Monday, June 24, 2024

Gilman on patriotic Albany, 1830-1837


Friday, June 21, 2024

Pantomime with mock pier mirrors, seen by Helen Melville at the Boston Museum in January 1844

Interior Ornamented Wall with Windows and Pier-Glasses
Michelangelo Pergolesi via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Helen Melville's Boston letters to her sister Augusta get well-deserved attention from John Bryant in the second volume of Herman Melville: A Half Known Life (Wiley Blackwell, 2021) at pages 1136-1144. Bryant focuses on Helen's lively and detailed descriptions of shows, plays, and tableaux vivants she experienced in private homes as well as theaters and other public venues. In a previous post on Melvilliana I transcribed Helen's letter to Augusta dated November 27, 1843, the one in which she writes about seeing Macready as Macbeth, twice:

Down the road I hope to transcribe more of Helen's extant letters in the Augusta Melville papers, now accessible via the New York Public Library Digital Collections. Here and now, I just want to change one word in the wonderful excerpt that Bryant has provided from Helen's letter to Augusta dated January 14, 1844. Helen is describing a magical scene with "mirrors" in the holiday pantomime "The Golden Axe," as performed at the Boston Museum. In this enchanting bit, two fairies are played by child actresses, one of whom plays the part of the other's reflection. 
"The one upon the stage would wind the garland about her head, and dance before the fire[?] between the mock mirrors." --Helen Melville to Augusta Melville, as transcribed in Herman Melville: A Half Known Life, Volume 2 (Wiley Blackwell, 2021) page 1142.  

Detail, letter from Helen Melville to Augusta Melville dated January 14, 1844, page 4
via The New York Public Library Digital Collections

Where Bryant gives the conjectural reading "fire[?]" I think the word Helen wrote is "pier."

PIER, n. [Sax. per, pere.] ... 3. A mass of solid work between the windows of a room.

PIER GLASS, n. A glass which hangs against a pier, between windows. 

-- Noah Webster's 1841 American Dictionary of the English Language, page 610. 

As Helen explained to Augusta, the staging "represented a parlour, containing among other furniture, two enormous mirrors from ceiling to floor." Two young performers only are mentioned (girls "not more than nine years old"): one fairy dancer in front of the full-length mirrors or rather faux-mirrors, and one playing her "shadow" or simulated reflection. The semblance of a solid mass or "pier" between the two mock mirrors would have enabled the "shadow" to appear behind each of the two mirrors as a perfectly reflected image of the supposedly real fairy. Some sort of wall or opaque structure between the two stage mirrors was required to effectively conceal the shadow-fairy's prior movements, so that the audience could only see her when she appeared in the frame of one or the other mirror. 

Images from this and other letters from Helen Melville (Griggs) in the Augusta Melville papers are accessible courtesy of The New York Public Library Digital Collections. Transcribed below, Helen's full report on The Golden Axe as given on the final page of her letter to Augusta of January 14, 1844:
We made up a party the other evening for the Museum to see the beautiful pantomime of the "the golden axe". I was really delighted, the fairy scenes were so lovely, the beautiful little girls, with long flowing ringlets, gossamer robes, and glistening jewels in their hair and on their garments. Their fairy wands, and light footsteps were really beautiful. The scenery was very appropriate, and the little creatures performed their parts admirably. One scene represented a parlour, containing among other furniture, two enormous mirrors from ceiling to floor. The frames only were real. The glass itself was only black gauze, woven tightly across them. One of these little creatures not more than nine years old, danced before them with a garland of flowers, and another behind them, mimicked so completely her motions, in every particular, that the illusion was perfect, you were sure it was her image in the glass. They were dressed exactly alike, and were the same size. The one upon the stage would wind the garland about her head, and dance before the pier between the mock mirrors. But the very instant she passed before either her little shadow on the other side appeared also. I never saw anything so perfect. Then we had Harlequin & Columbine which I have heard of forever but never saw before, and the farce of "Dr. Dilworth", which was very amusing.


Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Melville (Griggs), Helen" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1835 - 1863.

Bryant's excerpt in Herman Melville: A Half Known Life leaves out Helen's reference to "Dr. Dilworth." A Google-digitized 19th century Boston edition of the popular one-act Doctor Dilworth by John Oxenford is accessible online courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library. The farce that Helen Melville found "very amusing" in the first month of 1844 opens with Syntax, devoted assistant of Dr. Dilworth, deep into Lindley Murray's Grammar and comically conjugating the verb "to love." That performance happened many years before Pip's more ominous conjugation of "to look" in Herman Melville's 1851 book Moby-Dick chapter 99, The Doubloon--as if the cabin boy, like Dilworth's earnest disciple, had "been studying Murray's Grammar."
In The Age and Stage of George L. Fox, 1825-1877 (Expanded Edition, University of Iowa Press, 1999) at page 26, Laurence Senelick reports that Caroline aka "Caddie" Fox and soon-to-be husband George C. Howard "were prominently featured in The Golden Axe, she as Sylva, Queen of the Fairies, and he as Colin, afterwards Harlequin; and throughout the season they were inseparable on stage and off."

Boston Evening Transcript - January 3, 1844

Related posts:

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Helen Melville in Boston, November 1843

Mr. Macready as Macbeth
London, England: Published by M. & B. Skelt [between 1840 and 1850]
Folger Shakespeare Library - Digital Collections - Folger Imaging Department

While Herman Melville was at sea in 1841-1844, his sister Helen Melville enjoyed long visits with Judge Lemuel Shaw and family in Boston. Over time Helen became good friends with Shaw's daughter Elizabeth aka "Lizzie," Herman's future wife Elizabeth Knapp Shaw Melville. The New York Public Library has six of Helen's letters from Boston in the Augusta Melville papers. Not counting one from Lansingburgh dated October 10, 1841 with news about the grand time she and her brother Gansevoort had in Lenox, Berkshire County, Massachusetts partying with the Sedgwicks, Shaws, and Charles C. Ingham the portrait painter; and two from Lansingburgh on January 24 and 28, 1843. Lizzie in turn made multiple visits to the Melville family in Lansingburgh, New York. 

