Sunday, March 29, 2020

Ahab Beckons: In your "insular Tahiti"...

Ahab Beckons: In your "insular Tahiti"...: These recordings of M-D could ease the monotony of isolation. All are available as free, downloadable .mp3 files. So load up your audio ...

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

By a Vermonter

In a letter dated April 16, 1852 to London publisher Richard Bentley, Herman Melville offered to issue Pierre anonymously or under a pseudonym:
... it might not prove unadvisable to publish this present book anonymously, or under an assumed name:—* "By a Vermonter" say.... * or "By Guy Winthrop." --The Letters of Herman Melville, ed. Merrell R. Davis and William H. Gilman (Yale University Press, 1960) page 151.
Bentley and Melville could not agree on terms, as chronicled by Hershel Parker in Herman Melville: A Biography Volume 2, 1851-1891 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002; paperback 2005) pages 107-108. Pierre; or, The Ambiguities was published in New York by Harper & Brothers at the end of July 1852 with Melville's name on the title page.

One of the pen-names suggested by Melville in April 1852 might have been influenced by the popularity of "Pumpkin Pies," a poem that enjoyed a good run the year before in New York and New England newspapers. "Pumpkin Pies / BY A VERMONTER" was first published on July 8, 1851 in the New York Tribune. With the same credit line "By a Vermonter," the verse tribute to "Pumpkin Pies" was reprinted in the Boston Journal on November 18, 1851.

Boston Morning Journal - November 18, 1851
"Pumpkin Pies" appeared on page 2 of the Boston Morning Journal for November 18, 1851--the same issue that featured John S. Sleeper's favorable review of Moby-Dick on the front page.

Without crediting the Tribune, the Pittsfield Sun reprinted "Pumpkin Pies--By a Vermonter" on August 21, 1851.

Pittsfield Sun (Pittsfield, Massachusetts) August 21, 1851
via GenealogyBank

In the Pittsfield Sun, as in the New York Tribune, the poem was subscribed "Pavilion, N. Y., 1851," possibly giving the place and year of its composition. The part of the heading omitted in the Pittsfield Sun indicated an original contribution "For the Tribune." In the fourth stanza, first line, the New York Tribune printed "hight":
See, on yon melon-covered hight....
But the spelling "hight" has been regularized to "height" in the Pittsfield Sun and Boston Journal, as in some (not all) other reprintings of "Pumpkin Pies."

New York Tribune - July 8, 1851

PUMPKIN PIES . . . For The Tribune.  

LET some folks boast of spicy mince,
     Care not a fig for such do I;
Or largely talk of sweetened quince,
Fine as the luscious grapes of Lintz,
     Plums doubly dipped in Syrian dye--
I deem them tasteless all as flints,
     Compared with one good pumpkin pie.  
I know our pumpkins do not claim
     The honored growth of foreign soil;
They never felt the torrid flame,
And surely they are not to blame,
     Though reared not by the bondman's toil,
In climes where man, to burden tame,
     Unpaid consents to tug and broil.  
Talk not of vineyards breaking down,
     And fields that droop with oil and wine,
Where burning suns with ripeness crown
The sweets that man's best manhood drown,
     By lying poets sworn divine.
I rather have than all--don't frown--
     The product of my pumpkin vine.  
See, on yon melon-covered hight,
     My chosen fruit, like globes of gold,
Lies ripening in the sunbeam's light;
Ah, 'tis a stomach-staying sight,
     And soon, to house them from the cold,
Shall freemen with strong hands unite,
     Paid laborers and freemen bold.  
And then the girls who make our pies,
     Bless them! all other maids outshine,
Their raven locks, and hazel eyes,
And cheeks, whose ever-changing dyes
     The lily and the rose combine,
Make mad the hearts that lose the prize
     Of all this loveliness divine.  
Vermont! thou art a glorious State,
     Though small in acres and in skies;
But 'tis not length that makes one great,
     Nor breadth that gives a nation size.
Thy mountains and thy mountain air
     Have reared a noble race of men,
And women, fairest of the fair,
Their labors and their love to share.
     Where shall we see thy like again?
I love thee all, which most I shan't advise,
Thy mountains, maidens, or thy pumpkin pies.  
Pavilion, N. Y., 1851. 
More 1851-2 reprintings of "Pumpkin Pies / By a Vermonter"

Sat, Jul 26, 1851 – 4 · New England Farmer (Boston, Massachusetts) ·
  • Buffalo, NY Courier, July 12, 1851
  • Boston, MA New England Farmer, July 26, 1851
  • New Haven, CT Columbian Register, July 26, 1851 
  • Jamaica, NY Long-Island Farmer, July 29, 1851
  • The Clinton Republican (Wilmington, Ohio) August 1, 1851
  • Rockford Forum (Rockford, Illinois) August 6, 1851
  • Pittsfield, MA Culturalist and Gazette, August 20, 1851 
  • Norwalk, CT Gazette, October 28, 1851
  • Greenfield, MA Franklin Democrat, November 17, 1851
  • Albany, NY Evening Journal, November 26, 1851
  • Portland Transcript (Portland, Maine) November 29, 1851
  • Buffalo, NY Morning Express, December 1, 1851 
  • Milwaukee Weekly Wisconsin, December 10, 1851
  • Massachusetts Cataract (Worcester and Boston, MA) December 11, 1851
  • Poughkeepsie Journal, December 13, 1851 
  • Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper, December 17, 1851
  • Manchester, New Hampshire Granite State Farmer, January 7, 1852
  • Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) January 14, 1852

Monday, March 9, 2020

Omoo in Syracuse NY

Syracuse Daily Star - May 14, 1847
From the Syracuse Daily Star for Friday, May 14, 1847; found in the digital archives of Tom Tryniski at The Daily Star was then published by Kinney & Marsh.

Syracuse Daily Star (Syracuse, New York)
May 14, 1847

New Publications.

By the Author of "Typee," Published by the Harpers, New York.
It would be difficult to name a work of recent publication, so well designed as "Omoo" to interest and instruct. The author's work published last summer had a great run, and the unique character of the incidents and the felicitous style in which they were given, gained for it high admiration. "OMOO" is in reality a continuation of 'TYPEE," but by no means so intimately connected with it as to mar the interest of the work, of and by itself. The work is chiefly interesting from the vivid idea it imparts of the manners, customs, and general character of the inhabitants of the Islands, and life on board a whalesman; yet there is a vein of clever humor and philosophy running through almost every page of it which cannot fail of being well relished. The author has passed through scenes of the most exciting interest; and in the book before us has given his experience to the public in a very felicitous and agreeable style. The work is for sale by HALL & DICKSON. 
On the same page, Hall & Dickson's ad for Omoo called it "a splendid thing."

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Free Soilers Autolycus and Honestus talk politics

Hon. Joshua Reed Giddings of Ohio
Library of Congress
This imaginary dialogue between Massachusetts Free Soilers is from the Boston Morning Journal, Monday, October 27, 1851. Volume 19, no 5741; page 1, columns 2-3. Honestus speaks for the high aims, Autolycus for the grimy practice of coalition politics. Charles Sumner is not named directly, but the speakers would have regarded his election to the U. S. Senate as a recent Free Soil "success." Named party leaders include Joshua R. Giddings, Salmon P. Chase, and Horace Mann.

Founded as a Whig newspaper, the Boston Journal was still edited by "Captain Sleeper," the retired seaman and nautical writer John Sherburne Sleeper aka "Hawser Martingale." Sleeper promptly reviewed Moby-Dick in the Boston Journal on November 18, 1851.


