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 First published in Luther Stearns Mansfield, Glimpses of Herman Melville's Life in Pittsfield, 1850-1851: Some Unpublished Letters of Evert A. Duyckinck, American Literature Volume 9 (March 1937) pages 26-48 at 39-40.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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