Monday, February 28, 2022
I'm listening to WWOZ New Orleans' live streaming radio. Tune in to WWOZ now:http://www.wwoz.org/listen/player/
Tuesday, February 22, 2022
In the mid 1880's Walter Langdon Russ (1852-1930) aka "Macswell" was a New York correspondent of the Buffalo Courier. After the New York Tribune printed Melville's poem The Admiral of the White out of the blue, "Macswell" remarked on the weirdness of "Herman Melville Resuscitated" in the weekly New York letter dated May 21st and printed in the Buffalo Courier on Monday, May 25, 1885.
Macswell is identified as journalist W. L. Russ in Fact, Fancy, and Fable, ed. Henry Frederic Reddall (Chicago, 1892). Another correspondent of the Courier around this time was Daniel Connelly aka "Rapidan," so identified in Initials and Pseudonyms: A Dictionary of Literary Disguises, ed. William Cushing (New York, 1885). There W. L. Russ is listed under two pseudonyms, "Macswell" (page 181) and "Persimmons" (page 228).
Without further explanation, Macswell credits Charles Allen Thorndike Rice, "ingenious editor of the North American Review," with the "resuscitation" of Melville. The calculation of Melville's age (then nearing 66) is obviously off, unless by "sixty years old" Macswell meant in his sixties.25 May 1885, Mon Buffalo Courier (Buffalo, New York) Newspapers.com
SPORTS, ART AND LETTERS.
A Dash of Each Presented Our Readers in Our Weekly
New York Letter.
How Odium might have saved his Life--The Maker of the Queensbury Rules--Wonderful Embroidery--The Academy. Herman Melville Resuscitated.
From Our Own Correspondent.
... A poem entitled "The Admiral of the White" was printed in one of our morning papers last Sunday and was printed at the same time, I believe, in other papers, east and west. The author of this poem was Herman Melville, who, as an American author, has been lost to sight for many years. The re-appearance of Melville in literature is, one might say, a curious freak of destiny. There is no special reason why he should re-appear, and everyone had come to the conclusion that he had given up serious authorship. If I am not mistaken, he was eulogized at one period as a man of vigorous talent. But he drifted away from the work he had set himself to do, and, since the civil war, he had been a drudge in some office down town. His first volume of verse, published in 1866, was called "Battle Pieces." Some of the verses in that volume were spirited, though most of them were not better than respectable. "The Victor of Antietam," for example, which has been praised with enthusiasm, seems a cold and dull thing. "Sheridan at Cedar Creek" is more genuine, to say the best of it.
MELVILLE was born in 1819. He is at present, therefore, sixty years old. Mr. Thorndyke Rice, the ingenious editor of the North American Review, is, I am told, responsible for his resuscitation.
... MACSWELL. -- Buffalo Courier, May 25, 1885.
New-York tribune. [volume] (New York [N.Y.]), 17 May 1885. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030214/1885-05-17/ed-1/seq-9/>
Saturday, February 19, 2022
"Biographers still ought to be afraid of the New Criticism..."
Maybe so, but if my heroes Jay Leyda and Hershel Parker had better attended to New Critical ABC's they would never have misidentified J. E. A. Smith's On Onota's Graceful Shore as the "stout" poem in "heroic measure" that Melville read aloud from in a Berkshire barn--with gusto, according to Evert Duyckinck. The meter of Smith's unpretentious ballad is tetrameter whereas "heroic measure" always designates pentameter. The "stout" patriotic work described by Duyckinck in August 1851 was John C. Hoadley's ambitious national poem "Destiny." 648 lines, pentameter all the way down. In this case, indifference to elemental principles and methods of New Criticism blinded Melville's best biographers to the presence of Melville's future brother-in-law and ever-faithful friend.
Friday, February 18, 2022
"Do I dream? Man avoid man? and in danger-time too?"
I seized it; I snapped it; I dashed it; I trod it; and dragging the dark lightning-king out of my door, flung his elbowed, copper sceptre after him.
But spite of my treatment, and spite of my dissuasive talk of him to my neighbors, the Lightning-rod man still dwells in the land; still travels in storm-time, and drives a brave trade with the fears of man.
-- Putnam's Monthly Magazine Volume 4, August 1854, page 134; reprinted in Herman Melville, The Piazza Tales (New York: Dix & Edwards, 1856).
