person in the town of Northumberland, Saratoga County was so designated in the U. S. Federal Census. By contrast, the 1870 Census assigns to Maria the ordinary and generic occupation of "Keeping house." The stated monetary value of that house was anything but commonplace, however: $50,000 in Real Estate; plus $5000 for the Personal Estate.

1870 United States Federal Census via Ancestry.com
https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7163/images/4277081_00740
Augusta and Frances were still "At home." Domestic servants in the household of "Mellville, Maria G." in 1870 were immigrants John Quinn (from Ireland, age 30) and Keziah Stoepal (England, age 17).

Concerning the cover addressed to "Miss Maria G. Melville" as described on WorthPoint:

https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/bedford-mass-maria-melville-o-allan-1847212231

No family member would have called the mother of Herman Melville "Miss." The envelope postmarked from New Bedford is addressed to Herman's niece Maria G. Melville, daughter of his brother Allan Melville. Later Maria Gansevoort Morewood (1849-1935).

Monday, August 24, 2020

Author of travel romances

From The World's Progress: a Dictionary of Dates (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1861):




NATION.          NAME AND PROFESSION                          BORN.          DIED.
Amer.      Melville, Herman, author of travel-romances . . . . . 1819 ----------

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Harper & Brothers publish BATTLE PIECES

This day 154 years ago, Harper & Brothers published Herman Melville's collection of Civil War poems titled Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War. From the New York Commercial Advertiser, August 23, 1866 via genealogybank.com:
New York Commercial Advertiser - August 23, 1866

NEW PUBLICATIONS.

HARPER & BROTHERS, New York
Publish this Day:

I. BATTLE PIECES
AND
ASPECTS OF THE WAR.

By HERMAN MELVILLE,
Author of "Typee," "Omoo," "Redburn," "Mardi," "Moby Dick," "Whitejacket," &c.
12mo, CLOTH, BEVELED EDGES, $1 75. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Old Belsnickle in Baltimore

As indicated by the added subtitle in this 1841 reprinting of "A Visit from St. Nicholas," German immigrants in Baltimore would have recognized the fur-clad elf in Clement C. Moore's classic Christmas poem as an Americanized Pelznickel aka Belsnickle, the furry Nicholas. As explained by Phyllis Siefker in Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men (McFarland, 1997 and 2006):
"Santa's forefather was the very unsaintlike  Furry Nicholas, a major player in winter festivals that have been transplanted from Europe to the rugged backwoods of Pennsylvania."
And Maryland, as shown by the expanded title for the poem as reprinted in the Baltimore Clipper on Christmas Day 1841: "A Visit from Saint Nicholas, or Old Belsnickle."

More recently, Tom A. Jerman in Santa Claus Worldwide (McFarland, 2020) describes Pelznickel as "one of the faux Nicholases created following the Reformation." As furry Nicholas displaced the banned Catholic saint, Pelznickel and similar figures
"assumed the role of a secular gift-giver and disciplinarian whereas the virtuous saint performed only good works and required a satanic assistant to do his dirty work."(Jerman, Santa Claus Worldwide, pages 29-30). 
Baltimore Clipper (Baltimore, Maryland) December 25, 1841
via GenealogyBank

A VISIT FROM SAINT NICHOLAS,

OR
OLD BELSNICKLE.


'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The STOCKINGS were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. NICHOLAS soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced through their heads;
And Mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap:
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter:
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon, on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! Now, Prancer! Now, Vixen!
On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blixen--
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now, dash away, dash away, dash away all!"
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys--and St. Nicholas too.
And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he look'd like a pedlar just opening his pack.
His eyes, how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laugh'd, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump; a right jolly old elf:
And I laugh'd, when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye, and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill'd all the stockings; then turn'd with a jerk,
And, laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle;
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

-- Baltimore Clipper, December 25, 1841 

Friday, August 14, 2020

Three phantom pirates by Peterson

In 1865 Philadelphia publisher T. B. Peterson reprinted Melville's historical romance of Israel Potter (1854-5) under a different title, The Refugee. Melville complained more than once about the unauthorized publication of his work. The author of Israel Potter formally and finally disavowed The Refugee in a letter to the editor of the New York World, published there on January 28, 1876. Zachary Turpin first located Melville's epistolary "Protest," as discussed in Turpin's March 2017 Leviathan article, Melville's Letter to the World.

Turpin cites relevant lists of Peterson titles including The Refugee that appeared in 1876 editions of novels by E.D.E.N. Southworth. Years before, in back of the 1857 edition of Southworth's Vivia; or, The Secret of Power, T. B. Peterson & Brothers advertised a forthcoming edition of Israel Potter with a different title: Fifty Years in Exile.



Similarly converting Melville's original subtitles to main titles, Peterson also promoted cheap editions of The Confidence-Man as "The Masquerade" and The Encantadas (recently collected in The Piazza Tales) as "The Enchanted Isles." All three apparently unauthorized titles were listed among "Works in Press by the Best Authors" in Peterson's edition of Vivia (Philadelphia, 1857) by Emma D. E. N. Southworth. None of these titles was actually published in 1857 or any other year, so far as I can tell.


Fifty years in Exile. 

By Herman Melville, author of "Omoo," "Typee," etc. Complete in two volumes, paper cover, price $1.00; or in one volume, cloth, $1.25. 

The Masquerade. 

By Herman Melville, author "Typee," "Omoo," etc. Complete in two volumes, paper cover. Price $1.00; or in one vol., cloth, for $1.25.  

The Enchanted Isles.

By Herman Melville, author of "Omoo," “Typee," etc. Complete in two volumes, paper cover. Price $1.00; or in one vol., cloth, for $1.25
https://books.google.com/books?id=xK8edm7GYA4C&pg=PT12&dq#v=onepage&q&f=false

These phantom editions of works by Herman Melville are NOT listed with advertised titles in the first edition Vivia in the E.D.E.N. Southworth Collection at the University of South Carolina.

Coincidentally, the "author-hero" that Melville's author-hero Pierre writes about in the 1852 novel Pierre or The Ambiguities is also named Vivia.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

BATTLE-PIECES in Major Farnsworth's St Louis Dispatch

The battle of Gettysburg, Pa. July 3d. 1863. Lithograph by Currier & Ives via Library of Congress
Transcribed below, this early notice of Herman Melville's Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War appeared in the St. Louis, MO Dispatch on August 30, 1866.

Saint Louis Dispatch - August 30, 1866

NEW BOOKS

RECEIVED AT O'FALLON POLYTECHNIC
INSTITUTE.
BATTLE-PIECES AND ASPECTS OF THE WAR. By HERMAN MELVILLE. New York: Harper & Bros.
This is an exceedingly interesting grouping in rhyme of the scenes of the war, memorial and descriptive. Some of the pieces are very interesting; and in years to come will be perused as historic of war scenes. It is a neat, attractive volume, from which some choice literary flowers may be culled. 
The St. Louis Dispatch was then managed by Major Ezra Scollay Farnsworth (1830-1886), a wounded veteran of Gettysburg from Newton, Massachusetts.

Boston Herald - April 3, 1886
via GenealogyBank
 From the obituary of Maj. E. S. Farnsworth in the Boston Herald on April 3, 1886:
"... He was twice wounded. At the battle of Gettysburg he received a bad wound in the side, from which it was feared he never would recover. He managed to pull through, however, and returned to the field before he was fully recovered, and there is no doubt that this wound hastened his death. While in the army he had the reputation of being a cool and plucky soldier.... 
Deceased was always a stanch Democrat, and has been identified with the Democratic party for a long time.... After the close of the war, Maj. Farnsworth went to St. Louis, where he remained for about two years as business manager of the St. Louis Dispatch."

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Friday, July 31, 2020

Whiting on Elizabeth Stoddard and Melville

Elizabeth Drew Stoddard
Elizabeth Drew Stoddard via Wikimedia Commons

Distinguished journalist, poet, and Melville fan Charles Goodrich Whiting (1842-1922) was literary editor of the Springfield Republican from 1874 to 1910. As shown previously on Melvilliana
https://melvilliana.blogspot.com/2016/08/charles-goodrich-whiting-author-of.html
Whiting wrote two substantial memorial tributes after Melville's death, published in the Springfield, Massachusetts Republican on October 4 and October 18, 1891. 

Lecturing before the local teachers' club in 1901, Whiting extolled Melville "as a magnificent imaginative writer." Before he got around to Melville and Moby-Dick, Whiting ranked Two Men and Temple House by Elizabeth Stoddard with the "chief American novels," praising their author as "a great elemental genius." 

Springfield MA Republican - April 24, 1901

This was the fifth lecture by Whiting for the teachers' club, delivered at the Springfield YMCA. From "A Talk on American Novels" as printed in the Springfield Republican on April 24, 1901; found at genealogybank.com:
The novels of Mrs Elizabeth Stoddard were made note of, and it was said that "Two Men" and "Temple House" were among the "chief American novels," and should have a high place in the esteem of students of our literature and of human life. Mrs Stoddard was characterized as a great elemental genius. Also Herman Melville was brought to the attention of the audience as a magnificent imaginative writer: it was said that only the impossibility of recognizing a white whale as a hero, alongside of Macbeth or Achilles or Lancelot or--let us say,--Vivian Grey,--prevented this book from taking its place as one of the great novels. In fact, "Moby Dick" is really an epic, and stands for the tragedy of the whale. Miss Murfree's "Great Smoky Mountain" stories were highly praised, and especial attention was given to "Where the Battle was Fought," one of her less read novels. Slight attention was paid to the present drift of historical fiction, the "Gadzooks" school, and the rural anecdotal tales which James Lancaster Ford has so happily named the "B'gosh" school.
Charles Goodrich Whiting is also known for discerning reviews of works by Henry James, as Robin Hoople notes on page 253 of In Darkest James: Reviewing Impressionism, 1900-1905 (Associated University Presses, 2000). Whiting specifically criticized The Sacred Fount in his 1901 "Talk on American Novels":
The novels of Henry James and W. D. Howells were in part described, and it was said that Mr James had in his latest writings abandoned the writing of fiction for the inferior role of guessing what may be wrong with persons who are queer, as in "The Sacred Fount."

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Joseph Jefferson, III, in the role of Rip Van Winkle from a production of the play RIP VAN WINKLE

Joseph Jefferson, III, in the role of Rip Van Winkle from a production of the play RIP VAN WINKLE

Emerald attire revised

Sketches of Middlesex Husbandry - Boston Courier, October 13, 1846
As shown previously on Melvilliana, Robert Melvill's 1850 farm report, long attributed to his cousin Herman Melville, borrowed extensively from Joseph T. Buckingham's 1846 report to the Society of Middlesex Husbandmen and Manufacturers. Joseph Tinker Buckhingham was editor of the Boston Courier where the original farm report first appeared on October 13, 1846 under the heading, Sketches of Middlesex Husbandry

Without knowing about the 1846 source, Jay Leyda in “White Elephant vs. White Whale,” Town and Country Volume 101 (August 1947) first made the case for Herman Melville's authorship of the 1850 report on Berkshire agriculture signed by Robert Melvill. But Robert's source-text had been printed over the signature of Joseph T. Buckingham in October 1846. In Berkshire County four years later, Robert Melvill signed a committee report that was deeply indebted to Buckingham's report on the progress of agriculture in Middlesex County. Bottom line, some Melvill or other in 1850 plagiarized from published writing attributed to Joseph T. Buckingham, editor of the Boston Courier. If Herman collaborated on the Berkshire report with Robert, then he was helping his  cousin plagiarize. Unless he had also ghost-written for Buckingham. In which case, Herman Melville in 1850 would have found himself ghost-revising his own ghostwriting.

