Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pip and the Kohinoor Diamond


The Illustrated London News - May 31, 1851
"This Engraving represents the Koh-i-Noor, or Mountain of Light, once the property of Runjeet Singh, now exhibited by her Majesty, and which, for the purpose of better inspection, is mounted upon pillars, within a gilt iron cage, prepared for the occasion by Messrs. Chubb. The machinery connected with it is so arranged, that, at the close of each day's exhibition, this valuable gem is lowered into an iron case for security during the night. Below the jewels themselves are exhibited the settings in which they originally stood" (496). [Picture and caption describe the Kohinoor exhibit before the addition of gaslight and mirrors.]
The "Castaway" of chapter 93 in Moby-Dick is Ahab's black cabin boy who goes by the nickname "Pippin." Pip, for short. Pip falls overboard and then goes kind of crazy. Beloved of Captain Ahab, Pip will play the wise Fool to Ahab's Lear. To foreshadow Pip's transformation to a major Shakespearean player in the high tragedy of The Whale, Melville compares Pip to a diamond that sparkles most dazzlingly when on display, artificially ("fictitiously") illuminated by gaslight.

Nor smile so, while I write that this little black was brilliant, for even blackness has its brilliancy; behold yon lustrous ebony, panelled in king's cabinets. But Pip loved life, and all life's peaceable securities; so that the panic-striking business in which he had somehow unaccountably become entrapped, had most sadly blurred his brightness; though, as ere long will be seen, what was thus temporarily subdued in him, in the end was destined to be luridly illumined by strange wild fires, that fictitiously showed him off to ten times the natural lustre with which in his native Tolland County in Connecticut, he had once enlivened many a fiddler's frolic on the green; and at melodious even-tide, with his gay ha-ha! had turned the round horizon into one star-belled tambourine. So, though in the clear air of day, suspended against a blue-veined neck, the pure-watered diamond drop will healthful glow; yet, when the cunning jeweller would show you the diamond in its most impressive lustre, he lays it against a gloomy ground, and then lights it up, not by the sun, but by some unnatural gases. Then come out those fiery effulgences, infernally superb; then the evil-blazing diamond, once the divinest symbol of the crystal skies, looks like some crown-jewel stolen from the King of Hell.  --Moby-Dick, Chapter 93 - The Castaway
Lit up with the right machinery, Melville's metaphorical diamond proves to be no ordinary diamond but a "crown-jewel." The Devil's crown jewel, that is, since the "fiery effulgences" emitted by the sparkling diamond figure madness--in Pip, and in crazy Ahab, too. As Melville conceives it, this devilish diamond appears to have been "stolen from the King of Hell."

Melville's figurative diamond in "The Castaway" chapter of Moby-Dick has a famous contemporary analogue in the Koh-i-noor Diamond.

Called
"the brightest jewel in Queen Victoria's crown" (A Chapter on Diamonds, New Monthly Magazine 89 - August 1850; reprinted in Littell's Living Age, January 18, 1851).
the Kohinoor or "Mountain of Light" was on exhibit in London at the Crystal Palace in June 1851, just when Melville was finishing his whaling epic--writing the last chapters, editing and proofreading others.



Like Melville's metaphorical one, the real Kohinoor was the matchless prize of successive wars, a "crown jewel" that was "stolen" and really did need the help of artfully contrived lighting to display its most dazzling effects.

London Observer, June 15, 1851
From The Times of London, June 13, 1851:
Another point of public interest relates to the Koh-i-Noor. After all the work which has been made about that celebrated diamond our readers will be rather surprised to hear that many people find a difficulty in bringing themselves to believe from its external appearance, that it is anything but a piece of common glass. Amid all the adventures that have befallen it, there is, perhaps, none more odd than that its genuineness should now be doubted. Yet so it is. The fact is, that the "Mountain of Light" has been shockingly ill-used in the cutting, and that when placed in the open light of day, without any arrangements to draw forth its brilliancy, it does not sparkle and gleam like other jewels of the kind. To obviate this disadvantage, and demonstrate to the world that the Koh-i-Noor is a veritable diamond, it is to be surrounded with a canopy or tent, the interior of which is to be lighted with gas, and the idea is that this will develop its beauties as a gem of the purest water, with a certainty and splendour which undoubtedly are not attained at present.
Fifteen days after the above item appeared in the London Times, it was reprinted in the Boston Evening Transcript (June 28, 1851). By the second week in July the news had traveled as far west as Milwaukee.

Found on Newspapers.com

Context makes me think Melville probably had seen the latest news about the Great Exhibition in London when he expanded on the role of Pip near the start of chapter 93 in Moby-Dick. The celebrity of the Koh-i-noor diamond as preeminent spoil of war and its very public status as actual, literal "crown jewel" seem to underlie Melville's image of the artfully illuminated diamond as "some crown-jewel stolen from the King of Hell." Then, too, Melville prefaces the diamond figure with an interesting reference to ebony cabinets. Real cabinets of ebony and alabaster were featured in the "Indian Saloon" of the London Exhibition. Ebony cabinets and the Kohinoor are described together in one report from London correspondent "Quantum," published in The New York Tribune on June 23, 1851.

More formally, the talk of ebony and diamonds occurs in the third paragraph of an introductory narrative sequence that seems tacked on (much of it anyway) for the purpose of foreshadowing. Melville evidently wants to prepare readers better for the development of Pip's character, as Pip changes from merry entertainer to disturbed soulmate. Pip's "brilliancy" was formerly "blurred" and "subdued." So it was with the Kohinoor diamond which almost "seemed paste" and needed "arrangements to draw forth its brilliancy" before it could "sparkle and gleam like other jewels of the kind." The tacked-on feeling of Melville's set-up seems acknowledged, implicitly, in the transition back to the main narrative:
"But let us to the story."  --Moby-Dick, The Castaway
For more on the Kohinoor, check out this informative blog post on the Victoria and Albert Museum website by Archivist Nicholas Smith:
Smith opens by citing a new book that I have to get now:
Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand, (Bloomsbury, 2017).

Gleason's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion - October 25, 1851

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Gansevoort Melville, 1846 memorial by William E. Cramer

Zelica and Azim from Moore's Lalla Rookh
Drawing by John Tenniel via The University of Adelaide

William Edward Cramer was editor of the Albany Argus in 1843-6. His father was Polk's friend John Cramer of Waterford in Saratoga County. Transcribed below, the complete text of Cramer's published tribute to the memory of Herman Melville's older brother Gansvoort. Respecting Gansvoort Melville's affection for poetry and romance, Cramer chose a line from Moore's Lalla Rookh to convey something of the grief felt by his surviving family members and friends.

From the Washington Union, June 13, 1846:

GANSEVOORT MELVILLE.

Though much has already been said by the press on the death of Gansevoort Melville, yet there are incidents connected with his life and character deeply interesting to the young men of our country, which deserve more than a passing notice.

Gansevoort Melville, though young in years, with the disadvantages of a self-education, had already acquired an eminence and a reputation given to few young men of our republic.

As an orator he was peculiarly gifted. His imagination was rich and brilliant, but strong and just, combined with that extraordinary command of language which gave peculiar power to his burning thoughts and earnest manner. His heart was warm and noble, as an orator's should be, to move the masses. He was also endowed with every external attribute to give effect to the fascinations of his mind and manner. His voice was expressive, and yet its deep tones could be distinctly heard by thousands. His figure was majestic—some might say, colossal; his eye, large and black, with the glance of a Webster, and with a head and forehead whereon was stamped, by the "seal of Nature," the elements of a great and commanding character. His mind and heart and personal appearance were alike calculated to inspire that pride and admiration which spring from the conviction that he would be worthy of the highest destiny which could be awarded to an American.

In unison with the warmth of his feelings, he was enthusiastic in his attachment to democratic principles. During the presidential canvass of 1844 this spirit induced him to undertake a tour to the southwestern States, to attend the great convention at Nashville. How admirably he acquitted himself there, in the presence of such orators as Cass, and Douglass, Hise and Marshall, and before the assembled thousands of Tennessee and Alabama, we have the evidence of a statesman who, for twenty years in the House of Representatives, has heard the first orators of our country, and who now occupies an honorable position in the cabinet of the President. At that time he wrote, "Your friend Melville made one of the best speeches I ever heard." His return through Kentucky, Ohio, and western New York, gave him an opportunity to measure his strength with some of the ablest men of our country. The large numbers of people which gathered to hear him wherever he went, was an evidence that he had already a foothold among the masses of which an older statesman might be proud.