Helen Melville's six letters from Boston in the Augusta Melville papers at NYPL are dated

  • January 24, 1842
  • February 16, 1842
  • March 7, 1842
  • November 27, 1843
  • December 1, 1843
  • January 14, 1844
Below is my transcription of the 4-page letter Helen wrote Augusta from Boston on November 27, 1843. I chose this one for the unique reminiscence of "poor Herman" and his mimicry of the witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth; for the interesting allusions to Fanny Elssler (Helen spelled the Austrian surname "Ellsler") and her Boston disciple Fanny Jones; and to verify Helen's mentions of another "Miss Shaw" in the house, not her friend Lizzie. Also I wanted to double-check Helen's reference to the character of Ophelia after I found it given as "lonely Ophelia" by John Bryant in the second volume of Herman Melville: A Half Known Life (Wiley Blackwell, 2021) at page 1139. 

At first glance it might look like "lonely" but Helen's word can only be lovely. The third letter is "v." Giving due credit to the "enormously fat, red necked, red armed, and red faced" Mrs. Anderson as a "good actress" and believable Lady Macbeth, Helen viewed her matronly physical appearance as disqualifying for the role familiarly known as "lovely Ophelia." (Then again, Mrs. Anderson, daughter of manager William Pelby and actress-artist Rosalie French Pelby, would always be Ophelia since that was her first name.)

Helen and company saw Macready and Mrs. Ophelia Pelby Anderson in Macbeth, and Fanny Jones the ballet dancer, at the National Theatre, then located on the corner of Portland and Traverse streets in the West End. The Tremont Theatre where Fanny Jones used to perform had been sold to Boston Baptists and would be converted into a church known as Tremont Temple. The final dramatic performance at the Tremont Theatre had taken place in June 1843, as recalled in The Bostonian Volume 1 (Boston: 1894-5). 

Hershel Parker tells about Helen and her developing intimacy with the Shaw family in chapter 15 of Herman Melville: A Biography Volume 1, 1819-1851 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996). See page 302 for specific quotes and discussion of the letter transcribed herein. 

Comments and corrections are welcome any time! 


Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Melville (Griggs), Helen" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1835 - 1863.

Boston, Nov. 27th 1843.

Dear Gus,

I received your letter duly, a day or two after it was written, and was delighted to hear from home, for it was so long since I had had tidings from our little village. Your first two pages were very interesting to me, and Lizzie too, for she wanted very much to know how our two cavaliers bore the intelligence of our sudden departure. As to writing Jeanie, I don't know what to think about it; ask Mama what she would advise me to do. 

Macready the tragedian is has been here for a fortnight. The first night he played "Macbeth", and Mrs. Shaw sent out and bought tickets for all the young folks of the house including Miss Shaw who was to matronise us, and George Nourse who was to be our escort. We went in great spirits, all the first people of the town were there and Macready's performance was admirable. I have not been to the theatre since Fanny Kemble performed in Albany, so it had all the charm of novelty added to its other attractions, and I passed a delightful evening. The next evening we went to a small party at Mrs Dow's, Lizzie's Aunt, had dancing, a pretty little supper, oysters, ice-cream, and West India fruits, some fine music, and though there were not more than fifteen of us, we never got home until nearly twelve o'clock.

The next day Lizzie was taken with a dreadful toothache, and we were obliged to decline an invitation for the evening, as I did not wish to go alone. On Saturday morning of the same week, Kate Minot called and invited and invited us to a small party there; but the weather was very stormy. Lizzie was confined to her chamber, Miss Shaw was at Cambridge and the Judge & his lady, could not go on account of the recent death of a cousin. So I wrote a little note to Kitty in the afternoon, setting forth my numerous reasons for changing my mind, and staid at home to comfort Lizzie. 

On Monday morning Miss Mary Bigolo [Bigelow] called to know if I would come and take tea with them very sociably. I went and passed a delightful evening. There were three other young ladies, all with  their fancy work, around the table. I like Mrs. Bigolo, better than her daughters; the eldest one is the picture of Kate Yates. I never saw two people so much alike not only in person, but in mind and manners & disposition, too from what I can see. 

The same morning I arrived a pretty note from Miss Catharine Scholl Scollay, inviting me to meet the family party there, on Thanksgiving evening. No one but the large family circle, and "she looked upon me as a member of the family." As the invitation was given nearly a fortnight beforehand, she must have been desirous that I should accept it. I have had another since from Madam Heyward and may have still another before the day comes. Am I not in request?

On Wednesday evening of last week, Lizzie & I attended a party at Mr. Wales in Winter Street, and the next morning as she was threatened with another siege of toothache, I prevailed upon her to have it taken out. I had some difficulty in persuading her to "screw her courage to the sticking place", but at last succeeded, and she has felt quite happy since. The same evening Judge Shaw & his wife went out to make a long call upon some friend, and Lizzie and I sat in her room, where she preferred remaining for fear of taking cold in the "aching void", which the dentist had left in her mouth: when I was summoned down stairs to receive a gentleman, in about ten minutes another entered, and then still another, until Mr. Dow (Lizzie's Uncle) a very agreeable man, and Lemuel, I had five gentleman to entertain, all alone, but I flatter myself I did the honours of the house, to the satisfaction of all. They all laughed a great deal the next day, at the "gentleman's levee", I had held. 

One of the gentlemen was the Mr. Curtis who had called with Guert, he came with Guert's compliments to appoint another day for our navy yard expedition. We had fixed upon one the week before, but Mrs. Shaw lost a cousin & her funeral came upon the same day & hour; I could not bear the idea of going, especially as Mrs. Shaw disapproved of Lizzie going at that time; so I sat down the day before, and wrote Guert a very cousinly epistle, setting forth my reason for postponing our appointment, and hoping it would make no difference to him. We went this morning, & have just returned, Lizzie & I escorted by Mr. Thornton & Lemuel Shaw, but the particulars must be reserved for the next letter, for as Lizzie said we had a "most felicitous time". Guert came over with a Man of War's boat, five pr of oars only think! & Mr. Curtis. And Guert was as kind and polite as possible. 

