Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Melville's "Athenian admirer" quoted in Cincinnati

On the day of Herman Melville's lecture on "Statues in Rome" (Tuesday, February 2, 1858) the Cincinnati Daily Commercial promoted it with a column mostly devoted to effusive praise for Melville's books, including Moby-Dick, by an unidentified "Athenian admirer." By "Athenian" I take the Cincinnati editor to mean a fellow newspaper editor, journalist, or correspondent from Athens, Ohio. The article was excerpted by Jay Leyda in The Melville Log, Volume 2, leaving out some good parts about Fayaway, Omoo, and Mardi. Found on NewspaperArchive and transcribed in full below, the original event teaser as it appeared in the Cincinnati Daily Commercial on February 2, 1858: 

Cincinnati Daily Commercial
February 2, 1858

"STATUES IN ROME." -- Herman Melville, "who," said an enthusiastic Athenian admirer of his beautiful writings-- "entranced the American public by the freshness and mellow style of his South Sea adventures in the coral islanded world; who made the name of Fayaway a synonyme for native grace; who roamed and sailed and laughed with Doctor Long Ghost of Omoo memory; who drew his moonlit, mystic picture of Mardi, through which as through a mist-like atmosphere float the forms of Yillah, the shadowy maiden, Yoomy the equally shadowy poet, Babbalanja the dreaming philosopher with his flexible cloud-wreath pipe, 'and others more'--very nomines umbra--shadows of a shade; who dazed us still more with the white gleam of Moby Dick, through whose five hundred weird pages 'all thoughts, all passions, feelings and delights,' chase each other 'like shadows o'er the plain'--and in whom we have the wildest and strangest mysticism, mingled with the frankest and freshest common sense and practical knowledge of the world and its ways, and the truest, most genuine American Democratic feeling"--will appear to-night before a Cincinnati audience to discourse in the lectorium (Smith & Nixon's Hall,) of the Young Men's Mercantile Library Association upon the Statuary of Rome. Mr. Melville's lectures are said to be admirably written, but none of our exchanges discourse upon the style of his delivery. If he would avoid the objection usually urged against our lecturers, he will speak distinctly, and with animation, that all may hear. The public is extremely desirous to see and hear Mr. Melville, and anticipate a rich literary repast this evening.

In commending Moby-Dick the Athenian quotes from the opening stanza of Love by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, alternatively titled Love; or, Genevieve

All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.

and Psalm 39 Part 2 as given in a popular hymn by Isaac Watts: 

See the vain race of mortals move
Like shadows o'er the plain,
They rage and strive, desire and love,
But all their noise is vain. -- Psalms and Hymns of Dr. Watts

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Melvilliana: Clement C. Moore's published letter on his authors...

Seven years ago today in the microfilm reading room at NYPL I found the published letter from Clement C. Moore affirming his authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" ("'Twas the night before Christmas"). Writing on Feb. 27, 1844 to the editor of the New York American, Moore explained that he wrote the Christmas poem "not for publication, but to amuse my children." 

Melvilliana: Clement C. Moore's published letter on his authorship...: Good news at The New York Public Library ! Yesterday on microfilm (*ZY 86-140 Reel 17 Mar 1-Dec 28, 1844) of the New York American...

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Found! Cincinnati DAILY TIMES review of Melville's 1858 "Statues in Rome" lecture

In Melville as Lecturer (Harvard University Press, 1957) Merton M. Sealts, Jr. presented reading texts of Herman Melville's three lectures from 1857 to 1860 on "Statues in Rome," "The South Seas," and "Traveling," reconstructed from accounts in 19th century newspapers. On February 2, 1858 between gigs in Clarksville, Tennessee and Chillicothe, Ohio, Melville spoke for almost two hours at Smith and Nixon's Hall in Cincinnati, Ohio on "Statues in Rome." The Queen City treated Melville well. Three different Cincinnati newspapers reviewed Melville's talk on Roman statuary the day after he gave it, as documented by Sealts in a footnote (#29 on page 41) to his chapter on "The First Lecture Season": 
  1. Cincinnati Daily Commercial
  2. Cincinnati Daily Gazette
  3. Cincinnati Enquirer
Sealts named a 4th newspaper that "may likewise have carried a review of the lecture," the Cincinnati Daily Times. Lost, apparently, since the one known file of the Daily Times did not contain the February 3, 1858 issue, according to his consultant at the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio. 

Despite minor criticism, for instance of the speaker's occasionally "monotonous" delivery, the three known reviews of Melville's "Statues in Rome" lecture were unusually substantial and positive. Indeed, Melville's reception was so favorable that Sealts regarded the "Cincinnati engagement" as perhaps "his most successful performance" during his first tour (1857-8) of the lecture circuit. 

For the Cincinnati performance, only the three reviews located by Sealts thirty years before are listed in editorial notes for "Statues in Rome" in the 1987 Northwestern-Newberry edition of The Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860, edited by Harrison Hayford, Alma A. MacDougall, G. Thomas Tanselle and others, page 724. But Sealts had guessed right about a possible 4th in the Cincinnati Daily Times. As demonstrated herein, the long lost issue of February 3, 1858 does have a substantial review of "Herman Melville's Lecture" of the previous evening on "Statues in Rome." 

Cincinnati Daily Times - February 3, 1858
Found on
As in the Daily Commercial, some of the content borrows from the earlier account in the Boston Daily Courier on December 3, 1857; and others, perhaps. Highlights include a physical description of "The Lecturer" in the opening section and several unique observations and phrases attributed to Melville, including one teasing reference to the lecturer's famous sojourn "in a far off land" where he glimpsed "the figure of a naked girl" who "was in surprise on beholding me." About that "naked girl," the Daily Times reporter possibly misheard, or mis-wrote. No doubt she was unclothed, mostly, but Melville instead may have described the young lady as "native" and was so quoted in the Boston Journal review of December 3, 1857. 

Bust of Tiberius - Rome, Italy Capitoline Museum 

Also worthy of closer examination and further study are some bits on Tiberius that closely correspond to the wording in Melville's 1856-7 Journal of a Visit to Europe and the Levant, more exactly in places than either 19th century newspapers or 20th century reconstructions of Melville's 1857-8 lecture on "Statues in Rome" have ever indicated. One year before, Melville had seen the marble head of Tiberius at the Capitoline Museum in Rome. In his journal entry dated February 26, 1857, Melville wrote: 
"That Tiberius? He don't look so bad at all." -- It was he. A look of sickly evil, -- intellect without manliness, & sadness without goodness.

Journal of a Visit, edited by Howard C. Horsford (Princeton University Press, 1955) page 191; and the 1989 Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Melville's Journals, edited by Howard C. Horsford with Lynn Horth, page 106. 

Except in Montreal, Melville was usually heard to quote the female bystander he had overheard as saying, "He does not look so bad"; thus avoiding the contracted and colloquial don't. Here, however, Tiberius "don't look so bad." This report omits Melville's unspoken reply, as given in other printed accounts of the lecture on Roman statues: "Madam, thought I, if he had looked bad, he could not have been Tiberius." Most impressively, however, only the Cincinnati Daily Times review finds Melville drawing directly from his journal, word-for-word, in the descriptive phrase "intellect without manliness." Words copied from Melville's journal in the Cincinnati Daily Times report are highlighted in the excerpt below:

"That Tyberias!" I heard a lady exclaim in the Vatican: "Why he don't look so bad." Sad and almost pathetic in his pensiveness--he seems to be musing upon the gallantries and miseries of the world--the greatness and littleness of man. The head conveys the idea of a man overpowered by great affections, but more narrowly scanned, it exhibits intellect without manliness--melancholy without pity. Tyberias, was, perhaps, the wickedest man that ever lived.

As readers, our sense of these really being Melville's exact words is encouraged and to some degree heightened by the reporter's giving them in the first person, as in "I heard a lady exclaim...."

One more point of interest that I can't resist noting: Melville's recorded take on the "indomitable will and undying hate" of Satan that he perceived in La caduta degli angeli ribelli or "Fall of the Rebel Angels" by Agostino Fasolato, then at the Palazzo Pappafava in Padua.

Lucifer and his companions cast down from Heaven may be seen in a palace in Padua, while Michael and his hosts bend over them. The face of Satan expresses indomitable will and undying hate. 

Here the expressions "indomitable will" and "undying hate" attributed to Melville effectively paraphrase the "unconquerable Will" and "immortal hate" ascribed to Satan by Milton in the first book of Paradise Lost, lines 106-108:

All is not lost; the unconquerable Will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield.... 

Another Cincinnati listener, as pointed out in Melville as Lecturer (page 138, footnote #18), caught different echoes from the same passage ("revenge" and "never to submit or yield") which Sealts incorporated into his reconstructed text of "Statues in Rome." As Melville reportedly verbalized it in his lecture, the dexterously carved figure of Satan remains "unbroken and defiant, his whole body breathing revenge and his attitude one never to submit or yield." In Milton and Melville (Cooper Square Publishers, 1970) at page 138, Henry F. Pommer had already observed with respect to Fasolato's work of sculpture that Melville "probably confused one of the angels with Satan, who is really at the bottom, in the form of an infernal monster." No matter, it's wonderful to find that between them, the Daily Gazette and Daily Times reviewers captured most of Melville's borrowings from three lines in Book I of Paradise Lost.

As related on page 266 in the History of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (1894) the Cincinnati Daily Times

was founded in 1821 [error for 1841] by Calvin W. Starbuck, as a weekly, when he was but nineteen years of age. He was the fastest type-setter in the West at that time, and being desirous to economise his funds until his enterprise proved self-supporting, he for years set up a great portion of the paper himself, and also assisted in its delivery to subscribers. He was eminently successful as a publisher and business man, and, to use the words of a modern writer, "was great in goodness."
Calvin Washburn Starbuck (1821-1870) still owned the Cincinnati Daily Times when the review of Melville's lecture appeared on February 3, 1858; and he continued to publish the newspaper until his lamentably early death in 1870, not yet 50 years old. Calvin's father John Starbuck 
was an old Nantucket whaler, who, after following the sea for many years, removed to Cincinnati and purchased a residence on the west side of Vine Street, just above Front, where Calvin was born. -- The Biographical Cyclopædia and Portrait Gallery Volume 3 (Cincinnati, 1884) page 743.
Cincinnati Daily Commercial - January 29, 1858

As in the Daily Commercial and other Cincinnati periodicals including Isaac M. Wise's weekly newspaper The Israelite, advertisements appeared in the Daily Times (on January 30, 1858 and February 2, 1858, for example) ahead of Melville's 

"... Lecture before the Young Men's Mercantile Library Association, 

Tuesday Evening, February 2d"

Cincinnati Daily Times - February 2, 1858
Found on
HERMAN MELVILLE, Esq.-- This gentleman will lecture before the Y. M. M. L. Association this evening at Smith & Nixon's Hall. His subject is "The Statues of Rome." --Cincinnati Daily Times, February 2, 1858
The full report of Melville's lecture on February 2nd is transcribed below from the Cincinnati Daily Times of February 3, 1858; found on

Herman Melville's Lecture.


The audience last night, at Smith & Nixon's Hall, taking into consideration the inclemency of the weather, was large--considerably larger than we had anticipated during the day. The seats in the body of the hall were nearly all filled while in the gallery were numbers seated. This "large and respectable audience" to Mr. Melville is highly complimentary, and exhibits the fact that he is known through his works--such as Typee, Omoo, &c.


Herman Melville we should judge to be a man between thirty-eight and forty years of age--rather above the medium size--stoutly and compactly built. His hair is black, short, and inclined to be wiry. His eyes appear to be dark, and are deep-set, giving him the appearance of a thinker. His forehead is neither broad or expansive, but rather low and narrow. He has cultivated whiskers and moustacheos quite extensively, nearly the entire lower portion of his face being covered by those hirsute appendages. Mr. Melville's style is rather agreeable, yet hardly sufficiently animated. His voice is musical and full of feeling, yet sometimes too monotonous. He appears perfectly at home on the rostrum, impressing one with the idea that it is not his "first appearance on any stage."


Mr. Melville commenced his lecture by denying that there was any exclusiveness in art, or rather in its appreciation. Professional artists might employ their technical terms to express their ideas of the beautiful in art, which might be expressed, perhaps, quite as sensibly by others in more homely phrases, who had quite as good appreciation thereof. Flowers could be appreciated by those who were not able to name them, as well as those versed in botanical knowledge. And so creations of Art might be enjoyed by those who are not professional artists. Many refrained from expressing their views in relation to Art, lest they might display their ignorance; but may not the opinions of such, sometimes be set above those of the professed sculptor or artist.

Being neither a critic nor a connoisseur, I have seen fit to introduce my subject, the Sculptures of Rome, with these remarks--a subject which some might suppose belonged exclusively to artists. The approach to Rome by Naples is by the gate of St. John, the first object of attention being the group of colossal figures in stone, surmounting the lofty pediment of St. John Lateran. Standing in every grand or animated attitude, they seem not only to attest that this is the Eternal City, but likewise at its portal, to offer greeting in the name of that great company of statues which, amid the fluctuations of the human census, abides the true and undying population of Rome. It is, indeed, among these mute citizens, and mostly in the Vatican Museum, that the stranger forms his most pleasing and cherished associations. In that grand hall he will not only make new acquaintances, but will likewise revive many long before introduced by the historian. And he will find many deficiencies of the historian supplied by the sculptor, who has effected in part, for the celebrities of old, what the memoir writer of the present day does for modern ones. In viewing the statues and bases of Demosthenes, Titus, Socrates, Caesar, Seneca, Nero, and others, we feel a sense of reality not to be given by history; and although we are at first startled by some of them from our preconceived opinions, yet we seldom, on reflection, fail to concede the general likeness to that which the historian has furnished us. The analysis of the marble coincides with the historian's analysis of the man.

The statue of Demosthenes may be deemed a kind of substitute for his confessions. Titus, who flits across the page of Tacitus, shows forth the character of the man as if the statue were indeed the man.

In the bust of Socrates we might look for wisdom personified, but it has more the appearance of a carnival masque, and might be taken for the head of an Irish tragedian with morals none of the purest, and yet the statue is correct. Socrates, in his earlier days, used to be reproached for his homely aspect. The head of Julius Caesar might be mistaken for that of a President of the Erie railroad. But was not Caesar, after all, as a utilitarian might say, a business man, who took upon himself the business of ruling the world? Seneca looks like a pawn-broker, and he was a userer in his life.

Nero had the appearance of a genteel, dissipated youth--a fast young man, such as may be seen upon the race-track any day. Plato looks as if he had been to the pains of smoothing and parting his hair like a lady. The character of these statues--their faces are familiarly like our own--the features of man have undergone but little change--the vices and the virtues of the ancients were like our own--on just as a gigantic scale, and it is to be hoped that the Heroic tone, like Tyrean dye has not been lost to the world. Nature is similar in all ages.

"That Tyberias!" I heard a lady exclaim in the Vatican: "Why he don't look so bad." Sad and almost pathetic in his pensiveness--he seems to be musing upon the gallantries and miseries of the world--the greatness and littleness of man. The head conveys the idea of a man overpowered by great affections, but more narrowly scanned, it exhibits intellect without manliness--melancholy without pity. Tyberias, was, perhaps, the wickedest man that ever lived.

The statue which most of all in the Vatican excites the admiration of all visitors, is the Apollo. Few speak, or even whisper, when they enter the cabinet where it stands. If one were to try to convey some adequate notion, other than artistic, of a statue which so signally lifts the imaginations of men, he might hint that it gives a kind of visible response to that class of human aspirations, which according to Faith, cannot be truly gratified, except in another world. It is infinitely grander than the Venus di Medici, in Florence, for while she is lovely, he is divine.

The thought of many of these beautiful figures having been pleasing to the Romans, at least persuades us that their violence, as a conquering race, did not engross them, and the flame kindled in most men by nature was at no time in Roman breasts wholly stamped out. When I stood in the Colliseum, its mountain-chains of ruins waving with foliage, girding me round, as in some great green hollow in the Appenine range, the solitude was like that of savage nature; but restoring the shattered arches and terraces, I repeopled them with all the statues from the Vatican, and in the turfy glen of the arena below I placed the fighting Gladiator, from the Louvre, confronting him with the dying-one from the Capitol. And as in my fancy I heard the ruffian huzzas for the first, rebound from the pitiless hiss for the last, I felt that more than one in that host I had evoked shared not in its passions; that some hearts were there that felt the horror keenly as any of us would have felt it.
The Lecturer here alluded to Milton's verse--the polish of which reflected the polish of the marble. Milton's poem was a sort of Vatican done into verse. He passed a portion of his years in Italy and a year subsequent to the finding of the Apollo he resided in Rome. Who can say how much influence these statues had upon the poet?

Lucifer and his companions cast down from Heaven may be seen in a palace in Padua, while Michael and his hosts bend over them. The face of Satan expresses indomitable will and undying hate.

