Friday, April 28, 2023

Oliver G. Hillard, art lover

After Herman Melville's death on September 28, 1891 the New York Times (October 6, 1891) printed a memorial tribute in the form of a letter to the editor signed "O. G. H." Obviously a well-informed acquaintance of the deceased, "O. G. H." remembered Melville as "the man of culture, the congenial companion, and the honestest and manliest of all earthly friends." 

Minus the original and laughable heading The Late Hiram Melville, the Times letter was reprinted in The Critic Volume 16 on October 17, 1891 (alongside the earlier notice of Melville's death headed "Herman Melville / The Passing of Mr. Melville's Popularity") as "A LETTER TO THE Times FROM ONE WHO KNEW HIM." Google-digitized images from the 1891 Critic volume with the reprinted letter from "O. G. H." are accessible online courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library

The Critic editors appear less knowledgeable than "O. G. H." in their appended fact-check of his first paragraph. The editors claimed that Melville's first book was never "offered to or declined by the American publishers," but Melville's friend knew the truth. As verified in the "Recollections of Frederick Saunders," the Harper brothers initially declined Typee in manuscript since "it was impossible that it could be true and therefore was without real value." So quoted by Hershel Parker in Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative (Northwestern University Press, 2012) page 147; Parker adds the testimony of Melville's niece Charlotte Hoadley who believed the Harpers' early rejection of Typee "embittered his whole life."

Melville's sincere friend and admirer "O. G. H." has been identified as O. G. Hillard in Jay Leyda's Melville Log; and Oliver Greene Hillard in Melville in His Own Time (University of Iowa Press, 2015), edited by Steven Olsen-Smith, where Hillard's communication is given in full on pages 182-183. To begin to remedy the death of biographical facts lamented by Olsen-Smith, obituaries from New York and Boston newspapers are transcribed below.

New York Tribune - August 8, 1903



Oliver G. Hillard, fr many years identified with Wall Street interests, died on Thursday in his home, No. 217 East Seventeenth-st., from septic pneumonia, in his eighty-first year. The funeral will take place to-morrow afternoon at the home of W. A. White, No. 158 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn. Mr. Hillard was enjoying excellent health when, on Thursday of last week, he was struck by a Broadway car. He was not knocked down, but was badly bruised, and recently pneumonia set in. His health for many years had been so vigorous that he never wore an overcoat in the coldest weather.

Mr. Hillard came of an old Boston family. He left Boston in early manhood for New-York, and for forty years had been connected with an office in Wall-st. He retired from business about fifteen years ago. He was a bachelor, and a man of quiet, art loving tastes. Among artists he enjoyed a large acquaintance, and collected many paintings, which he prized highly.

Mr. Hillard was a brother of the late George Stillman Hillard, the writer of school books and the law partner of Charles Sumner. He leaves a brother, James Otis Hillard, a banker, of Boston, and three nieces--Mrs. W. A. White, of Columbia Heights; Mrs. R. H. Loines, of Garden Place, Brooklyn; and Mrs. Winslow Bell, of Poughkeepsie.

A confirmed bachelor and art lover with known connections on Wall Street, Oliver G. Hillard (1823-1903) was a brother of Hawthorne's old friend and benefactor George Stillman Hillard.

09 Aug 1903, Sun The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts)


Was Born in Boston, Was a Noted Art Lover
and the Brother of the
Late George Stillman Hillard.

NEW YORK, Aug 8-- The funeral services of Oliver G. Hillard, who died at his home, 217 East 17th st. Thursday of pneumonia, will be held tomorrow afternoon at the home of his niece, Mrs. William Augustus White, 15 Columbia heights.

Mr Hillard was 81 years old and was born in Boston. He had been a great lover of pictures and has left a choice collection.

The late George Stillman Hillard, the noted Boston lawyer, who was the author of several textbooks and books of travel, was his brother. James Otis Hillard, a banker in Boston, is another brother. Mr. Hillard was a bachelor.

-- Boston Globe, August 9, 1903.

What happened to Hillard's "choice collection"? Sold at auction by Silo's Art Galleries on March 9 and 10, 1905. As advertised in the New York Herald on March 7, 1905 the sale conducted by auctioneers James Patrick Silo and Augustus W. Clarke would include 

by order of the executrix


Thursday, April 27, 2023

Whitman and "Marquesan Melville" in the ALBANY ARGUS

Orion constellation Hevelius
But a week or so ago there passed from earth a strong, virile and poetic mind that met nothing but contempt in America for years.

