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 MUSEhttps://doi.org/10.1353/lvn.2024.a925511.

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
via genealogybank.com
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
via genealogybank.com
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.

1 comment:

  1. Another nice find! There are many more letters out there.