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
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
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."

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