Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Forgotten or well known?

Famously forgotten, perhaps, except by the best informed literati and most discerning readers.
"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
via GenealogyBank

"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
And here's the longer funeral notice by Arthur Stedman:

New York Tribune - October 1, 1891
via Library of Congress, Chronicling America

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
via GenealogyBank

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
via GenealogyBank
· Wed, Oct 28, 1891 – Page 3 · The York Daily (York, Pennsylvania) ·

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Hoffman on The New-York Book of Poetry

One known letter from Charles Fenno Hoffman concerns The New-York Book of Poetry, edited by Hoffman and published by George Dearborn in 1837 as a holiday gift book. Hoffman did heroic work to identify and collect poems by natives of New York State. The collection took an amazingly short time to assemble: only two weeks ("a fortnight") according to the prefatory "Advertisement." As originally proposed by Hoffman to Dearborn, the scope of the project would have been limited to poems and poets associated with New York City, "real Knickerbockers solely." Hoffman's proposed title, "The Wreath of St. Nicholas," reflects this narrower, more exclusive focus. But Dearborn enlarged the scope to include New York State writers, as Hoffman reveals in this December 1836 letter to his Albany friend John B. Van Schaick. My transcription below adds punctuation, mostly periods, lacking in the digitized volume of Charles Fenno Hoffman by Homer F. Barnes (New York: Columbia University Press, 1930) that is currently accessible via the Internet Archive.
New York, Dec. 12th, 1836
My dear Van 
I write to you in haste and though it may prove a bore you must try an [sic] answer in equal haste, if possible. The matter in a word is this: four days ago Mr. Dearborn determined to get up a “New York Book" of poetry and have it out in ten days from this—that is, in time for the holidays. Several of his acquaintances were applied to for their commonplace books and together we have raked up some dozen or two names of persons born in this state who have written verses worth collecting and doubtless there are as many more of whom we know nothing. I had but one piece of Bogart's, a drinking song which is already struck off on handsome 8 vo sheets. But I have none of yours. My papers, many of them, having been burnt last summer. Now I want you to send three or four of the best of your “old iron” and moreover to get permission from Miss Dewitt that was and Miss Vanderpool that is, not [sic] to publish “The Wife” and some of their other pieces which you must obtain with their names and you can tell them—or whatever instrument you use to extract poettics [?] from them—that the whole collection consists chiefly of private names for the first time affiixed to pieces that have appeared anonymously. Have you nothing of Henry L. Bogart’s? The Knickerbockers must flare up. If the volume which will consist of 200 pages succeeds, it will be followed by another to whip in the pieces which have lagged behind this. The writers must be natives of New York. The thing was started by my proposing to Dearborn to get up a book representing real Knickerbockers solely—to be called “The Wreath of St. Nicholas." But thinking it could not be filled up well or would not sell he determined to publish a more general affair and call it “The New York Book.” By the by I forgot to tell you that the whole matter is a secret yet which you must betray only so far as it may be necessary. Did you read Verplanck's introduction to “The Fairy Book”? I shall urge him to write just such another for Dearborn’s collection. 
Very cordially yours,
C. F. H.
N. B. Why do you not let me know at my office—I mean that of the Monthly—when you visit N. York? I live three miles out of town and go so little into society that I never hear when my friends from other places are in the city. I called twice on you when I last heard you were here and repeatedly before when hearing of your being here. I have sought you just in time to learn that you were gone. I live such an oozy life now that it is a real pleasure to me to well out to an old friend occasionally.
In footnote 43 on page 78 of Charles Fenno Hoffman, Homer F. Barnes locates the manuscript letter of December 12, 1836 from Hoffman to John B. Van Schaick in the collections of the
"Pennsylvania Historical Society, Philadelphia."

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Charles Fenno Hoffman--on Francis Parkman, on the first meeting betwen Tuckerman and Poe

C. F. Hoffman
via Library of Congress

In March 1930 Columbia University Press published Charles Fenno Hoffman, a doctoral dissertation on the quintessential Knickerbocker by Homer F. Barnes. Hershel Parker credits Barnes for information on Hoffman's physical appearance and mock correspondence of Zachary Taylor in the first volume of Herman Melville: A Biography (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996; 2005 in paperback). The bogus Old Zack letters by Hoffman are extant and accessible online via The New York Public Library Digital Collections:
Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Hoffman, Charles Fenno (1806-1884)" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1850 - 1868.
Barnes's valuable study is currently available online via the Internet Archive. Herman Melville shows up on pages 104 and 185. At 104 Barnes quotes from the "deeply impressed" Hoffman's "complimentary" review of Typee in the New York Gazette & Times (March 30, 1846). A few pages later Barnes gives Hoffman's letter to Evert A. Duyckinck, recommending publication in The Literary World of fresh western sketches by Francis Parkman.
Office Evening Gazette — Thursday 
My dear Sir, 
Allow me the pleasure of making you acquainted with my friend Mr Francis Parkman of Boston. Mr Parkman has lately returned from the Rocky Mountains whither he went to make some scientific enquiries relative to Indian languages usages etc, with reference to an elaborate work upon these subjects which he contemplates finishing at some distant day.
Meanwhile he has thrown off some easy sketches of his tour to make up a light volume for summer reading. The prevailing interest among all classes about the emigration and routes of emigrants to Oregon must necessarily command a hearing for him with the public. I have therefore my Dear Sir, had no hesitation in commending him to the Editor of "The Literary World" to introduce "The Oregon Trail — or A Summer out of Bounds’’ — to both Publisher & readers. You will find Parkman a clever fellow & a gentleman as well as a traveller & student worth knowing.
Truly yours 
C F Hoffman 
E A Duyckink, Esq 
N B I have just glanced at “the work” —Thank you for Copy — Nothing could look better
Duyckinck must have passed since The Literary World did not publish Parkman's well-recommended travel narrative--doubtless to his later regret, as Barnes observes:
The Literary World did not accept Parkman's "sketches" for publication. They soon appeared, however, in The Knickerbocker, and their popularity must have caused The Literary World to realize that it had missed an unusual opportunity.  --Homer F. Barnes on Charles Fenno Hoffman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1930) page 109.
Digital images of Hoffman's letter to Evert A. Duyckinck in manuscript are accessible online courtesy of the Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Hoffman, Charles Fenno (1806-1884)" The New York Public Library Digital Collections, 1850 - 1868:
Francis Parkman's sketches of his summer travel "out of bounds" were serialized in The Knickerbocker starting in February 1847.

Parkman's magazine sketches appeared in book form as The California and Oregon Trail, afterwards shortened to The Oregon Trail. Melville reviewed the book version for Duyckinck in The Literary World of March 31, 1849. The text of Melville's unsigned review of Parkman's Oregon Trail has been available online since 2012 in the Melvilliana post
Mr. Parkman's Tour
Digital images of Melville's Review of The California and Oregon Trail in manuscript are now also available online courtesy of the Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Review of The California and Oregon trail," The New York Public Library Digital Collections, 1849:
The Melville mention on page 185 of Barnes's 1930 book occurs in the context of Hoffman's struggle with mental illness. Barnes gives only part of the now well-known passage about "Poor Hoffman" from Melville's April 1849 letter to Evert Duyckinck. Adopting the abridged text as presented by Meade Minnigerode in Some Personal Letters of Herman Melville, Barnes omits Melville's more personally revealing remarks:
— I remember the shock I had when I first saw the mention of his madness. — But he was just the man to go mad—imaginative, voluptuously inclined, poor, unemployed, in the race of life distancd by his inferiors, unmarried,—without a port or haven in the universe to make. His present misfortune—rather blessing—is but the sequel to a long experience of morbid habits of thought.  --Herman Melville, Correspondence, ed. Lynn Horth (Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library, 1993) page 128.
I'm highlighting the word "morbid" as transcribed in The Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Correspondence. As applied by Melville to his friend Hoffman the word morbid does not sound or in manuscript look quite right. Checking, I see the N-N editor calls morbid a "conjectural reading." Some earlier editions make it unwhole as in "unwhole habits of thought." For a different conjectural reading let's try this: "monkish." Long experience of monkish habits of thought? The adjective monkish at least seems to fit with Melville's idea of Hoffman's "unmarried" state as one contributing factor to his emotional distress. In addition to his being imaginative and poor, Hoffman according to Melville was a "voluptuously inclined" bachelor.

As Barnes relates, Hoffman experienced a brief "change for the better." On April 21, 1849 the New York Tribune optimistically stated, "Mr. Hoffman's health is now almost entirely retrieved." In June 1849 he was in Washington, working (too hard, it seems) as a clerk in the State Department. However, by October 1849 he had to be hospitalized in Baltimore. Eventually Hoffman went to the State Hospital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania "where he remained for over thirty years, until his death in 1884."

In the back of his 1930 book, Barnes offers a wonderful trove of Hoffman's letters, uncollected poems, and a bibliography that includes contributions to periodicals and some fugitive pieces.

One of Hoffman's letters to Rufus W. Griswold (now held by the Boston Public Library and accessible online via Digital Commonwealth) makes "a good joke" of the first meeting between Henry T. Tuckerman and Edgar Allen Poe. We don't know exactly when Melville first met Tuckerman, or if Melville ever met Poe in person. But thanks to Charles Fenno Hoffman (and his Columbia University biographer Homer F. Barnes) we do know when Henry met Edgar: the evening of July 10, 1845, in New York City at the Rutgers Female Institute. Both had been invited there to judge compositions by Rutgers students.

Charles Fenno Hoffman, letter to R. W. Griswold, 11 July 1845
Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth
Let me tell you a good joke. Poe & Tuckerman met for the first time last night — & how? They each upon invitation repaired to the Rutgers Institute where they sat alone together as a committee upon young Ladies compositions — Odd isnt it that the women who divide so many should bring these two together! --Hoffman to Griswold, July 11, 1845

via The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Presumably the prize-winning writers were honored at Commencement exercises the next day, on July 11, 1845. The distinguished Principal of Rutgers Institute was Charles E. West, Herman Melville's teacher at the Albany Classical School ten years before. In his published Address on retiring in 1851, West recalled early controversies over the aims and methods of public education for women.
Then the objection arose that our studies were of too elevated and difficult a range; that the rights of the colleges were invaded; that logic, metaphysics, and the higher mathematics did not belong as studies to young ladies; that they should be dealt with more gently by the selection of studies on a level with their capacities! Many a boding note was rung in the ear of the speaker, kindly warning him to beware lest the Institution founder upon this fatal rock. As though the domain of thought, and the vast stores of accumulated knowledge, belonged exclusively to man! As though no Somerville had mastered the profound mysteries of mathematical analysis, or no Mitchell could gaze out upon the heavens, and watch the silent movements of yon shining orbs, and discover what had escaped the telescopic gaze of all the Astronomical Observatories of Europe and America — a new comet!  --Charles E. West
Charles Fenno Hoffman's reference to "young Ladies" of Rutgers as "the women who divide so many" alludes I guess to these or similarly sexist objections. Hoffman's letter to Griswold with the anecdote about Poe and Tuckerman is listed with other 1845 items in The Poe Log, edited by Dwight Thomas and David K. Jackson and accessible online courtesy of The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore.

· Mon, Jun 9, 1884 – Page 4 · Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) ·

Monday, April 16, 2018

Improbable typos and poetic justice

Returning to the improbable alternative--that "Blitzen" was what Moore had written all along, and "Blixem" the result of scribal or editorial interference... --MacDonald P. Jackson, Who Wrote "The Night Before Christmas"? page 178.
In another footnote on the very next page, Professor Jackson surely means "Blitzen" instead of "Blitzem." But there you have it, a highly "improbable" typo, fossilized in print:
... This would, of course, imply that Moore's change from "was" to "he had" was a miscorrection, as suspicious as the change from "Blixem" to "Blitzem."  --MacDonald P. Jackson, Who Wrote "The Night Before Christmas"? page 179.
What are the odds?

Chapter 3 footnote 19 with typographical error "Blitzem" in
Who Wrote "The Night Before Christmas"? by MacDonald P. Jackson

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

1775 letters from Henry Livingston Jr to the Provincial Congress

Two letters are transcribed below, both addressed to Peter Van Brugh Livingston as presiding officer of the first New York Provincial Congress. Neither is listed among Letters of Major Henry Livingston Jr on Mary S. Van Deusen's great Henry Livingston website. The first one, dated August 21, 1775, was written three days after the birth of his and wife Sally's daughter Catharine, and two days after his extant letter to James Clinton of August 19, 1775. As documented in Journals of the Provincial Congress, Major Livingston succeeded in getting Samuel Cooke approved as regimental surgeon.

From American Archives: Fourth Series, Volume 3, ed. Peter Force (Washington, 1840), page 555:
A Letter from Major Henry Livingston, Jun., of the 21st instant, was read and filed, and is in the words following :
“Poughkeepsie, August 21, 1775.

“SIR: I am desired by Colonel Clinton to inform the honourable the Provincial Congress, that drums are wanting for the respective Companies that compose his Regiment. He also desired me to mention our medicine chest; suppose, however, we shall find that and the drums at Albany, With respect to Dr. Samuel Cooke, the gentleman nominated Surgeon to our Regiment, I am authorized to inform your, Sir, that he attended several days in New-York for his examination, but at length by one contingency or other came away without it. He at first applied to Dr. Jones, who would not examine him unless Dr. Bard (who was out of Town) was present. The matter was stated to the Congress, who ordered that one of the members should wait on Dr. Jones, and inform him that an examination by him alone would satisfy them. Dr. Jones, however, declined. After Dr. Bard's return, there was a day appointed for the business, but that day both Dr. Jones and Bard were called to Long-Island. Dr. Cooke, being very unwell at the time, could stay no longer, having attended several days to no purpose.

“Those officers and soldiers who are acquainted with Dr. Cooke and his practice, and good success both as physician and surgeon, are very desirous to have his appointment confirmed, and as we expect to march in two or three days, are exceedingly anxious that he may be acquainted with it, and follow us as soon as possible.

“I am, Sir, your obedient humble servant,

“To the Hon. Peter V. B. Livingston, Esq.”
Another, written eight days later from Albany, New York and also recorded in Journals of the Provincial Congress:
A letter from Henry Livingston, Jr. major of the third regiment, was read and filed, and is in the words following, to wit : 
"Albany, August 29th, 1775. 
"Sir — I am desired by Col. Clinton to inform you that he arrived here last Saturday, and has now with him six companies, encamped about a mile out of town — that there are guns enough to equip about three companies — that there are two companies beside that have arms, but want some repairs ; and as there are not armourers sufficient at Ticonderoga, must wait here 'till they can be repaired. That there is great want of officers' tents, there being here only sufficient for 2 companies, and 1 tent for the lieutenant-colonel. Of soldiers' tents for our regiment there is a sufficiency, (but no more than barely for our 7 companies.) That the soldiers murmur much for want of pav, and are very unwilling to march from here without it. That the medicine chest is not yet arrived, or a surgeon, and that drums and fifes are wanting. However, 3 companies will be equipped with all speed, and sent off immediately. 
"I am, sir, " Your very humble servant, 
"To Hon. Peter Van Brugh Livingston."
In May 1777, a letter to the Council of Safety was received from Henry Livingston, Jr. and two other men, complaining of their inadequate pay as Dutchess county commissioners "for disposing of the personal property of persons gone over to the enemy." On advice from committee, the Council denied their request for extra pay.
The letter from Isaac Shelden, Theodorus Van Wyck and Henry Livingston, Junr. commissioners in Dutchess county for disposing of the personal property of persons gone over to the enemy, and which was committed on the 23d instant, was again read. The said commissioners thereby allege that the allowance made to them while employed in that service is inadequate to their trouble and expense, and request additional pay. The committee to whom the said letter was referred, reported "That it is their opinion that the augmentation of the pay of the said commissioners at this time would be attended with disagreeable consequences, as it would authorize every officer, or set of officers, now in the service of this State, to complain of their pay, and to expect success from a similar application." The same being taken into consideration, Resolved, That this Council doth agree with their committee in the said report.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Still Melvill

Not a typo. In the Pittsfield Sun, ads for Pierre in September and October 1852 all spell Herman Melville's surname the old way, "Melvill":

Pittsfield Sun - September 9, 1852
From the Pittsfield Sun, September 9, 1852:


Roughing it in the Bush, by Mrs. Moody;
Science of Things Familiar;
In Memoriam, by Tennyson,
Pierre, by Melvill.
For sale by           P. ALLEN & SON.
What about Moby-Dick? Same old spelling in Pittsfield, before publication

Pittsfield Sun - June 26, 1851
"We see it stated that HERMAN MELVILL, the author of "Typee," &c., has a new work in press, to appear in a short time."  --Pittsfield Sun, June 26, 1851
and after:

Pittsfield Sun - December 4, 1851


"MOBY DICK, or the Whale, by Herman Melvill...." --Pittsfield Sun, December 4, 1851.
But earlier in 1851, ads for Redburn and White-Jacket spelled the author's name "Melville."