Soon after the inauguration of President Polk, he was tendered by the President the secretaryship of the legation to England in a manner so frank and kind, that he was induced to accept it, against the advice of some of his trusted friends. That he acquitted himself in his honorable mission in a manner worthy of himself and his country, is one of the noblest consolations to his mourning friends. But it was beautiful to see Mr. Melville in the family of his mother and sisters. He was not loved, but rather idolized, with a love "passing that of earth," and he reciprocated that attachment with an intensity few "can wot of."

From an intimacy of many years, we may say that an affectionate son, a most devoted brother, a warm and true-hearted friend, an earnest politician, with a sagacity worthy of riper years, a gifted orator, a nature chivalrous and lofty in its impulses, an ambition noble in its objects, loving power and place, but his country more, with every attribute of external interest, constituted the person and character of Gansevoort Melville.

When such men die in the spring-time of life, we may mourn their loss, not alone for their friends and family, whose anguish is
"Past all wounds the quivering flesh can bear,"
but for their country. In this case the affliction is the deeper, as Gansevoort Melville gave every promise of a career of elevated usefulness, honorable distinction, and devoted patriotism, such as a republic needs from her sons.

C.
Waterford, Saratoga co., N. Y.
Found on Newspapers.com
Orator "Hise" is Elijah Hise of Kentucky. Later Walter N. Haldeman said Hise had been making the same speech "on every occasion for the last ten or fifteen years" (Louisville Daily Courier, January 23, 1851). The former congressman and current member of James Polk's Cabinet who praised Gansevoort Melville's Nashville oration as "one of the best speeches I ever heard" must be Cave Johnson, the only ex-Representative among three former Congressmen in Polk's cabinet.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Mardi, and a Voyage Thither, by Herman Melville

Paddling through The South Seas: Melville in Baltimore, February 1859


Baltimore Sun - February 8, 1859

Herman Melville's Lecture.

Who has not read with delight the charming books of Life and Adventure in the South Seas, by Herman Melville? They first truly presented to the world men and manners in this enchanting region. The Mercantile Library Lecture this evening will present their author as a public speaker, and we know of no one half as well qualified as he to transport us, in fancy, to the ever clear sky and ever green shores of the Pacific Islands--to observe the strange life of a people to whom nature offers, without labor, a perpetual feast--or to lead us on the dashing adventures of whale fishing in the surrounding seas. --Baltimore Sun, February 8, 1859
Baltimore Daily Exchange - February 8, 1859
Melville's lecture on "The South Seas" at the Universalist Church in Baltimore was favorably reviewed the next day in the Baltimore Sun. Edited versions by Merton M. Sealts, Jr. in Melville as Lecturer and the Northwestern-Newberrry edition of The Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces give fuller reconstructions of all Melville's lectures, based on extant newspaper accounts. But I like this one, transcribed below, for the picture of Melville paddling through his subject.
"He would not repeat old sayings, or summon back the memories of old voyagers, but would paddle among its aspects at large, whether personal or otherwise."
Although banished to endnotes in twentieth-century editions, as a variant, the paddling image sounds like Melville's (rather than the reviewer's) and recalls the way Taji and company canoed from isle to isle in Mardi.

When Melville lectured there in early 1859, the old Universalist Church at Calvert and Pleasant had long served as a public meeting place. Five years later the building was dedicated for worship by the congregation of  St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church, "the first African American Catholic Church in the United States."
St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church - Calvert & Pleasant Streets, Baltimore
via Library of Congress



From the Baltimore Sun, February 9, 1859:
MERCANTILE LIBRARY LECTURES.--Herman Melville, Esq., of Pittsfield, Mass, delivered the tenth lecture of the course before the Mercantile Library Association last night, at the Universalist Church, Calvert street. His subject was "The South Seas," being a narrative of personal experience among the Archipelagoes, and the Polynesian isles that lie scattered through that ocean, like stars in the heavens. His subject, the lecturer said, was literally an expansive one, and embraced an arena he would not dare say how much. He would not repeat old sayings, or summon back the memories of old voyagers, but would paddle among its aspects at large, whether personal or otherwise.

The name South Seas, generally applied to this body of water, is synonymous with Pacific ocean, which was afterwards applied to it because of the tranquility of its waters. Little was known of the "South Seas" by Americans until 1848-- The discovery of gold in California, in that memorable year, first opened the Pacific and made its waters a thoroughfare for American ships. Much might be said of the finny inhabitants of this waste of waters--of the sword-fish, and the tilts he runs with ships; of the devil-fish, and the weird yarns of the sailors concerning him. The lecturer only wondered the great naturalist, Agazzis [Agassiz], did not back his carpet bag and betake him to Nantucket, and from thence to the South Seas--the argosy of wonders. The birds, also, in their variety and strange plumage--birds never seen elsewhere--were a study.

The South Seas, or Pacific Ocean, is reckoned to embrace one-half of the earth's surface, or an expanse of one hundred millions of square miles. Explorations have failed to rend away the veil of its mysteries, and every expedition thither has brought discoveries of new islands until on our maps the ink of one is run into another. A lone inhabitant on one of these islands would be as effectually separated from his fellow man as the inhabitant of another world. They would be good asylums, the lecturer said, for the free lovers and Mormons to rear their pest houses in--provided the natives, degraded as they are, did not object.

The lecturer spoke of several adventurers who went in search of mystical spots, said to be embosomed somewhere in these seas. They were like those who went to Paradise--they probably found the good they sought, for they never returned more. There were only two places where adventurers can most effectually disappear, and they are London and the South Seas.

The lecturer spoke of the "beach hovers," class of adventurers, or those cast by accident or chance upon the Polynesian Isles. This cognomen was derived from the fact that they always hovered upon the shores, and seemed every moment on the point of disembarking. He also alluded to the natives and their modes of tattooing. Unless a man submits to be tattooed, he is looked upon as damned, which was the case with the speaker, as he frequently resisted the importunities of the native artists to sit. The tattooing, like the uniform of a soldier, is here symbolical of the Isle, or class to which the person belongs. The lecture abounded in interesting personal narratives, and held the interest of the audience to the close.
Found on Newspapers.com

Related posts:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Lincoln's lost words: "slavery is a sin"


In the second volume of Abraham Lincoln: A Life, historian Michael Burlingame cites a newspaper clipping of an 1879 letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune in which Lincoln's friend Herrring Chrisman (1823-1911) recalled the president-elect's determination, early in 1861, to conciliate pro-Union Virginians. The scene that Chrisman wrote about happened in Springfield, Illinois before Lincoln left for Washington, and before the Virginia Secession Convention. Professor Burlingame quotes the part of Chrisman's published reminiscence that detailed specific actions Lincoln would commit to for the sake of preserving the Union, including his promises to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act and "protect slavery" where it legally existed already:
"Tell them I will execute the fugitive slave law better than it has ever been. I can do that. Tell them I will protect slavery in the states where it exists. I can do that. Tell them they shall have all the offices south of Mason's and Dixon's line if they will take them. I will send nobody down there as long as they execute the offices themselves."  --Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Volume 2, page 120
In Lincoln and the Civil War, Professor Burlingame summarizes Lincoln's stand, repeating the key concessions in the order that Chrisman gave them in 1879:
Lincoln evidently believed that if he could frame an inaugural address that was conciliatory enough for Southern Unionists, yet firm enough to satisfy Republican hard-liners, and then show the South by his actions--enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law, not interfering with slavery in the states where it existed, not appointing antislavery zealots to federal posts in the Southern states--that he was no John Brown, then the crisis would pass.  --Lincoln and the Civil War
More recently, Daniel W. Crofts in Lincoln and the Politics of Slavery has referenced Lincoln's vow to "protect slavery," footnoting the source as "an 1879 recollection by H. Chrisman" by way of Burlingame in Abraham Lincoln: A Life, volume 2.

Professor Burlingame does not deal with all of Chrisman's letter. Professor Crofts cites Burlingame for the good evidence of Lincoln's pragmatism, without elaborating on Chrisman's 1879 letter. Crofts does cite important corroborating evidence of Chrisman's role, in letters from H. Chrisman to William C. Rives written in early February 1861, extant among the William Cabel Rives papers in the Library of Congress. Neither historian mentions the "look of unutterable grief" that Chrisman observed on Lincoln's face. According to Chrisman, Lincoln's expression of "mournful sadness" reflected his private expectation of failure in the effort to prevent civil war. Chrisman attributed Lincoln's gloom to his understanding that southerners would not finally abide the restriction of slavery to slave-holding states in the South.


