Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Clement C. Moore's "Visit from St Nicholas," 1824 reprinting in the Geneva Palladium

Reprinted from the Troy Sentinel where Moore's world-beloved "Visit" aka "The Night Before Christmas" was first published anonymously on December 23, 1823. On the image below from NYS Historic Newspapers, you can see that somebody later on has identified the author in three different places.

From the Geneva Palladium, January 21, 1824

(In case you're wondering, out here the Christmas season officially begins October 1st. As usual I'm behind already.) With so many early and numerous newspaper printings of "Visit," the New York native Herman Melville could easily have known Moore's poem by time it appeared in Charles Fenno Hoffman's 1837 anthology The New-York Book of Poetry. On Christmas Eve 1832, the Albany Evening Journal reprinted "Visit" under the heading CHRISTMAS EVE—ST NICHOLAS, in response to the following request by "Many Dutchmen":
"MR. EDITOR— The following lines were published many years ago, but most of your readers have probably forgotten them, and by republishing them, you will greatly oblige Many Dutchmen."
The Troy Daily Whig reprinted "Visit" without any editorial introduction on Christmas Eve, 1838. The 1838 printing resembles the version in Parley's Magazine for that year, italicizing the Irvingesque lines about St. Nick's "laying a finger aside of his nose" and ascending the chimney, and footnoting the 1838 painting by Robert Walter Weir.

Digressing a bit further, I suppose in Albany Herman Melville's maternal uncle Peter Gansevoort must have belonged to the St. Nicholas Society. Yes? Yes. At the anniversary banquet on December 6, 1831 we find PG raising his glass and making this admirably democratic toast to
"The Mechanics and Tradesmen of the city of Albany; a sound, intelligent, moral and patriotic portion of our fellow citizens. Their prosperity illustrates the truth, that industry is the real wealth of a community." --Albany Argus, December 13, 1831
Over the years, St. Nicholas Society members and guests regularly drank to the memory of Melville's grandfather General Peter Gansevoort: "A brave soldier and esteemed citizen" (Albany Argus, December 13, 1831); "soldier and patriot" (Argus, December 18, 1832); and "the hero of Fort Stanwix" (December 14, 1830 and December 16, 1834).  At the 1836 affair, Melville's old principal T. R. Beck toasted "Robert Southey, one of the few Englishmen that have done justice to Holland." In 1832 Beck had offered another literary toast to "James K. Paulding, the author of the Dutchman's Fireside" (Albany Argus, December 18, 1832).

But getting back to Moore's now classic poem: The illustrated 1862 book A Night Before Christmas features engravings by Nathaniel Orr which are made from drawings by Melville's friend Felix Octavius Carr Darley.

A Visit from St Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore
via Project Gutenberg
 One of the best Melville anecdotes ever is the story Maunsell Bradhurst Field tells in Memories of Many Men and of Some Women, about the time when he and "Darley, the artist" visited Melville in Pittsfield. At dinner with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Field and Darley ended up bedazzled by the brilliant conversation of Melville and Holmes on "East India religions and mythologies." Field also tells of Melville's showing off his fine trees and talking about how much he likes "patting them upon the back."

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Typee in manuscript, 1845 cover

Digitized and available online From The New York Public Library Digital Collections. What a splendid platform they are creating at NYPL! 
"This site is a living database with new materials added every day, featuring prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts, streaming video, and more." --NYPL Digital Collections
Bravo!!!! Hopefully some day the rest of what's left of Melville's Typee in manuscript will likewise be launched into the Public Domain.
First Draught of "Typee" - 1845 Cover
From The New York Public Library Digital Collections

Monday, October 17, 2016

Melville's "Agatha" letters to Nathaniel Hawthorne

Herman Melville wrote three letters to Nathaniel Hawthorne regarding Melville's idea for a story based on the real-life misfortunes and heroic endurance of a Falmouth widow named Agatha Hatch Robertson. Melville's first "Agatha" letter dated August 13, 1852 is extant among the Herman Melville Papers at Houghton Library, Harvard University. It's a 21st century blessing for Melville students to be able now to see and study images of the August 13, 1852 letter online via the Harvard Library Viewer.

The August 13, 1852 letter was reprinted in the 1929 New England Quarterly article by S. E. Morison, Melville's "Agatha" letter to Hawthorne. Early, essential scholarship in print also includes the 1946 article in ELH by Harrison Hayford on The Significance of Melville's "Agatha" Letters; and Patricia Lacy's 1956 essay in The University of Texas Studies in English on The Agatha Theme in Melville's Stories. Some landmarks of more recent scholarship are the Historical Note by Merton Sealts in the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860; the 1990 article in American Literature by Hershel Parker, Herman Melville's The Isle of the Cross: A Survey and a Chronology; and the 1991 re-examination by Basem L. Ra'ad, "The Encantadas" and "The Isle of the Cross": Melvillean Dubieties, 1853-54.
In print, transcripts of all three "Agatha" letters are available in the 1993 Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Correspondence. Online, Heyward Ehrlich at Rutgers gives the Agatha letters among other electronic texts of Selected Melville Letters. Also transcribed with other of Melville's Letters to Hawthorne at the venerable Life and Works of Herman Melville website.

The second of Melville's three "Agatha" letters has survived in the Berg Collection at The New York Public Library. Dated October 25, 1852, this letter is digitized and available online From The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

From The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Herman Melville, letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne - October 25, 1852
From The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Herman Melville, letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne - October 25, 1852
From The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Herman Melville, letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne - October 25, 1852
From The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Herman Melville, letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne - October 25, 1852
From The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Melville's third "Agatha" letter I guess remains unlocated. Julian Hawthorne published it in his 1884 biography Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife:

Introducing the undated letter (which must have been written between the 3rd and 13th of December 1852), Julian Hawthorne reports that Melville personally told him, "it was a tragic story, and that Hawthorne had not seemed to take to it."

From The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Related melvilliana post:

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Melville at Fort Lee with Evert Duyckinck in 1848

Evert A. Duyckinck, letter to William Alfred Jones - July 28, 1848
From The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Evert A. Duyckinck's account of a summer excursion to Fort Lee (before July 28, 1848) with Herman Melville delights in irony and disillusionment. Probably he does not regard the overheard dialogue from Bulwer's The Lady of Lyons as truly grand in either text or performance, hence the single quotation marks around the word magnificent. To his credit, Duyckinck does recognize a "tribute to literature" at some level. But the hostility to Bulwer, and to Romance ("or whatever") more generally, nicely illuminates Duyckinck's published criticism of romantic and poetic flights in Mardi, Moby-Dick, and especially Pierre. Considering Evert Duyckink's characteristic disdain for romantic effusions, it seems coldly fitting that Melville would try to cancel his subscription to the Literary World (co-edited by Evert A. Duyckinck and his brother George) on Valentine's Day, 1852.

Mose and Lize

Duyckinck's letter to William Alfred Jones is excerpted in Jay Leyda's Melville Log, Volume 1 [279]. Where Leyda gives the word hostage, my transcription below reads "passage"; for Dont I read "Dost"; and for Liza I have "Lize."  
I was out the other day to Fort Lee with Melville—a grand picnicking day. The first lady & gentleman we came upon were in front of a table cloth spread on a rock and covered with hams, sardines &c, affectionately mouthing to each other, the Lady of Lyons. They had just reached the 'magnificent' Lake of Como passage "Dost like the picture lady?" A remark she let fall that champagne didn't inhale on an empty stomach distressed the romance or whatever it was. It was a tribute to literature notwithstanding and so was a greasy annual carried by the nymph and a clumsy octavo by another. They were of the genuine Mose and Lize school and as a philosophic gentleman we met with remarked as they roared out Negro melodies—how much better it was than fighting!  --Evert A. Duyckinck, 1848 letter to William Alfred Jones; From The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Along with unspecified "Negro melodies," those literate lovers Herman Melville also saw and heard that summer's day at Fort Lee were enjoying this, and not as imperfectly as Jay Leyda's misread of "Dont" for Duyckinck's and Bulwer's word "Dost" might imply:
I cannot forego pride when I look on thee, and think that thou lovest me. Sweet Prince, tell me again of thy palace by the Lake of Como; it is so pleasant to hear of thy splendours since thou didst swear to me that they would be desolate without Pauline; and when thou describest them, it is with a mocking lip and a noble scorn, as if custom had made thee disdain greatness.

Nay, dearest, nay, if thou would'st have me paint
The home to which, could Love fulfil its prayers,
This hand would lead thee, listen! —a deep vale
Shut out by Alpine hills from the rude world;
Near a clear lake, margined by fruits of gold
And whispering myrtles; glassing softest skies
As cloudless, save with rare and roseate shadows,
As I would have thy fate!

My own dear love!

A palace lifting to eternal summer
Its marble walls, from out a glossy bower
Of coolest foliage musical with birds,
Whose songs should syllable thy name! At noon
We'd sit beneath the arching vines, and wonder
Why Earth could be unhappy, while the Heavens
Still left us youth and love! We'd have no friends
That were not lovers; no ambition, save
To excel them all in love; we'd read no books
That were not tales of love—that we might smile
To think how poorly eloquence of words
Translates the poetry of hearts like ours!
And when night came, amidst the breathless Heavens
We'd guess what star should be our home when love
Becomes immortal; while the perfumed light
Stole through the mists of alabaster lamps,
And every air was heavy with the sighs
Of orange groves and music from sweet lutes,
And murmurs of low fountains that gush forth
I' the midst of roses!—Dost thou like the picture?

Friday, October 14, 2016

John Esten Cooke wrote "Virginia Past and Present" in the August 1853 Putnam's

Via Civil War Talk
Excerpts from Virginia Past and Present in the August 1853 issue of Putnam's Monthly Magazine frame the insightful essay by James M. Van Wyck on etiquette in Melville's "Benito Cereno," published just last year in The New England Quarterly

As the title indicates, the 1853 Putnam's article is all about Virginia. The concluding reference to North and South obviously alludes to fundamental and growing national divisions, but even the imagined exchange of "alien glances" takes place within "northern counties" of Virginia, in particular Fairfax. Most helpful for background here is George Winston Smith, writing in the May 1945 Journal of Southern History on "Ante-Bellum Attempts of Northern Business Interests to `Redeem' the Upper South."

Unfortunately, neither George Winston Smith nor James M. Van Wyck says who wrote "Virginia Past and Present."

Melvilliana to the rescue! "Virginia Past and Present" is by John Esten Cooke, who revealed his authorship in a letter to Evert A. Duyckinck, now in the Duyckinck family papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. On October 6, 1853 the ambitious young Virginian (almost 23) wrote:
"Virginia Past and Present" in Putnam for August, I think, is mine. I should be flattered if you found it amusing—always provided you read it.  --John Esten Cooke, 1853 letter to Evert A. Duyckinck;  accessible online from The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
Informed by this letter and presumably other documentary evidence, John Owen Beaty in his 1922 biography identified John Esten Cooke as the author of "Virginia Past and Present," along with Minuet and Polka in the December 1853 Putnam's (where also appeared the conclusion of Melville's story of Bartleby, The Scrivener) and other magazine pieces:
He was fond of historical fact, but he liked to contemplate it in terms of romance. He was not only a literary critic but a critic of manners who saw in the past fine ideals which had been sadly departed from. This theme afforded him the material for several magazine articles; his first contribution to Putnam's (August, 1853) actually bore the title, "Virginia Past and Present." Exceedingly modern seems "Minuet and Polka" with its reference to the "arm around the waist, the breath upon the cheek, the head upon the shoulder." The author, of course, presents a brief for the old-fashioned dance: "The minuet was delicacy, courtesy, lofty-toned respect—in one word—chivalry." Cooke was a skilful literary parodist. He was the author of the "Unpublished Mss. from the Portfolios of the Most Celebrated Authors. By Motley Ware, Esq.,'' which the Duyckinck brothers published in the Literary World during 1853. Along with the burlesques of Carlyle, Dumas, and others Cooke solemnly included one of himself, or rather of such of his work as had appeared under his pseudonym, "Pen Ingleton, Esq." With unerring instinct he chose as a likely subject his great fondness for autumn: "The flutter and glitter of the golden autumn leaves are once more in my eyes and in my heart."  --John Esten Cooke, Virginian
Beaty's bibliography gives these titles of contributions to Putnam's by John Esten Cooke:

1853: August, "Virginia: Past and Present;" December, "Minuet and Polka."
1854: March, "The Cocked Hat Gentry."
1855: May, "The Dames of Virginia."
1856: April, "How I Courted Lulu;" June, "Annie at the Corner;" July, "News from Grassland;" August, "John Randolph;" November, "The Tragedy of Hairston."
1857: June, "Greenway Court."

Speaking of JEC... While helping John Reuben Thompson edit The Southern Literary Messenger, John Esten Cooke opened his review of Curtis's Nile Notes of a Howadji with high praise for Herman Melville:

NILE NOTES OF A HOWADJI. New York. Harper & Brothers: 82 Cliff Street. 1851.

Whatever may be her relative position in other branches of literature, America undoubtedly bears the palm of late years, from all Europe, in her books of Travels. We question if the produce of any age or nation in this department of letters can equal the long series of delightful narratives of which "Typee" is the first, and the work whose title is given above the last. Typee was a new chapter in book-making. Nothing like its poetic reality had ever before issued from travelled brains, and it attracted universal attention here and in Europe, more for this novelty even, than for its striking merit. For ages travellers had been writing books which contained facts, observations, reflections, opinions,—everything but the picturesque. The volumes of English travellers were filled with wearying commonplaces, tiresome "impressions," and personal details which their authors vainly fancied would interest the public equally with themselves. Travel writing was becoming the common resort of the commonest minds, who published their volumes of tedious narratives solely as some offset to the expenses of the journey.

"Typee" was in direct contrast to all this. In it were marvellous adventures, strange lands, a wild people, and all the gorgeous natural wealth of those remote "ultimate dim Thules," delineated with the pen of a master. The interest excited by the book was kept up by "Omoo" and other works from the same hand, and then followed in picturesque succession," Los Gringos," "Kaloolah," and a host of sparkling volumes, not one of them inferior to "Eothen," and in many particulars far superior to that much be-praised performance. Thus has America surpassed beyond all comparison the nation which "never read an American book," and we may say with equal truth, that in spite of MM. Chateaubriand, Lamartine. and Dumas, who have so pleasantly recorded their experiences, she has also excelled the most brilliant writers of France.
John Esten Cooke's authorship of the April 1851 review of Nile Notes is established, as I learned some years ago, by entries in his manuscript journal, now held in the University of Virginia Library, Special Collections. (If I need to go back to Charlottesville to get the exact quote, I will.) John Owen Beaty in his 1922 biography reports that "as one of the mainstays of the Messenger" in this period, John Esten Cooke "edited the March, 1851, number for John Reuben Thompson."

John Esten Cooke (1830-1886) was the younger brother of Philip Pendleton Cooke (1816-1850). Herman Melville we know owned a copy of Philip Pendleton Cooke's Froissart Ballads, which he purchased December 2, 1847. Their uncle was renowned Army cavalry officer Philip St George Cooke--but that's another story.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

1850 letter to Evert A. Duyckinck

Herman Melville, letter to Evert A. Duyckinck
From The New York Public Library Digital Collections

Thursday Morning

My Dear Duyckinck
I hasten to return you the tickets which you were so good as to send last evening. I should have gone--as I love music--were it not that having been shut up all day, I could not stand being shut up all the evening--so I mounted my green jacket & strolled down to the Battery to study the stars.
H Melville
This 1850 letter from Herman Melville to Evert A. Duyckinck is published on page 159 in the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Correspondence.

Very good to near fine


Offered by Raptis Rare Books:
London: Constable and Company, 1923-24. The Complete Works of Herman Melville. Octavo, 16 volumes bound in three quarters blue morocco, raised bands, gilt titles and tooling to the spine. The Standard edition, limited to 750 numbered sets and includes the first printing of Billy Budd, in volume 13. Volume 16 includes the first appearance of a number of Herman Melville’s poems. In very good to near fine condition with a few volumes rebacked. An attractive set.