The statue of Venus, in Florence, is not of as pure marble as the Apollo; she is lovely; but he divine. She is no Roman lady--no Caesar's wife--no coquette--no prude--but a child of nature, modest, true, but only as nature dictates. When a captive once, in a far off land, I saw the figure of a naked girl; she was in surprise on beholding me. She assumed the same attitude as the Venus, and nearly the same expression was upon her features. I mention this, to show how truthful to nature were the Grecian Sculptors.

The Laocoon was alluded to, but not at that length we could have wished. An allusion was made to the pastoral gentleness of the sculptors. It showed that violence did not entirely engross the Romans--but even under the Caesars, were not this people ignorant of the letter of Christianity, although they were of its spirit?

The Vatican was described by moonlight in beautiful word-painting, in which the lecturer pre-eminently excels. A fine description was given of the marble steeds, which seemed not made to be bestridden, but as if soaring to the skies like the horses of Elijah. Other statues were alluded to, but the lecturer could not crowd a description of all within an hour.-- Beautiful pictures were given of the villas of Rome, and a description of Pompeii and the luxuriant Diomedes indulged in, the lecturer closing by a general review.

Not the least, perhaps, among these causes which make the Roman museums so impressive is their tranquil air. In chambers stand the images of gods, while in the statues of men, even the vilest, what was corruptible in their originals, here in pure marble, puts on incorruption. In the Roman Vatican, and the Washington Patent Office, the respective characteristics of the ancients and moderns stand contrasted. But is the Locomotive as grand an object as the Laocoon? Does it attest his hurried intelligence? We moderns did invent the printing press, but from the ancients have we not the best thoughts which it circulates? As the Roman arch enters into and sustains our best architecture, does not her spirit still animate and support whatever is soundest in societies and States? Or shall the scheme of Fourier supplant the code of Justinian, only when the novels of Dickens silence the satires of Juvenal? If the Collisseum expresses the durability of Roman ideas, what does the Crystal Palace express? Will the glass of the one bide the hail storms of eighteen centuries as well as the travertine of the other?
"When falls the Colisseum, Rome shall fall,
And when Rome falls, the world."
-- Cincinnati Daily Times, February 3, 1858

Related posts:

Friday, January 19, 2024

More on Thorndike Rice and his 1885 newspaper syndicate

As shown on Melvilliana, the formerly mysterious appearance of Herman Melville's sea-poem "The Admiral of the White" (revised and re-titled The Haglets in his 1888 collection John Marr and Other Sailors) in multiple newspapers on the same day in May 1885 was enabled by Allen Thorndike Rice (1851-1889) and his pioneering though short-lived newspaper syndicate. 

24 May 1889, Fri Public Weekly Opinion (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania)

Early in 1885 the Springfield Massachusetts Daily Republican gave interesting and highly relevant details of Thorndike Rice's ambitious scheme for the "simultaneous publication" of non-fiction articles, short stories ("or novelets") and poems "in the Sunday editions" of involved newspapers, "or where a paper has no Sunday edition, in the weekly." Melville's poem "The Admiral of the White" appeared in the Sunday editions of the Boston Herald, St. Paul MN Pioneer Press, and New York Tribune on May 17, 1885; and the weekly edition of the Cincinnati Star-Times on May 21st. 

Found on and transcribed below.

Springfield Daily Republican 1 of 2
January 5, 1885

Springfield Daily Republican 2 of 2
January 5, 1885

ALLEN THORNDIKE RICE, editor of the North American Review, has taken a very remarkable step in the way of coöperative journalism, as it may be termed. Heretofore its only development beyond "patent outsides"--or insides, as the case might be--has been in the formation of "syndicates" for the simultaneous publication of stories, short and long, in various newspapers throughout the country. Mr. Rice has conceived a scheme of great importance on the same principle, which his possession of a considerable fortune enables him to launch with an assurance of success. This is to enlist in the service of the American newspapers the pens of the most distinguished men of Europe and America, in every department of human interest,--statesmen, publicists, generals, scientists, philosophers, churchmen, jurists, financiers, merchants, manufacturers, poets, novelists. When any event of moment occurs, or any great question springs into immediate importance, Mr Rice will procure from the man best qualified to explain and discuss its significance and its bearings an article upon the subject. When the occasion demands it, the procurement will be made by cable, and the article sent to him at New York by cable, and thence distributed by mail or telegraph, as may be necessary, to the various newspapers that have entered into the arrangement. These newspapers, in several parts of the Union, have each the exclusive copyright of each article for a certain extent of territory, extending over 10 days after publication. The articles will appear in the Sunday editions of the papers, or where a paper has no Sunday edition, in the weekly. The publishing of poems or novelets is, of coursed, governed by the same conditions, but that is of less consequence than the articles. Mr Rice spent a year in Europe principally to secure the eminent contributors to this remarkable scheme, and his list numbers over 300 names. For a single article he will sometimes pay thousands of dollars, and the total expense will therefore be very large, while the expense to each paper will be such as to require a large circulation and advertising patronage to justify. It is another emphatic evidence of the great and constantly increasing domain of the newspaper, which as the universal and continuous medium of information, if in no other character, is becoming the great force of human life in civilized countries. Prince Bismarck does not approve of or trust in the press in his Germany, but when Mr Rice wants his opinion on a great event or a domestic complexity, he will not hesitate to confide it to the press of America.

-- Springfield Daily Republican, January 5, 1885

Related posts:

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Syndicated in Cincinnati, and beyond: Melville's 1885 poem "The Admiral of the White"

Cincinnati Weekly Times-Star - May 21, 1885
Found on

So MACSWELL spilled the beans in Buffalo.