SCENE—State street. Enter HONESTUS and AUTOLYCUS, two Free Soilers, meeting.
Autolycus. Ah, my dear friend Honestus, I am heartily glad to see you. It seems and age since we met, and indulged in a pleasant political chat. Allow me to congratulate you on the success of our party schemes—on the organization of the coalition after some little trouble, and the glorious prospects ahead.
Honestus., (gravely.) What prospects do you allude to? 
Autolycus. Why, of course to the overthrow of the Whig party, and the triumph of the Free Soilers and the Democrats.
Honestus. I much fear that this triumph is not in store for us. If I mistake not, these coalitions—these bargains between two parties of opposite political principles, for the spoils of office—do not suit the genius of Massachusetts folks. Although it has once been successful, it does not follow that the same cunningly devised scheme can be repeated, without meeting the fate which its profligacy deserves.
 Autolycus. Hey day, what have we here? I thought you were a Free Soiler—one of us—and of course an advocate for the coalition and the other measures recommended by the leaders of the party.
Honestus.  You know I always have been—and I now assure you that I am a Free Soiler, in the proper sense of that term. But it does not follow that I can therefore lend my sanction and aid to measures, which, as an honest man, I must condemn. The coalition which is so eagerly embraced, I am sorry to say, by so many advocates of Free Soil—who ask no questions of their Democratic associates, but are ready to swallow, without even a wry face, not only Democratic measures, but the most crooked, indigestible pro-slavery Democrats in the State—is not calculated to maintain the respectability of our party. Indeed, the corruption is too palpable. The veil is so flimsy that any man may see through it, and know that place has more to do with the arrangement than principle. Indeed, many honest Democrats are disgusted with it, and have cut loose from the whole. 
Autolycus. Well, what of it? If you can point out any other way by which we can defeat the Whigs, and get offices for ourselves and friends, I should be glad to know it. 
Honestus. Why should we look for offices—we, who profess to act on the broad and immutable basis of philanthropy—who claim to be stimulated by a deep and inherent love of the whole human race? The approval of our own consciences, is surely reward enough for actions growing out of such pure and hallowed feelings.
Autolycus. Pooh, my friend, you are behind the age. Such notions are antiquated, puritanical and obsolete. Who ever heard of a political party organized for any other object, than to control the government, and get a share—a lion's share—of the lucrative and honorable places? The maxim that "every thing is fair in politics," is sanctioned by custom through many ages, and we ought not to be the first to dispute it. Can you, or any reasonable man, think that our eloquent stump orators, who are now thridding the State and inveighing so vehemently against the Whigs, would indulge in such a terrible expenditure of breath and words, to say nothing of the wear and tear of that conscience, which your prate about so much, were it not with the blessed expectation of securing offices of emolument, provided the Coalition is triumphant and the Democrats stick to the bargain?
Honestus. These principles may suit your notions of propriety but they do not correspond with mine. I embarked on this political crusade, and joined the Free Soil standard, because I saw it raised in behalf of HUMANITY and FREEDOM—little thinking that I should be auxiliary to the contemptible work of glorifying disappointed politicians, and foisting noisy demagogues into office. To be plain, I am dissatisfied with the conduct of the Free Soil leaders, and the undignified and unscrupulous tone of the Free Soil presses in the State. I despise this coalition—this fraternizing with Locofocos, whose principles I always detested, and among whom, it is clear as any proposition in Euclid, that the whole Free Soil party will be merged in less than six months? 
Autolycus. It may be so. Things more unlikely have taken place before now. But surely, my friend, you are an advocate of the great "reforms" which were introduced into the Legislature the last session, and which are to be perfected next year, if we—that is, the coalition—get the upper hand in the Legislature!
Honestus. What is there in the character of these reforms which can induce me, as an honest man looking to the good of his fellow-men, to give them my support? you know as well as myself, that all this agitation about "reform" is a mere clap-trap, to gull the people and make capital. But the signs of the times show that the multitude will no longer submit to be gulled.
 Autolycus. But my dear sir, these are Democratic measures—popular of course, and as such must have the support of our party. They are a part of the bargain!
Honestus.  True, but that does not increase their value in my estimation—nor does it look well to see the Democratic party, our dear brethren if I must call them so, who have always opposed manufacturing corporations in the abstract, as an item in their political creed, bringing forward and passing with our assistance, a law to multiply them by thousands, and another which virtually offers a premium for the multiplication of banks, to which a few years ago, they professed their abhorrence! And as for this lien law, which was thought would be popular, and was enacted for the sole purpose of catching the votes of mechanics, it is found in practice to be detrimental to their interests. In Boston alone, since it has gone into operation, it has kept thousands of dollars out of their pockets, to my certain knowledge. The secret ballot law, for which the coalition have claimed much credit, and which is clogged with an immense quantity of useless and expensive machinery, is another of these boasted reform measures, which the people never asked for, and which is about as useful in Massachusetts where every man can boldly look his employer in the face, and vote as his own sense of duty dictates—as a fifth wheel to a coach. And then there is all this gabble about amending the Constitution, and putting the State to the expense of several hundred thousand dollars, for remedying evils which have not even an imaginary existence.— This is all mere humbug, a most shallow device got up for political effect, and you know it. 
Autolycus. Well, well, my dear sir, we must have some ground to stand upon—some measures to talk about—and these will answer as well as anything else. It will not do to be too nice. Honesty and consistency are good enough things in their way, but will not do for us in the present stage of our political existence; and if we, that is, the leaders of the Free Soil party, stuck as closely to conscience and high moral principle as we profess, what reward could we expect for the great sacrifices we have made? But soaring above these things we go for the "Higher Law." Surely you cannot object to that.
Honestus. The higher law! So you would let the promptings of a fanatical spirit override the Constitution of the country, and convert it virtually into a tabula rasa, on which any man may scribble what he pleases. Those minds which can be influenced by such a consideration must be weak indeed. For my own part whatever laws are enacted by the government of the people, under which I live and enjoy many blessings, I conceive myself bound to obey. Such is the duty I owe to myself, my country and my God! 
 Autolycus. My friend, you must not be too scrupulous. Having abandoned conscience, we must hold on to this "Higher Law." Why, you would knock away at a blow our firmest, and almost our only support. You must not be too severe on our system of policy, which is a little loose and profligate, perhaps; but recollect that a desperate cause requires desperate measures. It is true our original platform has slid from under us, but we have still a great and noble object in view, the destruction of the Whig party in the Commonwealth
Honestus. To build up Locofocoism on its ruins!
Autolycus. That of course will be the result. Indeed, some of our most zealous and influential leaders, as Giddings, Chase, and Mann, have already espoused the cause of Democracy, and battle manfully against the Whig principles which they once were so eager to defend. 
Honestus. Such conduct is not entitled to respect, but must be censured by every unprejudiced politician. Certain I am that I shall not emulate their example. To be frank with you, I cannot cherish these feelings of bitter hostility against the Whigs, having been for many years in their ranks, and being fully aware that the proud eminence which Massachusetts now occupies among the States, is mainly owing to the wise measures adopted through a succession of years by Whig administrations. 
Autolycus. I was a Whig once as well as yourself. Who was more zealous in behalf of Whig principles and Whig men, or who warred more fiercely against the Locos? But my merit was not appreciated—which is now no longer the case—and my services were unrewarded; and now no scruples of conscience will prevent my becoming a Democrat, perhaps a National Democrat, provided the Free Soil party becomes defunct. But believe me, we shall fight hard for victory. If there be any virtue in "stump speaking," the victory will be ours!
Honestus. You may rest assured that the people will not be deceived a second time. You will find that these outpourings of "slang-whanging," both on the stump and in the columns of our papers, will be thrown away. The people require something more than bold assertions and bitter invectives. I know there are many men who from pure motives have joined and hitherto acted with the Free Soil party, but who have no sympathies with a Locofoco or an Abolitionist. At any rate I can speak for myself—and nothing would induce me to vote for such men as Ithamar W. Beard, or Samuel E. Sewall.  [Exit Honestus
Autolycus, (alone.) On election day we shall find that man among the missing, or enrolled in the Whig ranks. This is the curse of honesty! Well said the poet— 
"Thus conscience does make cowards of us all!"
 But he may not be so very honest notwithstanding. Perhaps he adopts the principle that "rats will desert a sinking ship." And, I must confess, matters and things look squally enough. There is nothing left for me, however, but to stick to the Coalition as long as it will hold together, and if we are defeated, the arms of the Locofocos are open to receive me. They will gladly enfold me in their warm embrace. 
Coincidentally, the Boston Journal characterized Abolitionist Free Soilers as "real sons of Ishmael," shortly after Moby-Dick was first published in America. As reprinted in another Whig newspaper, the weekly National Aegis (Worcester, MA) on November 19, 1851:


This party — if such a faction is entitled to the name — was organized to oppose the election of General Taylor in 1848. That it has had in its ranks a great deal of talent and ability—a great deal of cunning and hypocrisy—the elements of success in a good cause, and the power to sustain a bad one, no one will deny.
It commenced trade — for it has been a trading concern from the beginning — with a capital of about 12,000 Abolitionists — real sons of Ishmael, whose hands had been against every man's for years, and who had been so long in a hopeless minority, and who were so perfectly accustomed to contending against overwhelming odds, that they formed the best nucleus for a new party which could possibly have been found....
National Aegis - November 19, 1851
via Genealogy Bank

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

More evidence for another London Morning Herald review of THE WHALE

In the earlier post on Looking for another Whale review, I guessed there might be another and perhaps more substantial review of Melville's novel The Whale, as the First British edition of Moby-Dick was titled. Here's more evidence of the still-unlocated review from the advertisement by Melville's publisher Richard Bentley in the London Globe on November 26, 1851. Bentley's ad in the London Globe gives another quotation from the "Morning Herald," praising Melville's Whale as
"Unquestionably the production of no ordinary mind."
That makes two differently worded endorsements of The Whale in the London Morning Herald, neither of which appears in the early notice of October 20, 1851. As shown previously, another Bentley ad supplied a different text:
"This remarkable novel will be read with great delight."
Again, neither quotation that Bentley ascribes to the Morning Herald appears in the one review we already knew about, transcribed on page 353 in Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews, edited by Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker (Cambridge University Press, 1995; paperback 2009).

