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Title: Herman Melville - Mariner and Mystic
Author: Weaver, Raymond M.
Language: English
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  Mariner and Mystic



  _Engraved on wood, by L. F. Grant._
  _From a photograph._

[Illustration: Signature--Herman Melville]






  COPYRIGHT, 1921,





  “--_il maestro cortese_”

To Professor Carl Van Doren, to Miss Cora Paget, and to Mrs. Eleanor
Melville Metcalf, I am, in the writing of this book, very especially
indebted. By Professor Van Doren’s enthusiasm and scholarship I was
instigated to a study of Melville. It has been my privilege to enjoy
Miss Paget’s very valuable criticism and assistance throughout the
preparation of this volume. Mrs. Metcalf gave me access to all the
surviving records of her grandfather: Melville manuscripts, letters,
journals, annotated books, photographs, and a variety of other
material. But she did far more. My indebtedness to Mrs. Metcalf’s vivid
interest, her shrewd insight, her keen sympathy can be stated only in
superlatives. To Mrs. and Mr. Metcalf I owe one of the richest and most
pleasant associations of my life.


  _October 1, 1921._

Most of the letters of Melville to Hawthorne included in this volume
are quoted from _Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife_, by Julian
Hawthorne. These letters, and other citations from Mr. Hawthorne’s
memoir, are included through the courtesy of Messrs. Houghton Mifflin


  CHAPTER                                PAGE
  I    DEVIL’S ADVOCATE                    15
  II   GHOSTS                              33
  VII  BLUBBER AND MYSTICISM              128
  VIII LEVIATHAN                          153
  IX   THE PACIFIC                        170
  XII  ON BOARD A MAN-OF-WAR              233
  XIII INTO THE RACING TIDE               250
  XVI  THE GREAT REFUSAL                  334
  XVII THE LONG QUIETUS                   349
       BIBLIOGRAPHY                       385
       INDEX OF NAMES                     391


  HERMAN MELVILLE                           _Frontispiece_
  MELVILLE’S GRANDFATHERS                               40
  ALLAN MELVILLE                                        56
  MARIA GANSEVOORT MELVILLE                             64
    IN 1820
    IN 1865
  THROWING THE HARPOON                                 136
  SOUNDING                                             136
  SPERM WHALING. THE CAPTURE                           160
  ONE OF SIX WHALING PRINTS                            160
  “TOBY.” RICHARD TOBIAS GREENE                        164
    IN 1846
    IN 1865
  EVANGELISING POLYNESIA                               184
  RICHARD TOBIAS GREENE. IN 1885                       200
  THE FLEET OF TAHITI                                  224
  ELIZABETH SHAW MELVILLE                              272
  ARROWHEAD                                            312
  THE FIREPLACE. ARROWHEAD                             312
  HERMAN MELVILLE. IN 1868                             352
  MELVILLE AS ARTIST                                   368
  MELVILLE’S CHILDREN                                  376

  Mariner and Mystic




“If ever, my dear Hawthorne,” wrote Melville in the summer of 1851, “we
shall sit down in Paradise in some little shady corner by ourselves;
and if we shall by any means be able to smuggle a basket of champagne
there (I won’t believe in a Temperance Heaven); and if we shall then
cross our celestial legs in the celestial grass that is forever
tropical, and strike our glasses and our heads together till both
ring musically in concert: then, O my dear fellow mortal, how shall
we pleasantly discourse of all the things manifold which now so much
distress us.” This serene and laughing desolation--a mood which in
Melville alternated with a deepening and less tranquil despair--is a
spectacle to inspire with sardonic optimism those who gloat over the
vanity of human wishes. For though at that time Melville was only
thirty-two years old, he had crowded into that brief space of life a
scope of experience to rival Ulysses’, and a literary achievement of
a magnitude and variety to merit all but the highest fame. Still did
he luxuriate in tribulation. Well-born, and nurtured in good manners
and a cosmopolitan tradition, he was, like George Borrow, and Sir
Richard Burton, a gentleman adventurer in the barbarous outposts of
human experience. Nor was his a kid-gloved and expensively staged
dip into studio savagery. “For my part, I abominate all honourable
respectable toils, trials, and tribulations of every kind whatsoever,”
he declared. And as proof of this abomination he went forth penniless
as a common sailor to view the watery world. He spent his youth and
early manhood in the forecastles of a merchantman, several whalers,
and a man-of-war. He diversified whale-hunting by a sojourn of four
months among practising cannibals, and a mutiny off Tahiti. He returned
home to New England to marry the daughter of Chief Justice Shaw of
Massachusetts, and to win wide distinction as a novelist on both sides
of the Atlantic. Though these crowded years had brought with them
bitter hardship and keen suffering, he had sown in tears that he might
reap in triumph. But when he wrote to Hawthorne he felt that triumph
had not been achieved. Yet he needed but one conclusive gesture to
provoke the world to cry this as a lie in his throat: one last sure
sign to convince all posterity that he was, indeed, one whom the gods
loved. But the gods fatally withheld their sign for forty years.
Melville did not die until 1891.

None of Melville’s critics seem ever to have been able to forgive him
his length of days. “Some men die too soon,” said Nietzsche, “others
too late; there is an art in dying at the right time.” Melville’s
longevity has done deep harm to his reputation as an artist in dying,
and has obscured the phenomenal brilliancy of his early literary
accomplishment. The last forty years of his history are a record of
a stoical--and sometimes frenzied--distaste for life, a perverse and
sedulous contempt for recognition, an interest in solitude, in etchings
and in metaphysics. In his writings after 1851 he employed a world of
pains to scorn the world: a compliment returned in kind. During the
closing years of his life he violated the self-esteem of the world
still more by rating it as too inconsequential for condemnation. He
earned his living between 1866 and 1886 as inspector of Customs in New
York city. His deepest interest came to be in metaphysics: which is but
misery dissolved in thought. It may be, to the all-seeing eye of truth,
that Melville’s closing years were the most glorious of his life. But
to the mere critic of literature, his strange career is like a star
that drops a line of streaming fire down the vault of the sky--and then
the dark and blasted shape that sinks into the earth.

There are few more interesting problems in biography than this offered
by Melville’s paradoxical career: its brilliant early achievement,
its long and dark eclipse. Yet in its popular statement, this
problem is perverted from the facts by an insufficient knowledge of
Melville’s life and works. The current opinion was thus expressed by
an uncircumspect critic at the time of Melville’s centenary in 1919:
“Owing to some odd psychological experience, that has never been
definitely explained, his style of writing, his view of life underwent
a complete change. From being a writer of stirring, vivid fiction, he
became a dreamer, wrapping himself up in a vague kind of mysticism,
that rendered his last few books such as _Pierre: or The Ambiguities_
and _The Confidence Man: His Masquerade_ quite incomprehensible, and
certainly most uninteresting for the average reader.”

Unhampered by diffidence--because innocent of the essential
facts--critics of Melville have been fluent in hypothesis to account
for this “complete change.” A German critic patriotically lays the
blame on Kant. English-speaking critics, with insular pride, have
found a sufficiency of disruptive agencies nearer at home. Some impute
Melville’s decline to Sir Thomas Browne; others to Melville’s intimacy
with Hawthorne; others to the dispraise heaped upon _Pierre_. Though
there is a semblance of truth in each, such attempts at explanation
are, of course, too shallow and neat to merit reprobation. But there
is another group of critics, too considerable in size and substance to
be so cavalierly dismissed. This company accounts for Melville’s swift
obscuration in a summary and comprehensive manner, by intimating that
Melville went insane.

Such an intimation is doubtless highly efficacious to mediocrity in
bolstering its own self-esteem. But otherwise it is without precise
intellectual content. For insanity is not a definite entity like
leprosy, measles, and the bubonic plague, but even in its most precise
use, denotes a conglomerate group of phenomena which have but little
in common. Science, it is true, speaking through Nordau and Lombroso,
has attempted to show an intimate correlation between genius and
degeneracy; and if the creative imagination of some of the disciples
of Freud is to be trusted, the choir invisible is little more than
a glorified bedlam. Plato would have accepted this verdict with
approval. “From insanity,” said Plato, “Greece has derived its greatest
benefits.” But the dull and decent Philistine, untouched by Platonic
heresies, justifies his sterility in a boast of sanity. The America in
which Melville was born and died was exuberantly and unquestionably
“sane.” Its “sanity” drove Irving abroad and made a recluse of
Hawthorne. Cooper alone throve upon it. And of Melville, more ponderous
in gifts and more volcanic in energy than any other American writer,
it made an Ishmael upon the face of the earth. With its outstanding
symptoms of materialism and conformity it drove Emerson to pray for
an epidemic of madness: “O Celestial Bacchus! drive them mad.--This
multitude of vagabonds, hungry for eloquence, hungry for poetry,
starving for symbols, perishing for want of electricity to vitalise
this too much pasture, and in the long delay indemnifying themselves
with the false wine of alcohol, of politics, of money.”

From this it would appear that a taste for insanity has been widespread
among poets, prophets and saints: men venerated more by posterity
than by their neighbours. It is well for Socrates that Xantippe did
not write his memoirs: but there was sufficient libel in hemlock. In
ancient and mediæval times, of course, madness, when not abhorred as a
demoniac possession, was revered as a holy and mysterious visitation.
To-day, witch-burning and canonisation have given place to more refined
devices. The herd must always be intolerant of all who violate its
sacred and painfully reared traditions. With an easy conscience it has
always exterminated in the flesh those who sin in the flesh. In times
less timid than the present it dealt with sins of the spirit with
similar crude vindictiveness. We boast it as a sign of our progress
that we have outgrown the days of jubilant public crucifixions and
bumpers of hemlock: and there is ironic justice in the boast. Openly to
harbour convictions repugnant to the herd is still the unforgivable sin
against that most holy of ghosts--fashionable opinion; and carelessly
to let live may be more cruel than officiously to cause to die.

Melville sinned blackly against the orthodoxy of his time. In his
earlier works, he confined his sins to an attack upon Missionaries
and the starchings of civilisation: sins that won him a _succes de
scandal_. The London Missionary Society charged into the resulting
festivities with its flag at half mast. Cased in the armour of the
Lord, it with flagrant injustice attacked his morals, because it
smarted under his ideas. But when Melville began flooding the very
foundations of life with torrents of corrosive pessimism, the world at
large found itself more vulnerable in its encasement. It could not,
without absurdity obvious even to itself, accuse Melville of any of the
cruder crimes against Jehovah or the Public. Judged by the bungling
provisions of the thirty-nine articles and the penal code, he was not
a bad man: more subtle was his iniquity. As by a divine visitation,
the Harper fire of 1853 effectually reduced _Pierre_--his most frankly
poisonous book--to a safely limited edition. And the public, taking the
hint, ceased buying his books. In reply, Melville earned his bread as
Inspector of Customs. The public, defeated in its righteous attempts at
starvation, hit upon a more exquisite revenge. It gathered in elegiacal
synods and whispered mysteriously: “He went insane.”

To view Melville’s life as a venturesome romantic idyll frozen in
mid-career by the _deus ex machina_ of some steadily descending Gorgon
is possible only by a wanton misreading of patent facts. Throughout
Melville’s long life his warring and untamed desires were in violent
conflict with his physical and spiritual environment. His whole
history is the record of an attempt to escape from an inexorable and
intolerable world of reality: a quenchless and essentially tragic
Odyssey away from home, out in search of “the unpeopled world behind
the sun.” In the blood and bone of his youth he sailed away in brave
quest of such a harbour, to face inevitable defeat. For this rebuff
he sought both solace and revenge in literature. But by literature he
also sought his livelihood. In the first burst of literary success he
married. Held closer to reality by financial worry and the hostages of
wife and children, the conflict within him was heightened. By a vicious
circle, with brooding disappointment came ill health. “Ah, muskets the
gods have made to carry infinite combustion,” he wrote in _Pierre_,
“and yet made them of clay.” The royalties from his books proved
inadequate for the support of his family, so for twenty years he earned
a frugal living in the customs houses in New York. During his leisure
hours he continued to write, but never for publication. Two volumes of
poetry he privately printed. His last novel, surviving in manuscript,
he finished a few months before his death. Though it is for the second
half that his critics have felt bound to regret, it seems that in
serenity and mental equipoise, the last state of this man was better
than the first.

In his early manhood he wrote in _Mardi_: “Though essaying but a
sportive sail, I was driven from my course by a blast resistless; and
ill-provided, young, and bowed by the brunt of things before my prime,
still fly before the gale.... If after all these fearful fainting
trances, the verdict be, the golden haven was not gained;--yet in bold
quest thereof, better to sink in boundless deeps than float on vulgar
shoals; and give me, ye gods, an utter wreck, if wreck I do.” To the
world at large, it has been generally believed that the Gods ironically
fulfilled his worst hopes.

One William Cranston Lawton, in an _Introduction to the Study of
American Literature_--a handy relic of the parrot judgment passed
upon Melville during the closing years of his life--so enlightens
young America: “He holds his own beside Cooper and Marryat, and boy
readers, at least, will need no introduction to him. Nor will their
enjoyment ever be alloyed by a Puritan moral or a mystic double
meaning.” And Barrett Wendell, in _A Literary History of America_--a
volume that modestly limits American literature of much value not only
to New England, but even tucks it neatly into the confines of Harvard
College--notes with jaunty patronage: “Herman Melville with his books
about the South Seas, which Robert Louis Stevenson is said to have
declared the best ever written, and his novels of maritime adventure,
began a career of literary promise, which never came to fruition.”

These typical pronouncements, unperverted by the remotest touch of
independent judgment, transcend Melville’s worst fears. “Think of it!”
he once wrote to Hawthorne. “To go down to posterity is bad enough, any
way; but to go down as a ‘man who lived among the cannibals!’ When I
think of posterity in reference to myself, I mean only the babes who
will probably be born in the moment immediately ensuing upon my giving
up the ghost. I shall go down to them, in all likelihood. _Typee_ will
be given to them, perhaps, with their gingerbread.” In that mythical
anomaly known as the “popular mind,” Melville has, indeed, survived as
an obscure adventurer in strange seas and among amiable barbarians.
_Typee_ and _Omoo_ have lived on as minor classics. Though there have
been staccato and sporadic attacks upon the ludicrous inadequacy of the
popular judgment upon Melville, not until recently, and then chiefly
in England has there been any popular and concerted attempt to take
Melville’s truer and more heroic dimensions. An editorial in the London
_Nation_ for January 22, 1921, thus bespeaks the changing temper of the

“It is clear that the wind of the spirit, when it once begins to blow
through the English literary mind, possesses a surprising power of
penetration. A few weeks ago it was pleased to aim a simultaneous
blast in the direction of a book known to some generations of men as
_Moby-Dick_. A member of the staff of _The Nation_ was thereupon moved
in the ancient Hebrew fashion to buy and to read it. He then expressed
himself on the subject, incoherently indeed, but with signs of emotion
as intense and as pleasingly uncouth as Man Friday betrayed at the
sight of his long-lost father. While struggling with his article, and
wondering what the deuce it could mean, I received a letter from a
famous literary man, marked on the outside ‘Urgent,’ and on the inner
scroll of the manuscript itself ‘A Rhapsody.’ It was about _Moby-Dick_.
Having observed a third article on the same subject, of an equally
febrile kind, I began to read _Moby-Dick_ myself. Having done so I
hereby declare, being of sane intellect, that since letters began there
never was such a book, and that the mind of man is not constructed so
as to produce such another; that I put its author with Rabelais, Swift,
Shakespeare, and other minor and disputable worthies; and that I advise
any adventurer of the soul to go at once to the morose and prolonged
retreat necessary for its deglutition.”

Having earlier been hailed in France as an “American Rabelais;” prized
in England by the author of _The City of Dreadful Night_; greeted by
Stevenson with slangy enthusiasm as a “howling cheese;” rated by Mr.
Masefield as unique among writers of the sea; the professed inspirer of
Captain Hook of Sir James Barrie’s _Peter Pan_, Melville is beginning
to appear as being vastly more than merely a “man who lived among the
cannibals” and who returned home to write lively sea stories for boys.

The wholesale neglect of Melville at the hands of his
countrymen--though explained in some part as a consummation of
Melville’s best efforts--has not been merely unintelligent, but
thoroughly discreditable. For Melville, from any point of view, is
one of the most distinguished of our writers, and there is something
ludicrous in being before all the world--as, assuredly, we sometimes
are--in recognising our own merit where it is contestable, and in
neglecting it where it is not.

It has been our tradition to cherish our literature for its embodiment
of Queen Victoria’s fireside qualities. The repudiation of this
tradition--as a part of our repudiation of all tradition--has made
fashionable a wholesale contempt for our native product. “I can’t read
Longfellow” is frequently remarked; “he’s so subtle!” Our critical
estimates have laboured under the incubus of New England provincialism:
a provincialism preserved in miniature in the first pages of
Lowell’s essay on Thoreau. At present we need to have the eminence
of the section recalled to us; but during the period of Melville’s
productivity, it was at its apex, and in its bosom Melville wrote. This
man, whose closest literary affinities were Rabelais, Zola, Sir Thomas
Browne, Rousseau, Meredith, and Dr. John Donne,--a combination to make
the uninitiated blink with incredulity--was indebted to Nathaniel
Hawthorne for the best makeshift for companionship he was ever to
know: one of the most subtly ironical associations the imps of comedy
ever brought about. Nor was the comedy lessened by Mrs. Hawthorne’s
presence upon the scene. Shrewd was her instinctive resentment of
her husband’s friend. Viewed by his neighbours “as little better
than a cannibal and a ‘beach comber’”--such was the report of the
late Titus Munson Coan in a letter to his mother written immediately
after a pilgrimage to Melville in the Berkshires--Melville turned to
Hawthorne for understanding. Frank Preston Stearns, in his _Life and
Genius of Nathaniel Hawthorne_ (1906) says that for Hawthorne “the
summer of 1851 in Lenox was by no means brilliant.... Hawthorne’s
chief entertainment seems to have been the congratulatory letters
he received from distinguished people.... For older company he had
Herman Melville and G. P. R. James, whose society he may have found
as interesting as that of more distinguished writers.” But Mrs.
Hawthorne had studied Melville with a closer scrutiny and was not so
easily convinced of Melville’s insignificance. Melville had visited
the Hawthornes in the tiny reception room of the Red House, where Mrs.
Hawthorne “sewed at her stand and read to the children about Christ;”
in the drawing room, where she disposed “the embroidered furniture,”
and where, in the farther corner, stood “Apollo with his head tied on;”
in Hawthorne’s study, which to Mrs. Hawthorne’s wifely adoration was
consecrated by “his presence in the morning.” Mrs. Hawthorne looked
from the “wonderful, wonderful eyes” of her husband--each eye “like a
violet with a soul in it,”--to Melville’s eyes, and confessed to her
mother her grave and jealous suspicion of Melville: “I am not quite
sure that _I do not think him_ a very great man.... A man with a true,
warm heart, and a soul and an intellect,--with life to his finger-tips;
earnest, sincere and reverent; very tender and _modest_.... He has very
keen perceptive power; but what astonishes me is, that his eyes are not
large and deep. He seems to see everything very accurately; and how he
can do so with his small eyes, I cannot tell. They are not keen eyes,
either, but quite undistinguished in any way. His nose is straight and
rather handsome, his mouth expressive of sensibility and emotion. He is
tall, and erect, with an air free, brave and manly. When conversing, he
is full of gesture and force, and loses himself in his subject. There
is no grace nor polish. Once in a while, his animation gives place
to a singularly quiet expression, out of these eyes to which I have
objected; an indrawn, dim look, but which at the same time makes you
feel that he is at that moment taking deepest note of what is before
him. It is a strange, lazy glance, but with a power in it quite unique.
It does not seem to penetrate through you, but to take you into itself.
I saw him look at Una so, yesterday, several times.”

Mrs. Hawthorne must ever enjoy a lofty eminence as one of Melville’s
most penetrating critics. Her husband dwelt apart, and less because he
found the atmosphere of New England wholly uncongenial than because he
shared his wife’s conviction that he was like a star. And shrewdly his
wife resented the presence of a second luminary--treacherously veiled
and of heaven knows what magnitude!--in her serene New England sky.
Time may yet harp her worst fears aright.

For despite his comparative obscurity, Melville is--as cannot be too
frequently iterated--one of the chief and most unusual figures in our
native literature. And his claim to such high distinction must rest
upon three prime counts.

First--because most obvious--Melville was the literary discoverer of
the South Seas. And though his ample and rapidly multiplying progeny
includes such names as Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Warren Stoddard,
John La Farge, Jack London, Louis Becke, A. Safroni-Middleton, Somerset
Maugham, and Frederick O’Brien, he is still unsurpassed in the manner
he originated. On this point, all competent critics are agreed.

Melville’s second achievement is most adequately stated by the
well-known English sea-writer, W. Clark Russell, in _A Claim of
American Literature_ (reprinted from _The North American Review_ in
_The Critic_ for March 26, 1892). “When Richard Henry Dana, and Herman
Melville wrote,” says Russell, “the commercial sailor of Great Britain
and the United States was without representation in literature.... Dana
and Melville were Americans. They were the first to lift the hatch and
show the world what passes in a ship’s forecastle; how men live down
in that gloomy cave, how and what they eat, and where they sleep;
what pleasures they take, what their sorrows and wrongs are; how they
are used when they quit their black sea-parlours in response to the
boatswain’s silver summons to work on deck by day and by night. These
secrets of the deep Dana and Melville disclosed.... Dana and Melville
created a new world, not by the discovery, but by the interpretation of
it. They gave us a full view of the life led by tens of thousands of
men whose very existence, till these wizards arose, had been as vague
to the general land intelligence as the shadows of clouds moving under
the brightness of the stars.” And to Melville and Dana, so Russell
contends, we owe “the first, the best and most enduring revelation of
these secrets.” On this score, Conrad, Kipling, and Masefield must own
Melville as master.

Melville’s third and supreme claim to distinction rests upon a single
volume, which, after the order of Melchizedek, is without issue and
without descent: “a work which is not only unique in its kind, and a
great achievement” to quote a recent judgment from England, “but is
the expression of an imagination that rises to the highest, and so
is amongst the world’s great works of art.” This book is, of course,
_Moby-Dick_, Melville’s undoubted masterpiece. “In that wild, beautiful
romance”--the words are Mr. Masefield’s--“Melville seems to have spoken
the very secret of the sea, and to have drawn into his tale all the
magic, all the sadness, all the wild joy of many waters. It stands
quite alone; quite unlike any other book known to me. It strikes a note
which no other sea writer has ever struck.”

The organising theme of this unparalleled volume is the hunt by the
mad Captain Ahab after the great white whale which had dismembered
him of his leg; of Captain Ahab’s unwearied pursuit by rumour of its
whereabouts; of the final destruction of himself and his ship by its
savage onslaught. On the white hump of the ancient and vindictive
monster Captain Ahab piles the sum of all the rage and hate of mankind
from the days of Eden down.

Melville expresses an ironical fear lest his book be scouted “as a
monstrous fable, or still worse and more detestable, a hideous and
intolerable allegory.” Yet fabulous allegory it is: an allegory of
the demonism at the cankered heart of nature, teaching that “though
in many of its visible aspects the world seems formed in love, the
invisible spheres were formed in fright.” Thou shalt know the truth,
and the truth shall make you mad. To the eye of truth, so Melville
would convince us, “the palsied universe lies before us as a leper;”
“all deified Nature absolutely paints like a harlot, whose allurements
cover nothing but the charnal house within.” To embody this devastating
insight, Melville chooses as a symbol, an albino whale. “Wonder ye then
at the fiery hunt?”

An artist who goes out to find sermons in stones does so at the
peril of converting his stone pile into his mausoleum. His danger is
excessive, if, having his sermons all ready, he makes it his task
to find the stones to fit them. Allegory justifies itself only when
the fiction is the fact and the moral the induction; only when its
representation is as imaginatively real as its meaning; only when the
stones are interesting boulders in a rich and diversified landscape.
So broadly and vividly is _Moby-Dick_ based on solid foundation that
even the most literal-minded, innocent of Melville’s dark intent, have
found this book of the soul’s daring and the soul’s dread a very worthy
volume. One spokesman for this congregation, while admitting that “a
certain absorption of interest lies in the nightmare intensity and
melodramatic climax of the tale,” finds his interest captured and held
far more by “the exposition of fact with which the story is loaded
to the very gunwale. No living thing on earth or in the waters under
the earth is so interesting as the whale. How it is pursued, from the
Arctic to the Antarctic; how it is harpooned, to the peril of boat and
crew; how, when brought to the side, ‘cutting in’ is accomplished;
how the whale’s anatomy is laid bare; how his fat is redeemed--to be
told this in the form of a narrative, with all manner of dramatic but
perfectly plausible incidents interspersed, is enough to make the book
completely engrossing without the white whale and Captain Ahab’s fatal

So diverse are the samples out of which _Moby-Dick_ is compounded, yet
so masterful is each of its samples, that there is still far from
universal agreement as to the ground colour of this rich and towering
fabric. Yet by this very disagreement is its miraculous artistry

In _Moby-Dick_, all the powers and tastes of Melville’s complex genius
are blended. _Moby-Dick_ is at once indisputably the greatest whaling
novel, and “a hideous and intolerable allegory.” As Mr. Frank Jewett
Mather, Jr. has said, “Out of the mere episodes and minor instances of
_Moby-Dick_, a literary reputation might be made. The retired Nantucket
captains Bildad and Peleg might have stepped out of Smollett. Father
Mapple’s sermon on the book of Jonah is in itself a masterpiece, and
I know few sea tales that can hold their own with the blood feud of
Mate Rodney and sailor Steelkilt.” Captain Hook of _Peter Pan_ is
but Captain Boomer of _Moby-Dick_ with another name: and this an
identity founded not on surmise, but on Sir James Barrie’s professed
indebtedness to Melville. There are, in _Moby-Dick_, long digressions,
natural, historical and philosophical, on the person, habits, manners
and ideas of whales; there are long dialogues and soliloquies such as
were never spoken by mortal man in his waking senses, conversations
that for sweetness, strength and courage remind one of passages from
Dekker, Webster, Massinger, Fletcher and the other old dramatists loved
both by Melville and by Charles Lamb; in the discursive tradition of
Fielding, Sir Thomas Browne and the anatomist of melancholy, Melville
indulges freely in independent moralisings, half essay, half rhapsody;
withal, scenes like Ishmael’s experience at the “Spouter-Inn” with a
practising cannibal for bed-fellow, are, for finished humour, among the
most competent in the language. When Melville sat down to write, always
at his knee stood that chosen emissary of Satan, the comic spirit: a
demoniac familiar never long absent from his pages.

There are those, of course, who would hold against Dante his
moralising, and against Rabelais his broad humour. In like manner,
peculiarity of temperament has necessarily coloured critical judgment
of _Moby-Dick_. But though critics may mouth it as they like about
digressions, improbability, moralising reflections, swollen talk, or
the fetish of art now venerated with such articulate inveteracy,
all wonderfully agree upon the elementary force of _Moby-Dick_,
its vitality, its thrilling power. That it achieves the effect of
illusion, and to a degree peculiar to the highest feats of the creative
imagination, is incontestable. No writer has more. On this point it
is simply impossible to praise Melville too highly. What defects
_Moby-Dick_ has are formal rather than substantial. As Thackeray once
impatiently said of Macaulay: “What critic can’t point them out?” It
was the contention of James Thomson that an overweening concern for
formal impeccability is a fatal sign of weakened vitality. Intensity of
imagination--and Melville exhibited it prodigally in _Moby-Dick_--is an
infinitely rarer and more precious gift than technical sophistication.
Shakespeare has survived, despite his “monstrous irregularities.” But
since Shakespeare, as Francis Thompson has observed, there has been a
gradual decline from imperfection. Milton, at his most typical, was
far too perfect; Pope was ruined by his quest for the quality. No
thoughtful person can contemplate without alarm the idolatry bestowed
upon this quality by the contemporary mind: an idolatry that threatens
to reduce all art to the extinction of unendurable excellence. How
insipid would be the mere adventures of a Don Quixote recounted by a

The astonishing variety of contradictory qualities synthesised in
_Moby-Dick_ exists nowhere else in literature, perhaps, in such
paradoxical harmony. These qualities, in differences of combination and
emphasis, are discoverable, however, in all of Melville’s writings.
And he published, besides anonymous contributions to periodicals, ten
novels and five volumes of poetry (including the two volumes privately
printed at the very close of his life). There survives, too, a bulk
of manuscript material: a novel, short stories, and a body of verse.
And branded on everything that Melville wrote is there the mark of the
extraordinary personality that created _Moby-Dick_.

Though some of Melville’s writing is distinctly disquieting in
devastating insight, and much of it is very uneven in inspiration,
none of it is undistinguished. Yet only four of his books have ever
been reprinted. The rest of his work, long since out of print,
is excessively rare, some of it being practically unavailable.
The scarcity of a book, however, is not invariably a sign of its
insignificance. It is one of the least accessible of Melville’s
books that Mr. Masefield singles out for especial distinction. “The
book I love best of his,” says Mr. Masefield, “is one very difficult
to come by. I think it is his first romance, and I believe it has
never been reprinted here. It is the romance of his own boyhood. I
mean _Redburn_. Any number of good pens will praise the known books,
_Typee_ and _Omoo_ and _Moby-Dick_ and _White-Jacket_, and will tell
their qualities of beauty and romance. Perhaps _Redburn_ will have
fewer praises, so here goes for _Redburn_; a boy’s book about running
away to sea.” Even more difficult of access is _Pierre_--a book at
the antipodes from _Redburn_. Far from being a boy’s book, _Pierre_
was prophetic of the pessimism of Hardy and the subtlety of Meredith.
From _Redburn_ to _Pierre_; from _Typee_, a spirited travel-book on
Polynesia, to _Clarel_, an intricate philosophical poem in two volumes:
these mark the antithetical extremes of the art that mated poetry and
blubber, whaling and metaphysics. The very complexity and versatility
of Melville’s achievement has been an obstacle in the way of his just
appreciation. Had Mandeville turned from his _Travels_, to write _The
City of Dreadful Night_, the incompatibility would have been no less
extraordinary or bewildering.

Indeed, Melville’s complete works, in their final analysis, are a
long effort towards the creation of one of the most complex, and
massive, and original characters in literature: the character known
in life as Herman Melville. “I am like one of those seeds taken out
of the Egyptian Pyramids,” he wrote to Hawthorne while he was in the
middle of _Moby-Dick_, “which, after being three thousand years a seed
and nothing but a seed, being planted in English soil, it developed
itself, grew to greenness, and then fell to mould. So I. Until I was
twenty-five, I had no development at all. From my twenty-fifth year I
date my life. But I feel that I am now come to the inmost leaf of the
bulb, and that shortly the flower must fall to the mould. It seems to
me now that Solomon was the truest man who ever spoke, and yet that he
_managed_ the truth with a view to popular conservatism.”

Blighted by disillusionment, and paralysed by doubt, Melville came to
treat as an irrelevancy, the making of books. “He informed me that he
had ‘pretty much made up his mind to be annihilated,’” wrote Hawthorne
in his _Note-book_, after Melville visited him in Southport, England,
in 1856; “but still he does not seem to rest in that anticipation. It
is strange how he persists--as he has persisted ever since I knew him,
and probably long before--in wandering to and fro over these deserts,
as dismal and monotonous as the sandhills amidst which we were sitting.
He can neither believe nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is
too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other.” If,
in contempt for the orthodox interpolations by which pious scribes
attempted to sweeten Solomon’s bitter message, Melville ever _managed_
truth as he saw it, it was more to violate popular conservatism
than to propitiate it. “We incline to think that God cannot explain
His own secrets,” he editorially wrote Hawthorne in 1851, “and that
He would like a little information upon certain points Himself. We
mortals astonish Him as much as He us.” And as Melville grew in
disillusionment, he grew in astonishment. In his relentless pessimism
he boasted himself “in the happy condition of judicious, unencumbered
travellers in Europe; they cross the frontiers into Eternity with
nothing but a carpet bag,--that is to say, the Ego.” It was his ripest
conviction that the exclamation point and the triumphant perpendicular
pronoun were interchangeable signs. But to the end, he bristled with
minor revelations.

Though he boasted that he crossed the frontier into Eternity with
nothing but a carpet bag, he had, in fact, sent more bulky consignments
on ahead. And at the final crack of doom, this dead and disappointed
mariner may yet rise to an unexpected rejoicing. For at that time of
ultimate reckoning, according to the eschatology of Mr. Masefield,
“then the great white whale, old Moby-Dick, the king of all the whales,
will rise up from his quiet in the sea, and go bellowing to his mates.
And all the whales in the world--the sperm-whales, the razor-back,
the black-fish, the rorque, the right, the forty-barrel Jonah, the
narwhal, the hump-back, the grampus and the thrasher--will come to him,
‘fin-out,’ blowing their spray to the heavens. Then Moby-Dick will call
the roll of them, and from all the parts of the sea, from the north,
from the south, from Callao to Rio, not one whale will be missing. Then
Moby-Dick will trumpet, like a man blowing a horn, and all that company
of whales will ‘sound’ (that is, dive), for it is they that have the
job of raising the wrecks from down below.

“Then when they come up the sun will just be setting in the sea, far
away to the west, like a ball of red fire. And just as the curve of it
goes below the sea, it will stop sinking and lie there like a door.
And the stars and the earth and the wind will stop. And there will be
nothing but the sea, and this red arch of the sun, and the whales with
the wrecks, and a stream of light upon the water. Each whale will have
raised a wreck from among the coral, and the sea will be thick with
them--row-ships and sail-ships, and great big seventy-fours, and big
White Star boats, and battleships, all of them green with the ooze,
but all of them manned by singing sailors. And ahead of them will go
Moby-Dick, towing the ship our Lord was in, with all the sweet apostles
aboard of her. And Moby-Dick will give a great bellow, like a fog-horn
blowing, and stretch ‘fin-out’ for the sun away in the west. And all
the whales will bellow out an answer. And all the drowned sailors will
sing their chanties, and beat the bells into a music. And the whole
fleet of them will start towing at full speed towards the sun, at the
edge of the sky and water. I tell you they will make white water, those
ships and fishes.

“When they have got to where the sun is, the red ball will swing open
like a door, and Moby-Dick, and all the whales, and all the ships
will rush through it into an anchorage in Kingdom Come. It will be
a great calm piece of water, with land close aboard, where all the
ships of the world will lie at anchor, tier upon tier, with the hands
gathered forward, singing. They’ll have no watches to stand, no ropes
to coil, no mates to knock their heads in. Nothing will be to do except
singing and beating on the bell. And all the poor sailors who went
in patched rags, my son, they’ll be all fine in white and gold. And
ashore, among the palm-trees, there’ll be fine inns for the seamen.”
And there, among a numerous company, will be Fayaway, and Captain Ahab,
and Jack Chase, and Jarl, and Toby, and Pierre, and Father Mapple, and
Jackson, and Doctor Long Ghost, and Kory-Kory, and Bildad, and Peleg,
and Fedallah, and Tashetego, and Marnoo, and Queequeg. But it seems
hardly likely that Melville will there find Hawthorne to tempt by a
basket of champagne into some little shady corner, there to cross their
legs in the celestial grass that is forever tropical, and to discourse
pleasantly of all the things manifold which once so much distressed
them. In my Father’s house are many mansions.



  “We are full of ghosts and spirits; we are as grave-yards full of
  buried dead, that start to life before us. And all our dead sires,
  verily, are in us; _that_ is their immortality. From sire to son,
  we go on multiplying corpses in ourselves; for all of which, are
  resurrections. Every thought’s a soul of some past poet, hero, sage.
  We are fuller than a city.”--HERMAN MELVILLE: _Mardi_.

The High Gods, in a playful and prodigal mood, gave to Melville, to
Julia Ward Howe, to Lowell, to Kingsley, to Ruskin, to Whitman, and to
Queen Victoria, the same birth year. On August 1, 1819, Herman Melville
was born at No. 6 Pearl Street, New York City.

Melville’s vagabondage as a common sailor on a merchantman, on whaling
vessels, and in the United States Navy, together with his Bohemian
associations with cannibals, mutineers, and some of the choicest dregs
of our Christian civilisation, must have wrenched a chorus of groans
from a large congregation of shocked ancestral ghosts. For Melville was
descended from a long and prolific line of the best American stock.
Through his mother, Maria Gansevoort, he traced back to the earliest
Dutch emigrants to New York; through his father, Allan Melville, to
pre-revolutionary Scotch-Irish emigrants to New England. Both of his
grandfathers distinguished themselves in the Revolutionary War. His
ancestors, on both sides, came to this country in the days when some of
the best blood of Europe was being transferred to America.

Though Melville was too ironic a genius ever to have been guilty
of the ill-breeding that makes an ostentation of ancestry, still
he looked back upon his descent with self-conscious pride: a pride
drawn by childhood absorption from his parents who, by resting on the
achievements of their forebears, added several cubits to their stature.
Lacking the prophetic vision to glory in being ancestors, they chose
the more comfortable rôle of parading as descendants. Melville’s
father, Allan, was sufficiently absorbed in his genealogy to compile,
in 1818, an elaborately branching family tree that sent its master
root back to one Sir Richard de Melvill, del Compte de Fife, a worthy
of the thirteenth century. And at the proud conclusion of his labours
he inscribed the Melville motto, _Denique Coelum_--“Heaven at last.”
Melville’s mother, Maria Gansevoort, though too absorbed in domesticity
to compete with Allan in drawing up a parallel document, still sat
opposite her spouse with a stiff spine, conscious that she could
counter his ancestry, grandfather for grandfather. It is true, she had
no thirteenth century count to fall back upon; and though her line lost
itself in a cluster of breweries, they were very substantial breweries,
and owned by a race of stalwart and affluent and uncompromising
burghers. Her ancestor, Harmen Harmense Van Gansevoort, was brewing in
Beverwyck as early as 1660, and with sufficient success to acquire such
extended investments in land that he bequeathed to his heirs a baronial
inheritance. During the centuries following his death his name crossed
itself with that of the Van Rensselaers, the Ten Broeks, the Douws, the
Van Schaicks,--with the proudest names that descended from the earlier
Colonial Dutch families. Melville’s mother, Maria, is remembered as a
cold, proud woman, arrogant in the sense of her name, her blood, and
the affluence of her forebears.

She was the only daughter and oldest child in a family of six, of
General Peter Gansevoort and Catharine Van Schaick. Her father, born
in Albany, New York, July 17, 1749, was among the outstanding patriots
of the American Revolution. He was among the troops which accompanied
Schuyler, in 1775, in his advance towards Canada. In December of the
same year he was with Montgomery, as Major, in the unfortunate assault
upon Quebec. In the summer of 1777, when Burgoyne’s semi-barbarous
invading army was slowly advancing down Lake Champlain and the Hudson,
he was Colonel in command of Fort Stanwix. By his obstinate and gallant
defence of Fort Stanwix in August, 1777, he prevented the juncture
of St. Leger with Burgoyne, and so changed the course of the whole
subsequent campaign. Washington keenly and warmly recognised this,
and Congress passed a vote of thanks to Colonel Gansevoort. Peter
Gansevoort did other brilliant service in the Revolutionary War, and
in 1809, when the War of 1812 was approaching, he was made brigadier
general in the United States army. He was sheriff of Albany County from
1790 to 1792, and regent of the University of New York from 1808 until
his death in 1812.

Of his sons, Hon. Peter Gansevoort, who was born in Albany in 1789, was
long one of the most prominent and honoured citizens of Albany. The
elder son, General Herman Gansevoort, from whom Melville received his
name, lived at Gansevoort, a village in the township of Northumberland,
Saratoga County, New York. In 1832-33, the brothers built on the
site of the birthplace of their father what is now the Stanwix
Hotel. As a boy, Melville spent most of his summers as guest of the
Gansevoorts, and in his novel _Pierre_, the childhood recollections of
his hero are transparent autobiographical references to his own early
memories. “On the meadows which sloped away from the shaded rear of
the manorial mansion, far to the winding river, an Indian battle had
been fought, in the earlier days of the colony, and in that battle the
great-grandfather of Pierre, mortally wounded, had sat unhorsed on his
saddle in the grass, with his dying voice still cheering his men in the
fray.... Far beyond these plains, a day’s walk for Pierre, rose the
storied heights, where in the Revolutionary War his grandfather had
for several months defended a rude but all-important stockaded fort,
against the repeated combined assaults of Indians, Tories and Regulars.
From behind that fort, the gentlemanly but murderous half-breed,
Brandt, had fled, but survived to dine with General (Gansevoort) in the
amiable times that followed that vindictive war. All the associations
of Saddle-Meadows were full of pride to Pierre. The (Gansevoort) deeds
by which their estate had been so long held, bore the cyphers of three
Indian kings, the aboriginal and only conveyancers of those noble woods
and plains. Thus loftily, in the days of his circumscribed youth,
did Pierre glance along the background of his race.... Or how think
you it would be with this youthful Pierre if every day, descending to
breakfast, he caught sight of an old tattered British banner or two,
hanging over an arched window in the hall: and those banners captured
by his grandfather, the general, in fair fight?”

On February 22, 1832, so it is recorded in Joel Munsell, _The Annals
of Albany_ (Vol. IX, Albany, 1859) “the military celebrated the
centennial anniversary of the birthday of Washington. Col. Peter
Gansevoort, on this occasion, presented to the artillery a large
_brass Drum_, a trophy of the revolution, taken from the British on
the 22nd August, 1777, at Fort Stanwix, by his father, General Peter
Gansevoort.” The sound of this drum was tapping in Melville’s memory,
when he goes on to ask: “Or how think you it would be if every time
he heard the band of the military company of the village, he should
distinctly recognise the peculiar tap of a British kettle-drum also
captured by his grandfather in fair fight, and afterwards suitably
inscribed on the brass and bestowed upon the Saddle-Meadows Artillery
Corps? Or how think you it would be, if sometimes of a mild meditative
Fourth of July morning in the country, he carried out with him into
the garden by way of ceremonial cane, a long, majestic, silver-tipped
staff, a Major-General’s baton, once wielded on the plume-nodding
and musket-flashing review by the same grandfather several times
here-in-before mentioned?”

Not content to leave this a rhetorical query, Melville answers his own
catechism in unambiguous terms: “I should say that considering Pierre
was quite young and very unsophisticated as yet, and withal rather
high-blooded; and sometimes read the History of the Revolutionary War,
and possessed a mother who very frequently made remote social allusions
to the epaulettes of the Major-General his grandfather;--I should say
that upon all these occasions, the way it must have been with him was
a very proud, elated sort of way.”

Melville did not preserve throughout his long life this early and proud
elation in his descent, and in later years he thought it necessary to
apologise for the short-sighted and provincial self-satisfaction that
he absorbed from his parents in his early youth. “And if this seem but
too fond and foolish in Pierre,” he pleads in a mood both of apology
and of prophecy; “and if you tell me that this sort of thing in him
showed him no sterling Democrat, and that a truly noble man should
never brag of any arm but his own; then I beg you to consider again
that this Pierre was but a youngster as yet. And believe me, you will
pronounce Pierre a thorough-going Democrat in time; perhaps a little
too Radical altogether to your fancy.”

Radical he came to be, indeed: it was the necessary penalty of being
cursed with an intelligence above that of the smug and shallow
optimism of his country and his period. Democratic he may have been,
but only in the most unpopular meaning of that once noble term. He
was a democrat in the same relentless sense that Dante or Milton were
democrats. Lucifer rebelled, let it be remembered, to make Heaven
“safe for Democracy:” the first experiment in popular government.
“Hell,” says Melville, “is a democracy of devils.” In _Mardi_, Melville
indulges lengthy reflections on a certain “chanticleer people” who
boast boisterously of themselves: “Saw ye ever such a land as this?
Is it not a great and extensive republic? Pray, observe how tall we
are; just feel of our thighs; are we not a glorious people? We are all
Kings here; royalty breathes in the common air.” Before the spectacle
of this lusty republicanism, Melville exhibits unorthodox doubts.
“There’s not so much freedom here as these freemen think,” he makes a
strolling deity observe; “I laugh and admire.... Freedom is more social
than political. And its real felicity is not to be shared. _That_ is
of a man’s own individual getting and holding. Little longer, may it
please you, can republics subsist now, than in days gone by. Though
all men approached sages in wisdom, some would yet be more wise than
others; and so, the old degrees would be preserved. And no exemption
would an equality of knowledge furnish, from the inbred servility of
mortal to mortal; from all the organic causes, which inevitably divide
mankind into brigades and battalions, with captains at their heads.
Civilisation has not ever been the brother of equality.”

As Melville grew away from boyhood, he came to distinguish between the
accidentals and the essentials that distinguish man from man. At his
mother’s breast he had absorbed with her milk a vivid and exaggerated
belief that the accidents concomitant upon birth that range men into
artificial classes, were ingrain in the very woof of the universe.
When he later discovered that his parents tinted life with a very
perishable dye, he also found, set below their cheap calico patterns,
an unchangeable texture of sharper and deeper and more variegated
colours. And he discovered, too, that his uncritical boyhood pride in
his blood was, withal, not entirely a mere savage delight in calico

He was, as he boasts in the sub-title of _Redburn_, “the
son-of-a-gentleman,” reared in an environment rich with the mellowing
influences of splendid family traditions. And these associations
left an indelible stamp upon him. In _Mardi_, in speaking of the
impossibility of belying one’s true nature while at sea and in the
fellowship of sailors, he offers himself as an example to point.
“Aboard of all ships in which I have sailed,” he says, “I have
invariably been known by a sort of drawing-room title. Not,--let me
hurry to say,--that I put hand in tar bucket with a squeamish air, or
ascended the rigging with a Chesterfieldian mince. No, no, I was never
better than my vocation. I showed as brown a chest, and as hard a
hand, as the tarriest tar of them all. And never did shipmate of mine
upbraid me with a genteel disinclination to duty, though it carried me
to truck of main-mast, or jib-boom-end, in the most wolfish blast that
ever howled. Whence, then, this annoying appellation? for annoying it
most assuredly was. It was because of something in me that could not
be hidden; stealing out in an occasional polysyllable; an otherwise
incomprehensible deliberation in dining; remote, unguarded allusions to
belle-lettres affairs; and other trifles superfluous to mention.”

Though his grandfather, General Peter Gansevoort, had been dead
seven years when Melville was born, so vital were the relics of him
that surrounded Melville’s boyhood, so reverently was his memory
tended by his first child and only daughter, that the image of Peter
Gansevoort was one of the most potent influences during Melville’s most
impressionable years. The heroic presence that dominated Melville’s
imagination, “measured six feet four inches in height; during a
fire in the old manorial mansion, with one dash of the foot, he had
smitten down an oaken door, to admit the buckets of his negro slaves;
Pierre had often tried on his military vest, which still remained an
heirloom at Saddle-Meadows, and found the pockets below his knees,
and plenty additional room for a fair-sized quarter-cask within its
buttoned girth; in a night scuffle in the wilderness before the
Revolutionary War, he had annihilated two Indian savages by making
reciprocal bludgeons of their heads. And all this was done by the
mildest hearted, the most blue-eyed gentleman in the world, who,
according to the patriarchal fashion of those days, was a gentle,
white-haired worshipper of all the household gods; the gentlest
husband and the gentlest father; the kindest master to his slaves;
of the most wonderful unruffledness of temper; a serene smoker of
his after dinner pipe; a forgiver of many injuries; a sweet-hearted,
charitable Christian; in fine, a pure, cheerful, childlike, blue-eyed,
divine old man; in whose meek, majestic soul the lion and the lamb
embraced--fit image of his God.” His portrait was to Melville “a
glorious gospel framed and hung upon the wall, and declaring to all
people, as from the Mount, that man is a noble, god-like being, full
of choicest juices; made up of strength and beauty.” Most of the
images of God that Melville met in actual secular embodiment, suffered
tragically by comparison with this image of mortal perfection which
Melville nursed in his heart. Most men that Melville met, in falling
short of the mythical excellence of Peter Gansevoort, whom he never
knew in the flesh, seemed to Melville, to be libels upon their Divine
Original. According to Melville’s account, he could never look upon
his grandfather’s military portrait without an infinite and mournful
longing to meet his living aspect in actual life. Yet such was the
temper of Melville’s mind, his life such a tragic career of dreaming
of elusive perfection, dreams invariably to be dashed and bruised and
shattered by an incompatible reality, that it is safe to surmise--with
no impiety to the memory of Peter Gansevoort--that had Melville known
his maternal grandfather, the old General’s six feet four of blood and
bone would have shrunk, with his extravagance of all human excellence,
to more truly historical dimensions.




Melville’s paternal grandfather, Major Thomas Melville, who died in
1832, when Melville was thirteen years old, inspired his grandson to
no such glowing tributes. Born in Boston, in 1751, an only child,
he was left an orphan at the age of ten. It appears by the probate
records on the appointment of his guardian in 1761, that he inherited
a considerable fortune from his father. He was reared by his maternal
grandmother, Mrs. Mary Cargill. Mrs. Mary Cargill’s brother was the
celebrated and eccentric dissenter and polemic writer, John Abernethy
of Dublin, who in his _Tracts_ (collected in 1751) measured swords
with Swift himself triumphantly; her son, David, was both a celebrated
warrior against the Indians, and the father of twenty-three children,
fifteen of whom were sons. Whatever the immediate male relatives of
Mrs. Mary Cargill did, it would appear, they did vigorously, and on an
enterprising scale. She was herself an old lady of very independent
ideas about the universe, and her grandson, Thomas Melville--Melville’s
grandfather,--perpetuated much of her independence. Indifferent to
the caprices of fashion, Thomas Melville persisted until his death in
1832, in wearing the old-fashioned cocked hat and knee breeches. Oliver
Holmes said of him: “His aspect among the crowds of a later generation
reminded me of a withered leaf which has held to its stem through the
storms of autumn and winter, and finds itself still clinging to its
bough while the new growths of spring are bursting their buds and
spreading their foliage all around it.”

And so the Autocrat wrote:

  “I saw him once before,
  As he passed by the door,
      And again
  The pavement stones resound
  As he totters o’er the ground
      With his cane.

  They say that in his prime,
  Ere the pruning-knife of Time
      Cut him down,
  Not a better man was found
  By the Crier on his round
      Through the town.

  But now he walks the streets,
  And he looks at all he meets
      Sad and wan.
  And he shakes his feeble head
  And it seems as if he said,
      ‘They are gone.’

  The mossy marbles rest
  On the lips that he has pressed
      In their bloom,
  And the names he loved to hear
  Have been carved for many a year
      On the tomb.

  My grandmamma has said,--
  Poor old lady, she is dead
      Long ago--
  That he had a Roman nose,
  And his cheek was like a rose
      In the snow:

  But now his nose is thin,
  And it rests upon his chin
      Like a staff,
  And a crook is in his back,
  And a melancholy crack
      In his laugh.

  I know it is a sin
  For me to sit and grin
      At him here;
  But the old three-cornered hat,
  And the breeches, and all that,
      Are so queer!

  And if I should live to be
  The last leaf upon the tree
      In the spring,
  Let them smile as I do now,
  At the old forsaken bough,
      Where I cling.”

