Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Favorable notices of Gansevoort Melville and Herman Melville's books in the Richmond Enquirer

Thomas Ritchie, Jr. via Find A Grave
Some years back the head-note to Melville Reviews and Notices, Continued in Leviathan predicted new finds in southern newspapers should anyone bother to look:
Previous research has largely, though by no means exclusively, focused on archives from New York, Boston, and the northeastern United States. Relatively neglected southern and western newspapers and periodicals, and foreign publications as well, in print and online archives, seem especially likely to yield important discoveries in the future.  --Leviathan 13.1, March 2011
Now that Genealogy Bank has old issues of Virginia newspapers in their database there's really no excuse for not starting.

What emerges from online searches in the Richmond Enquirer is a pattern of favorable mentions of Gansevoort Melville and unaffected praise for books by Gansevoort's younger brother Herman Melville.


Mastheads of the Daily Richmond Enquirer after May 1845 list William F. and Thomas Ritchie, Jr. as co-editors. Thomas Ritchie, Jr. and William Foushee Ritchie were sons of Enquirer founder, old Thomas Ritchie. As chronicled in the Editor and Publisher and Journalist 12.2:
In May, 1845, Ritchie left the Enquirer after forty-one years of service, and went to Washington to take the chief editorial management of the Union, the official organ of President Polk. 
Just before his retirement from the Enquirer in 1843, two sons. William F. and Thomas Ritchie, Jr., had been associated in the management of the paper. On the departure of his father for the National Capital, William F. Ritchie became its editor.
Another version of editorial changes at the Richmond Enquirer, from The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography:
On March 4, 1843, his sons William F. and Thomas Ritchie, Jr., were admitted into partnership, and the firm of publishers became Thomas Ritchie and Sons. 
On March 19, 1845, the publication of a daily edition called the Daily Richmond Enquirer was commenced, and on May 9th of the same year Thomas Ritchie retired after editing the Enquirer for forty-one years. The editors and owners were then William F. and Thomas Ritchie, Jr. The files of the paper from 1845 to 1860 are not among those in the State Library; but it is known that during this period it was owned and edited by the two Ritchie brothers.
The Richmond Ritchies were associated with Gansevoort Melville as active Democrats and fellow supporters of James K. Polk in the 1844 presidential campaign. The elder Thomas Ritchie, "Father" Ritchie is the "Napoleon of the press" who presided over dinner at the Exchange Hotel in Richmond on March 12, 1845 with John C. Calhoun, General Lamar, and Gansevoort Melville.

On August 5, 1844 the Richmond Enquirer reprinted the supportive column on Gansevoort from the New York Evening Mirror, backing the able new Secretary of Legation at London with special reference to the distinction of his "double revolutionary descent":

Richmond [Virginia] Enquirer, August 5, 1844
via Genealogy Bank
On Friday, June 5, 1846 the Daily Richmond Enquirer gave notice of Gansevoort's untimely passing by remembering him as "a gentleman of talents and high worth":
We are pained to learn by the last steamer, that Gansevoort Melville, Esq., of New York American Secretary of Legation at London, died in that city on the 12th ult., after an illness of three weeks. He was a gentleman of talents and high worth.
On Saturday, July 4, 1846 the Enquirer copied the item from the Albany Argus reporting THE FUNERAL OF GANSEVOORT MELVILLE.

The favorable notice on June 29, 1846 by the Daily Richmond Enquirer of Herman Melville's first book Typee was lengthened by numerous excerpts from excellent reviews in other newspapers and magazines:
“Typee,” or a Residence in the Marquesas Islands.

This work, which we have read with great gratification, bids fair to acquire a most enviable popularity. It is truly a sort of New Robinson Crusoe. Its free, dashing style, and entertaining narratives and descriptions, render it at once novel and instructive. It is from the pen of Mr. Hermann Melville, of New York, a brother of Gansevoort Melville, our late accomplished and much lamented Secretary of Legation at London.

We subjoin some of the favorable opinions which this book has won in other quarters. We are proud to see that the literary genius of America is beginning to be appreciated in the Old World:

“A book full of fresh and richly colored matter. Mr. Melville’s manner is New World all over.”— [London Athenæum.

“A book of great curiosity; striking in the style of composition, many of the incidents but require us to call the savages celestials, to suppose Mr. Melville to have dropped from the clouds, instead of ‘bolting’ from the skipper Vangs, and to fancy some Ovidian graces added to the narrative in order to become scenes of classical mythology.”— [London Spectator.

“This is really a very curious book. The happy valley of our dear old Rasselas was not a more romantic or enchanting scene.” [London Examiner.

“This is a most entertaining and refreshing book. The picture drawn of Polynesian life and scenery is incomparably the most forcible and vivid that as ever been laid before the public. The writer of this narrative, though filling the post of a common sailor, is certainly no common man. His clear, lively and pointed style, the skillful management of his descriptive, the philosophical reflections and sentimental apostrophes scattered plentifully through the work, are the production of a man of letters.” [London Critic.

“These adventures are very entertaining.” [Tait’s Edinburgh Mag.

“There is no lack of incident or novelty, and he who commences the perusal of Mr.; Melville’s narrative will scarcely fail to complete it.” [London Eclectic Review.

“The scenes depicted are novel—the descriptions fresh. It is full of marvelous adventure, perilous journeyings and glowing pincillings [sic] of savage life and scenery, which possess a charm calculated to rivet the reader’s attention as strongly and continuously as De Foe’s Robinson Crusoe. There are so many passages and pages full of curious information, that our only difficulty is to abridge our extracts.” [Simmons’ Colonial Magazine.

“One of the most delightful narratives of adventure ever published. From the first line in the first page to the last in the last, interest, information, and the most genial freshness of description pervade the whole volume. Every chapter has its separate picture and every picture is glowing with life. Throughout it there are snatches of drollery that are irresistibly comic, and sometimes reflections of the most unstrained and winning pathos. We can cordially recommend the book as a most choice and delightful one: if we could possibly squeeze all its pages into a single column, we would prove its excellence by transcribing the entire work.” [London Sun.

“Since the joyous moment when we first read Robinson Crusoe, and believed it all, and wondered all the more because we believed, we have not met with so bewitching a work as this narrative of Herman Melville’s.”— [John Bull.

“The style is racy and pointed, and there is a romantic interest thrown around the adventures which to most readers will be highly charming.” [American Review.

“Those who love to roam and revel in a life purely unconventional, though only in imagination, may be gratified by following the guidance of Mr. Melville. He writes of what he has seen con amore, and his pen riots in describing the felicity of the Typees.”—[Graham’s Magazine.
"This has all the elements of a popular book—novelty, and originality of style and matter, and deep interest from first to last. Few can read without a thrill the glowing pictures of scenery and luxuriant nature, the festivities and amusements, the heathenish rites and sacrifices, and battles of these beautiful islands.” [Hunt’s Merchant’s Magazine.

“The adventures are of a youth in the romantic islands of the Pacific Ocean, among a strange race of beings, whose manners and modes of life are by no means familiar to us.” 
“The scenes described with peculiar animation and vivacity, are of a description that must task the credulity of most plain matter of fact people; yet they are without doubt faithfully sketched, and afford evidence of ‘how little half the world knows how the other half lives.’ The volumes are of the most amusing and interesting description.” [Democratic Review.
--Daily Richmond [Virginia] Enquirer, Monday morning, June 29, 1846; found in the online Newspaper Archives at Genealogy Bank
With a similar endorsement of the young author as representative of a growing national literature, Melville's next book Omoo also received highly favorable treatment in the Richmond Enquirer:
To Ball, Harrold & Co., we are indebted for Omoo; a narrative of adventures in the South sea, by Herman Melville, author of “Typee.” This latter book, from its details so strikingly picturesque and fresh, received and merited the title of “The new Robinson Crusoe.” We published a number of extracts from the London press, paying a high compliment to the American production. This second work shows the author to be remarkable as a narrator or a humorist. We rejoice to see our literary reputation extended by our young men of genius, such as Melville.
-- Daily Richmond [Virginia] Enquirer, Thursday, July 1, 1847; reprinted the next morning, Friday, July 2, 1847. Both items found in the Newspaper Archives at Genealogy Bank
For Mardi, the "Checklist of Additional Reviews" in Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews, ed. Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker, gives the date of one notice by the "Richmond Enquirer, 11 May 1849."