Found online at The British Newspaper Archive <>. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
London Globe - November 26, 1851


NEW WORK by the AUTHOR of "TYPEE," &c.
In Three Vols, post 8vo. 
"Contains graphic descriptions such as we do not remember to have met with before in marine literature." --Athenaeum. 
"A work of great power and beauty." --Morning Post. 
"Unquestionably the production of no ordinary mind." --Morning Herald. 
"Intensely interesting. It is not a mere tale of adventure, but a whole philosophy of life that it unfolds." --John Bull. 
"A singular novel. The satire is biting and reckless." --Spectator. 
"Displays an unusual power of enchaining the interest." --Morning Advertiser. 
"The raciest thing of the kind that was ever produced." --Evening Paper. 
"A most extraordinary work." --Britannia 
"Melville's greatest effort." --Atlas.
Richard Bentley, New Burlington-street. 
The same quotation from the London Morning Herald occurs as the last of eight blurbs in Bentley's ad in the Morning Post on November 18, 1851. So then, the yet-to-be-found Morning Herald review of The Whale was evidently published after October 20 and before November 18, 1851. Most likely after November 8, 1851, the date of the Britannia review also quoted in Bentley's ads. The Britannia quotation got added to Bentley's list of newspaper blurbs by November 11th, before anything from the Morning Herald. Best guess for now, around the 14th of December 1851.

We will see, hopefully. Scans of the 1851 microfilm now ordered from The British Library - Digitisation Services.

Tue, Nov 18, 1851 – 1 · The Morning Post (London, Greater London, England) ·
Related post:

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Apostrophe to a Whale

From the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette (Devises, Wiltshire, England) October 30, 1851; found at The British Newspaper Archive <>.

Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette - October 30, 1851

— The following apostrophe, addressed by the whaling Captain to the head of a captured whale lashed to his ship's side, is from a publication entitled The Whale, by Herman Melville:—
"Speak, thou vast and venerable head," muttered Ahab, "which, though ungarnished with a beard, yet here and there lookest hoary with mosses; speak, mighty head, and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers, thou hast dived the deepest. That head upon which the upper sun now gleams, has moved amid this world's foundations. Where unrecorded names and navies rust, and untold hopes and anchors rot; where in her murderous hold this frigate earth is ballasted with bones of millions of the drowned; there, in that awful water-land, there was thy most familiar home. Thou hast been where bell or diver never went; hast slept by many a sailor's side, where sleepless mothers would give their lives to lay them down. Thou saw'st the locked lovers when leaping from their flaming ship; heart to heart they sank beneath the exulting wave; true to each other, when heaven seemed false to them. Thou saw'st the murdered mate when tossed by pirates from the midnight deck; for hours he fell into the deeper midnight of the insatiate maw; and his murderers still sailed on unharmed—while swift lightnings shivered the neighbouring ship that would have borne a righteous husband to outstretched, longing arms!"
Quoted from "The Sphinx" in the First British edition of The Whale (Volume 2, Chapter 28), this passage omits the blasphemous last sentence of Ahab's soliloquy which appears only in the American edition of Moby-Dick:
O head! thou hast seen enough to split the planets and make an infidel of Abraham, and not one syllable is thine!"  --Chapter 70: The Sphynx
As explained by Merriam-Webster, apostrophe as a literary device means "a speech or address to a person who is not present or to a personified object, such as Yorick's skull in Hamlet." And Wilson the volleyball in Cast Away.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Looking for another Whale review in the London Morning Herald

Publisher's ads for The Whale quote the London Morning Herald as predicting,
"This remarkable novel will be read with great delight." 
Thu, Dec 18, 1851 – 8 · The Morning Chronicle (London, Greater London, England) ·
Attributed to the "Morning Herald," the endorsement of Melville's Whale as a "remarkable novel" that "will be read with great delight" was reprinted in the London Morning Post (December 17, 1851) and Morning Chronicle (December 18, 1851); and two days later in the Athenaeum, Spectator, and Examiner.

But nothing close to this sentence appears in the one collected notice of The Whale in the Morning Herald for October 20, 1851. Included as a then-recent find in Hugh W. Hetherington, Melville's Reviewers, British and American, 1846-1891 (University of North Carolina Press, 1961) page 191, the notice of October 20 in the Morning Herald happens to be the earliest known review of The Whale. It's still the first one transcribed in the Moby-Dick section of Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews, edited by Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker (Cambridge University Press, 1995; paperback 2009).

Unless Richard Bentley invented the quotation, it seems there was another notice of The Whale in the London Morning Herald, maybe later (and longer?) than the exceptionally early one we already know about. The other quotation, "intensely interesting," comes from the review in John Bull on October 25, 1851:
We are unwilling to part with a book so intensely interesting without placing before our readers at least a leaf or two from the sketch-book of "Ishmael," the spinner of this wonderful whale yarn. 
Not yet digitized, or digitised, apparently, but The British Library does have the right microfilm reel of the London Morning Herald.
General Reference Collection 1851 Microform. MFM.M74744-7
Well, Hershel Parker just the other day was saying there could be more to discover about the "wonderful appreciation of HM's genius in London." Obviously I would love to make reservations for London. Before going that far in distance and debt, I really need to learn if any fine library closer to Minnesota has microfilm of the London Morning Herald for 1851. Anybody know?

Update 03/04/2020: I just ordered grayscale scans of the 1851 reel from The British Library, Digitisation Services. Here's to Hope, and Patience...
"Imaging Services are currently experiencing a high volume of work which may also impact on the completion times of order."  
Related post:

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Harper ads quoting London reviews of The Whale

In January 1852, Harper ads in New York City briefly quoted three British reviews of The Whale. One of these, the mixed review in the London Atlas (First Notice, November 1, 1851), was also excerpted with a positive spin in the January 1852 issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine. Along with the Atlas, the Harpers quoted the London Leader (November 8, 1851) and Literary Gazette (December 6, 1851). A different, longer excerpt from the Leader showed up in Harper's magazine for April 1852. Herman Melville's brother Allan knew the whole Leader review, as Hershel Parker relates in Herman Melville: A Biography Volume 2, 1851-1891 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002) pages 99-100. And reminds in a comment on the Melvilliana post, Moby-Dick widely praised.

These particular London blurbs do seem underwhelming next to the most appreciative and insightful British responses we know about now, for example in the London Morning Advertiser, Morning Post, Weekly News and Chronicle, and Daily News.

The Leader review first glossed The Whale as "a strange, wild weird book, full of poetry and full of interest." But the Harper ad skips the weirdness and poetry. Instead, the text of the Leader blurb has been clipped and combined from bits of another passage, describing Melville's Whale as
"a strange, wild work, with the tangled overgrowth and luxuriant vegetation of American forests, not the trim orderliness of an English park. Criticism may pick many holes in this work; but no criticism will thwart its fascination."
The compressed Leader text still anticipates and answers negative criticism, without getting specific:
"A strange, wild work--no criticism will thwart its fascination." 
On the bright side, the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer and The Literary World supplemented the London quotations with very high praise from the Washington, DC National Intelligencer ("actually Shakspearean") and New York Tribune (for "the author's originality and power"). In the Literary World for January 17, 1852 the full page ad for "HARPER & BROTHERS' LATEST PUBLICATIONS" listed "MOBY DICK; OR, THE WHALE" as the sixth of nine new works.