In the 1850 Berkshire report, Robert or Herman Melville made interesting revisions to the 1846 source-text. Some of these revisions are documented in another post:
https://melvilliana.blogspot.com/2016/09/more-on-1846-middlesex-source-for.html
Here I want to highlight additional 1850 revisions including the substitution of "beautiful" for "emerald."

1846 SKETCHES OF MIDDLESEX HUSBANDRY

There is one other feature in the system of improvement, to which the committee refer with pleasure and approbation, viz., the construction of barns, with cellars for the making of manure. A descriptive detail of all that the committee observed during the week occupied in their examination would consume more time than they have at their disposal; but they cannot omit the opportunity now presented to impress upon the minds of all their brethren the importance of saving all the ingredients that enter into the composition of that substance which renovates exhausted soil, and restores to the earth the nutritious particles which have been extracted from it by successive crops, —enabling Nature to reinvest herself in her emerald attire, and to present to her votaries her annual tribute of ambrosial flowers and golden fruits. The philosopher and the naturalist—and the farmer should be both—may take pleasure in contemplating the benign process by which ingredients, the most offensive to the human senses, are converted into articles that gratify the most delicate taste and pamper the most luxurious appetite. --Boston Courier, October 13, 1846.

1850 ROBERT MELVILL, REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE

Another material improvement, which came under the notice of the committee, and to which they allude with pleasure and approbation, is the superior construction of barns, by which not only the comfort of domestic animals is much increased, but greater conveniences for their care, and for the accumulation of manure are attained.
A description of all that the committee noticed during their tour, would extend this report much beyond its proper limits, but they cannot omit this opportunity to impress upon the minds of all their agricultural brethren, the importance of saving every ingredient that can be made to enter into the composition of that substance which renovates exhausted lands, and returns to earth those particles which have been drawn from it by successive crops; thereby enabling Nature to reinvest herself in her beautiful attire, and to present to her admirers her annual tribute of Flowers and Fruits. The greatest pleasure may be taken by the philosopher and naturalist, (and the farmer should be both.) in contemplating the benign process by which ingredients the most offensive to the human senses, are converted into articles that gratify the most delicate taste, and pamper the most luxurious appetite. --Pittsfield Culturist and Gazette, October 9, 1850; reprinted in the Pittsfield Sun on October 10, 1850.
Robert Melvill's Report of the Committee on Agriculture
Pittsfield MA Culturist and Gazette - October 9, 1850

Emerald means green, plainly and conventionally. The association with attire is not uncommon, but it feels more poetic. Melville's poem The Cuban Pirate figures the hummingbird's brightly colored feathers as "gemmed attire" with the radiance and beauty of gemstones including emerald:
Buccaneer in gemmed attire—
Ruby, amber, emerald, jet— 
The 1850 revision modifies the quality of Nature's attire to make it less colorful and gem-like, but still lovely in a general way. In the same sentence, 1846 "votaries" become less zealously devoted "admirers" in revision. Deleted entirely in 1850 are two paradise-evoking adjectives, "ambrosial" and "golden." Pruning may have seemed especially desirable here since the main theme is the virtue of manure:

1846

... enabling Nature to reinvest herself in her emerald attire, and to present to her votaries her annual tribute of ambrosial flowers and golden fruits.

1850

... thereby enabling Nature to reinvest herself in her beautiful attire, and to present to her admirers her annual tribute of Flowers and Fruits. 
These 1850 changes to the 1846 source-text by Robert or Herman Melville effectively "tone down the green" by deleting the descriptors emerald, ambrosial, and golden. Taking out the word emerald in Nature's "emerald attire" obviously removes the greenest thing in the passage. The change from emerald to beautiful practically illustrates the painter's motto ("bless me, what am I doing, I must tone down the green here") in the prose story of Rip Van Winkle that leads to the poem Rip Van Winkle's Lilac in Weeds and Wildings. Melville's aesthetic there is wonderfully worked out by John Bryant in Toning Down the Green: Melville's Picturesque, a chapter in Savage Eye: Melville and the Visual Arts, edited by Christopher Sten (Kent State University Press, 1991) pages 145-161; see especially pages 158-160.

