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

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