The Literary World - January 17, 1852 - page 60
12mo. muslin, $1 50.  
"A prose Epic on Whaling. Mr. Melville's delineations of character are actually Shakspearean—a quality which is even more prominently evinced In 'Moby Dick' than in any of his antecedent efforts." —National Intelligencer
"Nothing like it has ever before been written of the Whale." —Literary World
"It gives us a higher opinion of the author's originality and power than even the fragrant and first fruits of his genius, the never to be forgotten 'Typee.' " —N. York Tribune.  
"A strange, wild work—no criticism will thwart its fascination." —Lond, Leader.
"Equal to anything we have ever met with" — London Literary Gazette
"That Herman Melville knows more about whales than any from Jonah down, we do really believe."—London Atlas>

Below, the same ad in the New York Courier and Enquirer. In the quote from the National Intelligencer, William A. Butler's word "Shakespearean" is spelled "Shaksperean"; the Literary World version has it "Shakspearean" on January 17 but "Shakspearian" on February 14, 1852.

Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer - January 8, 1852
via FultonHistory
By Herman Melville. 12mo, muslin, $1.50.
"A prose Epic on Whaling. Mr. Melville's delineations of character is actually Shaksperean--a quality which is even more prominently evinced in "Moby-Dick" than in any of his antecedent efforts." --National Intelligencer.
"Nothing like it has ever before been written of the Whale." --Literary World
 "It gives us a higher opinion of the author's originality and power than even the fragrant and first fruits of his genius, the never to be forgotten 'Typee.' --N. Y. Tribune
"A strange, wild work--no criticism will thwart its fascination." --London Leader.
"Equal to anything we have ever met with." --London Literary Gazette.
"That Herman Melville knows more about whales than any man from Jonah down, we do really believe." --London Atlas
Thursday, January 8, 1852 is the first day the new Harper & Brothers ad ran in the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer. On the previous day, January 7th, the Harper ad for Moby-Dick contained only one quotation--from the London Times review of Typee.

Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer - January 7, 1852
via FultonHistory
The Harper & Brothers ad in the New York Evening Post on January 17, 1852 features the three new quotations from London reviews of The Whale, but no American blurbs.

New York Evening Post - January 17, 1852
via GenealogyBank
In February the Harper ad for Moby-Dick in the Literary World provided a different selection of London quotes. The revised ad drops the Leader and Literary Gazette texts, while substituting a juicier quotation from the London Atlas, and adding a new one from the otherwise negative notice in the London Examiner. The Valentine's Day 1852 version keeps the high praise of Moby-Dick from major American newspapers the New York Tribune and Washington National Intelligencer, but omits the previously included endorsement from the first Literary World review ("Nothing like it has ever before been written of the Whale"). Transcribed below from the New York Literary World, February 14, 1852, page 128:

The Literary World - February 14, 1852 - page 128
Moby Dick;
Or, The Whale. By HERMAN MELVILLE. 12mo. Muslin, $1 50. 
"It gives us a higher opinion of the author's originality and power than even the fragrant and first-fruits of his genius, the never-to-be forgotten 'Typee.'" —New York Tribune
"A prose Epic on whaling. His delineation of character is actually Shakspearian —a quality which is even more prominently evinced in 'Moby Dick' than in any of his antecedent efforts."—National Intelligencer.  
"Fully and freely is the book to be commended to all who are curious in such matters." London Examiner. 
"Herman Melville plunges among the whales as if he loved them, and counted them the grandest and most glorious of the creatures of the globe. Upon the whale, its mysteries and its terrors, he dwells as if the subject had enchantment for him." London Atlas.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Moby-Dick widely praised in 1851-2

via The New York Public Library Digital Collections
In the June 1940 Journal of the Rutgers University Library, David Potter aimed to counter "the popular misconception that Moby-Dick was not well-received when it was first published" with a survey of mostly positive magazine Reviews of Moby-Dick in 1851 and early 1852. Eighty years on, the legend persists that Moby-Dick was slammed by the majority of early critics. Gillian Osborne draws on the old claim in reviewing the Library of America edition of Melville's Complete Poems for the Boston Review
"As a fiction writer, his career tanked after certain demonstrations of originality: in 1851 with the publication of Moby Dick—widely panned upon publication—and even more so the following year, when he published Pierre...."
Widely panned is a 21st century twist, better describing the disappointment of critics with Mardi or Pierre, but with the virtue of being at least geographically defensible when repurposed for Moby-Dick (panned from Charleston to Boston, and on both sides of the Atlantic). Otherwise, the idea "that the reviewers demolished Moby-Dick" was already considered a "legend" in 1938 when Willard Thorp fact-checked it in the introduction to Herman Melville: Representative Selections. The legend continues in spite of scholarly interventions--attempted by John C. McCloskey in "Moby-Dick and the Reviewers," Philological Quarterly 25 (October 1946) pages 20-31; and, more persuasively, by Hugh W. Hetherington in “Early Reviews of Moby-Dick,” Moby-Dick Centennial Essays, ed. Tyrus Hillway and Luther S. Mansfield (Southern Methodist University Press, 1953), pages 89–122. In 1982, Steven Mailloux again surveyed the transatlantic reception of The Whale/Moby-Dick, explaining that
"Such a survey is needed to counteract past claims about a predominately negative reaction from contemporary reviewers." --Interpretive Conventions: The Reader in the Study of American Fiction (Cornell University Press, 1982) page 171.
Recent variations on the theme of Moby-Dick as critical failure in the 19th century:
  • At first, Moby Dick was a total flop --Chris Gaylord, Christian Science Monitor, October 18, 2012. <>
  • Zack Bivins, The eNotes Blog. 5 Reasons to Reread Moby-Dick. "Moby-Dick was widely panned in both England and the United States—Melville’s experimental style flew over the heads of most critics." <>
  • Philip Hoare in The Guardian, July 30, 2019. Subversive, queer and terrifyingly relevant. "The first version of the book was published in Britain in 1851, entitled The Whale. It came out in the US later that year as Moby-Dick – and failed, miserably." <>
Internet revival of the old rejection-legend has motivated me to conduct a new poll. The mission: count and sort known contemporary reviews and notices of Moby-Dick into the broad categories of
  1. Favorable or positive
  2. Unfavorable or negative
  3. Mixed
Necessarily, this effort of mere counting will disregard Hershel Parker's 1975 advice not to copy Hetherington's method (in Melville's Reviewers, British and American, 1846-1891) of "keeping box scores" of favorable or unfavorable reviews. For context see Parker on Being Professional in Working on Moby-DickCollege Literature Volume 2 Number 3, Moby-Dick (Fall, 1975) pages 192-7 at 195. That's just what I want now, a simple box score. Here I won't be too concerned about literary merit or depth of analysis or the reviewer's aesthetic sensibility. For that matter, I don't even care if the reviewer read Moby-Dick or not. Nor will I evaluate the influence that any particular review may have had on Herman Melville. Or explore the way that haters, especially conservative and religious types, understood what Melville wrote better than sympathizers. For those really interesting and important considerations, get the 1988 Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Moby-Dick, or The Whale and read Parker on the British reception of The Whale, and American reception of Moby-Dick, in the Historical Note, section VII, pages 689-732. Parker's essential work there is wonderfully reprised in the opening chapter of Herman Melville: A Biography Volume 2, 1851-1891 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002) on pages 17-30.

It's true that Moby-Dick received severe criticism when first published in 1851, some of it in influential periodicals like the London Athenaeum ("so much trash") and Boston Post ("not worth the money asked"). To Herman Melville, personally, the most hurtful review of all had to have been the pious and condescending hit piece delivered by his close friends Evert and George Duyckinck in the "Second Notice" of Melville's Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, published on November 22, 1851 in the New York Literary World.
That attack on Moby-Dick as tedious and irreligious came as a sucker punch after the mildly approving First Notice published the week before ("no everyday writing, and in Herman Melville's best manner"). Hawthorne complained in a letter to Evert A. Duyckinck, but the Duyckincks had already consolidated both notices into one long review, reprinted from the Literary World in the December 1851 issue of Holden's Dollar Magazine.
So clearly a handful of negative reviews can matter more than a boatload of positive ones. Parker keys on the bad ones in his examination of influential "Make-or-Break-Reviews" for Herman Melville in Context, ed. Kevin J. Hayes (Cambridge University Press, 2018). Melville (perhaps being "supersensitive," as Hetherington suggests in Melville's Reviewers) evidently took the worst reviews of Moby-Dick to heart. In Pierre (1852), as Parker first discovered in Why "Pierre" Went Wrong, Studies in the Novel Volume 8, Number 1 (Spring 1976) pages 7-23 at 14, Melville "was reacting specifically to the reviews of his latest book, Moby-Dick." This crucial insight is further developed by Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker in Reading Melville's Pierre; or, The Ambiguities (Louisiana State University Press, 2006) on pages 150-153.