In his boyhood, Thomas Melville was sent by his grandmother (who lived
on till her grandson was thirty years old, clinging as tenaciously to
life as to every other good thing she set hands upon) to the College
of New Jersey, now Princeton. He was graduated in 1769. From both
Princeton and Harvard he later received an M.A. Between 1771 and
1773 he visited his relatives in Scotland. During this visit he was
presented with the freedom of the city of St. Andrews and of Renfrew.
He returned to Boston to become a merchant and to enter with spirit
into the patriotic ferment then so actively brewing. He was a member of
the Long Room Club, in sympathy with the Sons of Liberty, and with Paul
Revere, one of the “Indians” to take part in the Boston Tea Party of
December 16, 1773. There still survive a few unbrewed leaves from this
cargo of tea: the carefully preserved shakings from Major Melville’s
shoes, resurrected when he relaxed into slippers immediately upon his
return home from the excitements of revolutionary defiance. Though
Major Melville was, throughout his life, an extreme conservative, it
was his very conservatism that fired him to revolution. He believed
that what needed to be conserved was the constitutional--British
constitutional--rights of his country, not the innovation of Hanoverian
tyranny. He commanded a detachment sent to Nantucket, the centre of
whaling, to watch the movement of the British fleet; in the expedition
into Rhode Island, in 1778, he took the rank of Major in Croft’s
regiment of Massachusetts artillery. His resignation, dated Boston,
Oct. 21, 1778, states “that he had been almost three years in said
service and would willingly continue to serve, but owing to inadequate
pay and subsequent inability to support his family he felt compelled
to resign his commission.” In 1789 he was commissioned by Washington
as naval officer of the port of Boston: a commission renewed by all
succeeding presidents down to Andrew Jackson’s time in 1824. Major
Melville was the nearest surviving male relative of the picturesque
General Robert Melville, who was the first and only Captain General and
Governor-in-Chief of the islands ceded to England by France in 1763,
and at the time of his death in 1809, with one exception, the oldest
General in the British Army.

In 1779, Major Melville was elected fire ward of Boston, and when
he resigned in 1825, he was offered a vote of thanks “for the zeal,
intrepidity and judgment with which he has on all occasions discharged
his duties as fire ward for forty-six years in succession, and for
twenty-six as chairman of the board.” In those days, volunteer fire
companies were fashionable sporting clubs, and such was the distinction
attached to membership that a premium was often paid for the privilege
of belonging to such an exclusive and diverting fraternity. Melville’s
father-in-law, Lemuel Shaw, Chief Justice of Massachusetts, was Fire
Warden between 1818 and 1821. Melville’s grandfather and future
father-in-law may have met at many a fire and, for all we know to
the contrary, the intimacy between the Shaws and the Melvilles that
culminated in Herman’s marriage, may have been first kindled by a
burning house.

The tradition survives of Major Melville that the excitement of running
to fire grew upon him like gambling upon more sedentary mortals, and
that his death was caused by over-fatigue and exposure at a fire near
his house he attended at the age of eighty-one.

Of Melville’s two grandmothers, Catharine Van Schaick and Priscilla
Scollay, there is no mention in any of his writings. It is a
peculiarity of Melville’s writings indeed, completely to disregard all
of his female relatives,--with the notable exceptions of his mother,
his mother-in-law, and his wife.

Major Thomas Melville, by his marriage with Priscilla Scollay, is said
to have aggravated an already ample fortune, though the terms of his
resignation from the Revolutionary army argue a dwindling of income
during unsettled times. The Scollays, one of the oldest of Boston
families, were related to Melville not only by direct blood descent,
but Melville’s great-great-uncle, John Melville (who died in London in
1798) married Deborah Scollay, Melville’s great-aunt. Deborah Scollay,
Priscilla’s sister, was the first of thirteen children; Priscilla the
tenth. The Scollays, in brave competition with the Melvilles and
the Gansevoorts, seem to have devoutly accepted the Mosaic edict to
increase and multiply: they were, as Carlyle says of Dr. Thomas Arnold,
of “unhastening, unresting diligence.” Major Thomas Melville had
eleven children by his wife Priscilla, Melville’s father Allan being
the fourth child and second son. Of the influence of Allan’s numerous
brothers and sisters upon Melville there are scant records to show. His
aunt Priscilla, however, mentioned him in her will.

Allan’s oldest sister, Mary (1778-1859) married Captain John DeWolf
II. of Bristol, Rhode Island. In _Moby-Dick_, in offering instances
of ships being charged upon by whales, Melville quotes from the
_Voyages_ of Captain Langsdorff, a member of Admiral Krusenstern’s
famous Discovery Expedition in the beginning of the last century. In
the passage quoted by Melville is mentioned a Captain D’Wolf. “Now, the
Captain D’Wolf here alluded to as commanding the ship in question,”
says Melville, “is a New Englander, who, after a long life of unusual
adventures as a sea captain, this day resides in the village of
Dorchester, near Boston. I have the honour of being a nephew of his. I
have particularly questioned him concerning this passage in Langsdorff.
He substantiates every word.” In _Redburn_, Melville speaks of “an
uncle of mine, an old sea-captain, with white hair, who used to sail
to a place called Archangel in Russia, and who used to tell me that
he was with Captain Langsdorff, when Captain Langsdorff crossed over
by land from the sea of Okotsk in Asia to St. Petersburg, drawn by
large dogs in a sled.... He was the very first sea captain I had ever
seen, and his white hair and fine handsome florid face made so strong
an impression upon me that I have never forgotten him, though I only
saw him during this one visit of his to New York, for he was lost in
the White Sea some years after.” Just what, if anything besides two
contradictory statements--Melville owed to this uncle it would be
worthless to surmise.

Another of Melville’s uncles, however, Thomas--Allan’s older
brother--played an important rôle in Melville’s development. After an
eventful residence of twenty-one years in France, Thomas returned to
America with his wife Françoise Raymonde Eulogie Marie des Douleurs
Lamé Fleury, shortly before the War of 1812. Enlisted in the army, he
was sent to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, with the rank of Major. After
the war he continued in Pittsfield, and with his family set up at what
is now Broadhall.

Broadhall, built by Henry Van Schaek in 1781, bought by Elkanah Watson
in 1807, was, in 1816, acquired by Major Thomas Melville of the cocked
hat. His son, Major Thomas Melville of the French wife, lived in
Broadhall until 1837, when he moved to Galena, Illinois, where he died
on August 1--Melville’s birthday--1845. By a parallel irony of fate,
just as the Stanwix House of the Gansevoorts is now a hotel, Broadhall
of the Melvilles is now a country club.

It was a strange transplanting, that of Major Thomas Melville and
his wife, Marie des Douleurs, from Paris to the rustic crudities of
the farming outskirts of civilisation. Marie des Douleurs rapidly
pined and wilted in the harsh brusque air. A bundle of her letters
survive, written in a delicate drooping hand: letters that might have
been written by a wasted and homesick nun. In 1814, within the space
of a single month, Mrs. Thomas Melville and two of her children died
of consumption. Thomas, of more vigorous stock, survived to marry
again--this time to Mary Anna Augusta Hobard, and to take actively to
farming. He achieved a local reputation for his successful devotion
to the soil; presiding at meetings of the Berkshire Agricultural
Association, and winning a first prize at a ploughing match at the
Berkshire Fair. As a boy, Melville was sent to alternate his visits to
the Gansevoorts by trips to his uncle at Pittsfield. The single record
of his life at Broadhall is preserved in _The History of Pittsfield_
(1876) “compiled and written, under the general direction of a
committee, by J. E. A. Smith.” Melville says:

“In 1836 circumstances made me the greater portion of a year an inmate
of my uncle’s family, and an active assistant upon the farm. He was
then grey haired, but not wrinkled; of a pleasing complexion, but
little, if any, bowed in figure; and preserving evident traces of the
prepossessing good looks of his youth. His manners were mild and
kindly, with a faded brocade of old French breeding, which--contrasted
with his surroundings at the time--impressed me as not a little
interesting, not wholly without a touch of pathos.

“He never used the scythe, but I frequently raked with him in the hay
field. At the end of the swath he would at times pause in the sun and,
taking out his smooth worn box of satinwood, gracefully help himself to
a pinch of snuff, while leaning on his rake; quite naturally: and yet
with a look, which--as I recall it--presents him in the shadowy aspect
of a courtier of Louis XVI, reduced as a refugee to humble employment
in a region far from gilded Versailles.

“By the late October fire, in the great hearth of the capacious kitchen
of the old farm mansion, I remember to have seen him frequently sitting
just before early bed time, gazing into the embers, while his face
plainly expressed to a sympathetic observer that his heart, thawed to
the core under the influence of the general flame--carried him far away
over the ocean to the gay boulevards.

“Suddenly, under the accumulation of reminiscences, his eye would
glisten and become humid. With a start he would check himself in his
reverie, and give an ultimate sigh; as much as to say ‘ah, well!’ and
end with an aromatic pinch of snuff. It was the French graft upon the
New England stock, which produced this autumnal apple: perhaps the
mellower for the frost.”

It was immediately following upon the heels of this sojourn in
Pittsfield in 1836, that Melville went down to the sea and shipped
before the mast. Of Melville’s companionship with his Pittsfield
cousins during this visit, nothing seems to be known. Melville’s uncle,
Thomas, had two children living at the time: Anna Marie Priscilla, who
died in Pittsfield in 1858, and Pierre François Henry Thomas Wilson,
thirteen years Melville’s senior, who in 1842 died in the Sandwich
Islands. That Pierre’s adventures to the far corners of the earth may
have had some influence upon Melville’s taking to a ship is a tempting
surmise; but a surmise whose only cogency is its possibility.

Whatever the influence of Pittsfield in sending Melville to sea, it
was to Pittsfield he finally returned, when, after wide wanderings,
he faced homeward. The old Major, his uncle, was dead, and Broadhall,
descended to one of his sons, was rented as a hotel. During the summer
of 1850, Melville and his wife boarded at Broadhall. In October of the
same year, they settled in Pittsfield, not at Broadhall, as has been
repeatedly stated, but at a neighbouring farm, christened Arrowhead
by Melville. Arrowhead was Melville’s home for the following thirteen

Melville’s great-grandfather, Allan--father of _The Last Leaf_--came to
America in 1748, and settled in Boston as a merchant. This Allan was
the son of Thomas Melville, a clergyman of the Scotch Kirk. This Thomas
Melville was from 1718 to 1764 minister of Scoonie Parish, Levin,
Fifeshire. In 1769 he “ended his days in a state of most cheerful

Thomas Melville of Scoonie was second in lineal descent from Sir John
Melville of Carnbee: a worthy knighted by James VI. According to Sir
Robert Douglas’ _The Baronage of Scotland_ (Edinburgh, 1798), this Sir
John Melville of Carnbee was thirteenth in direct blood descent from
one Sir Richard Melvill, a man of distinction in the reign of Alexander
III, and who in 1296 was compelled to swear allegiance to Edward I of
England when he overran Scotland.

If this remote tracing of Melville’s descent were a discovery of facts
unknown to Melville, it would be an ostentatious irrelevancy to flaunt
it in his biography. But Melville was ironically conscious of his
lineage, and when his earlier novels had won him reputation at home
and in England as an entertaining literary vagabond, in France (see
the typically patronising _Études sur la Littérature et les Mœurs des
Anglo-Américains du XIXe Siècle_--Paris, 1851--by M. Philarete Chasles)
as a representative product of a crude and traditionless civilisation,
he took satirical unction to his soul at the illustrious associations
that clung around his ancient name. In his own person he felt that he
contradicted the conceit of the European world “that in demagogical
America the sacred Past hath no fixed statues erected to it, but (that)
all things irreverently seethe and boil in the vulgar caldron of
an everlasting, uncrystallising Present.” Founding his defence upon
the knowledge of his own ancestry, he maintained in _Pierre_ that if
America so chose to glorify herself, she could make out a good general
case with England in the little matter of long pedigrees--pedigrees,
that is, without a flaw. In monarchical Europe, Melville takes pains
to contend, the proudest families are but grafted families that
successively live and die on the eternal soil of a name. In the pride
of unbroken lineal blood descent from a thirteenth century count, he
matched his blood and patronym with the most honoured in England. “If
Richmond, and St. Albans, and Grafton, and Portland, and Buccleugh,
be names almost as old as England herself, the present Dukes of those
names stop in their own genuine pedigrees at Charles II., and there
find no very fine fountain; since what we would deem the least glorious
parentage under the sun, is precisely the parentage of a Buccleugh,
for example; whose ancestress could not well avoid being a mother, it
is true, but had incidentally omitted the preliminary rites. Yet a
King was the sire.... All honour to the names, and all courtesy to the
men; but if St. Albans tell me he is all-honourable and all-eternal,
I must politely refer him to Nell Gwynne.” Melville bitterly resented
the fashionable foreign imputation that his was a rootless and upstart
people. Through its grilling of bars sinister, he viewed the superior
pretensions of monarchical aristocracy with his finger at his nose. “If
in America,” he boasted, “the vast mass of families be as the blades of
grass, yet some few there are that stand as the oak; which, instead of
decaying, annually puts forth new branches; whereby Time, instead of
subtracting, is made to capitulate into a multiple virtue.”

If Melville took over-elaborate pains to point to himself as swinging
at the dizzy crest of such a patriarchal tree, it was not to derive
personal glory from mere altitude. By exhibiting the humorous
incompatibility between his destiny and his descent, he strove to show,
at one and the same time, both the absurdity of all pride in blood, and
the ironic poignancy of his own apparent defeat.

Melville’s parents, however, qualified their ancestral pride with no
such ironic considerations. With whole-hearted gratitude they thanked
God for their descent; nor did they, in their thanksgiving, fail to
acknowledge, with becoming humility, a Heavenly Father who, in power
and glory, transcended even terrestrial counts and brewers.

Allan was always a man of devout protestations; and although he always
signed his own name with an underscoring of tangled flourishes, he
wrote the name of God--and his correspondence is liberally scattered
with Deity--with three conspicuous capitals of his most ornate
penmanship. Melville was patently modelling the father of Pierre after
his own male parent, when he recorded Pierre’s father’s platitudinous
insistence “that all gentlemanhood was vain, all claims to it
preposterous and absurd, unless the primeval gentleness and golden
humanities of religion had been so thoroughly wrought into the complete
texture of the character, that he who pronounced himself gentleman,
could also rightly assume the meek but knightly style of Christian.”

Allan, proud in the sense of this humility, in untangling his descent
back to Sir John Melville of Carnbee, seems to have rested serenely in
the pious faith that he had established his kinship to all the titled
and illustrious Melvilles in history. So he carried his head high--as
he felt a republican should--and with a generous and comprehensive
fraternity claimed as his more than kith--as indeed they were--an
impressive congregation of courtiers, scholars and divines.

So prolific has been the Melville family, so extended its history, that
its intricate branchings from the veritable Aaron’s rod in which it
had its source, have never been completely untangled by even the most
arduous genealogical historians. With what directness and potency the
different Melville strains were active in Melville’s blood it would be
utterly absurd to pretend to determine. But if not forces in Melville’s
blood, Allan made them vital presences in his son’s boyhood imagination.

The most illustrious of this shadowy company of adopted ancestors
was the old Viking, Andrew Melville (1545-1622), the dauntless
“Episcopomastrix” or “Scourge of Bishops,” second in fame among Scotch
reformers only to John Knox. In October, 1577, at an interview between
Andrew and the Regent Morton, the latter, irritated at the intrepidity
of the assembly, exclaimed: “There will never be quiet in this country
till half a dozen of you be hanged!” Whereupon Andrew, in language
Morton dared not resent, exclaimed: “Hark! Sir; threaten your courtiers
after that manner. It is the same to me whether I rot in the air or in
the ground. The earth is the Lord’s. Patria est ubicunque est bene.”
Another Andrew (1624-1706) among these ghostly presences was a soldier
of fortune who in the preface of his _Memoires de M. de Chevalier
de Melville_ (Amsterdam, 1704) was eulogised for his valour and his

Conspicuous in Allan’s library was a copy of the _Memoirs of His Own
Life by Sir James Melvil of Hallhill_ (London, 1683), bearing the
autograph of Allan’s great-grandfather, Thomas Melville of Scoonie.
This volume had been brought to America by Allan’s grandfather in
1746, and was cherished by Melville’s father as a record of the part
played by his exuberant ancestors in the turbulent affairs of Elizabeth
and Mary, Queen of Scots. From this volume Allen taught his children
of Sir James’ father, John Melville, Lord of Raith in Fife, who,
“although there was not the least suspicion of anie fault, yitt lost
he his head, becaus he was known to be one that unfainedlie favoured
the truthe;” of Sir James’ brother, William, who was able to speak
perfectly “the Latin, the Dutche, the Flemyn, and the Frenche tongue;”
of another brother of Sir James, Sir Robert Melville, who “spak brave
and stout language to the consaill of England, so that the quen herself
boisted him of his lyf.” But all of the details of Sir James’ racy
account of his own adventures were not fit entertainment for the sons
of New England Unitarians. Yet many of these unpuritan accounts are
in Melville’s own vein, as witness the recounting of the incident
that befell Sir James at the age of fourteen, when, in company with
the French Ambassador, Monluc, Bishop of Valence, he was entertained
in Ireland by one O’Docherty who lived in “a dark tour.” It appears
that the Bishop paid such disquieting attention to O’Docherty’s
daughter that the father substituted another bait to the Prelate’s
susceptibilities: a substitution that produced an awkward scene in
etiquette. For the second lady mistook a phial “of the maist precious
balm that grew in Egypt, which Soliman the great Turc had given in a
present to the same bishop” for something to eat; and this “because it
had an odoriphant smell.” “Therefore she licked it clean out.” During
this process of consumption, O’Docherty’s daughter, disengaged from the
Bishop, turned to Sir James for solace, with an offer to elope. Sir
James was cautious for his fourteen years, and convinced the lady of
the superfluousness of migratory impulses.

Contemporary with Allan, there lived in Scotland, direct descendants
of these Elizabethan Melvilles. One year before Herman’s birth,
Allan, with admirable republican simplicity, decided, during one of
the frequent business trips that took him across the Atlantic, to
look up his titled Scotch cousins, and pay them the compliments of
his dutiful respects. The record of this adventure is preserved in
Allan’s journal, bound in vellum of a lurid emerald green. The entries
are characteristically business-like, and stoically naked of personal

    _May 22, 1818_--Visited Melville house, the seat of the
            Earl of Leven & Melville at 2 P.M., 14 miles--the
            Earl & Family being absent, left them at 4 A.M. &
            dined at the New Inn at the Junction of the Perth,
            Cupar & Dundee Roads, 6 miles.

    _May 26, 1818_--Reached Melville house at 1/2 past 3
            P.M.--10 miles--& met with a very hospitable &
            friendly reception from his lordship & family.

    _May 27, 1818_--Left Melville house at 1/2 past 11 in
            his lordship’s gig with a lacquey to meet the coach
            at the New Inn.

It would, perhaps, be entertaining to know just exactly what Alexander,
7th Earl of Levin and 6th Earl of Melville, who was also Viscount
Kirkaldie, Lord Melville of Monymaill, Lord Bolgonie, and Lord Raith,
Monyraill and Balwearie, thought in his heart of Allan Melville of
Boston, merchant, and importer of commodities from France.



  “In general terms we have been thus decided in asserting the great
  genealogical and real-estate dignity of some families in America,
  because in so doing we poetically establish the richly aristocratic
  condition of Master Pierre Glendinning, for whom we have claimed
  some special family distinction. And to the observant reader the
  sequel will not fail to show how important is this circumstance,
  considered with reference to the singularly developed character and
  most singular life-career of our hero. Nor will any man dream that
  the last chapter was merely intended for a foolish bravado, and not
  with a solid purpose in view.”

  --HERMAN MELVILLE: _Pierre_.

Samuel Butler, who with Thomas Huxley cherished certain unorthodox
convictions as to “the unfathomable injustice of the Universe,” found
the make-shift of family life not the least of natural evils. In a
more benevolent adjustment of the human animal to its environment,
so Butler declared, children would be spared the incubus of parents.
After the easeful death of their progenitors, they would be hatched,
cocoon-like, from an ample and comfortable roll of bank-notes of high
denomination. And it is a foregone surety that, had Samuel Butler
known Herman Melville’s parents, he would not have been moved to
soften his impeachment of the way of all flesh. For the household
of Allan Melville bore striking resemblances to that of the most
self-important of the Pontifexes. Both John Pontifex and Allan
Melville, judged either by the accepted standards of their own time
or to-day, were good men: to his God, his neighbours, his wife, his
children, each did his duty relentlessly. And each, as Melville, with
obvious autobiographical reference, says of the father of Pierre, “left
behind him in the general voice of the world, a marked reputation as a
Christian and a gentleman; in the heart of his wife, a green memory of
many healthy days of unclouded and joyful wedded life.” But each also
left behind him a son who in the end was to cherish his memory with
some misgivings. Allan was less fortunate than John Pontifex in that
though he died rich in virtue, he died with no corresponding abundance
of corruptible riches. Nothing in his life so ill became him as his
bequest of poverty to his widow and eight children.

Herman, the second son and third child, was thirteen years old at the
time of Allan’s decease: young enough to cherish up into early manhood
the most fantastic idealisation of his father. “Children begin by
loving their parents,” a modern cynic has said; “later the children
grow to understanding, and sometimes, they forgive.” As Melville grew
in maturity of years, he did not grow in charity toward his parents. In
his novel _Pierre_ he seems to draw malicious delight in pronouncing,
under a thin disguise, an imaginary libel upon his father’s memory.
There he desecrated in fiction what he had once fondly cherished in
life. Aside from its high achievement as a work of art, this dark wild
book of incest and death is of the greatest importance as a document
in autobiography. Most of the characters in _Pierre_ are unmistakably
idealisations of clearly recognisable originals. The hero, Pierre
Glendinning, is a glorification of Melville; the widowed mother, Marie
Glendinning, owes much more to Melville’s mother, Maria Gansevoort,
than the initials of her name. And in this book, Melville exorcises the
ghost of his father, and brings him forth to unearth from the past a
skeleton that Melville seems to have manufactured in the closet of a
vindictive subconsciousness.

“Blessed and glorified in his tomb beyond Prince Mausolus,” wrote
Melville at the age of thirty-three, “is that mortal sire, who, after
an honourable, pure course of life, dies, and is buried, as in a choice
fountain, in the filial breast of a tender-hearted and intellectually
appreciative child. But if fate preserve the father to a later time,
too often the filial obsequies are less profound, the canonisation less

As has been said, Melville was thirteen when, in 1832, his father
died. And at that time, as for years following, there survived from
Allan in Melville’s memory “the impression of a bodily form of rare
manly virtue and benignity, only rivalled by the supposed perfect
mould in which his virtuous heart had been cast.” In _Redburn_ he
says of his youthful idealisation of Allan: “I always thought him a
marvellous being, infinitely purer and greater than I was, who could
not by any possibility do wrong or say an untruth.” And as a gesture
expressive of this piety for his father’s memory, he took but one
book with him to Liverpool when at the age of seventeen he worked his
way across the Atlantic in a merchantman. This was an old dog-eared
guide-book that had belonged to his father. On the map in this book,
Allan, with characteristic precision, had traced with a pen a number
of dotted lines radiating in all directions from Riddough’s Hotel at
the foot of Lord Street: marks that delineated his various excursions
in the town. As Melville planned his itinerary while in Liverpool, he
was in the first place to visit Riddough’s Hotel, where his father
had stopped more than thirty years before; and then, with the map in
his hand, to follow Allan through the town, according to the dotted
lines in the diagram. “For this,” says Melville, “would be performing
a filial pilgrimage to spots which would be hallowed to my eyes.”
Because Melville had failed to take into account the mutability of
cities, he was disappointed to find some of the shrines hallowed by his
father’s visits no longer in existence. But the very bitterness of his
disappointment was an eloquent tribute to his father’s memory.

Allan himself was born in 1782, second son, and fourth child, in
a family of eleven children. Of his early life, almost nothing is
known. Though he was born into a well-to-do family of considerable
cultivation, he seems never to have been exposed to the boasted
advantages of a university education. He was, however, a rather
extensively travelled man. At the age of eighteen, as if to set a
precedent for his son, he made his first trip abroad. But whereas
Melville went as a sailor before the mast, to land in Liverpool as
a penniless itinerant, Allan was two years in Paris as a guest, in
comfortable circumstances, of a well-to-do uncle. Before his marriage
in 1814, Allan made five other pilgrimages to Europe; and once, after
his marriage, he crossed the Atlantic again. This last trip he would
not have taken but from urgency of business: “It will be a most painful
sacrifice to part from my beloved wife and children,” he says, in
prospect of the journey; “but duty towards them requires it.” Allan
acclimated himself to France as a young man, and so acquired a mastery
of the French language. He is said to have spoken French like a native:
a bilingual accomplishment that Melville never even remotely acquired.
Melville boasted a smattering of a Polynesian dialect or two: but so
imperfect was this smattering that it moved Stevenson to complain that
Melville, like Charles Lamb, “had no ear.”

In the journal which Allan kept from 1800 to 1831, there survives
a meticulously accurate account of his wanderings up and down upon
the face of Christendom. On the fly-leaf of the journal, under the
title “Recapitulations of Voyages and Travels from 1800 to 1822 both
inclusive,” he gives, in ledger-like summary, this statement of his

  “by land 24425 miles.
  by water 48460 miles.
  days at sea, etc. 643.”

That part of his early life that he spent outside of Europe, he
distributed between Boston and Albany. Allan was a man to turn to
account all of his resources. His knowledge of French he converted into
a business asset, by setting up as a merchant-importer trafficking in
dry-goods and notions from France: “razors, children’s white leather
gloves, leghorn hats, and taffeta ribbons” being a typical shipment.

[Illustration: _From a Painting made in Paris, 1810._]

[Illustration: Signature--Allan Melville]

It was in Albany that Allan met Maria Gansevoort: a meeting of which
his journal is austerely ignorant. If there ever were any romance in
Allan’s life he must have emulated Pepys and recorded it in cipher,
and then, with a caution deeper than Pepys’, have burned the cryptic
revelation. It is true that in _Pierre_, Melville attempts to brighten
his father’s pre-marital years by imputing to him a lively vitality
in his youth: but the evidence for this imputation hangs upon a most
tenuous thread of ambiguities. Yet now that it has transpired that
even the sober Wordsworth under similar circumstances succumbed to
the flesh, it is not impossible, on the face of it, that Allan, in
the unredeemed years before his comparatively late marriage,
may have been anointed in mortality. But in his later life--as was
Wordsworth--he was a paragon of propriety, and he must be acquitted
of indiscretion until more damning facts are mustered to accuse him.
All surviving evidence presents him as a model of rigid decorum. In
so far as he has revealed himself, all but the most restrained and
well-behaved and standardised emotions fell within the forbidden
degrees. It is certain that no flower ever gave _him_ thoughts too deep
for tears.

His courtship seems to have been a model of discretion, and might well
have been modelled after Mrs. Hannah More’s _Coelebs in Search of a
Wife_. There survive two gifts that he made while he was meditating
on the serious verge of matrimony. A year before his marriage he
bought, fresh from the press, a copy of _The Pleasures of Imagination_
by Mark Akenside, M.D., with a critical essay on the poem, by Mrs.
Barbauld, prefixed. Whether either Allan or Maria ever read a line of
Dr. Akenside we do not know: Maria’s copy, it must be confessed, is
suspiciously well-preserved. But Allan had the authority of _Coelebs_
that “the condensed vigour, so indispensable to blank verse, the
skilful variation of the pause, the masterly structure of the period,
and all the occult mysteries of the art, can, perhaps, be best learned
from Akenside.” That the poet’s object was “to establish the infinite
superiority of mind over unconscious matter, even in its fairest
terms,” gave Allan opportunity to pay Maria a veiled compliment.

This same Anna Letitia Barbauld, whose introductory essay gave the
final stamp of respectability to Dr. Akenside, had, in a chapter of
advice to young girls, earlier remarked, and with best-intentioned
seriousness, that “An ass is much better adapted than a horse to
show off a lady.” It may be so. In any event, Allan inscribed on the
fly-leaf of Dr. Akenside’s effusion:

  A. M.

The emotions that smouldered beneath this chaste inscription he vented,
and with no compromise to himself, in a tropical tangle of copy-book
flourishes that he made below his initials.

The second gift is also a book--Mrs. Chapone’s _Letters on the
Improvement of the Mind_. Lydia Languish, it is true, had, on a
memorable occasion, with unblushing deceit, placed Mrs. Chapone and the
reverend Fordyce ostentatiously on a table together. But it is certain
that Allan was not consciously furnishing Miss Gansevoort with any of
the stage-properties of hypocrisy. Mrs. Chapone’s pronouncements were
then being accepted by the adoring middle class as Protestant Bulls.
And Allan purchased Mrs. Chapone’s little volume with his ear to the
verdict of Mrs. Delany, who wrote: “They speak to the heart as well as
to the head; and I know no book (next to the Bible) more entertaining
or edifying.”

It was within a few months before his marriage that Allan, in the most
orthodox manner of that “Happy Half Century” so happily celebrated by
Miss Agnes Repplier, undertook to heighten the virtues of Miss Maria
Gansevoort by exposing her to the “pure and prevailing superiority”
of Mrs. Chapone. For Allan was a cautious man, and marriage, he knew,
was a step not lightly to be made. “I do not want a Helen, or a Saint
Cecilia, or a Madame Dacier,” said Coelebs, in sketching an ideal wife;
“yet must she be elegant or I could not love her; sensible, or I could
not respect her; prudent, or I could not confide in her; well-informed,
or she could not educate my children; well-bred, or she could not
entertain my friends; pious, or I should not be happy with her, because
the prime comfort in a companion for life is the delightful hope that
she will be a companion for eternity.”

Maria was patently elegant, well-bred and pious. The present of Dr.
Akenside and Mrs. Chapone gave her generous opportunity of coming to
be well-informed. But Allan did not hesitate to make further and more
direct contributions to her information. Prudence he rated prime among
virtues; and he approached marriage with Miltonic preconceptions. By
no means confident that the eternal truths enunciated by Mrs. Chapone
would penetrate Maria’s female intellect, Allan prudently summarised
the most sacred verities of the volume in two manuscript introductions.
Maria’s copy of the _Letters_ bears three inscriptions made by Allan on
three separate fly-leaves. The first is in a formal upright hand, rigid
in propriety:

  “Prudence should be the governing principle of Woman’s existence,
  domestick life her peculiar sphere; no rank can exempt her from an
  observation of the laws of the former, from an attention to the
  duties of the latter. To neglect both is to violate the sacred
  statutes of social happiness, and to frustrate the all-wise intention
  of that Providence who framed them.”

In the second inscription, made with acknowledgment to Miss Owensong,
Allan takes all the precautions of a Coelebs to make certain that at
his table “the eulogist of female ignorance might dine in security
against the intrusion and vanity of erudition.” The inscription reads:

  “The liberal cultivation of the female _mind_ is the best security
  for the virtues of the female _heart_; and genius, talents and grace,
  where regulated by prudence and governed by good sense, are never
  incompatible with domestic qualities or meek and modest virtues.”

On the third fly-leaf, this double pronouncement is presented to “Miss
Maria Gansevoort” and “from A. M.” Allan had doubtless learned from
Mrs. Chapone that “our feelings are not given us for ornament, but to
spur us on to right action.” And Miss Maria may have taken to heart
Mrs. Chapone’s dictum that “compassion is not impressed upon the human
heart, only to adorn the fair face with tears and to give an agreeable
languor to the eyes.” There survives no trace of a record of Allan’s
indulging emotions for decorative purposes. How far his sentiments were
moved in “right action” to melt Miss Maria to becoming compassion can
never be known. During the months immediately before the marriage,
however, the even tenor of Allan’s journal is jolted by the unusual
acknowledgment of the existence of his sisters, and the bald mention of
a specified number of miles covered in a “pleasure wagon.” Miss Maria,
when not his undisputed property by rites of holy matrimony, he never
mentions in his journal.

Maria kept no journal; if she presented Allan with inscribed volumes,
Allan has eradicated all such breaches of maiden modesty. The only
intimate records of Maria that survive are three of her letters,
comments upon her in Allan’s letters, Melville’s elaborate idealisation
of her in the person of the mother of Pierre, and a vague memory handed
down orally by her descendants.



  In 1820


  In 1865

Maria was born in 1791 and died in 1871. Of her girlhood, little
or nothing is very specifically known. After Melville’s marriage,
she spent the greater part of the remaining years of her life as a
dependant in his household, and the oral traditions that survive
of her do not halo her memory. She is remembered in such terms as
“cold,” “worldly,” “formal,” “haughty” and “proper”; as putting
the highest premium upon appearances; as frigidly contemptuous of
Melville’s domestic economy, and of the home-made clothes of his four
children. Though she condescended eight times to motherhood, such
was her animal vigour and her ferocity of pride that she preserved
to her death a remarkable regality of appearance. She is said to
have made a completely competent wife to Allan, superior both to any
undue intellectual distractions, and to any of the demoralisations
of domesticity. She managed his household, she bore and reared his
children, and she did both with a vigorous and unruffled efficiency,
without sign of worry or regret. There persists the story--significant
even if apocryphal--that each afternoon, enthroned upon a high
four-poster, she would nap in order to freshen herself for Allan’s
evening arrival, her children seated silently on a row of low stools
ranged on the floor at the side of her bed. In his death, as in his
life, she cherished the image of Allan--with that of her father,
General Gansevoort--as the mirror of manly perfection.

In _Pierre_, Melville is said to have drawn an essentially accurate
portrait of his mother in the character and person of Mrs. Glendinning.
Mrs. Glendinning is presented as a “haughty widow; a lady who
externally furnished a singular example of the preservative and
beautifying influences of unfluctuating rank, health, and wealth, when
joined to a fine mind of medium culture, uncankered by any inconsolable
grief, and never worn by sordid cares. In mature age, the rose still
miraculously clung to her cheek; litheness had not yet completely
uncoiled itself from her waist, nor smoothness unscrolled itself from
her brow, nor diamondness departed from her eyes.” Proudly conscious
of this preservation, never, even in the most intimate associations of
life, did she ever appear “in any dishabille that was not eminently
becoming.” For “she was vividly aware how immense was that influence,
which, even in the closest ties of the heart, the merest appearances
make upon the mind.” And to her pride of appearance she added “her
pride of birth, her pride of affluence, her pride of purity, and all
the Semiramian pride of woman:” a pride “which in a life of nearly
fifty years had never betrayed her into a single published impropriety,
or caused her one known pang of the heart.”... “Infinite Haughtiness
had first fashioned her; and then the haughty world had further moulded
her; nor had a haughty Ritual omitted to finish her.” Nor must Allan’s
moralisings, and Dr. Akenside, and Mrs. Barbauld, and Mrs. Chapone, be
denied their due credit in contributing to the finished product.

Between Maria and her son there existed a striking personal
resemblance. From his mother, too, Melville seems to have inherited a
constitution of very remarkable vigour, and all the white intensity
of the Gansevoort aptitude for anger. But here the resemblance
ceased. In the youthful Pierre, Mrs. Glendinning felt “a triumphant
maternal pride,” for in her son “she saw her own graces strangely
translated into the opposite sex.” But of his mother’s love for
him, Pierre entertained precocious and Meredithian suspicions: “She
loveth me, ay;--but why? Had I been cast in a cripple’s mould, how
then? Now do I remember that in her most caressing love, there ever
gleamed some scaly, glittering folds of pride.... Before my glass she
stands--pride’s priestess--and to her mirrored image, not to me, she
offers up her offering of kisses.”

Strangely must she have been baffled by this mirrored image of
herself,--fascinated, and at the same time contemptuously revolted.
What sympathy, what understanding could she know for this thing of
her blood that in obscurity, in poverty, a failure in the eyes of
the world, returned from barbarism to dream wild dreams that were
increasingly unsalable? As a boy, all his passionate cravings for
sympathy, for affection, were rebuffed by her haughty reserve, and
recoiled within him. Fatherless and so mothered, he felt with Pierre,
“that deep in him lurked some divine unidentifiableness, that owed
no earthly kith or kin. Yet was this feeling entirely lonesome and
orphan-like. He felt himself driven out an infant Ishmael into the
desert, with no maternal Hagar to accompany and comfort him.” In
_Redburn_, with the mother image like a fury in his heart, he describes
himself as “a sort of Ishmael.” “Call me Ishmael,” is the striking
opening sentence of _Moby-Dick_; and its no less striking close: “On
the second day, a sail drew near, nearer, and picked me up at last.
It was the devious cruising _Rachel_, that in retracing search after
her missing children, only found another orphan.” Of his mother he is
reported to have said in later life: “She hated me.”

It seems not altogether fantastic to contend that the Gorgon face that
Melville bore in his heart; the goading impalpable image that made
his whole life a pilgrimage of despair: that was the cold beautiful
face of his mother, Maria Gansevoort. One shudders to think how such a
charge would have violated Maria’s proprieties. But in the treacherous
ambiguities of _Pierre_, Melville himself hovers on the verge of this
insight. Pierre is haunted by a mysterious face, which he thus invokes:
“The face!--the face!--The face steals down upon me. Mysterious girl!
who art thou? Take thy thin fingers from me; I am affianced, and not to
thee. Surely, thou lovest not me?--that were most miserable for thee,
and me. What, _who_ art thou? Oh! wretched vagueness--too familiar to
me, yet inexplicable,--unknown, utterly unknown!” To the mind of Pierre
it was a face “backward hinting of some irrevocable sin; forward,
pointing to some inevitable ill; hovering between Tartarian misery and
Paradisaic beauty.” In _Pierre_, this face, “compounded so of hell and
heaven,” is the instrument by which the memory of Pierre’s father is
desecrated, Pierre’s mother is driven to insanity and death, and Pierre
himself is utterly ruined. _Pierre_ is a book to send a Freudian into

Allan Melville, aged thirty-two, and Maria Gansevoort, nine years
younger, were married on the fourth of October, 1814. In his journal,
Allan has left this record of their wedding-trip.

    _October 4, 1814_--Left Albany at 11 A.M. in a hack with
            Mrs. M. and Helen (his youngest sister, in her
            sixteenth year). Dined at Stottard’s, Lapan, &
            slept at Beths Lebanon.

    _October 5, 1814_--Left Lebanon at 9, dined at Pittsfield
            & slept at Worthington.

    _October 6, 1814_--Left Worthington at 1/2 past 9, dined at
            Southampton & slept at Belchertown.

    _October 7, 1814_--Left Belchertown at 9, dined at
            Brookfield & slept at Worcester.

    _October 8, 1814_--Left Worcester at 1/2 past 9, dined at
            Farmingham & arrived at Boston at 5 P.M.

For five years following this initial daily shifting of bed and board,
Allan and his wife lived in Albany. The monotony of this residence was
broken by the birth of two children,--Gansevoort, and Helen Marie,--and
Allan’s trip to Europe in the spring of 1818: the enforced business
trip, already mentioned, that took him to the home of his titled
Scotch cousins. Upon his return he resolved to leave Albany, and
settle in what he appreciatively called “the greatest universal mart
in the world.” On May 12, 1819, he records in his journal: “Commenced
Housekeeping at No. Park Street, New York. Mrs. M. & the children who
had been to a visit to her Mother at Albany since 6th April, having
joined me on this day, to my great joy.”

Three months after Allan’s moving to “the greatest universal mart in
the world,” Maria presented him with a third child, and second son,
who was christened after Maria’s brother, Herman. At this time, Allan
seems to have accepted the excitements of childbirth so casually
that Melville’s birth passed unrecorded in his father’s journal. The
first surviving record of Melville’s existence is unromantic enough.
In a letter dated October 7, 1820, Allan wrote: “Helen Marie suffers
most from what we term the whooping cough but which I am sometimes
suspicious is only influenza. But Gansevoort and Herman are as yet
slightly affected.”

At this time, Allan seems to have prospered in business, for on
September 20, 1820, he reported to his mother: “We have hired a cook &
nurse and only want a waiter to complete our domestic establishment.”

Herman’s infancy seems to have been untroubled by any event more
startling than a growing aggregation of brothers and sisters,
occasional trips to Boston, and periodic pilgrimages to Albany with
his mother to be exhibited to his grandmother Gansevoort. There are
frequent references to his ailing health. In April, 1824, Allan
complains that “Gansevoort has lost much of his ruddy appearance, while
Herman who has never entirely regained his health again looks pale,
thin and dejected.”

At this time Allan signed “a 4 yrs. lease at $300 per annum free of
taxes, for a new brick 2 story house replete with conveniences, to be
handsomely furnished in the most modern style under my own direction &
a vacant lot of equal size attached to it which will be invaluable as
a play ground for the children. It is situated in Bleecker, the first
south, and parallel to Bond St.... An open, dry & elevated location
equidistant from Broadway & the Bowery, in plain sight of both & almost
uniting the advantages of town & country, but its distance from my
store, nearly two miles, will compel me to dine from my family most
of the time, a serious objection to us all, but we shall be amply
compensated by a residence which will obviate the necessity of their
leaving town every summer, which deprives me altogether of their
society. I shall also remove professionally on the 1st of May to No.
102 Pearl St. upstairs in the very focus of Business & surrounded
by the auction rooms which have become the Rialto of the modern
merchants but where I dare say even Shylock would be shy of making his

By December 29, 1824, we hear of Herman that “he attends school
regularly but does not appear so fond of his Book as to injure his
health. He has turned into a great tease & daily puts Gansevoort’s
patience to flight who cannot bear to be plagued by such a little

On the same date, Maria writes to her brother about pickling oysters,
500 of which she sent to Albany as a gift to his family. The picture
of her life that she then gives is evidence that she had cherished the
counsels that “her friend A. M.” had appended to Mrs. Chapone. She
tells of a call she received before eleven o’clock. “Although the hour
was early, all things were neat & in order & my ladyship was dressing
herself preparatory to sitting down to her sewing.” She boasts of this
fact, she says, in shamed recollection of the time her brother and Mr.
Smyth were ushered into a parlour out of order. “It is the first time
a thing of this kind has ever happened to me & for my credit as a good
housekeeper, I hope it will be the last.” In conclusion she reports:
“This afternoon Mr. M. & myself, induced by the enlivening rays of
the setting sun, strolled down the Bowery & after an agreeable walk
returned home with renovated spirits.”

In December, 1825, Allan is moved to “lament little Herman’s melancholy
situation, but we trust in humble confidence that the GOD of the widow
and the fatherless will yet restore him.” By the following May, Allan’s
humble confidence seems to have been rewarded not only by Herman’s
recovery, but by the birth of another child. In the midst of a business
letter--the usual repository of Allan’s raptures--he with unwonted
vivacity so celebrates his paternal felicity: “The Lovely Six!! are
all well, and, while the youngest though both last & least is a sweet
child of promise, & bids fair to become the fairest of the fair--so
much for affection, now for business.”

On August 10, 1826, Melville was sent out upon his first trip from home
unaccompanied by his parents. His destination was his mother’s people
in Albany, and his custodian during the trip a Mr. Walker. Allan shifts
his responsibility for his son on the shoulders of his brother-in-law,
Peter Gansevoort, in these terms:

“I now consign to your especial care & patronage my beloved son Herman,
an honest hearted double-rooted Knickerbocker of the true Albany
stamp, who, I trust, will do equal honour in due time to ancestry,
parentage & kindred. He is very backward in speech & somewhat slow in
comprehension, but you will find him as far as he understands men and
things both solid & profound & of a docile & amiable disposition. If
agreeable, he will pass the vacation with his grandmother & yourself &
I hope he may prove a pleasant auxiliary to the Family circle--I depend
much on your kind attention to our dear Boy who will be truly grateful
to the least favour--let him avoid green fruit & unseasonable exposure
to the Sun & heat, and having taken such good care of Gansevoort
last Summer I commit his Brother to the same hands with unreserved
confidence. & with love to our good mother and yourself in which Maria,
Mary & the children most cordially join I remain very truly Your Friend
& Brother, Allan Melville.”

At the foot of this document, Allan appended in pencil: “please turn
over.” On the reverse of the letter is scribbled a breathless last
request: “Have the goodness to procure a pair of shoes for Herman, time
being insufficient to have a pair made here.”

When Allan here pronounces Melville “very backward in speech & somewhat
slow in comprehension,” he puts his son in a large class of genius
conspicuous for a deferred revelation of promising intelligence. Scott,
occupied in building up romances, was dismissed as a dunce; Hume,
the youthful thinker, was described by his mother as “uncommon weak
minded.” Goldsmith was a stupid child; Fanny Burney did not know her
letters at the age of eight. Byron showed no aptitude for school work.
And Chatterton, up to the age of six and a half, was, on the authority
of his mother, “little better than an absolute fool.” Allan scorned to
take solace from such facts, however. He consoled himself with the fact
that though his son was dull, he was at least “docile & amiable.”

Melville spent the summer of 1826 with the Gansevoorts. And he looked
back upon it as perhaps the most fortunate privilege of his youth, that
this first visit to Albany set the precedent for a whole series of
similar summers. He is idealising from his own experience when he says
of Pierre: “It had been his choice fate to have been born and nurtured
in the country, surrounded by scenery whose uncommon loveliness was the
perfect mould of a delicate and poetic mind; while the popular names
of its finest features appealed to the proudest patriotic and family
associations of the historic line of Glendinning.” Nor does he hesitate
to reiterate that Pierre’s was a “choice fate”: “For to a noble
American youth this indeed--more than in any other land--this indeed
is a most rare and choice lot.” Each summer, for as long as his school
vacations would permit, Melville shared the choice lot of Pierre.
But Allan, unconverted to Melville’s Wordsworthian creed, regularly
recalled his son to the city with the opening of school.

This is the recall for the year 1826, dated “12 Sept. Tuesday, 4 P.M.”:
“We expect Gansevoort on Sunday, at fartherest, when we wish Herman
also to be here, that they may recommence their studies together on
Monday next, with equal chances of preferment, & without any feelings
of jealousy or ideas of favoritism--besides they may thus acquire
a practical lesson whose influence may endure forever, for if they
understand early, that inclination must always yield to Duty, it will
become a matter of course when their vacations expire to bid a fond
adieu to friends & amusements, & return home cheerfully to their books,
& they will consequently imbibe habits of Order & punctuality, which
bear sweet blossoms in the dawn of life, golden fruits in ‘the noon of
manhood’ & a rich harvest for the garners of old age--business is about
as dull and unprofitable as the most bitter foe to general prosperity,
if such a being exists in human shape, could desire it, & it requires
a keener vision than mine, to discern among the signs of the times, any
real symptoms of future improvement.”

The summer of 1827 Melville spent with his grandparents in Boston; the
two following summers in Albany.

On February 28, 1828, Allan reported to his brother-in-law Peter
Gansevoort: “We have taken a house on Broadway (No. 675--if I mistake
not) for 5 years @ $575 without taxes--being the 2d beyond the marble
buildings & nearly opposite Bond Street. The house is a modern 2
stories built 4 years since for the owner & has only been occupied by
his family. The lot is 200 feet deep through to Mercer St., Maria is
charmed with the house & situation.”

But Allan never lived to see this lease expire. The dull business of
which he earlier complained settled upon him, and in 1830 the prospects
in New York were so hopeless that he moved back to Albany, to die two
years later, leaving his wife and eight children practically penniless.

But before Allan moved away from New York, Herman had time to write the
earliest manuscript of his that survives. It reads:

      11th of October, 1828.


  This is the third letter that I ever wrote so you must not think
  it very good. I now study geography, gramar, writing, Speaking,
  Spelling, and read in the Scientific class book. I enclose in this
  letter a drawing for my dear grandmother. Give my love to grandmamma,
  Uncle Peter and Aunt Mary. And my Sisters and also to allan,

  Your affectionate grandson


In _Redburn_, Melville speaks “of those delightful days before my
father was a bankrupt, and died, and we moved from the city”; or again,
speaking of Allan: “he had been shaken by many storms of adversity,
and at last died a bankrupt.” Allan’s journal, however, which he
kept until within a few months of his death, is proudly superior to
anything suggestive of the outrageousness of fortune: its hard glazed
surface betrays to the end no crack in the veneer. Beyond a persistent
tradition, and Melville’s iterated statement, no further evidence of
Allan’s financial reverses has transpired.

It is certain, however, that after Allan’s death his family found
themselves in straitened circumstances. After 1830, the most specific
evidence known to exist about the whereabouts and condition of
Melville’s family is preserved in old Albany Directories, as follows:

  1830: no Melvilles mentioned.

  1831: Melville, Allan, 446 s. Market.
          house 338 n. Market.

  1832: Melville, Gansevoort, fur store, 364 s. Market.
        Melville, widow Maria, cor. of n. Market & Steuben.

  1833: Melville, Gansevoort, fur store, 364 s. Market.
        Melville, widow Maria, 282 n. Market.

  1834: Melville, Gansevoort, fur and cap store, 364 s. Market,
          res. 3 Clinton Square n. Pearl.
        Melville, Herman, clerk in N. Y. State Bank, res. 3
          Clinton Square n. Pearl.
        Melville, widow Maria, 3 Clinton Square n. Pearl.

  1835: Melville, Gansevoort, fur and cap store, 364 s. Market,
          res. 3 Clinton Square n. Pearl.
        Melville, Herman, clerk at 364 s. Market, res. 3 Clinton
          Square n. Pearl.
        Melville, widow Maria, 3 Clinton Square n. Pearl.

After 1835 the family scattered, Melville to begin his wanderings on
land and sea,--Gansevoort to drift about Albany for two years, Maria
and the rest of the children to move to Lansingburg--now a part of

The publication of the _Celebration of the Semi-Centennial Anniversary
of the Albany Academy_ (Albany, 1862) in its list of alumni, and the
date of their entrance, offers the following record:

  1831: Melville, Allan.
  1830: Melville, Gansevoort.
  1830: Melville, Herman.

This Semi-Centennial Anniversary Celebration took place in Tweedle
Hall, which, so says the publication, “was crowded with an appropriate
audience.” “The meeting was presided over by the Honourable PETER
GANSEVOORT, the President of the Board of Trustees,” the publication
goes on to say, “and by his side were his associates and the guests of
the festival, among whom was warmly welcomed HERMAN MELVILLE, whose
reputation as an author has honoured the Academy, world-wide.” As
Melville sat there, “the Rev. Doc. FERRIS ... made prayer to Heaven the
source of that knowledge which shall not vanish away;” Orlando Mead,
LL.D., read a Historical Discourse; and “at successive periods the
exercises were diversified by the music of _Home, Sweet Home_ or _Rest,
Spirit, Rest_, and of other appropriate harmonies.” What recollections
of his school-days at the Albany Academy were then passing through
Melville’s head, we haven’t sufficient knowledge of his schooling to
guess. As part of the celebration, Alexander W. Bradford, who was a
student at the Academy between 1825 and 1832, spoke of the “domestic
discords and fights between the Latins and the English, and the more
fierce and bitter foreign conflicts waged between the Hills and the
Creeks, the latter being a pugnacious tribe of barbarians who inhabited
the shores of Fox Creek;” of “the weekly exhibitions in the Gymnasium
grand with the beauty of Albany;” of “the lectures and experiments in
chemistry, which being in the evening, were favoured by the presence of
young ladies as well as gentlemen.” In what capacity, if any, Melville
figured in these activities there is no way of knowing.

Dr. Henry Hun, now President of the Albany Academy, in answer to a
request for information about Melville, answers: “Unfortunately, the
records of the Albany Academy were burned in 1888. It is impossible to
say how long he remained in the school or what results he achieved.
He probably took the Classical Course, as most of the brighter boys
took it. It was really a Collegiate Course, and the Head-master
(or Principal as he was then called) Dr. T. Romeyn Beck was an
extraordinary man, but one who did not spare the rod, but gave daily
exhibitions in its use.” In a postscript Dr. Hun adds: “It was a
God-fearing school.”