On Friday morning early, I received a sweet note from Mrs Charles P. Curtis, saying that they were going to procure tickets for the Theatre that evening, and would be happy to see me at dinner at 5 o'clock.  
Boston Daily Atlas - Friday, November 24, 1843
I accepted the invitation, you may be sure very gladly, went about half past four, dined by candle light, and rode to the Theatre, saw Macready again and was as much delighted as the first time; he is a most splendid actor. Unfortunately, the Manager of the Theatre, will not allow Miss Cushman, a distinguished tragic actress who accompanies him, to support the female characters, for fear it should injure his own daughter Mrs. Anderson. She is rather a good actress, but is an enormously fat, red necked, red armed, and red faced matron, who does very well as the stately Lady Macbeth, but makes a ridiculous figure as the "gentle Desdemona" or "lovely Ophelia". Her neck is as fat and red as a pulpit cushion, and the last time we sat in the box next to the stage, I had a full view of her, and in the most exciting parts, her complexion became so pitiably suffused, that I could not bear to look at her. The witch scenes were admirably got up, and when dancing about the "cauldron of hell-broth," one of the horrid creatures, puts in some terrible contribution, and enjoins it "to make the gruel thick & slab", I could not help thinking of poor Herman, who made it a favorite quotation, and talked about the "pilot's thumb, wrecked as homeward he did come", "eye of newt, toe of frog", &c.

The Witches in Macbeth
Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps (1803-1860)
Image Credit: The Wallace Collection

Mrs Curtis is a very sweet woman, and her husband is so intelligent & agreeable, that I quite like to go there. Aunt Scollay is very kind to me, and so is Miss Catharine. They are a delightful family.

Macready has a companion, a Mr. Ryder of Drury Lane, London, who takes the second characters. As MacDuff in the last scene, he and Macready go through a fencing match, and the former runs the latter his sword most furiously--under the latters arm, and deals him his deathblow. It is a most thrilling affair, and I was glad when the curtain dropped and my wearied eyes had rest. In the box opposite to us sat the Minots & Miss Sedgwick, who had arrived that afternoon. After the play, "Fanny Jones", a famous danseuse, who was attached to the Tremont Theatre came out upon the stage, danced one of Fanny Ellsler's dances, and beautifully, too, she took lessons of the "divine Fanny", when she was here. And she is grace itself. "Though 'sooth to say", now that my curiosity has been gratified, I never desire to see another public dancer, for it is most certainly an unfeminine display and I blushed for my sex, when I saw her with petticoats so brief, that they scarcely covered her knees, performing all kind of impossible feats and capers, for the amusement of a pit crowded with men, and the boxes with gaping spectators. Now dear Gus, I must stop for I have promised Lizzie a small space, and all the rest of my news I must postpone until the next letter. Guert says he is going to Waterford in about a week and will take my commands. I received a long letter from Gansevoort last week, & answered it immediately as he desired. All our Aunts send love to Mama & the girls, and believe me dear Gus, with love to dear Mama and all at home your own loving and devoted sister


 My dear Gus,

I can only add a few lines to Helens already lengthened epistle to inform you of the universal propriety & decorum with which she conducts herself, to the admiration of all beholders, except myself, and I laugh in my sleeve whenever mother holds her up as a pattern which I am to endeavor to imitate, for I think to myself it is easy enough to be a pattern when you have no temptation to do evil. Oh dear! Helen has not left me half room enough. With love to all believe me yours with Love, Lizzie. 

My letters are terribly egotistical, but I somehow cannot help it. Give my love to Mr. Peebles and the Knickerbackers, and Mrs. Ives. Tell dear Mother I will write to her next.

I have half a thousand calls to return to day, so excuse the haste with which this is written.

* * * 

Letter from Helen Melville to Augusta Melville - November 27, 1843 - page 3 of 4
via NYPL Digital Collections

Related posts:

  • Pantomime with mock pier mirrors seen by Helen Melville at the Boston Museum

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Charles Cromwell Ingham, "the portrait painter" Herman's sister Helen Melville met in Lenox

Ingham not Inman was "the portrait painter" Helen Melville met in September 1841, socializing with Lemuel Shaw and family in Lenox, Berkshire County MA. Her and Herman's brother Gansevoort was there too. I liked to imagine Herman somewhere Off Tahiti at the time, but in truth he would not really get there until 1842. In September 1841 when his sister Helen and brother Gansevoort were at Lenox enjoying the company of Sedgwicks, Shaws, and Charles Ingham the portrait painter, Herman was whaling away on the Acushnet, near the equator. Still broad upon the waters of the Pacific Ocean, with a month and more to pass before his ship would reach the Galรกpagos Islands. 

Charles Cromwell Ingham, ca. 1860.
Macbeth Gallery records, 1947-1948. Archives of American Art,
Smithsonian Institution

Herman's sister Helen Melville, writing from Lansingburgh, New York to Augusta Melville (then in Bath, a town in Steuben County, New York) on October 10, 1841:
"... Here is almost the end of my third page, and not a word has been said about my weeks visit to the East, the only thing that has broken in upon the monotony of my existence since the early Spring. We had a delightful time. Miss Sedgwick was staying there too, and then at ... hotel were all the Judges, (it being court week) all of ... most delightful companions. Judge Shaw & his dear lady wife, were most affectionate indeed to me. I could scarcely credit that persons comparatively strangers should take such a warm interest in Gan. & myself. Gan staid at the Hotel, but spent all his evenings with us, and made all together a most delightful coterie, what with the judges, judges ladies, Miss S. & Mr. Ingham the portrait painter, who was on a professional visit there. Mrs Shaw insists upon my making her a long visit this winter in Boston; both herself & husband gave me the most pressing & earnest invitations, & Mama says I may go, if there is any way for me to reach there short of Gan's taking me, which of course should not be thought of."


Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Melville (Griggs), Helen" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1835 - 1863.


Helen Melville would have stayed and socialized with Charles Sedgwick and his wife Elizabeth Sedgwick, Helen's former teacher. I suppose "Miss Sedgwick" must be Catharine Maria Sedgwick the famous novelist who definitely was in Lenox at that time, September 1841. Charles Ingham had painted the portrait of C. M. Sedgwick many years before. 

Who then is "Miss S."? Melville biographers readily identify her as Miss Elizabeth Knapp Shaw, Helen's future sister-in-law. Other candidates possibly worth considering would be the aforementioned authoress Catharine Maria Sedgwick; or Helen's then-unmarried friend Kate aka "Kitty," Katharine Sedgwick Minot (daughter of Charles Sedgwick and Elizabeth Buckminster Dwight Sedgwick); or another, evidently older "Miss Shaw" in the Shaw household, mentioned twice in Helen's letter to Augusta from Boston dated November 27, 1843. 

Hershel Parker gives the fullest treatment of Helen Melville's 1841 interactions with the Shaw family in Herman Melville: A Biography Volume 1, 1819-1851 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996). Parker's excerpt from Helen's letter of October 10, 1841 to Augusta appears on page 301. As can be seen above in the image from Helen's letter in the Augusta Melville papers, now accessible via NYPL Digital Collections, Charles Ingham not Henry Inman was "the portrait painter" then making "a professional visit" to the Sedgwicks in Lenox. Attending closely to Helen's experience of Boston theatricals and tableaux vivants during her extended visits to Boston in 1842-3, John Bryant makes good use of Helen's later letters to Augusta in the second volume of Herman Melville: A Half Known Life (Wiley Blackwell, 2021) at pages 1135-1144. 

Related posts:

  • Pantomime with mock pier mirrors seen by Helen Melville at the Boston Museum

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

W. H. Bartlett's FOOTSTEPS OF OUR LORD AND HIS APOSTLES from the library of Herman Melville

Footsteps of Our Lord & His Apostles, Title-page with
engraving, "The Holy Sycamore"  © The Trustees of the British Museum

Looks like another illustrated book of travel and adventure in the Middle East by William Henry Bartlett can be added to the three already listed in the catalog of books owned and borrowed by Herman Melville at Melville's Marginalia Online. Merton M. Sealts, Jr. included three of Bartlett's works in Melville's Reading: A Check-List of Books Owned and Borrowed (University of Wisconsin Press, 1966; Revised and Enlarged Edition, University of South Carolina Press, 1988):

  • Forty Days in the Desert, on the Track of the Israelites (Sealts Number 48)
  • The Nile-Boat; or, Glimpses of the Land of Egypt (Sealts Number 49)
  • Walks about the City and Environs of Jerusalem (Sealts Number 50)

Melville mined each of these works in the writing of his epic religious poem Clarel (1876) as demonstrated by Walter E. Bezanson in the 1960 Hendricks House edition of Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land; and Dorothee Metlitsky Finkelstein in Melville's Orienda (Yale University Press, 1961). Bartlett's works and the groundbreaking scholarship on Melville's use of them by Bezanson and Metlitsky Finkelstein are duly registered by Mary  K. Bercaw in Melville's Sources (Northwestern University Press, 1987).

A fourth title by Bartlett, Footsteps of Our Lord and His Apostles in Syria, Greece, and Italy, was offered by rare book dealer Noah Farnham Morrison (1863-1950) of Elizabeth, New Jersey in his 1926 Catalog of Miscellaneous Literature No. 209, listed there on page 12. 

Noah Farnham Morrison, Catalog No. 209 - 1926

2257. BARTLETT (W. H.). Footsteps of our Lord and his apostles. 12mo, pp. 248, morocco, map and ills., gilt edges. N. Y., n. d. 3.50
From the library  of Herman Melville.

As indicated in Morrison's catalog description, this particular copy was a New York edition with no date given, acquired "From the library of Herman Melville." Price: $3.50, minus the 25% discount on all items in Catalog No. 209, as stipulated on the front cover. Morrison explained, 

"I am specializing in Americana and need the room for that stock."

The proprietor of "The Ark" aka "The Sign of the Ark" or "Noah's Ark" in Elizabeth, NJ had a longstanding interest in Melville's own writings, as shown by his advertisement in the Books Wanted section of Publishers' Weekly No. 1209, March 30, 1895. Based at that time in Newark, Noah Farnham Morrison was seeking 

"Herman Melville's Works, any, state publisher and date." (page 540)

Noah Farnham Morrison retired in 1943 and died on October 4, 1950 at the age of 87. From the notice of his passing in the Antiquarian Bookman:

"A specialist in Americana, he had opened his first book store in Newark in 1893. For over 40 years his Elizabeth store, Noah's Ark, was famous on West Jersey Street, until he retired in 1943. His stock of Americana was sold in six sessions by Swann's Auction Galleries in 1945-6."
Detail, front cover of Morrison's Catalog Number 216 - 1927

The full title of Bartlett's work is Footsteps of Our Lord and His apostles in Syria, Greece, and Italy: a succession of visits to the scenes of New Testament narrative. In his Catalog Number 209, Morrison gave the short title of Melville's copy as Footsteps of Our Lord and his apostles, without specifying the edition or publisher. However, Morrison did note the place of publication, N. Y. = New York, and the absence of a publication date on the title-page. Similarly, Melville's copies of Forty Days in the Desert (Sealts Number 48) and The Nile-Boat (Sealts Number 49) were also American editions, published in New York with no date indicated on the title-pages. Both volumes owned by Melville, Forty Days in the Desert and The Nile-Boat, were Fifth Editions published in New York by Charles Scribner and Company. Although Melville's copy of Bartlett's Footsteps of our Lord is now lost or (more hopefully) unlocated, it may have been Scribner's 5th edition. 