Nevertheless, this is the year for the 2020 Census, not to mention another Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States. High time then for new and improved tallies. Not only of favorable and unfavorable opinions, since the most thoughtful ones may be mixed. An unbiased scorecard will keep mixed reviews in the "mixed" category, even when jammed with positive ingredients. For example, as Hetherington perceives, the London Atlas review "mingled great disparagement with great adulation":
The big day for The Whale in London was November 8. Of the four reviews which came out that day, two elaborate ones, in the Atlas and Britannia, are almost impossible to categorize as favorable or unfavorable, for they both mingled great disparagement with great adulation. Also both commenced in much harsher mood than they ended, suggesting that in each case, the reviewer, as he approached the last pages, came gradually, even against his will, to submit to Melville's wizardry.  
--Melville's Reviewers: British and American, 1846-1891 (University of North Carolina Press, 1961) pages 193-4. 
On the other hand, the excerpt from the London Atlas in Harper's Magazine for January 1852 reproduces only the most positive content with a positive spin, and therefore counts as a favorable notice. The positive spin in Harper's New Monthly Magazine is what enables Jennifer Phegley to take the London Atlas review as one of "two favorable British reviews" of Moby-Dick. Citation:
Phegley, Jennifer. “Literary Piracy, Nationalism, and Women Readers in ‘Harper's New Monthly Magazine’, 1850-1855.” American Periodicals, vol. 14, no. 1, 2004, pp. 63–90. JSTOR, Accessed on Mardi Gras Day 2020.
Strictly according to the numbers, as shown below, the majority view of Moby-Dick was favorable. The favorable reception of Moby-Dick stands in contrast to generally hostile reviews of Melville's next novel. Even the anonymous critic who slammed Pierre in the New York Herald wished Melville had found another whale to write about:
"Is there not a solitary whale left, whose cetaceous biography might have added another stone to the monumental fame of the author of Moby-Dick?" --New York Herald review of Melville's Pierre, September 18, 1852.
Fifty-nine notices of The Whale and Moby-Dick; or, The Whale are collected in Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews, edited by Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker (Cambridge University Press, 1995; paperback 2009); and transcribed there on pages 353-415. Of the 59 transcribed reviews, I'm counting 35 as favorable 😍 ; 14 negative 😠 ; and 10 mixed πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž . Good reviews outnumber the bad ones, 35 to 14 or 2.5:1. Even if you wanted to count all the reviews that I deem "mixed" as negative, the positive ones would still win, 35 to 24.
  1. 😍 "for vigour, originality, and interest, has never been surpassed." London Morning Herald, October 20, 1851.
  2. 😍 "unusual power of enchaining the interest, and rising to the verge of the sublime" London Morning Advertiser, October 24, 1851. Excerpted in London Globe, "THE WHALE," October 24, 1851.
  3. 😠 "so much trash." London Athenaeum, October 25, 1851.
  4. 😍 "extraordinary" London John Bull, October 25, 1851.
  5. 😠 "rhapsody run mad" London Spectator, October 25, 1851.
  6. πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž London Atlas, First Notice. November 1, 1851.
  7.  πŸ˜ "Herman Melville's last and best and most wildly imaginative story, 'The Whale.'" Illustrated London News by Angus Bethune Reach, November 1, 1851. 
  8. πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž "If you love heroics and horrors he is your man." London News of the World, November 2, 1851. Same text as the review in Bell's New Weekly Messenger - Sunday, November 2, 1851.
  9. πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž London Atlas, Second Notice. November 8, 1851.
  10. πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž evincing "rare versatility of talent." London Britannia. November 8, 1851.
  11. 😠 "...our enjoyment is small even of what we must admit to be undeniably and remarkably clever in it." London Examiner, November 8, 1851.
  12. 😍 "... no criticism will thwart its fascination." London Leader. November 8, 1851.
  13. 😍 "despite its occasional extravagancies, it is a book of extraordinary merit." London Morning Post. November 14, 1851.
  14. 😍 "the production of a man of genius" that "abounds in bright, witty and attractive things." Albany NY Argus. November 14, 1851.
  15. 😍 "The author writes with the gusto of true genius, and it must be a torpid spirit indeed that is not enlivened with the raciness of his humor and the redolence of his imagination."  Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer, November 14, 1851.
  16. 😍 "bold and stirring"; "written in the author's happiest vein." Troy NY Budget, November 14, 1851.
  17. πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž Melville "indulges frequently in profaneness, and occasionally in indelicacies, which materially detract from the merits of the book, which exhibits much tact, talent and genius." Boston Evening Traveller, November 15, 1851.
  18. Sat, Nov 15, 1851 – 2 · Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) ·
  19. 😍  "Melville's stories are decidedly interesting and graphic, and, as he writes, he improves in the minor details of incident, management, and style....well worth reading as a book of amusement, and well worth a place on the book shelf from the beautiful style of its publication." Hartford Courant, November 15, 1851.
  20. 😍 "no everyday writing, and in Herman Melville's best manner." First notice, The Literary World, November 15, 1851.
  21. 😍 "possesses all the interest of the most exciting fiction, while, at the same time, it conveys much valuable information in regard to things pertaining to natural history, commerce, life on ship board, &c." New Haven Palladium, November 17, 1851.
  22. 😍 "What writer is more welcome?"  New York Morning Express, November 17, 1851. Based on New York Courier review, #15 above. 
  23. 😍 "Mr. Melville has woven around this cumbrous bulk of romance, a large and interesting web of narrative, information, and sketches of character and scenery, in a quaint though interesting style, and with an easy, rollicking freedom of language and structure, characteristic of himself." Springfield MA Republican, November 17, 1851.
  24. 😍 "characters and subjects which figure in it are set off with artistic effect, and with irresistible attraction to the reader." New Bedford Mercury, November 18, 1851.
  25. 😠 "not worth the money asked." Boston Post, November 20, 1851; this notice opens quoting the negative review in the London Athenaeum
  26. 😍 "we know of none who can excel him in his delineations of the sea, and the wonders that pass before the eyes of those who traffic thereon."  New York Christian Intelligencer, November 20, 1851.
  27. πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž "Mr. Melville grows wilder and more untameable with every adventure."; The delineation of character, too, is exquisitely humorous, sharp, individual and never-to-be-forgotten." New York Evangelist, November 20, 1851.
  28. 😠 "Judgment day will hold him liable." New York Independent. November 20, 1851.
  29. πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž "vivid sketches done in the author's best style." Characterization of Ahab "ruined, by a vile overdaubing with a coat of book-learning and mysticism." Still, "not lacking much of being a great work." New York Albion, November 22, 1851.
  30. πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž "vivid dashing style of narrative and characterization, that takes one along by force." On the other hand: "We could wish a little less rambling in the story, and a little more reverence in the spirit of the book." New York Christian Inquirer, November 22, 1851.
  31. 😍 "constructed in Herman Melville's best manner." "..wildly imaginative and truly thrilling story." "We think it the best production which has yet come from that seething brain, and in spite of its lawless flights, which put all regular criticism at defiance, it gives us a higher opinion of the author's originality and power than even the favorite and fragrant first-fruits of his genius, the never-to-be-forgotten Typee." New York Tribune, November 22, 1851.
  32. 😠 Mixed but mean, coming from a friend: "... we begin to have some faint idea of the association of whaling and lamentation, and why blubber is so popularly synonymous with tears....We do not like to see what, under any view, must be to the world the most sacred associations of life violated and defaced." Second notice by Evert and George Duyckinck in the New York Literary World. November 22, 1851.
