Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Call me Frank

Mid-1850's Melville riffs on "frank" as name and character-trait:

“Thank you for your frankness,” said Paul; “frank myself, I love to deal with a frank man. You, Doctor Franklin, are true and deep, and so you are frank.”

The sage sedately smiled, a queer incredulity just lurking in the corner of his mouth.

-- Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile (1855); first printed in Putnam's Monthly Magazine - September 1854

Paul's genuine frankness contrasts with the more calculating and ambiguous behavior displayed by Benjamin Franklin. Hennig Cohen has noted how Melville's wordplay on the "frank" in Franklin looks forward to the ironic naming of Frank Goodman, the confidence-man's confidence man: 

99.9-11 frankness . . . frank man . . . Franklin . . . frank 
Paul Jones appears to be nothing if not frank, though Franklin, who appears at times to be less so, listens to his words with a lurking "incredulity" (99.12). Melville is once more turning to account the suggestiveness of a personal name. He is also anticipating the significant name, Frank Goodman, of The Confidence-Man (Chap. 29) who at times seems less than frank.

-- Annotations to Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile, edited by Hennig Cohen (Fordham University Press, 1991) page 395.

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