Saturday, October 31, 2020

Tell Truth and shame the Devil

Tell Truth & shame the Devil

Herman Melville

March 2d 1882
Via invaluable

Or is it Devel? Either way, score this one for the Maestro Hershel Parker who correctly identified Hotspur's line from Shakespeare's Henry IV Part I long ago, without seeing the actual autograph book that contained it. Blindfolded, you might say. Henry A. Murray had misread Melville's inscription or heard it misreported as "Tell Truth and shame the dead." But Murray accepted Parker's better-informed guess and rightly predicted it would be confirmed some day, as revealed on pages 136-7 in Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative (Northwestern University Press, 2012). Parker thought Melville's contribution had been collected with autographs of other Berkshire celebrities in the 1850's, when Melville lived in Pittsfield. However, as shown above, Melville's inscription is dated March 2, 1882 in the autograph album of Lafayette Cornwell--offered at auction by Lion Heart Autographs just last week. 

James Barron in the New York Times (October 18, 2020) portrays Cornwell as a somewhat elusive and mysterious autograph hound. Born in Saratoga Springs and schooled in Troy NY, Lafayette Cornwell found professional employment as a jeweler, watchmaker, railroad telegrapher and inspector. He moved west, then returned to New York from Canon City, Colorado in 1879. Cornwell began gathering autographs for his album in December 1880. From the "Item Overview" of Cornwell's unique collection on
... Melville’s signature on page 114, and dated March 2, 1882, was written the same day as the signature of Edward Stiles Stokes, a notorious oilman who, in a jealous rage, murdered his business partner, “Diamond” Jim Fisk, but at the time was the well-respected proprietor of the fashionable Hoffman House hotel. Stokes’ signature, however, appears 12 pages after Melville’s and not on the same page as one would expect if the album had been assembled in chronological order. Did Cornwell meet the author of America’s greatest novel, “Moby Dick,” then eking out a living as a U.S. Customs inspector living on Manhattan’s East 26th Street, and then walk over to the nearby Hoffman House on Broadway between 24th and 25th streets and ask Stokes for his autograph? Or, perhaps, Melville was dining at the hotel and Cornwell recognized him?

-- Most Remarkable Autograph Album Ever Offered 

Wed, Sep 15, 1926 – 1 · The Yonkers Herald (Yonkers, New York) ·


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