  33. 😠 "even his power of expression, and elegance of style, will not redeem a book from being prosy after the natural interest of its subject has been exhausted. More than five acts of the best tragedy would be too much for mere mortals to bear." Parker's Journal. November 22, 1851.
  34. 😍 "decidedly the richest book out." Philadelphia American Saturday Courier, November 22, 1851.
  35. 😍 "We nowhere find a more perfect delineation of character; he has a keen perception of the humorous and grotesque, excels in the description of natural scenery; his pencil is rich in coloring and his mind fertile in invention." Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser, November 25, 1851.
  36. 😍 "well sustains his reputation as a tale writer and sketcher, while it enhances in a high degree his fame as an original thinker and illustrator of every day sailor men, and every day sailor scenes." Hans Yorkel (Abraham Oakey Hall), New Orleans Commercial Bulletin, November 27, 1851.
  37. 😠 "There are few readers who will not be at first repulsed by its eccentricity." ... "We regret to see that Mr. Melville is guilty of sneering at the truths of revealed religion." NY Commercial Advertiser, November 28, 1851.
  38. 😍 "a wild, weird book, full of strange power and irresistible fascination for those who love to read of the wonders of the deep...among the freshest and most vigorous that the present publishing season has produced." London Weekly News and Chronicle, November 29, 1851.
  39. 😍  "a very racy, spirited, curious and entertaining book." N. P. Willis, New York Home Journal, November 29, 1851.
  40. 😍 "The high reputation attained by Mr. Melville as the author of those admirable works, Typee, Omoo, Redburn, Mardi, and White Jacket, is fully sustained in the volume which is the subject of this notice. It purports to give the veritable history of a whaling voyage performed by one Ishmael. Whether this work be viewed in reference to the numerous exciting incidents with which it abounds, to the variety and completeness of the information it conveys as respects the natural history and habits of this leviathan of the deep, or to those bold, vigorous, and life-like delineations of character with which the narrative is relieved, certain it is that Ishmael has presented a most readable work and an intensely interesting history...." Washington Union, November 30, 1851.
  41. 😍 "surpasses any of the former productions of this highly successful author." Harper's New Monthly Magazine, December 1851.
  42. 😍 "Fresh and buoyant as ever, our old friend dashes out in another realm of sea-life...." Newark NJ Daily Advertiser, December 5, 1851.
  43. 😠 "wantonly eccentric, outrageously bombastic." London Literary Gazette, December 6, 1851.
  44. 😠 "pitiable to see so much talent perverted to sneers at revealed religion and the burlesquing of sacred passages of Holy Writ."  New York Churchman, December 6, 1851.
  45. 😍"a work of exceeding power, beauty, and genius."  New York Spirit of the Times, December 6, 1851.
  46. 😍 "full of wild adventures and glowing descriptions... just think of chasing the whale, the monster king of the great deep, through the mighty waste of waters!" Savannah Republican, December 6, 1851.
  47. 😍 "a fair sample of the 'Romance of real life,' and while its tendency is useful and instructive, it is free from those pernicious and deceptive ingredients, with which many of the tales of the present age are impregnated." St. John, New Brunswick News, December 10, 1851.
  48. 😍 "a prose Epic on Whaling," clearly "the production of a man of genius." ...ingenious romance, which for variety of incident and vigor of style can scarcely be exceeded." Washington National Intelligencer, December 16, 1851.
  49. πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž "Here, however--in "The Whale"-- comes Herman Melville, in all his pristine powers--in all his abounding vigour--in the full swing of his mental energy, with his imagination invoking as strange and wild and original themes as ever, with his fancy arraying them in the old bright and vivid hues,...and alas! too, with the old extravagance, running a perfect muck throughout the three volumes, raving and rhapsodising in chapter after chapter." Overall, a "strange and unaccountable book."  London Morning Chronicle, December 20, 1851. Partially reprinted in the London Shipping and Mercantile Gazette on January 2, 1852. 
  50. 😠 "sundry digressions concerning the nature, attributes, and physical properties of whales, interspersed with wild rhapsodies from the crack-brained captain, and dissertations upon a variety of topics." London New Quarterly Review 1, First Quarter 1851.
  51. 😍 "There are descriptions in this book of almost unrivalled force, coloured and warmed as they are, by the light and heat of a most poetical imagination, and many passages might be cited of vigorous thought, of earnest and tender sentiment, and of glowing fancy, which would at once suffice to show—contest or dispute about the matter being out of the question—that Herman Melville is a man of the truest and most original genius." Bentley's Miscellany, Volume 31, January 1852.
  52. 😍 "That Melville has genius, wit, mirth, a vigorous, imaginative style, great command of language, and uncommon power of description, is unquestionable." Church Review and Ecclesiastical Register 4, January 1852.
  53. 😠 "The truth is, Mr. Melville has survived his reputation." ..."bad rhetoric, involved syntax, stilted sentiment and incoherent English."  United States Magazine and Democratic Review Volume 30, January 1852. 
  54. 😍 "His ocean-pictures are exceedingly graphic. Indeed, his descriptions of taking the whale are a succession of moving pictures; the detail bringing out every point of light and shadow with wonderful effect." The Knickerbocker Volume 39, January 1852.
  55. 😠 "Moby-Dick; or the Whale" (New-York: Harper & Brothers, 1851; 12mo., pp. 634,) is the latest effusion of Herman Melville's versatile genius. It is a wonderful mixture of fact and fancy—of information about the whale and its habits, and of the wildest whimsies of a seething brain. The book displays the same power of dashing description, of vivid picture-painting, which characterizes all the other works of this writer. We are bound to say, however, that the book contains a number of flings at religion, and even of vulgar immoralities that render it unfit for general circulation. We regret that Mr. Melville should allow himself to sink so low.
    --Methodist Quarterly Review 34, January 1852.
  56. 😍 "not an indifferent work, but a very superior one, after all." Peterson's Magazine Volume 21, January 1852.
  57. 😠 "... the book is sad stuff, dull and dreary, or ridiculous....the ravings of some of the tributary characters, and the ravings of Mr. Melville himself, meant for eloquent declamation, are such as would justify a writ de lunatico against all the parties." Charleston, SC Southern Quarterly Review for January 1852.
  58. 😍 "enough fine and valuable passages in it to amply repay its perusal." Today, a Boston Literary Journal, January 10, 1852.
  59. πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž  "badinage apart, this book, strange as it is, contains some scenes of stirring interest...." Dublin University Magazine Volume 39, February 1852.
  60. 😍 "This volume sparkles with the raciest qualities of the author's voluble and brilliant mind...." Graham's Magazine Volume 40, February 1852.
* * *
Eighteen additional notices of Moby-Dick are listed in Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews but not transcribed. Three of these I don't count, being reprints from chapter 61, "Stubb Kills a Whale." Nevertheless, such excerpts complement the generally positive reception of Moby-Dick in American newspapers. More 19th century excerpts from Moby-Dick are inventoried in Kevin Hayes and Hershel Parker, Checklist of Melville Reviews (Northwestern University Press, 1991); and other Melvilliana posts:
I have not looked at the brief notice of November 29, 1851 in the Toronto Globe and Mail. Hershel Parker in the Historical Note, Section VII for the 1988 Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Moby-Dick (page 714) classes the Toronto reviewer with "Others who bluffed through a few lines of commentary without having read much or any of the book." Of the remaining fourteen items listed in the Checklist of Additional Reviews on page 416, eleven are positive. Only one of the fourteen could reasonably be regarded as unfavorable, that being the reprint of the mostly negative London Spectator review in the International Monthly Magazine for December 1851. Two Boston notices are avowedly mixed, in the Boston Atlas on November 20, 1851; and Zion's Herald and Wesleyan Journal on November 26, 1851.