All three titles were advertised together by Scribner & Company. Bartlett's popular works headed the list of "SUPERBLY ILLUSTRATED ENGLISH BOOKS FOR THE HOLIDAYS, 1865-6" in the American Literary Gazette and Publishers' Circular (Philadelphia, PA) for November 1, 1865. Listed first: Footsteps of Our Lord and his Apostles in Syria, Greece, and Italy: a succession of visits to the scenes of New Testament Narrative featuring "47 exquisite Illustrations on steel and wood." 

As advertised in the Philadelphia American Literary Gazette, these holiday gift books were "Crown 8vo" in size which would make them smaller than the usual octavo--possibly close to the 12mo or duodecimo size of the book from Melville's library according to Noah Farnham Morrison. The advertised price of each volume in "Cloth extra, gilt" was $4, exactly one day's pay for a customs inspector at the Port of New York as Melville officially would become on December 5, 1866. As described in Morrison's 1926 catalog, Melville's copy of Footsteps of our Lord and His Apostles was bound in morocco leather which normally would have upped the purchase price by about two dollars.

Melville could have acquired the Footsteps volume when the 5th edition was issued for the holidays by Scribner and Company in 1865-6, or later. As indicated by Sealts in Melville's Reading, Melville's Forty Days in the Desert (like Footsteps in the 1865 ad shown above, a Fifth Edition published in New York by Scribner) was inscribed by Melville in New York City on January 31, 1870.

Melville's other copies of Bartlett's works are held by the New York Public Library in the Gansevoort-Lansing collection. Arranged by Sealts Number, the two Scribner editions, Forty Days in the Desert (Sealts 48) and The Nile-Boat (Sealts 49) are located in the Gansevoort-Lansing family library, box 329. As recorded in the relevant catalog entries at Melville's Marginalia Online, these two volumes were given by Melville's daughter Frances to Caroline W. Stewart. Sealts Number 50, the London edition of Bartlett's Walks about the City and Environs of Jerusalem, was a Christmas gift from Herman to his wife Elizabeth Melville. Also located in the New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division, Gansevoort-Lansing Box 329 according to the catalog entry at Melville's Marginalia Online.

Not Melville's actual book but still a boon to researchers, Scribner's undated Fifth Edition of Footsteps of our Lord and His Apostles by William Henry Bartlett is also at The New York Public Library, now located in the Schwarzman Building M2 - General Research Room 315. I checked, it has the same number of pages, 248, as the one at Noah's Ark. Google-digitized images from the physical volume at NYPL are available online courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library:

Possibly Melville borrowed something in Clarel (and perhaps in other writings) from somewhere in Bartlett's Footsteps of Our Lord and His Apostles. What remains to be seen. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Melville declines 1864 invitation from Ticknor and Fields to contribute one of his "stories" for "the magazine," probably OUR YOUNG FOLKS

Writing for "Our Young Folks"
An original portrait of Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe at Home
via NYPL Digital Collections

Here is something I found the other day in the online archives of HathiTrust Digital Library. The catalog of the American Art Association in which this newly discovered item appeared was only digitized from the volume at the New York Public Library in September 2022.

A signed letter dated October 25, 1864 from Herman Melville to Boston publishers Ticknor and Fields was offered at auction in April 1926 with Melville's copy of Matthew Arnold's Poems (Sealts Number 21). Melville's marked and annotated volume of Arnold's Poems has been held by the Berkshire Athenaeum since 1972, donated by Henry Murray. Images from Melville's copy are available in the digital edition of Arnold's Poems produced by Melville's Marginalia Online. The documentary note there alludes to the uncertain provenance of the Poems volume, before Murray had it, but does not mention any Melville letter in connection with it. The 1864 letter to Ticknor and Fields does not appear in the 1993 Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Melville's Correspondence, edited by Lynn Horth; and it is not included in the recent update by John M. J. Gretchko, 

"Twenty-three Melville Letters That Have Appeared Since 1993: An Addendum to the Correspondence Volume." Leviathan, vol. 26 no. 1, 2024, p. 66-82. Project MUSE

In April 1926 Melville's copy of Matthew Arnold's Poems was offered by the American Art Association along with a "splendid set" of the London Constable edition of The Works of Herman Melville, from the private collection of Victor Thrane.

American Art Association
Catalogues of Sales, chiefly of private collections - April 14-15, 1926

Sold together, Melville's copy of Arnold's Poems and the 1864 letter to Ticknor and Fields fetched $50, as confirmed in American Book-Prices Current (New York, 1926) and Book-Prices Current Volume 40 (London, 1926) page 43. Below, the description of the Melville letter as it appeared in the 1926 catalog of the American Art Association:

Accompanying the above is an Autograph Letter signed by Herman Melville, one page 12mo, New York, October 25, 1864. Addressed to Ticknor and Field[s], the publishers, reading,--

"I hardly think I have any stories by me which would exactly suit the magazine, otherwise it would give me pleasure to comply with your request."
Italics in the catalog description are used conventionally to highlight matter that is being quoted and most likely do not represent any extra emphasis by Melville in the original letter.

Evidently Melville had received an invitation from Ticknor and Fields (the firm; co-founder William D. Ticknor died in April 1864) to submit one of his short fictions or "stories" for publication in "the magazine." Without saying which magazine, Melville politely declined on the grounds that he did not have anything suitable to contribute. Since November 1859 Ticknor and Fields had published the Atlantic Monthly. Melville was listed as a future contributor back when Phillips, Sampson & Co. published the Atlantic, so conceivably the Boston firm had merely renewed an old request. However, the more likely object just then would have been to solicit contributions from well-known authors for the new monthly magazine announced as forthcoming in the Boston Evening Transcript, only a few days before Melville made his polite refusal. 
Boston Evening Transcript - October 24, 1864
Titled Our Young Folks the new magazine would be edited by John Townsend Trowbridge and Gail Hamilton, "two of America's most popular authors, a gentleman and lady whose names will be a guaranty of excellence." In the first issue Captain Mayne Reid began a serialized tale of adventure in which the heroes have to navigate a flooded South American rainforest, titled Afloat in the Forest: Or, A Voyage in the Tree-Tops. Reid's piece would seem to be the kind of thing the publishers had hoped to coax out of Melville.
Boston Evening Transcript - October 22, 1864
From the Boston EVENING TRANSCRIPT of Saturday, October 22, 1864:
ILLUSTRATED MAGAZINE FOR THE YOUNG FOLKS. The publishers of the Atlantic Monthly, Messrs. Ticknor & Fields, will issue in a few weeks the first number of a new Magazine for Boys and Girls, which will be a work of sterling worth. The editors are two of America's most popular authors, a gentleman and lady whose names will be a guarantee of excellence. Among the contributors who have been secured for the early numbers, and who will continue to write regularly, are Captain Mayne Reid, who leads off with a new story of adventure; J. T. Trowbridge, who will write in every issue; Mrs. H. B. Stowe; Gail Hamilton; Dio Lewis; Lucy Larcom; "Carleton"; John G. Whittier; the author of " Dream Children"; the author of "Faith Gartney's Girlhood"; the author of the " Lamplighter"; Miss Alcott; "Edmund Kirke"; Aunt Fanny; the author of "Ten Acres Enough"; and Mrs. L. M. Child. The department of Natural History will be ably represented by Mr. and Mrs. Agassiz, who will supply for every number during the year a paper with illustrations. Many of the most prominent contributors to the Atlantic Monthly, in prose and verse, will write regularly for the new Juvenile monthly, the name of which, we understand, is to be "Our Young Folks; an Illustrated Magazine for Boys and Girls." Under such peculiar auspices the work announced cannot fail to have a welcome reception and a permanent success throughout the country. The enterprise could not be in better hands.

Friday, May 10, 2024

Examples of polite slanging in Hoadley's "Destiny"

Writing to his wife from Pittsfield MA on August 8, 1851, Evert A. Duyckinck thus described the poem Herman Melville had recited "with emphasis" the day before to a group of summer excursionists, in the loft of a Berkshire barn:

Mrs M had a poet in the company and his poem too a stout MSS of heroic measure, a glorification of the United States in particular with a polite slanging of all other nations in general. The English lady in the straw was not particularly complimented as to her native country in sounding lines which H M read with emphasis (interrupting the flattered author who sat thoughtful on a hay tuft--with such phrases as "great glorious" "By Jove, that's tremendous" &c)--but perhaps the most noticeable incident was a gathering of the exiled fowls in a corner who cackled a series of noisy resolutions, levelled at the party. "Turn em out!" was the cry. The author impelled by the honor of his poem charged fearlessly, scattered the critics of the pit, clasping the most obstinate bodily and "rushing" her a rapid descent below." 
-- as transcribed by Steven Olsen-Smith in Melville in His Own Time (University of Iowa Press, 2015) at pages xvii and 57-58, from original letters of Evert A. Duyckinck to Margaret Panton Duyckinck in the Duyckinck family papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. First published in Luther Stearns Mansfield, Glimpses of Herman Melville's Life in Pittsfield, 1850-1851: Some Unpublished Letters of Evert A. Duyckinck, American Literature Volume 9 (March 1937) pages 26-48 at 39-40. Accessible via JSTOR, Olsen-Smith corrected Mansfield's misreading "cuties of the pit" to "critics of the pit." 

Unnamed by Duyckinck, the "flattered" writer and doughty chicken wrangler must have been John Chipman Hoadley (1818-1886), the engineer-poet who in time would become Melville's brother-in-law and best of friends. Hoadley's patriotic epic in heroic measure ( = iambic pentameter) was titled "Destiny." All 648 lines of which, plus endnotes, survive in manuscript at NYPL. Citation:

Gansevoort-Lansing collection. Manuscripts and Archives Division. The New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations. 

"Destiny" is transcribed in full on Melvilliana, here  
In the first volume of The Melville Log (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1951) at page 420, Jay Leyda mistakenly conflated the unnamed poet in Sarah Morewood's tow on August 7th with Joseph Edward Adams Smith (1822-1896), whom Evert Duyckinck did refer to in his next letter home (dated August 9, 1851) as "one Smith known as 'the mad poet'." The later reference concerned Smith's authorship of a recent article in the Boston Evening Transcript (August 7, 1851) titled "A Petit Fancy Dress Party in Berkshire." Signed "Miantonomah," the article reported on a recent masquerade hosted by the Morewoods at Broad Hall. Forwarding a clipping of Smith's pseudonymous newspaper account, Duyckinck was able to give his wife the inside scoop on who wrote it.

But Sarah Morewood enjoyed the company of more than one Pittsfield poet. In public, she and Hoadley had already been linked as lyricists. In September 1850 the formal dedication of the new Pittsfield Cemetery had featured the singing of "Original odes by John C. Hoadley, Mrs. Emily P. Dodge, and Mrs. J. R. Morewood," as duly documented by J. E. A. Smith himself in the second volume of his History of Pittsfield (1876) on page 605. And duly recorded by Leyda in the 1850 section of the Melville Log. In the 1851 section of the Log, however, perhaps exclusively focused on Duyckinck's recognition of J. E. A. Smith as the "mad poet'" of Pittsfield, Leyda seems to have reprinted the closest thing he could find in the way of patriotic verse by Smith, a stanza from the ballad "On Onota's Graceful Shore" as collected in the 1896 volume Souvenir Verse and Story. On closer inspection, however, none of the essential details that Duyckinck gave about the form and content of the poem Melville read aloud can fairly be said to describe Smith's poem. "On Onota's Graceful Shore" is a ballad of 11 stanzas, in all comprising 88 lines of iambic tetrameter. Duyckinck specified they were "sounding lines" of "heroic measure," meaning pentameter. As Duyckinck described it, the poem Melville read was a long one, with enough lines of verse to make a "stout" manuscript. Hoadley's "Destiny" has the requisite length (648 lines neatly written out in a bound volume of 53 pages); Smith's ballad does not. "On Onota's Graceful Shore" offers a modest, frequently wistful tribute to the memory of local hero David Noble and his courageous actions during the American Revolution. The scope in Smith's poem is decidedly regional and the overall tone, elegiac. Duyckinck specified a bolder and far more comprehensive theme, "glorification of the United States." 

Documentary evidence of "Melville's hearty praises" for Hoadley's ambitious "national poem" is provided in the letter from Pittsfield that Hoadley wrote on September 9, 1851 to Evert A. Duyckinck in New York City. Now in the Duyckinck family papers and accessible via The New York Public Library Digital Collections, Hoadley's 1851 letter to Duyckinck is not recorded in Jay Leyda's Melville Log or Hershel Parker's biography


Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Hoadley, John Chipman (1818-1886)" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1851.

Besides being "a glorification of the United States," in the words of Evert Duyckinck, the poem that Melville read aloud in August 1851 also meted out "a polite slanging of all other nations." Below are some examples from Hoadley's national poem of what Duyckinck probably meant by "slanging" directed at other countries. Hoadley's "Destiny" has lots of slanging; Smith's ballad little to none--certainly none that would have bothered any of Melville's auditors. Evert Duyckinck thought "the English lady" in attendance had good reason to be offended by criticism of her native country in the patriotic verses Melville read aloud. While accurate in the case of "Destiny," Duyckinck's claim that England "was not particularly complimented" is not true of "On Onota's Graceful Shore," where "English barons" turned Crusaders are expressly exalted by Smith as models of gallantry for selling their lands to finance military expeditions to the Holy Land:
"To wrench from Moslem rule the sod
Where once the Savior's feet had trod."  -- J. E. A. Smith,  On Onota's Graceful Shore

Polite slanging of other nations in "Destiny"


Who saith “My Country,” neath Italian skies,
Bids scenes of faded mouldering grandeur round him rise!
Who speaks the word among the Grecian isles,
Grey heaps of gorgeous ruins round him piles;
Who breathes the tone upon Hispania’s shore,
Evokes the ghosts of glories known no more!
Who dared to lisp the sound on Poland’s plains,
Would pour her life-blood through his ebbing veins;
Who called fair Hungary by the sacred name,
But furrowed fields of new-made graves could claim! --lines 39-48


Gaunt, blue-lipped famine gnawing at her heart,
Her workhouse peopling faster than her mart,
The proud possessions of her princeliest Peers
The peaceful prey of plebian auctioneers,
The angile hate of Cambrian, Saxon, Celt,
Hardened in fires where hearts of stone would melt,
Her vast dominions bound by force alone
To the frail pillars of her crumbling throne.
Infatuate England sees a healthful blush
In wan consumptive’s grave-foretelling flush,
While pride and famine share her vaunted home,
And her vast Empire crumbles to its doom! -- lines 65-76


Ireland! thou paradox, ne’er understood!
Spendthrift of genius, prodigal of blood,
Lighting all histories with immortal deeds,
Propping all empires, championing all creeds;
Thou modern Hercules! thou faith of the engineer,
Who in thy name bids mountains disappear;
Pouring thy blood and sweat on every soil,
Thou Greek of glory, and thou Swiss of toil!
Mean E’en Meanwhile thy sword and spade enrich the earth,
Thou sitt’st a beggar, at a rayless hearth! --lines 431-440


The Empire rises from the Consulate
And madly marches to its mournful fate;
And all her eddying revolutions reel
Like circling fires on pyrotechnist’s wheel.
While the vain torch that fain would linger there,
Rests, the burnt socket, or is blown in air!
Yet, gallant France! Until our tongues forget
To name [MS query: speak?] with love the name of La Fayette,
Thy weal must bid our warmest pulses start,
Nor e’en thy errors chill our grateful heart.
Believe, and hope! No longer fooled or fleeced
By purblind philosophe, or prating priest,
Attain the sacred mean, a reasoning faith,
In life to govern, to sustain in death. -- lines 101-114


When the staid German sings of Fatherland,
Behold a living chessboard’s living maze expand,
Where knight and castle, bishop, King and Queen,
No idle semblance, throng the chequered scene,
And the brown hind, in twofold column drawn,
Stands the true symbol of the patient pawn.
A common language, interest, and fate,
Bid the torn fragments bind form the blended state;
The narrow passions of ignoble lords,
Loose the silk tendrils of encircling cords.
The wants of commerce and the arts of peace,
Bid the harsh jangling of her rulers cease;
A base ambition, with its hireling hordes,
Beats the perverted ploughshares into swords.
So thick her ruined castles crown her crags,
So thick heraldic monsters crowd her flags,
So thick feudality’s uncouth remains
Strew with their fossil bones her fertile plains. 
Her wrinkled brow is seamed so thick with scars,
Ghastly memorials of unnatural wars;
So deep the roots of envious hate are set,
So well she treasures all she should forget,
That reason, interest, honor, plead strive in vain.
To weld the links of union’s golden chain!  --lines 121-144


From the dark realms of winter’s frozen lair,
Clad in the furs that wrapped his brother bear,
With falchion gleaming o’er the west afar,
Stalks the grim subject of the iron Czar:
Chief of the races whose vainglorious name 
Stands in their language synonym of fame,
But taught by contact with a race more brave,
Sums all debasement in the name of slave.
Noble or serf, alike his monarch’s thrall,
The subject nothing, and the sovereign all,
The feeblest fraction of this unit state
Treads with the pride of conscious power elate,
For the red star that lights his country’s way,
Tracks flying empire o’er the path of day!
His armies vaster than the Persian hosts,
 Skilled in the arts that modern warfare boasts,
His coffers bursting with the precious ore
Dug from his mountains’ unexhausted store,
With no weak counsels, no divided will,
Terrific Russia stands sublimely still.
O’er Europe’s vales the avalanche impends,
A voice disturbs it, crashing it descends!
And in its track a buried Hungary shows
The fate of nations ‘neath its thundering snows.  -lines 145-168

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Monday, May 6, 2024

Why "On Onota's Graceful Shore" can't be the poem Melville read aloud in August 1851

Jay Leyda, The Melville Log Vol. 1 (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1951) page 420

A digitized version of J. E. A. Smith's "On Onota's Graceful Shore" in the 1896 volume Souvenir Verse and Story is accessible via the Library of Congress. Image 30 of Souvenir verse and story : memorial of fifty years | Library of Congress

Read it closely and see, "On Onota's Graceful Shore" can't have been the poem Melville recited in the rafters of a barn on August 7, 1851. How so? Because nothing about it fits the description of form (epic, long, taking up a "stout" manuscript), content (ultra patriotic "glorification of the United States" with "polite slanging of all other nations") and meter ("heroic measure" = iambic pentameter) that Evert Duyckinck gave in a letter to his wife. Duyckinck had seen and heard Melville's performance in the loft with a group of summer excursionists. In giving the details to his wife, Duyckinck provided a sample of the favorable commentary that Melville had delivered in the form of affirming interjections like "great," "glorious," and "By Jove that's tremendous." As Duyckinck also reported, the "flattered" poet was there, too, listening to Melville's reading and dramatic asides while sitting "thoughtful on a hay tuft."
Smith's poem is a ballad of only 88 lines in mostly iambic tetrameter, remembering local hero David Noble and his brave, selfless actions during the American Revolution. 

The long poem in "heroic measure" glorifying the United States that Herman Melville read from with enthusiasm in August 1851 was "Destiny." Recently composed by Melville's future brother-in-law John Chipman Hoadley. 

Destiny. A Poem By John C. Hoadley. 1851
Gansevoort-Lansing collection. Manuscripts and Archives Division.
The New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.

Transcribed here from the manuscript in the Gansevoort-Lansing collection at NYPL:
Hoadley felt encouraged by "Melville's hearty praises" for his unpublished "national poem," as he wrote Evert Duyckinck from Pittsfield MA on September 9, 1851.

Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Hoadley, John Chipman (1818-1886)" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1851.

Once again, John C. Hoadley not Joseph Edward Adams Smith was the "flattered author" of the poem Herman Melville recited aloud in the loft of a Berkshire barn on August 7, 1851. With gusto, as evidenced in dramatic asides like "great," "glorious," and "By Jove that's tremendous!"

United States National Flag 1851-1858
via The New York State Military Museum

So what?

  1. So Jay Leyda ID'd the wrong guy and wrong poem in The Melville Log Vol. 1 (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1951) page 420, as did Merton M. Sealts, Jr. in The Early Lives of Melville (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1974) pages 29-30; and Hershel Parker after them. (Nobody's perfect!)
  2. So prosody is a thing. And meter matters every now and then. Score it New Critics 1, Melville Biographers 0
  3. So Herman Melville the great American writer was a great American patriot as well. In his prime, finally done with writing THE WHALE, Melville extolled a glorification of the United States in epic verse composed by his fellow citizen and townsman, and future brother-in-law.
  4. So Melville openly practiced what he had preached in the guise of A Virginian Spending July in Vermont: "Let America, then, prize and cherish her writers; yea, let her glorify them."
  5. So Hoadley was the "thoughtful sensible man" (Duyckinck's impression before learning his name) who afterwards guided the group to Ashley Pond. That the poet turned out to be so competent a "pilot" on the trip there makes a lot more sense now. Besides being an ambitious versifier and soon-to-be suitor, John Chipman Hoadley was an engineer and local expert on the water-works committee. Considering his well-documented civic and professional interest in the acquisition of Ashley Pond aka Lake Ashley as a potential water supply for the village of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, it's safe to say that Hoadley knew the way to Ashley Pond better than anybody.
  6. So Melville came to know Hoadley even earlier than previously thought.
  7. So let's give J. E. A. Smith a break and Melville, too. Smith only ever intended his ballad "On Onota's Graceful Shore" for a humble tribute or "souvenir" to the memory of farmer-soldier David Noble and his gallant deeds. This and all the fugitive pieces collected in Souvenir Verse and Story (1896) were offered mainly as "mementos of the past." Melville's vocal bursts of approval ("Great" "Glorious" "By Jove that's tremendous") would have sounded pretty weird and disrespectful if uttered after any of the 88 tetrameters that comprise Smith's modest ballad. Confronting the inaptness of Melville's recorded comments when applied to such "dreary poetry" as "Onota's Graceful Shore," Hershel Parker not unreasonably figured Melville must have been joking. "Deftly managing not to let Smith gain an inkling that he was being satirized," as Parker has it in Melville: The Making of the Poet (Northwestern University Press, 2008) page 28; reprinted in his Historical Note for the 2009 Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Published Poems, edited by Robert C. Ryan, Harrison Hayford, Alma MacDougall Reising and G. Thomas Tanselle. Happily, however, the author of Mardi: and a Voyage Thither was not really inclined to put down the work of Joseph Edward Adams Smith or any less gifted writer in front of gathered neighbors and friends. By contrast, Hoadley's national poem in manuscript presented a different order of composition--not a song but a symphony had been at least attempted. Whatever its artistic merit, the completion of any work that ambitious and patriotic deserved respect. Evidently Melville gave "Destiny" its due, and then some. His comments, however extravagant or over-the-top they may sound now, were supportive and sincerely made. That Hoadley felt encouraged by "Melville's hearty praises" we know for certain, as he testified in his letter to Duyckinck on September 9, 1851, little more than a month after Melville's dramatic reading in the barn loft. Jay Leyda did not miss much of importance in the Duyckinck family papers at NYPL, but apparently he never ran into Hoadley's letter in the Literary Correspondence of Evert A. and George L. Duyckinck. It's not down in the 1951 Melville Log (Harcourt, Brace and World) or the 1969 reprint by Gordian Press with additional material. Or any Log-based biography, yet.

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