Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Racy and entertaining

11 Apr 1849, Wed Boston Evening Transcript (Boston, Massachusetts) Newspapers.com
THE MESSRS HARPER promise us on Saturday the new work by Melville, author of "Typee" and Omoo." It is entitled "Mardi; and a Voyage Thither." Melville has already eclipsed De Foe in his racy and entertaining productions. His new book will have a great sale."  -- Boston Daily Evening Transcript, April 11, 1849

Both volumes of the first American edition (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1849) of Herman Melville's Mardi: and a Voyage Thither have been digitized by the great Internet Archive; the physical books are held by the University of Pittsburgh Library.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Great Lake break

Lake Superior
"... this Lakeman, in the land-locked heart of our America, had yet been nurtured by all those agrarian freebooting impressions popularly connected with the open ocean. For in their interflowing aggregate, those grand fresh-water seas of ours,—Erie, and Ontario, and Huron, and Superior, and Michigan,—possess an ocean-like expansiveness, with many of the ocean’s noblest traits; with many of its rimmed varieties of races and of climes."  
-- Moby-Dick chapter 54, The Town-Ho's Story. 
Philadelphia Inquirer - October 25, 1851
via GenealogyBank

The Town-Ho's Story by Herman Melville was first published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine for October 1851. Reprinted in American newspapers including the St. Louis Missouri Republican on October 12 and 13, 1851; Philadelphia Inquirer on October 25, 27 and 28 1851; and Cincinnati Liberty Hall and Weekly Gazette on December 4 and 11, 1851.

In the Cincinnati Liberty Hall and Weekly Gazette for December 4, 1851, the first installment of "The Town-Ho's Story" was followed by the poem "Pumpkin Pies" By A Vermonter, reprinted there from the New York Tribune (July 8, 1851).

The Horror of Teaching Critical Race Theory to Kids

Friday, June 11, 2021

Armour Caldwell at Tulane, 1908

07 Feb 1916, Mon Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) Newspapers.com
Here is the paper I read in New York on June 17, 2019 at the 12th International Melville Society Conference. Images and links added for fun and further study. 

 New Orleans Origins of Melville Revival: Armour Caldwell at Tulane, 1908

We know better than to say THE Melville Revival, we just can't help it. As shown in 1931 by O. W. Riegel and affirmed in 21st century surveys by Sanford Marovitz and Eric Aronoff, Melville always had passionate fans, even during the years of legendary neglect after his death, before the first centenary of his birth. In New York City, Elizabeth Shaw Melville collaborated with Arthur Stedman (1859-1908) on reissues of Typee, Omoo, White-Jacket, and Moby-Dick. British admirers and promoters included sea-novelist William Clark Russell (1844-1911) and social reformer Henry S. Salt (1851-1939). From London, New York Times correspondent William Livingston Alden (1837-1908) in 1899 called for "A" Melville revival--and for good measure, A Melville Society. Canadian scholar Archibald MacMechan (1862-1922) touted Moby-Dick as Melville's one good book and 
The Best Sea Story Ever Written.
Less well known as active Melville advocates are two Massachusetts journalists: Charles Goodrich Whiting (1842-1922), editor of the Springfield Republican; and Philip Hale (1854-1934), the Boston music critic who championed Melville for forty years, thirty in his newspaper column "As the World Wags." In Butte, Montana, ladies of the "Homer Club" reserved a day in early 1907 for "sea tales" as part of their daunting program of literary study. Ethelyn Caldwell Adams (Mrs. John Coit Adams) originally was assigned Moby-Dick, but in February 1907 it was Mrs. L. P. Sanders who "presented a sketch of Melville, the author of 'Moby Dick.'"

03 Feb 1907, Sun The Anaconda Standard (Anaconda, Montana) Newspapers.com
Still we speak of THE Revival, later than and distinct from the Melville "vogue" before the First World War (Zimmerman, page 23). THE Revival launched with the centenary in 1919 and Raymond Weaver's "foolish and enormously influential" biography, as Stanley Edgar Hyman called it. Martina Pfeiler and I will be looking at precursors, each with ties in New York City--predictably, considering the Columbia University connections of so many participants. Less predictably, one flowered in the South.

On April 1, 1908, a visiting Assistant Professor of English named Armour Caldwell (1878-1929) gave a public lecture at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana titled "The World's Greatest Sea Story." Mrs. Sanders would have scooped him in Butte, but Melville had to share "Sea Tale" day in 1907 with Cooper and Dana. Caldwell's 1908 talk would seem to be the first lecture devoted exclusively to Moby-Dick in a formal academic setting. Notice of the Tulane lecture was first discovered in online archives of the New Orleans Picayune by Martina Pfeiler; further investigation turned up another report in the Times-Democrat. Three questions to address here: 
  1. Who was Armour Caldwell?
  2. What did he say about Moby-Dick? and
  3. What the devil is a picayune? (Answered first, with help from Grammarphobia: Anglicized version of picaillon, south Louisiana French for the Spanish medio real worth 6 1/4 cents, the smallest coin in circulation and the name of the daily newspaper in New Orleans.)

Who was Armour Caldwell?

On March 31, 1908 the Daily Picayune announced that Armour Caldwell would lecture the following day in "his first public appearance in New Orleans." Subject: "The Greatest Sea Story." The paper added that "Prof. Caldwell is an interesting talker and the public is cordially invited to be present." The lecturer was born William Armour Caldwell on May 21, 1878 in Salt Lake City, Utah to John Armour Caldwell (1849-1911) and Margaret Wylie Cook (1853-1913). His mother was a native of New York and resident of Troy; his father was a Scottish immigrant, engineer, and inventor. Only a year after Armour's birth the family moved back East. Armour grew up in Brooklyn and attended Columbia University. His brothers (Robert John or "R. J." and Jean Cook Caldwell) had highly successful careers in cotton and international banking, but Armour Caldwell followed the different path of English Major.  At Columbia Caldwell developed an interest in social reform and became president of the Social Progress Club (Brooklyn Daily Eagle for January 6, 1901). He earned his B. A. from Columbia in 1902; M. A,. from Harvard in 1907. In between he lectured in the Columbia English Department. Collaborating with Brander Matthews, Caldwell wrote extensive endnotes for the student edition of Washington Irving's Sketch-book, published in 1905 by Longman's. In 1908 he filled in for the absent head of the English Department at Tulane, in "the picturesque old French town of New Orleans" (American Leader Volume 1).  After the Tulane gig he returned to New York City and taught English at Union Theological Seminary. Caldwell next organized and managed the Educational Department at E. P. Dutton and Company before joining The American Leader magazine as managing editor. Published by the American Association of Foreign Language Newspapers, The American Leader appealed to "new immigrants" from southern and eastern Europe and mobilized support for their concerns. After the Great War Caldwell moved west, to Creighton, Arizona and eventually to Los Angeles. Thence, in May 1922, he went to Europe citing health reasons on his passport application. He died of TB at Badenweiler in Germany on August 9, 1929. 