Adding fourteen of the checklist items in Contemporary Reviews brings our running total to 59 + 14 = 73 reviews. 35 + 11 = 46 positive 😍 ; 14 + 1 = 15 negative 😠; and 10 + 2 = 12 mixed πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž. So now, with the addition of shorter and more superficial responses, the positive reviews outnumber the negative ones by more than 3:1.
  • 😍 Boston Evening Transcript, November 12, 1851.

    Boston Evening Transcript - November 12, 1851
    "We very cordially welcome Mr. Melville back to the field, where he has won so many laurels. He will be at home among the whalers, and his book will be eagerly sought for by those, who remember the first two nautical romances from his pen. This volume is inscribed to Nathaniel Hawthorne, in token of "admiration for his genius."
  • 😍 Troy Daily Whig, November 13, 1851.
    The author of "Typee" and "Omoo" is an indefatigable as well as popular writer. The reading public (and that in this country comprises almost every body) had hardly ceased its expressions of admiration for "White Jackett" and its predecessors, when it is presented by the same author with a thick octavo volume of some 650 pages characterized by all that clearness and depth of observation, quaintness, and originality, which have served to give his previous productions such wide popularity. From a hasty glance at its pages, we predict that "Moby Dick" will be universally regarded as "Melville's best."
  • 😍 Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper, November 19, 1851. A "handsome volume" with "one hundred and thirty-five distinct sketches, presented in that easy and yet racy style so characteristic of the author."
  • 😍 Utica Daily Gazette, November 19, 1851.
  • πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž Boston Daily Atlas, November 20, 1851. "written in the author's well-known style and spirit. We cannot claim to be admirers of Mr. Melville's productions, but to those who are--and their name is Legion--we can commend this volume, as fully equal in interest to any of its predecessors."
  • [New Bedford Mercury November 20, 1851. Excerpt, Stubb Kills a Whale.]
  • 😍 New York Sun, November 20, 1851. "A charming volume" that "abounds with thrilling narratives of danger and hair breath' escapes, so common to the enterprising whalemen. Written in a singularly attractive and agreeable style, the reader cannot fail to be delighted, deriving likewise, much interesting knowledge relative to the 'Monster of the deep,' and the modus operandi of his capture and dissection."
New York Sun - November 20, 1851
  • [New Haven Journal and Courier, November 22, 1851. Excerpt, Stubb Kills a Whale.]
  • πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž Boston Zion's Herald and Wesleyan Journal. November 26, 1851.
    MESSRS. HARPERS have issued another work from the pen of Herman Melville, entitled Moby-Dick, or The Whale; it relates to marine life as connected with whaling, and abounds in the well known qualities of the author. The London Athenaeum says that it cannot recall another sketcher who has given the poetry of the ship, her voyages and her crew in a manner at all resembling his. He is not only thoroughly original, but combines a great variety of rare excellences. We take exception to some of his moral views, but acknowledge his attractive talents. Few books are more readable than his.—Mussey & Co., Boston. 
    "Faulty as the book may be, it bears the marks of such unquestionable genius, and displays graphic powers of so rare an order, that it cannot fail to add to the popular author's reputation."
  • 😠 International Monthly Magazine - December 1851. Reprints the mixed London Spectator review. Nautical tale marred by "soliloquies and dialogues of Ahab" and "speculative views of things in general."
  • 😍 Savannah Daily Morning News, December 2, 1851.
    "The reading public will greet with pleasure another work from Mr. Melville, in that field of romance where he has won so many laurels. He is at home in this book among the whales and whalers, harpoons and habergeons. The tradition of the Nantucket whaleman has furnished him a fine subject for the display of his peculiar talent for the delineation of nautical character and life."
  • 😍 Boston Christian Freeman and Family Visiter
    "takes a wide and diversified scope of descriptive, sketching, anecdote, &c., directly and indirectly connected with the whaling and other seafaring locations and business"
  • 😍 Hunt's Merchant's Magazine and Commercial Review - January 1852

    "Those who expect to find an agreeable and entertaining volume in this will not be disappointed. In some parts it may be rather diffuse, but as a whole it will be read with gratification. The Whale forms the subject of it; in connection with it is introduced character and scenes of that peculiar kind which impart so much life and spirit to this author's works." 
 " a compact volume of upwards of six hundred pages, all about 'the whale,' whalers, and whaling, being itself a perfect literary whale, and worthy of the pen of Herman Melville, whose reputation as an original writer has been established the world over."
* * *
Here below are 40 more notices of Moby-Dick, not transcribed or listed in Contemporary Reviews. Five negative, four mixed, the rest positive. The Boston Saturday Evening Gazette is negative but Melville's critic (most likely editor William Warden Clapp, Jr., who published stories by Louisa May Alcott a few years later) acknowledges the positive one in the Boston Morning Journal for November 18, 1851.

Tue, Oct 28, 1851 – 1 · The Morning Post (London, Greater London, England) ·
  • 😍 London Globe and Traveller - October 20, 1851. Melville's "new work 'The Whale,' is perhaps the raciest thing of the kind that was ever produced. Melville does not merely skim the surface, he dives into the deep unfathomed main. We smell and taste the brine in every page. His ink must be the black liquor of the cuttle-fish, and his pen drawn from the wing of the albatross. 'The Whale' is a very great performance."
  • 😍 London Morning Post - October 20, 1851. Early notice, before #13 above. "Melville is a star, and of no ordinary magnitude in the literary firmament."

    "THE WHALE," by Herman Melville, just published, is perhaps the most extraordinary work that has appeared in England for a very great many years. The novelty of the materials that constitute the interest—the novelty of the manner of dealing with them—the poetical, combined with the practical nature of the author—the rare power with which he knits us to every character in succession—the wild impetuous grandeur of his scenes—the impulsive force and vigour of his language—these, together, make up one of the most fascinating books that was ever read. Captain Ahab is a character which few men could have conceived, and how few could have drawn with such marvellous earnestness and strength; and his pertinacious pursuit of the great white whale Moby Dick, is executed in the true spirit, and with the full force of great original genius. Melville is a star, and of no ordinary magnitude in the literary firmament. 
  • 😍 London Globe - October 24, 1851. "THE WHALE." Excerpt from review in the London Advertiser, #2 above. "... High philosophy, liberal feeling, absrtruce metaphysics popularly phrased, soaring speculation, a style as many-coloured as the theme, yet always good and often admirable; fertile fancy, ingenious construction, playful learning, and an unusual power of enchaining the interest, and rising to the verge of the sublime--all these are possessed by Herman Melville, and exemplified in his new work....."
"Sprightly in composition, amusing in anecdote, and sparkling for its wit, are epithets which every one must apply to these volumes after giving them a careful perusal."
  • 😍 Albany Evening Journal, November 12, 1851. "... we look forward with pleasure to the hours of leisure that will allow us to look through 'Moby-Dick.' We are sure there is amusement in it; for it opens promisingly." 
  • 😍 Albany Evening Journal, Thursday, November 13, 1851. "Foreign Items.... Herman Melville's new book, 'the Whale,' just issued by the Harper's, is well received in England." Reprinted from the New York Evening Post, November 12, 1851. This item appeared also in the Troy Daily Budget (November 13, 1851); Buffalo Commercial Advertiser (November 14, 1851); Buffalo Courier (November 15, 1851); Milwaukee Weekly Wisconsin (November 26, 1851) and Weekly Racine Advocate (November 26, 1951).
  • 😍 Philadelphia Inquirer - November 15, 1851. "... abounds with thrilling incidents, hair-breadth escapes, and remarkable adventures. It is especially suited for the lovers of the wild and wonderful."
  • 😍 Boston Morning Journal - November 18, 1851. "The work is a singular mixture of fact and fiction.— The supernatural is interwoven with the matter-of-fact delineations of life on board a whale ship. The descriptions of the various operations of the whalemen are remarkably life like. The chapters upon the whale, for minute description of the characteristics of the different varieties of the leviathan, would do credit to the researches of the most enthusiastic naturalist." "... the reader will sometimes be puzzled to separate fiction from probability, so skilfully has the author blended the common incidents of a whaleman's life, with the creations of his own fancy. In many respects Moby-Dick is the best of the works of the author, as it certainly is the most instructive. We predict for it, with confidence, an extended popularity."
  • 😍 Pittsburgh Daily Morning Post - November 18, 1851. "Persons who have read the author's former works should read Moby Dick, as it is equal to any of them." 
  • 😍 Worcester, MA Palladium. November 19, 1851.