Melville's prose and verse takes on Rip Van Winkle in manuscript have been expertly edited on pages 107-115 in the 2017 Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Billy Budd, Sailor and Other Uncompleted Writings. Another printed version is accessible via Google Books in Volume 16 of The Works of Herman Melville.

Related posts:

Savage Eye: Melville and the Visual Arts, 1991 | Online Research Library: Questia

Savage Eye: Melville and the Visual Arts, 1991 | Online Research Library: Questia

Friday, July 17, 2020

Sketches of Middlesex Husbandry in Buckingham's Boston Courier

Joseph Tinker Buckingham (1779-1861)
via The New York Public Library Digital Collections
This post identifies a newspaper printing of the 1846 farm report that Robert Melvill borrowed for his signed 1850 report to the Berkshire Agricultural Society. As shown previously on Melvilliana, the 1850 farm report, attributed to Robert's cousin Herman Melville by Jay Leyda and editors of the 1987 Northwestern-Newberry Edition of The Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860, reproduces many passages verbatim from Joseph T. Buckingham's 1846 report to the Society of Middlesex Husbandmen in Concord, Massachusetts.

Buckingham's Concord report was first published in the Boston Courier on October 13, 1846 under the heading, "Sketches of Middlesex Husbandry." The Courier published several of the editor's "Sketches" in September and October 1846, supplied after his tour of the county as a member of the examining committee:
It was the writer's privilege, a short time since, to be one of a committee of the Society, appointed to examine the Farms, Reclaimed Meadows, Fruit Trees and Orchards, and Compost Manure, which are offered for the Society's premiums; and it was also his privilege to be associated in the performance of this duty with two gentlemen, who had been practical farmers in the county for more than thirty years. This article, and some others which may follow under the same title, are the result of personal observation. 
-- Boston Courier, September 22, 1846. 
Earlier installments of Buckingham's "Sketches" appeared in the Boston Courier on September 22, 1846; and September 29, 1846. The September 22 article was reprinted from the Boston Courier in the Massachusetts Plowman and New England Journal of Agriculture on October 10, 1846. The September 29 article also appeared in the Worcester Palladium on October 21, 1846; and the Massachusetts Ploughman on November 7, 1846.

The editors of the Massachusetts Ploughman affirmed Buckingham's authorship:
We invite attention to the excellent "Sketches of Middlesex Husbandry," written by the editor of the Courier. The due credit was omitted in a small portion of our last week's edition: but it was corrected after a few of the first numbers were printed. 
-- Massachusetts Ploughman and New England Journal of Agriculture, Saturday, November 14, 1846.
Boston Courier - October 13, 1846 via GenealogyBank
So then, the colorful writing that Robert Melvill would incorporate in his 1850 report appeared in the Boston Courier on October 13, 1846. As Hershel Parker relates at pages 737-8 in Herman Melville: A Biography Volume 1, 1819-1851, Herman did accompany his cousin Robert for three days in July 1850 on a tour of farmland in southern Berkshire County. But if Herman Melville ghost-wrote his cousin's 1850 report to the Berkshire Agricultural Society, he must have ghost-revised Joseph T. Buckingham's 1846 report to the Middlesex Society of Husbandmen and Manufacturers. If Herman Melville wrote that, too, then helping his cousin Robert in 1850 would have required ghost-revising his own ghost-writing.

Buckhingham's report was reprinted from the Boston Courier in the Massachusetts Ploughman on October 31, 1846. And eventually included with the official Transactions of the Agricultural Societies of Massachusetts (Boston, 1846).

Related posts: