Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Moby-Dick in the Detroit Free Press

Found on Newspapers.com

Not in Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews, this brief but flattering notice assigns to Moby-Dick the subtitle of Harry Martingale (1848):
"The adventures of a whaleman."
From the Detroit Free Press, November 21, 1851:
MOBY DICK.--The adventures of a whaleman. by Herman Mellville, author of Typee. Harper & Bros.--This peculiarly piquant narrative, reminds one forcibly of the earlier productions of the author. Its stirring scenes and adventures on the bosom of the broad Pacific, will be the life of the forecastle, on many a stormy night,
"When winds are piping high,"
and for landsmen also, will possess a peculiar charm.
For sale by McFarren. 

Forthcoming: The Whale

Found on Newspapers.com
Herman Mellville's forthcoming book is announced by the Harpers. Its title is simply "The Whale." It will be published in octavo. --New York Evening Post, October 4, 1851

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Romance of whaling, "in the days before petroleum"

"There is no longer any interest in the subject. It was not possible for any one to say anything worth reading or listening to after Herman Melville's yarns. His "Omoo" and "White Jacket" were the last romances of the sea. Richard H. Dana, Jr., exhausted the field of "before the mast," and Melville left nothing for anybody to tell about whaling."
--Review of Nimrod of the Sea, Brooklyn Daily Union, September 8, 1874
 The Brooklyn Daily Union - September 8, 1874
By contrast, and with no thought of Moby-Dick, the Christian Watchman praised Nimrod of the Sea as "a graphically-told narrative of daring exploits" and "a deeply interesting account of the nature and habits of the whale, of the methods employed for his capture, and of the uses which he is made to serve."
A bright boy, in the reading of the book, will not fail to gather a vast deal of new information in respect to the sea and its wondrous forms of life. Scattered through it are many spirited pictures representing the perilous circumstances which surround the intrepid sailors in their attacks upon the whale." --Christian Watchman [Boston], September 10, 1874
The New York Herald (September 28, 1874) described the author William M. Davis as "one of those hardy Long Island mariners who sailed for the whale in the days before petroleum."

Found on Newspapers.com

So far, the 1874 review of Nimrod of the Sea in the Brooklyn Daily Union is the only contemporary notice I have found that recalls Moby-Dick. However, in the same year, the review of "Jules Verne's Romances" in the Wilmington Daily Commercial favorably compares the "vein of poetry and romantic mystery" in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea with that of Moby-Dick:
But a mere fantasy, an intellectual whim, must not be carried too far, lest in the process of attenuation it should break. M. Verne touches the limit nicely in "Twenty Thousand Leagues," and that book remains his best because in addition to its audacity and wealth of invention it had a vein of poetry and romantic mystery running through it. In those respects it resembled Herman Melville's "Moby Dick," in which the practical details of whale-fishing are relieved by a fine play of the imagination.  --Wilmington [Delaware] Daily Commercial, November 4, 1874
The Nantucket Historical Association has whaling journals by William Morris Davis in 1834-1837. According to the catalog description, Log 354 ("Journal of a man before the mast or on board the Whale Ship Chelsea of New London") was "Used in preparation of William M. Davis 'Nimrod of the Sea or The American Whaleman' (Harper 1874)."

As Caleb Crain has observed, some elements in Davis's description of sperm-squeezing in Nimrod of the Sea resemble Melville's treatment of the same operation in chapter 94 of Moby-Dick. For instance, Melville imagines himself "in a Constantine's bath" of sperm, while Davis experiences a more luxurious "bath" than ever did "Solomon in all  his glory." I would like to know if and how Davis describes the operation of squeezing sperm in manuscript. And everything else, for that matter. It could be a rewarding project to compare manuscript and book versions throughout, to see what kind of rewriting was involved in 1872, and how much. Possibly the style of Moby-Dick in places influenced the editing or rewriting of Nimrod of the Sea. Obviously, Nimrod as published in 1874 could not have influenced Moby-Dick (1851), unless somehow Melville had access to "oil-stained" whaling logs of the Chelsea by William Morris Davis (1815-1891).

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Melville's "noble lines to Stonewall Jackson" in the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser

Stonewall Jackson, sketch from life
via The New York Public Library Digital Collections
BATTLE PIECES AND ASPECTS OF THE WAR BY HERMAN MELVILLE. New York: Harper & Brothers. For sale by Breed, Butler & Co. Those who are fond of Melville's writings, and they are many, will doubtless desire to possess his poems. They are suggested by events of the late war, and are generally descriptive. We have but little space for criticism or quotation, but cannot refrain from giving two stanzas from his noble lines to Stonewall Jackson:
But who shall hymn the Roman heart?
   A stoic he, but even more;
The iron will and lion thew
   Were strong to inflict as to endure:
       Who like him could stand or pursue?
       His fate the fatalist followed through;
       In all his great soul found to do
          Stonewall followed his star.
*          *          *          *
O, much of doubt in after days
   Shall cling, as now, to the war
Of the right and the wrong they'll still debate
   Puzzled by Stonewall's star:
      "Fortune went with the North elate"
      "Aye, but the South had Stonewall's weight
      And he fell in the South's vain war."
--Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, September 11, 1866
The notice of Battle-Pieces transcribed above appeared in the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser on September 11, 1866. At that time the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser was edited and published by James Newson Matthews and James D. Warren. But Matthews was then in Dublin, getting ready to sail home after the European vacation that he narrated in editorial correspondence for the Commercial Advertiser, published in book form as My Holiday: How I Spent It (Buffalo and New York, 1867). The brief notice of Battle-Pieces may have been written by Warren, later a model of the "stalwart" Republican.

Found on Newspapers.com

Friday, August 11, 2017

Joseph Brenan on Melville's Pierre

The second installment of "Nights in Our Office," an irregular series of newspaper sketches in the New Orleans Daily Delta, contains a long, critical treatment of Herman Melville's Pierre as an exemplary instance of "transcendental balderdash." For such "trash" as Pierre the critic blames the influence of spirit rapping and similarly fraudulent "spiritual" fads. Ironically, within the semi-fictional setting of "Nights," the very corporeality of the critic seems questionable.



Young "Ben Fox" is said to be alone, "SOLUS," the only person left in the editorial office of the Daily Delta, yet the strong criticism of Pierre first arrives in another voice, disembodied.
"Ben Fox SOLUS. In the absence of the other young gentlemen, who have gone "across the Lake," and left him alone with the items, he is compelled to soliloquize."
Being alone, Ben Fox is "compelled to soliloquize." In context then, the voice of Melville's critic is best understood as that of the solitary editor in dialogue with himself. Further along in the review, commenting on the style and peculiar diction of Pierre, Ben Fox asserts himself in the first person: "I, Ben Fox ...." Still, accepting the conceit as presented, the critic of Pierre may be regarded as essentially a figment of the narrator's imagination and therefore--a ghost.

Considering the strong distaste expressed for the novel's "disgustingly immoral" contents, the depth of the engagement with them also seems remarkable. Ghost or no, Melville's New Orleans critic read to the end.

Who was he? As confirmed in Young Irelanders by T. F. O'Sullivan, Benjamin or Ben Fox was a pseudonym of Joseph Brenan (1828-1857), the exiled Irish patriot, poet, and journalist who served for several years as literary editor of the New Orleans Daily Delta. (Aka Joseph Brennan.) One New Orleans friend described Brenan as a "fire-eater," a brilliant writer and fanatic Southerner, but unfortunately
"reckless and desperate in his conduct, as if driven by the Furies." --Donahoe's Magazine
In 1853 (less than one year after publishing the extended attack on Pierre) Brenan contracted yellow fever. Back in New York City for a brief spell in 1854, he collaborated with John Mitchel on the anti-English and pro-slavery New York Citizen. He suffered blindness and wrote about it, in a poem that Melville's friend Evert A. Duyckinck reprinted in The Literary World on November 12, 1853. Brenan died in 1857, in his 29th year.


Earlier in 1852, before publication in August of the two "Nights in Our Office" sketches, Brenan contributed essays under various headings including "Literary Half-Hours," "Fresh Gleanings" (a title confessedly plagiarized from Donald Grant Mitchell aka Ik Marvel), and "Marginalia" (another borrowed title, from Poe, giving "extracts from the notebooks of Benjamin Fox"). Perhaps foreshadowing Brenan's dim view of Pierre, Brenan discounted the sudden popularity of Typee by claiming in one of his "Fresh Gleanings" columns that Herman Melville
"was made a favorite by one review in Blackwood."
--New Orleans Daily Delta, April 11, 1852


The first installment of "Nights in Our Office" appeared in the Sunday morning supplement to the New Orleans Daily Delta on August 15, 1852. No. I reported the after-midnight conversation among three persons in the the editorial office: "Esculapius," "Benjamin Fox," and "The Gaul." Their late night talk touches on literature, politics, and New Orleans society.

As noted above, No. II (August 22, 1852) unfolds as the soliloquy of Ben Fox, writing copy and talking to himself. The tapping sounds made by working typesetters or compositors punctuate the night editor's thoughts and writing.


The nocturnal tapping in several places evokes the practice of spirit-rapping.
"Rap! tap! rap-rap-rap-tap-tap-a-tap-tap! By the memory of all infernal noises, there are the spirits!"
Melville would similarly associate eerie tapping ("Tick! Tick!") with belief in spirits and spirit-rapping in his short fiction, The Apple-Tree Table (subtitle: "Or, Original Spiritual Manifestations"). "Ben Fox" almost anticipates Melville there, when he guesses that
"It might be some insect which has got inside the wainscotting."
Other familiar noises of the night, besides "the click-clack of the type," are the proofreader's "monotonous voice" and "the hissing sound of the steam-engine."
But the click-clack of the type is regular as ever. The monotonous voice of the proof-reader is unbroken in its flow, save when there is a pause to cross a t, or put a dot over an i, and the hissing sound of the steam-engine, which is impatient to stretch forth its strong arm and work, continues its drowsy sameness.
Occasionally the Printer's Devil emerges, too, and sneaks a mischievous comment into the editor's copy.

After a good deal of fretting, Ben Fox manages to convince himself the rapping sounds he hears in the editor's office are not made by ghosts. How long his conviction will hold out, remains uncertain.

Found on Newspapers.com

From the New Orleans Daily Delta, August 22, 1852:
Friend Ben, it must not be. We must discountenance such absurdity. We must laugh down this rapping infamy, and crush it. We must put our paws on the supporters of it: and, if we cannot do so by gentle means, we must e'en follow your example, and--try them with the Latin! [by speaking a Latin formula for exorcism, like Dominie Sampson in Scott's Guy Mannering]. The practical results of the rascally nonsense are becoming too apparent every day. We have spiritual societies in progress of formation, newspapers edited by spirits, with the aid of gin-and-water, and suicides justified by messages from the supernal finger-points. We have a literature of the skies growing up, and distinguished authors assuring the world that they cannot write save when in nubibus. (A delicate way of saying "high," doubtless.--PRINTER'S DEVIL.)
Dear Ben: On the table, near you, is lying a specimen of the transcendental balderdash which is sent forth in good type and binding by the professors of the new religion. Let us glance at it. First, however, I will give you a brief outline of the story.

It is called "Pierre on the Ambiguities"--an ambiguous denomination enough--and has the name of Herman Melville, as the author, on the title page. It is a tale of spiritual wonders. Pierre, the son of a proud and haughty widow, is a young gentleman of literary tastes, who is on terms of singular familiarity with his mother. He calls her sister, and she always treats him as her brother. At the age of nineteen, Pierre, of course, is in love, and with a young girl whose name is Lucy, remarkable for nothing but never talking in any style save that which you and I are accustomed to call "highfalutin." The first portion of the book is taken up with their conversations, which leave those of Romeo and Juliet far behind them. As you read them, the conviction is forced upon you that those three individuals are as mad as the author, but you could not yet suppose that they are as bad. The second part contains the story of Isabel. This young lady meets Pierre one day, and shrieks. Ever after, her face haunts him. He neglects Lucy, and insults his mother. He suddenly becomes blasphemous, and inhospitably fires paradoxes at the head of a respectable clergyman who visits the family. He addresses the moon and stars, and makes speeches which would take the wind from Governor Foote [Henry Stuart Foote] or old Bullion [Thomas Hart Benton]. The beauty of his monologues is their profound incomprehensibility. They are unintelligible enough to have been dreamed by Swedenborg, or "communicated" to Andrew Jackson Davis.