What did Armour Caldwell say about Moby-Dick?

Caldwell's Tulane talk was one in a series of Wednesday noon lectures, following J. C, Ransmeier of the German Department on "A Survey of Germany's Contribution to Civilization"; and before that, Mary Eileen Ahern (1860-1938) on "Library Work as a Career for Educated Men and Women." The fearless Miss Ahearn would have been the harder act to follow; as founding editor of Public Libraries and regular guest speaker she developed a reputation for "spicy comment" that "broadened the horizons of librarians in smaller communities" (Marian C. Manley). 

02 Apr 1908, Thu The Times-Democrat (New Orleans, Louisiana) Newspapers.com
02 Apr 1908, Thu The Times-Democrat (New Orleans, Louisiana) Newspapers.com
To begin with, Caldwell expected his audience to be "surprised" by the subject of his lecture, Moby-Dick, since "little space has been given to it in literary history or criticism." At the same the speaker did register "the increase of editions and readers." New editions then were the illustrated 1902 volume in the series of Famous Novels of the Sea by Charles Scribner's Sons; and the 1907 volume in Everyman's Library, edited by Earnest Rhys. Availability of these new volumes offered some hope that "Moby Dick is now slowly gaining its proper place in American Literature."

Caldwell told his Tulane audience a little about Melville's life. Facts and phrases in Caldwell's abridged biography reveal his reliance on the intro by Arthur Stedman in the 1892 edition of Typee copyrighted by Elizabeth S. Melville. For example, Caldwell repeats Stedman's misleading claim that Melville first went to sea "as a cabin boy." From Stedman, Caldwell knows that between voyages Melville worked as a schoolteacher. The newspapers do not report that Caldwell mentioned, say, The Confidence-Man or any works of poetry (Stedman did). Apparently, the lecturer did call Moby-Dick Melville's "masterpiece." That was MacMechan's verdict, implied also in Stedman's view that his Whale-book earned Melville "the topmost notch of his fame." Caldwell gets the date and place of Melville's death right, 1891 in New York, adding however the questionable news that Melville experienced mental breakdown and died "quite broken in mind."

Next Caldwell gave this plot summary:
The story tells of how Ismael (Melville himself) happened to ship with an old sea captain. This old mariner had lost a leg in conflict with a monster whale in the South Seas and had vowed to kill the whale at any cost. The voyage, the constant outlook for the whale; the final conflict, resulting in the killing of the whale and the destruction of the ship, none escaping but Ismael--all pictured with tremendous force and vigor.

Of the Pequod's crew the newspaper names only Melville's narrator Ishmael ("Ismael"), reporting that Caldwell identified him as a stand-in for "Melville himself."  But Caldwell keyed on "the old sea captain" and his inflexible, vengeance-driven quest. Enthralled by the revenge plot, the lecturer in both extant newspaper accounts has Moby Dick killed in the end, making Ahab a kind of Beowulf and the White Whale dead as the Dragon.

Next the speaker tackled literary matters. For narrative technique, Caldwell found Moby-Dick "very like to Sterne's Tristram Shandy."
"It has the same perverse disproportion, the same elaborate digressions and the same dramatic dialogue. It abounds with description and philosophizing, and this makes the story rather slow."

In 1851, William A. Butler had said much the same thing when reviewing Moby-Dick for the Washington National Intelligencer. With the help of Mary K's black book on Melville's Sources, we can readily find pertinent scholarship through 1987. In the Hendricks House edition of Moby-Dick, Luther S. Mansfield and Howard P. Vincent particularize debts to Tristram Shandy for the cozy "confidential disclosures" between Ishmael and Queequeg as bedmates in Chapter 10 A Bosom Friend; and for the figure of Cervantes in Melville's apostrophe to "thou Just Spirit of Equality" and "great democratic God!" in Chapter 26 Knights and Squires.

After Sterne, Caldwell named Carlyle as a major influence on the elevated style in Moby-Dick which occasionally "reaches the dignity of Carlyle's best prose." Here again later scholarship has abundantly confirmed Melville's debt to Carlyle, which seemed obvious not only to Caldwell but also to the earliest critics of Moby-Dick (and before that, Mardi). Friendly ones regretted Carlyle's bad influence; hostile ones condemned it. Caldwell's Columbia teacher and colleague William P. Trent counted as a knock, Melville's "obvious imitation of Carlylean tricks of style and construction." MacMechan the Carlyle expert never named the author of Sartor Resartus. In the new 20th century, however, imitations of Carlyle sounded fine to Caldwell, another descendant of Scots.

In the Extracts section of Moby-Dick Melville quotes from Goldsmith's History of the Earth and Animated Nature. But Caldwell names Goldsmith as one of Melville's more important influences for his "unoffending humor," not his geology or zoology. The 1906 anthology, English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century, groups Goldsmith with Sterne, Addison, and Steele, providing a handy collection of possible influences on Moby-Dick. For his part, Melville once scorned the sort of imitation that Caldwell alleges: "We want no American Goldsmiths." Ironically, Melville's own debt to Washington Irving's graceful way of travel writing was already manifest to Evert Duyckinck in 1847, as John Bryant points out in Melville and Repose. What Bryant elsewhere calls "the Ishmaelian mode" carries on "the 'amiable tradition' of British humor" and is characterized by "geniality" (1994, Comic Debate, page 1). In contrast to the early recognition of Melville's debts to Carlyle, recognition of the Goldsmith (English or American) in Ishmael is really a 20th century insight.

Caldwell also addressed philosophical and psychological dimensions of Moby-Dick:

"But Melville has a great power of philosophy also. The powerful strokes with which he depicts the gradual decay of the old captain's mental faculties is as subtle a piece of psychological insight as one will find in fiction.... "

-- New Orleans Times-Democrat, April 2, 1908

Caldwell understands Ahab's whale-mania as a variety of progressive mental illness. The lecturer's appreciation of Melville's "psychological insight" anticipates scholarship on Ahab's "madness" or "insanity," hinting perhaps at the clinical focus of more recent work in the genre of disability studies, rather than psychoanalytic readings inspired by Freud and Jung.

New Orleans Daily Picayune - April 2, 1908 - page 5
via Genealogy Bank

Caldwell ended by quoting a student reader who

"after reading Moby Dick told me that he thought it was a symbol, or had a meaning that it was the story of man's pursuit after his heart's desire, how after a long, hard journey it was only gotten at the end of the voyage, and then both go down together in the awful abyss."

-- Daily Picayune, April 2, 1908

The Picayune reported also that Caldwell "had planned last summer to write Melville's life, but he found some on was already at work on it." It's too bad Caldwell gave up on the idea, since contemplated biographies by J. E. A. Smith, Arthur Stedman, Frank Jewett Mather, and Melville's daughter Elizabeth ("Bessie") never materialized.

