"Mr. Herman Melville, the well known author of popular seafaring stories, died at his home in New York Sunday night." --Boston Journal, September 29, 1891
|New York Tribune - October 3, 1891|
"The New-York Times" of yesterday, in an appreciative editorial concerning the late Herman Melville, remarks that only one newspaper (presumably "The Times") contained an obituary account of him, and this was but of three or four lines. Had "The Times" consulted the files of The Tribune, it would have found a much longer obituary of Mr. Melville on the morning after his death, and in Thursday's issue it might have noted a half column review of his life and work. A perusal of this latter article might, perhaps, have prevented the further dissemination of a misleading report that Mr. Melville had been forgotten by the contemporary literary guild. He was invited, among the very first, to join in the founding of the democratic little Authors' Club that flourishes in this city. This occurred in 1882, but Mr. Melville always has been an object of interest among literary people here, who have regretted his extreme self-isolation. --New York Tribune, October 3, 1891.Here's the obituary of Herman Melville in the New York Tribune, the one printed "on the morning after his death":
|New York Tribune - September 29, 1891|
|New York Tribune - October 1, 1891|
via Library of Congress, Chronicling America
HERMAN MELVILLE'S FUNERAL.
The funeral of the late Herman Melville was held at the family residence in Twenty-eighth-st. yesterday afternoon, the Rev. Theodore C. Williams, of All Souls' Church, delivering a short address. Among the relatives and friends present, beside the widow and daughter of the deceased, were Mrs. Thomas Melville, widow of the late governor of the Sailors' Snug Harbor; the Misses Melville, daughters of the late Allan Melville; Samuel Shaw, of Boston; W. B. Morewood, George Brewster, Mrs. Griggs, Miss Lathers, Dr. Titus Munson Coan, Arthur Stedman and George Dillaway.
The death of Herman Melville, although following a lingering illness, has come as a surprise to even his few acquaintances in the city, for their opportunities of seeing him have been extremely limited in number. Much has been written, particularly in English journals, concerning the alleged neglect and disregard of Mr. Melville by contemporary authors in this country, but it is a well-known fact here that his seclusion has been a matter of personal choice.
This writer gained an international reputation at an earlier date than James Russell Lowell, although born in the same year, 1819. His practical abandonment of literary work some twenty-five years ago, however, has allowed general interest in his books to die out.
Mr. Melville came of patrician blood on both sides of his family, his fraternal and maternal grandfathers figuring prominently in the Revolution, being respectively of Scottish, New-England and Dutch dissent. As in Richard Henry Dana's case, Melville's first literary success was a narrative of his own experience while a common sailor before the mast and in new countries; but unlike Dana, he continued work in the same field, and with credit. In regard to "Typee," Dr. Coan was heard to remark at the service yesterday that his father, the Rev. Titus Coan, of the Hawaiian Islands, had personally visited the Marquesas group, found the Typee Valley, and verified in every detail the romantic descriptions of the gentle but man-devouring islanders. Dr. Coan further said: "Herman Melville was the first man who shared the life of a cannibal community in the South Seas—who had the consummate literary skill to describe it—and who got away alive to write his book. 'Typee' will be read when most of the Concord group are forgotten."
However this may be, Mr. Melville always has been an interesting figure to New-York literary circles. So far from being forgotten, he was among the very first to be invited to join the Authors' Club at its founding in 1882. His declination of this offer, as well as his general refusal to enter into social life, are said to have been chiefly due to the very adverse critical reception accorded his novel, "Pierre, or the Ambiguities," published in 1852. He was always a great reader, and was much interested in collecting engravings of the old masters, having a large library and a fine assortment of prints, those of Claude's paintings being his favorites.
His tall, stalwart figure, until recently, could be seen almost daily tramping through the Fort George district or Central Park, his roving inclination leading him to obtain as much out-door life as possible. His evenings were spent at home with his books, his pictures and his family, and usually with them alone.
While at Pittsfield, Mass., from 1850 to 1862, he became the intimate friend of Hawthorne, who lived for a while near by at Lenox, and they often exchanged visits. It was at this place that most of Melville's writing was done. The place in the New York Custom House was given up about 1881.
At the beginning of failing health, some three years ago, Mr. Melville wrote and privately circulated a little story entitled "John Marr." It was dedicated to Clark Russell, who was a cordial admirer and correspondent. Last spring, after his final illness set in, he collected and had printed his miscellaneous shorter poems under the title "Timoleon, etc." This volume is dedicated to "My Countryman, Elihu Vedder." Both little books are limited to twenty-five copies. Mr. Melville's later style became somewhat rugged and mystical. His best-known poem was "Sheridan at Cedar Creek," thought by most literary experts to be superior to "Twenty Miles Away," though lacking a popular refrain.
The following poem is from "Timoleon":
The Return of the Sire de Nesle,
A. D. 16——.
My towers at last! These rovings end.
Their thirst is slaked in larger dearth;
The yearning infinite recoils,
For terrible is earth.
Kaf thrusts his snouted crags through fog;
Araxes swells beyond his span.
And knowledge poured by pilgrimage
Overflows the banks of man.
But thou, my stay, thy lasting love,
One lonely good, let this but be!
Weary to view the wide world's swarm,
But blest to fold but thee.
--New York Tribune, October 1, 1891; reprinted without the poem from Timoleon in Melville in His Own Time, edited by Steven Olsen-Smith (University of Iowa Press, 2015), pages 164-166.Philip Hale may have contributed the obit of Melville published in the Boston Journal on September 29, 1891, part of which is lifted from the end of the 1856 article A Trio of American Sailor-Authors
in The Dublin University Magazine.
|Boston Journal - September 29, 1891|
Below, the memorial essay by Charles Goodrich Whiting in his column "The Literary Wayside," published in the Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican on October 4, 1891.
|Springfield Republican - October 4, 1891|