Thursday, July 22, 2021

Definitely Destiny

Progress report... Today I received from the incomparable NYPL images of John C. Hoadley's manuscript poem "Destiny" in the

Gansevoort-Lansing Collection. Manuscripts and Archives Division. The New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundation.

Fortunately the handwriting is crystal clear and will be much easier to transcribe than Hoadley's honeymoon letter from Niagara Falls to Augusta Melville. Hoadley failed to get it published, but not for lack of neatness. Length, verse form, and content all match Evert Duyckinck's description of the patriotic poem that Herman Melville read aloud, with gusto, in August 1851.

  • "stout" in manuscript indicating many hundreds of lines? Check, 648 lines of verse.
  • composed in heroic measure, meaning "sounding lines" of mostly iambic pentameter? Check. In rhymed couplets, as guessed on Melvilliana.
  • glorification of the United States with polite slanging at other countries? Check and check! 
The early, methodical slanging at England and individually named nations of Europe and Asia really clinches it. Nothing close appears in J. E. A. Smith's 88 lines. It must be Hoadley's "Destiny" that Melville read aloud in a Berkshire barn, and not, as previously thought, Smith's ballad "On Onota's Graceful Shore."

After the last endnote on numbered page 53 there appears a brief, anonymous endorsement.

Hmmm. Only a sentence but I will ask for permission before giving it. Stay tuned!

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