One day Pierre receives a letter. It is signed by Isabel, and calls him her brother, praying him at the same time in very feminine, though rather dangerous terms, to come to her, and take her to his heart. Without any hesitation he goes and embraces her in a warmer manner than what we usually designate fraternal, before she communicates the proof of their relationship. Then Miss Isabel commences a long and misty narrative, which hints at the fact or the falsehood--for the author does not say which--of her being the illegitimate daughter of Pierre's father. She has no reason for thinking so. The transcendental young gentleman has no cause to believe it, but his resolution is taken on the spot. He is determined to save his parent's character--which the public had never assailed, and as far as we could surmise, would never trouble itself withal, provided Isabel held her tongue--and to carry out his object proceeds to ruin his own happiness. Isabel, he says, must live with him. Must consent to be called his wife, and share his fortunes for better or worse. They accordingly run away to New York, where Pierre enters a Fourierite society, and becomes an author. Their mode of living is somewhat equivocal, though mention is made of two rooms. Their residence is in the "House of the Apostles," w[h]ere a number of rappers have congregated for the express purpose, doubtless, of humbugging the world and themselves. Meantime, Pierre's mother dies of a broken heart, and Lucy--the old flame--is despaired of. By the deceased mother's will, the young transcendentalist is disinherited, and compelled to seek bread with his pen, which does not prove very profitable.

So far so good. But unfortunately, Lucy recovers and flees from her family in search of her lover. She arrives at the Apostles and is obliged to take share of Isabel's bed. Then there is the devil to pay. It is impossible to decide which is Mrs. Pierre. They cannot themselves determine which is which. Spiritualism is no use in this fix, for both go in for women's rights. Meanwhile the gentleman writes books and receives insulting messages from the publishers. Lucy paints portraits, and Isabel, jealous of her earnings, announces that she will teach the guitar. We regret to say she did not understand the instrument, however, and had to give up her project. The family quarrel increases. 'Pierre or death' is the cry of both the women--neither will give him up, and there would have been a very pretty row did not the brothers of Lucy arrive and strive to take her back to her home. Their efforts were in vain, for she held on to the bannisters like a heroine, while Pierre shot one of the brothers. Isabel, Lucy and Pierre were consequently taken to the Toombs, where they anticipated the usual legal forms with the vulgar termination, and killed themselves by swallowing poison!

Such is the tale. It smacks more of romance than reality. The details are unpleasant, and the theories put forward in the course of the narrative disgustingly immoral. The style is a hybrid--an ugly cross between Carlyle and Swedenborg. It has something of Willis about it, too. The sentences are dressed like unmeaning fops, and sometimes display a species of pinchback respectability. Occasionally they are so devoid of any scintilla of sense, that they become quite laughable.