Notwithstanding the borrowed title "Marquesan Melville," the 1892 article transcribed herein begins with high praise for the late Walt Whitman as "a strong, virile and poetic mind." (Whitman died on March 26, 1892; Herman Melville passed the year before on September 28, 1891.) Previously unrecorded? Not in the Walt Whitman Archive, anyhow. This dual tribute to Whitman and Melville appeared on page 4 of the Albany NY Argus for Sunday morning, April 10, 1892. As indicated in the article, the heading and extensive quotations are taken from Henry S. Salt's long, lavish memorial of "Marquesan Melville" in the March 1892 issue of The Gentleman's Magazine

Herman Melville, despite embarrassing nationwide neglect of his writings, was "a man well known personally" in the Albany area. Nonetheless, criticism of Melville's supposedly ruinous descent into transcendentalism and mysticism follows Salt on "Marquesan Melville." Also from Salt, the cite of John Marr and Other Sailors as privately printed "story" and the closing quotation from Robert Buchanan's poem Socrates in Camden

But the comparison of Melville to The Farthing Poet Richard Hengist Horne, author of Orion: An Epic Poem, seems different and distinctive. Elizabeth Shaw Melville gave Herman's copy of Horne's Exposition of the False Medium and Barriers Excluding Men of Genius to Edmund Clarence Stedman. With markings by Horne and Melville, whereabouts unknown; Horne's Exposition is Sealts Number 284 in the catalog at Melville's Marginalia Online. Number 285 is a volume of three tragedies by Horne, owned by Stedman and borrowed by Melville. Shared interest in Whitman and Horne suggests that E. C. Stedman might have written or otherwise influenced the writing of "Marquesan Melville" as revisited in the Albany Argus.


It is generally conceded that leading traits in the American character are self-esteem and assertiveness. One of the reasons the race has advanced so rapidly and now holds such high place is because of its thorough belief and confidence in itself. We know that our institutions are admirable, and that our natural resources are unlimited. We are certain that our destiny is as grand as that of any of the sons of man. We feel that our past stands in need of no apology. We are tenacious of our repute in the arts and sciences, and proclaim upon the housetops the undying fame of our writers. These general facts standing unchallenged, it is very peculiar that a single one of our master-minds should lack full recognition and appreciation in his own country. But a week or so ago there passed from earth a strong, virile and poetic mind that met nothing but contempt in America for years. It is true that at the last we were shamed into a tardy acceptance of the splendid gifts of Walt Whitman by the generous encouragement of the English people. Without attempting to understand the charm of his utterances, we admitted his genius and soothed his dying bed with sympathy. There were laid upon his bier some eloquent tributes from his countrymen, but these were rather the outpourings of love and sympathy than critical appreciation. It was England that recognized that a strong and original singer had left the earthly choir.

A case very similar to this was that of Herman Melville, a man well known personally in this vicinity. The difference between the two was that Melville had a measure of transient popularity during his early productive period, while at his death he was almost completely forgotten. His very name was unknown to the younger generation of American readers, and the rather perfunctory tributes in a few newspapers, when he died a number of months ago, were read with a mild interest not unmixed with astonishment. Here, again, England had an eye for genius when we were blind. It will surprise many here, even among those who would be critical, to learn that Robert Buchanan classes him as "the one great imaginative writer fit to stand shoulder to shoulder with Whitman on that continent," and that William Morris, Theodore Watts, Robert Louis Stevenson and W. Clark Russell, enroll themselves among the number of his enthusiastic admirers. It may be doubted whether the name of Melville is included among those that figure in the handbooks of American literature. it is certain, at any rate, that he has no following of readers here.

It is not to our credit that the first critical estimate of Melville should appear in England, and yet such is the case. Mr. Henry S. Salt writes an appreciative, discriminating and sympathetic sketch of the writer in the Gentleman's Magazine. He makes no allusion to the fact that Melville was so sadly lacking in appreciation from his own countrymen, and his article has a ring of triumphant admiration with no trace of apology nor pleading. It is impossible to summarize Mr. Salt's estimate, but we can quote a few detached passages. He declares that Melville was a genuine child of nature, a sort of nautical George Borrow, to whom he likens him more than once. Of "Typee," his masterpiece, he says: "Alike in the calm beauty of its descriptive passages and in the intense vividness of its character sketches, it was, and is, and must ever be, a most powerful and fascinating work--indeed, I think I speak within the mark in saying that nothing better of its kind is to be found in English literature, so firm and clear is it in outline, yet so dreamily suggestive in the dim, mystic atmosphere which pervades it." Then turning to his later work, Mr. Melville [rather, Mr. Salt] says: "As 'Typee' is the best production of the earlier and simpler phase of Melville's authorship, so undoubtedly is 'The Whale' the crown and glory of the later phase; less shapely and artistic than 'Typee,' it far surpasses it in immensity of scope and triumphant energy of execution. It is in 'The Whale' that we see Melville casting to the winds all conventional restrictions, and rioting in the prodigality of his imaginative vigor. It is the supreme production of a master mind; let no one presume to pass judgment on American literature until he has read, and re-read, and wonderingly pondered the three mighty volumes of 'The Whale.'"