Caldwell's Tulane lecture marks the earliest known phase of the specifically academic Melville Revival. Archibald MacMechan had already praised Moby-Dick as "The best sea story ever written." But MacMechan's view of Moby-Dick as best-sea-story-ever did not employ now familiar terms of formal literary analysis. As V. L. O. Chittick points out, "Symbolism, allegory, myth, ritual, and literary sources are not discussed--nor, of course, are fixations, complexes, and compulsions." At Tulane, Armour Caldwell did speak of 18th century literary influences on Moby-Dick, citing Sterne for the technique of narrative expansion through digression and dialogue; and Addison, Steele, and Goldsmith for inoffensive, British-style whimsy. Caldwell explicitly addressed the problem of literary symbolism, sharing the response of a student reader struck by the symbolic meaning of Ahab's quest as "man's pursuit after his heart's desire." And Caldwell did address Melville's treatment of "complexes and compulsions," judging the portrayal of Ahab's monomania to be "as subtle a piece of psychological insight as one will find in fiction." Moby-Dick as a great story is one thing. Moby-Dick as the deserving subject of literary analysis and study is another. At Tulane in 1908 Armour Caldwell bequeathed it to fellow English Majors, for better or worse.

Works Cited

American Leader, volume 1 number 1. February 29, 1912. Photo and bio of Armour Caldwell, Managing Editor on pages 10 and 11.

Aronoff, Eric. "The Melville Revival" in Herman Melville in Context, ed. Kevin J. Hayes (Literature in Context, pages 296-306). Cambridge University Press, 2018. doi:10.1017/9781316755204.030

Bercaw, Mary K. Melville's Sources. Northwestern University Press, 1987.

Bryant, John. Melville and Repose: The Rhetoric of Humor in the American Renaissance. Oxford University Press, 1993.
Bryant, John. “Melville, Twain and Quixote: Variations on the Comic Debate.” Studies in American Humor, New Series 3 number 1, 1994, pages 1–27. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/42573302
Chittick, V. L. O. “The Way Back to Melville: Sea-Chart of a Literary Revival.” Southwest Review volume 40 number 3 (Summer 1955) pages 238–248. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/43464100

Hyman, Stanley Edgar. The Promised End. World Publishing Company, 1963. 

Irving, Washington. Washington Irving's Sketch book. With introduction by Brander Matthews and notes by Armour Caldwell. New York: Longman's, Green, and Co., 1905.

MacMechan, Archibald. "The Best Sea Story Ever Written" in Queen's Quarterly volume 7, October 1899, pages 120-130.

Marovitz, Sanford E. The Melville Revival chapter 33 in A Companion to Herman Melville, ed. Wyn Kelley. Blackwell, 2006.  

Manley, Marian C. A Worm's-Eye View of Library Leaders.  Wilson Library Bulletin volume 27 (November 1952) page 233; reprinted in An American Literary History Reader, ed. John David Marshall (Shoe String Press, 1961) pages 150-160 at page 155.

Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick; Or, The Whale. Ed. Luther S. Mansfield and Howard P. Vincent. Hendricks House, 1952.  

Pfeiler, Martina. “‘The Time has Come for a Melville Revival’: Edwin Emery Slosson’s Journalistic Contributions to the Origins of Melville’s Revival in New York City.” Conference paper presented June 17, 2019 at the 12th International Melville Society Conference in New York City.

Riegel, O. W. “The Anatomy of Melville's Fame.” American Literature volume 3 number 2 (May 1931) pages 195–203. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2919779
Trent, William P. A History of American Literature, 1607-1865. New York: D. Appleton, 1903. Pages 389-391 at 390. 

Zimmerman, Michael P. "Melville in the 1920's: A Study in the Origins of the Melville Revival, with an Annotated Bibliography." PhD dissertation. Columbia University, 1963. 

Related posts:

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Lee Dorsey - Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky

Do whatcha wanna...

Links to Hawthorne and His Mosses, 1850

Google-digitized from the copy at Princeton University, volume 7 of The Literary World with Herman Melville's two part review-essay, "Hawthorne and His Mosses," is accessible online courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library:
Related posts:
My imperfect copy of volume 7 only has the first part of Melville's 1850 article. 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Urquhart's Pillars of Hercules, anonymous Literary World review

Transcribed below from The Literary World for July 6, 1850 (volume 7 no. 179) pages 5-7. Edited by Duyckinck brothers Evert and George, this volume of the New York Literary World  also contains Herman Melville's two-part review essay Hawthorne and His Mosses, originally printed there on August 17 and 24, 1850 under the pseudonym of "A Virginian Spending July in Vermont." We know Melville wrote other anonymous book reviews for the Literary World, so it's just possible (or not impossible?) that he also contributed this 1850 review of Urquhart's The Pillars of Hercules


The Pillars of Hercules. By David Urquhart, M. P. Harper & Bros.

We shall  not wonder at the learning of this book, if we reflect upon the antiquity of the author's family, which is clearly traced by his ancestor, Sir Thomas Urquhart, it is said, all the way down quite from its founder Adam. Antiquarian lore must have come to such a man as an inheritance; and the Hebrew and other roots been the daily fare of his childhood. The family, by all accounts, appear to have suffered little from the accidents of time, so unfortunate to the Cæsars and Plantagenets of modern days, and to have happily weathered the deluge without material damage. Escaping the difficulty which occurred at Babel, and luckily declining to join the party of ten tribes that left Judea with Shalmanezer on a visit to Assyria, and never have been heard of since, they continued safe through all the perils of the siege of Jerusalem, as they had formerly done in that of Troy. It is surprising that they should not have been crushed, as so many other ancient houses were, in the terrible Fall of the Roman Empire, or distracted by the uproar of the French Revolution; but the book before us is good evidence that they sustained no material hurt from either, but continue in existence still, as vigorous as ever. 

The travels commemorated in the "Pillars of Hercules" will be discovered, on perusal, to differ considerably from ordinary ones. The unities of time and space are as severely preserved in them as in an ancient tragedy or epic. After musing upon its pages for many an hour, the reader is surprised, on coming to himself, to notice that so little ground has been gone over, and so few days spent. The truth is, that when he gets to the end of the volumes, he has been hardly anywhere after all, save to a dozen places or so, skirting the north and south shores of the Mediterranean Sea. How, then, is the reader cheated into thinking himself a traveller, when he has actually made little more advance in space during the whole time, than an Erie locomotive would carry him in four-and-twenty hours? In this way. He is introduced within a Louvre of reliquiæ, which have floated upon the stream of time, principally, the author thinks, from Phenicia or thereabouts, down to the parts of Spain and Morocco washed by the great Inland Sea. Their antiquities of dress, arts, names, and customs, he seizes and discourses on, as a professor does on specimens of minerals, both dug up alike from the overlying debris of ages.

There is an amusing play of the imagination among etymologists and antiquarian travellers, in running up the genealogies of speech and customs to their tiny sources among the shadows of the dim and distant past. Our traveller is, perhaps, not entirely exempt from a slight degree of quixotism, any more than the many others who have bestridden their Rosinantes before him. But though enthusiasts, deep-grounded in ethnology, are very serious themselves in their laborious excavations of long-interred knowledge, they nevertheless exhibit a smack of humor to lookers-on like us. Does not genuine wit, for instance, flow from the ingenious lucubrations of Horne Tooke, or the learned Noah Webster, when, with a flash of light, they reveal the dark relationship of obscure, forgotten etymologies, and tickle us by sudden shifts of phrase with unexpected surprises, which everybody knows to be the soul of wit?

To inquisitive people, of our traveller's turn of mind, the present is of little or no other consequence than as it reminds them of something that has existed a long while ago. Should an individual of this description happen to be an American, he does not make himself uncomfortable at home, till he has gone abroad, actually crossed the Atlantic, seen an English dwelling-house, and eaten a French roll. Not he. It would not be the object of such a person to witness the improvements of modern ingenuity, but to get as near as possible to the imperfect originals from which they sprang. Accordingly he stops not for anything by the way, but presses on his journey till he has attained the summit of his wishes, by sleeping in an Arab tent upon the desert, eating there his kus-couss-oo, and putting on the haik of Barbary. In these he recognises the primitive clothes, bread, and shelter--the three prime essentials of existence--in the unadulterated condition in which Abraham himself enjoyed them; and has the satisfaction at the same time of having turned his back upon the labors of more than a hundred generations that have succeeded.

The honorable member has learnt in Parliament, or elsewhere, to speak his mind quite frankly on all matters he encounters, from gunpowder and Gibraltar to a lady's fan and foot. At one time he compliments the Mediterranean Sea, as follows:--

"This is a spot which has influenced the destinies and formed the character, not of one but of many people.... The doubtful inquirer came hither to see if the sky met and rested upon the earth; if Atlas did indeed bear a starry burden; to discover what the world was; whether an interminable plain, or a ball launched in space, or floated on the water; whether the ocean was a portion of it, or supported it; whether beyond the 'Pillars' was the origin of present things, or the receptacle of departed ones; whether the road lay to Chaos, or to Hades.

"And something, too of these feelings crept over me, even although I came hither merely to ruminate on the past deeds of men.... The Mediterranean has made the world such as it is. Ancient history has been balanced on its bosom; and without the passage connecting it with the ocean, none of the events of recent history could have happened.

* * * * 

"Let us suppose that the gap" (the gut of Gibraltar) "had been just wide enough to supply the water lost by evaporation, for which the thousandth part of the present passage would suffice, the Mediterranean would have been a salt-pan." [Pillars of Hercules volume 1 pages 8-9]

He afterwards speaks of this respectable piece of water in terms not so courteous--indeed, not a little blunt:--

"The Mediterranean," says he, "is like a bag with two necks, filling at both ends. The current through the Dardanelles presents exciting varieties, but no perplexing mysteries.... At Gibraltar all is disorder--the stream incessant--the level on both sides the same. The tide rises and falls, yet the current always runs out of the ocean, and into the Mediterranean..... What becomes of all this water? It cannot go to the Black Sea, from which the Mediterranean receives water; it cannot escape by a subterranean passage into the Red Sea, for the level of the Red Sea is higher by thirty feet. Then there is an under current discharging the water back again into the ocean." 

But how is the extraordinary phenomenon of two opposing currents to be accounted for? Says Mr. Urquhart: "the solution is, an under current, produced by a difference of specific gravity between the water of the Mediterranean and the ocean. Sitting on Partridge Island (a small rock within the Straits), the question occurred to me, What became of the salt? If the water evaporates, the salt remains. Here then is the sluice of a mighty salt-pan--where is the produce?" As it is not deposited, his conclusion is, that by increasing the density of the surface and settling, a counter-current is produced, which returns to the ocean.

Though the rock of Gibraltar, by a rough calculation he has made, has cost his country upwards of 250 millions of dollars, he does not deem it after all a very valuable stone in the British diadem. On the contrary, "if any one were to do us the favor of taking it off our hands, we should save 150 millions more, for the interest of that sum is absorbed by its yearly outlay."

At times, there is something exceedingly refreshing in the positive tone of Mr. Urquhart upon controversial points, whether trivial or important. It steadies one's nerves very much to see a trembling balance of dubiety settled one way or the other with decision. This grace our traveller has in a conspicuous degree, and exhibits it on all questions, no matter whether they relate to the Stone of Hercules, or the discovery of soap. Assuming him to be a mere civilian, he certainly pronounces with admirable assurance upon the military capabilities of the works of Gibraltar, and their value to the British crown. He is convinced that, if not exchanged for Cuba, they ought unquestionably to be given up, being used at present only as an engine to irritate the Dons, for plundering the treasury, and encouraging and protecting a smuggling traffic into Spain. Everybody except a few English, that he has spoken to, he represents as being of the same opinion. If that celebrated rock reflects glory upon any people, it is upon the Moor, who made it what it is, and not on those who have obtained it by fraud or force.

In a short excursion in the vicinity of the Rock, the writer falls in with foul weather, and has a taste of the perilous want of harbors on the coast:--

"During three months I had seen nothing but clear skies and smooth seas. I could now feelingly revert to the words of a Spaniard, who, when Philip V. asked which were the principal harbors of Spain, answered-- 'June, July, and Cadiz.'" 

Of Mr. Borrow, whose "Bible in Spain" was once much read in this country, the Spanish people are represented to entertain no favorable reminiscences:--

They imagined him to be a gipsy, he says, by his talking their language. I consequently, inquired about him as the English Gipsy. They did not comprehend me; but recollected a tall man, who was always writing; holding up their hands, they exclaimed, 'we thought he was writing some learned things, and not lies about poor people like us.'” .... "It is the misfortune of Spain to be misrepresented. She has been the subject of two standard and classical works—Don Quixote and Gil Blas. The former, by its sterling worth has made its way into the literature of other countries. Being a satire upon a particular temper and habit of mind, the scene and personages of which are Spanish, it is accepted as a description of Spain. As well might England be studied in 'Dr. Syntax.' Those peculiarities which it is intended to ridicule, and those extravagancies which are exaggerated in order that they may be exposed, are, to the stranger, the instructive portion of the work.
“Gil Blas is a romance by a Paris bookmaker, and owes its celebrity to an admirable sketch of a great minister, another of his successor, and an episode portraying Spanish manners. The barber Olivarez, the Count-Duke, and the story of the adventurer himself, in his retirement, are all taken from the Spanish, and give to the work its value. It is then dressed up with Spanish peculiarities, and Madrid or Paris morals, and passes from hand to hand as a mirror of the Spanish mind." 
[Pillars of Hercules volume 1 pages 72-3.]

Mr. Urquhart visits a certain club.
"I was invited," says he, "in the evening to what I was told was a club. The place was an apothecary's shop. I was introduced into a sort of vault, and I found myself in a gambling establishment." This was at Tarifa in Spain. "Their cards were like those used by the Greeks; the club being represented not by the French trefoil, but by a club; the spade by a sword; the heart by a cup; and the diamond by a gold coin. The names being Bastones, Espados, Copas, Oros. The conversation having turned upon cards, I mentioned its supposed astronomical origin; the four seasons represented by the four suits; the fifty-two weeks by the number of the cards, and the thirteen lunar months by the thirteen tricks, proving whist to be the original game. I was here stopped. They had only twelve tricks and forty-eight cards; and 'of course,' said a Spanish Major (a Mr. Kennedy), 'our game is more scientific, because adapted to the Julian Calendar ! ”

So frail is the fabric of antiquarian theories. The grave politicians of this club 

"could not recover from their astonishment at perceiving that there existed a human being who could question the wisdom, far less the sanity, of their imitating England and France.... 'England and France,' said they, 'are great and powerful; must we not imitate them and become so too?' I submitted, that imitation is more difficult than invention; that it requires a perfect knowledge of the thing imitated, in which case there could be no reason to copy; besides, it was impossible to copy institutions. 'In what particular,' I asked, 'would you copy us? Two things only have we to offer you as sanctioned by English consent—the Guelph Family, and Johnson's Dictionary! Will you have them in lieu of the Bourbons and the Castilian?'" [Pillars of Hercules volume 1 pages 76-7.]
This view of imitation appears to us original. 

In a similar slashing style he speaks of Cadiz.
"At Porta St. Maria, opposite Cadiz, I found a similar Moorish ruin. This is the point of embarkation of Xeres, or the Port of Sherry. It is the place for tasting wines; the Pacharete, Montillado, and most noble Mansanilla. The cellars are worth seeing; if spacious and lofty edifices can be so called.

"The people of Cadiz neither put their bodies in graves, nor their wines in cellars; the dead are built up in walls, resembling bins of a wine cellar; their wines are deposited in structures like cathedrals. The niches are like the dwellings of the living, some for ever and a day, others for a term of years; after which the fragments of the former tenant are ejected, and the place swept clean for another.

"I observed, on a placard, the two following signs of progress and civilization, in titles of new works— 'The Defender of the Fair Sex,' and 'The Ass, a beastly periodical.' The words were, “Il Burro, periodico bestial.'

"You may see a long row of boys, very small at one end and full grown at the other, dressed out in the sprucest and gayest uniforms—blue coat, single breasted, with standing collar and large flaps ; gold buttons and lace, white trousers mathematically cut, and strapped down on very camp-like boots; and, on inquiring what military institution this belongs to, you are answered, 'It is a boarding-school !'

"They have, in connection with schools, a practice which might suit 'Modern Athens.' I mean the hyperborean one. A person from each school goes the round of the town, calling for the boys in the morning, and dropping them in the evening; just as sheep, goats, or cows are collected by a common herd." 
[Pillars of Hercules volume 1 page 131.]

The declension of Spain has been truly marvellous.

"Within a few months from the battle of Guadalete in Spain (which was decided in favor of the Mussulmans against the Christians), the Moorish troops had passed beyond the Pyrenees, and were encamped at Carcassone. There the tide of victory was arrested, not by the hammer of Martel, but by orders from Damascus. The empire established by this victory is the most remarkable instance of prosperity that the world has ever seen. The town of Corduba contained 200,000 houses; in its public library there were 600,000 volumes. It had 900 public baths. On the banks of the Guadalquivir there were 12,000 villages; and such were the fruits they drew from the soil, such the profits of their industry, which furnished to the East luxuries and arms, that the public revenue of Spain in the tenth century was equal to the collective revenues of all the other kings of Europe—twelve  millions of dinars—a sum of gold which, calculating the dinar at 10 shillings, and multiplying by ten, to give the difference of the value of gold, is equal to sixty millions of pounds sterling of our present money!" [Pillars of Hercules vol 1 page 141.] 

His learning in ladies' dresses is as conspicuous as in politics, antiquities, or war. What he says of the Montilla de Jiro and de Blonda, ought to be extracted, but there is no possibility of doing it on this occasion, without neglecting one or two other matters, which cannot be omitted. He must, however, be allowed to remark, that 

"the mantilla is not spoken of as a piece of dress, that fits well or ill. Such a lady, they say, wears her mantilla well, just as if they were speaking of a ship carrying colors. The port of a Spanish lady is, indeed, like the bearing of a ship. The mantillas, reversing the effect of our costume—which is to impress the wearer with the feelings of a block — gives at once freedom and dexterity. The mantilla, fan, castanet, guitar, and dance—which last is not here the business of the legs only—keep the arms always busy. The head is disencumbered of bonnet, cap, ribands, and curls; hence that grace of the Spanish women, which all recognise and none can describe, for mere form or feature does not explain it.

"I need not say, that beneath a mantilla there are no curls; nor need I add, that where neither bonnets nor caps are worn, and the head is always exposed, the hair is well kept. A Spanish lady remarked to me, that what struck her principally when she travelled in other countries, was the want of cleanliness in the women's hair. It is (the Spanish lady's) always exposed, as hair was intended to be, to the air and wind, and it is every day in water, for they wet it before using the comb.... 
"A Spanish woman is no less attentive to her foot and shoe than to her hair; from below the saga comes forth the plump leg in its creaseless stocking.... The old Spanish shoe is very low, and scarcely held at all at the heel; like the slipper of the Easterns it requires the action of the toes to hold it on. The calf of the leg accordingly was full, because its muscles were called into play. So important is this to the grace and ease of the figure, that at Rome the models, male and female, lose their pension, if they wear a shoe with a thick sole. There still wants something to complete the Spanish costume, or, perhaps, I might say the Spanish woman—and that is THE FAN. Yet, how supply the want? at least, without herself—how convey her and it on paper? You might as well attempt to teach on paper how to roll a turban, make coffee, or hit the bull's-eye." 
[Pillars of Hercules volume 1 page 148-154.] 