In reporting Lincoln's promises to Virginia Unionists and the anguish they evoked in the president-elect, Chrisman also quoted Lincoln as saying something never attributed to him since:
"slavery is a sin."
Found on Newspapers.com
From the Chicago Tribune, October 25, 1879:

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

His Prevision of the War—The Reply He Made to Virginia—"Slavery Is a Sin, and Ought Not to Be Extended, and I Can't Go Back on Myself."
To the Editor of the Tribune.
ABINGDON, Ill., Oct. 22.—Seeing the marked interest attracted to the period of the inauguration of Lincoln by the recent publication of several papers from the "Diary of a Public Man," it has seemed not improbable that some of your readers would perhaps be interested to know, if any one could tell, at what point of time it became known to this "unlettered greenhorn," to whom the Republican party had so recklessly intrusted "the life of the Nation," —became fully aware we were engaged in a war with the "dissatisfied" States. This knowledge came to him, as most of his knowledge did, by the slow process of his reasoning powers, before he left Springfield, and before the Virginia Convention had even met to consider the position that State would take, and it came round in this wise: Mr. Lincoln's chief point of anxiety, between the election and inauguration, was to have the "border States" stay, and he kept up negotiations with the Union men of Virginia to secure that end until the result of that election was known. Along with the news of their triumphant success came a letter from Col. John B. Baldwin, since dead, stating the danger was immense, and refusing to be responsible for the result in convention at all without an implicit declaration from Mr. Lincoln of a policy on which he could safely intrench, giving him a cart blanche, without so much as a hint of what it should be, but so ably and succinctly setting forth the situation he should have to meet as to make us at once and fully sensible a crisis had come. Mr. Lincoln took the letter in the evening, for "a night to reflect." and promised to return it with his answer next morning at 8 o'clock. Precisely, almost to the moment, he came with the letter to my room, and his answer made up, and it was this: "Tell them I will execute the Fugitive Slave law better than it ever has been. I can do that. Tell them I will protect Slavery in the Sates where it exists. I can do that. Tell them they shall have all the offices south of Mason and Dixon's line if they will take them. I will send nobody down there as long as they will execute the offices themselves." This much he intended for "them." "But," said he, with a mournful sadness it was impossible to hear without deep sympathy at once, "all this will do no good. They are in a position where they must have the right to carry slavery into the territory of the United States. I have lived my whole life and fought this thing through on the idea that slavery is a sin and ought not to be extended, and I can't go back on myself." Without salutation or other word he unfolded himself and stalked out with a look of unutterable grief, and I laid down and wept. Our minds at his last words had met. We felt what it meant. And war was the word we saw at that instant, red-handed, and grim, and distinct. The negotiation with Virginia was transferred to Washington, and he got himself there as quick and as safe as he could. He went there to fight, and, if need be, to die. 
H. CHRISMAN.
Chrisman's published letter was widely reprinted in contemporary newspapers under the heading "A Reminiscence of Lincoln"; for example in the New York Times on Friday, October 31, 1879; the Daily Saratogian on November 6, 1879, the Cleveland Leader on November 7, 1879, the Staunton Spectator (Staunton, Virginia) on November 11, 1879, and the Philadelphia Inquirer on November 26, 1879. Various reprintings do not always include the writer's published signature, "H. Chrisman," but the ones I have seen all include the statement attributed to Lincoln that "slavery is a sin and ought not to be extended." Below, Chrisman's letter as reprinted in the Staunton Spectator, November 11, 1879; accessible online via Chronicling America, Library of Congress.

Staunton Spectator - November 11, 1879
A different version of Herring Chrisman's 1879 newspaper reminiscence appears in the Memoirs of Lincoln, published in 1930 by Herring's son, William Herring Chrisman, with an editorial note of introduction by John Houston Harrison. According to the son's Foreword, these memoirs were "written in the year 1900, as a family record."  Revisions in this later 1900 account include the addition of descriptive details that locate the scene more particularly in the writer's Springfield hotel room, where Lincoln entered and "sat down upon the bed." Lincoln's "look of unutterable grief" has become "a look of anguish I shall never forget." Regarding enforcement of the Fugitive Slave law, Lincoln in the revised version believes "my people will let me do that," introducing considerations of party and politics that did not qualify the commitment as reported in the 1879 version, "I can do that." In a significant addition, Lincoln's Virginia-born friend now credits their "Southern blood" as the basis of their shared understanding of the inevitability of war.
 "We were both of Southern blood and knew what the South would do."
In the introductory note to the 1930 volume Memoirs of Lincoln, J. Houston Harrison (like Chrisman in the body of his memoirs) seems keen to emphasize not only Lincoln's friendship with Herring Chrisman, but also his kinship as the grandson of Bathsheba Herring. This Bathsheba was the sister of Herring Chrisman's maternal great grandfather:
Through her marriage to Captain Abraham Lincoln, their son Thomas, the President's father, inherited maternal strains of Colonial ancestry among the most prominent in Old Augusta, later Rockingham County, Virginia.--Introduction, Memoirs of Lincoln
The revised version keeps the essential point about Lincoln's non-negotiable stand on the extension of slavery "into the territories," but drops altogether Lincoln's quoted conviction that "slavery is a sin."
That letter was submitted to him as soon as it came to my quarters at the hotel. It was received late at night. He asked to take it for reflection and promised his answer at eight o'clock in the morning. Promptly to the hour he came stalking gloomily in, and without salutation sat down upon the bed and began to deliver himself with great solemnity in this wise: "You may tell them I will protect slavery where it exists; I can do that. You may tell them I will execute the fugitive slave law better than it ever has been; my people will let me do that. You may tell them they shall have all the offices south of Mason's and Dixon's line if they will take them. I will send nobody down there to interfere with them." He then remarked to me personally, and in a tone that pierced me almost like the faint wail of a suffering infant, and with a look of anguish I shall never forget: "But all of that will do no good. They have got themselves to where they might have the right to carry slavery into the territories, and I have lived my whole life and fought this campaign; and I can't go back on myself." Of course we both of us felt, and knew, it meant War. We were both of Southern blood and knew what the South would do. He went as he came, and I wept. Our minds had met. It was the first time either of us had allowed ourselves to look that awful War squarely in the face. He could have seen nobody to consult, and in so vital a matter he would wish to consult only himself.
--Memoirs of Lincoln, by Herring Chrisman
Why did Chrisman omit "slavery is a sin" in revision? Perhaps Chrisman felt he had made an error in 1879 and wanted to correct it in the 1900 version. On reflection he may have thought it a mistake to have made Lincoln utter such a familiar tenet of abolitionism. On the other hand, maybe the deleted quote was accurate but deemed regrettable, in hindsight. Several chapters in Chrisman's Memoirs exude nostalgia for the old South. The new century found Chrisman prone to condone the institution of slavery and even to idealize it. Whatever Lincoln thought, Chrisman by 1900 plainly did not regard slavery as inherently sinful. Thus, both the added emphasis on southern kinship and the deletion of Lincoln's view of slavery as a sin might have been motivated by a revived identification with southern culture and causes by Herring Chrisman himself, or by his son, or possibly by others in the family.

The volume Memoirs of Lincoln as published by his son documents southern alliances throughout, for example when John Houston Harrison points out that Herring Chrisman's brother George Chrisman served as a Major in the Confederate army. More revealingly, the chapter on Vital Causes of Our Civil War develops Chrisman's hopelessly racist and ultra-romantic defense of slavery as ideally practiced in the southern states, before the mania for "expansion" pervaded and doomed the South. Nevertheless, before and after the 1860 election Chrisman the Virginian was also a loyal Unionist with a job to do. As narrated in "The Hope of Saving Virginia" and elsewhere in the Memoirs of Lincoln, Chrisman had to empower pro-Union Virginians and thereby hold off increasingly militant secessionists in his native state, incited by Jefferson Davis. The mission as Chrisman conceived it, and expressed it to Lincoln in that Springfield hotel room, was to "save the Capitol for his inauguration" (Memoirs of Lincoln - page 87) through relentless personal diplomacy (unrewarded and unacknowledged in the public sphere, as he reflected many decades later). In Chrisman's view, his good work of supporting and placating Virginia Unionists over many months, although ultimately ineffective, at least ensured that militants in Richmond would not have the backing to attack Washington by force before the inauguration.

In any case, as far as I can tell, no subsequent version contains the lost words "slavery is a sin" that Herring Chrisman in 1879 attributed to president-elect Lincoln.


Available online via The Library of Congress:

The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress include in the category of "General Correspondence" a letter of support from Herring Chrisman to Abraham Lincoln, received evidently in February 1861. Below, my transcription:
Hon A. Lincoln

Dear Sir

This letter will be handed you by my father. We have sustained a loss by his withdrawal as candidate for the convention. I learn his vote would have been almost unanimous. He goes to tender you his friendly offices with the people of Virginia adopting fully my personal sentiments towards you.

When you visit Virginia you will come to understand the absorbing interest I feel in your personal glory. It is in no idle sense then that I rejoiced in your evident selection of the Father of his Country for your model. The grand secret of his wonderful success seems to be owing to two habits-- First to balance & adjust his powerful judgment like a pair of scales-- 2nd to invite a free discussion or rather a free expression to himself of all shades of opinion from the wise and the good of all parties-- & lastly to follow implicitly his own enlightened judgment under God, regardless of everything personal to himself excepting his honor.

With the happiest reliance as well upon your faculties as your dispositions and with the most earnest prayers for your successful administration and future happiness

I have the honor &c.
Your friend
Herring Cushman
On September 17, 1862 Orville H. Browning wrote Abraham Lincoln, forwarding him an encouraging letter from Herring Chrisman dated September 12, 1862. Here is my transcription of Chrisman's letter to Browning:
St. Augustine - Knox Co.
September 12, 1862
Dear Sir

Your seem a little surprised at the generous warmth everywhere manifested by the democrats towards the President. I have watched its steady growth among them and believe it to be very general. It grows out of a personal trust they repose in him that he will preserve the constitution at every hazard. It seems to be his natural prerogative to be popular. He is always most so when he is most like himself. The strong man of the administration among the people in doubtful matters the Cabinet cannot do better than follow his judgment. Like General Jackson in that he seems certain to be endorsed by the people.

He has saved us from anarchy & ruin at home, given us a united North, preserved the government perfect in all its parts & satisfied the world we are still a first rate power.

There are it seems not a few who insist he must hazard all this upon a theory. Some apprehension was felt that he might be misled by this clamor. Hence the general joy over the letter to Greeley-- so calm so cool so gentle yet so firm, it satisfied the Country he was still himself. How much depends upon his life.

Your presence among the people is producing a good effect. Many good people who were being misled will see things more as they are, hereafter. The radical leaders begin already to call themselves administration men, a fact we were in danger of forgetting if indeed they were not themselves. The administration is too strong for them & they know it. Their role will now be support to betray. They will aim to borrow what strength they can from the administration to get votes to control it. My best wishes attend you.

Very truly,
Herring Chrisman
Found on Newspapers.com

Saturday, August 19, 2017

John Williamson Palmer


From the sketch of John Williamson Palmer and his literary career in Current Literature, Volume 24 (August 1898):

Dr. Palmer has always regarded Herman Melville, author of Typee and Omoo, with peculiar admiration and affection, and is still in cordial sympathy with his "aloofness," his shyness of literary clubs and coteries. Speaking of so-called "brilliant" men of letters, he says, "In forty years' acquaintance with American writers, beginning with N. P. Willis, I have known but one genuinely and spontaneously 'brilliant' personality, and that was William Henry Hurlburt, of Putnam's Monthly in 1855."
Herman Melville and Palmer both contributed to Putnam's Monthly Magazine in the 1850's, Palmer during the latter half of the decade. In 1856 their books also were being published by Dix, Edwards & Co. For Melville, Dix and Edwards published The Piazza Tales (1856) and then The Confidence-Man (1857). In 1856 Dix and Edwards issued Palmer's The Golden Dagon; Or, Up and Down the Irrawaddi. On October 11, 1856 Melville gave a copy of The Golden Dagon to his brother Allan (see the catalog entry for Sealts Number 396.2 at Melville's Marginalia Online).

The one extant letter from Melville to J. W. Palmer (dated March 23, 1889) is held by the University of Virginia Library, with other manuscript Papers of Herman Melville. It's printed in The Letters of Herman Melville and also the  Northwestern-Newberry edition of Herman Melville's Correspondence.  In reply to Palmer's "friendly note" and gift of books, Melville says his wife Elizabeth had been reading aloud to him from "Up & Down the Irrawaddy." He probably forgot that he had given the first edition to Allan thirty-plus years before.



J. W. Palmer's brother was another physician and world-traveler, the distinguished navy surgeon James Croxall Palmer.

Links to some works by John Williamson Palmer that are accessible online:

Friday, August 18, 2017

Typee in Baltimore

OUR BOOK TABLE. "Typee; a residence in the Marquesas--by Herman Melville." This is No. xiii and xiv of Wiley & Putnam's Library of American Books, and gives a very interesting account of the Island, by one that resided there several years. The sketches of the manners, customs and superstitions of the people, are free, graceful and entertaining. Taylor & Co. have the work.