Thursday, January 6, 2022

Fictional insurrection reported on January 6, 1852

via The New York Public Library Digital Collections

To entertain readers and promote Herman Melville's latest book, many American newspapers in 1851-2 reprinted all or part of Moby-Dick chapter 61, Stubb Kills a Whale. The long review of Moby-Dick in the New York Daily Tribune (November 22, 1851) quoted chapter 61 in full under the subheading "KILLING A WHALE." Under the heading "Whale Killing," the same excerpt appeared in the New York Evening Post on November 29, 1851. 

The New York Evening Post version featured an editorial preface that (with minor variations) was regularly copied in subsequent newspaper reprintings, for example the one in the Troy Budget on December 6, 1851
"Mr. Herman Melville, in his new sea-story, describes a marvellous chase by a whaling monomaniac after the "Moby Dick," the fabulous leviathan of the sailors, during which he probably lets us into the realities of actual whaling as minutely and faithfully as any sea-author has ever done. We shall give a couple of passages, hoping they will put the reader on the look out for the book itself...."

Grand River Times - January 6, 1852
via GenealogyBank

In Grand Haven, Michigan the Grand River Times adopted the same editorial preface and title "Whale Killing" in reprinting chapter 61 of Moby-Dick. The excerpt with Melville's narrative of a deadly whale insurrection appeared in the Grand River Times on January 6, 1852, one hundred seventy years ago today.

Grand River Times - January 6, 1852
It was obvious now that the whale had at length become aware of his pursuers.-- All silence or cautiousness was, therefore, no longer of use. Paddles were dropped, and oars came loudly into play. And still puffing at his pipe, Stubb cheered on his crew to the assault. 
Yes, a mighty change had come over the fish. All alive to his jeopardy, he was going "head out;" that part obliquely projecting from the mad yeast which he brewed.  
Obviously this excerpt does not describe the violent White Whale insurrection, which happens later. For the rest of the story, grab your favorite edition of Moby-Dick and read's that time again! 

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