We give a specimen or two for the benefit of persons who may not be acquainted with the manner of writing, which has resulted from spiritual rapping, and such like things. Describing Pierre's boyhood, the author says: "In the country then Nature planted our Pierre; because Nature intended a rare and original development in Pierre. Never mind if thereby she proved ambiguous to him in the end, nevertheless in the beginning she did bravely. She blew her wind-clarion from the blue hills and Pierre neighed out lyrical thoughts, as at the trumpet blast a war-horse pawed himself into a lyric of foam." I, Ben Fox, must remark, en passant, that I have heard many persons called "old hoss" before this, but "young hoss" is an epithet not at all familiar to me. If, moreover, any person skilled in rappings, can inform me what is meant by a war-horse pawing himself into a lyric of foam, I would feel under a compliment to the expounder. I fear, though, an Edipus cannot be found to read the riddle. But, let the young man proceed: "She, (viz: Nature,) lifted her spangled crest of a thickly-starred night, and forth at that glimpse of their divine captain and Lord, ten thousand mailed thoughts of heroicness (bur-r-r! what a tooth-grinder of a word!) started up in Pierre's soul and glared round for some insulted good cause to defend." Mailed thoughts glaring round! upon my personal honor! they seem uglier than the spirits.  
Here is a morsel of love-talk: "Wondrous fair of face, blue-eyed, and golden-haired, the bright blonde Lucy was arrayed in colors harmonious with the Heavens. Light blue be thy perpetual color, Lucy; light blue becomes thee best--such the repeated azure counsel of her aunt Tartan. On both sides, from the hedges, came to Pierre, the clover bloom of Saddle Meadows, and from Lucy's mouth and cheek came the fresh fragrance of her violet young being."

"Smell I flowers or thee?" cried Pierre.

"See I lakes or eyes?" cried Lucy, her own gazing down into his soul as two stars into a tarn."

The allusion to Lucy's being "light-blue" in the foregoing extract may be accounted for by the fact that she, too, was somewhat of a literary character. The "azure counsel," though, puzzles us. We have heard of a verdant advice, but an azure one is something new. The beauty of the queries touching Pierre's nasal and Lucy's visual organs, of course, we need not point out.

Towards the middle of the book a clergyman is introduced, whose personal appearance is hinted at in the following sentence: "As Pierre regarded him, sitting there so meek and mild,--such an image of white-browed, and white-handed and napkined immaculateness,--and as he felt the gentle human radiations which came from the clergyman's manly and rounded beautifulness, he felt that if to any one he could go with Christian propriety and some small hopefulness, the person was the one before him." This description is original, is it not? That "napkined immaculateness" is a touch worthy of the smartest waiter in the City Hotel; and the friends of our fellow-citizen, the well-known official, Abdomen, can appreciate the delicacy of the phrase "rounded beautifulness."

But it is in metaphysical morality our author shines with fullest lustre. We have read many dissertations on the subject of Good and Evil, Virtue and Vice; but the following concise definitions are worth the whole of them. Its chief merit, as our readers must remark, is its simplicity and intelligibility. Pierre and Isabel are in conversation.

"Tell me, what is Virtue? Begin."

"If on that point the Gods are dumb, shall a pigmy speak? Ask the air!"

"Then Virtue is nothing?"

"Not that."

"Then Vice?"
"Look; a nothing is the substance; it casts one shadow one way, and another the other way, and these two shadows cast from one nothing--these, it seems to me, are Virtue and Vice."

As a pendant to the above very clear explanation, we beg leave to suggest that two and two make twenty; but twenty looks towards a hundred, and casts a shadow of a naught, and therefore, a naught is considerably more than ninety-nine!

But enough of this trash. I would not have mentioned the book at all, friend Ben, but as an instance of the rabid nonsense which is the result of the spiritual mania. Away with it--away with it. God's stars shine in their place still, and we will not allow filthy oil-lamps or farthing candles to be substituted for them. God's truth is simple, and it shall not be oppressed under a load of stupid stuff. God's law is eternal, and will out-live all the tricks of imposture, and the blasphemy of bastard philosophies.

Meanwhile--tap! Ha! there it is again. Come back, are you? Well, you are fools for your pains. Tap, tap--very singular, I admit, but gammon still. Very awful at this hour, too, and suggestive of shivering.

Tap! Good night. I must get home. Probably, however, you, thirsty denizen of the noisy land, would join me in a "smile." Tap, tap. Deuce fear you, I knew you would. 
(Exit Ben, fumbling in his pockets.)
Two of the better-known poems by Joseph Brenan are reprinted in The Popular Poets and Poetry of Ireland.

Herman Melville owned a copy of Poems by James Clarence Mangan (New York, 1859) with Mangan's ballad "To Joseph Brenan" (not marked). You can now see digitized images of the volume Melville owned courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University:
http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:FHCL.HOUGH:25047828
Below, another copy via the great Internet Archive:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Where to find lines traced under an image of Amor threatening

via Willow*Winds*Art*Antiques on ebay
In a lady's album. That is, "the lady's album of the nineteenth-century in which verses were inscribed, signed, and dated" (Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries), a later development, alongside the autograph album, of the early modern Album Amicorum. In prose fiction, Melville has already told us how his young hero Pierre became a popular author and was besieged with requests to write in ladies' albums.
"Not seldom Pierre's social placidity was ruffled by polite entreaties from the young ladies that he would be pleased to grace their Albums with some nice little song."
Finding such requests awkward, Pierre wanted a creative way to oblige them without actually writing anything.
What could Pierre write of his own on Love or any thing else, that would surpass what divine Hafiz wrote so many long centuries ago? Was there not Anacreon too, and Catullus, and Ovid—all translated, and readily accessible? And then—bless all their souls!—had the dear creatures forgotten Tom Moore? --Pierre; Or, The Ambiguities
The dodge Pierre finally devises is to blow a kiss over them, collectively, then send them back with one real "confectioner's kiss" allotted to each lady.

Melville describes only the outside of the albums that Pierre receives, making a point to observe the sensory appeal of their "ornate bindings," and the devious manner in which the owners have them scented with expensive perfume. Melville does not say the pages were decorated with beautiful engravings. The more expensive ones were.

For a long time now the italicized poem before Melville's poem "After the Pleasure Party" has had me mystified. I kept trying to imagine the poet in the Louvre or some other museum of art, standing under a painting of Eros, and scribbling away in his notebook. Deep down I knew I didn't get it.

Reading in Zamira, a dramatic sketch (1835) by Jonas B. Phillips, I ran into the following piece, one of the miscellaneous poems collected along with Zamira, the titular verse drama.


LINES
Written in a Lady's Album, beneath an engraving
of Love sharpening his arrows. 
--Jonas B. Phillips in Zamira, a Dramatic Sketch: And Other Poems (New York, 1835)
Lines? Under a picture? Of Cupid "sharpening his arrows"? Italics? The heading of these "Lines" by John B. Phillips features all the main elements of the heading to the italicized poem that introduces Melville's "After the Pleasure Party." The title of Melville's introductory poem or epigraph might serve also as a subtitle for the whole "Pleasure Party": "Lines traced under an image of Amor threatening."
Fear me, virgin whosoever
Taking pride from love exempt,
Fear me, slighted. Never, never
Brave me, nor my fury tempt:
Downy wings, but wroth they beat
Tempest even in reason's seat.  --Intro to After the Pleasure Party
Both the poem and the poem before the poem may be read as verses written ("traced") in a finely made Lady's Album, under an engraved "image" of Eros sharpening his arrows, or some other depiction of "Amor threatening."

In the same genre of verses inscribed under pictures in ladies' albums, Mary Ann Browne in Ada and Other Poems (London, 1828) offers "Lines Written Beneath a Drawing of Heart's-Ease, in the Album of a Lady, Who Was Personally Unknown to the Author."


Different image, same genre:



And here's one more, merely hinting at the range of pictorial subjects that might inspire lines in a lady's album:



Pictures of beautiful autograph books on Pinterest look later than the thing I have in mind, but a real material example could be findable. The image from Godey's Lady's Book of Cupid taking aim gets at the right idea, (Beware of boys with wings and arrows) in almost the right place (popular reading for women). His wings should be bigger and fluffier though, since Melville's inscriber notes his "Downy wings." I'm still looking for a lady's album or autograph book with an engraving or other kind of illustration that shows the downy-winged God of Love, pointing. If there's a love-sonnet under it, so much the better. Leads welcome anytime.

Piero della Francesca - Cupid Blindfolded - WGA17587
Cupid Blindfolded by Piero della Francesca
via Wikimedia Commons
Related post: After the Pleasure Party and Hogarth's madhouse

Charles Booth Parsons on Melville's Pierre

Charles Booth Parsons as Caius Silius
via University of Illinois Library Digital Collections
The Nashville and Louisville Christian Advocate was affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Published in Nashville, the weekly paper was edited in 1852 by John B. McFerrin and (in Louisville) by Associate Editor Charles Booth Parsons. McFerrin had officiated in 1849 at the funeral of James K. Polk in Nashville.

Parsons, a preacher and former traveling stage actor, compared and contrasted his "two itinerancies" in The Pulpit and the Stage (1860). His dismissive use there of the expression "etherealized intellectuality" recalls the contempt for "etherealized madness" expressed in the notice of Pierre in the Christian Advocate on September 2, 1852. Parson's authorship is clinched by the fact that the review of Pierre appears on page 3 in the Louisville section of The Christian Advocate, Parson's domain until he formally took his leave as Associate Editor on June 29, 1854.

Nashville and Louisville Christian Advocate - September 2, 1852
PIERRE, OR THE AMBIGUITIES. By MELLVILLE.--
Harper & Bros. N. Y. 8 vo., pp. 495.

This is a work which, we should suppose, might have come from some literary "Alembic," set in a cell of lunacy. It is evidently made up of the wild vagaries of a diseased imagination, in which unnaturalness of character and improbable events greet the reader, though a style as cumbersome and o'erwrought as the tale is unlikely and barren of truth. Such as love to wander 'midst the mazes of etherealized madness, will find, we presume, a congenial companion in the "Ambiguities," which is a proper and very significant title to the book.-- What good end can possibly be promised by the publication of such trash, we are at a loss to discover. And yet "their name is legion."
A biographical sketch of Charles Booth Parsons signed "Colley Cibber" was published in three parts in the The Dramatic Mirror and Literary Companion. Below are links to each installment in the digitized Volume 1:
Parsons played the usual leading roles including Macbeth and Othello. For his biographer in the Dramatic Mirror, Parsons triumphed in the role of Oranaska, the Mohawk chief in the tragedy by neglected New York dramatist Jonas B. Phillips. As Parsons also recounts in The Pulpit and the Stage, in New Orleans his performance as Oranaska was witnessed (and approved, reportedly) by an invited group of Seminole chiefs.

Parsons also excelled as Roaring Ralph Stackpole in Nick of the Woods.
Charley Parsons played at the South Pearl Street Theatre, after Burrough's time....
Parsons was an inferior actor, especially in tragedy — he was of Herculean frame, round shouldered, and had a voice like artificial stage thunder! He was a great favorite, however, in the southwest. He played Roaring Ralph Stackpole to perfection. Had Dr. Bird seen Ralph and Parsons he would have been puzzled to distinguish one from the other. It was actually worth the price of admission to see Parsons as Ralph, without his uttering a word. Parsons being a speculative genius, left the stage and went to preaching in the Methodist church at Louisville, but he soon slid backwards, and finally slid on the stage again — but the spec wouldn't pay; he made a failure, and so Roaring Ralph abandoned the devil's frying pan (the stage), and was once more received to the arms of his deserted flock. I heard him preach the next Sunday after he left the stage, but it was Roaring Ralph all through the sermon, the prayer, the benediction.
--Henry Dickinson Stone, Personal Recollections of the Drama
In Players of a Century: A Record of the Albany Stage, Henry Pitt Phelps calls Parsons "a very bad actor" and colorfully describes his conversion in Louisville.

Charles Booth Parsons performed in Albany when Herman Melville lived there. Melville was fourteen when Parsons appeared as Macbeth at the Albany Theatre on November 4, 1833.

Albany Argus - November 4, 1833
On previous evenings during the same 1833 engagement Parsons starred in the roles of Virginius (November 1st) and Sir Giles Overreach (November 3rd). After Macbeth, Parsons appeared as William Tell (November 5th).

Parsons returned as Macbeth on September 18, 1834. His advertised "last appearance" came the next night, September 19, 1834, when Parsons starred in, hey hey,
"the highly successful Indian tragedy of ORANASKA." --Albany Evening Journal, September 19, 1834