Joseph Henry, at one time teacher at the Albany Academy, later head
of the Smithsonian Institute, in an address before the Association
for the Advancement of Science, in session in Albany in 1851, said of
Melville’s Alma Mater: “The Albany Academy was and still is one of the
first, if not the very first, institution of its kind in the United
States. It early opposed the pernicious maxim that a child should be
taught nothing but what it could perfectly understand, and that the
sole object of instruction is to teach a child to think.”

Since Melville was in 1834 employed as clerk in the New York State
Bank (a post he doubtless owed to his uncle, Peter Gansevoort, who
was one of the Trustees) he must have ceased to enjoy the advantages
of the Albany Academy before that date. During the time of Melville’s
attendance, the same texts were used by all students alike during their
first three years at the Albany Academy. This, then, would seem to be
a list of the texts (offered by the courtesy of Dr. Hun) studied by

  1st Year:
  Latin Grammar
  Historia Sacra
  Turner’s Exercises (begun)
  Latin Reader
  Irving’s Universal History

  2d Year:
  Latin Reader continued
  Turner’s Exercises
  Cornelius Nepos
  Irving’s Grecian and Roman Histories
  Roman Antiquities

  3d Year:
  Cæsar, Ovid, Latin Prosody
  Turner’s Exercises, Translations
  Irving’s Grecian Antiquities
  Mythology and Biography
  Greek Grammar

J. E. A. Smith, in the _Biographical Sketch of Herman Melville_ that in
1891 he wrote for _The Evening Journal_ of Pittsfield, Massachusetts,
says of Melville’s school-days:

“In 1835, Professor Charles E. West ... was president of the Albany
Classical Institute for boys, and Herman Melville became one of his
pupils. Professor West now remembers him as a favourite pupil, not
distinguished for mathematics, but very much so in the writing of
‘themes’ or ‘compositions’ and fond of doing it, while the great
majority of pupils dreaded it as a task, and would shirk it if they

In 1835, Melville was clerk in his brother’s shop. If J. E. A. Smith’s
record is accurate, Melville was at the time alternating business with

The greater part of 1836 was spent by Melville, according to his own
account, already quoted, in the household of his uncle Major Thomas
Melville, at Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

J. E. A. Smith in his _Biographical Sketch_ so supplements Melville’s
account: “Besides his labours with his uncle in the hay field, he was
for one term teacher of the common school in the ‘Sykes district’ under
Washington mountain, of which he had some racy memories--one of them
of a rebellion in which some of the bigger boys undertook to ‘lick’
him--with what results, those who remember his physique and character
can well imagine.”

The only other records we have of Melville’s boyhood and early youth
are the scattered recollections preserved in his published works.
Such, throughout his life, were the veering whims of his blood,
that he recalled these earlier years with no unity of retrospect.
The confessions of St. Augustine are a classical warning of the
untrustworthiness of even the most conscientious memory. To call
memory the mother of the Muses, is too frequently but a partial and
euphemistic naming of her offspring. So when Melville writes of early
years, now in rhapsody and then in bitterness, the result, though
always valuable autobiography, is not invariably, of course, strict

Some of his idealisations of his life with the Gansevoorts have
already been given. Through the refracting films of memory he
at times looked back upon “those far descended Dutch meadows ...
steeped in a Hindooish haze” and proud of his name and his “double
revolutionary descent,” he viewed himself with Miltonic self-esteem as
a “fine, proud, loving, docile, vigorous boy.” And there is no reason
to suspect him of perverting the truth. Behind these are “certain
shadowy reminiscences of wharves, and warehouses, and shipping, which
a residence in a seaport during early childhood had supplied me.” And
with them he blended remembrances “of winter evenings in New York,
by the well-remembered sea-coal fire, when my father used to tell my
brother and me of the monstrous waves at sea, mountain high; of the
masts bending like twigs; and all about Havre, and Liverpool, and about
going up into the ball of St. Paul’s in London. Indeed, during my early
life, most of my thoughts of the sea were connected with the land;
but with fine old lands, full of mossy cathedrals and churches, and
long, narrow crooked streets without sidewalks, and lined with strange
houses. And especially I tried hard to think how such places must look
on rainy days and Saturday afternoons; and whether indeed they did have
rainy days and Saturdays there, just as we did here, and whether the
boys went to school there, and studied geography and wore their shirt
collars turned over, and tied with a black ribbon; and whether their
papas allowed them to wear boots instead of shoes, which I so much
disliked, for boots looked so manly.”

Melville confesses here to a precocious exercise of the poetic
imagination: a type of imagination for which the consistent
disappointments of his life were to be the invariable penalty. In
the prosaic man, in Benjamin Franklin, for example, the imagination
does not, as it did with Melville, enrich the immediate facts of
experience with amplifications so vivid that the reality is in danger
of being submerged. In the prosaic man, the imagination works in a
safely utilitarian fashion, combining images for practical purposes
under the supervision of a matter-of-fact judgment. And though it may
indeed bring the lightning from the clouds, it makes the transfer not
to glorify the firmament, but to discipline the lightning and to make
church steeples safe from the wrath of God. Melville’s was the type of
imagination whose extreme operation is exemplified in William Blake.
“I assert for myself,” said Blake, “that I do not behold the outward
creation, and that it is to me hindrance and not action. ‘What,’ it
will be questioned, ‘when the sun rises, do you not see a round disk
of fire something like a guinea?’ Oh! no! no! I see an innumerable
company of the heavenly host, crying, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord
God Almighty!’ I question not my corporeal eye any more than I would
question a window concerning a sight. I look through it, and not with
it.” Though Allan Melville chose as courtship gift a copy of _Pleasures
of Imagination_, the pleasures he derived from the exercise of this
faculty were of a sort that both Blake and his son would have thought
tame in the extreme. Allan saw the world with his eyes alone, he
proudly believed, the world as it really is. It was both the blessing
and the curse of his son that his was the gift of “second sight.”

“We had several pieces of furniture in the house,” says Melville,
speaking of his childhood days, “which had been brought from Europe”:
furniture that had been imported by Allan, some of which is still in
the possession of Melville’s descendants. “These I examined again and
again, wondering where the wood grew: whether the workmen who made them
still survived, and what they could be doing with themselves now.”
Could Allan have known what was going on in the head of his son, he
would have been as alarmed as was the father of Anatole France when
the young Thibault undertook to emulate St. Nicholas of Patras and
distribute his riches to the poor.

Even as a child, he was lured by the romance of distance, and he
confesses how he used to think “how fine it would be, to be able to
talk about remote barbarous countries; with what reverence and wonder
people would regard me, if I had just returned from the coast of Africa
or New Zealand: how dark and romantic my sunburnt cheeks would look;
how I would bring home with me foreign clothes of rich fabric and
princely make, and wear them up and down the streets, and how grocers’
boys would turn their heads to look at me, as I went by. For I very
well remembered staring at a man myself, who was pointed out to me
by my aunt one Sunday in church, as the person who had been in stony
Arabia and passed through strange adventures there, all of which with
my own eyes I had read in the book which he wrote, an arid-looking book
in a pale yellow cover.

“‘See what big eyes he has,’ whispered my aunt, ‘they got so big,
because when he was almost dead in the desert with famishing, he all
at once caught sight of a date tree, with the ripe fruit hanging on
it.’ Upon this, I stared at him till I thought his eyes were really of
an uncommon size, and stuck out from his head like those of a lobster.
When church was out, I wanted my aunt to take me along and follow the
traveller home. But she said the constables would take us up, if we
did; and so I never saw the wonderful Arabian traveller again. But he
long haunted me; and several times I dreamt of him, and thought his
great eyes were grown still larger and rounder; and once I had a vision
of the date tree.”

It is one of the few certainties of life that a child who has once
stood fixed before a piece of household furniture worrying his head
about whether the workman who made it still be alive; who after seeing
an Arabian traveller in church goes home and has a vision of a date
tree: such a child is not going to die an efficiency expert. At the age
of fifteen Melville found himself faced with the premature necessity of
coming to some sort of terms with life on his own account. Helped by
his uncle, he tried working in a bank. The experiment seems not to have
been a success. His next experiment was clerk in his brother’s store.
But banking and clerking seem to have been equally repugnant. Melville
had a taste for landscape, so his next experiment was as farmer and
country school-keeper. But farming, interspersed with pedagogy and
pugilism, fired Melville to a mood of desperation. “Talk not of the
bitterness of middle age and after-life,” he later wrote; “a boy can
feel all that, and much more, when upon his young soul the mildew has
fallen.... Before the death of my father I never thought of working for
my living, and never knew there were hard hearts in the world.... I had
learned to think much, and bitterly, before my time.” So he decided
to slough off the tame respectabilities of his well-to-do uncles, and
cousins, and aunts. Goaded by hardship, and pathetically lured by the
glamorous mirage of distance, with all the impetuosity of his eighteen
summers he planned a hegira. “With a philosophical flourish Cato
throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. This is my
substitute for pistol and ball.”



  “When I go to sea, I go as a simple sailor, right before the mast,
  plumb down into the forecastle, aloft there to the royal mast-head.
  True, they rather order me about some, and make me jump from spar to
  spar, like a grasshopper in a May meadow. And at first, this sort
  of thing is unpleasant enough. It touches one’s sense of honour,
  particularly if you come of an old established family in the land,
  the Van Rensselaers, or Randolphs, or Hardicanutes. And more than
  all, if just previous to putting your hand into the tar-pot, you have
  been lording it as a country schoolmaster, making the tallest boys
  stand in awe of you, the transition is a keen one, I assure you, from
  a schoolmaster to a sailor, and requires a strong decoction of Seneca
  and the Stoics to enable you to grin and bear it.”

  --HERMAN MELVILLE: _Moby-Dick_.

When, at the age of seventeen, Melville cut loose from his mother, his
kind cousins and aunts, and sympathising sisters, he was stirred by
motives of desperation, and by the immature delusion that happiness
lies elusive and beckoning, just over the world’s rim. It was a
drastic escape from the intolerable monotony of prosaic certainties
and aching frustrations. “Sad disappointments in several plans which
I had sketched for my future life,” says Melville, “the necessity of
doing something for myself, united with a naturally roving disposition,
conspired within me, to send me to sea as a sailor.”

In _Redburn: His First Voyage. Being the Sailor-boy Confessions and
Reminiscences of the Son-of-a-Gentleman_ (1849) Melville has left what
is the only surviving record of his initial attempt “to sail beyond
the sunset.” Luridly vivid and exuberant was his imagination, flooding
the world of his childhood and fantastically transmuting reality. At
the time of his first voyage, Melville was, it is well to remember, a
boy of seventeen. He was not old enough, not wise enough, to regard
his dreams as impalpable projections of his defeated desires: desires
inflamed by what Dr. Johnson called the “dangerous prevalence of
imagination,” and which, in “sober probability” could find no actual
satisfaction. Had Melville been a nature of less impetuosity, or of
less abundant physical vitality, he might have moped tamely at home and
“yearned.” But with the desperate Quixotic enterprise of a splendid but
embittered boy, he sallied forth into the unknown to put his dreams to
the test. When it was reported to Carlyle that Margaret Fuller made
boast: “I accept the universe,” unimpressed he remarked: “Gad! she’d
better.” Melville, when only seventeen, had not yet come to Carlyle’s
dyspeptic resignation to the cosmic order. “As years and dumps
increase; as reflection lends her solemn pause, then,” so Melville
says, in substance, in a passage on elderly whales, “in the impotent,
repentant, admonitory stage of life, do sulky old souls go about all
alone among the meridians and parallels saying their prayers.” Lacking
Dr. Johnson’s elderly wisdom, Melville believed there to be some
correlation between happiness and geography. He was not willing to
take resignation on faith. Not through “spontaneous striving towards
development,” but through necessity and hard contact with nature and
men does the recalcitrant dreamer accept Carlyle’s dictum. With drastic
experience, most men come at last to have a little commonsense knocked
into their heads,--and a good bit of imagination knocked out, as
Wordsworth, for one, discovered.

Melville’s recourse to the ocean in 1837, as that of Richard Henry
Dana’s three years before, was a heroic measure, calculated either to
take the nonsense out of both of them, or else to drive them straight
either to suicide, madness, or rum-soaked barbarism. To both boys, it
was a crucial test that would have ruined coarser or weaker natures.
Dana came from out the ordeal purged and strengthened, toned up to the
proper level, and no longer too fine for everyday use. Though as years
went by, so says C. F. Adams, his biographer, “the freshness of the
great lesson faded away, and influences which antedated his birth and
surrounded his life asserted themselves, not for his good.”

Because of lack of contemporary evidence, the immediate influences of
Melville’s first experience in the forecastle, cannot be so positively
stated. _Redburn_, the only record of the adventure, was not written
until twelve years after Melville had experienced what it records.
Extraordinarily crowded was this intervening span of twelve years.
But despite the fulness of intervening experience--or, maybe, because
of it--the universe still stuck in his maw: it was a bolus on which
he gagged. _Redburn_ is written in embittered memory of Melville’s
first hegira. In the words of Mr. H. S. Salt: “It is a record of
bitter experience and temporary disillusionment--the confessions of
a poor, proud youth, who goes to sea ‘with a devil in his heart’ and
is painfully initiated into the unforeseen hardships of a sea-faring
life.” In 1849 he was still unadjusted to unpalatable reality, and
in _Redburn_ he seems intent upon revenging himself upon his early
disillusion by an inverted idealism,--by building for himself, “not
castles, but dungeons in Spain,”--as if, failing to reach the moon,
he should determine to make a Cynthia of the first green cheese. And
this inverted idealism he achieves most effectively by recording with
photographic literalness the most hideous details of his penurious
migration. His romantic realism--reminding one of Zola and certain
pages out of Rousseau--he alternates with malicious self-satire,
and its obverse gesture, obtrusive self-pity. To those austere and
classical souls who are proudly impatient of this style of writing,
it must be insisted with what Arnold called “damnable iteration” that
_Redburn_ purports to be the confessions of a seventeen-year-old lad.
Autobiographically, the book is, of course, of superlative interest.
But despite its unaccountable neglect, and Melville’s ostentation of
contempt for it, it is none the less important, in the history of
letters, as a very notable achievement. Mr. Masefield and W. Clark
Russell alone, of competent critics, seem to have been aware of its
existence. It is _Redburn_ that Mr. Masefield confesses to loving
best of Melville’s writings: this “boy’s book about running away to
sea.” Mr. Masefield thinks, however, that “one must know New York and
the haunted sailor-town of Liverpool to appreciate that gentle story

When Melville wrote _Redburn_ in 1849, there was no book exactly
like it in our literature, its only possible forerunners being
Nathaniel Ames’ _A Mariner’s Sketches_ (1830) and Dana’s _Two
Years before the Mast_ (1840). The great captains had written of
their voyages, it is true; or when they themselves left no record,
their literary laxity was usually corrected by the querulousness
of some member of their ship’s company. Great compilations such as
Churchill’s, or Harris’, or Hakluyt’s _The Principal Navigations,
Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation: made by
sea or overland to the remotest and farthest different quarters of
the earth at any time within the Compass of these 1600 years_, or
no less luxuriously entitled works, such as the fine old eighteenth
century folio of Captain Charles Johnson’s _A General History of the
Lives and Adventures of the Most Famous Highwaymen, Murderers, Street
Robbers, etc., To which is added, A Genuine Account of the Voyages
and Plunders of the Most Notorious Pyrates, interspersed with several
diverting tales, and pleasant songs, and adorned with the Heads of
the Most Remarkable Villains, curiously Engraven_, are monuments to
the prodigious wealth of the early literature of sea adventure. The
light of romance colours these maritime exploits, and even upon the
maturest gaze there still lingers something of the radiance with which
the ardent imagination of boyhood gilds the actions and persons of
these fierce sea-warriors, treacherous, cruel and profligate miscreants
though the most picturesque of them were.

But these hardy adventurers were men of action; men proud of their own
exploits, but untouched by any corrupt self-consciousness of their
Gilbert-and-Sullivan, or Byronic possibilities; men untempted to offer
any superfluous encouragement to the deep blue sea to “roll.” And
though many of them--Captain Cook, for example--ran away to sea to ship
before the mast, they in later years betray no temptings to linger with
attention over their days of early obscurity. Even _The Book of Things
Forgotten_ passes over the period of Cook’s life in the forecastle. He
began as an apprentice, he ended as a mate. That is all. As regards
the life he led as a youth on board the merchant ship there is no
account: a silence that forces Walter Besant in his _Captain Cook_ to
a page or two of surmise as a transition to more notable sureties. An
appreciation of the romance of the sea, and of the humbler details of
the life of the common sailor is one of our most recent sophistications.

In fiction, it is true, Smollett had his sailors, as did Scott,
and Marryat, and Cooper,--to mention only the most notable names.
Provoked to originality by a defiant boast, Cooper wrote the earliest
first-rate sea-novel: a story concerning itself exclusively with the
sea. Remarkable is the clearness and accuracy of his description of
the manœuvres of his ships. He makes his vessels “walk the waters
like a thing of life.” “I have loved ships as I have loved men,” says
Melville. And Cooper before him, as Conrad after him, have by similar
love given personality to vessels. Among his company of able seamen,
Cooper has his Long Tom Coffin: and these are more picturesque, and
perhaps more real than his Lord Geoffrey Cleveland, his Admiral
Bluewater, his Griffith, and his other quarterdeck people. But sea-life
as Cooper knew it was sea-life as seen from the quarterdeck, and from
the quarterdeck of the United States navy.

Marryat, it is true, makes his Newton Foster a merchant sailor. But
Marryat knew nothing of the hidden life of the merchant service. He had
passed his sea-life in the ships of the States, and he knew no more of
what passed in a merchantman’s forecastle than the general present day
land intelligence knows of what passes in a steamer’s engine room. Dana
and Melville were the first to lift the hatch and show the world what
passes in a ship’s forecastle. Dana disclosed these secrets in a single
volume; Melville in a number of remarkable narratives, the first of
which was _Redburn_.

Dana’s is a trustworthy and matter-of-fact account in the form of a
journal; a vigorous, faithful, modest narrative. With very little
interest exhibited in the feeling of his own pulse, he recounts the
happenings aboard the ship from day to day. Melville’s account is more
vivid because more intimate. As is the case with George Borrow, his eye
is always riveted upon himself. He minutely amplifies his own emotions
and sensations, and with an incalculable gain over Dana in descriptive
vividness. One would have to be colour blind to purple patches to fail
to recognise in _Redburn_ streaks of the purest Tyrean dye. Between
Melville and Dana the answer is obvious as to “who fished the murex up?”

“It was with a heavy heart and full eyes,” says Melville, “that my
mother parted from me; perhaps she thought me an erring and a wilful
boy, and perhaps I was; but if I was, it had been a hard-hearted world,
and hard times that had made me so.”

Dressed in a hunting jacket; one leg of his trousers adorned with an
ample and embarrassing patch; armed with a fowling piece which his
older brother Gansevoort had given him, in lieu of cash, to sell in
New York; without a penny in his pocket: Melville arrived in New York
on a fine rainy day in the late spring of 1837. Dripping like a seal,
and garbed like a housebreaker, he walked across town to the home of a
friend of Gansevoort’s, where he was dried, warmed and fed.

Philo of Judea has descended to posterity blushing because he had a
body. Melville survives, rosy in animality: but his was never Philo’s
scarlet of shame. Melville was a boy of superb physical vigour: and
his blackest plunges of discouragement and philosophical despair were
always wholesomely amenable to the persuasions of food and drink. It
was Carlyle’s conviction that with stupidity and a good digestion man
can bear much: had Melville been gifted with stupidity, he would have
needed only regular meals to convert him into a miracle of cheerful
endurance. “There is a savour of life and immortality in substantial
fare,” he later wrote; “we are like balloons, which are nothing till
filled.” When Melville sat down to the well-stocked table at his
friend’s house in New York he was a very miserable boy. But his misery
was not invulnerable. “Every mouthful pushed the devil that had been
tormenting me all day farther and farther out of me, till at last I
entirely ejected him with three successive bowls of Bohea. That night
I went to bed thinking the world pretty tolerable after all.”

Next day, accompanied by his brother’s friend, whose true name Melville
disguises under the anonymity of Jones, Melville walked down to the
water front.

At that time, and indeed until as recently as thirty years ago, the
water front of a great sea-port town like New York showed a towering
forest of tall and tapering masts reaching high up above the roofs of
the water-side buildings, crossed with slender spars hung with snowy
canvas, and braced with a maze of cordage: a brave sight that Melville
passes over in morose silence. He postpones until his arrival in
Liverpool the spicing of his account with the blended smells of pitch,
and tar, and old-ropes, and wet-wood, and resin and the sharp cool tang
of brine. Nor does Melville pause to conjure up the great bowsprits
and jib-booms that stretched across the street that passed the foot
of the slips. Though Melville has left a detailed description of the
Liverpool docks--not failing to paint in with a dripping brush the
blackest shadows of the low life framing that picturesque scene--it was
outside his purpose to give any hint of the maritime achievement of the
merchant service in which he was such an insignificant unit.

The maritime achievement of the United States was then almost at the
pinnacle of its glory. At that time, the topsails of the United States
flecked every ocean, and their captains courageous left no lands
unvisited, no sea unexplored. From New England in particular sailed
ships where no other ships dared to go, anchoring where no one else
ever dreamed of looking for trade. And so it happened, as Ralph D.
Paine in his _The Old Merchant Marine_ has pointed out, that “in the
spicy warehouses that overlooked Salem Harbour there came to be stored
hemp from Luzon, gum copal from Zanzibar, palm oil from Africa, coffee
from Arabia, tallow from Madagascar, whale oil from the Antarctic,
hides and wool from the Rio de la Plata, nutmeg and cloves from
Malaysia.” With New England originality and audacity, Boston shipped
cargoes of ice to Calcutta. And for thirty years a regular trade in
Massachusetts ice remained active and lucrative: such perishable
freight out upon a four or five months’ voyage across the fiery
Equator, doubling Da Gama’s cape and steering through the furnace heat
of the Indian Ocean. In those days the people of the Atlantic seacoast
from Maryland northward found their interests vitally allied with
maritime adventure. There was a generous scattering of sea-faring folk
among Melville’s forebears of our early national era; and Melville’s
father, an importing merchant, owed his fortunes in important part, to
the chances of the sea. The United States, without railroads, and with
only the most wretched excuses for post-roads, were linked together by
coasting ships. And thousands of miles of ocean separated Americans
from the markets in which they must sell their produce and buy their
luxuries. Down to the middle of the last century, one of the most vital
interests of the United States was in the sea: an interest that deeply
influenced the thought, the legislature and the literature of our
people. And during this period, as Willis J. Abbott, in his _American
Merchant Ships and Sailors_ has noted, “the sea was a favourite career,
not only for American boys with their way to make in the world, but for
the sons of wealthy men as well. That classic of New England seamanship
_Two Years Before the Mast_ was not written until the middle of the
19th century, and its author went to sea, not in search of wealth,
but of health. But before the time of Richard Henry Dana, many a
young man of good family and education--a Harvard graduate, like him,
perhaps--bade farewell to a home of comfort and refinement and made
his berth in a smoky, fetid forecastle to learn the sailor’s calling.
There was at that time less to engage the activities and arouse the
ambitions of youth than now, and the sea offered a most promising
career.... Ships were multiplying fast, and no really lively and alert
seaman need stay long in the forecastle.” The brilliant maritime growth
of the United States, after a steady development for two hundred years,
was, when Melville sailed in 1837, within twenty-five years of its
climax. It was to reach its peak in 1861, when the aggregate tonnage
belonging to the United States was but a little smaller than that of
Great Britain and her dependencies, and nearly as large as the combined
tonnage of all other nations of the world, Great Britain excepted.
Vanished fleets and brave memories--a chronicle of America which had
written its closing chapters before the Civil War!

But this state of affairs,--if, indeed, he was even vaguely conscious
of its existence,--left Melville at the time of his first shipping,
completely cold. It is doubtless true that Maria would have respected
him more if he had attempted to justify his sea-going by assuring her
that at that time it was to no degree remarkable for seamen to become
full-fledged captains and part owners at the age of twenty-one, or
even earlier. And Maria would have listened impressed to such cogent
evidence as the case of Thomas T. Forbes, for example, who shipped
before the mast at the age of thirteen, and was commander of the
_Levant_ at twenty; or the case of William Sturges, afterwards the
head of a firm which at one time controlled half the trade between
the United States and China, who shipped at seventeen, and was a
captain and manager in the China trade at nineteen. But such facts
touched Melville not at all. “At that early age,” he says, “I was as
unambitious as a man of sixty.” Melville’s brother, Tom, came to be a
sea-captain. Melville’s was a different destiny.

So he trudged with his friend among the boats along the water front,
where, after some little searching, they hit upon a ship for Liverpool.
In the cabin they found the suave and bearded Captain, dapperly
dressed, and humming a brisk air as he promenaded up and down: not such
a completely odious creature, despite Melville’s final contempt for
him. The conversation was concluded by Melville signing up as a “boy,”
at terms not wildly lucrative for Melville.

“Pray, captain,” said Melville’s amiable bungling friend, “how much do
you generally pay a handsome fellow like this?”

“Well,” said the captain, looking grave and profound, “we are not so
particular about beauty, and we never give more than three dollars to
a green lad.”

Melville’s next move was to sell his gun: an experience which gives
him occasion to discourse on pawn shops and the unenviable hardships
of paupers. With the two and a half dollars that he reaped by the
sale of his gun, and in almost criminal innocence of the outfit
he would need, he bought a red woollen shirt, a tarpaulin hat, a
belt, and a jack-knife. In his improvidence, he was ill provided,
indeed, with everything calculated to make his situation aboard ship
at all comfortable, or even tolerable. He was without mattress or
bed-clothes, or table-tools; without pilot-cloth jackets, or trousers,
or guernsey frocks, or oil-skin suits, or sea-boots and the other
things which old seamen used to carry in their chests. As he himself
says, his sea-outfit was “something like that of the Texan rangers,
whose uniform, they say, consists of a shirt collar and a pair of
spurs.” His purchases made, he did a highly typical thing: “I had only
one penny left, so I walked out to the end of the pier, and threw the
penny into the water.”

That night, after dinner, Melville went to his room to try on his red
woollen shirt before the glass, to see what sort of a looking sailor
he would make. But before beginning this ritual before the mirror, he
“locked the door carefully, and hung a towel over the knob, so that no
one could peep through the keyhole.” It is said that throughout his
life Melville clung to this practice of draping door-knobs. “As soon
as I got into the shirt,” Melville goes on to say, “I began to feel
sort of warm and red about the face, which I found was owing to the
reflection of the dyed wool upon my skin. After that, I took a pair of
scissors and went to cutting my hair, which was very long. I thought
every little would help in making me a light hand to run aloft.”

Next morning, before he reached the ship, it began raining hard, so it
was plain there would be no getting to sea that day. But having once
said farewell to his friends, and feeling a repetition of the ceremony
would be awkward, Melville boarded the ship, where a large man in a
large dripping pea-jacket, who was calking down the main-hatches,
directed him in no cordial terms to the forecastle. Rather different
was Dana’s appearance on board the brig _Pilgrim_ on August 14, 1834,
“in full sea-rig, with my chest containing an outfit for a two or three
years’ voyage.” Nor did Dana begin in the forecastle.

In the dark damp stench of that deserted hole, Melville selected an
empty bunk. In the middle of this he deposited the slim bundle of his
belongings, and penniless and dripping spent the day walking hungry
among the wharves: a day’s peregrination that he recounts with vivid
and remorseless realism.

At night he returned to the forecastle, where he met a thick-headed
lad from Lancaster of about his own years. Glad of any companionship,
Melville and this lubber boy crawled together in the same bunk. But
between the high odour of the forecastle, the loud snoring of his
bed-fellow, wet, cold and hungry, he went up on deck, where he walked
till morning. When the groceries on the wharf opened, he went to make
a breakfast of a glass of water. This made him qualmish. “My head was
dizzy, and I went staggering along the walk, almost blind.”

By the time Melville got back to the ship, everything was in an uproar.
The pea-jacket man was there ordering about men in the riggings, and
people were bringing off chickens, and pigs, and beef, and vegetables
from the shore. Melville’s initial task was the cleaning out of the
pig-pen; after this he was sent up the top-mast with a bucket of a
thick lobbered gravy, which slush he dabbed over the mast. This over,
and, in the increasing bustle everything having been made ready to
sail, the word was passed to go to dinner fore and aft. “Though the
sailors surfeited with eating and drinking ashore did not touch the
salt beef and potatoes which the black cook handed down into the
forecastle: and though this left the whole allowance to me; to my
surprise, I found that I could eat little or nothing; for now I only
felt deadly faint, but not hungry.”

Only a lunatic, of course, would expect to find very commodious or airy
quarters, any drawing-room amenities, Chautauqua uplift, or Y.M.C.A.
insipidities aboard a merchantman of the old sailing days. Nathaniel
Ames, a Harvard graduate who a little before Melville’s time shipped
before the mast, records that on his first vessel, men seeking berths
in the forecastle were ordered to bring certificates of good character
from their clergymen: an unusual requirement, surely. In more than one
memoir, there is mention of a “religious ship”: an occasional mention
that speaks volumes for the heathenism of the majority. Dana says of
one of the mates aboard the _Pilgrim_: “He was too easy and amiable
for the mate of a merchantman. He was not the man to call a sailor a
‘son of a bitch’ and knock him down with a hand-spike.” And J. Grey
Jewell, sometime United States Consul at Singapore, in his book _Among
Our Sailors_ makes a sober and elaborately documented attempt to strip
the life of a sailor of its romantic glamour, to show that it is not a
“round of fun and frolic and jollity with the advantages of seeing many
distant lands and people thrown in”: an effort that would seem to be
unnecessary except to boy readers of Captain Marryat and dime thrillers.

Melville’s shipmates were, it goes without saying, rough and illiterate
men. With typical irony, he says that with a good degree of complacency
and satisfaction he compared his own character with that of his
shipmates: “for I had previously associated with persons of a very
discreet life, so that there was little opportunity to magnify myself
by comparing myself with my neighbours.” In a more serious mood, he
says of sailors as a class: “the very fact of their being sailors
argues a certain restlessness and sensualism of character, ignorance,
and depravity. They are deemed almost the refuse of the earth; and the
romantic view of them is principally had through romances.” And their
chances of improvement are not increased, he contends, by the fact
that “after the vigorous discipline, hardships, dangers and privations
of a voyage, they are set adrift in a foreign port, and exposed to a
thousand enticements, which, under the circumstances, would be hard
even for virtue to withstand, unless virtue went about on crutches.”
It was a tradition for centuries fostered in the naval service that
the sailor was a dog, a different human species from the landsman,
without laws and usages to protect him. This tradition survived among
merchant sailors as an unhappy anachronism even into the twentieth
century, when an American Congress was reluctant to bestow upon seamen
the decencies of existence enjoyed by the poorest labourer ashore.
Melville’s shipmates did not promise to be men of the calibre of which
Maria Gansevoort would have approved.

With his ship, the _Highlander_, streaming out through the Narrows,
past sights rich in association to his boyish recollection; streaming
out and away from all familiar smells and sights and sounds, Melville
found himself “a sort of Ishmael in the ship, without a single friend
or companion, and I began to feel a hatred growing up in me against
the whole crew.” In other words, Melville was a very homesick boy. But
he blended common sense with homesickness. “My heart was like lead,
and I felt bad enough, Heaven knows; but I soon learnt that sailors
breathe nothing about such things, but strive their best to appear all
alive and hearty.” And circumstances helped him live up to this gallant
insight. For, as he says, “there was plenty of work to be done, which
kept my thoughts from becoming too much for me.”

Melville was a boy of stout physical courage, game to the marrow, and
in texture of muscle and bone a worthy grandson of General Gansevoort.
What would have ruined a sallow constitution, he seems to have thriven
upon. “Being so illy provided with clothes,” he says, “I frequently
turned into my bunk soaking wet, and turned out again piping hot and
smoking like a roasted sirloin, and yet was never the worse for it; for
then, I bore a charmed life of youth and health, and was daggerproof
to bodily ill.” With alacrity and good sportsmanship, he went at his
duties. Before he had been out many days, he had outlived the acute
and combined miseries of homesickness and seasickness; the colour was
back in his cheeks, he is careful to observe with Miltonic vanity.
Soon he was taking especial delight in furling the top-gallant sails
and royals in a hard wind, and in hopping about in the riggings like
a Saint Jago’s monkey. “There was a wild delirium about it,” he says,
“a fine rushing of the blood about the heart; and a glad thrilling and
throbbing of the whole system, to find yourself tossed up at every
pitch into the clouds of a stormy sky, and hovering like a judgment
angel between heaven and earth; both hands free, with one foot in the
rigging, and one somewhere behind you in the wind.”

The food, of course, was neither dainty nor widely varied: an unceasing
round of salt-pork, stale beef, “duff,” “lobscouse,” and coffee. “The
thing they called _coffee_,” says Melville with keen descriptive
effort, “was the most curious tasting drink I ever drank, and tasted
as little like coffee as it did like lemonade; though, to be sure, it
was generally as cold as lemonade. But what was more curious still, was
the different quality and taste of it on different mornings. Sometimes
it tasted fishy, as if it were a decoction of Dutch herring; and then
it would taste very salt, as if some _old horse_ or sea-beef had been
boiled in it; and then again it would taste a sort of cheesy, as if
the captain had sent his cheese-parings forward to make our coffee of;
and yet another time it would have such a very bad flavour that I was
almost ready to think some old stocking heel had been boiled in it.
Notwithstanding the disagreeableness of the flavour, I always used to
have a strange curiosity every morning to see what new taste it was
going to have; and I never missed making a new discovery and adding
another taste to my palate.”

Withal, Melville might have fared much worse, as contemporaneous
accounts more than adequately prove. Even in later days, Frank T.
Bullen was able to write: “I have often seen the men break up a couple
of biscuits into a pot of coffee for breakfast, and after letting it
stand for a minute or two, skim off the accumulated scum of vermin
from the top--maggots, weevils, etc., to the extent of a couple of
tablespoonsful, before they could shovel the mess into their craving
stomachs.” Melville never complains of maggots or weevils in his
biscuits, nor does he complain of being stinted food; during this
period, both common enough complaints. The cook, it is true, did not
sterilise everything he touched. “I never saw him wash but once,” says
Melville, “and that was at one of his own soup pots one dark night when
he thought no one saw him.” But as has already been imputed to Melville
for righteousness, his was not a squeamish stomach, and despite the
usual amount of filth on board the _Highlander_, his meals seem to
have gone off easily enough. He has left this pleasant picture of the
amenities of food-taking: “the sailors sitting cross-legged at their
chests in a circle, and breaking the hard biscuit, very sociably, over
each other’s heads, which was very convenient, indeed, but gave me the
headache, at least for the first four or five days till I got used to
it; and then I did not care much about it, only it kept my hair full of
crumbs; and I had forgot to bring a fine comb and brush, so I used to
shake my hair out to windward over the bulwarks every evening.”

Though the forecastle was, to characterise it quietly, a cramped
and fetid hole, dimly lighted and high in odour, Melville came to
be sufficiently acclimated to it to enjoy lying on his back in his
bunk during a forenoon watch below, reading while his messmates
slept. His bunk was an upper one, and right under the head of it was
a bull’s-eye, inserted into the deck to give light. Here he read an
account of _Shipwrecks and Disasters at Sea_, and a large black volume
on _Delirium Tremens_: Melville’s share in the effects of a sailor
whose bunk he occupied, who had, in a frenzy of drunkenness, hurled
himself overboard. Here Melville also struggled to read Smith’s _Wealth
of Nations_. “But soon I gave it up for lost work,” says Melville; “and
thought that the old backgammon board we had at home, lettered on the
back _The History of Rome_, was quite as full of matter, and a great
deal more entertaining.”

The forecastle, however, was not invariably the setting for scenes so
idyllic. Drunkenness there was aplenty, especially at the beginning of
the voyage both from New York and from Liverpool. Of the three new men
shipped at Liverpool, two were so drunk they were unable to engage in
their duties until some hours after the boat quit the pier; but the
third, down on the ship’s papers as Miguel Saveda, had to be carried in
by a crimp and slung into a bunk where he lay locked in a trance. To
heighten the discomforts of the forecastle, there was soon added to the
stench of sweated flesh, old clothes, tobacco smoke, rum and bilge, a
new odour, attributed to the presence of a dead rat. Some days before,
the forecastle had been smoked out to extirpate the vermin over-running
her: a smoking that seemed to have been fatal to a rodent among the
hollow spaces in the side planks. “At midnight, the larboard watch, to
which I belonged, turned out; and instantly as every man waked, he
exclaimed at the now intolerable smell, supposed to be heightened by
the shaking up of the bilge-water, from the ship’s rolling.

“‘Blast that rat!’ cried the Greenlander.

“‘He’s blasted already,’ said Jackson, who in his drawers had crossed
over to the bunk of Miguel. ‘It’s a water-rat, shipmates, that’s dead;
and here he is’--and with that he dragged forth the sailor’s arm,
exclaiming ‘Dead as a timber-head!’

“Upon this the men rushed toward the bunk, Max with the light, which he
held to the man’s face. ‘No, he’s not dead,’ he cried, as the yellow
flame wavered for a moment at the seaman’s motionless mouth. But hardly
had the words escaped when, to the silent horror of all, two threads
of greenish fire, like a forked tongue, darted out between his lips;
and in a moment the cadaverous face was crawled over by a swarm of
worm-like flames.

“The light dropped from the hand of Max, and went out; while covered
all over with spires and sparkles of flame, that faintly crackled
in the silence, the uncovered parts of the body burned before us,
precisely like a phosphorescent shark in a midnight sea. The eyes were
open and fixed; the mouth was curled like a scroll, while the whole
face, now wound in curls of soft blue flame, wore an aspect of grim
defiance, and eternal death. Prometheus blasted by fire on the rock.

“One arm, its red shirt-sleeve rolled up, exposed the man’s name,
tattooed in vermilion, near the hollow of the middle joint; and as if
there was something peculiar in the painted flesh, every vibrating
letter burned so white that you might read the flaming name in the
flickering ground of blue.

“‘Where’s that damned Miguel?’ was now shouted down among us by the

“‘He’s gone to the harbour where they never weigh anchor,’ coughed
Jackson. ‘Come down, sir, and look.’

“Thinking that Jackson intended to beard him, the mate sprang down in
a rage; but recoiled at the burning body as if he had been shot by a
bullet. ‘Take hold of it,’ said Jackson at last, to the Greenlander;
‘it must go overboard. Don’t stand shaking there, like a dog; take
hold of it, I say!--But stop!’ and smothering it all in the blankets,
he pulled it partly out of the bunk.

“A few minutes more, and it fell with a bubble among the phosphorescent
sparkles of the sea, leaving a coruscating wake as it sank.”

After this, Melville ceased reading in the forecastle. And indeed no
other sailor but Jackson would stay in the forecastle alone, and none
would laugh or sing there: none but Jackson. But he, while the rest
would be sitting silently smoking on their chests, or on their bunks,
would look towards the nailed-up bunk of Miguel and cough, and laugh,
and invoke the dead man with scoffs and jeers.

Of Melville’s shipmates, surely this Jackson was the most remarkable: a
fit rival to Conrad’s Nigger of the Narcissus. Max and the Greenlander
were merely typical old tars. Mr. Thompson, the grave negro cook, with
his leaning towards metaphysics and his disquisitions on original sin,
together with his old crony, Lavendar the steward, with his amorous
backslidings, his cologne water, and his brimstone pantaloons, though
mildly diverting, were usual enough. Blunt, too, with his collection of
hair-oils, and his dream-book, and his flowing bumpers of horse-salts,
though picturesque, was pale in comparison with Jackson. Larry, the
old whaler, with his sentimental distaste for civilised society, was a
forerunner of Mr. H. L. Mencken; and as such, deserves a more prominent
mention. “And what’s the use of bein’ _snivelized_?” he asks Melville;
“snivelized chaps only learn the way to take on ’bout life, and snivel.
Blast Ameriky, I say. I tell ye, ye wouldn’t have been to sea here,
leadin’ this dog’s life, if you hadn’t been snivelized. Snivelization
has been the ruin on ye; and it’s sp’iled me complete: I might have
been a great man in Madagasky; it’s too darned bad! Blast Ameriky, I

But flat, stale and unprofitable seem the whole ship’s company in
comparison with the demoniacal Jackson. Sainte-Beuve, in reviewing an
early work of Cooper’s, speaks enthusiastically of Cooper’s “faculté
créatrice qui enfante et met au monde des caractères nouveaux, et
en vertu de laquelle Rabelais a produit ‘Panurge,’ Le Sage ‘Gil
Blas,’ et Richardson ‘Clarissa.’” In _The Confidence Man_ Melville
spends a chapter discussing “originality” in literature. The phrase
“quite an original” he maintains, in contempt of Sainte-Beuve, is “a
phrase, we fancy, oftener used by the young, or the unlearned, or the
untravelled, than by the old, or the well-read, or the man who has
made the grand tour.” This faculty of creating “originals”--which is,
after all, as both Melville and Flaubert clearly saw, but a quality of
observation--Melville had to an unusual degree. In this incongruous
group of striking “originals” Jackson deserves, as Melville says, a
“lofty gallows.”

“Though Tiberius come in the succession of the Cæsars, and though
unmatchable Tacitus has embalmed his carrion,” writes Melville in
the luxurious cadence of Sir Thomas Browne which some of his critics
have stigmatised as both the sign and cause of his later “madness,”
“yet do I account this Yankee Jackson full as dignified a personage
as he, and as well meriting his lofty gallows in history, even though
he was a nameless vagabond without an epitaph, and none but I narrate
what he was. For there is no dignity in wickedness, whether in purple
or rags: and hell is a democracy of devils, where all are equals. In
historically canonising on earth the condemned below, and lifting
up and lauding the illustrious damned, we do but make ensamples of
wickedness; and call upon ambition to do some great iniquity to be sure
of fame.”

When Melville came to know Jackson, nothing was left of him but the
foul lees and dregs of a man; a walking skeleton encased in a skin as
yellow as gamboge, branded with the marks of a fearful end near at
hand: “like that of King Antiochus of Syria, who died a worse death,
history says, than if he had been stung out of the world by wasps and
hornets.” In appearance he suggests Villon at the time when the gallows
spared him the death-penalty of his vices. He looked like a man with
his hair shaved off and just recovering from the yellow fever. His hair
had fallen out; his nose was broken in the middle; he squinted in one
eye. But to Melville that squinting eye “was the most deep, subtle,
infernal-looking eye that I ever saw lodged in a human head. I believe
that by good rights it must have belonged to a wolf, or starved tiger;
at any rate I would defy any oculist to turn out a glass eye half so
cold and snaky and deadly.” He was a foul-mouthed bully, and “being
the best seaman on board, and very overbearing every way, all the men
were afraid of him, and durst not contradict him or cross his path in
anything.” And what made this more remarkable was, that he was the
weakest man, bodily, of the whole crew. “But he had such an over-awing
way with him; such a deal of brass and impudence, such an unflinching
face, and withal was such a hideous mortal, that Satan himself would
have run from him.” The whole crew stood in mortal fear of him, and
cringed and fawned before him like so many spaniels. They would rub his
back after he was undressed and lying in his bunk, and run up on deck
to the cook-house to warm some cold coffee for him, and fill his pipe,
and give him chews of tobacco, and mend his jackets and trousers, and
watch and tend and nurse him every way. “And all the time he would sit
scowling on them, and found fault with what they did: and I noticed
that those who did the most for him were the ones he most abused.”
These he flouted and jeered and laughed to scorn, on occasion breaking
out in such a rage that “his lips glued together at the corners with a
fine white foam.”

His age it was impossible to tell: for he had no beard, and no wrinkles
except for small crow’s-feet about the eyes. He might have been thirty,
or perhaps fifty years. “But according to his own account, he had been
at sea ever since he was eight years old, when he first went to sea as
a cabin-boy in an Indiaman, and ran away at Calcutta.” And according to
his own account, too, he had passed through every kind of dissipation
and abandonment in the worst parts of the world. He had served in
Portuguese slavers on the coast of Africa, and with diabolical relish
would tell of the middle passage where the slaves were stowed, heel
and point, like logs, and the suffocated and dead were unmanacled and
weeded out from the living each morning before washing down the decks.
Though he was apt to be dumb at times, and would sit with “his eyes
fixed, and his teeth set, like a man in the moody madness,” yet when
he did speak his whole talk was full of piracies, plagues, poisonings,
seasoned with filth and blasphemy. “Though he never attended churches
and knew nothing of Christianity; no more than a Malay pirate; and
though he could not read a word, yet he was spontaneously an atheist
and an infidel; and during the long night watches, would enter into
arguments to prove that there was nothing to be believed; nothing to be
loved, and nothing worth living for; but everything to be hated in the
wide world. He was a Cain afloat; branded on his yellow brow with some
inscrutable curse; and going about corrupting and searing every heart
that beat near him.”

The last scene in his eventful history took place off Cape Cod, when,
in a stiff favourable breeze, the captain was impatient to make his
port before a shift of wind. Four sullen weeks previous to this had
Jackson spent in the forecastle without touching a rope. Every day
since leaving New York Jackson had seemed to be growing worse and
worse, both in body and mind. “And all the time, though his face
grew thinner and thinner, his eyes seemed to kindle more and more,
as if he were going to die out at last, and leave them burning like
tapers before his corpse.” When, after these four weeks of idleness,
Jackson, to the surprise of the crew, came up on deck, his aspect was
damp and death-like; the blue hollows of his eyes were like vaults
full of snakes; and issuing so unexpectedly from his dark tomb in the
forecastle, he looked like a man raised from the dead.

“Before the sailors had made fast the reef-tackle, Jackson was
tottering up the rigging; thus getting the start of them, and securing
his place at the extreme weather-end of the topsail yard--which in
reefing is accounted the place of honour. For it was one of the
characteristics of this man that though when on duty he would shy away
from mere dull work in a calm, yet in tempest time he always claimed
the van and would yield to none.

“Soon we were all strung along the main-topsail yard; the ship rearing
and plunging under us like a runaway steed; each man griping his
reef-point, and sideways leaning, dragging the sail over towards
Jackson, whose business it was to confine the reef corner to the yard.

“His hat and shoes were off; and he rode the yard-arm end, leaning
backward to the gale, and pulling at the earing-rope like a bridle. At
all times, this is a moment of frantic exertion with sailors, whose
spirits seem then to partake of the commotion of the elements as they
hang in the gale between heaven and earth; and then it is, too, that
they are the most profane.

“‘Haul out to windward!’ coughed Jackson, with a blasphemous cry, and
he threw himself back with a violent strain upon the bridle in his
hand. But the wild words were hardly out of his mouth when his hands
dropped to his side, and the bellying sail was spattered with a torrent
of blood from his lungs.

“As the man next him stretched out his arm to save, Jackson fell
headlong from the yard, and with a long seethe, plunged like a diver
into the sea.

“It was when the ship had rolled to windward, which, with the long
projection of the yard-arm over the side, made him strike far out upon
the water. His fall was seen by the whole upward-gazing crowd on deck,
some of whom were spotted with the blood that trickled from the sail,
while they raised a spontaneous cry, so shrill and wild that a blind
man might have known something deadly had happened.

“Clutching our reef-joints, we hung over the stick, and gazed down
to the one white bubbling spot which had closed over the head of our
shipmate; but the next minute it was brewed into the common yeast of
the waves, and Jackson never arose. We waited a few minutes, expecting
an order to descend, haul back the fore-yard, and man the boats; but
instead of that, the next sound that greeted us was, ‘Bear a hand and
reef away, men!’ from the mate.”



  “If you read of St. Peter’s, they say, and then go and visit it, ten
  to one, you account it a dwarf compared to your high-raised ideal.
  And, doubtless, Jonah himself must have been much disappointed when
  he looked up to the domed midriff surmounting the whale’s belly, and
  surveyed the ribbed pillars around him. A pretty large belly, to be
  sure, thought he, but not so big as it might have been.”

  --HERMAN MELVILLE: _Redburn_.

The merchantman on which Melville shipped was not a Liverpool liner,
or packet-ship, plying in connection with a sisterhood of packets.
She was a _regular trader_ to Liverpool; sailing upon no fixed days,
and acting very much as she pleased, being bound by no obligation of
any kind, though in all her voyages ever having New York or Liverpool
for her destination. Melville’s craft was not a greyhound, not a very
fast sailer. The swifter of the packet ships then made the passage
in fifteen or sixteen days; the _Highlander_, travelling at a more
matronly pace, was out on the Atlantic a leisurely month.

“It was very early in the month of June that we sailed,” says Melville;
“and I had greatly rejoiced that it was that time of year; for it
would be warm and pleasant upon the ocean I thought; and my voyage
would be like a summer excursion to the seashore for the benefit of
the salt water, and a change of scene and society.” But the fact was
not identical with Melville’s fancy, and before many days at sea, he
found it a galling mockery to remember that his sisters had promised
to tell all enquiring friends that he had gone “_abroad_”: “just as if
I was visiting Europe on a tour with my tutor.” Though his thirty days
at sea considerably disabused him--for the time--of the unmitigated
delights of ocean travel in the forecastle; still always in the vague
and retreating distance did he hold to the promise of some stupendous
discovery still in store. Finally, one morning when he came on deck, he
was thrilled to discover that he was, in sober fact, within sight of
a foreign land: a shore-line that in imagination he transformed into
the seacoast of Bohemia. “A foreign country actually visible!” But as
he gazed ashore, disillusion ran hot upon the heels of his romantic

“Was that Ireland? Why, there was nothing remarkable about that;
nothing startling. If _that’s_ the way a foreign country looks, I might
as well have stayed at home. Now what, exactly, I had fancied the shore
would look like, I can not say; but I had a vague idea that it would be
something strange and wonderful.”

The next land they sighted was Wales. “It was high noon, and a long
line of purple mountains lay like a bank of clouds against the east.
But, after all, the general effect of these mountains was mortifyingly
like the general effect of the Kaatskill Mountains on the Hudson River.”

It was not until midnight of the third day that they arrived at the
mouth of the Mersey. Before the following daybreak they took the first

“Presently, in the misty twilight, we passed immense buoys, and caught
sight of distant objects on shore, vague and shadowy shapes, like
Ossian’s ghosts.” And then it was that Melville found leisure to lean
over the side, “trying to summon up some image of Liverpool, to see how
the reality would answer to my concept.”

As the day advanced, the river contracted, and in the clear morning
Melville got his first sharp impression of a foreign port.

“I beheld lofty ranges of dingy ware-houses, which seemed very
deficient in the elements of the marvellous; and bore a most unexpected
resemblance to the ware-houses along South Street in New York.
There was nothing strange, nothing extraordinary about them. There
they stood; a row of calm and collected ware-houses; very good and
substantial edifices, doubtless, and admirably adapted to the ends had
in view by the builders: but yet, these edifices, I must confess, were
a sad and bitter disappointment to me.”

Melville was six weeks in Liverpool. Of this part of his adventure, he
says in _Redburn_: “I do not mean to present a diary of my stay there.
I shall here simply record the general tenor of the life led by our
crew during that interval; and will proceed to note down, at random,
my own wanderings about town, and impressions of things as they are
recalled to me now after the lapse of so many (twelve) years.”