One more brief quotation may be permitted: "His narratives are as racy and vigorous as those of Defoe, or Smollett, or Marryat; his character sketches are such as only a man of keen observation and as keen a sense of humor could have realized and depicted."

The man was well nigh as interesting as the author. Herman Melville, who, by the way, was a relative of leading Albany families, resided for years in Pittsfield. Here he was the near neighbor of Hawthorne, whose home was at  Lenox. He soon became a transcendentalist, and his beliefs strongly colored his writings. We have noted above the change between his earlier works, as exemplified in "Typee," and his later, as shown in "The Whale." As the mood grew upon him, his style became turgid and his books were filled with mysticism. It was the death blow to his popularity, and the fickleness of the public reacted strongly upon his nature. He became almost a recluse. He would do nothing to keep his name before the public, and in a spirit akin to that which led Hengist Horne to issue his grand epic "Orion" at a farthing, he limited one of the most beautiful of his later stories to twenty-five copies.

It is pleasant to know that the widow of the novelist has just sold the copyrights of her husband's works to an enterprising publisher, and that new editions of them all are to be brought out in America and England. An opportunity will be given us to atone for our neglect of this genius, of whom Buchanan, in his tribute to Whitman, wrote--

"The sea compelling man,
Before whose wand Leviathan
Rose hoary-white upon the deep,
With awful sounds that stirred its sleep;
Melville, whose magic drew Typee,
Radiant as Venus, from the sea."

-- Albany Argus, April 10, 1892. Found on; images are also accessible courtesy of New York State Library via NYS Historic Newspapers.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Revolutionary Reminiscence by "M."

Marinus Willett via The Met

The following "Revolutionary Reminiscence" of Washington's Last Expedition tells of a brave officer facing amputation of his severely frostbitten legs. As dramatically related by "M.," the story has two heroes: the suffering warrior and the "humane Indian" who rescued him "from the amputating knife of a surgeon." The sympathetic and resourceful Indian is not named. His grateful patient was Captain Alexander Thompson (1759-1809). Then Lieutenant Thompson marched in February 1783 under Colonel Marinus Willett during the ill-fated Expedition to Oswego. Signed "M.," the "Revolutionary Reminiscence" first appeared in the Army and Navy Chronicle on March 26, 1840. Reprinted elsewhere, often without credit to any source or author, as in the Boston Weekly Magazine for Saturday, April 10, 1840 and Boston Recorder on September 11, 1840. Copied with credit "From the Army and Navy Chronicle" (including the subscribed initial "M.") in the New York Christian Intelligencer on May 16, 1840. 


In the winter of 1783, the father of the late Lieut. Colonel A. R. THOMPSON, (who fell in Florida at the head of his regiment, 25th Dec., 1837,) then a Lieutenant in the army of the Revolution, accompanied a detachment under Colonel WILLETT, with a view to surprise Fort Oswego, which was at that time in the occupation of the British. The treachery of their Indian guide, however, who led them a circuitous and roundabout way, caused, eventually, a failure in the enterprise, much to the chagrin and vexation of the American party.

The weather was excessively cold, the men and officers but poorly clad; but the soldier's duty oft compels him not only to forego the comforts of home and civilized life, but to endure summer's parching heat, and winter's piercing blast. The state of the country, also, at that period forbade repose or inactivity, while a foot of its soil was in the possession of the enemy. The deception practised by the guide, had protracted their journey, and consequently caused the endurance of much physical suffering, from the length of the route and intensity of the weather. Many of the men had their fingers, toes and ears, badly bitten by the frost. Lieutenant THOMPSON had both of his feet so severely frozen, that when the detachment arrived at the camp, he was in such a state that the surgeon in attendance deemed it necessary, in order to save his life, to amputate both his legs. Sad and heavily fell this decision upon the ears of poor THOMPSON, who, full of military ardor and zeal in his country's cause, was anxious to devote all his energies to assist in emancipating her from the tyranny of despotic power; but here he was in the vigor of youth, having entered the list with the brave and patriotic, to be rendered helpless and maimed for the rest of his life, (if he should survive the operation,) not by an honorable loss of limb in battle, from the ball of a warlike enemy, but from the amputating knife of a surgeon. The thought was painful in the extreme, and he almost wept at the prospect.