Tuesday, February 15, 2022
Monday, February 14, 2022
|via The New York Public Library Digital Collections|
An early announcement of Herman Melville's death in the Chicago Tribune mistakenly referred to him as the author of "Nobby Dick," prompting this sarcastic comment in the New York Sun:
|New York Sun - October 5, 1891|
09 Oct 1891, Fri Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.com
The Chicago Tribune editorially informs its readers that the late HERMAN MELVILLE was the author of the charming and well-known romance, "Nobby Dick." This novelette, as we understand, has long enjoyed a deserved popularity in Chicago's highest literary circles. The announcement of the authorship of "Nobby Dick" will clear up what has been a perplexing mystery to thousands of cultivated minds. --New York Sun, October 5, 1891
The error pointed out by our fastidious and carping contemporary was due to the fact that THE TRIBUNE's proofreader probably belongs to that unfortunate younger generation which has never reveled in the adventures of "Moby Dick and the White Whale," and consequently was satisfied to leave it "Nobby Dick," as the printer, also of the younger generation, insisted upon having it. -- Chicago Tribune, October 9, 1891
Friday, February 11, 2022
|Detail, letter to Augusta Melville dated May 23rd, 1853|
NYPL Digital Collections
When will the "Isle of the Cross" make its appearance? I am constantly looking in the journals & magazines that come in my way, for notices of it.
-- Priscilla Melville, writing to Augusta on May 23, 1853.
Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Melvill, Ann Marie Priscilla "Priscilla"" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1848 - 1854. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/8f0890a0-4711-0136-688f-311c2151302e
Hershel Parker on Isle of the Cross
- Parker, Hershel. “Herman Melville’s The Isle of the Cross: A Survey and a Chronology.” American Literature 62, no. 1 (1990): 1–16. https://doi.org/10.2307/2926778.
- "The Isle of the Cross, September 1852-June 1853" in Herman Melville: A Biography Vol. 2, 1851-1891 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), pages 136-161.
- Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker, Reading Melville's Pierre; Or, The Ambiguities (Louisiana State University Press, 2006) pages 191-196.
- The Isle of the Cross and Poems: Lost Melville Books and the Indefinite Afterlife of Error Nineteenth-Century Literature Vol. 62, No. 1 (June 2007) pages 29-47.
- Discussed throughout Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative (Northwestern University Press, 2012) for example pages 242-247.
- "Historical Note" in Billy Budd, Sailor and Other Uncompleted Writings (Northwestern University Press, 2017), especially pages 307-311.
Wait, what exactly was this "Isle of the Cross," anyhow? Parker logically regards it as the product of Melville's work on the Agatha story that Melville pitched to his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne and later vowed (in December 1852) to work up himself, after Hawthorne declined. The title is suggestively close to "Isle of Shoals," the working title we know Melville wanted to use with Hawthorne's permission. Before Parker's discovery, there was "no evidence that Melville carried through his intention to write the story of Agatha Robertson," as Eleanor Melville Metcalf emphatically stated in Herman Melville: Cycle and Epicycle (Harvard University Press, 1953), page 144. Melville's granddaughter wrote that, well-knowing of (and reprinting!) the letter of April 20, 1853 from Herman's mother to her brother Peter Gansevoort, in which Maria Gansevoort Melville mentions "this new work, now nearly ready for the press," something that had "so completely absorbed" Melville" after the election of Franklin Pierce in November 1852. Mrs. Metcalf apparently did not know that in June 1853, several Massachusetts newspapers reported that Melville had gone to New York "to superintend the issue of a new work." The earliest of these newspaper announcements appeared in the Berkshire County Eagle on June 10, 1853; as Warren Broderick reports in the March 2021 issue of Leviathan.
Broderick, Warren F. "The Melville Family in Pittsfield Newspapers, 1848–1891." Leviathan, vol. 23 no. 1, 2021, p. 97-102. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/lvn.2021.0007.
- December 1852. Melville vows to write up the story of Agatha Hatch Robertson and call it the Isle of Shoals.
- April 20, 1853. In a letter to her brother Peter Gansevoort, Melville's mother Maria mentions "this new work, now nearly ready for the press" that "so completely absorbed" her son all winter, since the November 1852 presidential election.
- May 23, 1853. Herman's cousin Priscilla Melvill believes, evidently based on recent, inside information from Augusta Melville in Pittsfield, that a new work titled "Isle of the Cross" is completed and forthcoming. Priscilla refers again to "Isle of the Cross" in another letter to Augusta dated June 12, 1853. Both letters from Priscilla to Augusta are transcribed below.
- June 1853. From Pittsfield Melville travels to New York City "to superintend the issue of a new work."
- November 24, 1853. Melville offers Harper & Brothers a new book, "pretty well on towards completion," mostly about "Tortoise Hunting Adventure"; this letter opens with reference to another, different "work which I took to New York last Spring, but which I was prevented from printing at that time." [Quoted in Merton M. Sealts, Jr., Pursuing Melville, 1940-1980 (University of Wisconsin Press, 1982) page 224; full text in The Letters of Herman Melville, ed. William H. Gilman and Merrell R. Davis (Yale University Press, 1960) pages 164-5.]
Basem L. Ra’ad. “‘The Encantadas’ and ‘The Isle of the Cross’: Melvillean Dubieties, 1853-54.” American Literature 63, no. 2 (1991): 316–23. https://doi.org/10.2307/2927169.
Ra'ad shows what a great title "Isle of the Cross" makes for the intensely pathetic short fiction Melville published as "Norfolk Isle and the Chola Widow." Literally and figuratively, Melville's "Norfolk Isle" sketch has "Isle" and "Cross" written all over it. But "Norfolk Isle" as published in Putnam's is only a sketch. That's the main problem with Ra'ad's argument, since Herman's mother regarded the "nearly ready" work as a book-length project that had too intensely "absorbed" her son for many months (December 1852, then January, February, March, and April 1853). Informed to that effect by Augusta while domiciled with the rest of the Arrowheads in Pittsfield, cousin Priscilla in Canandaigua was looking for a new book.
Parker, Hershel. "A Mandate Fulfilled (1965–2017): The Writings of Herman Melville." Leviathan, vol. 21 no. 2, 2019, p. 14-20. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/lvn.2019.0021.
Basem Ra'ad beautifully illuminates the Hunilla connections but glosses over solid evidence for a book-length work. Hershel Parker rightly insists on a book, but avoids confronting the glorious aptness of the title, "Isle of the Cross," to the story of Hunilla that Melville published in the April 1854 number of Putnam's magazine, within a year of Priscilla's mentioning "Isle of the Cross."
This is what you call a Crux.
A knotty point, a difficulty.... It does not refer to the cross, as an instrument of punishment; but to the crossing of two lines, called also a node or knot; hence a trouble or difficulty. --Dictionary of Phrase and FableMy own solution, still, is largely and admittedly speculative. Although frankly conjectural, my idea about "Isle of the Cross" has the virtue of embracing both main lines of evidence, textual as well as historical. Here it is:
"Isle of the Cross" belongs to the matter of Tortoise Hunting.
"The book is done now, in fact...."
Quoted in Merrell R. Davis, Melville's Mardi: A Chartless Voyage (Yale University Press, 1952), page 79.Likewise Moby-Dick was supposedly done in early 1851, but Melville kept adding and tinkering. His next book Pierre was supposed to be finished in January 1852 until Melville decided to make a novelist of its hero, which delayed publication to the end of July. Over time, perhaps, "Isle of the Cross" was submerged in "Tortoise Hunters" which morphed into the "Encantadas, or Enchanted Isles," a series of sketches published in Putnam's Monthly Magazine starting in March 1854.
Which would leave us then with a different finished book. Not "Isle of the Cross" = "Tortoise Hunting" but a different work that Melville took to New York in June 1853 but was for some unspecified reason "prevented from printing." What was it?
|Southern Literary Messenger - June 1851|
FRAGMENTS OF A MILITARY LIFE.
Mr. Editor: Was it not unkind of " Z" to anticipate by several years the regular progress of my story? If I tire not by the way,—exposing, perhaps, your readers to that danger,—I shall prove Z to be neither the alpha nor omega of these veritable recollections. Your friend, F. R. D.Two years later, in 1842-1843 the combined "Leaves" and "Notes" were published after revision in the Southern Literary Messenger as Scenes and Adventures in the Army, Sketches of Indians, and Life Beyond the Border by a Captain of U. States Dragoons:
"Scenes Beyond the Western Border" (1851-3) in the Southern Literary Messenger forms Part II of the book, Scenes and Adventures in the Army. The subtitle of the book version, Romance of Military Life, echoes the original working title for the book project, "Fragments of a Military Life."
My conjecture of Melville's involvement as Cooke's ghost-writer or ghost-editor in 1851-3 would account for the otherwise mystifying prairie dialogues that occur in each of the thirteen installments of "Scenes Beyond the Western Border." Also the later deletion of bits in the magazine version that echo material in Moby-Dick and Pierre. The intriguingly Melvillean character of these intensely literary and philosophical dialogues will be explored in future Melvilliana posts on Substack, forthcoming at
Meanwhile, I offer below my imperfect transcriptions of the two known letters at NYPL from Priscilla Melvill to Augusta Melville that explicitly mention "Isle of the Cross." Corrections and comments welcome here and now, or later on Substack.
MAY 23, 1853
[- Dear Gus' - Can you by any artifice procure me Herman's autograph - Send it, & say nothing to him]
Ontario Female Seminary
May 23rd '53 —
-- My darling Cousin 'Gus' ---
-- You gave a true seal of affection, by withdrawing from the gay bridal scenes by which you were surrounded, to pen that last sweet letter to your exacting cousin Priss.
I become more & more convinced, that the crust of selfishness is gathering thickly around my heart with the rapid approach of age. I would make every effort to avoid this lamentable & almost inevitable consequence of the single state--indeed--poor solitary woman, after the attractive season of growth is past, is with precious few exceptions, sure to become the victim of its hardening influences--imagining that she is not properly appreciated-- & having her sensitive feelings constantly pain'd by slights where nothing of the kind was intended -- for instance when prompt attention is not accorded to my very deserving epistles.
My dear cousin 'Gus,' I fully believe the sincerity of your professions of attachment to me-- that seemed grounded on the cherish'd memories of our earlier years--a sweet bond--that will be enduring as our existence here-- & destin'd I trust to be resum'd when we regain those whose presence among us made those memories sacred -- in the groves & bowers of Paradise--where our hearts will be no more wrung by sorrow & separation.
Your frequent allusion to those happy times, assures me that they are hallow'd among your most cherish'd recollections & I will think of this sweet kind of sympathy ... harshly no more-- my dear Coz.
As to my cousin Helen, I would not bring my direct accusations against her, for worlds--but only just insinuate that her letters are like heavenly messengers & such a lengthy interval has pass'd since she vouchsaf'd any declaration of herself to her mortal cousin that I am warranted in hoping that one of these celestial visitants will soon again, greet my delighted vision.
You will laugh, & say that Priss' is soaring-- dear 'Gus' would that I could this moment soar far away, above the cares that weigh me down here. --but I have arriv'd at the conclusion, that my burden is becoming too oppressive--& am about decided on resigning my present post--tho' I may [seek a situation?] in the family of … [responsibility?].
Such close confinement & constant attendance upon my duties has entirely un-nerved me & I've scarcely courage to await the close of the term in June. Perhaps I should do a foolish thing in giving up this situation, for any uncertainty. I wish I could be gifted on this occasion with superior wisdom, to see what would be for the best. You see, dear Gus' I pour my plaints into your sympathizing bosom without any scruples.***
When will the "Isle of the Cross" make its appearance? I am constantly looking in the journals & magazines that come in my way, for notices of it. Let us note Judge Shaw's visit to Europe as one of the remarkable events of 1853.
I reciev'd a letter from Sister Helen, last week. They are all well. Kiss my Auntie for me. Now may you all enjoy pleasant dreams this night & accept the fond love of your Cousin Priss.
JUNE 12, 1853
Ontario Female Seminary
June 12th '53 —
My dear Cousin 'Gus' —
— Just like yourself to answer my letter so promptly & I've allow'd you to think me regardless of that & of my Auntie's affectionate invitation so earnestly seconded from the depths of your warm heart--Coz--to visit "Arrowhead," if possible at an early day--for the reason, that I've been unable, 'till within a day or two, to name the time when I could enjoy that pleasure.
Assure my Auntie that I thank her most sincerely, & Kate's absence from home would leave a nice vacancy for me--but it will be impossible for me to leave before the middle or last of August & perhaps by that time, space will be left for my corporeal frame, by some more fortunate coincidence, than the exile of one of my cousins. but should it be very inconvenient about that time be a frank good girl, & tell her.
-no letter from Helen as yet -
- dear cousin - my arrangements for visiting you are delay'd because I have decided--after a struggle between two necessities ---that in compassion to my health & spirits I must resign these cares & take my chances of providing for my bodily wants in some other way. Nothing suggests itself at present, but to improve that pleasant visit with you in endeavoring to procure board & a room (which I will furnish myself, at the cheapest possible rate, in the village & piece out a living with my needle--you may all think it a forlorn task but I should be much more independent & I would greatly prefer it to going into a family in any capacity. I have had trial of that. -- --& in consequence of my voluntary act I shall soon be a waif on the sea of fate.