Not the least important detail of these six weeks is the fact that
Melville and his ship-mates were very well fed at the sign of the
Baltimore Clipper. “The roast beef of Old England abounded; and so
did the immortal plum-puddings and the unspeakably capital gooseberry
pies.” Owing to the strict but necessary regulations of the Liverpool
docks, no fire of any kind was allowed on board the vessels within
them. And hence, though the sailors of the _Highlander_ slept in the
forecastle, they were fed ashore at the expense of the ship’s owners.
This, in a large crew remaining at Liverpool more than six weeks, as
the _Highlander_ did, formed no inconsiderable item in the expenses of
the voyage. The Baltimore Clipper was one of the boarding houses near
the docks which flourished on the appetite of sailors. At the Baltimore
Clipper was fed not only the crew of the _Highlander_, but, each in
a separate apartment, a variety of other crews as well. Since each
crew was known collectively by the name of its ship, the shouts of the
servant girls running about at dinner time mustering their guests must
have been alarming to an uninitiated visitor.

“Where are the _Empresses of China_?--Here’s their beef been smoking
this half-hour”--“Fly, Betty, my dear, here come the _Panthers_”--“Run,
Molly, my love; get the salt-cellars for the _Splendids_”--“You, Peggy,
where’s the _Siddons’_ pickle-pot?”--“I say, Judy, are you never coming
with that pudding for the _Sultans_?”

It was to the Baltimore Clipper that Jackson immediately led the
ship’s crew when they first sprang ashore: up this street and down
that till at last he brought them to their destination in a narrow
lane filled with boarding-houses, spirit-vaults and sailors. While
Melville’s shipmates were engaged in tippling and talking with
numerous old acquaintances of theirs in the neighbourhood who thronged
about the door, he sat alone in the dining-room appropriated to the
_Highlanders_ “meditating upon the fact that I was now seated upon an
English bench, under an English roof, in an English tavern, forming an
integral part of the British empire.”

Melville examined the place attentively. “It was a long narrow little
room, with one small arched window with red curtains, looking out upon
a smoky, untidy yard, bounded by a dingy brick wall, the top of which
was horrible with pieces of broken old bottles stuck into mortar. A
dull lamp swung overhead, placed in a wooden ship suspended from the
ceiling. The walls were covered with a paper, representing an endless
succession of vessels of all nations continually circumnavigating the
apartment. From the street came a confused uproar of ballad-singers,
bawling women, babies, and drunken sailors.”

It was during this disenchanting examination that the realisation began
to creep chillingly over Melville that his prospect of seeing the
world as a sailor was, after all, but very doubtful. It seems never
to have struck him before that sailors but hover about the edges of
terra-firma; that “they land only upon wharves and pier-heads, and
their reminiscences of travel are only a dim recollection of a chain of
tap-rooms surrounding the globe.”

Melville’s six weeks in Liverpool offered him, however, opportunity
to make slightly more extended observations. During these weeks he
was free to go where he pleased between four o’clock in the afternoon
and the following dawn. Sundays he had entirely at his own disposal.
But withal, it was an excessively limited and distorted version of
England that was open for his examination. Except for his shipmates,
his very distant cousin, the Earl of Leven and Melville and Queen
Victoria and such like notables, he knew by name no living soul in
the British Isles. And neither his companions in the forecastle,
nor the remote and elaborately titled strangers of Melville House,
offered encouragement of an easy and glowing intimacy. With but three
dollars as his net capital--money advanced him in Liverpool by the
ship--and without a thread of presentable clothing on his back, he
could not hope promiscuously to ingratiate himself either by his purse
or the adornments of his person. Thus lacking in the fundamentals of
friendship, his native charms stood him in little stead. So alone he
walked the streets of Liverpool and gratuitously saw the sights.

While on the high seas, Melville had improved his fallow hours by
poring over an old guide-book of Liverpool that had descended to him
from his father. This old family relic was to Melville cherished with
a passionate and reverent affection. Around it clustered most of the
fond associations that are the cords of man. It had been handled by
Allan amid the very scenes it described; it bore some “half-effaced
miscellaneous memoranda in pencil, characteristic of a methodical
mind, and therefore indubitably my father’s”: jottings of “a strange,
subdued, old, midsummer interest” to Melville. And on the fly-leaves
were crabbed inscriptions, and “crayon sketches of wild animals and
falling air-castles.” These decorations were the handiwork of Melville
and his brothers and sisters and cousins. Of his own contributions,
Melville says: “as poets do with their juvenile sonnets, I might write
under this horse, ‘_Drawn at the age of three years_,’ and under
this autograph, ‘_Executed at the age of eight_.’” This guide-book
was to Melville a sacred volume, and he expresses a wish that he
might immortalise it. Addressing this unpretentious looking little
green-bound, spotted and tarnished guide-book, he exclaims: “Dear book!
I will sell my Shakespeare, and even sacrifice my old quarto Hogarth,
before I will part from you. Yes, I will go to the hammer myself, ere
I send you to be knocked down in the auctioneer’s scrambles. I will,
my beloved; till you drop leaf from leaf, and letter from letter, you
shall have a snug shelf somewhere, though I have no bench for myself.”

To the earlier manuscript additions to this guide-book, Melville added,
while on the Atlantic, drawings of ships and anchors, and snatches of
Dibdin’s sea-poetry. And as he lay in his bunk, with the aid of this
antiquated volume he used to take “pleasant afternoon rambles through
the town, down St. James street and up Great George’s, stopping at
various places of interest and attraction” so familiar seemed the
features of the map. But in this vagabondage of reverie he was but
preparing for himself a poignant disillusionment. Lying in the dim,
reeking forecastle, with his head full of deceitful day-dreams, he
was being tossed by the creaking ship towards a bitter awakening. The
Liverpool of the guide-book purported to be the Liverpool of 1808. The
Liverpool of which Melville dreamed was, of course, without date and
local habitation. When Melville found himself face to face with the
solid reality of the Liverpool of 1837, he was offered an object-lesson
in mutability. As the brute facts smote in the face of his cherished
sentimentalisings, he sat his concrete self down on a particular shop
step in a certain street in Liverpool, reflected on guide-books and
luxuriated in disenchantment. “Guide-books,” he then came to see, “are
the least reliable books in all literature: and nearly all literature,
in one sense, is made up of guide-books. Old ones tell us the ways our
fathers went; but how few of those former places can their posterity
trace.” In the end he sealed his moralising by the pious reflection
that “there is one Holy Guide-Book that will never lead you astray if
you but follow it aright.” There can be no doubt that the ghost of
Allan, retracing its mundane haunts at that moment trailed its shadowy
substance through the offspring of its discarded flesh.

If this same paternal ghost, recognising its kinship with this
obstruction of blood and bone, tracked in futile affection at
Melville’s heels through Liverpool, only a posthumous survival of its
terrestrial Calvinism could have spared it an agonised six weeks; only
the sardonic optimism of a faith in predestination could have saved
Allan’s shade from consternation and fear at the chances of Melville’s
flesh. Or it may be that Allan was sent as a disembodied spectator
to haunt Melville’s wake, by way of penance for his pre-ghostly
theological errors. In any event, Melville, on occasion, took Allan
through the most hideous parts of Liverpool. Of evenings they strolled
through the narrow streets where the sailors’ boarding-houses were.
“Hand-organs, fiddlers, and cymbals, plied by strolling musicians,
mixed with the songs of seamen, the babble of women and children, and
groaning and whining of beggars. From the various boarding-houses
proceeded the noise of revelry and dancing: and from the open
casements leaned young girls and old women chattering and laughing
with the crowds in the middle of the street.” In the vicinity were
“notorious Corinthian haunts which in depravity are not to be matched
by anything this side of the pit that is bottomless.” Along Rotten-row,
Gibraltar-place and Boodle-alley Melville surveyed the “sooty and
begrimed bricks” of haunts of abomination which to Melville’s boyish
eyes (seen through the protecting lens of Allan’s ghost) had a
“reeking, Sodom-like and murderous look.” Melville excuses himself in
the name of propriety from particularising the vices of the residents
of this quarter; “but kidnappers and resurrectionists,” he declares,
“are almost saints and angels to them.”

Melville satirically pictures himself as pathetically innocent to the
iniquities of the flesh and the Devil when he left home to view the
world. He was, he says, a member both of a Juvenile Total Abstinence
Association and of an Anti-Smoking Society organised by the Principal
of his Sunday School. With dire compunctions of conscience--which had
been considerably weakened by sea-sickness--Melville had his first
swig of spirits--administered medicinally to him by a paternal old
tar,--before they were many hours out upon the Atlantic. But neither
on the high seas nor in England does he seem to have been prematurely
tempted by the bottle. And this, for the adequate reason that united
to his innocence of years, his very limited finances spared him the
solicitations of toping companions as well as the luxury of precocious
solitary tippling. Though at the beginning of the voyage he refused the
friendly offer of a cigar, he less austerely eschewed tobacco by the
time he again struck land. Melville did not, throughout his life, hold
so strictly to the puritanical prohibitions of his boyhood.


The youthful member of the Anti-Smoking Society came in later years to
be a heroic consumer of tobacco, and the happiest hours of his life
were haloed with brooding blue haze. “Nothing so beguiling,” he wrote
in 1849, “as the fumes of tobacco, whether inhaled through hookah,
narghil, chibouque, Dutch porcelain, pure Principe, or Regalia.”
On another occasion he expressed a desire to “sit cross-legged and
smoke out eternity.” And the youthful pillar of the Juvenile Total
Abstinence Association, growing in wisdom as he took on years, lived to
do regal penance for his unholy childhood pledge. His avowed refusal to
believe in a Temperance Heaven would seem to imply a conviction that it
is only the damned who never drink. In his amazing novel _Mardi_--which
won him acclaim in France as “_un Rabelais Americain_”--wine flows
in ruddy and golden rivers. And the most brilliantly fantastic
philosophising, the keenest wit of the demi-gods that lounge through
this wild novel, are concomitant upon the heroic draining of beaded
bumpers. In _Mardi_, Melville celebrates the civilising influences of
wine with the same devout and urbane affection to be found in Horace
and Meredith. On occasion, however, he seems to share Baudelaire’s
conviction that “one should be drunk always”--and drunk on wine in
the manner of the best period. He quotes with approval the epitaph
of Cyrus the Great: “I could drink a great deal of wine, and it did
me a great deal of good.” In _Clarel_ he asks: “At Cana, who renewed
the wine?” In the riotous chapter wherein “Taji sits down to Dinner
with five-and-twenty Kings, and a royal Time they have,” there is an
exuberant tilting of calabashes that would have won the esteem even of
Socrates and Pantagruel. One wonders if Rabelais, in his youth, did not
belong to some Juvenile Total Abstinence Society, or if Socrates, who
both lived and died over a cup, had not as a boy committed an equally
heinous sacrilege to Dionysus.

On board the _Highlander_ Melville was too young yet to have come to
a sense of the iniquity of the deadly virtues. He was not thereby,
however, tempted to the optimism of despair that preaches that because
God is isolated in His Heaven, all is right with the world. Even
at seventeen Melville had keenly felt that much in the world needs
mending. And at seventeen--more than at any other period--he felt
moved to exert himself to set the world aright. Ashipboard, the field
of his operations being very limited, he cast a missionary eye upon
the rum-soaked profanity and lechery of his ship-mates. “I called to
mind a sermon I had once heard in a church in behalf of sailors,”
says Melville, “when the preacher called them strayed lambs from the
fold, and compared them to poor lost children, babes in the wood, or
orphans without fathers or mothers.” Overflowing with the milk of human
kindness at the sad condition of these amiable outcasts, Melville,
during his first watch, made bold to ask one of them if he was in the
habit of going to church. The sailor answered that “he had been in
a church once, some ten or twelve years before, in London, and on a
week-day had helped to move the Floating Chapel round the Battery from
North River.” This first and last effort of Melville’s to evangelise a
shipmate ended in winning Melville hearty ridicule. “If I had not felt
so terribly angry,” he says, “I should certainly have felt very much
like a fool. But my being so angry prevented me from feeling foolish,
which is very lucky for people in a passion.” Though Melville made no
further effort to save the souls of his shipmates, his own seems not
to have been jeopardised by any hankering after the instruments of

As has been said, he was without friends, both ashipboard and later
ashore; a complete absence of companionship that on occasion inspired
him with a parched desire for some friend to whom to say “how sweet
is solitude.” He craved in his isolation, he says, “to give his whole
soul to another; in its loneliness it was yearning to throw itself
into the unbounded bosom of some immaculate friend.” In _Redburn_,
Melville spends a generous number of pages in celebrating his encounter
with a good-for-nothing but courtly youth whom he calls Harry Bolton.
“He was one of those small, but perfectly formed beings with curling
hair, and silken muscles, who seem to have been born in cocoons. His
complexion was a mantling brunette, feminine as a girl’s; his feet
were small; his hands were white; and his eyes were large, black and
womanly: and, poetry aside, his voice was as the sound of a harp.” How
much of Harry Bolton is fact, how much fiction, is impossible to tell.
The most significant thing about him is Melville’s evident affection
for him, no matter who made him. In _Redburn_, this engaging dandy
kidnaps Melville, and takes him for a mysterious night up to London:
a night spent, to Melville’s consternation, in a gambling palace of
the sort that exists only in the febrile and envious imagination of
vitriolic puritans. In his description of this escapade, Melville owes
more, perhaps, to his early spiritual guides than to any first-hand
observation. This flight to London in _Redburn_, its abrupt reversal,
and the escape to America of Harry Bolton, may, of course, all be
founded on sober fact. But there is a lack of verisimilitude in the
recounting that prompts to the suspicion that in this part of the
narrative, Melville is making brave and unconvincing concessions to
romance. Not, of course, that Melville in his youth was incapable of
the wild impetuosity of suddenly leaving his ship and running up to
London with an engagingly romantic stranger: he did more impulsive and
far more surprising things than that before he died. But his account
of this adventure in _Redburn_ reads hollow and false. Harry Bolton
must be discounted as myth until he is more cogently substantiated as

In Liverpool Melville seems to have spent his leisure in company with
his thoughts, wandering along the docks and about the city. Each
Sunday morning he went regularly to church; Sunday afternoons he spent
walking in the neighbouring country. His most vivid impressions of
Liverpool were of the terrible poverty he saw, and it is doubtful if
there is a more ruthless piece of realism in the language than his
account in _Redburn_ of the slow death through starvation of the mother
and children that Melville found lying in a cellar, and whose lives
he tried in vain to save. The green cold bodies in the morgue, the
ragpickers, the variety of criminals that haunt the shadows of the
docks: these too came in for characterisation.

The noblest sight that Melville found in England, it would seem,
was the truck-horses he saw round the docks. “So grave, dignified,
gentlemanly and courteous did these fine truck horses look--so full
of calm intelligence and sagacity, that often I endeavoured to get
into conversation with them as they stood in contemplative attitudes
while their loads were preparing.” And Melville admired the truckmen
also. “Their spending so much of their valuable lives in the high-bred
company of their horses seems to have mended their manners and improved
their taste; but it has also given to them a sort of refined and
unconscious aversion to human society.” Though Melville grew to a most
uncomplimentary rating of the human biped, he always cherished a very
deep reverence for some of his four-footed brothers. “There are unknown
worlds of knowledge in brutes,” he wrote; “and whenever you mark a
horse, or a dog, with a peculiarly mild, calm, deep-seated eye, be sure
he is an Aristotle or a Kant, tranquilly speculating upon the mysteries
in man.”

The trip back across the Atlantic, after six weeks in Liverpool,
though longer than the out-bound passage, was for Melville less of
an ordeal. He was no longer a bewildered stranger in the forecastle
or in the riggings, so he turned his eye to other parts of the ship.
It was the steerage of the _Highlander_ packed with its four or five
hundred emigrants, that gave him most bitter occasion to reflect
on the criminal nature of the universe. Because of insufficient
provisions in food for an unexpectedly prolonged voyage, the dirty
weather, and the absence of the most indispensable conveniences,
these emigrants suffered almost incredible hardships. Before they
had been at sea a week, to hold one’s head down the fore hatchway,
Melville says, was like holding it down a suddenly opened cesspool.
The noisome confinement in this close unventilated and crowded
den, and the deprivation of sufficient food, helped by personal
uncleanliness, brought on a malignant fever among the emigrants. The
result was the death of some dozens of them, a panic throughout the
ship, and a novel indulgence in spasmodic devotions. “Horrible as the
sights of the steerage were, the cabin, perhaps, presented a scene
equally despairing. Trunks were opened for Bibles; and at last, even
prayer-meetings were held over the very tables across which the loud
jest had been so often heard.”

But with the coming of fair winds and fine weather the pestilence
subsided, and the ship steered merrily towards New York. The steerage
was cleaned thoroughly with sand and water. The place was then
fumigated, and dried with pieces of coal from the gallery: so that when
the _Highlander_ streamed into New York harbour no stranger would have
imagined, from her appearance, that the _Highlander_ had made other
than a tidy and prosperous voyage. “Thus, some sea-captains take good
heed that benevolent citizens shall not get a glimpse of the true
condition of the steerage while at sea.”

As they came into the Narrows, “no more did we think of the gale and
the plague; nor turn our eyes upward to the stains of blood still
visible on the topsail, whence Jackson had fallen. Oh, he who has never
been afar, let him once go from home, to know what home is. Hurra!
Hurra! and ten thousand times hurra! down goes our anchor, fathoms down
into the free and independent Yankee mud, one handful of which was now
worth a broad manor in England.”

Melville spent the greater part of the night “walking the deck
and gazing at the thousand lights of the city.” At sunrise, the
_Highlander_ warped into a berth at the foot of Wall street, and the
old ship was knotted, stem and stern, to the pier. This knotting of
the ship was the unknotting of the bonds of the sailors; for, the ship
once fast to the wharf, Melville and his shipmates were free. So with
a rush and a shout they bounded ashore--all but Melville. He went
down into the forecastle and sat on a chest. The ship he had loathed,
while he was imprisoned in it, grew lovely in his eyes when he was
free to bid it forever farewell. In the tarry old den he sat, the only
inhabitant of the deserted ship but for the mate and the rats. He sat
there and let his eyes linger over every familiar old plank. “For the
scene of suffering is a scene of joy when the suffering is past,” he
says, inverting the reflection of Dante; “and the silent reminiscence
of hardship departed, is sweeter than the presence of delight.”
According to this philosophy, the more accumulated and overwhelming the
hardships we survive, the richer and sweeter will be the ensuing hours
of thoughtful recollection. For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.
And pleasure’s crown of pleasure is remembering sorrier things. So
indoctrinated, Melville should have viewed the concluding scene with
the captain of the _Highlander_, on the day the sailors drew their
wages, with eternal thanksgiving.

“Seated in a sumptuous arm-chair, behind a lustrous inlaid desk, sat
Captain Riga, arrayed in his City Hotel suit, looking magisterial
as the Lord High Admiral of England. Hat in hand, the sailors stood
deferentially in a semi-circle before him, while the captain held the
ship-papers in his hand, and one by one called their names; and in
mellow bank notes--beautiful sight!--paid them their wages.... The
sailors, after counting their cash very carefully, and seeing all was
right, and not a bank-note was dog-eared, in which case they would have
demanded another, salaamed and withdrew, leaving me face to face with
the Paymaster-general of the Forces.”

Melville stood awhile, looking as polite as possible, he says, and
expecting every moment to hear his name called. But no such name
did he hear. “The captain, throwing aside his accounts, lighted a
very fragrant cigar, took up the morning paper--I think it was the
_Herald_--threw his leg over one arm of the chair, and plunged into the
latest intelligence from all parts of the world.”

Melville hemmed, and scraped his foot to increase the disturbance. The
Paymaster-general looked up. Melville demanded his wages. The captain
laughed, and taking a long inspiration of smoke, removed his cigar, and
sat sideways looking at Melville, letting the vapour slowly wriggle and
spiralise out of his mouth.

“Captain Riga,” said Melville, “do you not remember that about four
months ago, my friend Mr. Jones and myself had an interview with you in
this very cabin; when it was agreed that I was to go out in your ship,
and receive three dollars per month for my services? Well, Captain
Riga, I have gone out with you, and returned; and now, sir, I’ll thank
you for my pay.”

“Ah, yes, I remember,” said the captain. “_Mr. Jones!_ Ha! Ha! I
remember Mr. Jones: a very gentlemanly gentleman; and stop--_you_, too,
are the son of a wealthy French importer; and--let me think--was not
your great-uncle a barber?”

“No!” thundered Melville, his Gansevoort temper up.

Captain Riga suavely turned over his accounts. “Hum, hum!--yes, here it
is: Wellingborough Redburn, at three dollars a month. Say four months,
that’s twelve dollars: less three dollars advanced in Liverpool--that
makes it nine dollars; less three hammers and two scrapers lost
overboard--that brings it to four dollars and a quarter. I owe you four
dollars and a quarter, I believe, young gentleman?”

“So it seems,” said Melville with staring eyes.

“And now let me see what you owe me, and then we’ll be able to square
the yards, Monsieur Redburn.”

“Owe him!” Melville confesses to thinking; “what do I owe him but a
grudge.” But Melville concealed his resentment. Presently Captain Riga
said: “By running away from the ship in Liverpool, you forfeited your
wages, which amount to twelve dollars; and there has been advanced to
you, in money, hammers and scrapers, seven dollars and seventy-five
cents; you are therefore indebted to me for precisely that sum. I’ll
thank you for the money.” He extended his open palm across the desk.

The precise nature of Melville’s eloquence at this juncture of his
career has not been recorded. Penniless, he left the ship, to trail
after his shipmates as they withdrew along the wharf to stop at a
sailors’ retreat, poetically denominated “The Flashes.” Here they all
came to anchor before the bar.

“Well, maties,” said one of them, at last--“I s’pose we shan’t see each
other again:--come, let’s splice the mainbrace all round, and drink to
the _last voyage_.”

And so they did. Then they shook hands all round, three times three,
and disappeared in couples through the several doorways.

Melville stood on the corner in front of “The Flashes” till the last
of his shipmates was out of sight. Then he walked down to the Battery,
and within a stone’s throw of the place of his birth, sat on one of the
benches, under the summer shade of the trees. It was a quiet, beautiful
scene, he says; full of promenading ladies and gentlemen; and through
the fresh and bright foliage he looked out over the bay, varied with
glancing ships. “It would be a pretty fine world,” he thought, “if I
only had a little money to enjoy it.” He leaves it ambiguous whether or
not he imbibed his optimism at “The Flashes.” Equally veiled does he
leave the mystery by which he came by the money to pay his passage on
the steamboat up to Albany: a trip he took that afternoon. “I pass over
the reception I met with at home; how I plunged into embraces, long and
loving,” he says:--“I pass over this.”

For the home we return to, is never the home that we leave, and the
more desperate the leave-taking, the more bathetic the return.



  “It is often to be observed, that as in digging for precious metals
  in the mines, much earthly rubbish has first to be troublesomely
  handled and thrown out; so, in digging in one’s soul for the fine
  gold of genius, much dulness and common-place is first brought to
  light. Happy would it be, if the man possessed in himself some
  receptacle for his own rubbish of this sort: but he is like the
  occupant of a dwelling, whose refuse cannot be clapped into his own
  cellar, but must be deposited in the street before his own door, for
  the public functionaries to take care of.”

  --HERMAN MELVILLE: _Pierre_.

The record of the next three and a half years of Melville’s life is
extremely scant. What he was doing and thinking and feeling must be
left almost completely to surmise. In the brief record of his life
preserved in the Commonplace Book of his wife, this period between
Liverpool and the South Seas is dismissed in a single sentence: “Taught
school at intervals in Pittsfield and in Greenbush (now East Albany)
N. Y.” Arthur Stedman (who got his facts largely from Mrs. Melville),
in his “Biographical and Critical Introduction” to _Typee_, slightly
enlarges upon this statement. “A good part of the succeeding three
years, from 1837 to 1840,” says Stedman, “was occupied with school
teaching. While so engaged at Greenbush, now East Albany, N. Y., he
received the munificent salary of ‘six dollars a quarter and board.’
He taught for one term at Pittsfield, Mass., ‘boarding around’ with
the families of his pupils, in true American fashion, and early
suppressing, on one memorable occasion, the efforts of his larger
scholars to inaugurate a rebellion by physical force.” J. E. A. Smith,
in his _Biographical Sketch_ already cited, dates this “memorable”
mating of pedagogy and pugilism somewhat earlier.

Besides teaching during these years, Melville was engaged in another
activity, which all of his biographers--if they knew of it at all--pass
over in decent silence: an activity to which Melville devotes a whole
book of _Pierre_.

“It still remains to be said,” says Melville, “that Pierre himself had
written many a fugitive thing, which had brought him not only vast
credit and compliments from his more immediate acquaintances, but
the less partial applauses of the always intelligent and extremely
discriminating public. In short, Pierre had frequently done that
which many other boys have done--published. Not in the imposing form
of a book, but in the more modest and becoming way of occasional
contributions to magazines and other polite periodicals. Not only
the public had applauded his gemmed little sketches of thought and
fancy; but the high and mighty Campbell clan of editors of all sorts
had bestowed upon them those generous commendations which, with one
instantaneous glance, they had immediately perceived was his due....
One, after endorsingly quoting that sapient, suppressed maxim of Dr.
Goldsmith’s, which asserts that whatever is new is false, went on to
apply it to the excellent productions before him; concluding with this:
‘He has translated the unruffled gentleman from the drawing-room into
the general levee of letters; he never permits himself to astonish; is
never betrayed into anything coarse or new; as assured that whatever
astonishes is vulgar, and whatever is new must be crude. Yes, it is the
glory of this admirable young author, that vulgarity and vigour--two
inseparable adjuncts--are equally removed from him.’”

In _Pierre_, Melville spends more than twenty-five closely printed
pages--half satirical, half of the utmost seriousness--discussing his
own literary growth: a passage of the highest critical and biographical
interest. In its satirical parts the passage is consistently
double-edged; therein, Melville ironically praises his early writing
for possessing those very defects which his maturer work was damned
for not exhibiting. It is doubtless true that his juvenile works were
“equally removed from vulgarity and vigour.” They were “characterised
throughout by Perfect Taste,” as he makes one critic observe “in an
ungovernable burst of admiring fury.” But the Perfect Taste was the
Perfect Taste of Hannah More, and Dr. Akenside, and _Lalla Rookh_. With
the publication of _Typee_, Melville was charged not only with the
crimes of vulgarity and vigour, but with the milder accompanying vices
of indecency and irreverence. His earliest writings were untouched
by any of these taints. In _Pierre_, Melville speaks of “a renowned
clerical and philological conductor of a weekly religious periodical,
whose surprising proficiency in the Greek, Hebrew and Chaldaic, to
which he had devoted by far the greater part of his life, peculiarly
fitting him to pronounce unerring judgment upon works of taste in the
English.” Melville makes this critic thus deliver himself on Pierre’s
early efforts in letters: “He is blameless in morals, and harmless
throughout.” Another “unhesitatingly recommended his effusions to the
family circle.” A third had no reserve in saying that “the predominant
end and aim of this writer was evangelical piety.” Melville is here
patently satirising the vitriolic abuse which _Typee_ and _Omoo_

Only two of Melville’s earliest effusions, written before the world had
“fairly Timonised him” are known to survive. These appeared in _The
Democratic Press and Lansingburgh Advertiser_ for May 4, and May 18,
1839. The first is signed “L. A. V.”; the second, known to exist only
in a single mutilated clipping, in lacking the closing paragraphs,
can give no evidence as to concluding signature. Copies of these two
articles are preserved among Melville’s papers, each autographed by him
in faded brown ink. The interest of the earlier paper is heightened by
this inscription, in Melville’s hand, boldly scrawled across the inner
margin: “When I woke up this morning, what the Devil should I see but
your cane along in bed with me. I shall keep it for you when you come
up here again.” It is more easy to imagine Melville’s astonishment
in waking to find such a stately novelty as a walking-stick for a
bed-fellow, than to fancy how the walking-stick found itself in such
an unusual environment. It is about as futile to inquire into the
history and meaning of this incident as soberly to debate “what songs
the sirens sang and what name Achilles bore among the daughters of the
King of Scyros.” It is certain, however, that the Sirens had little
hand in Melville’s juvenile effusions. And of this fact Melville grew
to be keenly aware. “In sober earnest,” he says in _Pierre_, “those
papers contained nothing uncommon; indeed, those fugitive things were
the veriest commonplace.” Yet as the initial literary efforts of a
man who wrote _Typee_ and _Moby-Dick_ they are intensely interesting:
interesting, like the longer prayers of St. Augustine, less because
of their content than because of the personality from which they were

What would seem to be Melville’s first published venture in letters is
here given, nearly complete.

  For the Democratic Press


  No. 1

  MY DEAR M----, I can imagine you seated on that dear, delightful,
  old-fashioned sofa; your head supported by its luxurious padding, and
  with feet perched aloft on the aspiring back of that straight limbed,
  stiff-necked, quaint old chair, which, as our facetious W---- assured
  me, was the identical seat in which old Burton composed his Anatomy
  of Melancholy. I see you reluctantly raise your optics from the
  huge-clasped quarto which encumbers your lap, to receive the package
  which the servant hands you, and can almost imagine that I see those
  beloved features illumined for a moment with an expression of joy,
  as you read the superscription of your gentle protégé. Lay down I
  beseech you that odious black-lettered volume and let not its musty
  and withered leaves sully the virgin purity and whiteness of the
  sheet which is the vehicle of so much good sense, sterling thought,
  and chaste and elegant sentiment.

  You remember how you used to rate me for my hang-dog modesty, my
  _mauvaise honte_, as my Lord Chesterfield would style it. Well!
  I have determined that hereafter you shall not have occasion to
  inflict upon me those flattering appellations of “Fool!” “Dolt!”
  “Sheep!” which in your indignation you used to shower upon me, with a
  vigour and a facility which excited my wonder, while it provoked my

  And how do you imagine that I rid myself of this annoying hindrance?
  Why, truly, by coming to the conclusion that in this pretty corpus of
  mine was lodged every manly grace; that my limbs were modelled in
  the symmetry of the Phidian Jupiter; my countenance radiant with the
  beams of wit and intelligence, the envy of the beaux, the idol of the
  women and the admiration of the tailor. And then my mind! why, sir, I
  have discovered it to be endowed with the most rare and extraordinary
  powers, stored with universal knowledge, and embellished with every
  polite accomplishment.

  Pollux! what a comfortable thing is a good opinion of one’s self when
  I walk the Broadway of our village with a certain air, that puts me
  down at once in the estimation of any intelligent stranger who may
  chance to meet me, as a _distingué_ of the purest water, a blade of
  the true temper, a blood of the first quality! Lord! how I despise
  the little sneaking vermin who dodge along the street as though they
  were so many footmen or errand boys; who have never learned to carry
  the head erect in conscious importance, but hang that noblest of
  the human members as though it had been boxed by some virago of an
  Amazon; who shuffle along the walk with a quick uneasy step, a hasty
  clownish motion, which by the magnitude of the contrast, set off to
  advantage my own slow and magisterial gait, which I can at pleasure
  vary to an easy, abandoned sort of carriage, or to the more engaging
  alert and lively walk, to suit the varieties of time, occasion, and

  And in society, too--how often have I commiserated the poor wretches
  who stood aloof, in a corner, like a flock of scared sheep; while
  myself, beautiful as Apollo, dressed in a style which would extort
  admiration from a Brummel, and belted round with self-esteem as with
  a girdle, sallied up to the ladies--complimenting one, exchanging a
  repartee with another; tapping this one under the chin, and clasping
  this one round the waist; and finally, winding up the operation by
  kissing round the whole circle to the great edification of the fair,
  and to the unbounded horror, amazement and ill-suppressed chagrin of
  the aforesaid sheepish multitude; who with eyes wide open and mouths
  distended, afforded good subjects on whom to exercise my polished
  wit, which like the glittering edge of a Damascus sabre “dazzled all
  it shone upon.”

       *       *       *       *       *

  By my halidome, sir, this same village of Lansingburgh contains
  within its pretty limits as fair a set of blushing damsels as one
  would wish to look upon on a dreamy summer day!--When I traverse
  the broad pavements of my own metropolis, my eyes are arrested
  by beautiful forms flitting hither and thither; and I pause to
  admire the elegance of their attire, the taste displayed in their
  embellishments; the rich mass of the material; and sometimes, it may
  be, at the loveliness of the features, which no art can heighten and
  no negligence conceal.

  But here, sir, here--where woman seems to have erected her throne,
  and established her empire; here, where all feel and acknowledge her
  sway, she blooms in unborrowed charms; and the eye undazzled by the
  profusion of extraneous ornament, settles at once upon the loveliest
  faces which our clayey natures can assume.

       *       *       *       *       *

  Nor, my dear M., does there reign in all this bright display,
  that same monotony of feature, form, complexion, which elsewhere
  is beheld; no, here are all varieties, all the orders of Beauty’s
  architecture; the Doric, the Ionic, the Corinthian, all are here.

  I have in “my mind’s eye, Horatio,” three (the number of the Graces,
  you remember) who may stand, each at the head of their respective

       *       *       *       *       *

  When I venture to describe the second of this beautiful trinity,
  I feel my powers of delineation inadequate to the task; but
  nevertheless I will try my hand at the matter, although like an
  unskilful limner, I am fearful I shall but scandalise the charms I
  endeavour to copy.

  Come to my aid, ye guardian spirits of the Fair! Guide my awkward
  hand, and preserve from mutilation the features ye hover over and
  protect! Pour down whole floods of sparkling champagne, my dear
  M----, until your brain grows giddy with emotion; con over the
  latter portion of the first Canto of Childe Harold, and ransack your
  intellectual repository for the loveliest visions of the Fairy Land,
  and you will be in a measure prepared to relish the epicurean banquet
  I shall spread.

  The stature of this beautiful mortal (if she be indeed of earth) is
  of that perfect height which, while it is freed from the charge of
  being low, cannot with propriety be denominated tall. Her figure is
  slender almost to fragility but strikingly modelled in spiritual
  elegance, and is the only form I ever saw which could bear the trial
  of a rigid criticism.

  Every man who is gifted with the least particle of imagination, must
  in some of his reveries have conjured up from the realms of fancy,
  a being bright and beautiful beyond everything he had ever before
  apprehended, whose main and distinguishing attribute invariably
  proves to be a form the indescribable loveliness of which seems to

  “--Sail in liquid light,
  And float on seas of bliss.”

  The realisation of these seraphic visions is seldom permitted us; but
  I can truly say that when my eyes for the first time fell upon this
  lovely creature, I thought myself transported to the land of Dreams,
  where lay embodied, the most brilliant conceptions of the wildest
  fancy. Indeed, could the Promethean spark throw life and animation
  into the Venus de Medici, it would but present the counterpart of

  Her complexion has the delicate tinge of the Brunett, with a little
  of the roseate hue of the Circassian; and one would swear that none
  but the sunny skies of Spain had shone upon the infancy of the being,
  who looks so like her own “dark-glancing daughters.”

       *       *       *       *       *

  And then her eyes! they open their dark, rich orbs upon you like the
  full moon of heaven, and blaze into your very soul the fires of day!
  Like the offerings laid upon the sacrificial altars of the Hebrew,
  when in an instant the divine spark falling from the propitiated
  God kindled them in flames; so, a single glance from that Oriental
  eye as quickly fires your soul, and leaves your bosom in a perfect
  conflagration! Odds Cupids and Darts! with one broad sweep of vision
  in a crowded ball-room, that splendid creature would lay around
  her like the two-handed sword of Minotti, hearts on hearts, piled
  round in semi-circles! But it is well for the more rugged sex that
  this glorious being can vary her proud dominion, and give to the
  expression of her eye a melting tenderness which dissolves the most
  frigid heart and heals the wounds she gave before.

  If the devout and exemplary Mussulman who dying fast in the faith of
  his Prophet anticipates reclining on beds of roses, gloriously drunk
  through all the ages of eternity, is to be waited on by Houris such
  as these: waft me ye gentle gales beyond this lower world and

  “Lap me in soft Lydian airs!”

  But I am falling into I know not what extravagances, so I will
  briefly give you a portrait of the last of these three divinities,
  and will then terminate my tiresome lucubrations.

       *       *       *       *       *

  Here, my dear M----, closes this catalogue of the Graces, this
  chapter of Beauties, and I should implore your pardon for trespassing
  so long on your attention. If you, yourself, in whose breast may
  possibly be extinguished the amatory flame, should not feel an
  interest in these three “counterfeit presentments,” do not fail to
  show them to ---- and solicit her opinion as to their respective

  Tender my best acknowledgments to the Major for his prompt attention
  to my request, and, for yourself, accept the assurance of my
  undiminished regard; and hoping that the smiles of heaven may
  continue to illuminate your way,

  I remain, ever yours,
      L. A. V.

These “chaste and elegant sentiments” are, surely, “embellished with
every polite accomplishment.” Melville called down the Nine Gods, and a
host of minor deities; he ransacked Athens, Rhodes, Cyprus, Circassia,
Lydia, Lilliputia, Damascus, this world and the next, for geographical
adornments; he called up Burton, Shakespeare, Scott, Byron, Milton,
Coleridge and Chesterfield, as well as Prometheus and Cinderella,
Mahomet and Cleopatra, Madonnas and Houris, Medici and Mussulman,
to strew carelessly across his pages. “Not in vain,” says Melville
of the idealisation of himself in the character of Pierre, “had he
spent long summer afternoons in the deep recesses of his father’s
fastidiously picked and decorous library.” Not in vain, either, had
he been submitted to three years of elementary drill in the classics
at the Albany Academy. “Not that as yet his young and immature soul
had been accosted by the wonderful Mutes, and through the vast halls
of Silent Truth, had been ushered into the full, secret, eternally
inviolable Sanhedrim, where the Poetic Magi discuss, in glorious
gibberish, the Alpha and Omega of the Universe,” says Melville; “but
among the beautiful imaginings of the second and third degree of
poets he freely and comprehendingly ranged.” Melville was always a
wide if desultory reader, more and more interested after the manner
of Sir Thomas Browne, and the Burton with reference to whom he began
his career in letters, in “remote and curious illusions, wrecks of
forgotten fables, antediluvian computations, obsolete and unfamiliar
problems, riddles that no living Œdipus would care to solve.” And this
preoccupation--first made manifest in _Mardi_ (1849)--must always stand
in the way of his most typical writings ever becoming widely popular.
His earliest known piece of juvenile composition is interesting as
revealing the crude beginnings of one of the manners superbly mastered
in parts of _Moby-Dick_. This early effusion, by revealing so crudely
the defects of his qualities, reads as a dull parody of one of his most
typical later manners.

With a Miltonic confidence in his own gifts, Melville came to view
these earlier pieces as the first “earthly rubbish” of his “immense
quarries of fine marble.” Melville goes on to say that “no commonplace
is ever effectually got rid of, except by essentially emptying one’s
self of it into a book; for once trapped into a book, then the book can
be put into the fire and all will be well.” “But they are not always
put into the fire,” he said with regret. And because of his own laxity
in cremation, his crude first fruits stalk abroad to accuse him.

At this early period, Melville had nothing very significant to say; but
he seems to have been urged to say it with remorseless pertinacity.
In _Pierre_, he satirises his youthful and reckless prolixity where
he speaks of his manuscripts as being of such flying multitudes that
“they were to be found lying all round the house; gave a great deal of
trouble to the housemaids in sweeping; went for kindlings to the fires;
and forever flitting out of the windows, and under the doorsills, into
the faces of people passing the manorial mansion.”

Having nothing very particular to write about, he followed an ancient
tradition, and wrote of love. In _Pierre_, which is Melville’s
spiritual autobiography, and in _Pierre_ alone, does Melville
elaborately busy himself with romantic affection. And in _Pierre_,
his is no sugared and conventional preoccupation. He traces his own
development through the love-friendship of boyhood, the miscellaneous
susceptibility of adolescence, to a crucifixion in manhood between the
images of his wife and his mother. His first _Fragment from a Writing
Desk_ seems to have been conceived at a time before his “innumerable
wandering glances settled upon some one specific object.”

His second _Fragment from a Writing Desk_ concerns itself with an
allegorical quest of elusive feminine loveliness: a kind of _Coelebs
in Search of a Wife_, allegorised and crossed with _Lalla Rookh_.
It survives, as has been said, only as a fragment of a Fragment.
Its conclusion must remain a mystery until some old newspaper file
disgorges its secrets. It begins as follows:

  For the Democratic Press


  No. 2

  “Confusion seize the Greek!” exclaimed I, as wrathfully rising from
  my chair, I flung my ancient Lexicon across the room and seizing
  my hat and cane, and throwing on my cloak, I sallied out into the
  clearer air of heaven. The bracing coolness of an April evening
  calmed my aching temples, and I slowly wended my way to the river
  side. I had promenaded the bank for about half an hour, when
  flinging myself upon the grassy turf, I was soon lost in revery, and
  up to the lips in sentiment.

  I had not lain more than five minutes, when a figure effectually
  concealed in the ample folds of a cloak, glided past me, and hastily
  dropping something at my feet, disappeared behind the angle of an
  adjoining house, ere I could recover from my astonishment at so
  singular an occurrence.

  “Cerbes!” cried I, springing up, “here is a spice of the marvellous!”
  and stooping down, I picked up an elegant little, rose-coloured,
  lavender-scented billet-doux, and hurriedly breaking the seal (a
  heart, transfixed with an arrow) I read by the light of the moon, the


  If my fancy has painted you in genuine colours, you will on the
  receipt of this, incontinently follow the bearer where she will lead


“The deuce I will!” exclaimed I,--“But soft!”--And I re-perused this
singular document, turned over the billet in my fingers, and examined
the hand-writing, which was femininely delicate, and I could have sworn
was a woman’s. Is it possible, thought I, that the days of romance are
revived?--No, “The days of chivalry are over!” says Burke.

As I made this reflection, I looked up, and beheld the same figure
which had handed me this questionable missive, beckoning me forward.
I started towards her; but, as I approached, she receded from me,
and fled swiftly along the margin of the river at a pace which,
encumbered as I was with my heavy cloak and boots, I was unable to
follow; and which filled me with sundry misgivings, as to the nature
of the being, who could travel with such amazing celerity. At last,
perfectly breathless, I fell into a walk; which, my mysterious fugitive
perceiving, she likewise lessened her pace, so as to keep herself still
in sight, although at too great a distance to permit me to address

The hero hastens after his guide but always she eludes him. Piqued by
her repeated escapes, he stops in a rage, and relieves his feelings
in “two or three expressions that savoured somewhat of the jolly
days of the jolly cavaliers.” And under the circumstances, he felt
fully justified in his profanity. “What! to be thwarted by a woman!
Peradventure; baffled by a girl? Confusion! It was too bad! To be
outwitted, generated, routed, defeated, by a mere rib of the earth? It
could not be borne!” Recovering his temper, he followed his capricious
guide out of the town, into a shadowy grove to “an edifice, which
seated on a gentle eminence, and embowered amidst surrounding trees,
bore the appearance of a country villa.”

“The appearance of this spacious habitation was anything but inviting;
it seemed to have been built with a jealous eye to concealment; and its
few, but well-defended windows were sufficiently high from the ground,
as effectually to baffle the prying curiosity of the inquisitive
stranger. Not a single light shone from the narrow casement; but all
was harsh, gloomy and forbidding. As my imagination, ever alert on
such an occasion, was busily occupied in assigning some fearful motive
for such unusual precautions, my leader suddenly halted beneath a
lofty window, and making a low call, I perceived slowly descending
therefrom, a thick silken cord, attached to an ample basket, which
was silently deposited at our feet. Amazed at this apparition, I was
about soliciting an explanation: when laying her fingers impressively
upon her lips, and placing herself in the basket, my guide motioned
me to seat myself beside her. I obeyed; but not without considerable
trepidation: and in obedience to the same low call which had procured
its descent, our curious vehicle, with sundry creakings, rose in air.”

This airy jaunt terminated, of course, in an Arabian Nights exterior,
which Melville particularises after the “voluptuous” traditions of
_Vathek_ and _Lalla Rookh_. “The grandeur of the room,” of course,
“served only to show to advantage the matchless beauty of its inmate.”
This matchless beauty was, after established tradition, “reclining
on an ottoman; in one hand holding a lute.” Her fingers, too, “were
decorated with a variety of rings, which as she waved her hand to me
as I entered, darted forth a thousand coruscations, and gleamed their
brilliant splendours to the sight.”

“As I entered the apartment, her eyes were downcast, and the expression
of her face was mournfully interesting; she had apparently been lost
in some melancholy revery. Upon my entrance, however, her countenance
brightened, as with a queenly wave of the hand, she motioned my
conductress from the room, and left me standing, mute, admiring and
bewildered in her presence.”

“For a moment my brain spun round, and I had not at command a single of
my faculties. Recovering my self-possession, however, and with that, my
good-breeding, I advanced en cavalier and, gracefully sinking on one
knee, I bowed my head and exclaimed ‘Here do I prostrate myself, thou
sweet Divinity, and kneel at the shrine of thy--’”

But here, just at the climax of the quest, the clipping is abruptly
torn, and the reader is left cruelly suspended.

From the publication of _Lalla Rookh_, in 1817, to the publication
of Thackeray’s _Our Street_ in 1847, there settled upon letters and
life in England an epidemic of hankering for the exotic. At the
instigation of _Lalla Rookh_, England made a prim effort to be “purely
and intensely Asiatic,” and this while delicately avoiding “the
childishness, cruelty, and profligacy of Asia.” In the fashionable
literature of the period, the harem and the slave-market unburdened its
gazelles and its interior decorations, and by a resort to divans and
coruscating rubies, and ottar of roses, and lutes, and warm panting
maidens, the “principled goodness” of Anglo-Saxon self-righteousness
was thrilled to a discreet voluptuousness.

In his second _Fragment_, Melville has caught at some of the drift-wood
of this great tidal wave that was washed across the Atlantic. And in
acknowledgment of this early indebtedness, he in _Pierre_ speaks of
Tom Moore with an especial burst of enthusiasm, mating him with Hafiz,
Anacreon, Catullus and Ovid.

Reared in a New England environment that had been soberly tempered by
Mrs. Chapone and Mrs. Barbauld, Melville had, under the goadings of
poverty, the frustrations of his environment, and the teasing lure of
some stupendous discovery awaiting him at the rainbow’s end, plunged
into the hideousness of life in the forecastle of a merchantman.
At both extremes of his journey he reaped only disillusion. As a
practically penniless sailor in Liverpool he enjoyed the freedom of
the streets: and the architecture of the city impressed him less
than did the sights of the poverty and viciousness to which he was
especially exposed. Back he came to Lansingburg, to the old pump in the
yard, the stiff-corseted decorum, and the threadbare and pretentious
proprieties of his mother, to decline into the enforced drudgery
of teaching school. The sights of Liverpool and the forecastle had
given no permanent added beauty to home. He did not comfortably fit
into any recognised socket of New England respectability. He sought
escape in books, in amateur authorship. And Burton, and Anacreon,
and Tom Moore are not guaranteed to reconcile a boy in ferment to a
tame and repugnant environment. He was like a strong wine that clears
with explosive violence. He had been to sea once, and there acquired
some skill as a sailor. The excitement and hardship and downrightness
of ocean life, when viewed through the drab of the ensuing years,
treacherously suffered a sea-change. After three and a half years of
mounting desperation, he was ripe for a transit clean beyond the pale
of civilisation.

“I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote,” he later
wrote in an effort to explain his second hegira; “I love to sail
forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.” The trip to Liverpool
had slammed the sash on one magic casement; but the greater part of the
watery world was still to be viewed. “Why,” he asks himself perplexed
at his own mystery, “is almost every healthy boy with a robust healthy
soul, at some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why did the old
Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate
deity, and own brother to Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning.
And still deeper the story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp
the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and
was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and
oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is
the key to all.” The key he here offers to the heart of his mystery is
itself locked in mystery; though when he compared himself to Narcissus
tormented by the irony of being two, Melville may have been hotter on
the trail of the truth than he was aware. His deepest insight, perhaps,
came to him one midnight, out on the Pacific, where in the glare and
the wild Hindoo odour of the tryworks of a whaler in full operation,
he fell asleep at the helm. “Starting from a brief standing sleep,” he
says, “I was horribly conscious of something fatally wrong. I thought
my eyes were open; I was half conscious of putting my fingers to the
lids and mechanically stretching them still further apart. But, spite
of all this, I could see no compass before me to steer by. Nothing
seemed before me but a jet of gloom, now and then made ghastly by
flashes of redness. Uppermost was the impression, that whatever swift,
rushing thing I stood on was not so much bound to any haven ahead as
rushing from all havens astern.”

In a headlong retreat from all havens astern, on January 3, 1841,
Melville shipped on board the _Acushnet_, a whaler bound for the South



  “And, as for me, if, by any possibility, there be any as yet
  undiscovered prime thing in me; if I shall ever deserve any real
  repute in that small but high hushed world which I might not be
  unreasonably ambitious of; if hereafter I shall do anything that,
  upon the whole, a man might rather have done than to have left
  undone; if, at my death, my executors, or more properly my creditors,
  find any precious MSS. in my desk, then here I prospectively ascribe
  all the honour and the glory to whaling; for a whale-ship was my Yale
  College and my Harvard.”

  --HERMAN MELVILLE: _Moby-Dick_.

In 1892, the year after Melville’s death, Arthur Stedman wrote a
“Biographical and Critical Introduction” to _Typee_. During the final
years of Melville’s sedulous isolation, Arthur Stedman was--with the
minor exception of the late Dr. Titus Munson Coan, whose Missionary
parentage Melville seems never to have quite forgiven him--the single
man who clung to Melville with any semblance of personal loyalty.
Stedman was unwavering in his belief that in his earlier South
Sea novels, Melville had attained to his highest achievement: an
achievement that entitled Melville to more golden opinions, Stedman
believed, than Melville ever reaped from a graceless generation. To
Stedman--as to Dr. Coan--Melville’s later development into mysticism
and metaphysics was a melancholy perversity to be viewed with a
charitable forbearance, and forgiven in the fair name of Fayaway.
Dr. Coan repeatedly used to recount, with a sigh at his frustration,
how he made persistent attempts to inveigle Melville into Polynesian
reminiscences, always to be rebuffed by Melville’s invariable
rejoinder: “That reminds me of the eighth book of Plato’s _Republic_.”
This was a signal for silence and leave-taking. What was the staple
of Stedman’s conversation is not known. But despite the fact that
Melville was to him a crabbed and darkly shadowed hieroglyph, he clung
to Melville with a personal loyalty at once humorous and pathetic.
Melville to him was the “man who lived with the cannibals,” and
merited canonisation because of this intimacy with unholy flesh.
Stedman published in the New York _World_ for October 11, 1891,
a tribute to his dead friend, significantly headed: _“Marquesan”
Melville. A South Sea Prospero who Lived and Died in New York. The
Island Nymphs of Nukuheva’s Happy Valley._ While Stedman was not
necessarily responsible for this caption, it is, nevertheless, a just
summary of the fullest insight he ever got into Melville’s life and
works. The friendship between Petrarch and Boccaccio is hardly less
humorous than the relationship between Melville and Stedman; and surely
Melville has suffered more, in death, if not in life, from the perils
of friendship than did Petrarch: more even than did Baudelaire from the
damaging admiration of Gautier. When one’s enemy writes a book, one’s
reputation is less likely to be jeopardised by literary animosity than
it is by the best superlatives of self-appointed custodians of one’s
good name. But as Francis Thompson has observed, it is a principle
universally conceded that, since the work of a great author is said to
be a monument, the true critic does best evince his taste and sense
by cutting his own name on it. Critical biographers have contrived
a method to hand themselves down to posterity through the gods of
literature, as did the Roman emperors through the gods of Olympus--by
taking the heads off their statues, and clapping on their own instead.
Criticism is a perennial decapitation.

“I have a fancy,” says Stedman, in his _Biographical and Critical
Introduction_, “that it was the reading of Richard Henry Dana’s _Two
Years Before the Mast_ which revived the spirit of adventure in
Melville’s breast. That book was published in 1840, and was at once
talked of everywhere. Melville must have read it at the time, mindful
of his own experience as a sailor. At any rate, he once more signed
a ship’s articles, and on January 1, 1841, sailed from New Bedford
harbour in the whaler _Acushnet_, bound for the Pacific Ocean and the
sperm fishery.”

In the second part of this statement, Stedman attempts to stick to the
letter: but there is a flaw in his text. That Melville sailed in the
_Acushnet_ is corroborated by a statement in the journal of Melville’s
wife; in the record surviving in Melville’s handwriting, headed “what
became of the ship’s company on the whaleship _Acushnet_, according
to Hubbard, who came back in her (more than a four years’ voyage) and
visited me in Pittsfield in 1850;” as well as by surviving letters
written by Richard Tobias Greene, the Toby of _Typee_.

The roster of Melville’s ship is preserved in Alexander Starbuck’s
bulky _History of the American Whale Fishery from its Earliest
Inception to the Year 1876_ (published by the author, Waltham, Mass.,
1878). Starbuck rates the _Acushnet_ as a ship of 359 tons, built in
1840. Her managing owners are reported as having been Bradford Fuller &
Co. Under command of Captain Pease she sailed from Fairhaven, bound for
the whaling grounds of the Pacific, on January 3, 1841, and returned to
Fairhaven on May 13, 1845, laden with 850 barrels of sperm oil, 1350
barrels of whale oil, and 13500 pounds of whale-bone. On July 18, 1845,
she started upon her second voyage, under command of Captain Rogers, to
return June 7, 1848, stocked with 500 barrels of sperm oil, 800 barrels
of whale oil, and 6000 pounds of whale-bone. On December 4, 1847, she
had a boat stove by a whale, with the loss of the third mate and four
of the crew. Her third voyage, begun August 31, 1848, under command
of Captain Bradley, was her last. As by some malicious fatality, the
_Acushnet_ was lost on St. Lawrence Island on August 31, 1851, within a
month of the time when Melville brought _Moby-Dick_ to its tragic close.

Between Stedman’s and Starbuck’s accounts of the time and place of
Melville’s sailing there is a discrepancy of half a mile and two days.
This discrepancy, however, does not necessarily impugn Stedman’s
accuracy. Fairhaven is just across the Acushnet river from New
Bedford, and “sailing from New Bedford” may be like “sailing from New
York”--which is often in reality “sailing from Hoboken.”

Stedman dates Melville’s sailing January 1; Starbuck, January 3.
Melville launches the hero of _Moby-Dick_ neither from New Bedford nor
from Fairhaven, but from Nantucket. Ishmael begins his fatal voyage
aboard the _Pequod_ on December 25; and there is a fitting irony in
the fact that on the day that celebrates the birth of the Saviour
of mankind, the _Pequod_ should sail forth to slay Moby-Dick, the
monstrous symbol and embodiment of unconquerable evil.

That Dana’s book should have fired Melville to an impetuous and
romantic jaunt to the South Seas, though an ill-favoured statement, is
Stedman’s very own. When a boy concludes the Christmas holidays by a
mid-winter plunge into the filthy and shabby business of whaling; when
a young man inaugurates the year not among the familiar associations
of the gods of his hearth, but among semi-barbarous strangers of the
forecastle of a whaler: to make such a shifting of whereabouts a sign
of jolly romantic exuberance, is engagingly naïve in its perversity.

Just what specific circumstances were the occasion of Melville’s escape
into whaling will probably never be known: what burst of demoniac
impulse, either of anger, or envy, or spite; what gnawing discontent;
what passionate disappointment; what crucifixion of affection; what
blind impetuosity; what sinister design. But in the light of his
writings and the known facts of his life it seems likely that his
desperate transit was made in the mid-winter of his discontent. That
the reading of Dana’s book should have filled his head with a mere
adolescent longing for brine-drenched locomotion and sent him gallantly
off to sea is a surmise more remarkable for simplicity than insight.

Melville never wearies of iterating his “itch for things remote.” Like
Thoreau, he had a “naturally roving disposition,” and of the two men it
is difficult to determine which achieved a wider peregrination. It was
Thoreau’s proud boast: “I have travelled extensively in Concord.” He
believed that Concord, with its sylvan environment, was a microcosm “by
the study of which the whole world could be comprehended,” and so, this
wildest of civilised men seldom strayed beyond its familiar precincts.
His was a heroic provincialism, that cost him little loss either in
worldliness or in wisdom. Though his head went swimming in the Milky
Way, his feet were well-rooted in New England sod. “One world at a
time” was the programme he set himself for digesting the universe: and
he looked into the eyes of this world with cold stoical serenity.

Melville made no such capitulation with reality. Between the obdurate
world of facts and his ardent and unclarified desires there was always,
to the end of his life, a blatant incompatibility. Alongside the hard
and cramping world of reality, and in more or less sharp opposition
to it, he set up a fictitious world, a world of heart’s desire; and
unlike Thoreau, he hugged his dream in jealous defiance of reality.
It is, of course, an ineradicable longing of man to repudiate the
inexorable restrictions of reality, and return to the happy delusion
of omnipotence of early childhood, an escape into some land of heart’s
desire. Goethe compared the illusions that man nourishes in his breast
to the population of statues in ancient Rome which were almost as
numerous as the population of living men. Most men keep the boundaries
between these two populations distinct: a separation facilitated by the
usual dwindling of the ghostly population. Flaubert once observed that
every tenth-rate provincial notary had in him the debris of a poet.
As Wordsworth complains, as we grow away from childhood, the vision
fades into the light of common day. Thoreau clung to his visions; but
they were, after all, cold-blooded and well-behaved visions. And by
restricting himself to “one world at a time,” by mastering his dream,
he mastered reality. Alcott declared that Thoreau thought he dwelt in
the centre of the universe, and seriously contemplated annexing the
rest of the planet to Concord. The delicacy of the compliment to the
rest of the planet has never been adequately appreciated. Melville’s
more violent and restive impulses never permitted him to feel any
such flattering attachment to his whereabouts, whether it was Albany,
Liverpool, Lima, Tahiti or Constantinople. Like Rousseau, who confessed
himself “burning with desire without any definite object,” Melville
always felt himself an exile from the seacoast of Bohemia. But his
nostalgia, his indefinite longing for the unknown, was not, in any
literal sense, “homesickness” at all. As Aldous Huxley has observed:

  “Those find, who most delight to roam
  ’Mid castles of remotest Spain
  That there’s, thank Heaven, no place like home
  So they put out upon their travels again.”

That Melville came to no very pleasant haven of refuge in the
forecastle of the _Acushnet_ is borne out by his drastic preference
to be eaten by cannibals rather than abide among the sureties of the
ship and her company. That he “left the ship, being oppressed with hard
fare and hard usage, in the summer of 1842 with a companion, Richard T.
Greene (Toby) at the bay of Nukuheva in the Marquesas Islands” is the
statement in the journal of his wife vividly elaborated in _Typee_.

Of Melville’s history aboard the _Acushnet_ there is no straightforward
account. _Redburn_, _Typee_, _Omoo_ and _White-Jacket_ are transparent
chapters in autobiography. From his experiences on board the _Acushnet_
Melville draws generously in _Moby-Dick_: but these experiences do
not for one moment pretend to be the whole of the literal truth. Only
an insanity as lurid as Captain Ahab’s would mistake _Moby-Dick_ for
a similarly reliable report of personal experiences. _Moby-Dick_ is,
indeed, an autobiography of adventure; but adventure upon the highest
plane of spiritual daring. Incidentally, it also offers the fullest,
and truest, and most readable history of an actual whaling cruise
ever written. But it is not a “scientific” history. The “scientific”
historian, proudly unreadable, thanks God that he has no style to tempt
him out of the strict weariness of counting-house inventories; and in
despair of presenting the truth, he boasts a make-shift veracity. The
truest historians are, of course, the poets--and their histories are
“feigned.” Melville, writing in the capacity of poet, was licensed in
the best interests of truth to expurgate reality. And though Captain
Ahab’s hunt of the abhorred Moby-Dick belongs as essentially to the
realm of poetry as does the quest of the Holy Grail, it is, withal, in
its lower reaches, so broadly based on a foundation of solid reality
that it is possible, by considering _Moby-Dick_ in double conjunction
with the few facts explicitly known of Melville during the period
of his whaling cruise, and the wealth of facts known of whaling in
general, to block in, with a considerable degree of certainty, the
contours of his experiences aboard the _Acushnet_.

By all odds, the chief chapter in the history of whaling is the story
of its rise and practical extinction in the Southern New England
States. In this limited geographical area, trade in “oil and bone” was
pursued with an alacrity, an enterprise and a prosperity unparalleled
in the world’s history. When, in 1841, Melville boarded the _Acushnet_,
American whaling, after a development through nearly two centuries,
was within a decade of its highest development, within two decades of
its precipitous decay. The doom of whale-oil lamps and sperm candles
was ultimately decided in 1859 with the opening of the first oil well
in Pennsylvania, and sealed by the Civil War. Melville knew American
whaling at the prime of its golden age, and taking it at its crest, he
raised it in fiction to a dignity and significance incomparably higher
than it ever reached in literal fact.

At the beginning of _Moby-Dick_, Melville culls from the most
incongruous volumes an anthology of comments upon Leviathan, beginning
with the Mosaic comment “And God created great whales,” and ending,
after eclectic quotations from Pliny, Lucian, Rabelais, Sir Thomas
Browne, Spenser, Hobbes, Bunyan, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Paley,
Blackstone, Hawthorne, Daniel Webster, Darwin, and dozens of others
(including an excerpt “From ‘Something’ Unpublished”) ends on the old
whale song:

  “Oh, the rare old whale, mid storm and gale
  In his ocean home will be
  A giant in might, where might is right,
  And King of the boundless sea.”

Rather than conventionally distribute his quotations throughout the
book as chapter headings, Melville offers them all in a block at the
beginning of the volume, somewhat after the manner of Franklin’s grace
said over the pork barrel. And extraordinarily effective is this
device of Melville’s in stirring the reader’s interest to a sense of
the wonder and mystery of this largest of all created live things, of
the wild and distant seas wherein he rolls his island bulk; of the
undeliverable, nameless perils of the whale with all the attending
marvels of a thousand Patagonian sights and sounds. Even before the
reader comes to the superb opening paragraph of _Moby-Dick_, the great
flood-gates of the wonder-world are swung open, and into his inmost
soul, as into Melville’s, “two by two there float endless processions
of the whale, and midmost of them all, one grand hooded phantom, like
a snow hill in the air.”

The literature of whaling slopes down from _Moby-Dick_, both before and
after, into a wilderness of several hundred volumes.

There is but one attempt at a comprehensive history of whaling: Walter
S. Tower’s _A History of the American Whale Fishery_ (Philadelphia,
1907). This slender volume first makes a rapid survey of the sources
and proceeds from these to a cautious selection of the outstanding
documented facts which by “economic interpretation” it presents as
a consecutive story. Devoid of literary pretension, it is admirable
in accuracy, compactness and clarity. The most comprehensive popular
treatment of American whaling is to be found in Hyatt Verrill’s _The
Real Story of the Whaler_ (1916): a more exuberant but less workmanly
book than Tower’s. Representative shorter surveys are to be found both
in Winthrop L. Martin’s very able _The American Merchant Marine_ (1902)
and Willis J. Abbot’s _American Merchant Ships and Sailors_ (1902).

Although the literature of whaling extends by repeated dilutions from
“economic interpretations” to infant books, the classical sources for
this extended literature tally less than a score. The great work on
the _Fisheries and Fishing Industries of the United States_, prepared
under the direction of G. Brown Goode in 1884, contains two articles
on whaling of the first magnitude of importance: _Whalemen, Vessels,
Apparatus and Methods of the Whale Fishery_ and a _History of the
Present Condition of the Whale Fishery_. The facts presented in these
last two encyclopædic treatments are drawn principally from Alexander
Starbuck’s _History of the American Whale Fishery from Its Earliest
Inception to the Year 1874_, published in 1876, and C. M. Scammon’s
_Marine Mammals of the North Western Coast of North America, with an
Account of the American Whale Fishery_, published in 1874. Lorenzo
Sabine’s _Report on the Principal Fisheries of the American Seas_,
published in 1870, while prior to the monumental works of Starbuck and
Scammon in date of publication, enjoys no other priority. The most
complete and detailed treatment of the origin and early development
of whaling is to be found in William Scoresby’s _An Account of the
Arctic Regions_, dated 1820. Scoresby--“the justly renowned,” according
to Melville; “the excellent voyager”--was an English naval officer,
and in his discussion of the whale fishery he deals solely with the
European and principally with the British industry. But Scoresby’s book
is principally a classic as regards the earlier history of whaling.
Scoresby seems to have convinced all later historians in this field of
the folly of further research. Melville knew Scoresby’s book--“I honour
him for a veteran,” Melville confesses--and drew from its erudition in
_Moby-Dick_. Obed Macy’s _History of Nantucket_, published in 1836, is
one of the few important original sources for the history of whaling,
and the most readable. Melville expresses repeated indebtedness
to Macy. Macy’s record has the tang of first-hand experience, and
the flavour of local records. Because of the fact that many of the
records from which this fine old antiquary of whales drew have since
been destroyed by fire, his book enjoys the heightened authority of
being a unique source. According to Anatole France, the perplexities
of historians begin where events are related by two or by several
witnesses, “for their evidence is always contradictory and always
irreconcilable.” The fire at Nantucket blazed a royal road to truth.
Daniel Ricketson, in his _History of New Bedford_ (1850) attempted to
emulate Macy. And though Ricketson’s sources, as Macy’s, have been
largely destroyed by fire, his authority, though irrefutable in so far
as it goes, is less detailed and comprehensive.


[Illustration: SOUNDING]

Of published personal narrative of whale-hunting, Owen Chase’s
_Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Ship Wreck of the
Whale Ship Essex of Nantucket_, published in 1821, as well as F. D.
Bennett’s two-volume _Narrative of a Voyage Round the World_, published
1833-36, were drawn from by Melville in _Moby-Dick_. The account of
the sinking of the _Essex_ is important as being the source from which
Melville borrowed, with superb transformation, the catastrophe with
which he closes _Moby-Dick_. The sinking of the _Essex_--recounted
in _Moby-Dick_--is the first and best known instance of a ship being
actually sent to the bottom by the ramming of an infuriated whale,
and in its sequel it is one of the most dreadful chapters of human
suffering in all the hideous annals of shipwreck. “I have seen Owen
Chase,” Melville says in _Moby-Dick_, “who was chief mate of the
_Essex_ at the time of the tragedy: I have read his plain and faithful
narrative: I have conversed with his son; and all within a few miles
of the scene of the tragedy.” Melville may here be using a technique
learned from Defoe.

Though in _Moby-Dick_ Melville makes several references to J. Ross
Browne’s _Etchings of a Whaling Cruise, with Notes on a Sojourn on
the Island of Zanzibar_, mildly praising some of his drawings while
reprobating their reproduction, he owes no debt to J. Ross Browne.
Melville and Browne wrote of whaling with purposes diametrically
opposed. Melville gloried in the romance of whales, and horsed on
Leviathan, through a briny sunset dove down through the nether-twilight
into the blackest haunted caverns of the soul. Browne provokes no such
rhetorical extravagance of characterisation. He sat soberly and firmly
down on a four-legged chair before a four-legged desk and wrote up his
travels. “My design,” he says, “is simply to present to the public
a faithful delineation of the life of a whaleman. In doing this, I
deem it necessary that I should aim rather at the truth itself than
at mere polish of style.” So Browne made a virtue of necessity, and
convinced that “history scarcely furnishes a parallel for the deeds of
cruelty” then “prevalent in the whale fishery,” he sent his book forth
“to show in what manner the degraded condition of a portion of our
fellow-creatures can be ameliorated.” In a study of Melville’s life,
Browne is important as presenting an ungarnished account of typical
conditions aboard a whaler at the time Melville was cruising in the
_Acushnet_. Useful in the same way are R. Delano’s _Wanderings and
Adventures; Being a Narrative of Twelve Years’ Life in a Whaleship_
(1846) and Captain Davis’ spirited overhauling of his journal kept
during a whaling trip, published in 1872 under the title _Nimrod of the

Though whales and Pilgrim Fathers would, at first blush, seem to belong
to two mutually repugnant orders of nature, yet were they, by force
of circumstance, early thrown into a warring intimacy. And strangely
enough, in this armed alliance, it was the whale who made the first
advances. Richard Mather, who came to Massachusetts Bay colony in 1635,
records in his journal, according to Sabine, the presence off the New
England coast of “mighty whales spewing up water in the air like the
smoke of a chimney ... of such incredible bigness that I will never
wonder that the body of Jonah could be in the belly of a whale.” From
this and other evidence it seems undoubted that in early colonial days
whales were undaunted by the strict observances of the Pilgrims, and
browsed in great numbers, even on Sabbath, within the sight of land.
Yet, despite this open violation of Scripture, the resourceful Puritan
pressed them into the service of true religion. Believing that

  Whales in the sea
  God’s voice obey,

they tolerated leviathan as an emissary more worthy than Elijah’s
raven. And whenever an obedient whale, harkening to the voice of God
in the wilderness, was cast ashore, a part of his bulk was fittingly
appropriated for the support of the ministry.

Tower establishes the fact that among the first colonists there were
men at least acquainted with, if not actually experienced in whaling.
And it is quite generally accepted that the settlement of Massachusetts
was prompted not only by a protestant determination to worship God
after the dictates of a rebellious conscience, but by a no less firm
determination to vary Sunday observances with the enjoyment on secular
days of unrestricted fishing. As a result of this double Puritan
interest in worship and whaling, the history of the American whaling
fishery begins almost with the settlement of the New England colonies.

By the end of the seventeenth century, whaling was established as a
regular business, if still on a comparatively small scale, in the
different Massachusetts colonies, especially from Cape Cod; from the
towns at the eastern end of Long Island, and from Nantucket. With the
very notable exceptions of New London, Connecticut, and New Bedford and
the neighbouring ports in Buzzard’s Bay, every locality subsequently
to become important in its whaling interests was well launched in
this enterprise before 1700. New London did not begin whaling until
the middle of the eighteenth century. New Bedford, though almost the
last place to appear as a whaling port--and this immediately before
the Revolution--was destined to stand, within a century after its
beginnings in whaling, the greatest whaling port the world has ever
known, the city which, in the full glory of whaling prosperity, would
send out more vessels than all other American ports combined.

The earliest colonial adventurers in whaling were men who by special
appointment were engaged to be on the lookout for whales cast ashore.
Emboldened by commerce with drift-whales, these Puritan whalemen soon
took to boats to chase and kill whales which came close in, but which
were not actually stranded.

In 1712, through the instrumentality of Christopher Hussey, Providence
utilised a hardship to His creature to work a revolution in whaling.
Hussey, while cruising along the coast, was caught up by a strong
northerly wind, and despite his prayers and his seamanship was blown
out to sea. When the sky cleared, Hussey’s craft was nowhere to be
seen by the anxious watchers on shore. After awaiting his return for a
decent number of days, his wife and neighbours at home gave him up as
lost. But in the middle of their tribulations, a familiar sail dipped
over the horizon, and Hussey slowly headed landward, dragging a dead
sperm whale in tow: the first sperm whale known to have been taken by
an American whaler.

Hussey’s exploit marked a radical change in whaling methods. All
Nantucket lusted after sperm whales. The indomitable islanders began
immediately to fit vessels, usually sloops of about thirty tons, to
whale out in the “deep.” These little vessels were fitted out for
cruises of about six weeks. On their narrow decks there was no room for
the apparatus necessary to “try out” the oil. So the blubber stripped
from the whale was cast into the hold, the oil awaiting extraction
until the vessel returned. Then the reeking whale fat, its stench
smiting the face of heaven, was transferred to the huge kettles of
the “try houses.” There is an old saying that a nose that is a nose
at all can smell a whaler twenty miles to windward. The New England
indifference to the stenches of whaling suggests that the Puritan
contempt for the flesh was not a virtue but a deformity.

Other whaling communities ventured out after the sperm whale in the
wake of Nantucket. Year after year the colonial whalemen pushed further
and further out into the “deep” as their gigantic quarry retreated
before them. In 1774, Captain Uriah Bunker, in the brig _Amazon_ of
Nantucket, made the first whaling voyage across the equinoctial line to
the Brazil Banks and, according to local tradition, returned to port
with a “full ship” on April 19, 1775, just as the redcoats were in full
retreat from Concord Bridge.

The Revolutionary War dealt a terrific blow to American whaling.
Massachusetts was regarded as the hotbed of the Revolutionary spirit,
and that colony was also the centre of the fishing industries. Hence,
in 1775, “to starve New England,” Parliament passed the famous act
restricting colonial trade to British ports, and placing an embargo
on fishing on the Banks of Newfoundland or on any other part of the
North American coast. It was this same measure which inspired Burke in
his Speech on _Conciliation_ to his superbly eloquent tribute to the
exploits of the American whalemen. When the war began there were in
the whole American fleet between three and four hundred vessels--of an
aggregate of about thirty-three thousand tons. The annual product of
this fleet was, according to Starbuck’s estimate, “probably at least
45,000 barrels of spermaceti oil, and 8,500 barrels of right whale oil,
and of bone nearly or quite 75,000 pounds.” Of all whaling communities,
the island of Nantucket held out most stoutly,--aided by Melville’s
grandfather, who was sent to Nantucket in command of a detachment to
watch the movements of the British fleet. Yet when the war ended in
1783, Macy says that of the one hundred and fifty Nantucket vessels,
only two or three old hulks remained. In Nantucket, the money loss
exceeded one million dollars. So many of the young and active men
perished in the war that in the eight hundred Nantucket families there
were two hundred and two widows and three hundred and forty-two orphan

But even in the face of such prodigal disaster, the fiery spirit of
Nantucket was unquenchable. When the news came of the peace of 1783,
the _Bedford_, just returned to Nantucket from a voyage, was hastily
laden with oil and cleared for London. This was, as a contemporary
London newspaper remarks, “the first vessel which displayed the
thirteen rebellious stripes of America in any British port.”

Through the four decades following the Revolutionary War, the American
whale fishery lived a precarious existence of constant ups and downs.
The whaling voyages were greatly lengthened during this period,
however. In 1789 Nantucket whalemen first went hunting the sperm whale
off Madagascar, and in 1791 six whaleships fitted out at Nantucket for
the Pacific Ocean.

The years between 1820 and 1835 were marked mainly by stable conditions
and by a steady but gradual growth. In 1820 the Pacific whaling was
extended to the coast of Japan, and within the next few years the
whalers were going to all parts of the South Sea and Indian Ocean. And
these years marked, too, the falling of Nantucket from her hundred
years of pre-eminence in whaling, and the emergence of New Bedford as
incomparably the greatest whaling port in the history of the world. It
was a Nantucket whaler, however, who in 1835 captured the first right
whale on the northwest coast of America, thereby opening one of the
most important grounds ever visited by the whaling fleet.

The Golden Age of whaling falls between 1835 and 1860. In 1846 the
whaling fleet assumed the greatest proportions it was ever to know. In
that year, the fleet numbered six hundred and eighty ships and barks,
thirty-four brigs, and twenty-two schooners, with an aggregate of
somewhat over two hundred and thirty thousand tons. The value of the
fleet alone at that time exceeded twenty-one million dollars, while all
the investments connected with the business are estimated, according
to Tower, at seventy million dollars, furnishing the chief support of
seventy thousand persons. This great industry, so widespread in its
operation, emanated, at the time of its most extensive development,
from a cluster of thirty-eight whaling ports distributed along the
southern New England coast from Cape Cod to New York, and on the
islands to the south. The greatest of all the whaling ports, from 1820
onward, was New Bedford.

During the really great days of the whale fishery, the Pacific was by
all odds the chief fishing ground. During the early eighteen-thirties,
the Nantucket fleet began cruising mainly in the Pacific, and after
1840, the Nantucket whalers hunted there almost exclusively. The
Nantucket fleet was soon followed by the majority of the New Bedford
fleet, and a large proportion of the New London and Sag Harbor vessels.

These vessels, manned by a mixed company of Quakers, farm boys, and a
supplementary compound of the dredgings of the terrestrial globe, would
usually be gone for three years, not infrequently for four or five.
As long as the craft held, and the food lasted, and an empty barrel
lay in the hold, the captain kept to the broad ocean, eschewing both
the allurements of home and the seductions of tattooed Didoes. When
at last they sailed into the harbour of their home ports, weed-grown,
storm-beaten, patched and forlorn, they usually looked, as Verrill
says, more like the ghosts of ancient wrecks than seaworthy carriers of
precious cargo manned by crews of flesh and blood. After a few months
of repair and overhauling in port, these vessels were refitted for
another cruise, and off they sailed again for another space of years.
It thus happened that the veteran whalers of Nantucket and New Bedford
and the sister ports could look back upon whole decades of their lives
spent cruising upon the high seas: a fact that Melville amplifies with
a cadence he learned from the Psalms. Of the Nantucketer he says: “For
the sea is his; he owns it, as Emperors own empires; other seamen
having but a right of way through it. He alone resides and riots on
the sea; he alone, in Bible language, goes down to it in ships; to and
fro ploughing it as his own special plantation. _There_ is his home;
_there_ lies his business, which a Noah’s flood would not interrupt,
though it overwhelmed all the millions in China. He lives on the sea,
as prairie cocks on the prairie; he hides among the waves, he climbs
them as chamois hunters climb the Alps. For years he knows not the
land; so that when he comes to it at last, it smells like another
world, more strangely than the moon would to an earthsman. With the
landless gull, that at sunset folds her wings and is rocked to sleep
between billows; so at nightfall, the Nantucketer, out of sight of
land, furls his sails, and lays him to his rest, while under his very
pillow rush herds of walruses and whales.”

The number of supplies, and the variety of articles required in fitting
out a whaling ship for a cruise, was, of course, prodigious. For aside
from the articles required in whaling, it was necessary that a whaling
vessel should sail prepared for any emergency, and equipped to be
absolutely independent of the rest of the world for years at a time,
housekeeping upon the wide ocean, far from all grocers, costermongers,
doctors, bakers and bankers. Aside from the necessary whaling
equipment, there were needed supplies for the men, ship’s stores and a
dizzy number of incidentals: “spare boats, spare spars, and spare lines
and harpoons, and spare everythings, almost, but a spare Captain and a
duplicate ship.... While other hulls are loaded down with alien stuff,
to be transferred to foreign wharves, the world-wandering whale-ship
carries no cargo but herself and crew, their weapons and their wants.
She has a whole lake’s contents bottled in her ample hold. She is
ballasted with utilities. Hence it is, that, while other ships may have
gone to China from New York, and back again, touching at a score of
ports, the whale-ship, in all that interval, may not have sighted one
grain of soil; her crew having seen no man but floating seamen like
themselves. So that did you carry them the news that another flood had
come; they would answer--‘Well, boys, here’s the ark!’” N. H. Nye, a
New Bedford outfitter, published in 1858 an inventory of _Articles for
a Whaling Voyage_: a shopping list totalling some 650 entries, useful
once to whalers with fallible memories, useful now to landsmen with
lame imaginations.

When, from such a port as Nantucket or New Bedford, a whaling vessel
was preparing to sail, there would be no house, perhaps, without some
interest in the cruise. Each took a personal pride in the success of
the whalers: a pride clinched by the economic dependence of nearly
every soul in the community upon the whalemen’s luck. During the
time of continual fetching and carrying preparatory to the sailing
in _Moby-Dick_, no one was more active, it will be remembered, than
Aunt Charity Bildad, that lean though kind-hearted old Quakeress of
indefatigable spirit. “At one time she would come on board with a
jar of pickles for the steward’s pantry; another time with a bunch
of quills for the chief mate’s desk, where he kept his log; a third
time with a roll of flannel for the small of some one’s rheumatic
back.” Hither and thither she bustled about, “ready to turn her hand
and her heart to anything that promised to yield safety, comfort
and consolation to all on board a ship in which her beloved brother
Bildad was concerned, and in which she herself owned a score or two of
well-saved dollars.” Nor did she forsake the ship even after it had
been hauled out from the wharf. She came off in the whaleboat with a
nightcap for the second mate, her brother-in-law, and a spare Bible for
the steward. Such were the conditions in whaling-towns like Nantucket
or New Bedford that there was nothing remarkable in Aunt Charity’s
behaviour. In such communities, “whale was King.” The talk of the
street was, as Abbot observes, of big catches and the price of oil and
bone. The conversation in the shaded parlours, where sea-shell, coral,
and the trophies of Pacific cruises were the chief ornaments, was,
in an odd mixture of Quaker idiom, of prospective cruises or of past
adventures, of distant husbands and sons, the perils they braved, and
when they might be expected home. Col. Joseph C. Hart, in his _Miriam
Coffin, or the Whale Fishermen: a Tale_ (1834) offers perhaps the
truest and most vivid picture of life in Nantucket when whaling was at
its prime. Speaking of himself in the third person in the dedication,
Hart describes his book as being “founded on facts, and illustrating
some of the scenes with which he was conversant in his earlier days,
together with occurrences with which he is familiar from tradition and
association.” Though reprinted in California in 1872, _Miriam Coffin_
is now very difficult to come by. It should be better known.

The extended voyages of the American whaleman were made in heavy,
bluff-bowed and “tubby” crafts that were designed with fine contempt
for speed, comfort or appearance. In writing of Nantucket whaling
during the period about 1750, Macy says: “They began now to employ
vessels of larger size, some of 100 ton burden, and a few were
square-rigged.” For over a century thereafter the changes in whaling
vessels were almost solely in size. With the opening of the Pacific,
the longer voyages and the desire for larger cargoes led, as a
necessary result, to the employment of larger vessels. The first
Nantucket ship sailing to the Pacific in 1791 was of 240-ton burden.
By 1826, Nantucket had seventy-two ships carrying over 280 tons each,
and before 1850 whalers of 400 to 500 tons burden were not unusual. The
_Acushnet_, it will be remembered, was rated as a ship of 359 tons.

The vessels used in whaling, built, as has been said, less with a view
to speed than to carrying capacity, had a characteristic architecture.
The bow was scarce distinguishable from the stern by its lines, and the
masts stuck up straight, without that rake which adds so much to the
trim appearance of a clipper. Three peculiarities chiefly distinguished
the whalers from other ships of the same general character. (1) At each
mast head was fixed the “crow’s-nest”--in some vessels a heavy barrel
lashed to the mast, in others merely a small platform laid on the
cross-trees, with two hoops fixed to the mast above, within which the
look-out could stand in safety. Throughout Melville’s experiences at
sea, in the merchant marines, in whalers, and in the navy, it appears
that his happiest moments were spent on mast-heads. (2) On the deck,
amidships, stood the “try-works,” brick furnaces holding two or three
great kettles, in which the blubber was reduced to odourless oil. (3)
Along each rail were heavy, clumsy wooden cranes, or davits, from which
hung the whale boats--never less than five, sometimes more--while still
others were lashed to the deck. For these boats were the whales’ sport
and playthings, and seldom was a big “fish” made fast without there
being work made for the ship’s carpenter.

As for the crow’s-nest, and the business of standing mast-heads,
Melville has more than a word to say. As Sir Thomas Browne wrote in the
_Garden of Cyrus_ of “the Quincuncial Lozenge, or Net-Work Plantations
of the Ancients, Artificially, Naturally, Mystically Considered,” to
find, as Coleridge remarks, “quincunxes in heaven above, quincunxes in
earth below, quincunxes in the mind of man, quincunxes in tones, in
optic nerves, in roots of trees, in leaves, in everything,” so Melville
finds the visible and invisible universe a symbolic prefiguring of all
the detailed peculiarities of whaling. In the town of Babel he finds
a great stone mast-head that went by the board in the dread gale of
God’s wrath; and in St. Simon Stylites, he discovers “a remarkable
instance of a dauntless stander-of-mast-heads, who was not to be driven
from his place by fogs or frosts, rain, hail, or sleet; but valiantly
facing everything out to the last, literally died at his post.” And in
Napoleon upon the top of the column of Vendome, in Washington atop his
pillar in Baltimore, as in many another man of stone or iron or bronze,
he sees standers of mast-heads.

In most American whalemen, the mast-heads were manned almost
simultaneously with the vessel’s leaving her port; and this even though
she often had fifteen thousand miles, and more, to sail before reaching
her proper cruising ground. And if, after a three, four, or five years’
voyage, she found herself drawing near home with empty casks, then her
mast-heads were frequently kept manned, even until her skysail-poles
sailed in among the spires of her home port.

The three mast-heads were kept manned from sunrise to sunset, the
seamen taking regular turns (as at the helm) and relieving each other
every two hours, watching to catch the faint blur of vapour whose
spouting marks the presence of a whale. “There she blows! B-l-o-o-ws!
Blo-o-ows!” was then sung out from the mast-head: the signal for the

As for Melville, he tries to convince us he kept very sorry watch,
as in the serene weather of the tropics, he perched “a hundred feet
above the silent decks, striding along the deep, as if the masts were
gigantic stilts, while beneath you and between your legs, as it were,
swim the huge monsters of the deep, even as ships once sailed between
the boots of the famous Colossus of old Rhodes.” There, through his
watches, he used to swing, he says, “lost in the infinite series of the
sea, with nothing ruffled but the waves. The tranced ship indolently
rolls; the drowsy trade winds blow; everything resolves you into
languor.” “I used to lounge up the rigging very leisurely, resting in
the top to have a chat with Queequeg, or any one else off duty whom I
might find there; then ascending a little way further, and throwing a
lazy leg over the topsail yard, take a preliminary view of the watery
pastures, and so at last mount to my ultimate destination.” According
to Melville’s own representation, the _Acushnet_ was not a pint of oil
richer for all his watching in the thought-engendering altitude of
the crow’s-nest. He admonishes all ship-owners of Nantucket to eschew
the bad business of shipping “romantic, melancholy, absent-minded
young men, disgusted with the cankering cares of earth”: young men
seeking sentiment--as did he--in tar and blubber. “Childe Harold not
infrequently perches himself upon the mast-head of some luckless
disappointed whaleship,” he warns prosaic ship-owners, “young men
hopelessly lost to all honourable ambition,” and indifferent to the
selling qualities of “oil and bone.” It is well both for Melville and
Captain Pease, the testy old skipper of the ship _Acushnet_, that he
could not see into the head of Melville as he hung silently perched in
his dizzy lookout. “Lulled into such an opium-like listlessness of
vacant, unconscious reverie is this absent-minded youth by the blending
cadence of waves with thoughts, that at last he loses his identity;
takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of that
deep, blue, bottomless soul, pervading mankind and nature; and every
strange, half-seen, gliding, beautiful thing that eludes him; every
dimly-discovered, uprising fin of some undiscernible form, seems to
him the embodiment of those elusive thoughts that only people the soul
by continually flitting through it. In this enchanted mood, thy spirit
ebbs away to whence it came; becomes diffused through time and space;
like Cranmer’s sprinkled Pantheistic ashes, forming at last a part of
every shore the round globe over.”

When, from the mast-head, eyes less abstracted than Melville’s
sighted a whale, the daring and excitement of the ensuing pursuit in
the whale-boats left Melville less occasion, during such energetic
intervals, to luxuriate in high mysteries. And it seems likely that
Melville was of more value to the ship’s owners when in a whale-boat
than riding the mast-head.

Through long years of whaling these boats had been developed until
practical perfection had been reached. Never has boat been built
which for speed, staunchness, seaworthiness and hardiness excels the
whaleboat of the Massachusetts whalemen. These mere cockleshells, sharp
at both ends and clean-sided as a mackerel, were about twenty-seven
feet long by six feet beam, with a depth of twenty-two inches amidships
and thirty-seven inches at the bow and stern. These tiny clinker-built
craft can ride the heaviest sea, withstand the highest wind, resist
the heaviest gale. Incredible voyages have been made in these whaling
boats, not the least remarkable being the three months’ voyage of two
boats that survived the wreck of the _Essex_ in 1819, or the even
more remarkable six months’ voyage of the whaling boat separated from
the _Janet_ in 1849. In _Mardi_ Melville describes a prolonged voyage
in a whale-boat. In this account Melville takes one down to the very
plane of the sea. He is speaking from experience when he says: “Unless
the waves, in their gambols, toss you and your chip upon one of their
lordly crests, your sphere of vision is little larger than it would be
at the bottom of a well. At best, your most extended view in any one
direction, at least, is in a high slow-rolling sea; when you descend
into the dark misty spaces, between long and uniform swells. Then,
for the moment, it is like looking up and down in a twilight glade,
interminable; where two dawns, one on each hand, seem struggling
through the semi-transparent tops of the fluid mountains.”

Of his first lowering in pursuit of a whale, he says in _Moby-Dick_:
“It was a sight full of quick wonder and awe! The vast swells of
the omnipotent sea; the surging, hollow roar they made, as they
rolled along the eight gunwales, like gigantic bowls in a boundless
bowling-green; the brief suspended agony of the boat, as it would tip
for an instant on the knife-like edge of the sharper waves, that seemed
almost threatening to cut it in two; the sudden profound dip into the
watery glens and hollows; the keen spurrings and goadings to gain the
top of the opposite hill; the headlong, sled-like slide down its other
side:--all these, with the cries of the headsmen and harpooners, and
the shuddering gasps of the oarsmen, and wondrous sight of the ivory
_Pequod_ bearing down upon her boats with outstretched sails, like a
wild hen after her screaming brood;--all this was thrilling. Not the
raw recruit, marching from the bosom of his wife into the fever heat
of his first battle; not the dead man’s ghost encountering the first
unknown phantom in the other world,--neither of these can feel stranger
and stronger emotions than that man does, who for the first time finds
himself pulling into the charmed, churned circle of the hunted sperm

After this first lowering, Melville returned to the ship to indulge
in the popular nautical diversion of making his will. This ceremony
concluded, he says he looked round him “tranquilly and contentedly,
like a quiet ghost with a clean conscience sitting inside the bars of
a snug family vault. Now then, thought I, unconsciously rolling up the
sleeves of my frock, here goes for a cool, collected dive at death and
destruction, and the devil fetch the hindmost.”

In _Moby-Dick_, whales are sighted, chased, and captured; nor does
Melville fail to give detailed accounts of these activities or of the
ensuing “cutting in” and the “trying” of the oil. One of the most
vivid scenes in _Moby-Dick_ is the description of the “try-works” in

“By midnight,” says Melville, “the works were in full operation.
We were clean from the carcass; sail had been made; the wind was
freshening; the wild ocean darkness was intense. But that darkness was
licked up by the fierce flames, which at intervals forked forth from
the sooty flues, and illuminated every rope in the rigging, as with
the famed Greek fire.... The hatch, removed from the top of the works,
now afforded a wide hearth in front of them. Standing on this were
the Tartarean shapes of the pagan harpooners, always the whaleship’s
stokers. With huge pronged poles they pitched hissing masses of blubber
into the scalding pots, or stirred up the fires beneath, till the
snaky flames darted, curling, out of the doors to catch them by the
feet. The smoke rolled away in sullen heaps. To every pitch of the
ship there was a pitch of the boiling oil, which seemed all eagerness
to leap into their faces. Opposite the mouth of the works, on the
further side of the wide wooden hearth, was the windlass. This served
for a sea-sofa. Here lounged the watch, when not otherwise employed,
looking into the red heat of the fire, their tawny features, now all
begrimed with smoke and sweat, their matted beards, and the contrasting
barbaric brilliancy of their teeth, all these strangely revealed in the
capricious emblazonings of the works. As they narrated to each other
their unholy adventures, their tales of terror told in words of mirth;
their uncivilised laughter forked upwards out of them, like the flames
from the furnace: to and fro, in their front, the harpooners wildly
gesticulated with their huge pronged forks and dippers; the wind howled
on, and the sea leaped, and the ship groaned and dived, yet steadfastly
shot her red hell further and further into the blackness of the sea and
the night; and scornfully champed, and viciously spat round her on all
sides.” During this scene Melville stood at the helm, “and for long
silent hours guarded the way of this fire-ship on the sea. Wrapped, for
that interval, in darkness myself, I but the better saw the redness,
the madness, the ghastliness of others. The continual sight of the
fiend shapes before me, capering half in smoke and half in fire these
at last begat kindred visions in my soul, so soon as I began to yield
to that unaccountable drowsiness which ever would come over me at a
midnight helm.”

In a chapter on dreams, in _Mardi_, one of the wildest chapters
Melville ever wrote, and the one in which he profoundly searched into
the heart of his mystery, he compares his dreams to a vast herd of
buffaloes, “browsing on to the horizon, and browsing on round the
world; and among them, I dash with my lance, to spear one, ere they all
flee.” In this world of dreams, “passing and repassing, like Oriental
empires in history,” Melville discerned, “far in the background, hazy
and blue, their steeps let down from the sky, Andes on Andes, rooted on
Alps; and all round me, long rolling oceans, roll Amazons and Orinocos;
waver, mounted Parthians; and to and fro, toss the wide woodlands:
all the world an elk, and the forest its antlers. Beneath me, at the
equator, the earth pulses and beats like a warrior’s heart, till I know
not whether it be not myself. And my soul sinks down to the depths,
and soars to the skies; and comet-like reels on through such boundless
expanses, that methinks all the worlds are my kin, and I invoke them to
stay in their course. Yet, like a mighty three decker, towing argosies
by scores, I tremble, gasp, and strain in my flight, and fain would
cast off the cables that hamper.”

On that night that Melville drowsed at the helm of the _Acushnet_ while
she was “freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and burning a
corpse, and plunging into that blackness of blackness” his soul sank
deep into itself, and he seems to have awakened to recognise in the
ship that he drowsily steered, the material counterpart of the darkest
mysteries of his own soul. It was then that he awoke to be “horribly
conscious” that “whatever swift rushing thing I stood on was not so
much bound to any haven ahead as rushing from all havens astern.” And
in reflecting upon that insight Melville plunges into the lowest abyss
of disenchantment. “The truest of men was the Man of Sorrows,” he says,
“and the truest of all books is Solomon’s, and Ecclesiastes is the fine
hammered steel of woe. All is vanity. All.... He who ... calls Cowper,
Young, Pascal, Rousseau, poor devils all of sick men; and throughout
a care-free lifetime swears by Rabelais as passing wise, and therefore
jolly; not that man is fitted to sit down on tombstones, and break the
green damp mould with unfathomably wondrous Solomon.”

The greatest of all dreamers conquer their dreams; others, who are
great, but not of the greatest, are mastered by them, and Melville
was one of these. There is a passage in the works of Edgar Allan Poe
that Melville may well have pondered when he awoke at the helm of the
_Acushnet_ after looking too long into the glare of the fire: “There
are moments when, even to the sober eye of reason, the world of our sad
humanity may assume the semblance of a hell; but the imagination of man
is no Carathes to explore with impunity its every cavern. All the grim
legion of sepulchral terrors cannot be regarded as altogether fanciful;
but, like the demons in whose company Afrasiab made his voyage down the
Oxus, they must sleep or they will devour us--they must be suffered to
slumber or we perish.”



  “At the battle of Breviex in Flanders, my glorious old gossiping
  ancestor Froissart informs me, ten good knights, being suddenly
  unhorsed, fell stiff and powerless to the plain, fatally encumbered
  by their armour. Whereupon the rascally burglarious peasants, their
  foes, fell to picking their visors; as burglars, locks; as oystermen
  oysters; to get at their lives. But all to no purpose. And at last
  they were fain to ask aid of a blacksmith; and not till then were
  the inmates of the armour despatched. Days of chivalry these, when
  gallant chevaliers died chivalric deaths! Yes, they were glorious
  times. But no sensible man, given to quiet domestic delights, would
  exchange his warm fireside and muffins, for a heroic bivouac, in a
  wild beechen wood, of a raw gusty morning in Normandy; every knight
  blowing his steel-gloved fingers, and vainly striving to cool his
  cold coffee in his helmet.”


It was the same Edmund Burke who movingly mourned the departure of
the epic virtues of chivalry, who in swift generalities celebrated
the heroic enterprise of the hunters of leviathan. But Burke viewed
both whaling and knight-errantry from a safe remove of time or place,
and the crude everyday realities of each he smothered beneath billows
of gorgeous generalisation. Burke offers a notable instance wherein
romance and rhetoric conspired to glorify two human activities that
are glorious only in expurgation. Piracy is picturesque in its
extinction, and to the snugly domesticated imagination there is both
virtue and charm in cut-throats and highwaymen. Even the perennial
newspaper accounts of massacre and rape doubtless serve to keep sweet
the blood of many a benevolent pew-holder. The incorrigible tendency
of the imagination to extract sweet from the bitter, honey from the
carcass of the lion, makes an intimate consideration of the filthy
soil from which some of its choicest illusions spring, downright
repugnant to wholesomemindedness. Intimately considered, both whaling
and knight-errantry were shabby forms of the butchering business. Their
virtues were but the nobler vices of barbarism: vices that take on a
semblance of nobility only when measured against the deadly virtues of
emasculated righteousness. In flight from the deadly virtues, Melville
was precipitated into the reeking barbarism of the forecastle of a
whaling ship. Whaling he applied as a counter-irritant to New England
decorum, and he seems to have smarted much during the application. He
was blessed with a high degree of the resilience of youthful animal
vigour, it is true; and there is solace for all suffering, the godly
tell us--omitting the ungodly solaces of madness and suicide. It will
be seen that whaling prompted Melville to extreme measures. The full
hideousness of his life on board the _Acushnet_ has not yet transpired.

The chief whaling communities--those of Nantucket and Buzzard’s
Bay--were originally settled by Quakers. The inhabitants of these
districts in general retained in an uncommon measure throughout the
golden age of whaling, the peculiarities of the Quaker. Never perhaps
in the history of the world has there been mated two aspects of life
more humorously incompatible than whale-hunting and Quakerism. This
mating produced, however, a race of the most sanguinary of all sailors;
a race of fighting Quakers: in Melville’s phrase, “Quakers with a
vengeance.” Though refusing from conscientious scruples to bear arms
against land invaders, yet these same Quakers inimitably invaded the
Atlantic and the Pacific; and though sworn foes to human bloodshed,
yet did they, in their straight-bodied coats, spill tons and tons of
leviathan gore. And so, as Melville goes on to point out, “there are
instances among them of men who, named with Scripture names, and in
childhood naturally imbibing the stately dramatic thee and thou of
the Quaker idiom; still, from the audacious, daring, and boundless
adventure of their subsequent lives, strangely blend with these
unoutgrown peculiarities, a thousand bold dashes of character, not
unworthy a Scandinavian sea-king, or a poetical Pagan Roman.”

The two old Quaker captains of _Moby-Dick_, Bildad and Peleg, are
typical of the race that made Nantucket and New Bedford the greatest
whaling ports in all history. Peleg significantly divides all good
men into two inclusive categories: “pious good men, like Bildad,”
and “swearing good men--something like me.” The “swearing good men,”
Melville would seem to imply, in sacrificing piety to humanity, while
standing lower in the eyes of God, stood higher in the hearts of their
crew. Though Bildad never swore at his men, so Melville remarks, “he
somehow got an inordinate quantity of cruel, unmitigated hard work out
of them.”

Typical of the cast of mind of the whaling Quaker is Captain Bildad’s
farewell to ship’s company on board the ship in which he was chief
owner: “God bless ye, and have ye in His holy keeping. Be careful in
the hunt, ye mates. Don’t stave the boats needlessly, ye harpooners;
good white cedar plank is raised full three per cent, within the
year. Don’t forget your prayers, either. Don’t whale it too much a’
Lord’s day, men; but don’t miss a fair chance either; that’s rejecting
Heaven’s good gifts. Have an eye to the molasses tierce, Mr. Stubb; it
was a little leaky, I thought. If ye touch at the islands, Mr. Flask,
beware of fornication. Good-bye, good-bye!”

The old log-books most frequently begin: “A journal of an intended
voyage from Nantucket by God’s permission.” And typical is the closing
sentence of the entry in George Gardener’s journal for Saturday,
January 21, 1757: “So no more at Present all being in health by the
Blessing of God but no whale yet.”

At first, the New England vessels were manned almost entirely by
American-born seamen, including a certain proportion of Indians and
coast-bred negroes. But as the fishery grew, and the number of vessels
increased, the supply of hands became inadequate. Macy says that as
early as about 1750 the Nantucket fishery had attained such proportions
that it was necessary to secure men from Cape Cod and Long Island to
man the vessels. Goode says: “Captain Isaiah West, now eighty years
of age (in 1880), tells me that he remembers when he picked his crew
within a radius of sixty miles of New Bedford; oftentimes he was
acquainted, either personally or through report, with the social
standing or business qualifications of every man on his vessel; and
also that he remembers the first foreigner--an Irishman--that shipped
with him, the circumstance being commented on at that time as a
remarkable one.” Time was, however, when it was easy to gather at New
Bedford or New London a prime crew of tall and stalwart lads from the
fishing coast and from the farms of the interior of New England. Maine
furnished a great many whalemen, and for a long time the romance of
whaling held out a powerful fascination for adventurous farmer boys of
New Hampshire, Vermont, and Upper New York. During Melville’s time the
farms of New England still supplied a contingent of whalers. In writing
of New Bedford he says: “There weekly arrive in this town scores of
green Vermonters and New Hampshire men, all athirst for gain and glory
in the fishery. They are mostly young, of stalwart frames; fellows
who have felled forests, and now seek to drop the axe and snatch the
whale-lance. Many are as green as the Green Mountains whence they
came. In some things you would think them but a few hours old. Look
there! that chap strutting round the corner. He wears a beaver hat and
swallow-tailed coat, girdled with a sailor-belt and a sheath-knife.
Here comes another with a sou’-wester and a bombazine cloak.” Of
course, these farm-boys were of the verdant innocence Melville paints
them when they signed the ship’s papers, not knowing a harpoon from
a handspike. It is a curious paradox in the history of whaling,--a
paradox best elaborated by Verrill,--that the ship’s crew were almost
never sailors. The captain, of course, the officers and the harpooners
were usually skilled and efficient hands. But so filthy was the work
aboard the whaler, and so perilous; so brutal the treatment of the
crew, and so hazardous the actual earnings, that competent deep-water
sailors stuck to the navy or the merchant marine. When Melville shipped
from Honolulu as an “ordinary seaman in the United States Navy,” he
soon found occasion “to offer up thanksgiving that in no evil hour had
I divulged the fact of having served in a whaler; for having previously
marked the prevailing prejudice of men-of-war’s-men to that much
maligned class of mariners, I had wisely held my peace concerning stove
boats on the coast of Japan.” And in _Redburn_ he says “that merchant
seamen generally affect a certain superiority to ‘blubber-boilers,’ as
they contemptuously style those who hunt the leviathan.”

When the farmer lads came down to the sea no more in adequate numbers,
the whaleships were forced to fill their crews far from home, and to
take what material they could get. Shipping offices, with headquarters
at the whaling ports, employed agents scattered here and there in
the principal cities, especially in the Middle West and the interior
of New England. These agents received ten dollars for each man they
secured for the ship’s crew. Besides this, each agent was paid for
the incidental expenses of transportation, board, and outfit of every
man shipped. By means of lurid advertisements and circulars, these
agents with emancipated conscience, made glowing promises to the
desperate and the ignorant. Each prospective whaleman was promised a
“lay” of the ship’s catch. For in the whaling business, no set wages
were paid. All hands, including the captain, received certain shares
of the profits called “lays.” The size of the lay was proportioned to
the degree of importance pertaining to the respective duties of the
ship’s company. The captain usually received a lay of from one-twelfth
to one-eighteenth; green hands about the one-hundred-and-fiftieth.
What lay Melville received is not known. Bildad is inclined to think
that the seven hundred and seventy-seventh lay was not too much for
Ishmael; but Bildad was a “pious good man.” Peleg, the “swearing good
man,” after a volcanic eruption with Bildad, puts Ishmael down for
the three hundredth lay. Though this may exemplify the relation that,
in Melville’s mind, existed between profanity and kindness, it tells
us, unfortunately, nothing of the prospective earnings of Melville’s
whaling. Of one thing, however, we can be fairly certain: Melville did
not drive a shrewd and highly profitable bargain. The details of his
life bear out his boast: “I am one of those that never take on about
princely fortunes, and am quite content if the world is ready to board
and lodge me, while I put up at the grim sign of the Thunder Cloud.”

Each prospective whaler, besides being assured a stated fraction
of the ship’s earnings, was by the agents promised an advance of
seventy-five dollars, an outfit of clothes, as well as board and
lodging until aboard ship. From this imaginary seventy-five dollars
were deducted all the expenses which the agent defrayed, as well as
the ten dollars head payment. By a shameless perversion of exaggerated
charges, a really competent outfitter managed to ship his embryo
whalemen without a cent of the promised advance. The agent who shipped
J. Ross Browne and his unfortunate friend, was a suave gentleman of
easy promises. “Whaling, gentlemen, is tolerably hard at first,”
Browne makes him say, “but it’s the finest business in the world
for enterprising young men. Vigilance and activity will insure you
rapid promotion. I haven’t the least doubt but you’ll come home boat
steerers. I sent off six college students a few days ago, and a poor
fellow who had been flogged away from home by a vicious wife. A whaler,
gentlemen, is a place of refuge for the distressed and persecuted, a
school for the dissipated, an asylum for the needy! There’s nothing
like it. You can see the world; you can see something of life.”

The first half of one of the truest and most popular of whaling
chanteys, a lyric which must have been sung with heartfelt conviction
by thousands of whalemen, runs:

  ’Twas advertised in Boston,
    New York and Buffalo,
  Five hundred brave Americans
    A-whaling for to go.

  They send you to New Bedford,
    The famous whaling port;
  They send you to a shark’s store
    And board and fit you out.

  They send you to a boarding-house
    For a time to dwell.
  The thieves there, they are thicker
    Than the other side of Hell.

  They tell you of the whaling ships
    A-going in and out.
  They swear you’ll make your fortune
    Before you’re five months out.

The second half of this ballad celebrates the hardships of life aboard
ship: the poor food and the brutality of the officers. With this
side of whaling we know that Melville was familiar. But of the usual
preliminaries of whaling recounted by Browne and summarised in the
chantey, Melville says not a word, either in _Moby-Dick_ or elsewhere.
Nor does tradition or history supplement this autobiographical
silence. On this point, we know nothing. Surely it would be intensely
interesting to know how far egotism conspired with art in guiding
Melville in the writing of the masterful beginning of _Moby-Dick_.

No matter by what process Melville found his way to the _Acushnet_,
the whaling fleet was, indeed, at the time of his addition to it, “a
place of refuge for the distressed and persecuted, a school for the
dissipated, an asylum for the needy.” J. Ross Browne was warned before
his sailing that New Bedford “was the sink-hole of iniquity; that the
fitters were all blood-suckers, the owners cheats, and the captains

Though the arraignment was incautiously comprehensive, Browne
confesses to have looked back upon it as a sound warning. The boasted
advantages of whaling were not selfishly withheld from any man, no
matter what the race, or the complexion of his hide or his morals.
The Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, English, Scotch,
Irish, in fact, men of almost every country of Europe, and this with
no jealous discrimination against Asia, Africa, or the Islands of the
Pacific, were drawn upon by the whale fleet during the days of its
greatest prosperity. “And had I not been, from my birth, as it were, a
cosmopolite,” Melville remarks parenthetically in _Redburn_. It would
have been difficult for him to find a more promising field for the
exercise of this inherited characteristic, than was whaling in 1841:
and this, indeed, without the nuisance of leaving New Bedford. “In
thoroughfares nigh the docks,” he says, “any considerable seaport will
frequently offer to view the queerest nondescripts from foreign ports.
Even in Broadway and Chestnut streets, Mediterranean mariners will
sometimes jostle the affrighted ladies. Regent street is not unknown to
Lascars and Malays; and in Bombay, in the Apollo Green, live Yankees
have often scared the natives. But New Bedford beats all Water street
and Wapping. In these last-mentioned haunts you see only sailors; but
in New Bedford, actual cannibals stand chatting at street corners;
savages outright; many of whom yet carry on their bones unholy flesh.
It makes a stranger stare.” It will be remembered that Ishmael spends
his first night in New Bedford in bed with one of these very cannibals;
and on the following morning, in a spirit of amiable and transcendent
charity, goes down on his knees with his tattooed bed-fellow before a
portable wooden deity: an experience fantastic and highly diverting,
nor at all outside the bounds of possibility. It is a fact to chasten
the optimism of apostles of the promiscuous brotherhood of man, that as
the whaling crews grew in cosmopolitanism, they made no corresponding
advances towards the Millennium. Had Nantucket and New Bedford but
grown to the height of their whaling activities in the fourth century,
they might have sent enterprising agents to the African desert to
tempt ambitious cenobites with offers of undreamed-of luxuries of
mortification. These holy men might have worked miracles in whaling,
and transformed the watery wilderness of the Pacific into a floating
City of God. But in the nineteenth century of grace, the kennel-like
forecastle of the whaler was the refuge not of the athletic saint, but
of the offscourings of all races, the discards of humanity, and of
this fact there is no lack of evidence. Nor did Melville’s ship-mates,
on the whole, seem to have varied this monotony. There survives this
record in his own hand:

  “_What became of the ship’s company on the whale-ship ‘Acushnet,’
  according to Hubbard who came back home in her (more than a four
  years’ voyage) and visited me in Pittsfield in 1850._

  “_Captain Pease_--returned & lives in asylum at the Vineyard.

  “_Raymond_, 1st Mate--had a fight with the Captain & went ashore at

  “_Hall_, 2nd Mate--came home & went to California.

  “_3rd Mate_, Portuguese, went ashore at Payta.

  “_Boatswain_, either ran away or killed at Ropo one of the Marquesas.

  “_Smith_, went ashore at Santa, coast of Peru, afterwards committed
  suicide at Mobile.

  “_Barney_, boatswain, came home.

  “_Carpenter_, went ashore at Mowee half dead with disreputable

  “_The Czar._

  “_Tom Johnson_, black, went ashore at Mowee, half dead (ditto) & died
  at the hospital.

  “_Reed_, mulatto--came home.

  “_Blacksmith_, ran away at San Francisco.

  “_Blackus_, little black, ditto.

  “_Bill Green_, after several attempts to run away, came home in the

  “_The Irishman_, ran away, coast of Colombia.

  “_Wright_, went ashore half dead at the Marquesas.

  “_Jack Adams_ and _Jo Portuguese_ came home.

  “_The Old Cook_, came home.

  “_Haynes_, ran away aboard of a Sidney ship.

  “_Little Jack_, came home.

  “_Grant_, young fellow, went ashore half dead, spitting blood, at

  “_Murray_, went ashore, shunning fight at Rio Janeiro.

  “_The Cooper_, came home.”

Of the twenty-seven men who went out with the ship, only the Captain,
the Second Mate, a Boatswain, the Cook, the Cooper and six of the
mongrel crew (one of which made several futile attempts to escape)
came back home with her. The First Mate had a fight with the Captain
and left the ship; the Carpenter and four of the crew went ashore to
die, two at least with venereal diseases, another went ashore spitting
blood, another to commit suicide.


Drawing by A. Van Beest, R. Swain Gifford and Benj. Russell, 1850.]

[Illustration: ONE OF SIX WHALING PRINTS. LONDON, 1750.]

With this company Melville was intimately imprisoned on board the
_Acushnet_ for fifteen months. Of the everyday life of Melville in
this community we know little enough. In _Moby-Dick_ Melville has left
voluminous accounts of the typical occupations of whaling but beyond
this nothing certainly to be identified as derived from life on the
_Acushnet_. The ship’s company on board the _Pequod_, in so far as is
known, belong as purely to romance as characters of fiction can. It
doubtless abbreviates the responsibilities of the custodians of public
morals, that the staple of conversation on board the _Acushnet_, the
scenes enacted in the forecastle and elsewhere in the ship, shall
probably never be known. In _Typee_ Melville says of the crew of
the _Acushnet_, however: “With a very few exceptions, our crew was
composed of a parcel of dastardly and mean-spirited wretches, divided
among themselves, and only united in enduring without resistance the
unmitigated tyranny of the captain.”

Of the “very few exceptions” that Melville spares the tribute of
contemptuous damnation, one alone does he single out for portraiture.
“He was a young fellow about my own age,” says Melville in _Typee_, of
a seventeen-year-old shipmate, “for whom I had all along entertained
a great regard; and Toby, such was the name by which he went among
us, for his real name he would never tell us, was every way worthy
of it. He was active, ready, and obliging, of dauntless courage, and
singularly open and fearless in the expression of his feelings. I
had on more than one occasion got him out of scrapes into which this
had led him; and I know not whether it was from this cause, or a
certain congeniality of sentiment between us, that he had always shown
a partiality for my society. We had battled out many a long watch
together, beguiling the weary hours with chat, song, and story, mingled
with a good many imprecations upon the hard destiny it seemed our
common fortune to encounter.”

Toby, like Melville, had evidently not been reared from the cradle to
the life of the forecastle; a fact that, despite his anxious effort,
Toby could not entirely conceal. “He was one of that class of rovers
you sometimes meet at sea,” says Melville, “who never reveal their
origin, never allude to home, and go rambling over the world as if
pursued by some mysterious fate they cannot possibly elude.”

By the spell of the senses, too, Melville was attracted to Toby. “For
while the greater part of the crew were as coarse in person as in
mind,” says Melville, “Toby was endowed with a remarkably prepossessing
exterior. Arrayed in his blue frock and duck trousers, he was as smart
a looking sailor as ever stepped upon a deck; he was singularly small
and slightly made, with great flexibility of limb. His naturally dark
complexion had been deepened by exposure to the tropical sun, and a
mass of jetty locks clustered about his temples, and threw a darker
shade into his large black eyes.”

There is preserved among Melville’s papers a lock of hair, unusually
fine and soft in texture, but not so much “jetty” as of a rich
red-black chestnut colour, and marked “a lock of Toby’s hair,” and
dated 1846 the year of the publication of _Typee_. When Melville and
Toby parted in the Marquesas, each came to think that the other had
most likely been eaten by the cannibals. Upon the publication of
_Typee_, Toby was startled into delight to learn of Melville’s survival
and to rub his eyes at the flattering portrayal of himself. In a letter
of his to Melville, dated June 16, 1856, he says: “I am still proud of
the immortality with which you have invested me.” The extent of the
first extremity of his pride is not recorded. But in his first flush
of immortality he seems to have sent Melville a lock of his hair, an
amiable vanity, perhaps, at Melville’s celebration of his personal

There survives with the lock of hair a daguerreotype of Toby, also of
1846. There are also two other photographs: the three strewn over a
period of thirty years. These three photographs make especially vivid
the regret at the lack of any early picture of Melville. Melville’s
likeness is preserved only in bearded middle-age: and such portraiture
gives no more idea of his youthful appearance than does Toby’s
washed-out maturity suggest his Byronic earlier manner. There is
every indication that Melville was a young man of a very conspicuous
personal charm. From his books one forms a vivid image of him in the
freshness and agility and full-bloodedness of his youth. To bring this
face to face with the photographs of his middle age is a challenge to
the loyalty of the imagination. All known pictures of Melville postdate
his creative period. They are pictures of Melville the disenchanted
philosopher. As pictures of Melville the adventurer and artist, they
survive as misleading posthumous images.

Of Toby’s character, Melville says: “He was a strange wayward being,
moody, fitful, and melancholy--at times almost morose. He had a quick
and fiery temper too, which, when thoroughly roused, transported him
into a state bordering on delirium. No one ever saw Toby laugh. I mean
in the hearty abandonment of broad-mouthed mirth. He did sometimes
smile, it is true; and there was a good deal of dry, sarcastic humour
about him, which told the more from the imperturbable gravity of his
tone and manner.”

After escaping from the _Acushnet_ with Melville into the valley of
Typee, Toby in course of time found himself back to civilisation, where
the history of his life that he kept so secret aboard the _Acushnet_
came more fully to be known.




  In 1846]


  In 1865

Toby, or Richard Tobias Greene, was, according to notices in Chicago
papers at the time of his death on August 24, 1892, born in Dublin,
Ireland, in 1825. He was as a child brought to America by his father,
who settled in Rochester, New York, where Toby “took public school
and academic courses.” Before he was seventeen he shipped aboard the
_Acushnet_, there to fall in with Melville and to accompany him into
the uncorrupted heart of cannibalism. Toby returned to civilisation
to study law with John C. Spencer, “the noted attorney whose son was
executed for mutiny at Canandaigua, New York,” and was, in time,
admitted to the bar. He relinquished jurisprudence for journalism,
and was for some indefinite period editor of the _Buffalo Courier_.
He restlessly varied his activities by assisting in constructing the
first telegraph line west of New York State, and opened the first
telegraph office in Ohio, at Sandusky. For some years he published the
_Sandusky Mirror_. In 1857 he moved to Chicago and took a place on
the _Times_. With the Civil War he enlisted in the 6th Infantry of
Missouri and for three years was “trusted clerk at General Grant’s
headquarters.” He was discharged June, 1864, to enlist again October
19, 1864, in the 1st Illinois Light Artillery. With the end of the war
he returned to Chicago, ruined in health. Yet he continued to exert
himself as a public-minded citizen, and at his funeral were “many
fellow Masons, comrades from the G.A.R. and others who came to pay
their respects to the late traveller, editor and soldier.”

After the publication of _Typee_ there were delighted exchanges of
recognition and gratitude between him and Melville. And though these
two men grew further and further apart with years, there continued
between them an irregular correspondence and a pathetic loyalty to
youthful associations: felicitations that grew to be as conscientious
and hollow as the ghastly amiabilities of a college reunion. Toby’s
son, born in 1854, he named Herman Melville Greene (a compliment to
Melville adopted by some of his later shipmates in the navy); and
Melville presented his namesake with a spoon--the gift he always made
to namesakes. Toby’s nephew was named Richard Melville Hair, and
another spoon was shipped west. In 1856 Toby wrote Melville he had
read Melville’s most recent book, _Piazza Tales_. Toby’s critical
efforts exhausted themselves in the comment: “_The Encantadas_ called
up reminiscences of the _Acushnet_, and days gone by.” In 1858, when
Melville was lecturing about the country, Toby addressed a dutiful
letter to his “Dear Old Shipmate,” asking that Melville visit him
while in Cleveland. If the visit was ever made, it has not transpired.
In 1860 Toby wrote to Melville: “Hope you enjoy good health and can
yet stow away five shares of duff! I would be delighted to see you
and ‘freshen the nip’ while you would be spinning a yarn as long as
the main-top bowline.” In acknowledgment Melville during the year
following sent Toby the gift of a spoon. In reply Toby observes: “My
mind often reverts to the many pleasant moonlight watches we passed
together on the deck of the _Acushnet_ as we whiled away the hours
with yarn and song till eight bells.” Even to the third generation
Toby’s descendants were “proud of the immortality” with which Melville
had invested Toby. Miss Agnes Repplier has written on _The Perils of
Immortality_. There are perils, too, in immortalisation.

But in the days of Toby’s unredeemed immortality on board the
_Acushnet_ before he joined the Masons and the Grand Army of the
Republic, Toby was to Melville a singularly grateful variation to the
filth and hideousness and brutality of the human refuse with which he
cruised the high seas in search of oil and bone.

Melville was fifteen months on board the _Acushnet_; and for the last
six months of this period he was out of sight of land; cruising “some
twenty degrees to the westward of the Gallipagos”--“cruising after the
sperm-whale under the scorching sun of the Line, and tossed on the
billows of the wide-rolling Pacific--the sky above, the sea around, and
nothing else.”

The ship itself was, at the expiration of this period, deplorable in
appearance. The paint on her sides, burnt up by the scorching sun,
was puffed up and cracked. She trailed weeds after her; about her
stern-piece an unsightly bunch of barnacles had formed; and every
time she rose on a sea, she showed her copper torn away, or hanging
in jagged strips. The only green thing in sight aboard her was the
green paint on the inside of the bulwarks, and that, to Melville, was
of “a vile and sickly hue.” The nearest suggestion of the grateful
fragrance of the loamy earth, was the bark which clung to the wood used
for fuel--bark gnawed off and devoured by the Captain’s pig--and the
mouldy corn and the brackish water in the little trough before which
the solitary tenant of the chicken-coop stood “moping all day long on
that everlasting one leg of his.”

The usage on board in Melville’s ship, as in that of J. Ross Browne
and many another, had been tyrannical in the extreme. In _Typee_
he says: “We had left both law and equity on the other side of the
Cape.” And Captain Pease, arbitrary and violent, promptly replied to
all complaints and remonstrances with the butt-end of a hand-spike,
“so convincingly administered as effectually to silence the aggrieved

“The sick had been inhumanly neglected; the provisions had been doled
out in scanty allowance.” The provisions on board the _Acushnet_
had consisted chiefly of “delicate morsels of beef and pork, cut
on scientific principles from every part of the animal and of all
conceivable shapes and sizes, carefully packed in salt and stored away
in barrels; affording a never-ending variety in their different degrees
of toughness, and in the peculiarities of their saline properties.
Choice old water, too, two pints of which were allowed every day to
every soul on board; together with ample store of sea-bread, previously
reduced to a state of petrification, with a view to preserve it either
from decay or consumption in the ordinary mode, were likewise provided
for the nourishment and gastronomic enjoyment of the crew.” Captain
Davis, in his _Nimrod of the Sea_, suggests that petrification is not
the worst state of ship’s-biscuits; he recounts how with mellower fare
“epicures on board hesitate to bite the ship-bread in the dark, and the
custom is to tap each piece as you break it off, to dislodge the large
worms that breed there.”

The itinerary of this fifteen months’ cruise is not known. In
_Moby-Dick_ Melville says: “I stuffed a shirt or two into my
carpet-bag, tucked it under my arm, and started for Cape Horn and the
Pacific.” In _Omoo_, Melville speaks of “an old man-of-war’s-man whose
acquaintance I had made at Rio de Janeiro, at which place the ship
touched in which I sailed from home.” In _White-Jacket_ and _Omoo_ he
speaks of whaling off the coast of Japan. And in _Moby-Dick_, in a
passage that reads like an excerpt from the Book of Revelations, he
indicates a more frigid whereabouts: “I remember the first albatross
I ever saw. It was during a prolonged gale, in waters hard upon the
Antarctic seas. From my forenoon watch below, I ascended to the
overclouded deck; and there, dashed upon the main hatches, I saw a
regal, feathery thing of unspotted whiteness, and with a hooked, Roman
bill sublime. At intervals, it arched forth its vast archangel wings,
as if to embrace some holy ark. Wondrous flutterings and throbbings
shook it. Though bodily unharmed, it uttered cries, as some king’s
ghost in supernatural distress. Through its inexpressible, strange
eyes, methought I peeped to secrets which took hold of God. As Abraham
before the angels, I bowed myself; the white thing was so white, its
wings so wide, and in those for ever exiled waters, I had lost the
miserable warping memories of traditions and of towns. Long I gazed at
that prodigy of plumage. I cannot tell, can only hint, the things that
darted through me then. But at last I awoke; when the white fowl flew
to join the wing-folding, the invoking, and adoring cherubim!”

But what waters the _Acushnet_ sailed, and what shores she touched
before she dropped anchor in the Marquesas, little positively is known.

The last eighteen or twenty days, however, during which time the light
trade winds silently swept the _Acushnet_ towards the Marquesas, were
to Melville, when viewed in retrospect, “delightful, lazy, languid.”
Land was ahead! And with the refreshing glimpse of one blade of grass
in prospect, Melville and the whole ship’s company resigned themselves
to a disinclination to do anything, “and spreading an awning over the
forecastle, slept, ate, and lounged under it the livelong day.” The
promise of the ship’s at last breaking through the inexorable circle
of the changeless horizon into the fragrance of firm and loamy earth,
gave Melville an eye for the sea-scape he had formerly abhorred. “The
sky presented a clear expanse of the most delicate blue, except along
the skirts of the horizon, where you might see a thin drapery of pale
clouds which never varied their form or colour. The long, measured,
dirge-like swell of the Pacific came rolling along, with its surface
broken by little tiny waves, sparkling in the sunshine. Every now and
then a shoal of flying fish, scared from the water under the bows,
would leap into the air, and fall the next moment like a shower of
silver into the sea.”

In later years, memory treacherously transformed this watery
environment upon which Melville and Toby had vented their youthful and
impotent imprecations. From his farm in the Berkshire Hills, he looked
back regretfully upon his rovings over the Pacific, and by a pathetic
fallacy, convinced himself that in them “the long supplication of my
youth was answered.” The spell of the Pacific descended upon him not
while he was cruising the Pacific, however, but while he was busy upon
his farm in Pittsfield, “building and patching and tinkering away in
all directions,” as he described his activities to Hawthorne.

Strangely jumbled anticipations haunted Melville, he says, as drowsing
on the silent deck of the _Acushnet_ he was being borne towards land:
towards the Marquesas, one of the least known islands in the Pacific.

“The Marquesas! What strange visions of outlandish things does
the very name spirit up!” exclaims Melville in excited prospect.
“Naked houris--cannibal banquets--groves of cocoa-nut--coral
reefs--tattooed chiefs--and bamboo temples; sunny valleys planted
with bread-fruit-trees--carved canoes dancing on the flashing blue
waters--savage woodlands guarded by horrible idols--_heathenish rites
and human sacrifices_.”

After fifteen months aboard the _Acushnet_, Melville was ripe to
discover alluring Edenic beauties in tropical heathendom. And in the
end, so intolerable was the prospect of dragging out added relentless
days under the guardianship of Captain Pease, that as a last extremity,
Melville preferred to risk the fate of Captain Cook, and find a
strolling cenotaph in the bellies of a tribe of practising cannibals.



  “There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose
  gentle awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath;
  like those fabled undulations of the Ephesian sod over the buried
  Evangelist St. John. And meet it is, that over these sea-pastures,
  wide-rolling watery prairies and Potters’ Fields of all four
  continents, the waves should rise and fall, and ebb, and flow
  unceasingly; for here, millions of mixed shades and shadows, drowned
  dreams, somnambulisms, reveries; all that we call lives and souls,
  lie dreaming, dreaming, still; tossing like slumberers in their beds;
  the ever-rolling waves but made so by their restlessness.”

  --HERMAN MELVILLE: _Moby-Dick_.

First sighted by Balboa in the year 1513, and for more than two
centuries regarded by the Spaniards as their own possession, these
midmost waters of the world lay locked behind one difficult and
dangerous portal. During these centuries the Indian Ocean and the
Atlantic--but arms of the Pacific--were gloomy with mysteries. The
Spanish sailors used to chant a litany when they saw St. Elmo’s Fire
glittering on the mast-head, and exorcised the demon of the waterspout
by elevating their swords in the form of crosses. Mermaids still lived
in the tranquil blue waters. The darkness of the storm was thronged
with gigantic shadowy figures. The pages of Purchas and Hackluyt
offer no lack of supernatural visitations. Thus superstition joined
with substantial danger to guard the entrance to the Pacific. Balboa
himself was beheaded. Everybody who had to do with Magellan’s first
passage into the Pacific came to a bad end. The captain was murdered
in a brawl by the natives of the Philippines; the sailor De Lepe, who
first sighted the straits from the mast-head, was taken prisoner by the
Algerians, embraced the faith of the False Prophet, and so lost his
everlasting soul; Ruy Falero died raving mad. There was a fatality upon
the whole ship’s company.

Two years before Magellan’s memorable voyage, the western boundary of
the Pacific had been approached by the Portuguese, Francisco Serrano
having discovered the Molucca Islands immediately after the conquest
of Malacca by the celebrated Albuquerque. To stimulate exertion, and
to preclude contention in the rivalry of dominion between Portugal and
Spain, Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander the Sixth, drew a line down the
map through the western limits of the Portuguese province of Brazil,
and allotted to Portugal all heathen lands she should discover on
the eastern half of this line; to Spain, all heathen lands to the
west. So shadowy was the knowledge of geography at the time that this
apportionment of His Holiness left it doubtful to which hemisphere the
Moluccas belonged; and the precious spices peculiar to those islands
rendered the decision important. To ascertain this was the purpose of
Magellan’s voyage across the Pacific. In this waste of waters Magellan
made two discoveries: a range of small islands--including Guam among
its number--which he named Ladrones, on account of the thievish
disposition of the natives; and, at the cost of his life, one of the
islands which has since been called the Philippines.

The voyage of Magellan proved that by the allotment of Alexander the
Sixth, the Pacific belonged to Spain. And though for eight generations
the Spaniards were hereditary lords of the Pacific, they soon grew
greedy and jealous and lazy in their splendid and undisturbed monopoly.
Once or twice, it is true, the English devils took the great galleon:
but only once or twice in all these years. Lesser spoils occasionally
fell into the hands of pirates; for did not Dampier take off Juan
Fernandez a vessel laden with “a quantity of marmalade, a stately and
handsome mule, and an immense wooden image of the Virgin Mary”? Towns,
too, were occasionally sacked. But the Spaniards feared little danger,
and ran few risks. They grew richer and lazier, and troubled themselves
little in exploring the great expanse of the Pacific. They coasted the
Americas as far north as California, which they half-suspected to be
an island. The Galapagos, Juan Fernandez, and Masafuera they knew; a
part of China, a part of Japan, the Philippines, Celebes, Timor, and
the Ladrones. Voyages across the Pacific between Manilla and Acapulco
were not infrequent: but these voyages were sterile in discovery. The
traditional route, once through the Straits of Magellan, was to touch
at Juan Fernandez, coast South America, stand in at Panama, turn out to
sea again, appear off Acapulco, and then sail in the parallel of 13° N.
to the Ladrones. The Abbé Raynal states that the strictest orders were
given by the Spanish Government prohibiting captains on any account
to deviate from the track laid down on their charts during the voyage
between these places.

In the darkness of this uncharted ocean there was believed to stretch
a great southern continent of fabulous wealth and beauty: the Terra
Australis Incognita that survived pertinaciously in the popular
imagination until the time of Captain Cook. Members of the Royal
Society had proved, beyond doubt, that the right balance of the earth
required a southern continent; geographers pointed out how Quiros, Juan
Fernandez and Tasman had touched at various points of this continent.
Politicians and poets agreed that treasures of all kinds would be found
there,--though they varied in their appropriation of these Utopian
resources. The controversy over the existence of this continent was
vehemently revived in 1770 by the appearance of Alexander Dalrymple’s
_An Historical Collection of the Several Voyages and Discoveries in the
South Pacific Ocean_. Dalrymple was an ardent advocate of the reality
of the Terra Australis Incognita, and to encourage an experimental
confirmation of his faith, he dedicated his handsome quarto: “To the
man who, emulous of Magellan and the heroes of former times, undeterred
by difficulties and unseduced by pleasure, shall persist through every
obstacle, and not by chance but by virtue and good conduct succeed in
establishing an intercourse with a Southern Continent.” Dr. Kippis,
Captain Cook’s biographer, writing in 1788, says he remembers how
Cook’s “imagination was captivated in the early part of his life with
the hypothesis of a southern continent. He has often dwelt upon it with
rapture.” The year following Dalrymple’s dedication, Captain Cook, back
from his first voyage in the Pacific, was commissioned by the Earl of
Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty, to go out and settle once and
for all the mystery of the Southern Continent. So long as this mystery
remained unsettled, the Pacific stretched a great limbo pregnant with
the wildest fancies. Between the times of Magellan and Captain Cook
there was no certainty as to what revelations it held to disgorge.

It was in 1575 that Drake climbed the hill and the tree upon its summit
from which could be seen both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans.
“Almighty God,” this devout pirate exclaimed, “of thy holiness give me
life and leave to sail in an English ship upon that sea!” God heard
his prayer, and blessed him with rich pirate spoils in the Pacific,
and honoured him at home by a “stately visit” from the Queen. Yet he
died at sea, and in a leaden coffin his body was dropped into the
ocean slime. Cavendish continued the British tradition of lucrative
piracy, and in 1586 captured the great plate galleon. This stimulated
competition in high-sea robbery, until in 1594, the capture of Sir
Richard Hawkins daunted even English courage.

In 1595, Alvaro Mendana de Neyra, departing from the beaten track
across the Pacific on his way to occupy the Solomon Islands which he
had discovered twenty-eight years earlier, chanced upon a new group
of islands which he named Las Marquesas de Mendoca, in honour of his
patron Mendoca, Marquis of Cenete, and viceroy of Peru. He had mass
said on shore, refitted his vessels, planted a few crosses in devout
memorial, to die before he accomplished the object of his voyage, and
to leave the Marquesas unmolested by visitors until visited by Captain
Cook in 1774. It was in the Marquesas, of course, that Melville lived
with the cannibals.

The seventeenth century saw the Dutch upon the Pacific. During the
greater part of the century, England was busy with troublesome affairs
at home; the Spanish were too indolent to bestir themselves. Unmolested
by competition, the great Dutch navigators, Joris Spilbergen, La
Maire, Schouten, and, most famous of all, Tasman, drifted among the
islands of the extreme southwest. It was not until 1664 that the
French sailed upon the Pacific. To the end of the century belong the
buccaneers--Morgan, Sawkin, Edward Cooke, Woodes, Rogers, Cowley,
Clipperton, Shelvocke and Dampier. William Dampier, the greatest of
these voyagers, crossed the Pacific, missing all islands but New
Zealand. He added but little to the stock of knowledge that had been
already collected from the narratives of Tasman, or Schouten. W.
Clark Russell, in his life of Dampier, suggests it as probable “that
his failure, coupled with the despondent tone that characterises his
narrative, went far to retard further explorations of the South Seas.
It was no longer disputed that a vast body of land stood in those
waters. All that Dampier said in its favour was theoretical; all that
he had to report as an eye-witness, all that he could speak to as
facts, was extremely discouraging.” The myth of the entrancing beauties
and voluptuous charms of the South Seas owes nothing to Dampier except,
perhaps, a delayed inception. Of the inhabitants of the South Seas he
reports that they had the most unpleasant looks and the worst features
of any people he ever saw; and, says he: “I have seen a great variety
of Savages.” He speaks of them as “blinking Creatures,” with “black
skins and Hair frizzled, tall, thin, etc.”

Russell considered the depressing influence of Dampier’s recorded
adventures manifested in the direction given to later navigators.
Byron in 1764, Wallis, Mouat, and Cartaret in 1766, were despatched on
voyages round the world to search the South Seas for new lands; but
only one of them, Cartaret, deviated from Dampier’s track, confining
his explorations in this way to a glance at New Guinea and New Britain,
to the discovery of New Ireland, lying adjacent to the island Dampier
sailed around, and to giving names to the Solomon and other groups.
Both Byron and Wallis, it is true, did enter the archipelago of the
Society Islands, Wallis discovering island after island, until he
reached Tahiti. Wallis’s account of Otaheite--on the authority of
the London Missionary Society “to be pronounced so as to rhyme with
the adjective _mighty_”--and its people, occupies a great part of
his narrative. Though his reception was not without a show of arms
and bloodshed, the native women exerted themselves tirelessly to do
unselfish penance for the hostile behaviour of the native males. Oammo,
the ruling chief, retired from the scene, leaving the felicitation
of the strangers in the hands of his consort, Oberea, “whose whole
character,” according to the observations of the London Missionary
Society, “for sensuality exceeded even the usual standard of Otaheite.”
In the establishment of friendship that ensued, Wallis sent Lieutenant
Furneaux ashore to erect a British pennant, and in defiance of the
Pope, to take formal possession of the island in the name of King
George the Third. Hopelessly unimpressed by the whole transaction,
the natives took down the flag during the night, and for a long time
afterwards the ruling chieftains wore it about their persons as a badge
of royalty. Oberea’s hospitality was requited by a parting gift of some
turkeys, a gander, a goose, and a cat. Oberea’s live stock figures
repeatedly in the later annals of Tahiti.

Early in April, 1768, Tahiti was again visited by Europeans. Louis de
Bougainville was in Tahiti only eight days. But, if Bougainville’s
account be not the bravado of patriotism, during that period his ship’s
company seem to have outdone their English predecessors in sensuality
and open indecency. Several murders were committed more privately. And
the natives, with an eye for the detection of such matters, exposed
among the ship’s crew a woman who had sailed from France disguised
in man’s apparel. Bougainville attached to himself a native youth,
Outooroo, brother of a chieftain; Outooroo accompanied Bougainville
to France. Within a few weeks after sailing from Tahiti, Bougainville
discovered that Outooroo, as well as others aboard, were infected with
venereal disease. Wallis very specifically asserts that his ship’s
company were untouched by disreputable symptoms six months before, and
still longer after their visit at Tahiti. In any event, before the
first year had elapsed after the discovery of Tahiti, its inhabitants
were exhibiting unmistakable signs of their contact with civilisation.
In 1799, the London Missionary Society gave warning to the world: “The
present existence, and the general prevalence of the evil, is but too
obvious; and it concurs with other dreadful effects of sensuality, to
threaten the entire population of this beautiful island, if it is not
seasonably averted by the happy influence of the gospel.” The steady
extinction of the Polynesian races would seem to indicate that this
happy influence has, to date, not been efficacious. When Pope Alexander
the Sixth gave to the indolent Spanish the heathen for inheritance, His
Holiness was being used by a mysterious Providence as the guardian of
heathendom. It was not until he had been for over two centuries and a
half in his tomb, that the heretical and more enterprising English came
to dispel the Egyptian darkness that hung protectingly over most of
the islands of the Pacific, and to expose a competent barbarism to the
devastating aggressions of civilisation.

Everybody knows how in 1769 the Royal Society, discovering that there
would happen a transit of Venus, and that this interesting astronomical
event would be best observed from some place in the Pacific, hit upon
James Cook--Byron, Wallis and Cartaret all being in the Pacific at
the time--master in the Royal Navy, to command the expedition. The
Marquesas were chosen as the place for the observation; but while the
expedition was being fitted out, Captain Wallis returned to England,
bringing news of the discovery of Tahiti. So well known is the story
of Captain Cook that few can boast the distinction of total ignorance
of his three voyages to the Pacific,--the first in command of an
astronomical expedition, the second in search of a Southern Continent,
the third in quest of a Northwest Passage; of his discoveries and
adventures in every conceivable part of the Pacific; of his repeated
returns to Tahiti; of his finally being killed on the island called by
him Owhyhee, murdered despite the fact that he had shown a power of
conciliation granted to no other navigator in these seas. For, a long
time ago, there lived, on the island of Hawaii, Lono the swine-god.
He was jealous of his wife, and killed her. Driven to frenzy by the
act, he went about boxing and wrestling with every man he met, crying,
“I am frantic with my great love.” Then he sailed away for a foreign
land, prophesying at his departure: “I shall return in after times on
an island bearing cocoa-nut trees, swine, and dogs.” When, after a
year’s absence, Cook returned to Hawaii, he arrived the day after a
great battle, and the victorious natives were absolutely certain that
Cook was the great swine-god, Lono, who long ages ago had departed mad
with love, now, to add lustre to their triumph, returned on an island
bearing cocoa-nut trees, swine, and dogs. This attribution of deity was
hardly complimentary to Cook’s crew. And in time the islanders tired
of their enthusiasm and the expense of entertaining strolling deities.
After sixteen days of prodigal hospitality, the natives began stroking
the sides and patting the bellies of the sailors, telling them, partly
by signs, partly by words, it was time to go. They went. But a week
afterwards the ship returned. There was a quarrel. Among some people a
quarrel leads to a fight. In a fight somebody naturally gets killed.
Or, it may have been,--Walter Besant suggests,--that perhaps it may
have occurred to some native humourist to wonder how a god would look
and behave with a spear stuck right through him. Cook fell into the
water, and spoke no more.

In his life, as in his death, Cook enjoyed all the successes. Boswell
dined with him at Sir John Pringle’s on April 2, 1776, and reported the
glowing event to Dr. Johnson. A snuff-box was carved out of the planks
of one of his vessels, and presented to James Fenimore Cooper. Fanny
Burney records with pride her father’s meeting the famous navigator,
whom she herself met in society and in her own home. Joseph Priestly
contemplated accompanying Cook to the South Seas. An artist--W.
Hodges--was officially appointed to accompany him to perpetuate his
exploits in oil. He read learned papers before the Royal Society, for
one of which the counsel adjudged him the Copley Gold Medal. Six times
was his portrait painted, and once was it seriously proposed that Dr.
Johnson be appointed his official biographer. Not even by Omai, a
native of Tahiti that Captain Furneaux brought to England, was Captain
Cook’s glory eclipsed. And Omai was received by the King, was painted
by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and was laden with gifts when he was taken back
to Tahiti by Captain Cook on his third voyage. Omai, too, attended
meetings of the Royal Society, and it is to his credit that he behaved
himself fairly well. It was regretted by the Directors of the London
Missionary Society that though “great attention was paid to him by some
of the nobility, it was chiefly directed to his amusement, and tended
rather to augment than to diminish his habitual profligacy.” In 1785-6,
there was repeatedly performed at Covent Garden Theatre a pantomime
named after him. The characters, besides Omai, were Towha, the Guardian
Genius of Omai’s Ancestors; Otoo, Father of Omai; Harlequin, Servant
to Omai. To give a blend of edification to romance, the performance
included, so a surviving play-bill announces, “a Procession exactly
representing the dresses, weapons and manners of the Inhabitants of
Otaheite, New Zealand, Tanna, Marquesas, Friendly, Sandwich and Easter
Islands, and other countries visited by Captain Cook.” In 1789, so
vividly was the tragic end of Captain Cook still mourned, that at the
Theatre-Royal, Covent Garden, was presented a spectacular tribute
posted as _The Death of Captain_. It was “a Grand Serious Pantomimic
Ballet, in Three Parts, as now exhibiting in Paris with uncommon
applause, with the Original French Music, New Scenery, Machinery, and
other Decorations.” This performance may have been inspired by an
_Ode on the Death of Captain Cook_ penned by Miss Seward, the Swan of
Lichfield: an ode praised by her fellow-townsman, Dr. Johnson. In 1774
there appeared in London “An Epistle from Oberea, Queen of Otaheite,
to Joseph Banks, Esq., translated by T. Q. Z., Esq., Professor of
the Otaheite Language in Dublin, and of all the Languages of the
Undiscovered Islands in the South Seas, enriched with Historical and
Explanatory Notes,” and so novel and popular was the South Sea manner,
that its author was mistaken for a wit, and his efforts at humour
repeatedly and laboriously imitated. As a corrective to such levity,
there appeared in 1779 an effusion in verse, adorned with vignette
depicting Tahitian women dancing, entitled _The Injured Islanders; or,
The Influence of Art upon the Happiness of Nature_. There is no lack
of evidence to prove that the exploits of Captain Cook brought the
South Seas, and especially Tahiti, into exuberant and irresponsible
popularity. Nor did business enterprise nap during the festivities.
Information which had been received of the great utility of the
bread-fruit, induced the merchants and planters of the British West
Indies to request that means might be used to transplant it thither.
For this purpose a ship was benevolently commissioned by George the
Third: the _Bounty_, commanded by Lieutenant Bligh. The voyage of the
_Bounty_ ended in a horrible tragedy and an intensely interesting
romance. The story of the mutiny of the _Bounty_, and its astonishing
sequels, joined further to vitalise the interest in the South Seas. A
frigate, significantly called the _Pandora_, was sent out from England
to Tahiti to seize the _Bounty_ mutineers. Though the _Pandora_ was
despatched as a messenger of justice, the usual course of festivity,
amusement and debaucheries was uninterrupted during the continuance of
the ship at Tahiti. And the year following, with British doggedness,
Captain Bligh returned to accomplish the purpose of his former
voyage which had been frustrated by mutiny. In 1793, the _Daedalus_,
Vancouver’s storeship, stopped at Tahiti, leaving behind a Swedish
sailor with a taste for savagery. The same year an American whaler, the
_Matilda_, was wrecked off Tahiti, and the crew, delighted at their
good fortune, betrayed no inclination for an immediate departure.

But while the frivolous, the sentimental, and the ungodly were busy
converting Tahitian savagery into a Georgian idyll, the well-starched
Wesleyan conscience crackled in horror at the black unredemption of the
South Sea heathen. “The discoveries made in the great southern seas by
the voyages undertaken at the command of his present majesty, George
the Third,” says a spokesman for the community, “excited wonderful
attention, and brought, as it were, into light a world till then almost
unknown. The perusal of the accounts of these repeated voyages could
not but awaken, in such countries as our own, various speculations,
according as men were differently affected. But when these islands were
found to produce little that would excite the cupidity of ambition, or
answer the speculations of the interested”--well, then it was that the
protestant conscience bestirred itself, and on September 25, 1795,
founded the London Missionary Society. It celebrated its first birthday
by determining to begin work with the islands of the southern ocean,
“as these, for a long time past, had excited peculiar attention. Their
situation of mental ignorance and moral depravity strongly impressed on
our minds the obligation we lay under to endeavour to call them from
darkness into marvellous light. The miseries and diseases which their
intercourse with Europeans had occasioned seemed to upbraid our neglect
of repairing, if possible, these injuries; but above all, we longed to
send to them the everlasting gospel, the first and most distinguished
of blessings which Jehovah has bestowed upon the children of men.”

A select committee of ministers, approved for evangelical principles
and ability, was appointed to examine the candidates for the
mission--who applied in great numbers--as to their views, capacity,
and “knowledge in the mystery of godliness.” Thirty missionaries
were chosen: four ministers, six carpenters, two shoemakers, two
bricklayers, two tailors (one of whom, “late of the royal artillery”),
two smiths, two weavers, a surgeon, a hatter, a cotton manufacturer, a
cabinet maker, a harness maker, a tinsmith, a cooper, and a butcher.
There were three women and three children also in the party. On August
10, 1796, on the ship _Duff_, commanded by Captain Wilson, who had
been wonderfully converted to God, this band, in chorus with a hundred
voices, sang “Jesus, at thy command--we launch into the deep” as they
sailed out of Spithead. The singing, it is said, produced “a pleasing
and solemn sensation.” On Sunday, March 5, 1797, after an uneventful
voyage, the _Duff_ dropped anchor at Tahiti. Seventy-four canoes came
out to welcome the strangers and broke the Sabbath by crowding about
the decks, “dancing and capering like frantic persons.” Nor was the
first impression made upon the Missionaries entirely favourable; “their
wild disorderly behaviour, strong smell of cocoa-nut oil, together
with the tricks of the arreoies, lessened the favourable impression we
had formed of them; neither could we see aught of that elegance and
beauty in their women for which they had been so greatly celebrated.”
Conversation with the natives was facilitated by the presence of two
tattooed Swedes--one formerly of the crew of the _Matilda_, the other
left by the _Daedalus_. During sermon and prayer the natives were
quiet and thoughtful, “but when the singing struck up, they seemed
charmed and filled with amazement; sometimes they would talk and
laugh, but a nod of the head brought them to order.” Next day,--for
they arrived on the Sabbath,--some of the missionaries landed and were
presented with the house King Pomare had built for Captain Bligh. This
important matter settled, the chief thought it time to enquire after
entertainment; “first sky-rockets, next the violin and dancing, and
lastly the bagpipe.” Lacking such diversions, the missionaries offered
a few solos on the German flute,--and “it plainly appeared that more
lively music would have pleased them better.”

Domestic arrangements established, to the great diversion of the
natives, the missionaries tried to get some clothes on some of them.
The queen had to rip open the garments, it is true, to get into them;
but one Tanno Manoo, who was given a warm week-day dress, and a showy
morning gown and petticoat for the Sundays, “when dressed, made a very
decent appearance; taking more pains to cover her breasts, and even to
keep her feet from being seen, than most of the ladies of England have
of late done.” The natives were deeply perplexed by the proprieties of
the Missionaries, and especially by what to them seemed the unnatural
chastity of the men.

Since the Missionaries had resolved to distribute their blessings, they
sent a party of brethren to make investigations on the Marquesas. The
first visitors the ship received from the shore were “seven beautiful
young women, swimming quite naked, except for a few green leaves
tied round their middle; nor did our mischievous goats even suffer
them to keep their green leaves, but as they turned to avoid them
they were attacked on each side alternately, and completely stripped
naked.” Such, too, was their “symmetry of features, that as models
for the statuary and painter their equals can seldom be found.” As
they danced about the deck, frequently bursting out into mad fits of
laughter, or talking as fast as their tongues could go, surely they
must have convinced more than one of the meditative brethren of the
total depravity of man. Nor did these shameless savages confine their
excursions to the decks. “It was not a little affecting to see our own
seamen repairing the rigging, attended by a group of the most beautiful
females, who were employed to pass the ball, or carry the tar-bucket,
etc.; and this they did with the greatest assiduity, often besmearing
themselves with the tar in the execution of their office. No ship’s
company, without great restraints from God’s grace, could ever have
resisted such temptations.”

Harris and Crook, two of the brethren, daring temptation, decided to
stay at the Marquesas, and were moved ashore. But before the _Duff_
sailed back to Tahiti, Harris was found on the shore about four
o’clock one morning “in a most pitiable plight, and like one out of
his senses.” It appears that the Marquesan chief Tenae, taking Crook
upon an inland jaunt, had departed, conferring upon Harris all the
privileges of domesticity. Tenae’s wife, sharing her husband’s ideas
of hospitality, was troubled at Harris’ reserve. So, “finding herself
treated with total neglect, became doubtful of his sex,” says the
London Missionary Society in a report dedicated to George the Third,
“and acquainted some of the other females with her suspicion, who
accordingly came in the night, when he slept, and satisfied themselves
concerning that point, but not in such a peaceable way but that they
awoke him. Discovering so many strangers, he was greatly terrified;
and, perceiving what they had been doing, was determined to leave a
place where the people were so abandoned and given up to wickedness;
a cause which should have excited a contrary resolution.” Harris was
forty years old at the time, and by trade a cooper.

Crook, however, remained in the Marquesas for eighteen months, where,
alone, he tried to enlighten and improve the natives. The Marquesas had
a bad reputation among whalemen, and though they had been occasionally
visited by enterprising voyagers--by Fanning, Krusenstern, Porter,
and Finch--they for long remained especially virulent in their native
depravity. It is true that Crook returned after many years to place
among the Marquesans four converted natives from the Society Islands.
In 1834, two missionaries from England, accompanied by Darling from
Tahiti and several converted natives, recommenced the arduous work of
evangelising this ferocious people. During four years the faithful
Stallworthy patiently toiled at his station, when in 1838 a French
frigate landed two Catholic priests in the very and the only spot then
cultivated by an English protestant labourer. These fellow-workers in
Christ competed for the souls of heathens. Though, in 1839, to even
the odds, Stallworthy received a reinforcement of one of his English
brethren, after two years the English missionaries found it impossible
“to maintain usefully their ground against the united influence of
heathen barbarism, popish craft, French power, and French profligacy.”
Thus “ravished from the Protestant charity that had so long watched for
its salvation,” the Marquesans, when discovered by Melville, were in
large part virgin in their barbarism.

At Tahiti, the brethren of the London Missionary Society continued to
work unrestingly, and against incredible discouragement. The natives
were, as Captain Cook discovered, “prodigious expert” as thieves. One
snatcher-up of unconsidered trifles, when by way of punishment chained
to a pillar with a padlock, not only contrived to get away, but to
steal the padlock. Yet, by the representation of the London Missionary
Society, “their honesty to one another seems unimpeachable,” and they
cultivated a Utopian sense of property: “They have no writing or
records, but memory or landmarks. Every man knows his own; and he would
be thought of all characters the basest, who should attempt to infringe
on his neighbour, or claim a foot of land that did not belong to him,
or his adopted friend.” Indeed, despite the reprobation dealt out to
them in tracts compiled for Sunday-school edification (Mrs. F. L.
Mortimer’s _The Night of Toil_ being a typically diverting libel), the
London Missionary Society, in its official reports, was--paradoxically
enough--their most convincing apologist. The natural beauties of their
country were again expatiated upon to the glory of the First Artist.
So prodigal was the natural abundance of Tahiti that the brethren
glorified it by converting it into a temptation. One of the brethren
wrote in his journal: “O Lord, how greatly hast thou honoured me,
that thousands of thy dear children should be praying for _me_, a
worm! Lord, thou hast set me in a heathen land, but a land, if I may
so speak, with milk and honey. O put more grace and gratitude into
my poor cold heart, and grant that I may never with Jeshurun grow
fat and kick.” The natives themselves were untroubled by any such
compunctions. “Their life is without toil,” the brethren reported,
“and every man is at liberty to do, go and act as he pleases, without
the distress of care or apprehension of want: and as their leisure is
great, their sports and amusements are various.” Their personal beauty,
their almost ostentatious cleanliness, their boundless generosity,
were by the London Missionary Society insisted upon. The best of them,
however, lived “in a fearfully promiscuous intercourse,” and emulated
the classical Greeks in infanticide and other reprehensible practices.
Yet do the brethren allow that “in their dances alone is immodesty
permitted; it may be affirmed, they have in many instances more refined
ideas of decency than ourselves. They say that Englishmen are ashamed
of nothing, and that we have led them to public acts of indecency
never before practised among them.” But then, as the London Missionary
Society says in another place: “Their ideas, no doubt, of shame and
delicacy are very different from ours; they are not yet advanced to any
such state of civilisation and refinement.” At their departure from
native custom, however, they were untroubled by contrition. When asked
“what is the true atonement for sin?” they answered, “Hogs and pearls.”
When the pleasant novelty of being exhorted and preached to wore off,
they did not behave impeccably during the devotions of the brethren.
They often cried out “lies” and “nonsense” during the sermon. At other
times they tried to make each other laugh by repeating sentences after
the brethren, or by playing antics, and making faces. Many of the
natives used to lie down and sleep as soon as the sermon began, while
“others were so trifling as to make remarks upon the missionaries’
clothes, or upon their appearance. Thus Satan filled their hearts
with folly, lest they should believe and be saved.” All the best
inducements the brethren could hold out to tempt them into “the divine
life” moved them not. “You talk to us of salvation, and we are dying,”
they said; “we want no other salvation than to be cured of our diseases
and to live here always, and to eat and talk.” So unappreciative were
they of the efforts of the brethren that they explained the presence
of the missionaries in Tahiti as growing out of a sensible desire
to escape from the ugliness and worry and brutality of European
civilisation. As for the lacerated solicitude and strange unselfishness
of the brethren to confer upon each of them a soul with all of its
pestering responsibilities: that, they found totally incomprehensible.

[Illustration: “We are going to church, you see; and Kanoa, my Hawaiian
associate, is blowing a shell to call the people to meeting, as we have
no bell. Kanoa’s wife, with one of her children is just behind us. Be
sure to look at the king, son of the one who was killed, in his long
shirt, and under his umbrella. The queen will come too, for both are
very regular in their attendance; and, what is better still, we hope
they are Christians.

“You may say, perhaps, that some things in this picture look more like
breaking the Sabbath than keeping it; and you are quite right.