Here is the brief take on Mardi from the Enquirer, May 11, 1849 under the heading NEW WORKS:
Mardi, and a voyage thither—a romance of Polynesian adventure, in two volumes; by Herman Melville, author of the popular “Typee.”—Same publishers [Harper & Brothers].

As two narratives of voyages in the Pacific, published by the author, had been received with incredulity, he determined to write a fiction, supposing that, vice versa, the fiction might be taken as a verity. It abounds in very spirited and graceful sketches of land and ocean, of the pursuit of the whale, &c. 
 --found in the online Newspaper Archives at Genealogy Bank
Wonderful to say, The 19th Century Rare Books & Photograph Shop is offering the volumes of Mardi owned by long-time editor of the Richmond Enquirer Thomas Ritchie "with his signature, and with his son’s later inscription":
Provenance: Thomas Ritchie (1778-1854), with his signature, and with his son’s later inscription. One of the leading American journalists of the first half of the nineteenth century, Ritchie was the longtime editor and publisher of the Richmond Enquirer, which Thomas Jefferson hailed as “the best [newspaper] that is published or has ever been published in America.” Letters to Ritchie from Herman Melville’s brother Gansevoort are in the Ritchie papers at William & Mary.
A fine and tight set. Out of my league unfortunately, but it would be nice to learn something more about that later inscription--by Thomas Ritchie's son, meaning who? Thomas Ritchie, Jr. or William Foushee Ritchie?

Another place to look for favorable Melville mentions is the Richmond Examiner, edited by John M. Daniel (not W. F. Ritchie). Burton R. Pollin found a good one in Daniel's review of Redburn in the Examiner for November 23, 1849, transcribed in Melville Society Extracts 89 - June 1992. And I guess now we ought to look harder at the Washington Daily Union under the editorship of old Thomas Ritchie.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Gansevoort Melville in Richmond, Virginia--dining with Calhoun, Lamar, and Thomas Ritchie

JohnCCalhoun
John C. Calhoun via Wikimedia Commons
The developing story here is Thomas Ritchie, "Democratic editor of the Richmond Enquirer from 1804 to 1845, and of the Washington Daily Union from 1845 until 1851." Update: As indicated in the next post on Favorable Melville notices, old Ritchie's sons Thomas Ritchie, Jr. and William Foushee Ritchie succeeded their father in the editorship of the Richmond Enquirer. While I break to savor Carl R. Osthaus's chapter on The Editorial Career of Thomas Ritchie in Partisans of the Southern Press, go ahead and enjoy this item placing Gansevoort (with Ritchie, as evident from the New York Herald letter from "John Jones," also quoted below) in the company of John Caldwell Calhoun and General Lamar (Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar).

In March 1845 Calhoun was passing through Richmond on his way home to South Carolina, staying at the Exchange Hotel. While in Richmond he invited Gansevoort Melville and Lamar for dinner, a more private affair in lieu of the grand public dinner which he formally declined. Calhoun had just completed his year-long service as Secretary of State. Gansevoort's younger brother Herman was close to starting his first book, Typee (1846). In his third book Mardi (1849) Herman would lampoon Calhoun as the cadaverous politician Nulli. In Subversive Genealogy, Michael Paul Rogin finds in the pro-slavery politics of Calhoun a model for Ahab's monomania.

Image Credit: World of Edgar Allan Poe
Gansevoort's dinner with Ritchie, Calhoun, and Lamar at the Exchange Hotel in Richmond took place on Wednesday, March 12, 1845. From the Richmond Enquirer, March 17, 1845:

MR. CALHOUN.

The distinguished and retiring statesman—“retiring from the field of his fame”—(as the first toast in his honor called him)—had a small but agreeable dinner with a few of his friends on Wednesday last, and declined the honor of a public dinner, as the following correspondence shows. There were at the table, as guests, General Lamar of Texas, Gansevoort Mellville, Esq., of New York, the eloquent and accomplished champion who distinguished himself at various points of the late campaign, &c, &c. Mr. Calhoun is rapidly improving in his health, and is returning from Washington with the most liberal feelings towards the present Administration. He left Richmond on Thursday, having been waited upon by several persons.  --Richmond [Virginia] Enquirer, Monday, March 17, 1845; found in the online Newspaper Archives at Genealogy Bank.

Portrait of General Mirabeau B. Lamar / Image Credit:
Texas State Library and Archives Commission
As noted in the Melvilliana post tall after all, Gansevoort's presence in Richmond is happily confirmed by correspondent "John Jones" in a letter to the editor of the New York Weekly Herald, dated March 13, 1845 and published March 15, 1845:
"Mr. Melville, the tall democratic spouter, par excellence, from your city, is also here, probably looking up political influence for some valuable appointment for services rendered. Should he be disappointed, it would be a pity, as he is pretty much of the opinion, I understand, that Mr. Polk could not have been elected had it not been for his disinterested exertions during the canvass—Nous verrons."
In the first part of his letter to the Herald editor, John Jones reveals a bit more about the dinner for Calhoun. The presiding "Napoleon of the press" is Thomas Ritchie, editor of the Richmond Enquirer:
DEAR BENNETT—
What can I communicate, that can possibly interest the readers of the Herald, from this dull quarter of the globe, except mere matter of fact? I will attempt to give you a few items, by way of killing an hour.

First. Mr. Caloun created a little stir among his friends here, by staying over one day on his way South, which was taken advantage of by giving him a private and recherché dinner, at the Exchange, by about twenty of his most ardent friends, the Napoleon of the press in these “diggings” being invited to preside, with Mr. Calhoun on his right, and Gerneral Lamar (of Texas) on his left. Some excellent toasts and sentiments were given, and the party separated at an early hour, to attend a select party at R. G. Scott’s, where the evening was spent in the most convivial manner by a set of as choice spirits as can well be congregated together in this region.   
--New York Weekly Herald, March 15, 1845
Thomas Ritchie
via The Library of Virginia
It's unthinkable that Gansevoort did not make one of those eloquent toasts to Calhoun. Ooh that would be fun to find in a Richmond paper.

UPDATE: No toasts located so far, but I did find news of Calhoun's informal dinner with friends at the Exchange Hotel, published in the Richmond Enquirer on the day after:

Richmond Enquirer, March 13, 1845
William & Mary, Earl Gregg Swem Library, Special Collections Database lists two letters from Gansevoort in London to Thomas Ritchie, filed with the Ritchie-Harrison Papers. In Gansevoort Melville's 1846 London Journal, ed. Hershel Parker, Gansevoort mentions his writing to Ritchie on January 3, 1846. As he regularly did for friends and family, Gansevoort also sent newspapers to Ritchie in February and early March 1846. Parker correctly identifies Ritchie as editor of the Washington Union without noting Ritchie's ties to Richmond.

First American Edition of Mardi by Herman Melville
Owned by Thomas Ritchie (1778-1854), with his signature
19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop

Melville "remarkable as a narrator or a humorist": notice of Omoo in the Richmond Enquirer

Photo Credit: L. W. Currey, Inc.

To Ball, Harrold & Co., we are indebted for Omoo; a narrative of adventures in the South sea, by Herman Melville, author of “Typee.” This latter book, from its details so strikingly picturesque and fresh, received and merited the title of “The new Robinson Crusoe.” We published a number of extracts from the London press, paying a high compliment to the American production. This second work shows the author to be remarkable as a narrator or a humorist. We rejoice to see our literary reputation extended by our young men of genius, such as Melville.
-- Daily Richmond [Virginia] Enquirer, Thursday, July 1, 1847; reprinted the next morning, Friday, July 2, 1847. Both items found in the Newspaper Archives at Genealogy Bank

Update: For more on Melville in the Daily Richmond Enquirer see related posts on

Dan Schneider Video Interview #10: On Herman Melville- Pt 2

Dan Schneider Video Interview #10: On Herman Melville- Pt 1

Friday, April 24, 2015

Hennig Cohen on The Rebellion Record and Battle-Pieces

Image Credit: Bookworks
From the Introduction by Hennig Cohen in his 1963 edition of Battle-Pieces:
The ingredients of Battle-Pieces, ranging as they did from a Renaissance portrait to participation in a cavalry raid, were diverse in the extreme but scarcely representative of what Melville called the "varied amplitude" of the war. Much had to be filled in. Impressions wanted corroboration, and realistic detail was needed. Hence, as he had done on previous occasions, Melville sought a book which would help him flesh out impressions, which would assist him in seeing his object whole, and which would contribute a degree of order. He found such a book in The Rebellion Record. Despite Melville's statement in his introductory note that he served as a "harp in the window, and noted the contrasted airs which wayward winds have played," the poems are frequently specific, detailed, and selective in terms of subject. They were not often the product of white heat generated by immediacy, but rather of the cool calculation which the passage of time makes possible. 
The Rebellion Record was a periodical designed to present a history of the Civil War in "a digested and systematic shape," through selected newspaper accounts and official reports interspersed with verse and anecdotes. The material was cumulated in a series of eleven volumes and a supplement. Each volume contained a "Diary of Events," a section of "Documents and Narratives" and a section of "Poetry, Rumors and Incidents." On the whole the quality of the writing was adequate but prosaic, unpretentious except for the poems, which were of indifferent quality. The first eight volumes, covering the years 1860 to 1864, were available to Melville in time to have been of use to him for Battle-Pieces.  
There is no evidence that Melville owned a set of The Rebellion Record, but in his note to the poem, "Rebel Color-bearers at Shiloh," he states that the "incident upon which this piece is based is narrated in a newspaper account of the battle to be found in the 'Rebellion Record,'" and the quotation which he gives is accurate. "The Rebel Color-bearers at Shiloh" is, in the order of the poems in the volume, probably the last for which The Rebellion Record is a source. In all, Melville drew upon The Rebellion Record for at least twenty poems, a majority of those which deal with military events. Eighteen concern events before 1863, and of this number twelve contain material which can be traced to The Rebellion Record. Not only did Melville need The Rebellion Record for the nudge it gave his muse but he also depended upon it for raw facts, especially concerning the first years of the war, when his interest had been relatively slight, and which were then as much as five years in the past. 
The poem "Donelson," the longest of those for which he drew upon The Rebellion Record, reveals three principal ways in which Melville used the various newspaper dispatches and official reports in this compendium. For narrative purposes, he would follow closely a number of different sources, choosing facts and incidents and weaving them together with little embellishment or expansion. For intensifying drama or mood, he would take a single source and strip it to its essence. Finally, to suggest larger implications and relationships than narrative, drama, or mood alone could provide, he would use his source material as the starting point for a cluster of imagery weighted with moral significance.  
An example of diverse sources fused into a unified narrative is the account of the Thursday morning fight (lines 59ff.). Within some fifty lines Melville employs material from articles reprinted from the New York Times, Missouri Democrat, Charleston Courier, and Richmond Dispatch. He took items unique to a single newspaper and also information available in several. In the latter case it is sometimes hard to ascertain the exact source. Thus the Courier and the Dispatch report the use of distinctive arm bands to identify the tatterdemalion Confederate troops (lines 99-101), and only the Times notes a "great profusion of gold lace" worn by Confederate officers (line 104). Both the Times and the Missouri Democrat mention the expertise of the Federal sharpshooters (lines 82-83) and the death of Colonel Morrison (line 80), but only the Times describes the injuries caused by falling tree limbs which had been struck by artillery (line 78) or compares the Union riflemen to hunters at a salt lick in ambush for deer (lines 86-88). Melville took the description of Thursday night at Donelson (lines 136-51) from one newspaper, the Missouri Democrat, adhering to the order of the dispatch and echoing its language, but pruning and refining to create a sense of grim determination in the face of icy misery and danger. An extract from this account shows how closely he followed the original:
The night of Thursday will long be remembered by the troops surrounding Donelson. The weather. . .toward the close of the afternoon became chilly and lowering. About six o'clock a heavy rain set in. During the warmth of the day before . . . whole regiments had cast aside their overcoats and blankets, and without tents, and in a great majority of cases, occupying positions rendering a fire a sure mark for the enemy's batteries, with nothing to eat but cold rations, their condition was deplorable indeed. To add to their discomfort, when thoroughly saturated with rain, a pelting snow-storm set in, continuing all night. As can be imagined, with an enemy in front, continually annoying and annoyed, but little sleep was indulged in. The only demonstration of importance on the part of the rebels, during the night, was a formidable attempt on the right wing to obtain Taylor's battery....  But, cold and hungry, with garments stiff with frost, the soldiers were still hopeful and firm. . . . The universal sentiment was, as blunt Col. Oglesby expressed it, "We came here to take that fort, and we will take it. . . ." (See "Donelson," p. 51.) 
The passage in "Donelson" which describes the duel between the Union gunboats and the Confederate water batteries (lines 207-22) illustrates how Melville took a prosaic newspaper article, in this case from the New York Times of February 15, 1862 (Rebellion Record, IV, 172), and reworked it in such a way that it becomes not merely terse, effective narrative but narrative with moral significance. The newspaper account relates how the gunboat "Louisville" was damaged:
At this time the boats were within some four hundred yards, and were on the point of using grape-shot, when a shot disabled the steering apparatus of the Louisville, by carrying off the top of the wheelhouse, and knocking the wheel itself into fragments. There was a tiller aft, and this was instantly taken possession of by the pilot—but he had scarcely reached it, ere the rudder was carried away by a shot from the Tyler. Of course the boat became instantly unmanageable, and swung around, receiving a shot in the woodwork towards the stern, which, I believe, wounded several seamen. Under this circumstance, it was thought best to retire, and accordingly the whole fleet fell back to the position it had occupied in the morning. The most serious damage sustained during the action was from one of those monster one hundred and twenty-eight-pound shots, which passed through a bow-port of the Louisville and dismounted the second gun on the starboard quarter, killing three men and wounding six others. A captain of one of the guns was cut completely in two, and spattered his brains over Captain Dove, who stood by him, and otherwise so mangled him that scarcely a resemblance of humanity remained. (See "Donelson," p. 51 .)
For the "Louisville" passage Melville winnows out journalistic wordiness and compresses details; for example, the number of damaging shots which the vessel received is reduced to one. This increases the pace of the narrative and heightens the drama. Moreover, it provides a focal situation which may be invested with cosmic implications. The projectile from the Confederate battery is a planet, a malign and fateful wanderer in the skies. When it destroys the steering mechanism of the ship, the ship drifts uncontrolled, "lawless," itself useless and a danger to the fleet. The figurative language drawn from astronomy and the law underscores two ideas which recur in Battle-Pieces: the role of Fate in the lives of men and the need for mechanisms of control by individuals and society. 
A final point should be made about the way Melville used The Rebellion Record. In the deliberate choice of certain material Melville contributed to the thematic and structural unity of his book. I have suggested that opposition and reconciliation constitute the principal theme of Battle-Pieces. Melville's use of a sentence from the New York Times of February 17, 1862 is a minor but telling instance of the ramifications of this theme: "In some cases, a few of our wounded were cared for by the rebels, although they were without fire, and could give them but little valuable assistance." The sentence is the basis for this passage in "Donelson":
Some of the wounded in the wood
Were cared for by the foe last night,
Though he could do them little good,
Himself being all in shivering plight. (Lines 254-57) 
The function of this passage is to portray the universality of suffering and the compassion of the enemy. Melville's view that the Union was right on the issues of the war is quite clear. Du Pont's fleet "warred for the Right," Stonewall Jackson "Stoutly stood for wrong," and the defeat of the Confederacy was "Treason thrown." Therefore the use of an incident which reveals such a curious display of generosity raises questions. 
The explanation is that Melville took the first opportunity to speak out for compassion and humanity, the foundation, as he saw it, upon which the opposition of North and South could be reconciled. The irony of the war was rooted in the fact that men were dehumanized by the very ideas that they fought for. In order to attain a reconciliation, principles would have to be subordinated to individuals. Melville could make his point best by emphasizing individuals, common soldiers trapped in a common misery, and by playing down the abstract issues of a "war of Wrong and Right"—to quote the words of "Look-out Mountain." "Donelson" happens to be one of the more ambitious poems in Battle-Pieces and the first in the sequence to have as its subject a military engagement in which the Union was victorious. Hence Melville could afford the luxury of depicting the humanity of the foe.
The nature of the ingredients which went into the making of Battle-Pieces—the Bible, Milton, Shakespeare, personal experiences and impressions, paintings, the illustrated weeklies, newspaper articles and official reports from The Rebellion Record—indicates Melville's distance from the actual events of the war. This was not entirely a disadvantage. Melville had long been uneasy about his dependence upon personal experience, sensing a danger in "immediate literary success, in very young writers" (to quote from Pierre), because of his memories of the days of Typee and Omoo. Nor could "mere reading" of The Rebellion Record or anything else serve as a substitute. His solution was not the recording of a "rich and peculiar experience" nor the skillful retelling of a tale once told. Instead, in the best of the Battle-Pieces, he distilled the essence of the experiences of war, pointing out their symbolic significance, universal application, and complexity. At a distance Melville could see the lineaments of the fundamental.   
--Hennig Cohen, Introduction to The Battle-Pieces of Herman Melville pp.15-19

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Source-study 101

The Storming of Fort Donelson:
Terrific bayonet charge and Capture of the outer intrenchments, by the Gallant Soldiers of the West--
Saturday Feby. 15th. 1862 / Currier & Ives via Library of Congress
In Frontier Edwin S. Fussell brilliantly catalogs and describes Melville's obsession with the American West. Nevertheless, he makes a bad mistake about "Donelson" in the Civil War volume Battle-Pieces which might have been forestalled by proper attention to the basics of source study. Also evident, alas: ignorance of Melville's rejected 1860 volume for which the intended title "Poems by Herman Melville" was known, and pretty widely available in for example Leyda's 1951 Melville Log.

Fussell on "Donelson":
"Storms at the West derange the wires," is an unconsciously ironic line in Battle-Pieces (1866). In this first volume of verses, Melville more than once descended to doggerel, perhaps in part because at first he found it so difficult to think in the medium of poetry, except off and on:
But, full of vim from Western prairies won,
They'll make, ere long, a dash at Donelson.
In view of the fact that the prairies traditionally belonged to the whole nation, Melville's identification of them as a training-ground for Union troops (even with respect to an obviously Western victory) rings hollow; apparently he was half-automatically trying to invoke the old magic of the West for the new cause (Civil War, poetry), but the two worlds simply declined to lie down together.  --Fussell, Frontier p377
In denigrating Battle-Pieces as so much "doggerel," Fussell is following the lead of biographer Leon Howard (who applied the term "hack work," twice) and before Howard, William Dean Howells. But Fussell could not have been more wrong. Factually wrong, on two counts. One, like I said poetry was not a new cause for Melville; and two, Melville had a very good, very concrete reason for introducing his prairie image. To understand that reason you have first to give Melville credit for meaning something intelligible. Then it helps to look at Melville's reliance on the Rebellion Record. This source was known even before Frank Day's 1959 M.A. thesis on "Melville's use of the Rebellion Record in his poetry," published in 1960 by the University of Kentucky Press and now available online through the Clemson University Digital Press. In 1938 Willard Thorp pointed directly to the Rebellion Record in his Introduction to Herman Melville: Representative Selections, Thorp specifically called attention to Melville's heavy dependence on the Rebellion Record in "Donelson":
A glance through some of the documents and journalistic reports in the volumes of this work which relate to episodes turned into poetry by Melville, shows at once that the Rebellion Record was exploited extensively by him. Either he turned at once to its pages when the impulse to write verse again was imparted to him or he happened to be going through them when Richmond fell. His use of this monumental record of the war varies from the close paralleling and mere "versified journalism" derived from the New York Times account of the capture of Fort Donelson in his "Donelson" to the remarkable reconstruction of the character of the brave General Lyon from the matter-of-fact report of the battle of Springfield as he found it in two newspaper accounts in the Record.   
--Thorp's Introduction to Representative Selections
Thorp helpfully gave the right volume number IV and page numbers 170-176. After Thorp's 1938 notice, Howard Vincent in the Explanatory Notes to the 1947 Collected Poems again cited the Rebellion Record as the main source for "Donelson":
Melville's bulletins throughout the poem are a recasting of selected details from The New York Times account of the battle as printed in the Rebellion Record, IV, 170-176.
--Melville's Collected Poems p449
Fussell does footnote the Hendricks House edition of Melville's Collected Poems which makes me wonder if he only had the version lacking Vincent's Explanatory Notes at the end. (The first copy of Collected Poems I bought online was one of those, without the notes.) Vincent's sentence quoted above is all you need to figure out what Melville means by "vim from Western prairies." Plus vol. 4 of the Rebellion Record that is.

As Frank Day found when he went to the Rebellion Record:
Melville's use of "vim," which he italicizes, in his description of the troops' morale, probably was inspired by its use by the Times correspondent, who describes an old man who is stirred by the strains of "Yankee Doodle" as the fleet passes Eddyville: "Off went his hat, and with a vim that sent his hat flying…" (Documents, p. 171). --Frank Day
How the figure of the rejuvenated old patriot might have appealed to Melville and drawn his attention to the word vim may be easier to see in the context of the whole passage from the New York Times account:
An old man, whose head was white as a snow-drift, stood on the shore leaning heavily on his cane and watching with seeming apathy the passage of the boats, whose full appearance his faded eyes probably failed to catch. Just as the Minnehaha passed opposite him the magnificent band of the Fifty-seventh struck up “Yankee Doodle.” Its strains seemed to awaken stirring memories in the old man's mind—off went his hat, and with a vim that sent his hair flying around his head like a snow-bank lifted by the wind, he gave three hearty cheers for the Union—the Union in which himself, his children, and his grandchildren had been born, reared, and protected.   --Rebellion Record vol. 4 
References to the steamer Minnehaha and Fifty-seventh show why Melville conceives of "vim" as a product of "Western Prairies." Earlier in Union preparations for the assault on Fort Donelson, the Minnehaha brought the Fifty-seventh Illinois from Cairo, Illinois to Fort Henry. This regiment was the one formally known as the Fifty-Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, under command of Colonel S. D. Baldwin:
It was determined by Gen. Grant to make the attack upon Fort Donelson from two directions— by land from the direction of Fort Henry, and by water up the Cumberland, assisted by an adequate column of troops on the banks. Tuesday night, the Fifty-seventh Illinois, Col. Baldwin, arrived at Fort Henry, on the steamer Minnehaha.
As noted by Henry Howe, the seige of Donelson was conducted by troops from western states, chiefly Illinois.
At the first great battle in the west—the taking Of Fort Donelson— an unusual proportion of the soldiers of Illinois took part; and so conspicuously that an eastern poet made it a subject of some congratulatory verses, under the caption of New England's Greeting To Illinois.  --Henry Howe, Times of the Rebellion in the West
Howe's anonymous New England poet associated Western prairies with Illinois:
New England's glad hurrahs—
Bear to the prairies of the West
The echoes of our joy,
The prayer that springs in every breast,—
"God bless thee, Illinois!
No wonder the victory when finally achieved would be commemorated in the North as a victory of the "Loyal West" or "Gallant Soldiers of the West."

Finding enthusiastic "vim" inspired by Illinois troops in the Times report, Melville then must have mentally associated Illinois with prairies as everyone did, and as he did elsewhere, for example in the poem Trophies of Peace. The old patriot's "vim" stirred up by the Illinois regiment gets translated creatively into something else: high spirits among troops in the cheerful early stages of a key battle.  As Frank Day noticed, Melville assigns that vim to the fresh and still upbeat troops, the Illinois soldiers who brought it with them from "Western prairies."

So Melville's image of "Western prairies" does not as Fussell thought refer to military drills and marches over the prairies before the Civil War--though such operations certainly were extensive and significant. As a look at the source for "Donelson" in the Rebellion Record makes clear, by "Western prairies" Melville means Illinois.

Prairie "vim" has to be something like the energetic, wild-and-free feeling communicated in a letter to the Illinois Journal and reprinted in the New York Mirror, December 4, 1841, under the heading THE WESTERN PRAIRIES:
In short, I love the feeling of freshness, and freedom, and wildness which a man on the prairie alone can so well feel.
Further along in Melville's poem the depiction of Fort Donelson corresponds in essential details to the same Times article wherein Melville found vim associated with the Illinois Fifty-seventh:
The ground around the Fort is a rolling upland, covered with heavy timber and dense undergrowth, and broken for miles around into ravines, bordered by precipitous bluffs, whose sides, steep and rocky, almost forbid the passage of even a goat. The Fort itself is situated upon a high bluff, which slants with an easy descent to a point at the water's edge on the north, and is probably not less than one hundred feet above the level of the water. To the rear the bluff has been to some extent levelled for the distance of a mile. On this artificial table-land stands the Fort, whose lines of fortifications and rifle-pits cover the entire levelled space.  --Rebellion Record vol. 4 p171
Here's what Melville made of it:
This stronghold crowns a river-bluff,
   A good broad mile of leveled top,
Inland the ground rolls off
   Deep-gorged, and rocky, and broken up—
A wilderness of trees and brush.
   The spaded summit shows the roods
Of fixed intrenchments in their hush;
   Breast-works and rifle-pits in woods
Perplex the base.—
More of the extensive borrowings that Day inventoried:
the phrasing of the lines "Grant's investment is complete—/A semicircular one" follows remarks in the Times that "the Fort is completely invested" (Documents, p. 173) and that forces were extended "both up and down a line parallel with the river…thus enclosing the Fort in a semicircular line" (Documents, p. 171).
--Frank Day on Donelson
Not only that, but Day shows also how Melville occasionally blended choice bits from two articles reprinted in the Rebellion Record, the NY Times article and another one from the Missouri Democrat. In a single stanza, illustrating the carefulness of his method, and at the same time destroying Fussell's idea of Melville's writing anything "half-automatically" in "Donelson."

Bottom line, the probability that Melville mined this long, literate, dramatic, and richly detailed Times account for "Donelson" is right around 100%. Strange then that so thorough and wise a scholar as Stanton Garner would feel bound to doubt or rather downplay Melville's borrowing habits:
The influence of the Record has been detected in at least twenty of the poems, but the importance of the borrowings has been overstated, tempting readers to believe that Battle-Pieces is "versified journalism," and, therefore, that both the author and his poems were distant "from the actual events of the war." That idea is rooted in Raymond M. Weaver's conception of Herman as a "mariner and mystic" who stood aloof from earthly concerns, for a mystic looks only above and a mariner looks only beyond, at the inscrutable sea. That leaves unexplained the lively interest in the social and political issues of the time demonstrated in many of Herman's other works....
... 
Herman had no need to embellish what he already knew, nor did he. In fact, he may have used the Record somewhat less than has been supposed. It has been noted that in both "Donelson" and in a column reprinted from the New York Times the word "vim" appears; but at the time that word was in common use, as is demonstrated by General Sheridan's philippic against Jeff Hobart. Again, although a piece from the Missouri Democrat and "Donelson" both use the word "sortie," that is the kind of military term that war introduces to the civilian vocabulary.  --Stanton Garner, Civil War World pp389-90
Garner is wrong when he doubts Melville's borrowing of "vim" and "sortie" as well but absolutely right I think about his more important claims for Melville's artistry as a poet. For the legacy of stone-cold imperviousness to the high quality of Battle-Pieces, blame not only or mainly Weaver but also William Dean Howells and Edmund Wilson, and distinguished followers of theirs like Andrew Delbanco

Hats off then to Garner for battling Wilson's verdict of "versified journalism." Garner's own great line
"Herman's mind contained a rebellion record of its own."  --Civil War World
 reminds me of Dylan on Dylan: "All my songs are protest songs."

For further study...

Donelson in Melville's Battle-Pieces

Donelson, online text

Frank Day on Melville's Use of the Rebellion Record

Hennig Cohen, Introduction to 1963 ed. Battle-Pieces

Rebellion Record vol. 4 at Google Books

Rebellion Record vol 4 at Hathi Trust Digital Library


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Melville's "Memoranda" with instructions for publishing his 1860 volume Poems in Minnigerode, Leyda, Metcalf, et al.

In The Melville Log for the year 1860, Jay Leyda transcribed the manuscript copy that Elizabeth Melville made of Herman Melville's notes for his brother Allan regarding the expected publication of Herman's "first volume of verses." Melville's detailed instructions (headed "Memoranda for Allan / concerning the publication of my verses.") show how earnestly he worked at getting his completed manuscript published, and how he assumed, wrongly, that some publisher would want his debut in poetry.

Jay Leyda, The Melville Log, vol. 2 p616
New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1951

As Leyda indicates in the compact index of Sources in the back of volume 2, the manuscript with Elizabeth Melville's transcript of Herman Melville's 1860 notes for Allan is held by NYPL-D which means the Duyckinck family papers now in the Manuscripts and Archives Division at the New York Public Library.

Why the Duyckinck papers is because Elizabeth Melville conscientiously relayed her husband's instructions in a letter to Herman's friend Evert Duyckinck.

Leyda's typo "nomical" in "nomical arrangement" is corrected to "nominal" in Eleanor Melville Metcalf's 1953 Cycle and Epicycle.  Metcalf gives the whole list of Herman's instructions about his anticipated book of poems in the fuller context of Elizabeth Melville's letter from Pittsfield to Duyckinck, written soon after Herman sailed for San Francisco.

In her letter to Duyckinck, Elizabeth Melville made a point of adding
"an item which Herman omitted in his hasteand that is, that the book should be plainly boundthat is, not over-giltand to "blue and gold" I know he has a decided aversionHe may have mentioned it in his letter to you from Boston."
Metcalf also gives the last bit of Herman Melville's notes which Leyda left out:
"... Pray therefore, don't laugh at my Mem. but give heed to them, and so oblige   Your brother   HermanMay 22, 1860."  --Cycle and Epicycle
Ticknor and Fields
Blue and Gold series via ebay

Long before Leyda and Metcalf published Herman Melville's instructions to Allan about his first book of poetry, Meade Minnigerode gave them to the world in the 1922 volume Some Personal Letters of Herman Melville. Like anybody who reads them naturally would be, Minnigerode was struck by the poet's remarkable confidence:
"Melville does not seem to have had any doubts concerning the publication of the manuscript."  
Like Eleanor Melville Metcalf after him, Minnigerode also supplied the context from Elizabeth Melville's letter to Evert Duyckinck:
Pittsfield, June 1, 1860. 
Mr. Duycinck, My dear Sir,—  
On Monday or Tuesday of next week I shall forward to you by Express, the manuscript of which Herman wrote you, and with this I enclose a copy of the memoranda which he jotted down for Allan, according to his request. 
To this also should have been added an item which Herman omitted in his haste, and that is, that the book should be plainly bound—that is, not over-gilt, and to 'blue and gold' I know he has a decided aversion. He may have mentioned it in his letters to you from Boston. . . . Yours etc., E. S. Melville.
Minnigerode was the first to transcribe and publish Melville's notes dated May 22, 1860:
Memoranda for Allan 
Concerning the publication of my verses. 
1. Don't stand on terms much with the publisher—half-profits after expenses are paid will content me—not that I expect much profits—but that will be a fair nominal arrangement. They should also give me 1 doz. copies of the book. 
2. Don't have the Harpers. I should like the Appletons or Scribner. But Duycinck's advice will be good here. 
3. The sooner the thing is printed and published the better. The "season" will make little or no difference, I fancy, in this case. 
4. After printing don't let the book hang back—but publish and have done. 
5. For God's sake don't have By the Author of "Typee," "Piddledee," etc., on the title-page. 
6. Let the title-page be simply 
Poems
by
Herman Melville.
7. Don't have any clap-trap announcements—and "sensation" puffs—nor any extracts published previous to publication of the book. Have a decent publisher, in short. 
8. Don't take any measures, or make inquiries as to expediency of an English edition simultaneous with the American—as in case of "Confidence Man." 
9. In the M.S.S. each piece is on a page by itself, however small the piece. This was done merely for convenience in the final classification, and should be no guide for the printer. Of course in printing two or more pieces will sometimes appear on the same page—according to length of pieces etc. You understand.  
10. The poems are divided into books as you will see, but the divisions are not called books—they are only numbered. Thus it is in the M.S.S. and should be the same in print. There should be a page with the number between every division, 
11. Anything not perfectly plain in the M.S.S. can be referred to Lizzie, also have the M.S.S. returned to her after printing. 
12. Lizzie should by all means see the printed sheets before being bound, in order to detect any gross errors consequent upon misconstruing the M.S.S. 
These are the thoughts which hurriedly occur to me at this moment. Pardon the abruptness of their expression but time is precious—of all human events, perhaps the publication of a first volume of verses is the most insignificant; but though a matter of no moment to the world, it is still of some concern to the author—as these Mem. show. Pray, therefore, don't laugh at my Mem. but give heed to them, and so oblige 
Your brother 
Herman.
--Some Personal Letters of Herman Melville


Although appreciative of Clarel and generally defensive of Melville as poet in the face of "the total oblivion into which his poetry has fallen," Raymond Weaver fails to mention and apparently does not know (before Meade Minnigerode published Elizabeth Melville's transcription of Herman's careful instructions for Allan) about Melville's 1860 book of poems. After Minnigerode, most biographers at least mention the rejected 1860 poems, as the following excerpts show.

Lewis Mumford:
The book of poetry was never published in its original form. Mr. Meade Minnigerode conjectures that the manuscript was that of Clarel; but Melville's concern, in his memoranda for Allan, that each piece should be printed on a page by itself, however small the piece, shows, apart from anything else, that it could not have been Clarel; and when Melville told his brother, two years later, that he had disposed of his "doggerel" to a trunkmaker, who took the whole lot off his hands at ten cents the pound, one must infer that he himself had become dissatisfied with the bulk of his early work, and destroyed most of it, salvaging a few pieces, like the verse to the Captain of the Meteor, for his later volumes. In the first flush of experiment, however, Melville's poetry pleased him: the form of verse gave compactness to his thoughts, and the writing of it did not inflict that long continuous drain on his vitality that the larger prose pieces called for. Melville would pace the quarter-deck with his brother, reciting his verses in the moonlight: the joy of creation, even minor creation, could still stir him up, and no doubt the cadences of the moving ship, heaving, falling, rolling, added to the pleasure of the words themselves. --Mumford's 1929 Herman Melville-1962 ed. p197
Dismissive of Melville's poetry as a kind of demented hobby "when the full years of his creative life were past," Willard Thorp nevertheless rehearses in some detail the story of the 1860 poems that had been known since Minnigerode:
Mrs. Melville wrote to her mother in 1859 [misdated; see N-N Published Poems p448]: "Herman has taken to writing poetry. You need not tell any one, for you know how such things get around." Possibly she wished to prepare the minds of the Chief Justice of Massachusetts and his wife for the shock of discovering their son-in-law's newest perversity. Whatever this remark was supposed to convey, it is a fact that Mrs. Melville undertook to see through the press the volume he had prepared, when, in June, 1860, he hurriedly sailed for San Francisco on his brother's ship, the Meteor. Melville suggests that she was the one who chiefly desired the book's publication. In writing to Evert Duyckinck, on the point of sailing, he said: "As my wife has interested herself a good deal in this matter, and in fact seems to know more about it than I do—at least about the merits of the performance—I must therefore refer you to her." In her own letters to Duyckinck about the book, she rejoices in having, as she says, "my own prejudice in its favor confirmed by someone in whose appreciation we can feel confidence." If the book were to be withdrawn by Herman in case it did not find a publisher at once, it would greatly disappoint her. 
But the book found no publisher. We do not even know for certain what these first poems of Melville's were. They cannot be the long poem Clarel, as Minnigerode supposed for the "Memoranda for Allan concerning the publication of my verses" which Melville sent his brother, prove them to have been a collection of short poems. There is reason to suppose the book contained some if not all of that little group of poems which were printed in Timoleon (1891) under the caption "Fruit of Travel Long Ago." The themes treated in these poems can all be traced to impressions of the 1856 1857 journey and many of them are foreshadowed in the diary which he kept at that time. 
Melville had hoped to make a little money with his book of verses. He regarded them highly enough to enjoin Allan very strictly to see to their careful printing and assured him that though the publication of an author's first volume of verses is a most insignificant matter to the world, to him it is "still of some concern." If he was sadly disappointed by the failure of his book to find a hospitable publisher, he showed it only in the half-rueful, half-jocular way in which he wrote his brother Tom (May 25, 1862) that the trunk-maker had taken the whole lot of his doggerel off his hands at ten cents the pound. If Tom were not "such a devil of a ways off" he would send him a trunk lined with stanzas as a presentation copy. 
This depreciatory tone became habitual with him when referring to his poetry....
--Introduction to Thorp's Representative Selections
Newton Arvin:
In the year or two before the war he appears to have devoted himself to his new interest steadily enough to have, at the end, a small manuscript volume of poems for Lizzie to circulate among publishers during his absence from home--for in the summer of 1860 he had made a voyage round the Horn to San Francisco. Nothing came of this new literary venture at the time, but the manuscript probably consisted of the poems based on his European and Near Eastern wanderings which he later included in Timoleon as "Fruit of Travel Long Ago." 
The failure of these poems to find a publisher had not disheartened Melville enough to silence him, and the excitement produced in him by the Civil War found vent in a whole new group of poems, for the most part better ones, for which he did find a publisher; in 1866 Harper's brought out Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War.  --Newton Arvin's Herman Melville p261
Leon Howard:
Of more serious concern to Herman, however, was the problem of his poems. He had written enough for a volume, and although he realized that "of all human events, perhaps, the publication of a first voume of verse is the most insignificant," he was anxious to get them in print and out of his mind. He and Elizabeth devoted most of the first two or three weeks following his decision [to sail for SF on the Meteor with his brother Tom] to putting them in order. They had to be copied, corrected, and arranged; and some instructions had to be drawn up for Allan, who was commissioned to find a publisher, and for Evert Duyckinck, who was asked to read them over in advance of publication. Their arrangement was in numbered divisions, and he hoped that they might be brought out by Appleton or Scribner rather than the Harpers....
--Leon Howard 266-7
In quoting Melville's seeming indifference to so "insignificant" an event, Howard left out the crucial part where Melville insisted that nonetheless, "it is still of some concern to the author...."

