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

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