The author's ardent attachment to Phœnicia and the Arabs, robs modern nations of the credit of many of the most splendid inventions, and readjusts the claims of some of the ancients to honors they have hitherto enjoyed, but are now in danger of forfeiting. The invention of glass is thus taken from the Tyrians or Egyptians, purely on the authority of Layard. The magnet, or stone of Hercules, the magnetic needle, and the compass, are, according to him, Arabian or Phœnician donations to mankind, driving the Celestials from the honor by a formidable attack from the heavy artillery of authors, arguments, and conjectures; scarcely conceding to them, and then not without great reluctance, the credit even of gunpowder itself. Dr. Franklin likewise will for aught we know, have to whistle for any reputation he will get hereafter for drawing lightning down from heaven, as Mr. Urquhart, we observe, has raised the ghosts of Salmoneus, Servius, and Sylvius Alladus, to call his claim in question. But the American philosopher, having, as is well known, given a large price for a whistle in his early days, will probably not lose his long worn honors, if whistling can prevent it. Besides all this, our traveller hints pretty strongly, that Americans should look upon the Phœnicians as the ancient discoverers of their country. 

Much remains to be said even about the first volume of these interesting and learned travels, composed of a mosaic, where natural philosophy and imagination, archaeology, the arts, military and descriptive, ethnology, history, and political science, have each contributed a characteristic stone. But we cannot follow up the subject now. One thing we ought to notice--the argument or subject printed at the tops of all the pages. This, we believe, is by no means usual, but a very great convenience.

-- Literary World Volume 7 July 6, 1850 pages 5-7.


Related post:

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The Smith College Library Rap

Melville biographer Newton Arvin was Professor of English at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. The Library honored in Jodi Shaw's great Library Rap has a large collection (18.5 linear feet; 43 boxes) of Newton Arvin papers. In 1938, as mentioned a few years back in the Melvilliana post
Smith College got Philip Hale's library of 2000 books from Mrs. Hale his widow, including first editions of Whitman's Leaves of Grass and Melville's Moby-Dick

Springfield MA Republican - May 5, 1938
via Genealogy Bank

Does one of the Smith College Libraries still have Philip Hale's copy of Moby-Dick? What did Jodi Shaw say in that Smith College Library Rap?
"You go online and you take your pick

 From the Five College Catalog just one click."

With one or two maybe three clicks I found two first editions of Melville's Moby-Dick. Remember, five colleges. One of the two 1851 volumes is at AC = Amherst College. The other is at SC/RBR which I guess means Smith College/Rare Book Room? "Special Collections, there are three parts...
And the rare books, you know the written word

The name is Mortimer I don't know if you heard

The collection is deep the collection is wide

 From medieval manuscripts to literary archives."

 Yes! Acquired by "Gift: Mrs. Philip Hale, 1938" and described as follows:

SC/RBR: Original blue cloth (front free endpaper wanting; inner front hinge cracked); signature of Philip Hale cut and mounted on front flyleaf.
LOCATION: SC Rare Book Room Stacks / 825 M495m 1851

Just one click, after all:


Urquhartian David Urquhart? Data-based reality check

I wanted to test my idea that the adjective Urquhartian for Melville and contemporary readers of Pierre; Or, The Ambiguities in 1852 might have invoked David Urquhart (1805-1877), instead of or alongside his illustrious ancestor Thomas Urquhart (1611-1660), the Scottish writer and translator of Rabelais. Turns out the locution was exceedingly rare when Melville used it. Besides Melville's creative usage in Pierre, only two instances of the term Urquhartian occur before 1852 in ten databases listed below. The most relevant instance I have been able to find appeared in the London Spectator for February 10, 1849, referencing David Urquhart.

HathiTrust Digital Library


Advanced full-text search for "Urquhartian" before 1852 yields three hits: 
  1. 1818, polemical reference to one Thomas Urquhart--NOT Thomas the translator of Rabelais, but the author of Letters on the evils of impressment (London, 1816). 

  2. 1849, The Spectator volume 22 (February 10, 1849) page 133. Urquhart's Last, mocking the "dilettante diplomatist" David Urquhart, M. P. who had formally requested the British Navy to report "On the use of Moone's prepared milk." 

  3. 1852, Pierre; Or, The Ambiguities. "Urquhartian Club" invites teenage author to lecture on Human Destiny.


Same results as on HathiTrust, though possibly limited or filtered by algorithm.


Recent usages reference Canadian writer Jane Urquhart and the fictional politico in House of Cards named Francis Urquhart. Only two hits in Melville's lifetime--neither before 1852, both in British periodicals referencing David Urquhart. 
  1. "Urquhartian-monomania" -- London Guardian, July 9, 1853

  2. Dundee Courier and Argus, May 27, 1862 (Scotland). Letter to the editor on "Fish-Cadgers" signed "Impartiality." The writer mocks the editor as "an inflated scribe, in the shape of an editor, who habitually issues from the press incendiary articles in the ultra-Urquhartian style, in the vain attempt to tarnish the reputation of England's greatest living statesman [Henry John Temple, Lord Palmerston]."

Genealogy Bank



American Antiquarian Society Historical Periodicals Collection


No results.

America's Historical Newspapers


No results.

ProQuest Civil War Era (1840-1865)

https://proquest.libguides.com/hnp/civilwar results.  
0 results.

19th Century UK Periodicals


No results.

British Library Newspapers


Three results, all after 1852:
  1. Liverpool Daily Post, October 19, 1855. Attacks on Joseph Mazzini by David Urquhart depicted (by Mazzini) as "Urquhartian mud, in which I really cannot condescend to stoop twice."

  2. "Ultra-Urquhartian" with reference to David Urquhart in letter signed "Impartiality" to the editor of Dundee Courier and Argus, printed there on May 27, 1862.

  3. London Graphic, November 6, 1886. TURKISH BATHS. Chiefly owing to the exertions of the clever but eccentric Mr. David Urquhart, who was a familiar figure to the last generation, the Turkish bath has taken its place as a permanent British institution. But, although it came into popular use about a quarter of a century ago, it has never attained that universal acceptance which its introducer predicted for it…. Would it were otherwise; for the Turkish bath, though not without its defects, would be a boon and a blessing to those classes (the majority of the community) who rarely wash those parts of their bodies which are hidden by their clothes, and who do not change their underclothing as often as, on correct Urquhartian principles, they ought to do.

British Newspaper Archive


One hit before 1852 in the Banbury Guardian (Oxfordshire, England) February 15, 1849, reprinting Urquhart's Last from the London Spectator of February 10, 1849.