Edwin Haviland Miller reported briefly on the 1860 manuscript volume including its eventual rejection:
On June 19, while Melville was at sea, Charles Scribner returned the manuscript. Although the poems were "excellent," he wrote, "I doubt whether they would more than pay expenses."  --Miller's Melville p299
Herman Melville's "Memoranda for Allan" are also published in the 1960 Davis-Gilman edition of The Letters of Herman Melville edited by Merrell R. Davis and William H. Gilman (p198); and the 1993 Northwestern-Newberry edition by Lynn Horth of Melville's Correspondence (pp343-5). The N-N headnote unfortunately lacks any reference to the June 1, 1860 letter to Evert Duyckinck in which Elizabeth Melville mentions enclosing a copy of Herman's memorandum.

Hershel Parker's four pages in Vol. 2 of his Melville biography (423-6) on the planned 1860 book of poems include a page of transcription giving the same instructions from Herman Melville that Minnigerode (1922), Leyda (1951) and Metcalf (1953) had also published from Elizabeth Melville's copy among the Duyckinck papers. Parker of course has more on Melville's rejected 1860 book in Melville: The Making of the Poet.

Laurie Robertson-Lorant discusses the 1860 book at some length, with welcome emphasis on the role and perspective of Elizabeth ("Lizzie") Melville:
“Planning to be away an entire year, Melville spent the month before Tom’s ship, the Meteor, was scheduled to sail trying to get a volume of poems ready for publication....
Sharing the secret of his writing poetry and preparation of the volume brought Herman and Lizzie closer for a time. He looked to her for help because she had quietly supported his turn to poetry instead of joining the chorus urging him to quit writing. Treating Lizzie as a partner instead of sniping at her fulfilled the earliest wish she had shared with her mother as a married woman, and it sowed the seeds of the intimacy that would blossom in the last decades of their lives, after terrible turmoil and tragedy burned away the cankers that had attacked the roots of their married life.
Assessing one probable motive Battle-Pieces, Laurie Robertson-Lorant again brings up the 1860 book, reasoning as follows:
“although the volume of poetry he had left with Lizzie before his 1860 cruise had not been accepted for publication, he thought a book of poems about the war was certain to appeal to readers. --Robertson-Lorant's Melville: A Biography p486.
Andrew Delbanco verbally follows follows Arvin on the size ("small manuscript") and contents of the projected book. Amazingly contemptuous of Melville as poet, Delbanco nevertheless did not fail to assess the 1860 poems:
Exactly when Melville started writing verse is unknown, but by the spring of 1860 he had accumulated enough poems to fill a small manuscript; and while in New York waiting to board the Meteor, he asked his brother Allan to place it with a publisher.... 
... The proposed book never reached print. A few of its contents survive because they were among several poems Melville gathered many years later under the rubric “Fruit of Travel Long Ago” in a privately printed volume, Timoleon, etc., that appeared in an edition of twenty-five copies just before his death. --Delbanco's Melville: His World and Work
So Meade Minnigerode's 1922 collection of Some Personal Letters of Herman Melville is digitized by Google and available online in the Hathi Trust Digital Library. Now for expert handling of the projected and rejected 1860 volume Poems by Herman Melville, by all means consult the Historical Note by Hershel Parker in the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Published Poems.
The Meteor, painting c. 1852
Image Credit: Australian National Maritime Collection

Look there's T. S. Eliot!


Caption of the photo above in the Charles Olson Research Collection reads:
"Front view of a man and back view of a woman wearing a hat."
Just found that online in the collection of Photographs Owned by Charles Olson. I don't know who is the woman but the man has to be Eliot. T. S. Eliot, for sure.

T. S. Eliot
Photo via Alan W. King

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Edwin Fussell on Ungar, prompting a survey of ex-Confederate mercenaries in Egypt with glimpses of Giles Brent, his Piscataway wife Mary Kittamaquund , and Marylander Walter Hanson Jenifer (1823-1878)

Mary Kittamaquund Marker in Stafford, Virginia
via The Historical Marker Database
Besides the exhilarating survey of Melville's huge western streak in prose, there's a whole chapter on "Melville as Poet" in Frontier: American Literature and the American West. You can hardly blame Edwin S. Fussell for misprising Battle-Pieces when Melville's poetry was so generally ignored. On John Marr and Clarel Fussell returns to sparkling form (aided by the character synopses in Walter Bezanson's 1960 Hendricks House edition to which every reader of Clarel is indebted, one way or another):
The third notable Western character in Clarel [after Rolfe and Nathan] is one of the most prophetic figures in all Melville's dramatis personae, and a more than adequate refutation of the common notion that he never recovered from the Civil War. Ungar is everything an American should not be—Southern, Indian, essentially Catholic, unpatriotic—and he is obviously (after Rolfe) Melville's darling. This "native of the fair Southwest" even refuses to conform to the national haircut, but wears his hair long, "much like a Cherokee's." His face is copper, with high cheekbones, and his "forest eyes" are as sad as his "forest name." Ungar, "wandering Ishmael from the West," is the New World's surly answer to the Old, the butt-end of European Romantic projection. His bitterness is the inevitable product of the white man's perpetually sentimental aggressions:  "Indian's the word." Equally aghast at Southern slavery and the subtler exploitations of the North, Ungar especially despises Anglo-Saxons:                      
                                   "lacking grace
To win the love of any race;
Hated by myriads dispossessed
Of rights — the Indians East and West.
These pirates of the sphere! grave looters —
Grave, canting, Mammonite freebooters,
Who in the name of Christ and Trade
(Oh, bucklered forehead of the brass!)
Deflower the world's last sylvan glade! " 
... Although everybody senses that Ungar's charges are intemperately expressed, nobody can refute him. Nobody even wants to.  --Edwin S. Fussell, Frontier
Before leaving Ungar I have to wonder if anybody has found him, or rather his possible model, among ex-Confederate mercenaries? Hmmm, where to begin. Real Cherokee ex-Confederates of note include
and thus in Red Atlantic, Jace Weaver provisionally associates Ungar with "Stand Watie's brigade." These men never turned soldiers of fortune, however. Well perhaps a subordinate did. But wait, Ungar's Indian ancestry is distant (4.5.134-41), removed "far back" in time from his unnamed ancestor's "wigwam" wedding. Melville clearly has been reading up on the history of Catholic Maryland, including popular stories of how Andrew White the "Apostle of Maryland" worked among native peoples, baptizing Native American kings and princesses in their wigwams.
They could do their work more effectively, ad majorem Dei gloriam, in the rude Indian wigwam where they had established an altar, than in the hall of the legislative assembly. 
Lord Baltimore obtained lands from the Indians by purchase, and not by conquest, and colonists and Indians and missionaries were usually upon the most friendly terms together.  --Catholic World
Ungar might as well be descended from Giles Brent who married the daughter of Kittamaquund (or Chitomachon) famously baptized by the Apostle of Maryland.
Father Andrew White performed Kittamaquund's baptism on July 5, 1640. Governor Leonard Calvert, other Maryland officials, and Piscataway leaders all attended the ceremony. The ceremony took place at a chapel built with bark walls, just like other Piscataway buildings. During the baptism, the priests gave the Piscataway Christian names. Kittamaquund's name became Charles, and his wife was named Mary. Kittamaquund's daughter, Princess Mary, went to live with the Brent's and later married Giles Brent. Kittamaquund died in 1641. --Exploring Maryland's Roots
More on Giles Brent:
A final break with the Calverts prompted Brent and his equally influential sister Margaret Brent to move to Virginia about 1649 and settle near Aquia Creek. Giles Brent married the orphaned daughter of a Piscataway leader who had been raised by Margaret Brent and Jesuit missionaries who had converted her and her father to Christianity. If he had hoped that the marriage would secure him a claim to Indian lands and that he could promote her right of succession to her father's title, he was disappointed on both counts. Despite legislation restricting the rights of Catholics and occasional complaints about Catholic influence, the Brent family prospered in Virginia.
--Encyclopedia of Virginia
And certain details of Ungar's military career pretty clearly describe an officer--now tasked with "drilling troops" and inspecting if not trafficking armaments, formerly a cadet (West Point?). Weaver duly cites Hilton Obenzinger's discussion which is great and historically grounded, but unconcerned with finding any one Ungar in real life.