    Worcester Palladium - November 19, 1851
    via GenealogyBank
  • "There is life, elasticity, and freedom from restraint, in Mr Melville's manner as a writer; and originality and freshness in his matter. He has no mannerism which holds him down as an imitator of other men; but with tarpulin and roundjacket he plunges into the wide world of adventure, and jots down whatever there comes within the scope of his vision. 'Moby-Dick' is full of spirit and energy, and will match his previous works in the race for popularity."
  • 😍 Rochester NY Daily Democrat - November 20, 1851. "This book of Mr. Melville's gives us a good insight into the habits of the monster himself, as well as of the modes of pursuit and capture. It is given in a style partaking much of that in which romances are presented, perhaps partaking somewhat of the author's imaginative characteristics. As an agreeable fire-side book, which may not be read unprofitably, we commend it." Another notice of Moby-Dick appeared in the Daily Democrat on January 21, 1852.
  • 😍 Washington National Era, November 20, 1851. “MOBEY DICK” introduces us to the hard eventful life of a whaleman, and, so far as we have read, is a volume of great interest. 
  • 😍 Detroit Free Press - November 21, 1851. "peculiarly piquant narrative"; "Its stirring scenes and adventures on the bosom of the broad Pacific, will be the life of the forecastle, on many a stormy night...."
  • 😍 Boston Olive Branch, November 22, 1851. BOOK NOTICES, &c.
    "MOBY DICK" -- A wild and exciting description of a whaler's life, by Herman Melville. The author is said to be fully equal to Maryatt himself, in his works upon ship and sea. The book before us purports to be intensely interesting, and as it comes from Harper's, it ought to be unexceptionably moral. We do not feel competent to give an extended notice, not being familiar enough with ocean phrase and ocean life. But we have no doubt it will be a popular book. For sale at Hotchkiss & Co's., 13 Court street. “‘Moby Dick.’” Olive Branch (Boston, MA), vol. 16, no. 47, Nov. 1851, p. 3. EBSCOhost, 
  • 😠 Boston Statesman, November 22, 1851. Same content as #24 above, Boston Post
  • 😍 Buffalo NY Daily Courier - November 22, 1851. "a joyous book, full of fine witticisms, and delicate and rapid touches of humor and interest....The invention of the author never seems to flag and his descriptions of scenery are unsurpassed....a singular vein of graphic originality in his style both of words and thoughts...." 
  • 😍 Gazette of the Union, Golden Rule & Odd-Fellows Family Companion, Volume 15 (November 22, 1851) page 335. <> "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."
  • πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž Saturday Evening Post, November 22, 1851. "Peeping into it, here an there, we see much that looks as if it leads where one would like to follow; but swim on, 'Moby-Dick,' for the present, untouched by critical lance or harpoon." 
Moby Dick; or the Whale; By HERMAN MELVILLE, Author of "Typee," "Omoo," "Redburn," "Mardi," "White Jacket." New York. Harper & Brother, 1851. 
"Remarkable," is the adjective which, by general consent, is applied to all of Herman Melville's books. They deserve the epithet, and others less vague and satisfactory. Melville is a true genius, and impresses himself upon all that he writes. We do not know that he indulges himself in verse, but he is a poet and a dramatist, as well as a novelist and historiographer; and somehow in everything that he gives to the public, he illustrates his wonderful versatility,-- so that the reader hardly knows whether to admire him most as poet, dramatist, novelist or philosopher. This is the state of dubiousness with which we rise from the perusal of "Moby Dick." But it is a dubiousness that consists with keen delight, for seldom have we read a more fascinating book, or one that exhibits a wider scope of power, ranging from the most abstruse speculations of the philosopher, to the wildest imaginations of the poet. The story is one of intense interest, but we hardly know whether to regard Captain Ahab, or that great Sea-Satan, Moby Dick, the hero; and it matters little which, for power and daring and unconquerable energy are alike illustrated in both--the King of Leviathans hunted in his olden seas, and the hardy whaleman urged on to the chase by a monomania that makes himself at once terrible and sublime. 
There are other characters that will arrest the reader's attention, for their vivid individuality, and as illustrations of Melville's powers of delineation. Among them we may mention the Parsee, Starbuck, Stubbs, and poor Pip, the crazed witling, all of whom stand out distinct and life-like, under the graphic power of a master's pen. In richness and boldness of coloring, whether he is portraying scenery or men, describing a chase for a whale, the revel in the forecastle, or the self-communion of a strong spirit marked and wrenched by fate or circumstance, the author of "Moby Dick" has scarcely an equal and no superior. We venture to predict, that among the prolific issues of the American press, this year, none will take hold of a wider and more speedy popularity, or more successfully maintain its place in the affections of the reading public, than this last production of Herman Melville. 
  • 😍 Batavia, NY Republican Advocate, November 25, 1851. Copied from the Albany Daily State Register (November 17, 1851). "MOBY DICK; OR, THE WHALE. / This is the title of Herman Melville's new work, just published by the Harpers, and said to be the best written and most entertaining book put forth by that popular and clever author." Reprints first notice in The Literary World (November 15, 1851). 
  • 😠 Edinburgh Evening Courant (Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland) November 25, 1851. "... strange mixture of smart observations, quaint philosophy, American vulgarisms, and grandiose writing." 
  • 😍  NY Daily Commercial Times - November 26, 1851. "Persons who are fond of reading marvelous fish stories, this book will be welcome. It is written with considerable spirit, and abounds in wit and humor."
  • 😠 North American Miscellany - December 1851. "Melville's new work, 'The Whale, or Moby Dick,' is pronounced by the Athenaeum an absurd book. Its catastrophe, it says, is hastily, weakly, and obscurely managed, and the style in places disfigured by mad (rather than bad) English."
  • 😍 Providence, Rhode Island Manufacturers' and Farmers' Journal, December 1, 1851. "... his description of the ocean and of the ship have a fascination that binds the reader to his pages. We have read Typee more than once, we have forgiven Mardi, and we shall turn with the assurance of new enjoyment to Moby-Dick." 
  • πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž Buffalo NY Commercial Advertiser, December 3, 1851. Mostly borrowed from the New York, NY Commercial Advertiser review of November 28, 1851; #36 above. But the spin makes it mixed, definitely: "This is an extraordinary book, neither good, nor wholly bad—as was said of Rob Roy, it is "o'er bad for blessing, and o'er good for banning."
  • 😠 Boston Saturday Evening Gazette. December 6, 1851. Edited by the young and energetic William Warden Clapp, Jr., then 25. Discovered by Richard E. Winslow III, Clapp's notice of Moby-Dick was collected and transcribed in Melville Reviews and Notices, Continued. Although mostly negative, the Evening Gazette notice references the strongly positive review in the Boston Journal, evidently by editor John Sherburne Sleeper: "... We have read portions of Moby Dick, but fail to discover any marks of freshness, any traces of originality. The work is highly spoken of by our neighbor of the Journal, a nautical gentleman, and our opinion of its merits may be erroneous. The only way for the reader to decide is by perusing the volume." 
  • 😍 New Orleans Commercial Bulletin - December 8, 1851. "This, we take it from a cursory survey, is an exceedingly exciting and attractive work--being a kind of log of sea yarns and adventures connected with whaling, some of them partaking rather of the marvellous. The book is highly spoken of, and engages very general attention."
  • 😍 Harper's Magazine January 1852 quotes London Atlas as "one of the most discriminating reviewals we have  seen" of Melville's "greatest effort."
  • 😍 Harper's Magazine April 1852 quotes London Leader review, #12 above. "Who knows the horrors of the seas like HERMAN MELVILLE?" 
“The Whale” is not the least remarkable work of a very remarkable writer. About everything that proceeds from the pen of Mr. Melville there is a freshness, an originality, a fascination, that nothing can resist. We defy the reader to take up one of this writer’s fictions, and put it down only partly read. Impossible. He is an ancient mariner, and we are so many wedding guests. We “cannot choose but hear.” Whether the tale has an albatross or a whale for a hero, the compulsion is equally strong; and if Mr. Melville choose to write about a robin-redbreast or a mackerel, it would be most likely all the same...." 
"... How the author survives to tell his story is contemptuously left in mystery. That he has contrived to tell his story somehow we, in common with his other readers, must congratulate ourselves. We have not read a book of more absorbing interest for some time. There is something grand and poetical in the vow of the terrible old Ahab that seizes upon one by main force; and the power and vigour of the author in his descriptive passages are solemnly conspicuous. He has great command of character too. We have not had an opportunity of mentioning Starbuck, the first mate—but Starbuck is capital for all that. Stubb, too, is a complete individual; and as for our old friend Queequeg, the Indian harpooner, who accompanies the hero throughout the voyage—he is a triumph. But we have no space to enter into minutiae, for which we must refer the reader to the book itself. We can only once more express our hearty admiration of the performance as a work of interest and art."
  • 😍 Littell's Living Age 32, January 17, 1852. Reprinted from #15 above, Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer (November 14, 1851):
No American writer is more sure, at every reappearance, of a more cheerful welcome than the author of Typee. His purity and freshness of style and exquisite tact in imparting vividness and life-likeness to his sketches long since gained him hosts of admirers on both sides of the water This book has all the attractiveness of any of its predecessors; in truth, it possesses more of a witching interest, since the author's fancy has taken in it a wilder play than ever before. It is ostensibly taken up with whales and whalers, but a vast variety of characters and subjects figure in it, all set off with an artistic effect that irresistibly captivates the attention. The author writes with the gusto of true genius, and it must be a torpid spirit indeed that is not enlivened with the raciness of his humor and the redolence of his imagination.-- N. Y. Courier.
  • 😍 Rochester, NY Daily Democrat - January 21, 1852. "... replete with wild adventures and thrilling scenes. Mr. Melville is a master, and a light, in that path of Romance in which he has chose to walk. His descriptions are graphic and complete, and are thoroughly imbued with that grace and charm which is a peculiarity of his genius." See above for the earlier notice in the Daily Democrat on November 20, 1851.

Grand Total = 113

😍     77
😠     20

πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž 16