Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Waterfalls of woodbine

[The upper falls of the Genesee at Rochester N.Y. from the east.]
via The New York Public Library Digital Collections
As part of summer reading, “Mardi”, one of Herman Melville’s pre-”Moby Dick” titles, is enjoyable. Set in the South Seas, Melville describes the charming island arbors and archipelagos. On page 359, a description behind a watery bower, inside a sheet of water like “the Falls of the Genesee.” A surprise! 
--David W. Parish - Livingston County News
Agreed, Mardi makes fine summer reading. And it's a treat to find Melville's great third book commended anywhere outside of Melvilliana. But let's slow down and smell the flowers. In this particular chapter from the second volume of Mardi ("My Lord Media Summons Mohi to the Stand") Media drinks, Yoomy daydreams, and Mohi gets grilled on the big questions,"What are you?" and "what are men?" The island arbor where Melville's wanderers rest and talk has no real waterfall. The wonderful waterfall image is employed as a figure of speech. Technically, a simile using the word like. The simile here does not compare water to water, but rather plants to water. As described by Melville's narrator Taji, entering the fictional bower feels "like" stepping behind a waterfall (possibly the upper or "High Falls" at Rochester, though Melville does not specify exactly which "sheet" he means), one of the falls of the Genesee River in New York State. The fancied waterfall-effect is created by cascades of trailing vines that flow, or seem to, from gorgeously blossoming Tamarisk and Tamarind trees.


Soon, we drew nigh to a charming cliff, overrun with woodbines, on high suspended from flowering Tamarisk and Tamarind-trees. The blossoms of the Tamarisks, in spikes of small, red bells; the Tamarinds, wide-spreading their golden petals, red-streaked as with streaks of the dawn. Down sweeping to the water, the vines trailed over to the crisp, curling waves,—little pages, all eager to hold up their trains. 
Within, was a bower; going behind it, like standing inside the sheet of the falls of the Genesee. 
In this arbor we anchored. And with their shaded prows thrust in among the flowers, our three canoes seemed baiting by the way, like wearied steeds in a hawthorn lane.
--Mardi: And a Voyage Thither
In the passage cited by David W. Parish, Melville takes us to one of his favorite imaginary places, a shady retreat, where imaginary characters engage in some of Melville's favorite activities: drinking, smoking, daydreaming, and philosophizing. It's only like being behind a waterfall in upstate New York. Here Melville's idealized "arbor" or "bower" lies behind a figurative waterfall of flowering woodbine.

Woodbine Honeysuckle via The Garden Helper
More arbors and vines in writings by Herman Melville:

MARDI
Think of the time when we ran up and down in our arbor, where the green vines grew over the great ribs of the stranded whale.  --Mardi: And a Voyage Thither  
Conducted to the arbor, from which the queen had emerged, we came to a sweet-brier bower within; and reclined upon odorous mats. --Mardi: And a Voyage Thither
Sang Yoomy:—
Her bower is not of the vine,
But the wild, wild eglantine!
Not climbing a moldering arch,
But upheld by the fir-green larch.--Mardi: And a Voyage Thither
REDBURN
Our binnacle, by the way, the place that holds a ship’s compasses, deserves a word of mention. It was a little house, about the bigness of a common bird-cage, with sliding panel doors, and two drawing-rooms within, and constantly perched upon a stand, right in front of the helm. It had two chimney stacks to carry off the smoke of the lamp that burned in it by night. 
It was painted green, and on two sides had Venetian blinds; and on one side two glazed sashes; so that it looked like a cool little summer retreat, a snug bit of an arbor at the end of a shady garden lane. Had I been the captain, I would have planted vines in boxes, and placed them so as to overrun this binnacle; or I would have put canary-birds within; and so made an aviary of it.... --Redburn: His first Voyage
WHITE-JACKET
...one glimpse of a bower of grapes, though a cable's length off, is almost satisfaction for dining off a shank-bone salted down.  --White-Jacket
MOBY-DICK
There’s naught so sweet on earth—heaven may not match it!—as those swift glances of warm, wild bosoms in the dance, when the over-arboring arms hide such ripe, bursting grapes.--Chapter 40 - Midnight, Forecastle
Chapter 102 - A Bower in the Arsacides
PIERRE
After seeing Lucy into her aunt's most cheerful parlor, and seating her by the honeysuckle that half clambered into the window there; and near to which was her easel for crayon sketching, upon part of whose frame Lucy had cunningly trained two slender vines, into whose earth-filled pots two of the three legs of the easel were inserted....
--Pierre; Or, The Ambiguities
Villain!—the vines! Thou hast torn the green heart-strings! Thou hast but left the cold skeleton of the sweet arbor wherein she once nestled! Thou besotted, heartless hind and fiend, dost thou so much as dream in thy shriveled liver of the eternal mischief thou hast done? Restore thou the green vines! untrample them, thou accursed!—Oh my God, my God, trampled vines pounded and crushed in all fibers, how can they live over again, even though they be replanted!  --Pierre; Or, The Ambiguities 
...and she fell upon Pierre's heart, and her long hair ran over him, and arbored him in ebon vines.  --Pierre; Or, The Ambiguities
 THE PIAZZA TALES
... and a trellis, with honeysuckle, I set for canopy.  --The Piazza
 CLAREL
As were Venetian slats between,
He espied him through a leafy screen,
Luxurious there in umbrage thrown,
Light sprays above his temples blown—
The river through the green retreat
Hurrying, revelling by his feet. 
--Clarel 2.27 - Vine and Clarel

Friday, July 14, 2017

Omoo in the Christian Reflector

The Christian Reflector - May 20, 1847

Editors' Table.

OMOO.--An amusing and entertaining volume of adventure. The author, Herman Melville, writes in the style of a characteristic, roving, observing genius. The book gives desirable information concerning the South Seas. New York: Harper & Brothers. Boston: Binney & Otheman.
The Christian Reflector was a Baptist newspaper, published in Boston and jointly edited by H. A. Graves and John Wesley Olmstead.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rewriting Old Zack

The previous post identified the 1847 newspaper source for Melville's physical description of Zachary Taylor in Yankee Doodle. With Melville's base-text in the New York Herald of June 30, 1847 before us, we can compare the original article with Melville's version to see exactly how Melville adapted it for comic effects. A closer look at Melville's changes may prove interesting and instructive.

Here's the author of Typee and Omoo at work, rewriting Old Zack. (The source is shown in black text; Melville's rewrite in blue.)
The hero of Buena Vista,
The hero of Buena Vista,
around whose military brow so many chaplets of fame have been thrown
upon the crown of whose caput have descended so many interleaved chaplets of fame
presents in his personal appearance many of those striking stamps of nature, which mark the gentleman and the officer.
presents in his general exterior personal appearance many of those extraordinary characteristics distinctive of the noble spirit tabernacled within.
Of an average medium height, being about five feet nine inches,
Of about the common length of ordinary mortals—say about five feet, nine inches, and two barley corns, Long Measure—
he inclines to a heaviness of frame and general well-developed muscular outline, with some tendency to corpulency; of square build, he now inclines to stoop;
he rather leans to a squat colossalness of frame and universal spread of figure, particularly on the lower part of the abdominal regions. To counteract a bulging forth of the latter parts, he is said to wear a truss of peculiar conformation. This circumstance, however, is not as yet fully established. Of a thick set and quadratular build, he now inclines to tenuity in the parts lying round about the calf.
and from the great equestrian exercise the nature of his life has led him necessarily to undergo, his inferior extremities are somewhat bowed.
Originally of great agility of the locomotive apparatus, he now betrays on his partially denuded head a want of energy in the capillary tubes of the hair, as his digestive machinery is liable to frequent suspensions of activity. 
His expansive chest shows him capable of undergoing that vast fatigue through which he has passed amid the hummocks and savannahs of Florida, and the still more recent fields of Mexico.
His broad and expanded chest shows the hero fully capable of encountering the prodigious fatigues of war, whether in the interminably interlocked everglades of the Floridian southerly terminus of the Republic, or upon the wide-spreading and generally level table-land savannahs of Mexico.
His face is expressive of great determination—
His face is a physignomical phenomenon, which Lavater would have crossed the Atlantic to contemplate. Of soul-awing determination of expression and significant of inflexible and immovable ironness of purpose,
yet, still so softened by the kindlier feelings of the soul, as to render the perfect stranger prepossessed in his behalf.
it (the external features of the countenance) are softened down and melted into a kindly benevolence which would prepossess a perfect stranger in his favor.
His head is large, well-developed in the anterior regions,
His head is large, extremely well dev[el]oped in the frontal quarter, but not classically elegant in the anterior portion. To employ an expressive, though somewhat rude comparison, it appears as if squshed between his shoulders. By close observers, the lobe of the right ear is thought to be depressed more than the corresponding auricular organ, on the lateral part of the caput. 
and covered with a moderate quantity of hair, now tinged by the coloring pencil of time, which he wears parted on one side, and brushed down.
In early adolescence of a beautiful amber or brown color, the hair, through the gradual ravages of time, has assumed a speckled, pepper and salt external appearance. In a most touching manner the thin and scattered locks are parted picturesquely on one side and combed slickly over the brows.
His eyebrows are heavy, and extend over the optic orbit; the eye grey, full of fire, and expressive when his mental powers are called into play, yet reposing as if in pleasant quiet, when in ordinary.—
The latter are Jupiternian in their awful bushiness—the hairy appendage curling over upon the optic orbits. His frown is Olympian and strikes terror and confusion into the overwhelmed soul of the spectator. The muscular energy of the brows is truly extraordinary. When ever their pupular is under mental excitation, they frequently become knit together in wrinkular pleats like unto the foldular developments under the lateral shoulder of the rhinoceros species of animated nature. His eye is Websternian, though grey. The left organ somewhat effects the dexter side of the socket, while examined by a powerful telescope several minute specks are observable in the pupil of the sinister orbit. But this detracts not from the majesty of its expression: the sun even has its spots. When the hero's soul is lashed into intellectual agitation by the external occurrence of irritating and stimulating circumstance, the eye assumes an inflamed and fiery appearance. The scantiness of the lashes and their short and singed appearance are ascribable, perhaps, to their vicinity to the pupil when thus kindled into fury. When a mental calm, however, pervades the serene soul of the hero, a Saucernian placidity is diffused over the entire visionary orb. 
His nose is straight, neither partaking of the true Grecian nor Roman order; his lips thin, the upper firm, and the lower slightly projecting.
The nostrilian organ, or proboscis. is straight, but neither inclining to the Roman, or Grecian, or, indeed, the Doric or Composite order of nasal architecture. 
The outline of his face is oval, the skin wrinkled, and deeply embrowned by the many tropical suns to which he has been exposed.
The labial appendages (suspended just under the proboscis) are attenuated—the upper tightly and firmly spread upon the dental parts beneath; and the lower pendant and projecting as represented in the prints. The outline of the caput, generally, is an ovalular elipsis inclining to the rotund, but having no predisposition to the quadrangular. The obvious cuticle or scarf-skin is wrinkled, freckled, and embrowned—doubtless through age and constant exposure to the ardent rays of the Floridian and Mexicanian sun combined. 
His manners are frank, social, and no one ever left his company, without feeling that he had been mingling with a gentleman of the true olden times.
The manner of the hero is frank and companionable—and never did mortal leave his society without being constantly impressed with the unavoidable conviction that he had been conversing with a good fellow and a gentleman. 
He at times appears in deep meditation, and is then not always accessible. In his military discipline he is firm, and expects all orders emanating from his office to be rigidly enforced and observed —
At times he is seen in deep and earnest meditation—the left auricular organ with the head attached thereto, deposited upon the open palm and outspread digits of the manual termination of the arm. At other times he assumes when meditating quite a different posture; the fore finger of the left hand being placed on the dexter side of the proboscis. In his military discipline, he is firm and unyielding to the last degree of military inflexibility—
treating his men not as helots or slaves, but exercising only that command which is necessary for the good of the whole. To the younger officers under him, he is peculiarly lenient — often treating their little faults more with a father's forgiveness, than with the judgment of a ruler.
but is, nevertheless, remarkably lenient to those under him, officers and privates included. Particularly to the youthful portion of his command, whom he treats with all the indulgence of a paternal relative or guardian—often permitting them to lay a-bed late in the morning, when the battle is raging at the fiercest.  
In his general toilet he does not imitate the Beau Brummels and band-box dandies of the present fashionable epoch, but apparels his person in unison with his age, and has no great predilection for the uniform.
In his general toilet he is far from imitating a Brummellian precision and starchedness of cravat. 
In this, however, he is by no means peculiar, for a majority of our regular military gentlemen seldom appear in their externals on duty; and the stations to which General Taylor has been assigned, have been in the warm and sunny south, rendering the heavy blue cloth undress coat disagreeable to the physical feelings.
He has no violent predilection for his regimentals and seldom appears in them, which, in fact, is the case with most of his officers, of whom it is even observed, that “they seldom appear in externals on duty,”—a habit indicative of superiority to foppish adornments, but might be construed by the fastidious into a want of good taste and decorousness. Their custom in this respect, however, is defensible upon the ground, that called by Divine Providence to perform their martial functions in the genial and delightful regions of the sunny south, the cumbersome military costume, or, indeed, any dress at all, “is disagreeable to the physical feelings."
I have generally seen him in a pair of grey trowsers,
The hero himself may be usually seen by an ordinary spectator arrayed in a pair of sheep's grey pants, shapeless and inclined to bagging—the latter predisposition being imputed, by a reflecting observer, to the singular fact that the hero never wears the common-place articles called suspenders.
a dark vest, and either a brown or speckled frock coat, reaching lower than would suit the starched and prim bucks of modern civilization. 
His coat is generally of a brownish tinge which in some cases is to be imputed to the original color imparted to the cloth when in the vat of the dyer, and in other cases to an heroic disregard of dust and oleaginous spots on the part of the ungent wearer. His vest usually, though not invariably, is of a darksome hue—resembling the ordinary sable. 
He wears a long black silk neck-handkerchief, the knot not looking as if he had been torturing himself to arrange it before a full-length mirror;
He wears a long crumpled black silk neck-handkerchief, much knotted and super-twisted, and evidently not put on with any great degree of care. But the carelessness with which it is tied in no respect approaches to the studied artlessness of the Byronic bow. The shirt collar is open, revealing considerable superfluous hair just above region of the thorax and windpipe, and betokening a disdain of Gouraud's Depillatory. Several individual hairs partake of the greyish tinge of the sparse covering of the head. 
he sometimes wears a white hat, resembling in shape those used by our flat-boatmen,
The hero sometimes wears a white wool hat, much marked by indentation, and irregular depressions and prominences upon the crown. It resembles in most respects the castor of a Mississippi flat-boatman.—
and a pair of common soldier shoes, not much polished.
His shoes are the common cow-hide sandals served out by the Commissary Departmtent to the free use of the army. They are usually stringless and not much polished.
For further study:
Related post:
Gouraud Bottle via Hair Raising Stories

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Personal appearance of Zachary Taylor, Melville's 1847 sketch and newspaper source

Major General Zachary Taylor
 The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Published in Yankee Doodle on August 7, 1847, Herman Melville's humorous sketch of the personal appearance of General Taylor directly parodies a newspaper report that first appeared in the New York Herald on June 30, 1847.
The New York Herald - June 30, 1847
via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers - Library of Congress
The Herald sketch circulated widely under various titles, including "Personal Appearance of Gen. Taylor" in the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer (July 13, 1847); and "General Taylor's Personal Appearance" in The Anglo-American (July 17, 1847).

In his Yankee Doodle piece, Melville essentially rewrote the Herald article, embracing much of the descriptive language while crafting a comically exaggerated pose of pseudo-scientific seriousness. In many places Melville borrowed verbatim from his newspaper source. For example, two phrases from one or another version of the newspaper article on Zachary Taylor's personal appearance are amusingly quoted and italicized in Melville's Yankee Doodle parody. Officers
"seldom appear in their externals on duty" 
since in the hot climate of Mexico the heavy military uniform would soon become
"disagreeable to the physical feelings."
In recasting the quoted material, Melville exaggerates the informality of camp life, implying that officers wage war in their underwear. Melville's source and sketch both compare General Taylor's hat to those of "flat-boatmen." Both end by describing the General's shoes as "not much polished."

Melville's newspaper source and his unsigned parody in Yankee Doodle are transcribed below. First, the source:
Personal Appearance of Gen. Taylor.— One of the returned volunteers who fought under Gen. Taylor at Monterey, has furnished us with a leaf of his diary, describing the personal appearance and manners of the great hero, as follows:
The hero of Buena Vista, around whose military brow so many chaplets of fame have been thrown, presents in his personal appearance many of those striking stamps of nature, which mark the gentleman and the officer. Of an average medium height, being about five feet nine inches, he inclines to a heaviness of frame and general well- developed muscular outline, with some tendency to corpulency; of square build, he now inclines to stoop; and from the great equestrian exercise the nature of his life has led him necessarily to undergo, his inferior extremities are somewhat bowed. His expansive chest shows him capable of undergoing that vast fatigue through which he has passed amid the hummocks and savannahs of Florida, and the still more recent fields of Mexico. His face is expressive of great determination—yet, still so softened by the kindlier feelings of the soul, as to render the perfect stranger prepossessed in his behalf. His head is large, well-developed in the anterior regions, and covered with a moderate quantity of hair, now tinged by the coloring pencil of time, which he wears parted on one side, and brushed down. His eyebrows are heavy, and extend over the optic orbit; the eye grey, full of fire, and expressive when his mental powers are called into play, yet reposing as if in pleasant quiet, when in ordinary.— His nose is straight, neither partaking of the true Grecian nor Roman order; his lips thin, the upper firm, and the lower slightly projecting. The outline of his face is oval, the skin wrinkled, and deeply embrowned by the many tropical suns to which he has been exposed. His manners are frank, social, and no one ever left his company, without feeling that he had been mingling with a gentleman of the true olden times. He at times appears in deep meditation, and is then not always accessible. In his military discipline he is firm, and expects all orders emanating from his office to be rigidly enforced and observed — treating his men not as helots or slaves, but exercising only that command which is necessary for the good of the whole. To the younger officers under him, he is peculiarly lenient — often treating their little faults more with a father's forgiveness, than with the judgment of a ruler. In his general toilet he does not imitate the Beau Brummels and band-box dandies of the present fashionable epoch, but apparels his person in unison with his age, and has no great predilection for the uniform. In this, however, he is by no means peculiar, for a majority of our regular military gentlemen seldom appear in their externals on duty; and the stations to which General Taylor has been assigned, have been in the warm and sunny south, rendering the heavy blue cloth undress coat disagreeable to the physical feelings. I have generally seen him in a pair of grey trowsers, a dark vest, and either a brown or speckled frock coat, reaching lower than would suit the starched and prim bucks of modern civilization. He wears a long black silk neck-handkerchief, the knot not looking as if he had been torturing himself to arrange it before a full-length mirror; he sometimes wears a white hat, resembling in shape those used by our flat-boatmen, and a pair of common soldier shoes, not much polished."  --Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer, July 13, 1847
Reprinted many times for example:
  • Alexandria [Virginia] Gazette, July 5, 1847
  • New York Evening Mirror, July 13, 1847
  • Litchfield [Connecticut] Republican, July 15, 1847
  • Auburn [New York] Daily Advertiser, July 16, 1847
  • The Anglo-American vol. 9 - July 17, 1847
  • Rochester [New York] Daily Democrat, July 19, 1847 
  • Saratoga Springs, New York Daily Saratoga Republican, July 22, 1847 
  • Greenfield [Massachusetts] Gazette & Courier, July 27, 1847
  • Raleigh [North Carolina] Register, July 28, 1847
  • The Taylor Text-Book or Rough and Ready Reckoner - 1848 
Found on Newspapers.com

Now for the parody. Here is the text of Melville's sketch, transcribed from Yankee Doodle no. 44 (August 7, 1847):
"GEN. TAYLOR'S PERSONAL APPEARANCE," OR OLD ZACK PHYSIOLOGICALLY AND OTHERWISE CONSIDERED.

BY A SURGEON OF THE ARMY IN MEXICO.
The hero of Buena Vista, upon the crown of whose caput have descended so many interleaved chaplets of fame, presents in his general exterior personal appearance many of those extraordinary characteristics distinctive of the noble spirit tabernacled within. Of about the common length of ordinary mortals—say about five feet, nine inches, and two barley corns, Long Measure—he rather leans to a squat colossalness of frame and universal spread of figure, particularly on the lower part of the abdominal regions. To counteract a bulging forth of the latter parts, he is said to wear a truss of peculiar conformation. This circumstance, however, is not as yet fully established. Of a thick set and quadratular build, he now inclines to tenuity in the parts lying round about the calf. Originally of great agility of the locomotive apparatus, he now betrays on his partially denuded head a want of energy in the capillary tubes of the hair, as his digestive machinery is liable to frequent suspensions of activity. 
His broad and expanded chest shows the hero fully capable of encountering the prodigious fatigues of war, whether in the interminably interlocked everglades of the Floridian southerly terminus of the Republic, or upon the wide-spreading and generally level table-land savannahs of Mexico. His face is a physignomical phenomenon, which Lavater would have crossed the Atlantic to contemplate. Of soul-awing determination of expression and significant of inflexible and immovable ironness of purpose, it (the external features of the countenance) are softened down and melted into a kindly benevolence which would prepossess a perfect stranger in his favor. His head is large, extremely well dev[el]oped in the frontal quarter, but not classically elegant in the anterior portion. To employ an expressive, though somewhat rude comparison, it appears as if squshed between his shoulders. By close observers, the lobe of the right ear is thought to be depressed more than the corresponding auricular organ, on the lateral part of the caput.  
In early adolescence of a beautiful amber or brown color, the hair, through the gradual ravages of time, has assumed a speckled, pepper and salt external appearance. In a most touching manner the thin and scattered locks are parted picturesquely on one side and combed slickly over the brows. The latter are Jupiternian in their awful bushiness—the hairy appendage curling over upon the optic orbits. His frown is Olympian and strikes terror and confusion into the overwhelmed soul of the spectator. The muscular energy of the brows is truly extraordinary. When ever their pupular is under mental excitation, they frequently become knit together in wrinkular pleats like unto the foldular developments under the lateral shoulder of the rhinoceros species of animated nature. His eye is Websternian, though grey. The left organ somewhat effects the dexter side of the socket, while examined by a powerful telescope several minute specks are observable in the pupil of the sinister orbit. But this detracts not from the majesty of its expression: the sun even has its spots. When the hero's soul is lashed into intellectual agitation by the external occurrence of irritating and stimulating circumstance, the eye assumes an inflamed and fiery appearance. The scantiness of the lashes and their short and singed appearance are ascribable, perhaps, to their vicinity to the pupil when thus kindled into fury. When a mental calm, however, pervades the serene soul of the hero, a Saucernian placidity is diffused over the entire visionary orb.  
The nostrilian organ, or proboscis. is straight, but neither inclining to the Roman, or Grecian, or, indeed, the Doric or Composite order of nasal architecture. The labial appendages (suspended just under the proboscis) are attenuated—the upper tightly and firmly spread upon the dental parts beneath; and the lower pendant and projecting as represented in the prints. The outline of the caput, generally, is an ovalular elipsis inclining to the rotund, but having no predisposition to the quadrangular. The obvious cuticle or scarf-skin is wrinkled, freckled, and embrowned—doubtless through age and constant exposure to the ardent rays of the Floridian and Mexicanian sun combined.  
The manner of the hero is frank and companionable—and never did mortal leave his society without being constantly impressed with the unavoidable conviction that he had been conversing with a good fellow and a gentleman. 
At times he is seen in deep and earnest meditation—the left auricular organ with the head attached thereto, deposited upon the open palm and outspread digits of the manual termination of the arm. At other times he assumes when meditating quite a different posture; the fore finger of the left hand being placed on the dexter side of the proboscis. In his military discipline, he is firm and unyielding to the last degree of military inflexibility—but is, nevertheless, remarkably lenient to those under him, officers and privates included. Particularly to the youthful portion of his command, whom he treats with all the indulgence of a paternal relative or guardian—often permitting them to lay a-bed late in the morning, when the battle is raging at the fiercest.  
In his general toilet he is far from imitating a Brummellian precision and starchedness of cravat. He has no violent predilection for his regimentals and seldom appears in them, which, in fact, is the case with most of his officers, of whom it is even observed, that they seldom appear in externals on duty,”—a habit indicative of superiority to foppish adornments, but might be construed by the fastidious into a want of good taste and decorousness. 
Their custom in this respect, however, is defensible upon the ground, that called by Divine Providence to perform their martial functions in the genial and delightful regions of the sunny south, the cumbersome military costume, or, indeed, any dress at all, is disagreeable to the physical feelings." 
The hero himself may be usually seen by an ordinary spectator arrayed in a pair of sheep's grey pants, shapeless and inclined to bagging—the latter predisposition being imputed, by a reflecting observer, to the singular fact that the hero never wears the common-place articles called suspenders. His coat is generally of a brownish tinge which in some cases is to be imputed to the original color imparted to the cloth when in the vat of the dyer, and in other cases to an heroic disregard of dust and oleaginous spots on the part of the ungent wearer. His vest usually, though not invariably, is of a darksome hue—resembling the ordinary sable. He wears a long crumpled black silk neck-handkerchief, much knotted and super-twisted, and evidently not put on with any great degree of care. But the carelessness with which it is tied in no respect approaches to the studied artlessness of the Byronic bow. The shirt collar is open, revealing considerable superfluous hair just above region of the thorax and windpipe, and betokening a disdain of Gouraud's Depillatory. Several individual hairs partake of the greyish tinge of the sparse covering of the head. 
The hero sometimes wears a white wool hat, much marked by indentation, and irregular depressions and prominences upon the crown. It resembles in most respects the castor of a Mississippi flat-boatman.— His shoes are the common cow-hide sandals served out by the Commissary Departmtent to the free use of the army. They are usually stringless and not much polished. 
--[Herman Melville] in Yankee Doodle No. 44 - August 7, 1844
In print, texts of this sketch and nine numbered "Old Zack" Anecdotes are available in the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860. The University of Chicago volume with Yankee Doodle, Volumes 1-2 has been digitized by Google Books, and is also available online courtesy of Hathi Trust Digital Library.



Related post

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Whaleology with tact

New York Observer - November 20, 1851
The Whale, by Herman Melville, is a beautiful book, just out of the press of the Harpers, a complete exhibition of the art and mystery of whaleology, with graphic pictures of the life and times of whalemen, in which the peculiar tact of Melville appears on every page.
--New York Observer, November 20, 1851


Nowadays tact generally implies "avoiding offense," but in Melville's time the word conveyed the senses of touch, feeling, and
"Peculiar skill or faculty; nice perception or discernment."
--Webster's 1848 American Dictionary of the English Language.

Friday, July 7, 2017

4th of July toast to the Navy and patriotic Melvills

On the Fourth of July in 1830, Herman Melville's first cousin Thomas Wilson Melvill (formerly Pierre Francois Henry Thomas Wilson Melvill) joined the young men of Pittsfield, Massachusetts in their spirited celebration of the national holiday. Midshipman Melvill had arrived in New York on the U. S. ship Vincennes the previous month, having been gone (as reported everywhere) three years and nine months on a voyage of almost 70,000 miles that included visits to the Marquesas and Sandwich Islands.

According to a newspaper report, William Southgate offered a toast for the occasion that honored three generations of Melvill patriots: the present young midshipman, his locally prominent father Major Thomas Melvill, Jr., who served as Commissary and head of the Pittsfield cantonment during the War of 1812, and his more famous grandfather Thomas Melville, one of the Tea Party "Mohawks."

In response to Southgate's "flattering" toast, Midshipman Melvill graciously proposed his fellows, "The Young Men of America."

Boston Patriot and Daily Chronicle
July 14, 1830
Celebration at Pittsfield, Mass.--The day was celebrated by the young men of Pittsfield with great spirit. The following were among the toasts: ...
 ...
By Wm. Southgate--The American Navy--A Melvill gallantly assailed the Tea Ships of Old England: A Melvill stood forth in defence of free trade and sailor's rights; and while his descendant is guardian of our country's flag, its glory will gain additional lustre. 
[Midshipman Melvill returned thanks for the complimentary notice of his honored relatives, and the flattering allusion to himself, and begged leave to offer the following sentiment:] 
The Young Men of America--Intelligent, brave and patriotic: They well understand the principles upon which the republican institutions of their country are founded:-- Knowing their value, they will promptly obey the signal to defend them, either in the camp, the cabinet, or on the ocean.  --Boston Patriot and Daily Chronicle, July 14, 1830
Who's William Southgate?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Grammar School of Columbia College in 1829-30

In 1829 Herman Melville began attending the Grammar School of Columbia College. Before that, he went to the New York Male High School. As shown by John P. Runden, Herman enrolled in the Columbia College Grammar School on September 28, 1829. His older brother Gansevoort was already there. When Gansevoort enrolled on May 14, 1829 the Grammar School had just relocated "to the apartments lately occupied by the deaf and dumb" at 294 Broadway.

Herman Melville's grammar school in 1829-1830
New York Evening Post - April 7, 1829
GRAMMAR SCHOOL OF COLUMBIA COLLEGE.--Notice is hereby given of the removal of the Grammar School of Columbia College, to the apartments lately occupied by the deaf and dumb, in the rear of the City Hall. Exercises in said school will commence on Monday next, at 9 o'clock, A.M. The situation is healthy, and the rooms airy and convenient.

Application for entrance may be made to the Master at the rooms between the hours of 9, A.M. and 3, P.M. or at other hours at No. 294 Broadway.

New York, 3d April, 1829.
Herman Melville's grammar school was formally controlled by the twenty-four Trustees of Columbia College, including Clement C. Moore the "Clerk of the Board."



Trustee and Board Clerk Clement C. Moore had been on the committee with William Harris et al that reported in 1827 on the "Plan of a Grammar School to be attached to Columbia College."

Gansevoort enrolled one day before Benjamin C. Moore, the son of Clement C. Moore. Benjamin Moore left the Columbia Grammar School on July 3, 1828, before Herman began in September. When Herman was enrolled, the Grammar School moved again, this time "to the new building" on Murray street.

New York Evening Post - December 15, 1829

Found on Newspapers.com

Lorenzo L. Da Ponte (1805-1841) the son of Clement C. Moore's old Italian teacher and friend Lorenzo Da Ponte (still professor of Italian at Columbia College), is named as one of two "English Instructors" at the Grammar School attended by Gansevoort and Herman Melville before their removal to Albany, New York in 1830.

Marian Gouverneur remembered Lorenzo L. da Ponte (one of her teachers in Madame Chegaray's school) as "a man of unusual versatility" who "was especially distinguished as a linguist":
"He taught us English literature in such a successful manner that we regarded that study merely as a recreation."  --As I Remember: Recollections of American Society during the Nineteenth Century
Two articles by John P. Runden on Melville and the Columbia Grammar School are available online via the Melville Society Extracts Archives:
  • "Columbia Grammar School: An Overlooked Year in the Lives of Gansevoort and Herman Melville" in Melville Society Extracts 46 (May 1981): 1-3; and

Monday, July 3, 2017

New York High Schools, Allan Melvill on Board of Trustees for 1829

From 1825 to 1829 young Herman Melvill (age six to ten) attended the New York High School where his father Allan Melvill eventually became a stockholder and trustee. Here Herman served as a student "monitor" and, as Allan Melvill reported to Peter Gansevoort in February 1828, "proved the best Speaker in the introductory Department."
Organized in 1824 by a group of well-to-do New Yorkers, it had quickly acquired over six hundred students. Its spacious three-story brick building, fifty feet by seventy-five, stood in Crosby street, a walk of five short blocks for the Melville boys. --William Gilman, Melville's Early Life and Redburn (page 28)
David K. Titus has more on Melville's early education at the New York High School in his article on "Herman Melville at the Albany Academy," published in Melville Society Extracts 42 (May 1980).


New York-High School for Boys, and Girls.--We have received from the Treasurer of the New York High-School, the Third Annual Report of the Trustees, by which it appears, that (in November, 1827) in the Boys School, the present number was 543.-- A committee of the trustees, on a visit to this school, found in the Introductory Department, 243 scholars, of which 184 were studying arithmetick tables, 64 geography--and nearly all of them studying words, definitions, and spelling lessons. The average number of scholars in the Junior Department, was 185, of whom 65 were promoted to the Senior Department. The studies in the Junior Department are similar to those embraced in the Prospectus of the Buffalo High School. In the Senior Department, the average number of scholars, was 148; of whom 30 are taught book-keeping, and an equal number geometry, trigonometry, mensuration, and practical mathematicks. There are 100 who are taught geography, 30 Greek, 70 Latin, 80 French, 20 Spanish, and 40 taught in landscape drawing. The trustees have expressed their great satisfaction at the progress of the scholars, and of the capacity and diligence of the principals and assistants.

In the Girls' School, there was in November last, 359 scholars; of whom 150 are taught in the Introductory, 100 in the Junior, and 105 in the Senior Departments. The studies in the two first departments are somewhat similar to those pursued by the scholars in the Boys' School; but in the Senior department, 14 are taught book keeping, 20 read Blair's Lectures, 8 Alison on Taste, 16 classical Biography, 4 study Astronomy; and a class of 20 have gone through a system of Botany. The trustees declare, that the success of the young ladies in this department, in industry, talents and taste, is admirable: exhibiting a beautiful exhibition of the powers of the female mind. --Buffalo and Black Rock Gazette, January 17, 1828.
Found on Newspapers.com

As noted in the previous post on Dancing with Miss Whieldon, Herman's sister Helen Maria Melville received private instruction from Mrs. Whieldon.

In September 1829 (when Gansevoort and Herman were enrolled at the Columbia Grammar School), the Female High School continued to offer an impressive course of study in the Senior department, where young women could study (besides needlework and French) "moral philosophy, history, and belles lettres," and attend "lectures on astronomy, natural history and natural philosophy."
New York Observer - September 5, 1829
Found in the online archives of Historical Newspapers at Genealogy Bank
In 1829 and 1830, Herman attended the Grammar School of Columbia College with his brother Gansevoort. John P. Runden published two fine articles on the Columbia school in Melville Society Extracts:
  • "Columbia Grammar School: An Overlooked Year in the Lives of Gansevoort and Herman Melville" in Melville Society Extracts 46 (May 1981): 1-3; and 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Dancing with Miss Whieldon


Found on Newspapers.com

In early 1828, Herman Melville's sister Helen Maria was among the lucky few studying with Mrs. Whieldon, then conducting lessons "in the literary branches" at Miss Whieldon's Boarding and Day School on 440 Broome street. In earlier years, when their school was located right on Broadway, Mr. Whieldon also taught there, giving lectures on Natural Philosophy, Geography, and Astronomy.

Twice a week, along with his brother Gansevoort and sister Augusta, young Herman Melville (nine years old) went to Broome and Broadway--for dancing lessons from the "fair teacher Miss Whieldon," as their father called the unmarried instructor, apparently the Whieldons' daughter. Allan Melvill named Miss Whieldon as the children's Dancing teacher in the letter he wrote Peter Gansevoort on February 23, 1828. Hershel Parker makes great use of Allan's letter including the matter of Dancing in the first volume of Herman Melville: A Biography (pages 38-39).

The Melvill children's "Miss Whieldon" may have been Ann G. Whieldon. Educated in London and Bath, England, the daughter of William Whieldon died in New York City "of a lingering illness" on Monday, February 2, 1829. According to the obituary, funeral services began at "her late residence 440 Broome Street, corner of Broadway," also the address of Miss Whieldon's Dancing Academy.

After the obit of February 3, 1829, I have not found any more news of the Whieldons in the Evening Post. From the New York Evening Post, September 19, 1827:
Miss Whieldon, begs leave to return her best thanks to her friends and the public, for the very liberal support she received last winter, and encouraged by the hope of a continuance of their patronage, she begs leave to announce her intention of opening her Dancing Academy, on Monday, October 1st. Her usual advantages of having monthly from Europe, the newest figures of English, French, and Spanish Dancing, will be continued during the ensuing season. Miss W. can give references, to families of distinction, whose children she has had the honor of instructing. Those pupils, who may wish to dance at her hall, are requested to enter as soon as possible after the commencement of her academy. 
Found on Newspapers.com