John P. Dunn has a potentially helpful book on Khedive Ismail's Army and a bibliography specifically on the subject of "Americans in the Nineteenth-Century Egyptian Army" in The Journal of Military History 70.1 (2006) 123-136 / Project MUSE.  Nobody there looks much like Ungar.

Closest single historical match I have found so far is Walter Hanson Jenifer who hails like Ungar from Maryland. Now for his ancestry, is it Catholic? Let's see, WHJ  is son of the Congressman Daniel Jenifer who was the nephew of founding father Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer. So then, Anglican / Episcopalian. But early Jenifers (including DJ the father of Daniel of St Thomas?) in Maryland certainly were Roman Catholic.

Agnes Dicken Cannon calls Ungar a "disillusioned ex-cavalry officer of the defeated Confederacy" (1976 Essays in Arts and Sciences, 146). I'm not quite sure how she knows the cavalry tie, but there's only one ex-Confederate cavalry officer in all of Egypt. Maryland-born! From an article on "American Army Officers in the Service of Egypt" in the New York Herald, September 22, 1871:
The only cavalry officer among the Americans in Egypt is

COLONEL JENIFER. 

The Colonel comes of the old family of that name in lower Maryland, and is a son of the late Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, many years a member of Congress and then Minister to Austria during the Harrison-Tyler administration. Formerly a captain of United States dragoons, then a general of cavalry in the confederacy, the Colonel now commands a regiment of Egyptian cavalry. He is well known in Virginia as the real hero of Ball’s Bluff, “Shanks” Evans, the commander of the Confederate forces, being three miles away when that brilliant engagement was fought. It is a curious coincidence that Jenifer, the victor, and Stone, the vanquished, in that memorable action, after escaping all the dangers and vicissitudes of the civil war, should now find themselves in a remote corner of Africa, both enlisted under the banner of the crescent and the star; but as “every dog must have his day,” he who was vanquished on the Potomac now commands upon the Nile, and this, perhaps, is the reason why, instead of being made Inspector General of Cavalry, a position for which he is better qualified than any man in Egypt, native or foreign, Colonel Jenifer has been assigned to the command of a single regiment.
Full heading of the Herald article reads as follows:

EGYPT AND AMERICA. American Army Officers in the Service of Egypt. Who They Are and What Have Been. Their Performances in the Past—Union and Confederate Soldiers Fighting Under the Same Flag.

In addition to Colonel Jenifer, the Herald profiles the following American officers in Egypt:
  • Major General Thaddeus P. Mott,
  • Brigadier General W. W. Loring 
  • Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley
  • Brigadier General Charles P. Stone
  • Colonel Beverly Kenon, “specially charged with the coast defences, and has already given proof of his eminent fitness for the duty by the invention and construction of a fort which has elicited the unqualified commendation of all the engineers who have seen it.”
  • Colonel A. W. Reynolds
  • Colonel Thomas G. Rhett, “well known throughout the South as the able chief of staff to General Joseph E. Johnston. Being a first rate ordnance officer he has been assigned to that branch of the service in Egypt.” 
  • Colonel Frank Reynolds, "greatly distinguished as colonel of artillery, commanding a brigade in the Confederate Army of the South.”
  • Colonel Jenifer (see profile above)
  • Colonel Sparrow Purdy (New York), 
  • Colonel Vanderbilt Allan (“now colonel of topographical engineers”)
  • Lieutenant Colonel Charles Caille Long, "a native of the Eastern Shore of Maryland; though quite a young man he served on the Union side throughout the civil war”)
  • Lieutenant Colonel W. H. Ward (“a Virginian by birth”)
  • W. H. Dunlap (Kentucky native, “now stationed at Damletta, drilling heavy artillery.”)
  • Major William P. A. Campbell, “a fine type of the American sailor and officer. A Tennessean by birth, he entered the United States Navy in 1847. In 1861 he resigned and reported for duty to the Confederate government and was ordered to Florida to organize the defences of that coast.” WPA “now connected with the heavy artillery and is Chief of Staff to General Sibley."
  • Major Wm. M’Comb Mason (Virginia native, “now in command of a party engaged in boring for water somewhere in Upper Egypt.”)
  • Major E. Parys, “Belgian by birth, but a naturalized American citizen” Union veteran “now organizing a military Signal Corps for the Egyptian government."
  • Major E. Hunt (Virginian, “now engaged at Aboukir teaching the natives how to handle heavy guns”) 
  • Lieutenant Sidney J. Sibley (“In 1862 he made cartridges at the laboratory in Shreveport, La., later a courier with Burd’s battalion, First Trans-Mississippi cavalry.)
Most of these names appear again in another article headed "American Officers in the Khedive's Army," which ran in several New York newspapers including the New York Commercial Advertiser (September 28, 1871). Image below is from a reprint in the Ovid, New York Bee on October 18, 1871; found at Fulton History.


Colonel Jenifer is there, good. Charles Chaillé-Long was from Maryland but served with the Union army. Of the ex-Confederates, Frank A. Reynolds was born in North Carolina; Navy Lieutenant William H. Ward was from Virginia. Found this photo of Tennessean W. P. A. Campbell from Recollections of a Rebel Reefer by James Morris Morgan, online at Documenting the American South:

An 1887 history of  Kentucky (4th ed., 1887, Boyle County) states that W. W. Dunlap,
graduated from West Point. He entered the Confederate Army; was lieutenant-colonel of artillery in the army of the khedive of Egypt, from 1868 to 1876, and is now civil engineer in the mining region of Colorado. -- RootsWeb
Thomas Grimke Rhett was born in Charleston, South Carolina.
He resigned at the beginning of the Civil War, as a South Carolinian would indeed have been a rara avis in the Federal Army in 1861, and became an officer in the Confederate Army; while from 1870 to 1873 he was a Colonel of Ordnance in the Army of the Khedive. --Marian Gouverneur via ReadCentral
Is it William or Alexander Macomb Mason? Also known as Mason Bey and originally from Washington (District of Colombia). Accomack identifies E. Hunt as a Virginian, so he won't do for Ungar's prototype.

To be sure, Ungar looks like a composite figure, a hybrid inspired by factual details from more than one individual biography. Not only that, we have to allow Melville's imagination to work its magic. After all, Melville's Djalea puts Ungar on the shore of Jaffa
With Turkish captains holding speech
Over some cannon in a pile
Late landed—with the conic ball. --Clarel Part 4 Canto 5
and here we are still in Egypt.

Nevertheless, our Maryland native Walter Hanson Jenifer (1823-1878) is surely deserving of closer attention as one possible model for Melville's Ungar. Ex-Confederate, Cavalry officer, Maryland-born, almost Catholic, publicly identified with other American soldiers of fortune in the Khedive's Army--we're so close to home. If only Jenifer had something remotely like an Indian name. Or maybe one of the Virginians is kin to Giles Brent. A-ha, Marylander Brent Giles relocated to Virginia so really we should be looking there for any real-life English/Catholic/Indian forbears.

Which brings up another problem, for next time I guess: how exactly is the name "Ungar" Indian?

Related melvilliana post: