Thursday, October 14, 2021

THE WHALE in Liverpool

Past the wrecks of Woke academia, Melvilliana sails on. As previously announced in the post on 
Communism defined in 1849

the Liverpool Albion published generous excerpts from Melville's fourth book Redburn in October and November 1849. Herein are more wonderful finds in the same Liverpool weekly, discovered in the ever-expanding collection of The British Newspaper Archive

First off, the London correspondent of the Liverpool Albion contributed one early and ultra-favorable notice of The Whale, as the first British edition of Moby-Dick was titled, in his regular column of "Metropolitan Gossip." Transcribed below, this item is not collected in Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews, edited by Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker (Cambridge University Press, 1995; paperback 2009).

Highlights of the Liverpool notice include praise for the author of Moby-Dick as "that nautical Prospero," likening Melville's mastery of narrative prose to the theatrical magic practiced by Duke Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest. Also gratifying is the news that Liverpudlians loved Melville. Especially after his fourth book. Lavish use of familiar scenes in Redburn, as the Albion correspondent explicitly confirms, made Melville 
"so great a favourite in Liverpool that everything of his is there seized on with acclamation."
After providing a long excerpt from The Whiteness of the Whale (chapter 41, the last in volume 1 of the British edition; chapter 42 in the first American edition) the Albion correspondent concludes by linking Melville with "the author of the White Squall." What this reference means is not immediately obvious, at least to me. For some contemporary readers, the title White Squall might have evoked a popular sea-song with that title by Richard Johns, set to music by George Barker. But the allusion specifies plural writings by an unnamed yet surely prestigious author who presumably has written prose, too, like Melville. Otherwise the comparison would not seem fair to either party. I guess then that the Albion correspondent wished to connect, by way of a compliment to both, Melville's blend of "vivid imagination, profound feeling, and subtle fancy" with the highly accomplished style of William Makepeace Thackeray. In addition to successful fictions like Vanity Fair and Pendennis, Thackeray had written an awful ballad called The White Squall, depicting his experience of a storm on the Mediterranean. "The White Squall" is chapter 9 in Notes of a Journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo (London, 1846). Rank with anti-Semitism, Thackeray's poem was nonetheless regarded by 19th century critics as "droll and admirably versified" (New York Evening Post, August 30, 1848). Unbothered by bigotry (being himself extremely free in the fabrication of ethnic stereotypes, however gross and insulting), the London correspondent often praised Thackeray in his letters of "Metropolitan Gossip" for the Liverpool Albion. Evidently he was a fan from way back. On 20 December 1847, for example, the Albion correspondent looked forward to a then forthcoming article in the Edinburgh Review on “the writings of Thackeray, in which, it may be confidently be presumed, that full justice will be done, for the first time, in a leading periodical, to that best and most varied of all periodical contributors since the days of Maginn." Who's Maginn? For more on him, get William Maginn and the British Press (Routledge, 2013) by David E. LatanĂ©.

From the Liverpool Albion of October 20, 1851; found with recently digitized pages on The British Newspaper Archive:
Liverpool Albion - October 20, 1851
...Wholesale perverts you will now look for as a matter of course; and whatever sort they are, they can't be much more worthless than one that has been trying to make a considerable noise in advertisements this last day or two, namely, Cecile, the Pervert—a polemical novel in one volume, by the author of Rockingham, who was generally supposed to know which way the cat jumped, till, having turned Puseyite, he has unfortunately ceased to be up to trap, and has now been caught napping like a dormousy old tabby, fit only for the amusement of evangelical rats. There has been a loud bookseller's caterwauling about the wonderful array of real names and incidents it was to have contained; but there is nothing of the kind in it:— the whole thing is a take in; and of such a catch every one instinctively exclaims— 
"Very like a whale!" 
Apropos to that, thereby hangs a tale—a tale of a whale, a real whale—"hugest of living creatures that, in the deep, stretched like a promontory, sleeps or swims, and seems a moving land." This particular fish, an exceedingly odd one, is the most fascinating of leviathans, being the property of that nautical Prospero, Herman Melville, whose Typee, Omoo, Mardi, and especially Redburn, have rendered him so great a favourite in Liverpool that everything of his is there seized on with acclamation. His present work, the Whale, in 3 vols., is by far his most perfectly constructed story, and the plot of it the most continuously exciting. It is of course impossible here to give any details, but a single extract is appended just to show the marvellous genius of the man in the art of word painting. The following is a mere fragment of a whole chapter on the single word white:
"It was the whiteness of the whale that above all things appalled me. But how can I hope to explain myself here and, yet, in some dim, random way, explain myself I must, else all these chapters might be nought. Though in many natural objects whiteness refiningly enhances beauty, as if imparting some special virtue of its own, as in marbles, japonicas, and pearls; and though various nations have in some way recognized a certain royal pre-eminence in this hue; even the barbaric, grand old kings of Pegu placing the title 'Lord of the White Elephants' above all their other magniloquent ascriptions of dominion; and the modern kings of Siam unfurling the same snow-white quadruped in the royal standard; and the Hanoverian flag bearing the one figure of a snow-white charger; and the great Austrian Empire, Cæsarian heir to overlording Rome, having for the [imperial colour the same] imperial hue; and though this pre-eminence in it applies to the human race itself, giving the white man ideal mastership over every dusky tribe; and though, besides all this, whiteness has been even made significant of gladness, for among the Romans a white stone marked a joyful day; and though in other mortal sympathies and symbolizings this same hue is made the emblem of many touching, noble things, the innocence of brides, the benignity of age; though among the red men of America the giving of the white belt of wampum was the deepest pledge of honour; though in many climes whiteness typifies the majesty of justice in the ermine of the judge, and contributes to the daily state of kings and queens drawn by milk-white steeds; though even in the higher mysteries of the most august religions it has been made the symbol of the Divine spotlessness and power; by the Persian fire worshippers, the white forked flame being held the holiest on the altar; and in the Greek mythologies Great Jove himself being made incarnate in a snow-white bull; and though to the noble Iroquois, the midwinter sacrifice of the sacred white dog was by far the holiest festival of their theology, that spotless, faithful creature being held the purest envoy they could send to the Great Spirit with the annual tidings of their own fidelity; and though directly from the Latin word for white, all Christian priests derive the name of one part of their sacred vesture, the alb or tunic, worn beneath the cassock; and though among the holy pomps of the Romish faith, white is specially employed in the celebration of the Passion of our Lord; though in the vision of St. John, white robes are given to the redeemed, and the four-and-twenty elders stand clothed in white before the great white throne, and the Holy One that sitteth there white like wool; yet for all these accumulated associations, with whatever is sweet, and honourable, and sublime, there yet lurks an elusive something in the innermost idea of this hue which strikes more of panic to the soul than that redness which affrights in blood."
And so he proceeds through many consecutive pages, in which curious learning is combined with vivid imagination, profound feeling, and subtle fancy, in a manner to be found only in the writings of the author of the White Squall

 -- The Liverpool Albion, 20 October 1851.

The longtime London correspondent of the Liverpool Albion is identified in the Dictionary of National Biography as E. B. Neill near the end of the entry for his brother-in-law, the journalist Michael James Whitty. So identified also in Reminiscences of a Country Journalist by Thomas Frost who recalls his first meeting with the overworked journalist:

RETURNING to my lodging in Westminster from the dingy old house in the City, after the incident with which my last chapter closes, I found a letter awaiting me from Mr. E. B. Neill, who combined the duties of consul-general of the republic of Uruguay with those of London correspondent of the Birmingham Journal, the Liverpool Albion, and the Bengal Hurkaru, and had been an occasional contributor to the Magazine of Art. It contained an invitation to me to give him a call, and I immediately proceeded to his residence in New Palace Yard, hoping that something might come of the interview that would at least enable me to float over the breadth of broken water that seemed to separate me from fortune.
I found him at his desk, up to his eyes in newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, proof-sheets, and Parliamentary papers, and wound up by the constantly growing demands upon his brain and pen to a high pitch of mental excitement....

E. B. Neill was Edward Bernard Neill (c. 1813-1886). Although his name was not generally known in the United States, this widely acclaimed London correspondent of the Liverpool Albion reached many American readers through newspapers and magazines that quoted from his clever and spicy, and frequently offensive columns. In 1850 the New York Literary World regularly paraphrased metropolitan letters from "the gossiping London correspondent of the Liverpool Albion" including demeaning depictions of " 'the Black Malibran,' an ebony contralto-soprano, from Cuba, with half a dozen names ending in Martinez" (August 3, 1850) and table manners of Irish MP's (September 28, 1850). 

One month before publication of The Whale in England, the Literary World for September 27, 1851 cited "the lively London correspondent of the Liverpool Albion" as an entertaining authority on literary trends like the aversion of modern English writers to lecturing outside of London. Thackeray, for one, 

"has declined all overtures for the rural ventilation of his Hanover-square comicalities."

This bit on Thackeray was satirized along with the whole tribe of provincial correspondents, in a London humor magazine called The Month edited by Albert Smith and John Leech. Neill had just skewered the new journal and its editors, who replied in kind to the "facetious party": 

Oh, poor Mr. Neale !
Or, perhaps it's Neil,
If we had you on the “Month,"
How wretched we should feel.

One month after publication of The Whale in England, The Literary World of November 15, 1851 quoted the same writer's riff on the odd title of a book issued by "the most aristocratic of bibliophiles, John Murray" (coincidentally Melville's first British publisher).

Prompted by Murray's ad for All My Eye! this item of  E. B. Neill's "Metropolitan Gossip" had appeared in the Liverpool Albion on October 6, 1851. Let's work it out: published in Liverpool on Monday October 6th, repackaged in New York on Saturday November 15th. In theory then, Melville's good friends Evert A. and George L. Duyckinck could have reported within six or eight weeks the high praise bestowed on Pittsfield's "nautical Prospero" by their esteemed and repeatedly acknowledged British informant, the "lively London correspondent of the Liverpool Albion." In fact, however, the editors of the Literary World either missed the laudatory notice of The Whale on October 20, 1851, or saw but never mentioned it in print. 

Surveying Journalism in Great Britain and America in 1855 the New York Quarterly opined:
The ablest literary and general news-journal of Liverpool is the Albion. "The London Correspondent of the Liverpool Albion," is probably better known as a letter-writer, than any newspaper correspondent in the kingdom. His contributions have given the Albion a high rank.
After Neill's notice of THE WHALE, transcribed above, numerous passages from Melville's newest novel were excerpted in subsequent issues of the Liverpool Albion

On November 3, 1851 the Liverpool Albion gave long excerpts from chapter 8 The Pulpit and chapter 9 The Sermon, including the text of Melville's rewritten Calvinist hymn, under the heading "FATHER MAPPLE / FROM THE WHALE BY HERMAN MELVILLE." 

The following week, on November 10, 1851, the Albion gave the rest of chapter 9 The Sermon under the heading "FATHER MAPPLE'S SERMON." Crediting "HERMAN MELVILLE'S THE WHALE," the editor introduced the long excerpt as follows:

We published in our last a description of Father Mapple, the whaling chaplain, and concluded by giving the text, “And God had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah,” upon which he founded the following sermon:-- “Shipmates, this book, containing only four chapters, four yarns, is one of the smallest strands in the might cable of the Scriptures. Yet, what depths of the soul does Jonah’s deep sea-line sound; what a pregnant lesson to us is this prophet!… He said no more, but slowly waving a benediction, covered his face with his hands, and so remained kneeling, till all the people had departed, and he was left alone in the place.”

Again crediting Melville's The Whale, the Liverpool Albion on November 24, 1851 reprinted part of chapter 14 Nantucket under the heading "NANTUCKET." On the same page, but mixed in with "Varieties" of texts from other new books, more passages "From Herman Melville's The Whale" appeared in the Liverpool Albion. These excerpts came from chapter 6 The Street; chapter 4 The Counterpane; chapter 13 Wheelbarrow; and chapter 3 The Spouter-Inn and were respectively headed





Minus Melville's footnotes, the Liverpool Albion on December 1, 1851 reprinted all of chapter 87 The Grand Armada under the heading "AN ARMADA OF WHALES." Among other "Varieties" the Albion also gave most of chapter 88 Schools and Schoolmasters under the heading, "DOMESTIC FELICITY OF THE WHALE." 

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