I am glad to hear such a favorable report of Lizzie She is really gathering quite a little family around her & Arrowhead mansion will hardly be spacious enough. The "Isle of the Cross" is almost a twin sister of the little one & I think she should be nam'd for the heroine if there is such a personage. The advent of the two are singularly near together.
Many thanks for the autograph. good night my dearest 'gus' Love to all from your affectionate cousin Priscilla.
Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Melvill, Ann Marie Priscilla "Priscilla"" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed February 11, 2022. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/8f0890a0-4711-0136-688f-311c2151302e
By "the little one" Priscilla meant the Melville's new baby daughter Elizabeth "Bessie" Melville, born May 22, 1853.
- Melville's Agatha letters to Nathaniel Hawthorne
- Norman E. Hoyle on Agatha and Hunilla
- Bibliography, Agatha and Hunilla
- Early sources for Melville's Chola Widow sketch
- 1847 report of a Female Crusoe
- Security in Tortoises
- 1853 News from Pittsfield
Monday, February 7, 2022
Thursday, February 3, 2022
This item originally appeared in the New York Sachem, a weekly newspaper affiliated with the nativist Order of United Americans party. Founded in 1852 by Henry William Herbert aka Frank Forester (1807-1858) and his protégé Thomas Picton (1822-1891), The Sachem was edited by Picton with later assistance from George G. Foster, William North, and other talented New York journalists.
Perhaps it was the chivalrous "Colonel" Tom Picton who regarded Mardi as "next door to immortal."
There is some hope for England! A lord has been sent for twelve months to the house of correction. Think of this, ye Britishers! a real live lord, one of the dii minores or demi-gods, as Herman Mellville hath it, in his next-door-to-immortal Mardi! The report is explicit; his hair was cut to the regulation felon clip; he was washed and shaved; we fear his cherished moustaches must have been sacrificed by the relentless fates, or rather by the adamantine turnkeys; furthermore, he was dressed in a suit of pepper and salt, and condemned to the--we speak the word with a slight nervous twitch of horror--TO THE MILL. Yes, reader, at this precise moment, the Noble Lord Frankfort is engaged in the remarkably monotonous employment of the perpetually walking up stairs, without ever getting any higher. If the reader has ever been on the treadmill--we do not mean professionally, but experimentally--he will understand and appreciate the sufferings of this fallen angel from the empyrean of British aristocracy. Lord F. was a great scamp; no doubt he was a[s] thoroughly debauched and degraded a specimen of a rowdy lord as one might hope to meet on a summer day. Nevertheless it is satisfactory to reflect that even this titled "ne'er do weel" can be made eminently useful to the cause of justice. This punishment is an example to his fellow nobles. It vindicates the majesty of the law and the equality of justice.
N. Y. Sachem.
In Mardi, and a Voyage Thither, Melville's narrator masquerades as Taji, one of the "demi-gods" recalled so fondly by the New York Sachem editor.
Reprinted in the Helena, Arkansas Southern Shield on February 26, 1853; and Cleveland OH Plain Dealer on March 7, 1853.
Samoa now gave me to understand, that from all he could learn, the Islanders regarded me as a superior being. They had inquired of him, whether I was not white Taji, a sort of half-and-half deity, now and then an Avatar among them, and ranking among their inferior ex-officio demi-gods. To this, Samoa had said ay; adding, moreover, all he could to encourage the idea.
06 Nov 1852, Sat Santa Fe Weekly Post (Santa Fe, New Mexico) Newspapers.com
Wednesday, February 2, 2022
In 1886 the Bodleian Library, Oxford received a substantial donation of Civil War books from Princeton grad John Shaw Pierson.
The exceptional number of donations from the United States in 1886 is mainly due to a collection of about 250 printed volumes relating to the American Civil War having been given by Mr. John S. Pierson of New York. --The Bodleian Library in 1882-7 (Oxford, 1888).
Donated books included the first edition of Herman Melville's volume of Civil War poems, Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War.
The Bodleian Battle-Pieces is digitized and accessible online courtesy of The Internet Archive.
|Albany Argus - September 21, 1866|
via Genealogy Bank
BATTLE PIECES -- By Herman Mellville. New York. Harper & Brothers.
The author of this volume of War Poetry has won a reputation as the author of "Typee" and "Omoo," and now tries his hand in a volume of martial lyrics. Many of the pieces are good, and all of them are free from the objectionable references to men who have striven on the battlefield to prevent a dissolution of the Union. The author closes the work with an appendix in prose, which proves that he has an appreciation of the times in which he lives and writes.
For sale by S. R. GRAY. -- The Argus (Albany, New York), September 21, 1866.