Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Project MUSE - Herman Melville's Love Letters

My favorite sentence in this 2018 article by Jordan Alexander Stein is the one showing he had not read either volume of Hershel Parker's magnificent Herman Melville: A Biography. Published in 1996 and 2002 by Johns Hopkins University Press--also, ironically, the publisher of ELH where Stein's essay on "Herman Melville's Love Letters" appeared:

Project MUSE - Herman Melville's Love Letters

"Likewise, as patient an archival scholar as Hershel Parker concludes the first volume of his exhaustive Melville biography with the unverifiable assertion that the day on which Melville received Hawthorne's letter "was the happiest day of Melville's life." 

ELH  Volume 85, Number 1, Spring 2018 pages 122-3, citing "Hershel Parker, Herman Melville, A Biography: Volume 1, 1819–1851 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1996), 883."

Hahahaha 😂😂😂 

The cited page is the last in Volume 1 of Parker's biography. There Parker brings chapter 40, "Melville in Triumph," to a thrilling close with Melville's "farewell gift" of Moby-Dick to its dedicatee in what Parker has believably re-created as a private, self-funded "publication party" with Nathaniel Hawthorne as the "solitary guest" (page 879). 

Hawthorne had not even read the book, so there was no letter of praise yet for Melville to receive and get happy about.

For Parker's estimation of the lost letter from Hawthorne, and finely stated appreciation of Melville's ecstatic reply (with due attention to allusions and metaphors, the figurative as well as the literal sense of Melville's reported words) you only have to open Volume 2 and follow along for five pages or so, starting on page three. That is, Parker's extensive treatment of this particular "love letter" from Herman Melville appears right where you would expect it, early in the first chapter of the next volume. 

By saddling Melville's best biographer with an "unverifiable assertion" he never offered, Jordan Alexander Stein demonstrated convincingly (back in 2018) that he had not read either volume of Parker's work. What made Herman Melville "happiest" according to Parker was the inscribing and then physically giving of something truly great to his friend. Getting Hawthorne's letter afterward was wonderful, too, "joy-giving and exultation-breeding" as Melville told him. But the joy of bestowing Moby-Dick to the fellow-man he wrote it for surpassed even that, says Parker.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Herman Melville, Dead White Male | History News Network

By Clare Spark, author of Hunting Captain Ahab (Kent State University Press, 2000; 2nd ed. 2006):

"Critics are eager to classify him, to annex a domesticated and pacified artist to their own political projects, not to understand his unresolved ambivalence about the possibilities of a freethinking democratic polity that could lead to mob rule. Hence nervous critics have frequently insisted on making him either an ultraconservative, a centrist, or a left-wing radical, and have managed his biography accordingly...."

Herman Melville, Dead White Male | History News Network

Another version:

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Harry Hubbard in Stockton, 1887 notice of his illness with mentions of Melville and THE WHALE

Albertus Del Orient Browere via American Gallery

Henry F. Hubbard (1820-1887) was a "green hand" with Herman Melville on the whaleship Acushnet. Hubbard, just 20 years old, and the future author of Moby-Dick, 21, signed on late in December 1840. On January 3, 1841 they sailed out of Fairhaven, Mass. with Captain Valentine Pease on Melville's (and their ship's) first whaling voyage. Eighteen months later, in June of 1842, Melville and another "green hand" Richard Tobias Greene famously deserted at Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas. Melville and Hubbard would reconnect in the early 1850's when Hubbard visited Pittsfield. On March 23, 1853 Melville inscribed a copy of The Whale to 

"Henry Hubbard from his old shipmate and watchmate on board the good ship Acushnet (Alas, wrecked at last on the Nor'west)"

At some point (then or earlier) Hubbard updated Melville on the fates of former shipmates, as shown by Melville's extant memorandum of What became of the ship's company of the whale-ship "Acushnet" according to Hubbard who came home in her. Melville's memo and Hubbard's inscribed copy of The Whale (with two interesting annotations about real-life counterparts of Stubb and Pip) are presented and fully discussed in the 1988 Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Moby-Dick.

Hubbard made a name and fortune for himself in California. His obituary in the Stockton Evening Mail of March 26, 1887, cited for relevant biographical facts of Hubbard's life by the N-N editors, contains no reference to Moby-Dick or its author. Melville and the British title of his great whale book were both mentioned, however, in a previous notice published by the same newspaper under the heading, "H. F. HUBBARD'S SICKNESS." The writer thought Harry Hubbard's whaling adventures "would make an interesting book" and believed also that

"Many of his experiences were mentioned by Melville in his works."

Transcribed below from the Stockton, California Evening Mail of March 9, 1887. Found on; accessible also via the California Digital Newspaper Collection.

09 Mar 1887, Wed The Evening Mail (Stockton, California)


The Capitalist Dangerously Ill with Diabetes.

Henry F. Hubbard, familiarly known as "Harry" Hubbard, is now very ill at his residence in this city with diabetes. He has been sick several days, and at times his mind has wandered; but to day he seems to be somewhat better. Mr. Hubbard made his will yesterday. It disposes of property and money to the amount of nearly a half a million dollars.

Harry Hubbard is next to the wealthiest man in town. It is related of him that he laid the foundation of his wealth by strict attention to business. He was a drayman in the early days, and was always on time when the boats arrived--while other draymen were idling about town. In his younger days he followed the sea as a whaler. During this part of his life he was the close companion of Herman Melville, afterwards famous as the author of "Typee," "Omoo," "The Whale," and many other works. The latter work mentioned is now accepted by scientists as the most complete work on the whale ever written. The whaling experience of Mr. Hubbard would make an interesting book. Many of his experiences were mentioned by Melville in his works.

Mr. Hubbard has always led a very correct and temperate life. It was a matter of surprise when the news came of his illness, and his many friends will wish for his speedy recovery. It is thought that he will never completely regain his health and be able to transact business. 

Daily Alta California - March 26, 1887