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Sunday, May 30, 2021

David Urquhart, eccentric ideologist

David Urquhart, 1805-1877. Diplomat
National Galleries Scotland
Deep into Melville's 1852 novel Pierre; Or, The Ambiguities, readers belatedly learn that the young hero Pierre Glendinning was a writer, and already famous as the author of popular verses on comically trivial themes. As disclosed in the satirical chapter on "Young America in Literature," Pierre had been invited to lecture before the ridiculously named
"Urquhartian Club for the Immediate Extension of the Limits of all Knowledge both Human and Divine."
The joke, in part, is on the vanity of philosophers for whom nothing could be deemed unknowable or beyond the grasp of human intellect. Melville specifically makes fun of Unitarian minister Orville Dewey, as Hershel Parker shows in Herman Melville: A Biography Volume 2, 1851-1891 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002). Dewey had recently delivered a popular series of lectures on The Problem of Human Destiny, a preposterously, almost blasphemously grandiose theme that Melville incorporates in a mock-formal letter of invitation from the local lecture committee in Zadockprattsville. Addressing Pierre as Author of the 'Tropical Summer,' &c., the chairman proposes "Human Destiny" as a suitable lecture subject for a teenaged maker of miscellaneous sentimental verses and fragments of prose. Another target of Melville's satire is transcendentalism, particularly as expounded by American disciples of Thomas Carlyle. The most obvious pointer to Carlyle and his influence appears in the super-Scottish name of the committee chairman, "Donald Dundonald." More broadly, as discussed by Tom F. Wright in Herman Melville in Context, edited by Kevin Hayes (Cambridge University Press, 2018) the fictional lecture-committee letter in Pierre finds humor in the rural pretensions of the lyceum movement in America. Beyond that, as remarked by C. S. Durer in Herman Melville, Romantic and Prophet (York Press, 1996), the lecture invitation burlesques "the ludicrousness of atheneums and, even more so, the general ludicrousness of what passes for the pursuit of knowledge" (164).

But why "Urquhartian?" 

When they bother to notice, Melville scholars usually gloss the name as a reference to seventeenth-century British writer and translator Thomas Urquhart. Thus explicated in the back of the Penguin Classics Pierre (page 377), edited by William C. Spengemann:
Urquhartian: after Sir Thomas Urquhart (1611-1660), English polymath and translator of Rabelais.
Similarly, the Norton Critical Edition (page 251 footnote 2) of Pierre detects
A reference to the Scottish author Sir Thomas Urquhart (1611-1660), celebrated for his translations of the French writer François Rabelais (ca. 1490 - ca.1553).
In his notes to the 1949 Hendricks House edition of Melville's Pierre, Henry A. Murray skipped over the letter from Zadockprattsville inviting Pierre to lecture there on Human Destiny, and made no mention of the Urquhartian Club. 

The perceived allusion to Thomas Urquhart in Melville's imaginary Urquhartian Club fits well enough as a play on the family name, and with reference to the reputation of Sir Thomas as one of the more notable Scottish Eccentrics. 

Sir Thomas Urquhart via NYPL Digital Collections

Particularly worthy of satire according to David Irving in the second volume of Lives of Scotish Writers (Edinburgh, 1850), the "extraordinary career of genealogy" in which Urquhart fantastically "traces his descent from Adam to Noah" and beyond. Understood as part of the satire, the association of Urquhart with François Rabelais might also evoke the outrageous comedy of Gargantua and Pantagruel, nominally enlarging the club's stated mission of extending knowledge while undercutting its seriousness. 

On the other hand, they don't call it the Rabelaisian Club. And Pierre has us laughing at the letter, not with its writer Dundonald, who sounds intensely serious, rather the opposite of jolly Rabelais. Melville seems to envision the Urquhartian Club as something like Philosophers-without-Borders. That limitless pursuit of knowledge might be overreaching, more Satanic than Rabelaisian, is signaled in the grasping for "Divine" as well as "Human" knowledge, and also in the proposed lecture subject of Human Destiny. Maybe we need a supplementary honoree. Happily, Thomas is not the only Urquhart implicated in Melville's Urquhartian Club. More immediately, for the author of Pierre and the novel's first readers in 1852, the term Urquhartian would have conjured up a living namesake: not Thomas but David Urquhart.  

In Melville's epic religious poem Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land (1876), one of two unnamed speakers in an overheard conversation recalls David Urquhart as a vain, unreliable, and "Eccentric ideologist." By then Urquhart was out of vogue, "obsolete." In 1852, however, Melville and his contemporary readers had a direct and readily accessible point of access to the ideas of David Urquhart via the Harper edition of Urquhart's book The Pillars of Hercules, and in the review that appeared under the title "Urquhart's Pillars of Hercules" on pages 5-7 of The Literary World volume 7 for July 6, 1850. 

If he did not write it for the New York Literary World (a possibility worth following up, considering that Melville's pseudonymous review-essay Hawthorne and His Mosses would be published in two parts by the same journal in August 1850, only a month later), Melville as a reader might have been entertained by the light satire of the Urquhart family lineage that opens the anonymously published review:
We shall not wonder at the learning of this book, if we reflect upon the antiquity of the author's family, which is clearly traced by his ancestor, Sir Thomas Urquhart, it is said, all the way down quite from its founder Adam. Antiquarian lore must have come to such a man as an inheritance; and the Hebrew and other roots been the daily fare of his childhood.
The title of Urquhart's 1850 book of course alludes to the Strait of Gibraltar. Throughout, the reviewer takes a kind of amused pleasure in Urquhart's dubious yet entertaining displays of universal learning:
There is an amusing play of the imagination among etymologists and antiquarian travellers, in running up the genealogies of speech and customs to their tiny sources among the shadows of the dim and distant past. Our traveller is, perhaps, not entirely exempt from a slight degree of quixotism, any more than the many others who have bestridden their Rosinantes before him. But though enthusiasts, deep-grounded in ethnology, are very serious themselves in their laborious excavations of long-interred knowledge, they nevertheless exhibit a smack of humor to lookers-on like us. Does not genuine wit, for instance, flow from the ingenious lucubrations of Horne Tooke, or the learned Noah Webster, when, with a flash of light, they reveal the dark relationship of obscure, forgotten etymologies, and tickle us by sudden shifts of phrase with unexpected surprises, which everybody knows to be the soul of wit? 

One of several excerpts from Pillars of Hercules relates Urquhart's visit to a "gambling establishment" or "club" in Tarifa, Spain. Repeating Urquhart's word club, the reviewer highlights "antiquarian theories" suggested by the peculiar brand of Andalusian cards they used "in a certain club," and the earnest imitation of English and French models of government by "grave politicians of this club."

Urquhart's diction, adopted by the anonymous reviewer in the Literary World, may have inspired Melville to denominate the "Urquhartian" organization a "Club" rather than another term like "Society" or "Lyceum" or "Association." Wrapping up, the reviewer summarizes Urquhart's Pillars as a narrative reconstruction of

"interesting and learned travels, composed of a mosaic, where natural philosophy and imagination, archaeology, the arts, military and descriptive, ethnology, history, and political science, have each contributed a characteristic stone."

New York Spectator - June 10, 1850

The New York Spectator (June 10, 1850) treated Urquhart's characteristic "desultoriness" as a virtue since "in such moods he lets the reader into minor things which otherwise might have been overlooked, and their revelation adds greatly to the engrossing interest of the work."

The more substantial, and less cheerfully tolerant review in the London Spectator was reprinted in the March 2, 1850 issue of Littell's Living Age volume 24:

Mr. Urquhart takes an oriental bath; and thereupon writes a disquisition on bathing among the Romans, the Moors, and the Orientals, and non-bathing among some other peoples, ourselves included, with a passing touch on cheap bath-houses, and the Mosaic and Moslem notions of uncleanliness. The traveller went on a sporting excursion, though he seems to have killed nothing; but he ate of the national dish called kuscoussoo, and anon he favors the reader with the whole story of it; how it is made, which is practical information—how to eat it—what authors have said of it—bread compared with kuscoussoo; including a digression upon wheat and its original country, which is not known to Urquhart, but he makes up for it by describing the origin of the “damper” of New South Wales, says a word on Indian corn, pronounces “England in the art of cookery behind every other people,” informs the world that pilaf is never eatable “when made by a Christian,” and closes the topic with some remarks on teeth. In the course of his excursions Mr. Urquhart set eyes on the Moorish haik; which he traces to the garden of Eden, to father Abraham, to the Jews in the wilderness, to the Greeks, to the Romans. 
Delightfully or damnably digressive, with a passion for endless "extension of knowledge" (Pillars of Hercules volume 1, page 157), this Urquhart seems the true namesake of Melville's fictive "Urquhartian Club for the Immediate Extension of the Limits of all Knowledge both Human and Divine." 

A few years after Melville probably alluded to David Urquhart in Pierre (1852), Urquhart definitely and explicitly referenced Herman Melville in The Effect of the Misuse of Familiar Words on the Character of Men and the Fate of Nations (London, 1856). In support of his contrarian view of civilization, David Urquhart quotes this passage from chapter 17 of Typee, Melville's first book:
* "The fiend-like skill which we display in the invention of all manner of death-dealing engines — the vindictiveness with which we carry on our wars, and the misery and desolation which follow in their train, are enough of themselves to distinguish the white civilized man as the most ferocious animal on the face of the earth." — Herman Melville's Marquese Islands


Two decades later, Melville worked Urquhart into one of the dialogues in Clarel, where somebody labels him an "eccentric ideologist." Part 4 Canto 12 Of Pope and Turk gives part of a conversation between two unidentified speakers, overheard at breakfast by Rolfe. They argue in a friendly way about virtuous actions attributed to Muslims, and the nobility of support for Poland at different times by Ottoman Turks and Roman Catholics. One stranger respectfully acknowledges David Urquhart as a notable "commentator on the East" who "stands for God" when appealing to the Pope (though a Protestant) and supporting the Ottoman Sultan in the righteous cause of Polish independence. The other guy (secular minded and evidently more of a materialist, resolved to "stand by fact") considers Urquhart a vain and "very inexact / Eccentric ideologist." 

As pointed out by Dorothee Metlitsky Finkelstein in Melville's Orienda (Yale University Press, 1961; and Octagon Books, 1971) some of the published commentary to which Melville alludes in Clarel was available in David Urquhart's The Spirit of the East (London, 1838; #727 in Melville's Sources, ed. Mary K. Bercaw). 

Urquhart, a British diplomat, was known as an extravagant Turkophile whose enthusiasm clouded his judgment, and Melville's reference to him as an "eccentric ideologist" accurately reflects the view of his time. -- Melville's Orienda, pages 89-90

Even so, Melville made great use of enthusiasts and their crazy causes in prose and verse. For literary purposes, the more eccentric the ideologue, the better. That anonymous New York reviewer was on to something about the appeal of "quixotism" as displayed by David Urquhart in Pillars of Herclues:

But though enthusiasts, deep-grounded in ethnology, are very serious themselves in their laborious excavations of long-interred knowledge, they nevertheless exhibit a smack of humor to lookers-on like us.  -- Literary World, July 6, 1850 

Related post:

Friday, May 28, 2021

Race hustle to save the whales (except that very bad one Melville wrote about)

Join the New Bedford Whaling Museum and the New Bedford Lyceum for a candid discussion with feminist and anti-racist scholar-activist Loretta J. Ross. Ross’ work emphasizes the intersectionality of social justice issues and how intersectionality can fuel transformation. She is a visiting associate professor at Smith College (Northampton, MA) in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender, teaching courses on white supremacy, race and culture in America, human rights, and calling in the calling out culture. Ross’ new book, Calling in the Calling Out Culture, is forthcoming in Fall 2021.

Hopefully the New Bedford Whaling Museum has already done the right thing and canceled called out "called in" their racist Moby-Dick Marathon. Allow me respectfully to suggest that the Whaling Museum, by way of partial atonement for promoting white-whale supremacy over several decades, replace the fetishistic glorifying of Moby-Dick every January with the annual continuous reading of the complete works of Ibram X. Kendi.  

We should probably start with Antiracist Baby and work up. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Calling card

 Herman Melville's calling card, this one left for his uncle Herman Gansevoort...

Calling card of Herman Melville via NYPL Digital Collections
Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Calling card of Herman Melville" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1840 - 1859. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/65c170e0-4908-0137-b6a1-0733c8883f81

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Flash of expression

"As, in the human countenance, more may, oftentimes, be conveyed by a flash of expression than by the most laboured words; so, in the Bible, a whole train of ideas is frequently awakened, or a most powerful effect produced, by some brief phrase or sudden exclamation." -- Clement C. Moore, Lecture Introductory to the Course of Hebrew Instruction (New York, 1825) page 17.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
-- A Visit from St. Nicholas, 1823.

More from C. C. Moore's Lecture Introductory to the course of Hebrew Instruction in the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church, pages 16-17: 

“Those parts of the Hebrew Scriptures which are written in prose, are remarkable for the ease and clearness of their style, and their entire freedom from any thing like ambitious or unnecessary ornament. The descriptions to be found in them are like paintings whose lights and shades are in masses, and whose touches are few and bold. The effect produced by the Hebrew manner of relating is, to place the objects and actions described immediately before the eye of the mind. The leading facts are seized by the author, and all attendant circumstances neglected. Thus a life and vigour are imparted to the descriptions and to the speeches, quite peculiar to the Scripture compositions. As in the human countenance, more may oftentimes be conveyed by a flash of expression than by the most laboured words; so, in the Bible, a whole train of ideas is frequently awakened, or a most powerful effect produced, by some brief phrase or sudden exclamation. These writings possess a wonderful and unrivalled union of pathos and strength. In them everything appears natural and unsought. And, with regard to the character and conduct of persons therein portrayed, the most perfect candour and impartiality are manifest; their vices and crimes are related in as simple and unqualified a manner as their virtues and good actions. No false colouring appears to be thought necessary; all bears the stamp of truth and reality.”
--as quoted in Samuel H. Turner, The Claims of the Hebrew Language and Literature (Andover, 1831) pages 26-7.