In the latter half of May 1885, as previously revealed here on Melvilliana, a New York City correspondent of the Buffalo Courier named Walter Langdon Russ (1852-1930) aka "Macswell" informed readers of a scheme to get the justly forgotten author Herman Melville Resuscitated by mass-marketing "The Admiral of the White," a mysterious and thrilling sea-tale in verse that Melville would slightly revise and re-title "The Haglets" for private publication in John Marr and Other Sailors (1888). 
Writing from Manhattan on May 21, 1885 Macswell reported having seen Melville's new poem "printed in one of our morning papers last Sunday." As the New York correspondent of the Buffalo Courier understood things, the same poem "was printed at the same time, I believe, in other papers, east and west." Macswell blamed a young, wealthy, and ambitious media mogul for the irritating attempt to rescue Melville from oblivion:
Mr. Thorndyke Rice, the ingenious editor of the North American Review, is, I am told, responsible for his resuscitation.
C. Allen Thorndike Rice March 1883

Turns out, Macswell was right. Charles Allen Thorndike Rice (1851-1889), a pioneer of the press syndicate, evidently had enlisted Melville with other talented writers in a new cultural project to entertain more high-minded readers of popular American periodicals with excellent literary works by the best authors. The innovative manner of mass publication appealed to publishers and authors, too, as mutually beneficial. Ellery Sedgwick explains:

S. S. McClure, Charles Dana, and Thorndike Rice had also begun their syndicates that brought fiction from authors and sold publication rights to newspapers across the country...both the illustrated magazines and the syndicates very significantly increased the dollar value of literature and the potential for making a living by writing it.

Sedgwick, Ellery. “Magazines and the Profession of Authorship in the United States, 1840–1900.” The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol. 94, no. 3, 2000, pp. 399–425. JSTOR, Accessed 18 Jan. 2024.

Samuel Sidney McClure acknowledged Thorndike Rice as a former and at one time formidable rival in the syndicate business:

Of course, as soon as my syndicate began to pay, other syndicates were started. The most powerful of these was started by Allan Thorndyke Rice, editor of the North American Review. My friends and many of the editors I served thought such a competitor would be too much for me. I remember that at this time Miss Sarah Orne Jewett, who wrote for the syndicate and took a friendly interest in my business, wrote me to ask whether I could not form some combination with Mr. Rice to avoid being wiped out. Mr. Rice's syndicate was very strong for a time, but eventually it died out without seriously cutting into my business.
-- My Autobiography (New York, 1914) pages 182-183.

The "morning paper" in which Macswell had seen "The Admiral of the White" must have been the New York Tribune. Melville fans have long known about the Tribune printing of Melville's poem on May 17, 1885, and another, more complete version on the same date in the Boston Herald. The text of Herman Melville's "The Haglets" in John Marr closely follows that of "The Admiral of the White" as previously published in the Boston Herald and, incompletely, in the New York Tribune. Before now only those two newspaper versions of Herman Melville's 1885 poem have been recorded in Melville scholarship. The New York and Boston printings of "The Admiral of the White" are discussed in editorial notes on "The Haglets" for the 2009 Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Published Poems, edited by Robert C. Ryan, Harrison Hayford, Alma MacDougall Reising and G. Thomas Tanselle, at pages 725-726. Both newspaper printings, the Boston Herald version and the "abridged" New York Tribune version, are referenced also in notes on the manuscript version of "The Admiral of the White" (a different poem with the same title) in the back of the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Billy Budd, Sailor and Other Uncompleted Writings, edited by G. Thomas Tanselle, Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, Robert Sandberg and Alma MacDougall Reising, at page 888. 

Only the "complete" Boston Herald and "abridged" New York Tribune versions of "The Admiral of the White" are referenced in Robert Sandberg's "Note on the Texts" for Herman Melville: Complete Poems (Library of America No. 320, 2019) page 930. Edited by Hershel Parker, the LOA edition of Complete Poems has "The Haglets" on pages 677-683 and the uncollected manuscript poem "The Admiral of the White" (which is not the 1885 poem with the same title) on pages 865-866.

A good reading text of Melville's poem "The Haglets" is conveniently accessible online courtesy of

For explication you can find "The Haglets" helpfully discussed by William H. Shurr in The Mystery of Iniquity (University Press of Kentucky, 1972) at pages 130-134; 

and, more recently, by Peter Riley in "The Fair Poet's Name": Late Poems, Chapter 14 in A New Companion to Herman Melville, edited by Wyn Kelley and Christopher Ohge (Wiley Blackwell, 2022) pages 171-183 at 177.

Long unacknowledged in Melville studies, Allen Thorndike Rice's role in the newspaper syndication of "The Admiral of the White" seems confirmed by the publication of his name as copyright holder in the heading of a previously unknown printing of Melville's poem in the Cincinnati Weekly Times-StarHeadings in both the New York Tribune and Boston Herald versions merely stated "Copyright, 1885," below the title and (in the NY Tribune version) author credit. 

Boston Sunday Herald - May 17, 1885

The Cincinnati version places the copyright statement within brackets, above the title:
[Copyrighted by Allen Thorndike Rice.]

Admiral of the White. 

Cincinnati Weekly Times-Star - May 21, 1885

As published on May 21, 1885 in the Weekly Times-Star, the byline further asserts that the original poem was "Written for the Times." Presumably the weekly edition of the Cincinnati Times-Star copied "Admiral of the White" from the Sunday Times where it had appeared according to schedule on Sunday, May 17, 1885, the same day it definitely debuted in New York and Boston. Unfortunately, the Sunday edition is not currently included in the files of the Cincinnati Times-Star at NewspaperArchive. After renewing my subscription there I did find "The Admiral of the White" reprinted on May 21, 1885 in the weekly edition of the Cincinnati Times Star. In terms of length, the Cincinnati text of Admiral of the White matches the complete Boston Herald version, rather than the Tribune abridgment. Some words and expressions (Admiral, Plate Fleet, and Milky Way) in the Cincinnati version are treated as proper nouns with the first letter of each word capitalized, where the Boston Herald version uses all lower case letters, at least early on. Among other minor differences, the Cincinnati version 
  • reads "Laced Sleeves" (as in the New York Tribune version) where the Boston Herald gives "Lace Sleeves"; 
  • does not italicize "A tomb or a trophy" (italicized in the New York and Boston texts); 
  • punctuates "sculptured Fate!" with an exclamation mark; 
  • has "hatted" as in the NY Tribune where Boston Herald reads "hated"; and
  • reads "No less content" where the Boston Herald and New York Tribune both have "Nor less content."

As I found in files of the daily edition (excluding Sunday, as noted above), also via Newspaper Archive, the plan for simultaneous publication in multiple U. S. cities (including the western towns of Chicago, IL and St. Paul, MN) had been explicitly and repeatedly advertised by the Cincinnati Times-Star. On May 14, 1885, for example, the Cincinnati Times-Star announced that "'Admiral of the White,' by Herman Melville" would appear with other "SPECIAL PAPERS" in the Sunday edition of May 17th.

Cincinnati Times-Star
May 14, 1885


In the SUNDAY TIMES-STAR of next Sunday, May 17, will be:

"Admiral of the White," by Herman Melville, author of "Typee, or Life in the Marquesas," "Moby Dick," etc.

"Charles Kingsley," by Canon Farrar.

"A Letter of Marque," by Gail Hamilton.

"The Doctrines of the Flag," by Hon. James H. Gerard.

These papers will be found of especial interest to the better class of newspaper readers. They appear simultaneously in the New York Tribune, Boston Herald, Philadelphia Press, Detroit Post, St. Paul Pioneer-Press, and Chicago Times.

In addition to the special papers, the SUNDAY TIMES-STAR contains all local and telegraphic news and as much general matter as one has time to read. Everything is presented in an attractive and convenient manner, so that the reader who devotes a reasonable time to his paper can be sure that he has not missed any news of great importance.

Price Three Cents.

The advertisement transcribed above lists six newspapers in addition to the Cincinnati Times-Star that were then engaged in Thorndike Rice's newspaper syndicate, apparently, and thus committed to simultaneous publication on Sunday, May 17, 1885 of Melville's "Admiral of the White" and other works "of especial interest to the better class of newspaper readers." The Cincinnati Times or Times-Star would make a seventh, thus:

  1. New York Tribune ✅
  2. Boston Herald ✅
  3. Philadelphia Press
  4. Detroit Post
  5. St. Paul Pioneer-Press ✅ verified 02/29/2024
  6. Chicago Times
  7. Cincinnati Times-Star

Versions of Melville's poem in two of the six newspapers we already knew about, the New York Tribune and Boston Herald, as explained already. That leaves four more to investigate. Well, five if you count the Sunday edition of the Cincinnati Times-Star that I have not yet located. Being in Minnesota, of course I feel duty-bound to begin with the Pioneer Press down in St. Paul. Alas, for the specific date of Sunday, May 17, 1885 our Minnesota Digital Newspaper Hub only gives images from the St. Paul Daily Globe and Minneapolis Daily Tribune. 

Yikes! this could be harder than I thought. Clearly there's plenty more to look for, besides more printings than we knew about of Melville's 1885 poem. For instance, does any correspondence survive between Melville and Allen Thorndike Rice? Did Melville ever formally transfer the copyright for "The Admiral of the White"? Or sign a contract?

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Tuesday, January 16, 2024

BATTLE-PIECES hated in Hamilton, Canada West

Herman Melville's book of Civil War poems Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War was twice despised in the same Canadian newspaper, the Hamilton Spectator, in two caustic 1866 notices published on August 28 ("trash") and August 30 ("without sense or rhythm" and "incomprehensible"). Unheralded (never recorded?) in previous Melville scholarship, both items are transcribed herein. Neither is collected or listed in Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews, edited by Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker (Cambridge University Press, 1995). The appearance of these reviews in August 1866 came remarkably early in the critical reception of Battle-Pieces, first published in New York on August 23rd. Of items collected in Contemporary Reviews, only the New York Times review on August 27th predates "Arms and the Man I Sing," as the first take on Battle-Pieces in the Hamilton Spectator was allusively and humorously titled.*

Hamilton.County Wentworth.1859

"C. W." on the masthead of the Hamilton Spectator stands for Canada West, a designation for Ontario province before Confederation in 1867 when 

"Canada East became the province of Quebec and Canada West became the province of Ontario." -- Canada West -The Canadian Encyclopedia

Described in A History of Canadian Journalism (Toronto, 1908) as "Conservative, but independent and progressive," The Hamilton Spectator was then conducted by the White brothers, Thomas and Richard. Journalist-politician Thomas White (1830-1888) had recently purchased the newspaper from William Gillespy (1824-1886), two years before the reviews of Battle-Pieces were published.

"Hon. Thomas White bought out William Gillespy in 1864 and was present to represent The Spectator at the festivities on July 1, 1867. In 1870 he turned his holdings over to his editor David McCulloch and left for Montreal and The Gazette."

Thomas White (1830-1888)

"White was an able journalist. He was unusually well informed, and blessed with a cool, transparent style devoid of affectation but lively and humorous. On the issue of confederation the Spectator was as close to Macdonald’s sentiments as any Conservative paper. It reflected his view that the principle of federation was a necessary but nevertheless dangerous American import...." 
-- P. B. Waite, Dictionary of Canadian Biography
Somebody who knows more about Thomas White and his writings may be able to tell if the "lively and humorous" style ascribed to him by Canadian historian P. B. Waite characteristically packs the sarcastic punch delivered in these delightfully negative notices of Melville's Civil War poems. After White's death, a column in the Liberal-leaning Toronto Globe duly memorialized that newspaper's former political rival as "essentially a party man and often a hard hitter," albeit one who "was seldom charged with exhibiting rancor or malice" ("The 'Globe's' Sympathy," reprinted in the Montreal Gazette on April 23, 1888).

Seldom was Tom White accused of being a great hater, but not never.

Whoever he was, the critic who tagged Melville as "the American Homer" (even  worse, "the New York Homer") in the Hamilton Spectator understood better than many friendlier commentators the classical background and epic scope of Battle-Pieces, features also evident a decade later in Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land (1876).

28 Aug 1866, Tue The Hamilton Spectator (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada)

Transcribed below from the Hamilton Spectator, August 28, 1866, page 2:


Not the least among the many trials which the people of the United States have had to endure, not the least among the hideous calamities which war brought in its train was the swarm of halting, lame, and simply idiotic poets, who at the sound of the first cannon, poured forth from their hiding places, deluging every newspaper and magazine with their patriotic but puerile productions. Since the war ended the majority of these gentry have lapsed into silence, but some of them are evidently very hard to get rid of. For instance, one of them, ambitious of becoming the American Homer of the late contest, has been doing up the events of the war in rhyme. Homer was never appreciated until after his death, but we much question whether the New York Homer (for there can be no doubt, we believe, that that city has the honor of being his birthplace) will ever attain to immortal fame. Grant is the Agamemnon, the "King of men" whom his verse delights to honor, while Sherman occupies about the same position as that of Achilles in the  Grecian poet's verse. Grant's campaign in the Cumberland Valley is thus beautifully introduced:

"We learn that General Grant,
Marching from Henry overland,
And joined by a force up the Cumberland sent,
Some thirty thousand the command." etc.

* * * * * * * * *

When Grant has invested Fort Donaldson [Donelson], the "poet" sings,

Grant's investment's complete,
A semi-circular one,
Both wings of the Cumberland's margins meet, etc.

* * * * * * * * *

Whenever a victory is won he comes out in small capitals, and thus in the following patriotic but slightly ambiguous lines, he commemorates the capture of the fort:

   Glorious victory of the fleet!
Friday's great event!
   The enemy's water batteries beat ! ! 
We silenced every gun !
   The old commander's [Commodore's] compliments sent
Plump into Donaldson !

This is a fair specimen of the rest of the trash which we are told is elegantly bound in blue and gold by Harper & Brothers, and sold at a high figure in New York. 

Transcribed below from the Hamilton Spectator, August 30, 1866, page 1: 

BATTLE PIECES, by Herman Melville. Hamilton: George Barnes & Co; New York: Harper Brothers. -- We made some allusion to this work in yesterday's Spectator, [August 28, "Arms and the Man I Sing"] and have since received a copy of it from Messrs. Barnes & Co. We refrain from criticism, but give a few specimens of Mr. Melville's Battle Pieces. Possibly they may find some admirers. With reference to the surrender of Mason and Slidell, the American Homer says--

"The bitter cup
Of that hard countermand
Which gave the Envoys up
Still is wormwood in the mouth."

It is certain that Mr. Melville's "poetical honey" will not be sufficient to sweeten the nauseating draught.

Speaking of the "Stone Fleet" sunk before Charleston, this sweet songster says of one of them which had been a whaler--
"Her bones were sold (escheat),
Ah, Stone Fleet."

This is decidedly touching, and sufficient to bring tears to the eyes of old Farragut himself. The "Wreck of the Royal George" cannot certainly be compared with it. Still further he says, referring to the names of four of the scuttled vessels--

"Four were erst patrician keels,
(Names attest what families be)
The Kensington and Richmond too;
Leonidas and Lee:
                    But now they have their seat
                    With the old Stone Fleet."  
The poet fails to recognize the retributive justice here displayed. What business had the Republican marine with vessels rejoicing in such patrician names? But it is in the account of the Donelson Fight that Mr. Melville chiefly displays his peculiar talent for writing verses without sense or rythm [rhythm]. We are told among other extraordinary things, that the sole uniform worn by the Southern defenders of Donelson was
"A sort of patch or white badge (as you choose)
          Upon the arm." 
This is an even more abbreviated costume than that worn by the Arkansas gentleman, whose full dress consisted of a shirt collar with a pair of spurs. A soldier uniformed in a white patch on his arm would have a startling effect. Mr. Melville is evidently fond of bitter bowls, for here again, in this same poem of Donelson, we read that
"Next day brought a bitterer bowl."
The following is the commencement of what is called "a canticle expressive of national exaltation." The writer evidently thinks that the more incomprehensible he can be the better. The first stanza is certainly beyond our comprehension--

"Oh! the precipice Titanic
     Of the congregated Fall,
And the angle oceanic,
     Where the deepening thunders call,
And the gorge so grim,
And the firmamental rim." 
A long effusion entitled "The Scout Towards Aldie" is principally descriptive of the doings of Mosby. The following verse is a fair specimen. A U. S. officer frantically exclaims:
"Where's the advance? Cut off, by Heaven!
   Come, Surgeon, how with your wounded there?
The ambulance will carry all;
   We'll get them in, we go to camp;
   We'll get them in, we go to camp;
Seven prisoners gone, for the rest have care; 
Then to himself--
"This grief is gall;
That Mosby! I'll cast a silver ball!" 
He did cast a silver ball, but does not appear to have done much execution with it.  
It is unnecessary to make any more extracts: the above may be taken as a fair specimen of these "Battle Pieces."

* Early critical responses to Battle-Pieces discovered after the 1995 publication of Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews include 

  • "Books Received," New York Daily Tribune, August 23, 1866.
  • Boston Daily Advertiser, August 24, 1866. Brief notice with mention of Melville's prose Supplement as "a political essay"; cited by Hershel Parker in Herman Melville: A Biography Volume 2, 1851-1891 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002) page 616. Now accessible on
  • Washington, D. C. Sunday Morning Chronicle, August 26, 1866. Discovered and transcribed by Richard E. Winslow III in "New Melville Reviews Surface," Melville Society Extracts 113 (June 1998) at page 11.
  • Philadelphia Press, August 27, 1866. First presented by Gary Scharnhorst in "More Uncollected Melville Reviews and Notices," Melville Society Extracts 106 (September 1996) pages 13-14. Digital image of the original notice is now accessible online via
  • American Presbyterian (Philadelphia, PA) August 30, 1866. Found at in December 2019 and transcribed on Melvilliana:
  • Boston Post, August 30, 1866. First inventoried and partly transcribed by Richard E. Winslow III in "Contemporary Notice of Melville at Home and Abroad," Melville Society Extracts 106 (September 1996) at page 10. Digital image is now accessible online via
  • Portland Daily Press (Portland, Maine) August 30, 1866. Discovered and transcribed by Richard E. Winslow III in "New Melville Reviews Surface," Melville Society Extracts 113 (June 1998) at page 11. Now accessible online via

Monday, January 15, 2024

BENITO CERENO praised in Oquawka, maybe by Edwin H. N. Patterson

Established in February 1848 by John Barton Patterson (1805-1890), the Oquawka Spectator was a weekly newspaper published in the busy Mississippi River port of Oquawka, Illinois. As announced on the masthead, the Spectator aimed to be family friendly and "neutral in politics and religion." Founder J. B. Patterson, formerly of Winchester, Virginia, had served as a private with the Illinois Militia during the Black Hawk War and famously edited and published the 1834 Life of Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak or Black Hawk. Patterson's son Edwin Howard Norton Patterson (1828-1880) became the assistant editor and in 1849 took over "the management of the Spectator and its job-printing office" according to Mary Elizabeth Phillips in Edgar Allan Poe, the Man Volume 2 (John C. Winston Co., 1926). 
E. H. N. Patterson
via Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore

Edwin (called "Edward" in some sources, apparently in error) journeyed further west in 1850 looking for better health and California gold, but he was back in Illinois before the end of 1851. During his absence from Oquawka, the younger Patterson contributed first-hand sketches of the "Overland Route" to California and evidently retained his connection to the Spectator as Junior Editor. E. H. N. Patterson married the former Miss Laura Phelps in Oquawka on New Year's Day 1852, as reported in the Oquawka Spectator for January 7, 1852. 

Both E. H. N. Patterson and his father J. B. Patterson were named on the masthead as co-editors of the Oquawka Spectator when Melville's short fiction "Benito Cereno" (just concluded in the December issue of Putnam's Monthly) was praised on December 7, 1855 as "the best tale we have read for a long time." "Benito Cereno" originally appeared in three installments, published in the October, November, and December 1855 issues of Putnam's magazine. Before the December review, the Oquawka Spectator of November 9, 1855 already had remarked "a continuation of that unique story of 'Benito Cereno'" in the November issue of Putnam's. Either editor might have contributed unsigned literary notices of Putnam's Monthly Magazine, including the one transcribed below. Tentative assignment to E. H. N. Patterson seems most appealing in view of the younger Patterson's known affinity for the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, with whom he had corresponded in high hopes of establishing a new literary magazine in western Illinois with his hero at the helm. 
PUTNAM"S MONTHLY:— Dix & Edwards, N. Y. Terms: $3 per annum; the Monthly & Household Words $5; the Monthly or Household Words, with the School fellow $3.50; all three $5.50.
The December number of this leading Magazine is before us. The contents embrace nineteen choice articles, and copious Editorial Notes. As articles especially pleasing we may enumerate "How I came to be married," "The Virginia Springs," "Low Life in the Sahara," "The Green Lakes of Onondaga," and "Benito Cereno." The latter is concluded in this number; and is the best tale we have read for a long time—the style and manner of the lamented POE are closely imitated. The literature of Putnam is of the highest order, and has gained it a lofty position. For the coming year, the publishers promise an increasing excellence in every department, but we can assure the public that it is good enough now.

-- Oquawka Spectator & Keithsburg Observer, December 7, 1855.

Later, the influence of Poe on the book version of "Benito Cereno" was suggested in a review of The Piazza Tales that appeared in the New York Dispatch on June 8, 1856. For the New York reviewer, "Benito Cereno"

"opens with a mysticism which reminds us of Edgar Poe's prose tales, and this mysticism is admirably preserved, even deepening in every character to the end, when all appears as clear as the sun at noon-day."

Accessible online via, the New York Dispatch review of The Piazza Tales is helpfully transcribed in Herman Melville: the Contemporary Reviews, edited by Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker (Cambridge University Press, 1995) at page 477.

New York Dispatch - June 8, 1856

E. H. N. Patterson's "youthful" and "ardent" fascination with Poe is discussed by Mary E. Phillips in Edgar Allan Poe, the Man Volume 2 (John C. Winston Co., 1926) at page 1401:

September, 1835, J. B. Patterson, of Winchester, Va., settled at Oquawka, Ill. A year later, joined by his wife and son—Edward H. N. Patterson, a young man of literary taste and ability—the elder Patterson founded the weekly Oquawka Spectator. Prudently reared in all ways, and in constant touch with the best books and magazine literature, Edward H. N. Patterson came of age January, 1849. Then his father turned over to him the management of the Spectator and its job-printing office. Full of youthful confidence, he cherished the ambition of making a name in the world of letters. Among those who stood for conspicuous eminence in American literature of that time was Edgar Allan Poe, who, as a journalist, young Patterson had followed from Editor Poe's Southern Literary Messenger days to the passing on of his Broadway Journal, with fascinated admiration for the poet's genius. For Poe's endless and varied adversities, Patterson felt and expressed an ardent sympathy. Thereby and then, he was moved, December, 1848, to make to Poe a letter appeal to come West and join him in a new periodical venture.
For more on the younger Patterson's unrealized scheme to engage Edgar Allan Poe as editor of a new literary journal in Oquawka, check out

05 May 1880, Wed The Rock Island Argus (Rock Island, Illinois)

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