"Can nothing be done, Doctor, to save these limbs?" said the youthful officer, as he cast a look of the deepest inquiry at the surgeon, and continued, "they have not yet done half their duty. Cannot you save them, that I may yet serve my country, and participate in the honor of assisting throughout the struggle, and in consummating her entire freedom from the British yoke?"

"I can see no alternative," replied the doctor, as he bound around the ligature above the knee; "it is impossible to save them."

"Then may God give me grace to submit," said the lieutenant, placing his hand over his eyes and pressing his burning brow; and I must be sent home," he continued in soliloquy, "crippled in the service, but not in the field."

He was in this situation, with a few of his military friends around him, whose countenances bore the expression of the sympathy they felt for their beloved associate, and sad too, were his own reflections; but he summoned resolution to undergo the painful operation. At this crisis, a groupe had gathered around the tent, anxious to know the result. Among them was a friendly Indian who, hearing them say a man's legs were to be cut off, he turned, and raising the curtain, passed into the tent. Stepping up, he laid his hand upon the uplifted knife, just in the act of being used: "No!" said he, "that handsome young warrior shall not die! I will cure him!"

The surgeon said it was "impossible! that unless amputation was speedily performed, death from mortification must ensue."

"Halt! doctor," said Thompson, as his eyes turned quickly upon the Indian; "let him try, I would almost as soon die as lose my legs, now when they are so much needed as at the present."

"Let him, let him try," echoed the voices of all present; and the doctor laid down his knife and reluctantly submitted. Come, my good fellow, said they, save these legs, and you shall have a splendid rifle, and be constituted a chief.

The Indian threw off his blanket, commenced by removing the bandages, and by using friction, fomentations, poultices, &c. &c., succeeded in restoring circulation; and finally, after the patient had suffered much pain and anxiety, he recovered the use of his limbs, and was soon able to "report for duty.” 

The joy and gratitude of the young officer was unbounded; he generously rewarded the humane Indian, and often in after times, when marching in pursuit of the enemy, would he look down at his feet and bless the memory of the red man, who, under God, had been the means of saving his limbs, and perhaps his life. Mr. THOMPSON continued to serve throughout the war, with honor and reputation; and at the close of it was brevetted a Captain for his faithful and gallant conduct. 


-- Army and Navy Chronicle, March 26, 1840.

In family correspondence, Captain Armstrong himself disclosed the fact of his dangerous frostbite and hopes of recovery--without, however, describing any particulars of his successful treatment:

"We had one hundred and thirty bit with the frost, some very dangerously. I am myself one of the unfortunate number, but by frequent application I have made, my feet are much better and I flatter myself will soon be well."

-- Letter to Brother dated February 24, 1783 as transcribed in "Two Expeditions To Fort Ontario in 1783; Colonel Willett For War; Captain Thompson, For Peace" (Presented by Mr. Anthony Slosek, January 17, 1956) 19th publication of the Oswego County Historical Society, pages 1-16 at 16.

As mentioned early in the "Revolutionary Reminiscence" by "M." Captain Thompson was the father of Lt. Col. Alexander Ramsay Thompson, killed in Battle of Okeechobee during the Second Seminole War in Florida. Captain Alexander Thompson (1759-1809):

"served in the artillery during the Revolutionary war, was retained as captain in the peace establishment, and attached in 1794 to the artillery and engineer corps, and after his discharge in 1802 till his death, 28 Sept., 1809, was military store-keeper at West Point." 

-- Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography

More on Capt. Thompson from The Ancestry and Descendants of John Alexander Thompson Nexsen, compiled and arranged by Samuel Emory Rogers (1925) page 16:

Colonel Thompson was the son of Captain Alexander Thompson, (1759‑1809), who enlisted for the American Revolutionary struggle at the age of eighteen in the Artillery Regiment of Colonel John Lamb. He was soon promoted to Captain of Artillery and later served as Captain of Engineers. He drew the plans for the siege of York town, which plans hang under his portrait in the United States Military Academy at West Point. He entered New York with the victorious American troops and was selected by General Washington to bear the dispatches to the frontier forts at Oswego, Niagara, and Detroit, ordering cessation of hostilities. At the close of the Revolution his company was the only company of the American army not disbanded. On October 1, 1787, Captain Alexander Thompson was promoted to First Major in Lieutenant-Colonel Sebastian Baum's Artillery. He resigned his commission as Major on October 9, 1793 in order to accept appointment as Commissary of Ordnance at West Point at the foundation of the Military Academy, which post he held until his death. He is buried at the Military Academy at West Point.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Carpet-Bag Philosophy

Rural Traveler Resting under a Tree
Color engraving from a work by Howard Pyle via Bridgeman Images

Writing in April 1851, Herman Melville compared independent souls like his friend and then Berkshire neighbor Nathaniel Hawthorne to savvy travelers in Europe who pack light and may therefore cross all sorts of borders with enviable ease, carrying "nothing but a carpet-bag":

There is the grand truth about Nathaniel Hawthorne. He says NO! in thunder; but the Devil himself cannot make him say yes. For all men who say yes, lie; and all men who say no,— why, they are in the happy condition of judicious, unincumbered travellers in Europe; they cross the frontiers into Eternity with nothing but a carpet-bag, — that is to say, the Ego. Whereas those yes-gentry, they travel with heaps of baggage, and, damn them ! they will never get through the Custom House.
-- transcribed by Julian Hawthorne in Nathaniel Hawthorne and his Wife (Boston, 1884); this letter is tentatively dated April 16, 1851 in the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Correspondence, edited by Lynn Horth.

About the much-discussed "NO! in thunder" part, interested readers are invited to check out two previous Melvilliana posts

both cited in the fine 2019 essay by Jonathan A. Cook on religious motifs in the aforementioned letter and others from Melville to Hawthorne.

Cook, Jonathan A. “‘AN ENDLESS SERMON’: RELIGIOUS MOTIFS IN MELVILLE’S LETTERS TO HAWTHORNE.” Religion & Literature, vol. 51, no. 2, 2019, pp. 1–22. JSTOR, Accessed 1 Apr. 2023.

Here I want to highlight a breezy newspaper piece, frequently reprinted in 1846-1851, that similarly exalts the humble carpet-bag not only for its practical virtues but also as a figure of rare "independence" and "unencumbered bachelorhood." Originally titled "The Philosophy of a Little Carpet-Bag," the piece first appeared in the Glasgow, Scotland Citizen and was influentially reprinted in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal for Saturday, July 18, 1846

and Littell's Living Age Vol. 11 No. 126 on October 10, 1846. Google-digitized images from Volume 11 of Littell's Living Age in multiple libraries including Rutgers University are accessible online courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library:

Echoing the anonymous Scot, perhaps accidentally, Melville praised the "unencumbered" mode of traveling light in Europe--only Melville spelled it "unincumbered" according to Hawthorne's son Julian. The same spelling occurs in Melville's Journals, ed. Howard C. Horsford with Lynn Horth (Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library, 1989). In December 1849 Melville had decided "to travel into Germany entirely unincumbered" and therefore checked his luggage in Brussels:

"I left my carpet bag -- or rather portmanteau at the hotel."

With no carpet-bag Melville traveled even lighter than Ishmael, as John M. J. Gretchko points out in Chapter 2 of his comprehensive and beautifully illustrated study of Moby-Dick as "a tale told in the stars," Piercing the Perceptual Threshold of Herman Melville: Moving-Dick, A Heavenly Metaphor of Creativity (Falk and Bright Publishers, 2022). According to Fraser's Magazine, "three pieces" were usual for gentlemen traveling abroad: "portmanteau, hat-case, and carpet-bag." I imagined that Melville could not do without the customary carpet-bag, but Gretchko is right about Melville's ultra-light style of travel. In November 1849 Melville only packed one "little portmanteau," the piece he had "bought in London" specifically "for travelling on the Continent" (Journals, Northwestern-Newberry Edition, page 30). 

New York Evangelist- July 16, 1846 - page 4
via Genealogy Bank

American newspapers were quick to grab the Glasgow article on Carpet-Bag Philosophy. It ran in the New York Evangelist on July 16, 1846 under the compressed heading, "The Little Carpet-bag," with one added sentence of editorial introduction:

"There is some poetry, some prose, and no little philosophy, in the idea and conveniences of a little carpet-bag."

The same issue of the New York Evangelist contained a second negative review of Melville's first book Typee, largely excerpted from William Oland Bourne's hit piece in the Christian Parlor Magazine. "Typee: the Traducers of Mission" appeared on page 2 of the Evangelist for July 16, 1846; "The Little Carpet-bag" on page 4. 

New York Evangelist - July 16, 1846 - page 2

If he missed "Little Carpet-bag" there in the New York Evangelist, the author of Typee could have found it in a lot of other places, then or later.

American versions include reprintings in the Boston Evening Transcript on August 18 and December 14, 1846; Troy NY Daily Whig on August 21, 1846; and the Berkshire County Whig on September 30, 1847. A later run in New York periodicals happened a month or so before Melville's "nothing but a carpet-bag" letter to Hawthorne of April 16, 1851.

Philadelphia PA Sunday Dispatch - April 6, 1851
via Genealogy Bank

Later appearances of "THE PHILOSOPHY OF A LITTLE CARPET-BAG" in several NY papers (and elsewhere, under various titles including "Carpet Bag Philosophy" in the Philadelphia Sunday Dispatch for April 6, 1851) may be indebted to the reprinting on February 22, 1851 in the New York Literary World:

03 Apr 1851, Thu The Brattleboro' Eagle (Brattleboro, Vermont)

"The Philosophy of a Little Carpet-Bag" is transcribed below from Chambers's Edinburgh Journal Volume 6 (July-December 1846); conveniently accessible online courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library.


Among the most common of street sights, is that of a gentleman hurrying along towards railway or river, bearing with him a little carpet-bag. So common it is, that it fails to attract the slightest attention. A little carpet-bag is no more noted than an umbrella or walking-stick in a man's hand; and yet, when rightly viewed, it is, to our thinking, an object of no ordinary interest. We feel no envy for the man on whom has devolved the charge of a heap of luggage. The anxiety attending such property outweighs the pleasure of its possession. But a man with a little carpet-bag is one in ten thousand. He is perhaps the most perfect type of independence extant. He can snap his fingers in the face of Highland porter extortionate. No trotting urchin is idle enough to solicit the carrying of so slight a burden. While other passengers, by coach or railway, are looking after their trunks and trappings, he enters, and has the best seat. He and his 'little all' never part company. On arriving at their destination, they are off with the jaunty swagger of unencumbered bachelorhood! In contemplating a gentleman with a carpet-bag, we are struck, to a certain extent, with an idea of disproportion; but the balance is all on the easy side. There is far too little to constitute a burden, and yet there is enough to indicate wants attended to, and comforts supplied. No man with a little carpet-bag in hand has his last shirt on his back. Neither is it probable that his beard can suffer from slovenly overgrowth. When he retires to rest at night, the presumption is, that it will be in the midst of comfortable and cozy night-gear. A little carpet-bag is almost always indicative of a short and pleasurable excursion. No painful ideas of stormy seas or dreadful accidents on far-off railway lines are suggested by it. Distance is sometimes poetically measured by 'a small bird's flutter,' or 'two smokes of a pipe,' or some such shadowy, though not altogether indefinite phrase. Why may not time, in like manner, be measured by two shirts? A gentleman with a little carpet-bag may be said to contemplate about a couple of shirts' absence from home. -- Glasgow Citizen.

-- Chambers's Edinburgh Journal for Saturday July 18, 1846.

The recycling of Carpet-Bag Philosophy in 1851 by American periodicals including the New York Literary World might explain why Melville had carpet-bags on his mind in that April 1851 letter to Hawthorne--and Moby-Dick, too. Melville did not finish writing his sixth book until summertime; the first American edition of Moby-Dick was available for sale in Albany bookstores by November 12, 1851.  

Chapter 2: The Carpet-Bag starts with the news of Ishmael's comically light packing for a whaling voyage of 3-4 years:

"I stuffed a shirt or two into my old carpet-bag, tucked it under my arm, and started for Cape Horn and the Pacific."

Coincidentally or deliberately, the title and contents humorously recall "The Philosophy of a Little Carpet-Bag," reprinted in The Literary World back on February 22, 1851. Making a virtue of necessity, Ishmael faithfully adhered to the Scottish Carpet-Bag Philosophy, acting as if he expected "a short and pleasurable excursion" with "no painful ideas of stormy seas or dreadful accidents."

Obviously, our antebellum carpet-bag and easy-going philosophy thereof are not for low-minded Carpet-baggers. Reader, would you like a bag for your carpet-bag? Here you go...

Turns out


for the week ending March 29, 1851.

 Related post: