Wednesday, June 2, 2021

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) 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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