“The woman whom you see is a heathen, carrying her husband’s skull
as she goes on a visit to some other village. A party of the natives
are pressing scraped cocoanuts in an oil-press, to get the oil to
buy tobacco with. The dog is one of the many, as heathenish as their

  From _Story of the Morning Star_,
      By Rev. Hiram Bingham.


Excluding all considerations of intellect--in which both the
Missionaries and the Polynesians seem to have been about equally
endowed--the abyss between the brethren and the heathen was the abyss
that separated John Knox from Aristophanes and the Greek Anthology:
the abyss between the animal integrity of classical antiquity and the
Hebraic heritage of the agonised conscience. Reason may pass back and
forth over this chasm: but no man once touched by the traditions of
Christianity can ever again sling his heart back across the abyss.
If he attempt the feat--as witness the _Intimate Journals_ of Paul
Gauguin--he but adds corruption to crucifixion, and there is no doubt
as to the last state of that man.

If the fall from innocence was begun in Eden, it was sealed beyond
redemption in Bethlehem. For at the time of the inception of
Christianity, the pagan world was going to its doom, and its death
agonies were frightful in the extreme. Something had to be done to
save humanity,--and something drastic. And humanity--which was at the
same time the priest and the victim--found in the cross the justest
symbol of its triumph in utter human defeat. More effectively to
slander this world, Heaven was set up in libellous contrast; in order
to heap debasement upon the flesh, the spirit was opposed to it as
an infinitely precious eternal entity, tainted by contact with its
mortal habitation. Blessedness lay not in harmony, but in division,
and utter confusion was mistaken for total depravity. “For the flesh
lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these
are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things
that ye would.” But these things classical antiquity did--being given
over to a reprobate mind, so St. Paul tells us. The Wesleyan brethren
found in Polynesia the same untroubled indulgence in “unrighteousness,
fornication and wickedness,” that had so troubled St. Paul. But in
Tahiti there were no signs of the intellect that classical antiquity
exhibited in the days of its reprobation. And though the Polynesians
seemed to have thriven on unrighteousness, the brethren itched to
infect them with misgivings, and this in a Holy Name. Melville
was profoundly stirred to loathing at these efforts: a loathing
heightened by the later contentions introduced into Tahiti by the rival
proselyting of French Catholic missionaries. Lost in doubt and shame at
such spectacles, in _Clarel_ he thus invokes Christ:

        “By what art
  Of conjuration might the heart
  Of heavenly love, so sweet, so good,
  Corrupt into the creeds malign
  Begetting strife’s pernicious brood,
  Which claimed for patron thee divine?
    Anew, anew,
  For this thou bleedest, Anguished Face;
  Yea, thou through ages to accrue,
  Shall the Medusa shield replace:
  In beauty and in terror too
  Shall paralyse the nobler race--
  Smite or suspend, perplex, deter--
  Tortured, shall prove the torturer.”

The brethren in Tahiti were without any of Melville’s misgivings.
Their faith was extraordinary. No less extraordinary was the native
imperviousness to salvation. After the brethren had ceased to be an
amusing novelty with gifts to bestow, the natives submitted them
to neglect and mockery. Revolts against King Pomare and constant
war kept the brethren in peril of their lives without releasing
them to celestial jubilation. The Napoleonic wars cut them off from
communication with England. During the first twelve years they heard
from home only three times. These days of fruitless trial sifted the
party. Many of the brethren seized any opportunity that offered to
sail away on chance trading vessels. Of the seven who remained, two
died. In 1801 eight new brethren came out to reinforce the number, then
reduced to four. In 1804 old King Pomare died, and his son Oto became
King under the title Pomare II. In the wars that followed, the mission
seemed broken up: their house was burned, the printing press destroyed,
and six of the brethren removed from Tahiti to Huahine. Two remained,
however, to carry on the forlorn hope. But after all these years
Pomare’s heart began to soften. His gods seemed to be standing him in
little stead. Defeated in battle, he escaped to Eimeo, and invited
the missionaries to follow him. Here he ate a sacred turtle, and when
no harm came to him he dared still further. Meanwhile it was proposed
in England that proselyting in Polynesia be discontinued, since after
sixteen years not one conversion had been effected. But those of
undaunted faith protested. The ship bearing fresh supplies and news of
the revived determination of those at home to prosecute the work was
met in mid-ocean with the cargo of the rejected idols of the Tahitians.
In a church seven hundred and twelve feet long, with twenty-nine doors
and three pulpits, all paid for by himself,--the church in which
Melville witnessed Sunday devotion--King Pomare had himself moistened
on the forehead with the water of life.

Backed by their royal patron, the Missionaries undertook to convert
Tahiti into a Polynesian Chautauqua. As Mrs. Helen Barrett Montgomery
says, in her _Christus Redemptor_: “We cannot follow the glowing story
of how the King had a code of laws made and read it to seven thousand
of his people, who, by solemn vote, made these the law of the land.” In
1839, Captain Hervey, in command of a whale-ship, reported of Tahiti:
“It is the most civilised place I have been at in the South Seas. They
have a good code of laws and no liquors are allowed to be landed on the
island. It is one of the most gratifying sights the eye can witness
to see, on Sunday, in their church, which holds about four thousand,
the Queen near the pulpit with all her subjects about her, decently
apparelled and seemingly in pure devotion.” Three years later, Melville
attended one of these services, and was less favourably impressed.

In 1823, the French establishment of the _Œuvre de la propagation de
la Foi_ formed at Lyons, and soon cast a beneficent eye upon North
and South America and the islands of Oceania. In 1814, soon after the
restoration of the Bourbons, the Abbé Coudrin had founded the Society
of Picpus “to promote the revival of the Roman Catholic religion in
France, and to propagate it by missions among unbelievers or pagans.”
This establishment received Papal sanction in 1817, and was placed
under “the special protection of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.” In
1833, the Congregation of the Propaganda, with the confirmation of the
Sovereign Pontiff, confided to the Society of Picpus the conversion of
all the islands of the Pacific ocean. Two apostolic prefectures were
established. M. E. Rouchouse was made bishop of Nilolopis, in partibus,
and apostolic vicar of Eastern Oceania; M. C. Liansu was appointed as
his prefect; two priests, Caret and Laval, and a catechist, Columban,
or Murphy, were placed under his direction. In May, 1834, the Catholic
missionaries arrived at Valparaiso, bound for the South Seas.

The benefits of the True Faith were not to advance into the Pacific
unassisted by the secular arm. Two officers of the French Navy,
Vincendon-Dumoulin and Desgraz, in their _Considerations générales
sur la Colonisation Française dans l’Oceanie_ thus speak for the less
purely religious interests of France: “It is impossible for a traveller
who may visit the islands of the Pacific, not to speculate on the
destiny of the happy groups scattered over its bosom. The first thing
that strikes him is the sight of men, consecrated to a religious work,
meddling with the temporal affairs of these free people, whom they
have brought under their domination, under pretence of directing their
consciences.... When the rapid multiplication of the population of all
European countries is considered, it is evident that before long a
European colony will be formed in each of the innumerable islands of
the Pacific, and missionary efforts merit therefore all the attention
of the government.... On the signal from the first cannon that shall
be fired in Europe, a protecting flag will be seen to rise on each of
these islands now so peaceful. God grant that the tri-coloured flag of
our nation may show itself with honour!”

At this time, it was a law of Tahiti that before a foreigner could
have leave to reside on the island, permission must be granted by
Queen Pomare and the chiefs. The Catholic missionaries, aware of this
regulation, succeeded, however, in effecting a landing disguised as
carpenters, and to this island, partly idolatrous, partly heretic,
they gave the salutation of peace. Pomare, however, was unappreciative
of their salute, and refused to the disguised priests permission
to remain. This exclusion, in its sequel, raised the most delicate
questions of international diplomacy, and bestirred Pomare to
scatter anxious letters broadcast over the face of the earth. Her
correspondence included a cosmopolitan company of Commodores and
Admirals, Queen Victoria, the President of the United States, and
Louis Philippe of France. Admiral Du Petit-Thouars, in command of the
_Venus_, was despatched to Tahiti under special orders, “to make the
Queen and the inhabitants feel that France is a great and powerful
nation.” The _Venus_ arrived at Tahiti, August 27, 1838, and proceeded
to summary justice. Under the pressure of a broadside, Pomare was
obliged to beg pardon of the most Christian King. “I am only,” she
wrote to Louis Philippe, “the sovereign of a little insignificant
island; may glory and power be with your majesty; let your anger cease;
and pardon me the mistake that I have made.”

It was further demanded of Pomare that she pay “a great and powerful
nation” the sum of two thousand dollars as a more solid reparation for
her bad behaviour. Pomare was appalled at the magnitude of this sum:
there was no such amplitude of wealth in her treasury. The missionaries
were moved in compassion to finance her political indiscretion. But
in the next humiliation dealt out to her, the brethren were unable to
offer much assistance. The French Admiral bore instructions to require
that the French flag be hoisted the day following the receipt of the
two thousand dollars, and that it be honoured by Pomare with a salute
of twenty-one guns. The situation was awkward. Pomare was very short
of powder. She assured the Admiral she had not enough for more than
five shots. The Admiral paced the deck, and passed his fingers through
his hair in considerable agitation. “What will they say in France,”
said the patriotic commander, “when they know that I furnished the
powder to salute my own flag?” The difficulty was great. An expedient
was necessary, and the Admiral hit upon one: “Mr. Consul,” said he to
the Rev. Pritchard, and British Consul, “I can give you some powder,
and you can do with it as you please.” According to the French report,
Pritchard “himself loaded the bad cannon on the little island and
directed the firing;” and soon after, the French observed Pritchard
to look “thin and bilious, with an appearance of pride, and the cold
dignity so natural to the English.”

But the visiting Admiral had not yet completed his duty to “the
justly irritated King of the French.” He condescended to visit the
Queen on purpose to introduce Moerenhaut as French consul. Moerenhaut
had been American consul at Tahiti, but had been relieved of the
responsibilities of that office at a request of Pomare to the President
of the United States. Moerenhaut’s life, in all of its varied and
unsavoury details, has yet to be written: it would make an entertaining
supplement to the _Police Gazette_. Moerenhaut himself adventured in
letters, and in his _Voyages aux îles du Grand Ocean_ he exposes many
of the corrupt practices that he himself was instrumental in bringing
about. The Admiral and Moerenhaut, in the name of Louis Philippe, drew
up a convention with Pomare “to establish the right of French subjects
to stay in the territory of the Tahitian sovereign.”

During these proceedings, Captain Dumont D’Urville, cruising the
Pacific, arrived at the Marquesas with two corvettes, the _Astrolabe_
and the _Zélé_, hot from the Gambier islands, the seat of Bishop
Rouchouse. At Gambier, when “all were gay and cheerful,” D’Urville
had been enlightened as to the true character of the heretical
missionaries: “oppressors of the poor Tahitians; in short, vampires,
whose cruelties and inquisitorial tortures were as atrocious as their
hypocrisy was disgusting.” Before he left the jovial board, his
indignation was so high that “he felt the honour of his flag” required
that he sail to Tahiti and dispense “exemplary chastisement.” Upon his
arrival at the Marquesas he was surprised to find Du Petit-Thouars,
who had been there, already departed. There was value to his visit,
however, in giving to the pious efforts of Bishop Rouchouse the support
of a few broadsides. But there were other scenes at the Marquesas of
which Bishop Rouchouse, in good conscience, could not have approved.
Melville asserts that while the _Acushnet_ was at the Marquesas, “our
ship was wholly given up to every species of riot and debauchery.”
In the official account of the voyages of Captain Dumont D’Urville
is a more detailed account of a similar surrender. Melville says of
the dances of the women of the Marquesas: “There is an abandoned
voluptuousness in their character that I dare not attempt to describe.”
The French, in their official reports, exhibit a greater courage.

Captain Dumont D’Urville arrived in Tahiti nine days after the
submission of Pomare, and the day following his arrival he accompanied
Admiral Du Petit-Thouars on a visit to the Queen. He had not yet cooled
in his patriotic indignation, so he addressed Pomare severely, and with
gratifying results: “I perceived that Pomare was deeply affected, and
that tears began to fall from her eyes, as she threw them on me with
an evident expression of anger. At the same moment I also perceived
that Captain Du Petit-Thouars endeavoured to diminish the effect of my
words by some little liberties that he was taking with the Queen; such
as pulling gently her hair, and patting her cheeks; he even added that
she was foolish to be so much affected.”

When her French visitors sailed away, Pomare on November 8, 1838,
despatched a letter to her sister sovereign, Victoria, to implore “the
shelter of her wing, the defence of her lion, and the protection of her
flag.” The Tahitians expressed their sense of the favours being forced
upon them by the French by passing a law prohibiting “the propagation
of any religious doctrines, or the celebration of any religious
worship, opposed to that true gospel of old propagated in Tahiti by the
missionaries from Britain; that is, these forty years past.”

This breach of international courtesy brought Captain Laplace on the
_Artémise_ out to Tahiti “to obtain satisfaction from the Lutheran
evangelists who had forced themselves on a simple and docile people.”
As the _Artémise_ was off the coast, on April 22, 1839, she struck on
a coral reef: an accident that resulted in the officers and crew being
lodged on shore for two months. These two months must have given the
brethren bitter fruit for reflection upon the ease with which their
years of unselfish striving could be obliterated. According to the
account of Louis Reybaud of the _Artémise_: “From the first, the most
perfect harmony prevailed between the ship’s company and the natives.
Each of the latter chose his _tayo_,--that is, another self--among the
sailors. Between _tayos_ everything is common. At night, the _tayos_,
French and Tahitian, went together to the common hut. Every sailor has
thus a house, a wife, a complete domestic establishment. As jealousy is
a passion unknown to these islanders, it may be imagined what resources
and pleasures such an arrangement afforded our crew. The natives were
delighted with the character of our people; they had never met with
such gaiety, expansiveness, and kindness in any other foreigners. The
beach presented the aspect of a continual holiday, to the great scandal
of the missionaries. We have seen how the men managed, and what friends
they found. The officers were not less fortunate. The island that
Bougainville called the _New Cytherea_ does not belie its name. When
the evening set in, every tree along the coast shaded an impassioned
pair; and the waters of the river afforded an asylum to a swarm of
copper-coloured nymphs, who came to enjoy themselves with the young
midshipmen. Wherever you walked you might hear the _oui! oui! oui!_ the
word that all the women have learnt with marvellous facility. It would
have been far more difficult to teach them to say _non!_”

Among these relaxations, Captain Laplace found time publicly to declare
to the islanders “how shameful and even dangerous it was to violate
the faith of treaties, and how unjust and barbarous was intolerance.”
Before his sailing, Captain Laplace commanded Pomare to come aboard
the _Artémise_ to sign a treaty guaranteeing no discrimination against
the French. Pomare’s despondency at the beginning of the proceedings
was solaced by champagne and brandy. Casimir Henricy, who accompanied
the _Artémise_ throughout her circumnavigatory voyage, says: “When the
spirits of the party were sufficiently elevated to find everything
good, and while the hands were yet sufficiently steady not to let the
pen drop, the treaty was produced as the crowning act of the festivity.
M. Laplace thought he had gained a great victory over Polynesian
diplomacy; and, certainly, never was a political horizon more bright in
flowers and bottles.”

While Tahiti was the theatre of these religious and political cabals,
more important and decisive measures occupied the mighty minds of
Europe. The captains who had punished and conventionalised Pomare
and her people had made their reports in person to their sovereign
in Paris, and to the ministers of state, who had indicated their
instructions. Honours and titles were awarded to the successful
officers, and on their showing it was resolved that the Marquesas
should first be taken possession of, and then Tahiti. Rear-Admiral Du
Petit-Thouars was commissioned to execute the seizure. On board the
_Reine Blanche_, accompanied by three frigates and three corvettes,
he touched Fatu-Heva, the southernmost of the Marquesas, on April 26,
1842, and culminated his triumphant progress through the group in the
bay of Tyohee at Nukuheva on May 31.

The _Acushnet_ arrived at Nukuheva at a memorable time. “It was in the
summer of 1842 that we arrived at the islands,” says Melville; “the
French had then held possession of them for several weeks.”



  “‘Why, they are cannibals!’ said Toby on one occasion when I
  eulogised the tribe. ‘Granted,’ I replied, ‘but a more humane,
  gentlemanly and amiable set of epicures do not probably exist in the


It was sunset when the _Acushnet_ came within sight of the loom of
the mountains of the Marquesas. Innumerable sea-fowls, screaming and
whirling in spiral tracts had, for some days previous, been following
the vessel as harbingers from land. As the ship drew nearer to green
earth, several of man-of-war’s-hawks, with their blood-red bills and
raven plumage, had circled round the ship in diminishing circles
until Melville was able distinctly to mark the strange flashing of
their eyes; and then, as if satisfied by their observations, they
would sail up into the air as if to carry sinister warning on ahead.
Then,--driftwood on the oily swells; and finally had come the glad
announcement from aloft--given with that peculiar prolongation of sound
that a sailor loves--“Land ho!”

After running all night with a light breeze straight for the island,
the _Acushnet_ was in easy distance of the shore by morning. But
as the _Acushnet_ had approached the island from the side opposite
to Tyohee--christened by Captain Porter, Melville remembered,
Massachusetts Bay,--they were obliged to sail some distance along
the shore. Melville was surprised not to find “enamelled and softly
swelling plains, shaded over by delicious groves, and watered by
purling brooks.” Instead he found himself cruising along a bold
rock-bound coast, dashed high against by the beating surf, and broken
here and there into deep inlets that offered sudden glimpses of
blooming valleys, deep glens, waterfalls and waving groves. As the ship
sailed by the projecting and rocky headlands with their short inland
vistas of new and startling beauty, one of the sailors exclaimed to
Melville, pointing with his hand in the direction of the treacherous
valley: “There--there’s Typee. Oh, the bloody cannibals, what a meal
they’d make of us if we were to take it into our heads to land! but
they say they don’t like sailors’ flesh, it’s too salt. I say, matey,
how should you like to be shoved ashore there, eh?” Melville shuddered
at the question, he says, little thinking that within the space of a
few weeks he would actually be a captive in that self-same valley.

Towards noon they swung abreast of their harbour. No description can
do justice to its beauty, Melville tells us. But its beauty was to him
not an immediate discovery. All that he saw was the tri-coloured flag
of France trailing over the stern of six vessels, whose black hulls and
bristling broadsides floated incongruously in that tranquil bay.

The first emissary from the shore to welcome the _Acushnet_ was a
visitor in that interesting state of intoxication when a man is amiable
and helpless: a south-sea vagabond, once a lieutenant in the English
navy, recently appointed pilot to the harbour by the invincible French.
He was aided by some benevolent person out of his whale-boat into
the _Acushnet_, and though utterly unable to stand erect or navigate
his own body, he magnanimously proffered to steer the ship to a good
anchorage: a feat Captain Pease did for himself, despite the amazing
volubility of the visitor in contrary commands.

This renegade from Christendom and humanity was of a type not
infrequently met with in accounts of the South Seas. At Hannamanoo,
Melville came across another such--a white man in the South Sea
girdle, and tattooed on the face, living among a tribe of savages
and apparently settled for life, so perfectly satisfied seemed he
with his circumstances. This man was an Englishman,--Lem Hardy he
called himself,--who had deserted from a trading brig touching at
Hannamanoo for wood and water some ten years previous. Aboard the
_Acushnet_ he told his history. “Thrown upon the world a foundling,
his paternal origin was as much a mystery to him as the genealogy of
Odin; and scorned by everybody, he fled the parish workhouse when a
boy, and launched upon the sea. He had followed it for several years,
a dog before the mast, and now he had thrown it up forever.” He had
gone ashore as a sovereign power, armed with a musket and a bag of
ammunition, and soon became, what he was when Melville found him,
military leader of the tribe, war-god of the entire island, living
under the sacred protection of an express edict of the taboo, his
person inviolable forever. In _Iles Marquises, ou Nouka-Hiva, Histoire,
Géographie, Mœurs et Considérations Générales_ (Paris, 1843) by
Vincendon-Dumoulin and Desgraz is to be found (pages 356-359) a history
of two more of these vagabonds: one Joseph Cabri, a Frenchman, and one
E. Roberts, an Englishman. Cabri returned to Europe, for a time, to
find the novelty of his tattooing both an embarrassment and a source of
livelihood. He was examined by grave learned societies, was presented
before several crowned heads, and submitted his person to intimate
examination to any one who would pay his fee. In 1818 he died in
obscurity and poverty in Valenciennes, his birth place. His historians
regret that his precious person was not preserved in alcohol to
delight the inquiring mind of later generations. The Pacific, it would
appear, was early a place of refuge for men with an insurmountable
homesickness for the mud. Melville soon came to believe that the
gifts of civilisation to the South Seas were without exception very
doubtful blessings; he came to be a special pleader for the barbaric
virtues; when these virtues were practised by legitimate barbarians;
but the spectacle of such men as Hardy fell beyond the pale of his
unusually broad sympathies. Though he was despairingly alert to the
vices of Christendom, never was he betrayed into a corrupt hankering to
recapitulate into savagery. Though he excused the cannibalism of the
Marquesans as an amiable weakness, he gazed upon Hardy “with a feeling
akin to horror.” Hardy’s tattooing was to Melville the outward and
visible sign of the lowest degradation to which a mortal, nurtured in a
civilisation that had for thousands of years a pathetically imperfect
struggle striven to some significance above the beast, could possibly
descend. “What an impress!” Melville exclaimed in superlative loathing.
“Far worse than Cain’s--_his_ was perhaps a wrinkle, or a freckle,
which some of our modern cosmetics might have effaced.” But Hardy’s
tattooing was to Melville a mark indelible of the blackest of all

More worthy emissaries than the pilot to the port of Tyohee were to
welcome Melville to the Marquesas. The entrance of the _Acushnet_
brought from the shore a flotilla of native canoes. “Such strange
outcries and passionate gesticulations I never certainly heard or saw
before,” Melville says. “You would have thought the islanders were on
the point of flying at one another’s throats, whereas they were only
amiably engaged in disentangling their boats.” Melville was surprised
at the strange absence of a single woman in the invading party, not
then knowing that canoes were “taboo” to women, and that consequently,
“whenever a Marquesan lady voyages by water, she puts in requisition
the paddles of her own fair body.”

As the _Acushnet_ approached within a mile and a half of the foot of
the bay, Melville noticed a singular commotion in the water ahead of
the vessel: the women, swimming out from shore, eager to embrace the
advantages of civilisation. “As they drew nearer,” Melville says,
“and as I watched the rising and sinking of their forms, and beheld
the uplifted right arm bearing above the water the girdle of tappa,
and their long dark hair trailing beside them as they swam, I almost
fancied they could be nothing else but so many mermaids. Under slow
headway we sailed right into the midst of these swimming nymphs, and
they boarded us at every quarter; many seizing hold of the chain-plates
and springing into the chains; others, at the peril of being run over
by the vessel in her course, catching at the bob-stays, and wreathing
their slender forms about the ropes, hung suspended in the air. All
of them at length succeeded in getting up the ship’s side, where
they clung dripping with the brine and glowing with the bath, their
jet-black tresses streaming over their shoulders, and half enveloping
their otherwise naked forms. There they hung, sparkling with savage
vivacity, laughing gaily at one another, and chattering away with
infinite glee. Nor were they idle the while, for each performed the
simple offices of the toilet for the other. Their luxuriant locks,
wound up and twisted into the smallest possible compass, were freed
from the briny element; the whole person carefully dried, and from a
small little round shell that passed from hand to hand, anointed with
a fragrant oil: their adornments were completed by passing a few loose
folds of white tappa, in a modest cincture, around the waist. Thus
arrayed, they no longer hesitated, but flung themselves lightly over
the bulwarks, and were quickly frolicking about the decks. Many of
them went forward, perching upon the headrails or running out upon the
bowsprit, while others seated themselves upon the taffrail, or reclined
at full length upon the boats.”

The ship was fairly captured, and it yielded itself willing prisoner.
In the evening, after anchor had been struck, the deck was hung with
lanterns, and the women, decked in flowers, danced with “an abandoned
voluptuousness” that was a prelude “to every species of riot and
debauchery.” According to Melville’s account, on board the _Acushnet_
“the grossest licentiousness and the most shameful inebriety prevailed,
with occasional and but short-lived interruptions, through the whole
period of her stay.”

Nor were the French at the Marquesas neglectful of their duties to the
islanders. Admiral Du Petit-Thouars had stationed about one hundred
soldiers ashore, according to Melville’s account. Every other day
the troops marched out in full regalia, and for hours went through
all sorts of military evolutions to impress a congregation of naked
cannibals with the superior sophistications of Christendom. “A
regiment of the Old Guard, reviewed on a summer’s day in the Champs
Elysées,” Melville vouches, “could not have made a more critically
correct appearance.” The French had also with them, to enrich their
harvest of savage plaudits, a _puarkee nuee_, or “big hog”--in more
cultivated language, a horse. One of the officers was commissioned to
prance up and down the beach at full speed on this animal, with results
that redounded to the glory of France. This horse “was unanimously
pronounced by the islanders to be the most extraordinary specimen of
zoology that had ever come under their observation.”

It would be an ungracious presumption to contend that the French, while
at the Marquesas, exhibited to the natives only the sterner side of
civilisation. The behaviour of the French at Tahiti leaves room for
the hope that they were no less gallant at the Marquesas. An officer
of the _Reine Blanche_, writing at sea on October 10, 1842, of the
exploits of his countrymen at Tahiti, says, in part: “In the evening,
more than a hundred women came on board. At dinner time, the officers
and midshipmen invited them gallantly to their tables; and the repasts,
which were very gay, were prolonged sufficiently late at night, so
that fear might keep on board those of the women who were afraid to
sail home by the doubtful light of the stars.” The last three lines of
this letter were suppressed by the _Journal de Debats_, it is true,
but given in the _National_ and other journals. Three days later the
letter was officially pronounced “inexact” by the _Moniteur_, which
courageously asserted that “it is utterly false that a frigate has been
the theatre of corruption, in any country whatever; and French mothers
may continue to congratulate themselves that their sons serve in the
navy of their country.”

While the Frenchmen at the Marquesas--no less than the Americans, one
hopes with pardonable patriotic jealousy--were giving their mothers
at home cause for congratulation, Melville came to the determination
to leave the ship; “to use the concise, point-blank phrase of the
sailors, I had made up my mind to ‘run away.’” And that his reasons
for resolving to take this step were numerous and weighty, he says,
may be inferred from the fact that he chose rather to risk his fortune
among cannibals than to endure another voyage on board the _Acushnet_.
In _Typee_ he gives a general account of the captain’s bad treatment
of the crew, and his non-fulfilment of agreements. Life aboard the
_Acushnet_ has already been sufficiently expatiated upon.

Melville knew that immediately adjacent to Nukuheva, and only separated
from it by the mountains seen from the harbour, lay the lovely valley
of Happar, whose inmates cherished the most friendly relations with
the inhabitants of Nukuheva. On the other side of Happar, and closely
adjoining it, lay the magnificent valley of the dreaded Typee, the
unappeasable enemies of both these tribes. These Typees enjoyed a
prodigious notoriety all over the islands. The natives of Nukuheva,
Melville says, used to try to frighten the crew of the _Acushnet_
“by pointing to one of their own number and calling him a Typee,
manifesting no little surprise when we did not take to our heels at so
terrible an announcement.” But having ascertained the fact that the
tribes of the Marquesas dwell isolated in the depths of the valleys,
and avoided wandering about the more elevated portions of the islands,
Melville concluded that unperceived he might effect a passage to the
mountains, where he might easily and safely remain, supporting himself
on such fruits as came in his way, until the sailing of the ship. The
idea pleased him greatly. He imagined himself seated beneath a cocoanut
tree on the brow of the mountain, with a cluster of plantains within
easy reach, criticising the ship’s nautical evolutions as she worked
her way out of the harbour, and contrasting the verdant scenery about
him with the recollections of narrow greasy decks and the vile gloom of
the forecastle.

Melville at first prided himself that he was the only person on board
the _Acushnet_ sufficiently reckless to attempt an idyllic sojourn
on an island of irreclaimable cannibals. But Toby’s perennially
hanging over the side of the ship, gazing wistfully at the shore in
moody isolation, coupled with Melville’s knowledge of Toby’s hearty
detestation of the ship, of his dauntless courage, and his other
engaging traits as companion in high adventure, led Melville to
share with Toby his schemes. A few words won Toby’s most impetuous
co-operation. Plans were rapidly made and ratified by an affectionate
wedding of palms, when, to elude suspicion, each repaired to his
hammock to spend a last night aboard the _Acushnet_.

[Illustration: In 1855


  Editor of the _Sandusky Mirror_]

On the morrow, with as much tobacco, ship’s biscuit and calico as they
could stow in the front of their frocks, Melville and Toby made off for
the interior of Nukuheva,--but not before Melville “lingered behind
in the forecastle a moment to take a parting glance at its familiar
features.” Their five days of marvellous adventures that landed them
finally in the valley of Typee has abidingly tried the credulity of
Melville’s readers--though never for an instant their patience.
After reading these adventures, Stevenson expressed his slangy approval
by hailing Melville as “a howling cheese.” It has been questioned in
passing whether or not the number of days that two strong male humans,
going through incredible exertion, can support themselves upon a hunk
of bread soaked in sweat and ingrained with shreds of tobacco, must
not be fewer than Melville makes out. And did they, in sober verity,
critics have asked, lower themselves down the cliff by swinging from
creeper to creeper with horrid gaps between them--was it as steep
as Melville says, and the creepers as far apart? And did they, on
another occasion, as Melville asserts, break a second gigantic fall by
pitching on the topmost branches of a very high palm tree? During these
thrilling and terrible five days, hardship runs hard on the heels of
hardship, and each obstacle as it presents itself, seems, if possible,
more unsurmountable than the last. There is no way out of this, one
says for the tenth time: but the sagacity and fearless confidence
of Toby--to whom let glory be given--and the manful endurance of
Melville through parching fever and agonising lameness, disappoint the
lugubrious reader. On the third day after their escape, their ardour
is cooled to a resolve to forego futile ramblings for a space. They
crawled under a clump of thick bushes, and pulling up the long grass
that grew around, covered themselves completely with it to endure
another downpour. While the exhausted Toby slept through the violent
rain, Melville tossed about in a raging fever, without the heart to
wake Toby when the rain ceased. Chancing to push aside a branch,
Melville was as transfixed with surprised delight as if he had opened a
sudden vista into Paradise. He “looked straight down into the bosom of
a valley, which swept away in long wavy undulations to the blue waters
in the distance. Midway towards the sea, and peering here and there
amidst the foliage, might be seen the palmetto-thatched houses of its
inhabitants glistening in the sun that had bleached them to a dazzling
whiteness. The vale was more than three leagues in length, and about a
mile across its greatest width. Everywhere below me, from the base of
the precipice upon whose very verge I had been unconsciously reposing,
the surface of the vale presented a mass of foliage, spread with such
rich profusion that it was impossible to determine of what description
of trees it consisted. But perhaps there was nothing about the scenery
I beheld more impressive than those silent cascades, whose slender
threads of water, after leaping down the steep cliffs, were lost amidst
the rich foliage of the valley. Over all the landscape there reigned
the most hushed repose, which I almost feared to break, lest, like the
enchanted gardens of the fairy tale, a single syllable might dissolve
the spell.” Toby was awakened and called into consultation. With his
usual impetuosity, Toby wanted promptly to descend into the valley
before them; but Melville restrained him, dwelling upon the perilous
possibility of its inhabitants being Typees. Toby was with difficulty
reined to circumspection, and off Melville and his companion started
on a wild goose chase for a valley on the other side of the ridge.
So fruitless and disheartening did this attempt prove, that Melville
was reduced to the wan solace that it was, after all, better to die
of starvation in Nukuheva than to be fed on salt beef, stale water
and flinty bread in the forecastle of the _Acushnet_. Yet Toby was
dauntless. Despite the defeats of the preceding day, Toby awoke on the
following morning as blithe and joyous as a young bird. Melville’s
fever and his swollen leg, however, had left him not so exultant.

“What’s to be done now?” Melville inquired, after their morning repast
of a crumb of sweat-mixed biscuit and tobacco,--and rather doleful was
his inquiry, he confesses.

“Descend into that same valley we descried yesterday,” rejoined Toby,
with a rapidity and loudness of utterance that led Melville to suspect
almost that Toby had been slyly devouring the broadside of an ox in
some of the adjoining thickets. “Come on, come on; shove ahead. There’s
a lively lad,” shouted Toby as he led the way down a ravine that jagged
steeply along boulders and tangled roots down into the valley; “never
mind the rocks; kick them out of the way, as I do; and to-morrow, old
fellow, take my word for it, we shall be in clover. Come on;” and so
saying he dashed along the ravine like a madman.

Thus was piloted down into the heart of barbarism the man who was to
emerge as the first Missionary Polynesia ever sent to Christendom. And
on the chances of Toby’s contagious impetuosity hung the annexation
of a new realm to the kingdom of the imagination and the discovery
of a new manner in the history of letters. For on that day, when
Melville and Toby struggled down that ravine like Belzoni worming
himself through the subterranean passages of the Egyptian catacombs,
the Polynesians were without a competent apologist, and the literary
possibilities of the South Seas were unsuspected.

Literature was, of course, already elaborated with fantastic patterns
drawn from barbarism, and the Indians of Aphra Behn and Voltaire had
given place to the redmen of Cooper. Earlier than this, however, the
great discoverers, in their wealth of records, had given many an
account of their contacts with savage peoples. But one searches in
vain among these records for any very vivid sense that the savage and
the Christian belong to the same order of nature. At best, one gathers
the impression that in savagery God’s image had been multiplied in an
excess of contemptible counterfeits. Melville reports that as late
as his day “wanton acts of cruelty are not unusual on the part of
sea captains landing at islands comparatively unknown. Indeed, it is
almost incredible, the light in which many sailors regard these naked
heathens. They hardly consider them human. But it is a curious fact,
that the more ignorant and degraded men are, the more contemptuously
they look upon those whom they deem their inferiors.” John G. Paton
records in his _Autobiography_ how, in 1860, three traders gleefully
told him that to humble the natives of Tanna, and to diminish their
numbers, they had let out on shore at different ports, four men ill
with the measles--an exceedingly virulent disease among savage peoples.
“Our watchwords are,” these jolly traders said, “‘sweep the creatures
into the sea, and let white men occupy the soil.’” This sentiment
belongs more to a fixed human type, than to a period, of course: and
that type has frequently taken to sailing strange seas. In treachery,
cruelty, and profligacy, the exploits of European discoverers contain
some of the rosiest pages in the history of villainy.

These sickening pages of civilised barbarism soon won to the savage
ardent apologists, however, who applied an old technique of libel by
imputing to the unbreeched heathen a touching array of the superior
virtues. Montaigne was among the first to come forward in this
capacity. “We may call them barbarous in regard to reasons rules,”
he said, “but not in respect to us that exceed them in all kinde of
barbarisme. Their warres are noble and generous, and have as much
excuse and beautie, as this humane infirmitie may admit: they ayme
at nought so much, and have no other foundation amongst them, but
the meere jelousie of vertue.” Once in full current of idealisation
Montaigne goes on to write as if he soberly believed that savage
peoples were descended from a stock that Eve had conceived by an angel
before the fall. In his dithyramb on the nobilities of savagery,
Montaigne was unhampered by any first-hand dealings with savages, and
he was far too wise ever to betray the remotest inclination to improve
his state by migrating into the bosom of their uncorrupted nobility.

The myth of the “noble savage” was a taking conceit, however, and
when Rousseau taught the world the art of reverie, he taught it also
an easy vagabondage into the virgin forest and into the pure heart of
the “natural man.” In describing Rousseau’s influence on the drawing
rooms, Taine says that “The fops dreamed between two madrigals of
the happiness of sleeping naked in the virgin forest.” Rousseau’s
savage, “attached to no place, having no prescribed task, obeying no
one, having no other law than his own will,” was, of course, a wilful
backward glance to the vanished paradise of childhood, not a finding of
ethnology. Yet ethnology may prate as it will, the “noble savage” is a
myth especially diverting to the over-sophisticated, and like dreams
of the virgin forest, thrives irrepressibly among the upholsterings
of civilisation. The soft and ardent dreamer, no less than the sleek
and parched imagination of Main Street, find compensation for the
defeats of civilisation in dreams of a primitive Arcadia. While the
kettle is boiling they relax into slippers and make the grand tour.
Chateaubriand--whose life, according to Lemaître, was a “magnificent
series of attitudes”--showed incredible hardihood of attitudinising
in crossing the Atlantic in actual quest of the primitive. In the
forest west of Albany he did pretend to find some satisfaction in
wild landscape. He showed his “intoxication” at the beauties of wild
nature by taking pains to do “various wilful things that made my guide
furious.” But Chateaubriand was less fortunate in his contact with
savagery than he was with nature. His first savages he found under a
shed taking dancing lessons from a little Frenchman, who, “bepowdered
and befrizzled” was scraping on a pocket fiddle to the prancings of
“ces messieurs sauvages et ces dames sauvagesses.” Chateaubriand
concludes with a reflection: “Was it not a crushing circumstance for
a disciple of Rousseau?” And it is an indubitable fact that if the
present-day disciples of the South Sea myth would show Chateaubriand’s
hardihood and migrate to Polynesia, they would find themselves in
circumstances no less “crushing.”

Melville was the first competent literary artist to write with
authority about the South Seas. In his day, a voyage to those distant
parts was a jaunt not lightly to be undertaken. In the Pacific
there were islands to be discovered, islands to be annexed, and
whales to be lanced. As for the incidental savage life encountered
in such enterprise, that, in Montaigne’s phrase, was there to be
bastardised, by applying it to the pleasures of our corrupted taste.
These attractions of whaling and patriotism--with incidental rites
to Priapus--had tempted more than one man away from the comfort of
his muffins, and more than one returned to give an inventory of
the fruits of the temptation. The knowledge that these men had of
Polynesia was ridiculously slight: the regular procedure was to
shoot a few cannibals, to make several marriages after the manner of
Loti. The result is a monotonous series of reports of the glorious
accomplishments of Christians: varied on occasions with lengthy and
learned dissertations on heathendom. But they are invariably writers
with insular imagination, telling us much of the writer, but never
violating the heart of Polynesia.

The Missionaries, discreetly scandalised at the exploitation of unholy
flesh, went valiantly forth to fight the battle of righteousness
in the midst of the enemy. The missionaries came to be qualified
by long first-hand contact to write intimately of the heathen: but
their records are redolent with sanctity, not sympathy. The South Sea
vagabonds were the best hope of letters: but they all seem to have died
without dictating their memoirs. William Mariner, it is true, thanks
to a mutiny at the Tongo Islands in 1805, was “several years resident
in those islands:” and upon Mariner’s return, Dr. John Martin spent
infinite patience in recording every detail of savage life he could
draw from Mariner. Dr. Martin’s book is still a classic in its way:
detailed, sober, and naked of literary pretensions. This book is the
nearest approach to _Typee_ that came out of the South Seas before
Melville’s time. So numerous have been the imitators of Melville, so
popular has been the manner that he originated, that it is difficult
at the present day to appreciate the novelty of _Typee_ at the time of
its appearance. When we read Mr. Frederick O’Brien we do not always
remember that Mr. O’Brien is playing “sedulous ape”--there is here
intended no discourtesy to Mr. O’Brien--to Melville, but that in
_Typee_ and _Omoo_ Melville was playing “sedulous ape” to nobody. Only
when _Typee_ is seen against the background of _A Missionary Voyage to
the Southern Pacific Ocean performed in the years 1796, 1797, 1798 in
the Ship Duff_ (1799) and Mariner’s _Tonga_ (1816) (fittingly dedicated
to Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society, and companion of
Captain Cook in the South Seas) can Melville’s originality begin to

This originality lies partly, of course, in the novelty of Melville’s
experience, partly in the temperament through which this experience
was refracted. Melville himself believed his only originality was his
loyalty to fact. He bows himself out of the Preface “trusting that
his anxious desire to speak the ungarnished truth will gain him the
confidence of his readers.”

When Melville’s brother Gansevoort offered _Typee_ for publication
in England, it was accepted not as fiction but as ethnology, and was
published as _Melville’s Marquesas_ only after Melville had vouched for
its entire veracity.

Though Melville published _Typee_ upright in the conviction that he had
in its composition been loyal both to veracity and truth, his critics
were not prone to take him at his word. And he was to learn, too, that
veracity and truth are not interchangeable terms. Men do, in fact,
believe pretty much what they find it most advantageous to believe. We
live by prejudices, not by syllogisms. In _Typee_, Melville undertook
to show from first-hand observation the obvious fact that there are two
sides both to civilisation and to savagery. He was among the earliest
of literary travellers to see in barbarians anything but queer folk.
He intuitively understood them, caught their point of view, respected
and often admired it. He measured the life of the Marquesans against
that of civilisation, and wrote: “The term ‘savage’ is, I conceive,
often misapplied, and indeed when I consider the vices, cruelties,
and enormities of every kind that spring up in the tainted atmosphere
of a feverish civilisation, I am inclined to think that so far as the
relative wickedness of the parties is concerned, four or five Marquesan
Islanders sent to the United States as missionaries, might be quite as
useful as an equal number of Americans dispatched to the Islands in a
similar capacity.” Civilisation is so inured to anathema,--so reassured
by it,--indeed, that Melville could write a vague and sentimental
attack upon its obvious imperfections with the cool assurance that each
of his readers, applying the charges to some neighbour, would approve
in self-righteousness. But one ventures the “ungarnished truth” about
any of the vested interests of civilisation at the peril of his peace
in this world and the next. It was when Melville focussed his charge
and wrote “a few passages which may be thought to bear rather hard
upon a reverend order of men” with incidental reflections upon “that
glorious cause which has not always been served by the proceedings of
some of its advocates,” that all the musketry of the soldiers of the
Prince of Peace was aimed at his head. Melville himself was a man whose
tolerance provoked those who sat in jealous monopoly upon warring
sureties to accuse him of license. He specifies his delight in finding
in the valley of Typee that “an unbounded liberty of conscience seemed
to prevail. Those who were pleased to do so were allowed to repose
implicit faith in an ill-favoured god with a large bottle-nose and fat
shapeless arms crossed upon his breast; whilst others worshipped an
image which, having no likeness either in heaven or on earth, could
hardly be called an idol. As the islanders always maintained a discrete
reserve with regard to my own peculiar views on religion, I thought it
would be excessively ill-bred in me to pry into theirs.” This boast
of delicacy did not pass unnoticed by “a reverend order of men.” The
vitriolic rejoinder of the London Missionary Society would seem to
indicate that there may be two versions of “the ungarnished truth.” It
should be stated, however, that the English editions of _Typee_ contain
strictures against the Missionaries that were omitted in the American
editions. But even Melville’s unsanctified critics showed an anxiety
to repudiate him. Both _Typee_ and _Omoo_ were scouted as impertinent
inventions, defying belief in their “cool sneering wit and perfect want
of heart.” Melville’s name was suspiciously examined as being a _nom
de plume_ used to cover a cowardly and supercilious libel. A gentleman
signing himself G. W. P. and writing in the _American Review_ (1847,
Vol. IV, pp. 36-46) was scandalised by Melville’s habit of presenting
“voluptuous pictures, and with cool deliberate art breaking off always
at the right point, so as without offending decency, he may excite
unchaste desire.” After discovering in Melville’s writing a boastful
lechery, this gentleman undertakes to discountenance Melville on three
scores: (1) only the impotent make amorous boasts; (2) Melville had
none of Sir Epicure Mammon’s wished-for elixir; (3) the beauty of
Polynesian women is all myth.

Unshaken in the conviction of his loyalty to fact, Melville discovered
that the essence of originality lies in reporting “the ungarnished

On the subject of “originality” in literature, Melville says in
_Pierre_: “In the inferior instances of an immediate literary success,
in very young writers, it would be almost invariably observable, that
for that instant success they were chiefly indebted to some rich and
peculiar experience in life, embodied in a book, which because, for
that cause, containing original matter, the author himself, forsooth,
is to be considered original; in this way, many very original books
being the product of very unoriginal minds.” It is none the less true,
however, that though Melville and Toby both lived among the cannibals,
it was Melville, not Toby, who wrote _Typee_.

For four months Melville was held in friendly captivity by the Typees.
His swollen leg was healed by native doctors--but not without prolonged
pain and anxiety--he was fed, he was amused, he was lionised by
the valley. His hosts were savages; they were idolaters, they were
inhuman beasts who licked their lips over the roasted thighs of their
enemies; and at the same time they were crowned with flowers, sometimes
exquisite in beauty, courteous in manners, and engaged all day long in
doing not only what they enjoyed doing, but what, so far as Melville
could judge, they had every right to enjoy doing. With Toby, Melville
was consigned to the household of Kory-Kory. Kory-Kory, though a tried
servitor and faithful valet, was, Melville admits, in his shavings and
tattoos, a hideous object to look upon--covered all over with fish,
fowl, and monster, like an illustrated copy of Goldsmith’s _Animated
Nature_. Kory-Kory’s father, Marheyo, a retired gentleman of gigantic
frame, was an eccentric old fellow, who seems to have been governed
by no fixed principles whatever. He employed the greater part of his
time in throwing up a little shed just outside the house, tinkering
away at it endlessly, without ever appearing to make any perceptible
advance. He would eat, sleep, potter about, with fine contempt for
the proprieties of time or place. “Frequently he might have been
seen taking a nap in the sun at noonday, or a bath in the stream at
midnight. Once I beheld him eighty feet from the ground, in the tuft of
a cocoanut tree, smoking, and often I saw him standing up to the waist
in water, engaged in plucking out the stray hairs of his beard, using
a piece of mussel-shell for tweezers. I remember in particular his
having a choice pair of ear-ornaments, fabricated from the teeth of
some sea-monster. These he would alternately wear and take off at least
fifty times in the course of a day, going and coming from his little
hut on each occasion with all the tranquillity imaginable. Sometimes
slipping them through the slits in his ears, he would seize his spear
and go stalking beneath the shadows of the neighbouring groves, as if
about to give a hostile meeting to some cannibal knight. But he would
soon return again, and hiding his weapon under the projecting eaves
of the house, and rolling his clumsy trinkets carefully in a piece of
tappa, would resume his more pacific operations as quietly as if he had
never interrupted them.”

Kory-Kory’s mother was, so Melville reports, the only industrious
person in all the valley of Typee: “bustling about the house like a
country landlady at an unexpected arrival: forever giving the young
girls tasks to perform, which the little huzzies as often neglected;
poking into every corner, and rummaging over bundles of old tappa,
or making a prodigious clatter among the calabashes. She could not
have employed herself more actively had she been left an exceedingly
muscular and destitute widow, with an inordinate supply of young
children, in the bleakest part of the civilised world.” Yet was hers
withal the kindliest heart imaginable. “Warm indeed,” Melville says,
“are my remembrances of the dear, good, affectionate old Tinor!”

There also belonged to the household, three young men, “dissipated,
good-for-nothing, roystering blades of savages,” and several girls. Of
these, Melville has immortalised Fayaway, his most constant companion.
He has anatomised her charms in the manner of his first _Fragment from
a Writing-Desk_. But it is Fayaway in action, not Fayaway in still
life, that survives in the imagination. At Melville’s intercession, the
taboo against women entering a boat was lifted. Many hours they spent
together swimming, or floating in the canoe: diversions heightened in
their heinousness by the fact that Fayaway for the most part clung to
the primitive and summer garb of Eden--and the costume became her.
Nor did Melville’s depravity cease with his unblushing approval of
nakedness. “Strange as it may seem,” Melville writes in the ’40’s,
“there is nothing in which a young and beautiful female appears to more
advantage than in the act of smoking.” Fayaway not only smoked,--but
she smoked a pipe, as they drifted in the canoe. One day, as they were
gliding along, Fayaway “seemed all at once to be struck with a happy
idea. With a wild exclamation of delight, she disengaged from her
person the ample robe of tappa which was knotted over her shoulder (for
the purpose of shielding her from the sun), and spreading it out like
a sail, stood erect with upraised arms in the head of the canoe. We
American sailors pride ourselves upon our straight clean spars, but a
prettier mast than Fayaway made was never shipped aboard of any craft.”
John La Farge has painted Fayaway in this attitude.

And the occupation of Toby during all this? Soon after their arrival,
Toby had been despatched to Nukuheva under pretence of procuring relief
for Melville’s swollen leg, actually to facilitate his and Melville’s
escape. Toby never again returned to Typee. He had been treacherously
beguiled on board a whaler, unable to escape until he left his vessel
at New Zealand. “After some further adventures,” says Melville in
_The Story of Toby_, written in July, 1846, ten days after the two
men discovered each other’s existence through the instrumentality of
_Typee_, and published as a “sequel” to that novel, “Toby arrived home
in less than two years after leaving the Marquesas.”

While Melville had the companionship of Toby in Typee, he was even then
eager to get back to civilisation. That savagery was good for savages
he never wearied of contending. But despite the idyllic delights of
Typee--an idyll with a sombre background, however--Melville was never
tempted to resign himself to its vacant animal felicity. Melville,
unlike Baudelaire and Whitman, was not stirred by the advantages of
“living with the animals.” While among them, he evinced a desire
neither to adopt their ways, nor to change them. He made them pop-guns,
he astonished them by exhibiting the miracle of sewing. He tried to
teach them to box. “As not one of the natives had soul enough in him
to stand up like a man, and allow me to hammer away at him, for my own
personal satisfaction and that of the king, I was necessitated to
fight with an imaginary enemy, whom I invariably made to knock under to
my superior prowess.”

Among the bachelors of the Ti, the men’s club of the valley, he
chatted, he smoked, he drowsed: he witnessed the Feast of the
Calabashes when, for the livelong day “the drums sounded, the priests
chanted, and the multitude roared and feasted”--a scene reminiscent of
a University whole-heartedly given over to “campus activity.” A mock
battle was staged for his diversion. He entered the funeral fastnesses
where the effigies of former heroes eternally paddled canoes adorned by
the skulls of their enemies. He mused by pools, splashing with laughing
bronze nymphs. Yet withal, Melville was a captive in the valley. His
lameness, too, returned. His hosts began to make friendly but insistent
suggestions that he be tattooed--a suggestion superlatively repugnant
to him. He heard, moreover, the clamour of a cannibal feast, and lifted
the cover of a tub under which lay a fresh human skeleton. Under these
circumstances he taught old Marheyo two English words: _Home_ and
_Mother_. But he did not complete the trinity. _Forsan et haec olim
meminisse juvabit._ It was time for him to depart.

One profoundly silent noon, as Melville lay lame and miserable under
Kory-Kory’s roof, Mow-Mow, the one-eyed chief, appeared at the door,
and leaning forward towards Melville, whispered: _Toby pemi ena_--“Toby
has arrived.” That evening Mow-Mow’s dead body floated on the Pacific,
a boat-hook having been mortally hurled at his throat. And it was
Melville who hurled the boat-hook.

An Australian whaler, touching at the harbour of Nukuheva, had been
informed of Melville’s detention in Typee. Desirous of adding to his
crew, the Captain had sailed round thither, and “hove to” off the
mouth of the bay. Chary of the man-eating propensities of the Typees,
the Captain sent in a boat-load of taboo natives from the other
harbour, with an interpreter at their head, to procure Melville’s
release. Accompanied by a throng of armed natives, Melville was
carried down to the shore--being too lame to walk the distance. A
gun and an extravagant bounty of powder and calico were offered for
Melville’s release: but this bounty was clamorously and indignantly
rejected. Karakoee, the head of the ransoming party, was menaced by
furious gestures, and forced out into the sea, up to his waist in
the surf. Blows were struck, wounds were given, and blood flowed. In
the excitement of the fray, Melville was left to the guardianship of
Marheyo, Kory-Kory, and Fayaway. Throwing to these three the articles
that had been brought for his ransom, Melville bounded into the boat
which was in immediate readiness to pull off towards the ship. It
was not until the boat was about fifty yards from the shore that the
savages recovered from their astonishment at Melville’s alacrity in
escape. Then Mow-Mow and six or seven warriors rushed into the sea and
hurled their javelins at the retreating boat--and some of the weapons
passed as close as was desirable. The wind was freshening every minute,
and was right in the teeth of the retreating party. Karakoee, who was
steering the boat, gave many a look towards a jutting point of the bay
they had to pass. When they came within a hundred yards of the point,
the savages on the shore dashed into the water, swimming out towards
the boat: and by the time Melville’s party reached the headland, the
savages were spread right across the boat’s course. The rowers got
out their knives and held them ready between their teeth. Melville
seized the boat-hook. Mow-Mow, with his tomahawk between his teeth, was
nearest to the boat, ready the next instant to seize one of the oars.
“Even at the moment I felt horror at the act I was to commit; but it
was no time for pity or compunction, and with a true aim, and exerting
all my strength, I dashed the boat-hook at him. I struck him below the
throat, and forced him downward.” Mow-Mow’s body arose in the wake of
the boat, but not to attack again. Another savage seized the gunwale,
but the knives of the rowers so mauled his wrists, that before many
moments the boat was past all the Typees, and in safety. In the closing
tableau, Melville fell fainting into the arms of Karakoee.

Though later, when Melville was a sailor in the United States Navy,
he touched at the Marquesas, he never again set foot within the
valley of Typee. Melville had known the Typees in their uncorrupted
glory--strong, wicked, laughter-loving and clean. Mr. O’Brien visited
Typee not many years ago, to find it pathetically fallen from its high
estate. “I found myself,” he says, “in a loneliness indescribable and
terrible. No sound but that of a waterfall at a distance parted the
sombre silence.... Humanity was not so much absent as gone, and a
feeling of doom and death was in the motionless air, which lay like a
weight, upon leaf and flower. The thin, sharp buzzing of the _nonos_
was incessant.” Mr. O’Brien discovered in the heart of the valley fewer
than a dozen people who sat within the houses by cocoanut-husk fires,
the acrid smoke of which daunted the _nonos_. “They have clung to their
lonely _paepaes_ despite their poverty of numbers and the ferocity of
the _nonos_. They had clearings with cocoanuts and breadfruits, but
they cared no longer to cultivate them, preferring rather to sit sadly
in the curling fumes and dream of the past. One old man read aloud the
_Gospel of St. John_ in Marquesan, and the others listlessly listened,
seeming to drink in little comfort from the verses, which he recited in
the chanting monotone of their _uta_.... Nine miles in length is Typee,
from a glorious cataract that leaps over the dark buttress wall where
the mountain bounds the valley, to the blazing beach. And in all this
extent of marvellously rich land, there are now this wretched dozen
natives, too old or listless to gather their own food.”

Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!



  “Ah, truant humour. But to me
  That vine-wreathed urn of Ver, in sea
  Of halcyons, where no tides do flow
  Or ebb, but waves bide peacefully
  At brim, by beach where palm trees grow
  That sheltered Omai’s olive race--
  Tahiti should have been the place
  For Christ in advent.”

  --HERMAN MELVILLE: _Clarel_.

It was in the middle of a bright tropical afternoon that Melville made
good his escape from the valley of Typee. The Australian whaler--called
by Melville the _Julia_--which had broken his four months’ captivity,
lay with her main-topsail aback, about a league from the land. “She
turned out to be a small, slatternly looking craft, her hull and
spars a dingy black, rigging all slack and bleached nearly white, and
everything denoting an ill state of affairs aboard. Leaning carelessly
over the bulwarks were the sailors, wild, haggard-looking fellows in
Scotch caps and faded blue frocks; some of them with cheeks of mottled
bronze, to which sickness soon changes the rich berry-brown of a
seaman’s complexion in the tropics.” So extraordinary was Melville’s
appearance--“a robe of the native cloth was thrown over my shoulders,
my hair and beard were uncut, and I betrayed other evidences of my
recent adventure”--that as the boat came alongside, a low cry ran fore
and aft the deck. Immediately on gaining the deck, Melville was beset
on all sides by questions.

Indeed, never afterwards, it appears, could Melville escape a like
curiosity. Henceforth he was to be “the man who lived among the
cannibals.” Nor does he always seem to have been so uncommunicative as
he grew in later years. In the Preface to _Omoo_, after recording the
fact that he kept no journal during his wanderings in the South Seas,
he says: “The frequency, however, with which these incidents have been
verbally related, has tended to stamp them upon the memory.” There
is novelty in his logic: all twice-told tales are not always just-so
stories. He says, too, in the Preface to _Typee_: “The incidents
recorded in the following pages have often served, when ‘spun as a
yarn,’ not only to relieve the weariness of many a night-watch at sea,
but to excite the warmest sympathies of the author’s shipmates.”

Upon being taken aboard the _Julia_, Melville was almost immediately
seen by the captain, a young, pale, slender, sickly looking creature,
who signed Melville up for one cruise, engaging to discharge him at the
next port.

Life on board the _Julia_ was, if anything, worse than life on board
the _Acushnet_. In the first place, Melville was ill. Not until three
months after his escape from Typee did he regain his normal strength.
And, as always, Melville looked back with regret upon leaving the life
he had so wanted to escape from while he was in the midst of it. “As
the land faded from my sight,” he says, “I was all alive to the change
in my condition. But how far short of our expectations is oftentimes
the fulfilment of the most ardent hopes. Safe aboard of a ship--so
long my earnest prayer--with home and friends once more in prospect,
I nevertheless felt weighed down with a melancholy that could not be
shaken off.” Melville felt he was leaving cannibalism forever--and the
departure shot a pang into his heart.

The ship’s company were a sorry lot: reduced by desertion from
thirty-two to twenty souls, and more than half of the remaining were
more or less unwell from a long sojourn in a dissipated port. Some
were wholly unfit for duty; one or two were dangerously ill. The rest
managed to stand their watch, though they could do little. The crew
was, for the most part, a typical whaling crew: “villains of all
nations and dyes; picked up in the lawless Spanish Main, and among the
savages of the islands.” The provisions, too, on board the _Julia_ were
notoriously bad, even for a whaler. Melville’s regret at leaving Typee
was not mere wanton sentimentality.

The captain was despised by all aboard. He was commonly called “The
Cabin Boy,” “Paper Jack,” “Miss Guy” and other descriptive titles.
Though sheepish looking, he was a man of still, timid cunning that did
not endear him to Melville.

The mate, John Jermin, was of the efficient race of short thick-set
men: bullet headed, with a fierce little squint out of one eye, and a
nose with a rakish tilt to one side. His was the art of knocking a man
down with irresistible good humour, so the very men he flogged loved
him like a brother. He had but one failing: he abhorred weak infusions,
and cleaved manfully to strong drink. He was never completely sober:
and when he was nearly drunk he was uncommonly obstreperous.

Jermin was master of every man aboard except the ship’s carpenter,--a
man so excessively ugly he went by the name of “Beauty.” As
ill-favoured as Beauty was in person, he was no less ugly in temper:
his face had soured his heart. Melville witnessed an encounter between
Jermin and Beauty: an encounter that showed up clearly the state of
affairs on board. While Beauty was thrashing Jermin in the forecastle,
the captain called down the scuttle: “Why, why, what’s all this about?
Mr. Jermin, Mr. Jermin--carpenter, carpenter: what are you doing down
there? Come on deck; come on deck.” In reply to this, Doctor Long Ghost
cried out in a squeak, “Ah! Miss Guy, is that you? Now, my dear, go
right home, or you’ll get hurt.” The captain dipped his head down the
scuttle to make answer, to receive, full in the face, the contents of a
tin of soaked biscuit and tea-leaves. Things were not well aboard the

But it was Doctor Long Ghost--he who so mocked the captain--who
figures most largely in Melville’s history: a man remarkable both in
appearance and in personality. He was over six feet--a tower of bones,
with a bloodless complexion, fair hair and a pale unscrupulous grey
eye that twinkled occasionally with the very devil of mischief. At the
beginning of the cruise of the _Julia_, as ship’s doctor, he had lived
in the cabin with the captain. But once on a time they had got into a
dispute about politics, and the doctor, getting into a rage, had driven
his argument home with his fist, and left the captain on the floor,
literally silenced. The captain replied by shutting him up in his
state-room for ten days on a diet of bread and water. Upon his release
he went forward with his chests among the sailors where he was welcomed
as a good fellow and an injured man.

The early history of Doctor Long Ghost he kept to himself; but it was
Melville’s conviction that he had certainly at some time or other
spent money, drunk Burgundy, and associated with gentlemen. “He quoted
Virgil, and talked of Hobbes of Malmsbury, besides repeating poetry
by the canto, especially Hudibras.” In the most casual manner, too,
he could refer to an amour he had in Palermo, his lion hunting before
breakfast among the Kaffirs, and the quality of coffee he had drunk in

Melville was in no condition, physically, to engage in the ship’s
duties, so he and Doctor Long Ghost fraternised in the forecastle,
where they were treated by the crew as distinguished guests. There they
talked, played chess--with an outfit of their own manufacture--and
there Melville read the books of the Long Doctor, over and over again,
not omitting a long treatise on the scarlet fever.

At its best, the forecastle is never an ideal abode: but the forecastle
of the _Julia_--its bunks half wrecked, its filthy sailors’ pantry, and
its plague of rats and cockroaches--must have made the _Highlander_
seem as paradise in retrospect. The forecastle of the _Julia_,
Melville says, “looked like the hollow of an old tree going to decay.
In every direction the wood was damp and discoloured, and here and
there soft and porous. Moreover, it was hacked and hewed without
mercy, the cook frequently helping himself to splinters for kindling
wood.” The viciousness of the crew of the _Julia_, did not, of course,
perceptibly enhance the charms of the forecastle. Nor was Melville’s
estate made more enviable when the man in the bunk next to his went
wildly delirious. One night Melville was awakened from a vague dream of
horrors by something clammy resting on him: his neighbour, with a stark
stiff arm reached out into Melville’s bunk, had during the night died.
The crew rejoiced at his death.

For weeks the _Julia_ tacked about among the islands of the South
Seas. The captain was ill, and Jermin steered the _Julia_, to Tahiti,
to arrive off the island the moment that Admiral Du Petit-Thouars was
firing, from the _Reine Blanche_, a salute in honour of the treaty he
had just forced Pomare to sign.

But to the astonishment of the crew, Jermin kept the ship at sea,
fearing the desertion of all his men if he struck anchor. His purpose
was to set the sick captain ashore, and to resume the voyage of the
_Julia_ at once, to return to Tahiti after a certain period agreed
upon, to take the captain off. The crew were in no mood to view this
manœuvre with indifference. Melville and Long Ghost cautioned them
against the folly of immediate mutiny, and on the fly-leaf of an old
musty copy of _A History of the Most Atrocious and Bloody Piracies_, a
round-robin was indited, giving a statement of the crew’s grievances,
and concluding with the earnest hope that the consul would at once come
off and see how matters stood. Pritchard, the missionary consul, was at
that time in England; his place was temporarily filled by one Wilson,
son of the well-known missionary of that name, and no honour to his
ancestor. It did not promise well for the crew that Wilson was an old
friend of Captain Guy’s.

The round-robin was the prelude to iniquitous bullying and stupidity
on the part of Wilson, Jermin, and Captain Guy. To the crew, it seemed
that justice was poisoned at the fountain head. They gazed on the
bitter waters, did a stout menagerie prance, and raged into mutiny.
Then it was, after one of the men had all but succeeded in maliciously
running the _Julia_ straight upon a reef, that the good ship was
piloted into the harbour of Papeetee, and the crew--including Melville
and the Long Doctor, who were misjudged because of the company they
kept--were for five days and nights held in chains on board the _Reine
Blanche_. At the end of that time they were tried, one by one, before
a tribunal composed of Wilson and two elderly European residents.
Melville was examined last. One of the elderly gentlemen condescended
to take a paternal interest in Melville. “Come here, my young friend,”
he said; “I’m extremely sorry to see you associated with these bad
men; do you know what it will end in?” Melville was in no mood for
smug and salvationly solicitations. He had already declared that his
resolution with respect to the ship was unalterable: he stuck to this
resolution. Wilson thereupon pronounced the whole crew clean gone in
perversity, and steeped in abomination beyond the reach of clemency. He
then summoned a fat old native, Captain Bob--and a hearty old Bob he
proved--giving him directions to marshal the crew to a place of safe

Along the Broom Road they were led: and to Melville, escaped from the
forecastle of the _Julia_ and the confined decks of the frigate, the
air breathed spices. “The tropical day was fast drawing to a close,”
he says; “and from where we were, the sun looked like a vast red fire
burning in the woodlands--its rays falling aslant through the endless
ranks of trees, and every leaf fringed with flame.”

About a mile from the village they came to the _Calabooza
Beretanee_--the English jail.

The jail was extremely romantic in appearance: a large oval native
house, with a dazzling white thatch, situated near a mountain stream
that, flowing from a verdant slope, spread itself upon a beach of small
sparkling shells, and then trickled into the sea. But the jail was ill
adapted for domestic comforts, the only piece of furniture being two
stout pieces of timber, about twenty feet in length, gouged to serve
as stocks. John La Farge, in his _Reminiscences of the South Seas_,
says: “We try to find, by the little river that ends our walk, on this
side of the old French fort, the calaboose where Melville was shut up.
There is no one to help us in our search; no one remembers anything.
Buildings occupy the spaces of woodland that Melville saw about him.
Nothing remains but the same charm of light and air which he, like all
others, has tried to describe and to bring back home in words. But the
beach is still as beautiful as if composed by Claude Lorraine.”

In this now-departed calaboose, Melville and the rest were kept in very
lenient captivity by Captain Bob. Captain Bob’s notion of discipline
was delightfully vague. He insensibly remitted his watchfulness,
and the prisoners were free to stroll further and further from the
Calabooza. After about two weeks--for days melted deceptively into each
other at Tahiti--the crew was again summoned before Wilson, again to
declare themselves unshaken in their obstinate refusal to sail again
with Captain Guy. So back to the Calabooza they were sent.

The English Missionaries left their cards at the Calabooza in the
shape of a package of tracts; three of the French priests--whom the
natives viewed, so Melville says, as “no better than diabolical
sorcerers”--called in person. One of the priests--called by Melville,
Father Murphy--discovered a compatriot among the crew, and celebrated
the discovery by sending a present of a basket of bread. Such was
the persuasion of the gift that, on Melville’s count, “we all turned
Catholics, and went to mass every morning, much to Captain Bob’s
consternation. He threatened to keep us in the stocks, if we did not

After three weeks Wilson seems to have begun to suspect that it was not
remotely impossible that he was making a laughing stock of himself in
his futile attempt to break the mutineers into contrition. So off the
_Julia_ sailed, manned by a new crew. But before sailing, Jermin served
his old crew the good turn of having their chests sent ashore. And when
each was in possession of his sea-chest, the Calabooza was thronged
with Polynesians, each eager to take a _tayo_, or bosom friend.

Though technically still prisoners, Melville and his former shipmates
were allowed a long rope in their wanderings. Melville improved his
leisure by attending, each Sunday, the services held in the great
church which Pomare had built to be baptised in. In _Omoo_, Melville
gives a detailed account of a typical Sabbath, and then launches into
chapters of discussion upon the fruits of Christianity in Polynesia.

At church Melville had observed, among other puzzlingly incongruous
performances, a young Polynesian blade standing up in the congregation
in all the bravery of a striped calico shirt, with the skirts
rakishly adjusted over a pair of white sailor trousers, and hair well
anointed with cocoanut oil, ogling the girls with an air of supreme
satisfaction. And of those who ate of the bread-fruit of the Eucharist
in the morning, he knew several who were guilty of sad derelictions the
same night. Desiring, if possible, to find out what ideas of religion
were compatible with this behaviour, he and the Long Doctor called upon
three sister communicants one evening. While the doctor engaged the
two younger girls, Melville lounged on a mat with Ideea, the eldest,
dallying with her grass fan, and improving his knowledge of Tahitian.

“The occasion was well adapted to my purpose, and I began.

“‘Ah, Ideea, mickonaree oee?’ the same as drawling out--‘By the by,
Miss Ideea, do you belong to the church?’

“‘Yes, me mickonaree,’ was the reply.

“But the assertion was at once qualified by certain reservations; so
curious that I cannot forbear their relation.

“‘Mickonaree _ena_’ (church member _here_), exclaimed she, laying her
hand upon her mouth, and a strong emphasis on the adverb. In the same
way, and with similar exclamations, she touched her eyes and hands.
This done, her whole air changed in an instant; and she gave me to
understand, by unmistakable gestures, that in certain other respects
she was not exactly a ‘mickonaree.’ In short, Ideea was

  “‘A sad good Christian at the heart--
  A very heathen in the carnal part.’”

“The explanation terminated in a burst of laughter, in which all three
sisters joined; and for fear of looking silly, the doctor and myself.
As soon as good-breeding would permit, we took leave.”

It is Melville’s contention that the very traits in the Tahitians
which induced the London Missionary Society to regard them as the most
promising subjects for conversion, were, in fact, the most serious
obstruction to their ever being Christians. “An air of softness in
their manners, great apparent ingenuousness and docility, at first
misled; but these were the mere accompaniments of an indolence,
bodily and mental; a constitutional voluptuousness; and an aversion
to the least restraint; which, however fitted for the luxurious state
of nature, in the tropics, are the greatest possible hindrances to
the strict moralities of Christianity.” Of the Marquesans, Melville
says in _Typee_: “Better it will be for them to remain the happy and
innocent heathens and barbarians that they now are, than, like the
wretched inhabitants of the Sandwich islands, to enjoy the mere name
of Christians without experiencing any of the vital operations of true
religion, whilst, at the same time, they are made the victims of the
worst vices and evils of civilised life.”

Paul Gauguin, in his _Intimate Journals_, seems to share Melville’s
conviction that the Polynesians are disqualified by nature to
experience “any of the vital operations of the spirit.” In speaking of
the attempts of the missionaries to introduce marriage into Polynesia
he remarks cynically: “As they are going out of the church, the groom
says to the maid of honour, ‘How pretty you are!’ And the bride says to
the best man ‘How handsome you are!’ Very soon one couple moves off to
the right and another to the left, deep into the underbrush where, in
the shelter of the banana trees and before the Almighty, two marriages
take place instead of one. Monseigneur is satisfied, and says, ‘We are
beginning to civilise them.’”

The good intentions of the Missionaries Melville does not question. But
high faith and low intelligence is a dangerous if not uncommon mating
of qualities. “It matters not,” he says, “that the earlier labourers in
the work, although strictly conscientious, were, as a class, ignorant,
and in many cases, deplorably bigoted: such traits have, in some
degree, characterised the pioneers of all faith. And although in zeal
and disinterestedness, the missionaries now on the island are, perhaps,
inferior to their predecessors, they have, nevertheless, in their
own way, at least, laboured hard to make a Christian people of their

As a result of this labour idolatry was done away with; the entire
Bible was translated into Tahitian; the morality of the islanders
was, on the whole, improved. These accomplishments Melville freely
admits. But in temporal felicity, “the Tahitians are far worse off
now than formerly; and although their circumstances, upon the whole,
are bettered by the missionaries, the benefits conferred by the
latter become utterly insignificant, when confronted with the vast
preponderance of evil brought by other means.” Melville found that
there was still at Tahiti freedom and indolence; torches brandished
in the woods at night; dances under the moon, and women decked with
flowers. But he also found the Missionaries intent upon the abolition
of the native amusements and customs--in their crowning efforts,
decking the women out in hats “said to have been first contrived and
recommended by the missionaries’ wives; a report which, I really trust,
is nothing but a scandal.” To Melville’s eyes, Tahiti was neither Pagan
nor Christian, but a bedraggled bastard cross between the vices of two
incompatible traditions. And in this blend he saw the promise of the
certain extinction of the Polynesians. The Polynesians themselves were
not blind to the doom upon them. Melville had heard the aged Tahitians
singing in a low sad tone a song which ran: “The palm trees shall grow,
the coral shall spread, but man shall cease.”


From a report of The London Missionary Society, published in 1799.]

[Illustration: THE FLEET OF TAHITI

From an engraving after Hodges, the artist who accompanied Captain Cook
to the South Seas.]

Melville’s plea was that Christendom treat Polynesia with
reasonableness, and Christian charity: perhaps the two rarest qualities
in the world. His plea was not without results; he unloosed upon
himself exhibitions of venom of the whole-hearted sort that enamour
a misanthrope to life. _The Living Age_ (Vol. XXVII) reprinted from
the _Eclectic Review_ a tribute which began: “Falsehood is a thing of
almost invincible courage; overthrow it to-day, and with freshened
vigour it will return to the lists to-morrow. _Omoo_ illustrates this
fact. We were under the illusion that the abettors of infidelity
and the partisans of popery had been put to shame by the repeated
refutation and exposure of their slanders against the Protestant
Missions in Polynesia; but Mr. Melville’s production proves that shame
is a virtue with which these gentry are totally unacquainted, and that
they are resharpening their missiles for another onset.” This review
then made it its object “to show that his statements respecting the
Protestant Mission in Tahiti are perversions of the truth--that
he is guilty of deliberate and elaborate misrepresentation, and ...
that he is a prejudiced, incompetent, and truthless witness.” It was
taken for granted that Melville was guilty of the heinous crime of
being a Catholic. From this presumption it was easy to understand that
Melville’s plea for sweetness and light was but the vicious ravings of
a man “foiled and disappointed by the rejection of Mariolatry and the
worship of wafers and of images, and of dead men by the Bible-reading
Tahitians.” By a convincing--if not cogent--technique of controversy,
Melville’s evidence was impugned by a discounting of the morals of the
witness: a Catholic, and a disseminator of the “worst of European vices
and the most dreadful of European diseases.”

Melville was twenty-eight years old when he Quixotically championed
the heathen in the name of a transcendental charity which he believed
to be Christian. Amiable Protestant brethren undertook to disabuse him
of his naïve belief that the guardians of the faith of Christendom
invariably regulate their conduct in the spirit of Christ. As Melville
grew in wisdom he grew in disillusion: and his early tilt at the
London Missionary Society contributed to his rapid growth. At the
age of thirty-three he wrote in _Pierre_--a book planned to show the
impracticability of virtue--that “God’s truth is one thing, and man’s
truth another.” He then maintained that the history of Christendom for
the last 1800 years showed that “in spite of all the maxims of Christ,
that history is as full of blood, violence, wrong, and iniquity of
every kind, as any previous portion of the world’s story.” He says in

  “The world is portioned out, believe:
  The good have but a patch at best,
  The wise their corner; for the rest--
  Malice divides with ignorance.”

Melville points out that Christ’s teachings seemed folly to the Jews
because Christ carried Heaven’s time in Jerusalem, while the Jews
carried Jerusalem time there. “Did He not expressly say ‘My wisdom is
not of this world?’ Whatever is really peculiar in the wisdom of Christ
seems precisely the same folly to-day as it did 1850 years ago.” In
_Clarel_, he goes further, and calls the world

            “a den
  Worse for Christ’s coming, since His love
  (Perverted) did but venom prove.”

Though such a heretical idea was, to the Protestant brethren, of
course, clean gone on the farthest side of damnation, yet were Melville
and these same brethren working upon an identical major premise: each
was righteously convinced that he was about his Father’s business--each
was attempting to rout the other in the name of Christ. The brethren
rode forth in the surety of triumph; Melville retired within himself
convinced that defeat was not refutation, and that his way had been,
withal, the way of Heavenly Truth. And since his way bore but bitter
fruit, he shook the dust of the earth from his feet, convinced that
such soil was designed to nourish only iniquity. “Where is the earnest
and righteous philosopher,” he asks, framing his question to include
himself in that glorious minority, “who looking right and left, and up
and down through all the ages of the world, the present included; where
is there such an one who has not a thousand times been struck with a
sort of infidel idea, that whatever other worlds God may be Lord of,
He is not Lord of this: for else this world would seem to give Him the
lie; so utterly repugnant seem its ways to the instinctively known ways
of Heaven.” In this world, he grew to feel, a wise man resigns himself
to the world’s ways. “When we go to heaven,” he taught, “it will be
quite another thing. There, we can freely turn the left cheek, because
the right cheek will never be smitten. There they can freely give all
to the poor, for _there_ there will be no poor to give to.” And this,
he contended, was a salutary doctrine: “I hold up a practical virtue to
the vicious; and interfere not with the eternal truth, that, sooner or
later, downright vice is downright woe.” His milk of human kindness was
not sweetened by the thunder of the Protestant brethren.

Resigned to the insight that while on earth no wise man aims at heaven
except by a virtuous expediency, he accepted the London Missionary
Society as one of the evils inherent in the universe, and leaving it
to its own fate, looked prophetically forward to the Inter-Church
World Movement. In _The Confidence Man_ he makes one of the characters
say: “Missions I would quicken with the Wall Street spirit. For if,
confessedly, certain spiritual ends are to be gained but through
the auxiliary agency of worldly means, then, to the surer gaining
of such spiritual ends, the example of worldly policy in worldly
projects should not by spiritual projectors be slighted. In brief, the
conversion of the heathen, so far, at least, as depending on human
effort, would, by the world’s charity, be let out on contract. So much
by bid for converting India, so much for Borneo, so much for Africa.
You see, this doing good in the world by driblets is just nothing. I
am for doing good in the world with a will. I am for doing good to the
world once for all, and having done with it. Do but think of the eddies
and maelstroms of pagans in China. People here have no conception of
it. Of a frosty morning in Hong Kong, pauper pagans are found dead
in the streets like so many nipped peas in a bin of peas. To be an
immortal being in China is no more distinction than to be a snow-flake
in a snow-squall. What are a score or two of missionaries to such
a people? I am for sending ten thousand missionaries in a body and
converting the Chinese _en masse_ within six months of the debarkation.
The thing is then done, and turn to something else.” And in _Clarel_:

                “But preach and work:
  You’ll civilise the barbarous Turk--
  Nay, all the East may reconcile:
  That done, let Mammon take the wings of even,
  And mount and civilise the saints in heaven.”

But when Melville was in Tahiti he harboured less emancipated notions
than he later achieved. He was then to all outward seeming little
better than a beach-comber, disciplined for his participation in a
mutiny he and the Long Doctor had ineffectively tried to prevent, and
in the end abandoned by his ecclesiastical guardians to drift among the
natives of Tahiti, and to find his way back home any way he could.

The authorities at Tahiti left the party at the Calabooza to its own
disintegration: a sore on the island cured not by surgery but by
neglect. Gradually the mutineers melted out of sight.

With the Long Doctor, Melville sailed across to the neighbouring island
of Imeeo, there to hire themselves out as field-labourers to two
South Sea planters: one a tall, robust Yankee, born in the backwoods
of Maine, sallow, and with a long face; the other, a short florid
little Cockney. This strange pair had cleared about thirty acres
in the isolation of the wild valley of Martair, where they worked
with invincible energy, and struggling against all odds to farm in
Polynesia, and with Heaven knows what ideas of making a fortune on
their crude plantation.

Melville had tried farming in Pittsfield, and he liked the labour
even less in Polynesia than he did in Christendom. The Long Doctor
throve not at all hoeing potatoes under a tropical sun, all the while
saying masses as he watered the furrows with his sweat. Both Melville
and the Long Doctor enjoyed the hunt they took in the wilds of the
mountains: but back to the mosquitoes, the sweet-potatoes, and the
hardships of agriculture, they decided to launch forth again upon the
luck of the open road. What clothes they had were useless rags. So
barefooted, and garbed like comic opera brigands or mendicant grandees,
they started out on a tour of discovery around the island of Imeeo.
After about ten days of pleasant adventure and hospitality from the
natives they arrived at Partoowye to be accepted into the household of
an aristocratic-looking islander named Jeremiah Po-Po, and his wife
Arfretee. This was a household of converts: “Po-Po was, in truth, a
Christian,” Melville says: “the only one, Arfretee excepted, whom I
personally knew to be such, among all the natives of Polynesia.”

Arfretee fitted out Melville and the Doctor each with a new sailor
frock and a pair of trousers: and after a bath, a pleasant dinner, and
a nap, they came forth like a couple of bridegrooms.

Melville was in Partoowye, as guest of Po-Po, for about five weeks.
At that time it was believed that Queen Pomare--who was then in poor
health and spirits, and living in retirement in Partoowye--entertained
some idea of making a stand against the French. In this event, she
would, of course, be glad to enlist all the foreigners she could.
Melville and the Long Doctor played with the idea of being used by
Pomare as officers, should she take to warlike measures. But in this
scheme they won little encouragement. For though Pomare had, previous
to her misfortunes, admitted to her levees the humblest sailor who
cared to attend upon Majesty, she was, in her eclipse, averse to
receiving calls.

Shut off from an immediate prospect of interviewing Pomare, Melville
improved his time by studying the native life, and by visiting a whaler
in the harbour--the _Leviathan_--taking the precaution to secure
himself a bunk in the forecastle should he fail of a four-poster at
Court. His heart warmed to the _Leviathan_ after his first visit of
inspection on board. “Like all large, comfortable old whalers, she had
a sort of motherly look:--broad in the beam, flush decks, and four
chubby boats hanging at her breast.” The food, too, was promising. “My
sheath-knife never cut into better sea-beef. The bread, too, was hard,
and dry, and brittle as glass; and there was plenty of both.” The mate
had a likeable voice: “hearing it was as good as a look at his face.”
But Melville still clung to the hope of winning the ear of Pomare.
Although there was, Melville says, “a good deal of waggish comrades’
nonsense” about his and Long Ghost’s expectation of court preferment,
“we nevertheless really thought that something to our advantage might
turn up in that quarter.”

Pomare was then upward of thirty years of age; twice stormily married;
and a good sad Christian again,--after lapses into excommunication;
she eked out her royal exchequer by going into the laundry business,
publicly soliciting, by her agents, the washing of the linen belonging
to the officers of ships touching in her harbours. Her English sister,
Queen Victoria, had sent her a very showy but uneasy headdress--a
crown. Having no idea of reserving so pretty a bauble for coronation
days, which came so seldom, her majesty sported it whenever she
appeared in public. To show her familiarity with European customs, she
touched it to all foreigners of distinction--whaling captains and the
like--whom she happened to meet in her evening walk on the Broom Road.

Melville discovered among Pomare’s retinue a Marquesan warrior,
Marbonna,--a wild heathen who scorned the vices and follies of the
Christian court of Tahiti and the degeneracy of the people among whom
fortune had thrown him. Through the instrumentality of Marbonna, who
officiated as nurse of Pomare’s children, Melville and the Doctor at
last found themselves admitted into the palace of Pomare.

“The whole scene was a strange one,” Melville says; “but what most
excited our surprise was the incongruous assemblage of the most costly
objects from all quarters of the globe. Superb writing-desks of
rosewood, inlaid with silver and mother-of-pearl; decanters and goblets
of cut glass; embossed volumes of plates; gilded candelabras; sets of
globes and mathematical instruments; laced hats and sumptuous garments
of all sorts were strewn about among greasy calabashes half-filled with
_poce_, rolls of old tappa and matting, paddles and fish-spears. A
folio volume of Hogarth lay open, with a cocoanut shell of some musty
preparation capsized among the miscellaneous furniture of the Rake’s

While Melville and the Doctor were amusing themselves in this museum of
curiosities, Pomare entered, unconscious of the presence of intruders.

“She wore a loose gown of blue silk, with two rich shawls, one red, the
other yellow, tied about her neck. Her royal majesty was barefooted.
She was about the ordinary size, rather matronly; her features not very
handsome; her mouth voluptuous; but there was a care-worn expression
in her face, probably attributable to her late misfortunes. From her
appearance, one would judge her about forty; but she is not so old. As
the Queen approached one of the recesses, her attendants hurried up,
escorted her in, and smoothed the mats on which she at last reclined.
Two girls soon appeared, carrying their mistress’ repast; and then,
surrounded by cut glass and porcelain, and jars of sweetmeats and
confections, Pomare Vahinee I., the titular Queen of Tahiti, ate fish
and _poee_ out of her native calabashes, disdaining either knife or

The interview between the Queen and her visitors was brief. Long Ghost
strode up bravely to introduce himself. The natives surrounding the
Queen screamed. Pomare looked up, surprised and offended, and waved the
Long Doctor and Melville out of the house. Though Melville was later to
view a South American King, was to win the smile of Victoria and meet
Lincoln, Pomare was the first and only Polynesian Queen he ever saw.

Disappointed at going to court, feeling that they could no longer
trespass on Po-Po’s hospitality, “and then, weary somewhat of life in
Imeeo, like all sailors ashore, I at last pined for the billows.”

The Captain of the _Leviathan_--a native of Martha’s Vineyard--was
unwilling without persuasion to accept Melville, however. What with
Melville’s associations with Long Ghost, and the British sailor’s frock
Arfretee had given him, the Captain suspected Melville of being from
Sydney: a suspicion not intended as flattery. Unaccompanied by Long
Ghost, Melville finally interviewed the Captain, to find that worthy
mellowed at the close of a spirituous dinner. “After looking me in the
eye for some time, and by so doing, revealing an obvious unsteadiness
in his own visual organs, he begged me to reach forth my arm. I did so;
wondering what on earth that useful member had to do with the matter
in hand. He placed his fingers on my wrist; and holding them there for
a moment, sprang to his feet; and, with much enthusiasm, pronounced me
a Yankee, every beat of my pulse.” Another bottle was called, which
the captain summarily beheaded with the stroke of a knife, commanding
Melville to drain it to the bottom. “He then told me that if I would
come on board his vessel the following morning, I would find the ship’s
articles on the cabin transom.... So, hurrah for the coast of Japan!
Thither the ship was bound.”

The Long Doctor, on second thought, decided to eschew the sea for a
space. A last afternoon was spent with Po-Po and his family. “About
nightfall, we broke away from the generous-hearted household and
hurried down to the water. It was a mad, merry night among the sailors.
An hour or two after midnight, everything was noiseless; but when the
first streak of dawn showed itself over the mountains, a sharp voice
hailed the forecastle, and ordered the ship unmoored. The anchors came
up cheerily; the sails were soon set; and with the early breath of the
tropical morning, fresh and fragrant from the hillsides, we slowly
glided down the bay, and we swept through the opening in the reef.”

Melville never saw or heard from Long Ghost after their parting on that



  “Oh, give me the rover’s life--the joy, the thrill, the whirl! Let
  me feel thee again, old sea! let me leap into the saddle once more.
  I am sick of these terra firma toils and cares; sick of the dust and
  reek of towns. Let me hear the clatter of hailstones on icebergs. Let
  me snuff thee up, sea-breeze! and whinny in thy spray. Forbid it,
  sea-gods! intercede for me with Neptune, O sweet Amphitrite, that
  no dull clod may fall on my coffin! Be mine the tomb that swallowed
  up Pharaoh and all his hosts; let me lie down with Drake, where he
  sleeps in the sea.”

  --HERMAN MELVILLE: _White-Jacket_.

In 1898, there appeared the _Memories of a Rear-Admiral Who Has Served
for More Than Half a Century in the Navy of the United States_. S.
R. Franklin, the author of this volume, had lived a long and useful
life, with no design during his years of activity, it would seem,
of bowing himself out of the world as a man-of-letters. But in the
leisure of elderly retirement, he was persuaded by his friends to
get rid of his reminiscences once for all by putting them into a
book. Rear-Admiral Franklin took an inventory of his rich life, and
accepted the challenge. Had he not roamed about the globe since he
was sixteen years of age? And he had known a dozen famous Admirals,
three Presidents, three Emperors, two Popes, five Christian Kings and
a properly corresponding number of Queens, not to mention a whole army
of lesser notables.

In 1842, as midshipman aboard the _United States_ frigate, Franklin
cruised the Pacific. The _United States_ stopped at Honolulu, touched
at the Marquesas. Franklin reports that the Bay of Nukuheva “makes one
of the most beautiful harbours I have ever seen.” But upon the natives
he bestowed the contempt of a civilised man: “for the Marquesans were
cannibals of the worst kind, and no one who desired to escape roasting
ever ventured away from the coast.” The _United States_ did not remain
long in these waters, “where there was nothing to do but look at a lot
of half-naked savages.” So off sailed the frigate to Tahiti, where a
queen came aboard. But Franklin cannot remember whether it was Pomare
or some other queen: “Ladies of that rank were not uncommon in those
days in the South Seas.”

Franklin had then been cruising among the islands of the Pacific for
some months, and he was “not sorry when the time came to get under way
for the coast.” Men of Franklin’s type are a credit to civilisation:
men proud of their heritage, but unobtrusive in their pride. Franklin
was unmoved by any sanctimonious hankering to improve the heathen, or
by any romantic anxiety to ease into the mud of barbarism. “Savage and
half-civilised life becomes very irksome,” he says, “when the novelty
is worn off.”

“At Tahiti,” he goes on to state, “we picked up some seamen who were
on the Consul’s hands. They were entered on the books of the ship, and
became a portion of the crew. One of the number was Herman Melville,
who became famous afterwards as a writer and an admiralty lawyer. He
had gone to sea for his health, and found himself stranded in the
South Pacific. I do not remember what the trouble was, but he and his
comrades had left the ship of which they were a portion of the crew.
Melville wrote a book, well known in its day, called _White-Jacket_,
which had more influence in abolishing corporal punishment in the Navy
than anything else. This book was placed on the desk of every member of
Congress, and was a most eloquent appeal to the humane sentiment of the
country. As an evidence of the good it did, a law was passed soon after
the book appeared abolishing flogging in the Navy absolutely, without
substituting any other mode of punishment in its stead; and this was
exactly in accord with Melville’s appeal.”

“I do not think that I remember Melville at all,” Franklin goes on to
say; “occasionally will flash across my memory a maintop-man flitting
across about the starboard gangway with a white jacket on, but there
is not much reality in the picture which it presents to my mind. In
his book he speaks of a certain seaman, Jack Chase, who was Captain
of the maintop, of whom I have a very distinct recollection. He was
about as fine a specimen of seaman as I have ever seen in all my
cruising. He was not only that, but he was a man of intelligence, and
a born leader. His top-mates adored him, although he kept them up to
the mark, and made every man do his share of work. Melville has given
him considerable space in his book, and seems to have had intense
admiration for him. He mentions also a number of officers whom it is
not difficult to recognise. The Commanding Officer, who had a very red
face, he called Captain Claret; a small but very energetic Midshipman,
who made himself felt and heard about the decks, he called Mr. Pert;
the Gunner was ‘Old Combustibles.’ He gives no names, but to any one
who served in the Frigate _United States_ it was easy to recognise
the men by their sobriquets. Melville certainly did a grand work in
bringing his ability as a writer and his experience as a seaman to bear
upon the important matter--I mean corporal punishment--which had been
the subject of so much discussion in and out of Congress.”

The essential accuracy of Melville’s account of life on board the
Frigate _United States_ is thus, in the above as in other passages,
vouched for by a Rear-Admiral. Franklin, himself, however, is not
exhaustively familiar with the life and works of Melville, making him
an “admiralty lawyer” who went to sea for his health. And according to
Franklin’s account, Melville shipped on board the _United States_ from
Tahiti. According to Melville’s own account, he left Eimeo--from the
harbour of Tamai--not on board a man-of-war, but on board an American
whaler bound for the fishing grounds off Japan.

The itinerary of Melville’s rovings in the Pacific after he left Tahiti
cannot be stated with any detailed precision. In an Appendix to the
American edition of _Typee_, Melville says: “During a residence of four
months at Honolulu, the author was in the confidence of an Englishman
who was much employed by his lordship”--Sir George Paulet. In both
_Typee_ and _Omoo_ he speaks of conditions in the Sandwich Islands with
the familiarity of first-hand observation. The Frigate _United States_
sailed from Hampton Roads early in January, 1842. It doubled the Horn
late in February, and joined the Pacific squadron at Valparaiso.
After spending the winter of 1842-3 off Monterey, the _United States_
returned to Callao in the spring, and sailed for Honolulu, arriving in
the early summer of 1843. According to his own account, Melville left
Tahiti in the autumn of 1842. The _United States_ left Tahiti in the
summer of 1843. Melville speaks of revisiting the Marquesas and Tahiti
after the experiences recorded in _Typee_ and _Omoo_. In _Typee_ he
says: “Between two and three years after the adventures recorded in
this volume, I chanced, while aboard a man-of-war, to touch at these
islands”--the Marquesas. Though in this statement Melville is patently
careless in his chronology, there is no reason to doubt his geography.
According to the hypothesis that offers fewest difficulties--and none
of these at all serious--it would appear that Melville left the Society
Islands in the autumn of 1842, on board a whaler bound for the coast
of Japan, to arrive in Honolulu some time in the early part of 1843,
where, according to Arthur Stedman, he was “employed as a clerk.” In
the Introductory Note to _White-Jacket_ he says: “In the year 1843 I
shipped as ‘ordinary seaman’ on board a United States frigate, then
lying in a harbour of the Pacific Ocean. After remaining in the frigate
for more than a year, I was discharged from the service upon the
vessel’s arrival home.” Melville was discharged in Boston, in October,
1844. It would appear that Melville shipped on board the _United
States_, from Honolulu, in the summer of 1843, touching again at the
Marquesas and at Tahiti, and returning home by way of the Peruvian

Of Melville’s experiences between the time of his leaving the Society
Islands and that of his homeward cruise as a sailor in the United
States Navy, nothing is known beyond the meagre details already stated.

In _White-Jacket; or, the World in a Man-of-War_ (1850) Melville has
left a fuller account, however, of his experiences on board the _United
States_. The opening of _White-Jacket_ finds Melville at Callao, on
the coast of Peru--the last harbour he touched in the Pacific. In
_Typee_ and _Omoo_ he had already recounted his adventures in the South
Seas, with all the crispness and lucidity of fresh discovery. While on
board the _United States_ he returned to old harbours, and sailed past
familiar islands. But _White-Jacket_ is not a _Yarrow Revisited_.

On the showing of _White-Jacket_, Melville’s life in the navy
was, perhaps, the happiest period in his life. It is true that in
_Typee_ he wrote: “I will frankly confess that after passing a few
weeks in the valley of the Marquesas, I formed a higher estimate of
human nature than I had ever before entertained. But, alas, since
then I have been one of the crew of a man-of-war, and the pent-up
wickedness of five hundred men has nearly overturned all my previous
theories.” And in _White-Jacket_ he has many a very dark word to say
for the navy. Sailors, as a class, do, of course, entertain liberal
notions concerning the Decalogue; but in this they resemble landsmen,
both Christian and cannibal. And in Melville’s day--as before and
after--from a frigate’s crew might be culled out men of all callings
and vocations, from a backslidden parson to a broken-down comedian. It
is an old saying that “the sea and the gallows refuse nothing.” But
withal, more than one good man has been hanged. “The Navy,” Melville
says, “is the asylum for the perverse, the home of the unfortunate.
Here the sons of adversity meet the children of calamity, and here
the children of calamity meet the offspring of sin.” According to
this version, a typical man-of-war was a sort of State Prison afloat.
“Wrecked on a desert shore,” Melville says, “a man-of-war’s crew could
quickly found an Alexandria by themselves, and fill it with all the
things which go to make up a capital.” The _United States_, surely,
lacked in none of the contradictions that go to make up a metropolis:
“though boasting some fine fellows here and there, yet, on the whole,
charged to the combings of hatchways with the spirit of Belial and
unrighteousness.” Or it was like a Parisian lodging house, turned
upside down: the first floor, or deck, being rented by a lord; the
second by a select club of gentlemen; the third, by crowds of artisans;
and the fourth--on a man-of-war a basement of indefinite depth, with
ugly-looking fellows gazing out at the windows--by a whole rabble of
common people.

The good or bad temper, the vices and virtues of men-of-war’s men were
in a great degree attributable, Melville states, to their particular
stations and duties aboard ship. Melville congratulated himself upon
enjoying one of the most enviable posts aboard the frigate. It was
Melville’s office to loose the main-royal when all hands were called
to make sail: besides his special offices in tacking ship, coming to
anchor, and such like, he permanently belonged to the starboard watch,
one of the two primary grand divisions of the ship’s company. And in
this watch he was a main-top-man; that is, he was stationed in the
main-top, with a number of other seamen, always in readiness to execute
any orders pertaining to the main-mast, from above the main-yard. In
Melville’s time, the tops of a frigate were spacious and cosy. They
were railed in behind so as to form a kind of balcony, that looked
airily down upon the blue, boundless, dimpled, laughing, sunny sea,
and upon the landlopers below on the deck, sneaking about among the
guns. It was a place, too, to test one’s manhood in rough weather. From
twenty to thirty loungers could agreeably recline there, cushioning
themselves on old sails and jackets. In being a main-top-man,
Melville prided himself that he belonged to a fraternity of the most
liberal-hearted, lofty-minded, gay, elastic, and adventurous men on
board ship. “The reason for their liberal-heartedness was, that they
were daily called upon to expatiate themselves all over the rigging.
The reason for their lofty-mindedness was, that they were high lifted
above the petty tumults, carping cares, and paltrinesses of the decks
below.” And Melville attributed it to his having been a main-top-man,
and that in the loftiest yard of the frigate, the main-royal-yard,
“that I am now enabled to give such a free, broad, off-hand,
bird’s-eye, and more than all, impartial account of our man-of-war
world; withholding nothing; inventing nothing; nor flattering, nor
scandalising any; but meting out to all--commodore and messenger boy
alike--their precise descriptions and deserts.”

Melville says that the main-top-men, with amiable vanity, accounted
themselves the best seamen in the ship; brothers one and all, held
together by a strong feeling of _esprit de corps_. Their loyalty was
especially centred in their captain, Jack Chase--a prime favourite
and an oracle among the men. Upon Jack Chase’s instigation they
all wore their hats at a peculiar angle; he instructed them in the
tie of their neck handkerchiefs; he protested against their wearing
vulgar _dungaree_ trousers; he gave them lessons in seamanship. And he
solemnly conjured them, with unmitigated detestation, to eschew the
company of any sailor suspected of having served in a whaler. On board
the _United States_, Melville wisely held his peace “concerning stove
boats on the coast of Japan.”

Melville’s admiration for Jack Chase was perhaps the happiest
wholehearted surrender he ever gave to any human being. Jack Chase was
“a Briton and a true-blue; tall and well-knit, with a clear open eye,
a fine broad brow, and an abounding nut-brown beard. No man ever had
a better heart or a bolder. He was loved by the seamen and admired by
the officers; and even when the captain spoke to him, it was with a
slight air of respect. No man told such stories, sang such songs, or
with greater alacrity sprang to his duty. The main-top, over which
he presided, was a sort of oracle of Delphi; to which many pilgrims
ascended, to have their perplexities or difficulties settled.” Jack
was a gentleman. His manners were free and easy, but never boisterous;
“he had a polite, courteous way of saluting you, if it were only to
borrow a knife. He had read all the verses of Byron, all the romances
of Scott; he talked of Macbeth and Ulysses; but above all things was he
an ardent admirer of Camoen’s _Lusiad_, part of which he could recite
in the original.” He spoke a variety of tongues, and was master of an
incredible richness of Byronic adventure. “There was such an abounding
air of good sense and good feeling about the man that he who could not
love him, would thereby pronounce himself a knave. I thanked my sweet
stars that kind fortune had placed me near him, though under him,
in the frigate; and from the outset, Jack and I were fast friends.
Wherever you may be now rolling over the blue billows, dear Jack, take
my best love along with you,” Melville wrote; “and God bless you,
wherever you go.” And this sentiment Melville cherished throughout his
life. Almost the last thing Melville ever wrote was the dedication
of his last novel, _Billy Budd_--existing only in manuscript, and
completed three months before his death to “Jack Chase, Englishman,
wherever that great heart may now be, Here on earth or harboured in
Paradise, Captain in the war-ship in the year 1843, In the U. S.
Frigate _United States_.”

In _White-Jacket_, Melville glows with the same superlative admiration
for Jack Chase that Ouida, or the Duchess, exhibit in portraying
their most irresistible cavaliers; an enthusiasm similar to that of
Nietzsche’s for his Übermensch. So contagious is Melville’s love
for his ship-mate that strange infections seem to have been caught
therefrom. Though it is certainly not true that “all the world loves a
lover,” Melville’s affection for Jack Chase won him at least one rather
startling proof that Shakespeare’s dictum is not absolutely false. The
proof came in the following form:

  “No 2, Guthuee Port, Arbrooth 13 May 1857

  “_Herman Melville Esquire_

  “Author of the white Jacket Mardi and others, Honour’d Sir Let it
  not displease you to be addressed by a stranger to your person not
  so to your merits, I have read the white jacket with much pleasure
  and delight ‘I found it rich in wisdom and brilliant with beauty,
  ships and the sea and those who plow it with their belongings on
  shore--those subjects are idintified with Herman Melvil’s name for
  he has most unquestioneably made them his own,, No writer not even
  Marryat himself has observed them more closely or pictured them more
  impressively, a delightful book it is. I long exceedingly to read
  Mardi, but how or where to obtain it is the task? I have just now
  received an invitation to cross the Atlantic from a Mr and Mrs Weed
  Malta between Bolston springs and saratoga Countie, ,, as also from
  Mr Alexer Muler my own Cousin, Rose bank Louistown

  “I have for this many a day been wishing to see you ‘to hear you
  speak to breath the same air in which you dwell’ Are you the picture
  of him you so powerfully represent as the Master piece of all Gods
  works Jack Chase?--

  “write me dear sir and say where Omidi ’sto be gote, I do much admire
  the American Authors Washington Irver Mrs Stowe Allan Edgar Po the
  Late James Abbott and last though not least your good self--Did you
  ever read the history of Jeffery Rudel he was a young Noble man of
  Provence and reconed one of the handsomest and polite persons of his
  age. he lived in the time of Richard the first sir named cour de Lion
  who invited Jeffery to his court and it was there he first heard
  of the beauty wit, learning and virtue of the Countess of Tripoly
  by which he became so enamoured that he resolved upon seeing her
  purchased a vesel and in opesition to the King and the luxury of a
  Court set sail for Tripoly the obgect of his affections realised his
  most sanguine expectations.

  “were you to cross the atlantic you should receive a cordeial
  reception from Mr George Gordon my-beloved & only brother & I’d
  bid you welcome to old s’’t Thomas a Becket famed for kindness to

  “permite me Dear Sir to subskribe myself your friend although unseen
  and at a Distance


  “Heaven first sent letters,
  For some wretches aid,
  Some banished Lover
  Or some Captive maid


Besides the “Master piece of all Gods works Jack Chase” and his
comrades of the main-top, Melville was fortunate in finding a few
other ship-mates to admire. There was Lemsford, “a gentlemanly young
member of the after-guard,” a poet, to whose effusions Melville was
happy to listen. “At the most unseasonable hours you would behold
him, seated apart, in some corner among the guns--a shot-box before
him, pen in hand, and eyes ‘in a fine frenzy rolling.’ Some deemed
him a conjurer; others a lunatic. The knowing ones said that he must
be a crazy Methodist.” Another of Melville’s friends was Nord. Before
Melville knew him, he “saw in his eye that the man had been a reader
of good books; I would have staked my life on it, that he had seized
the right meaning of Montaigne.” With Nord, Melville “scoured all the
prairies of reading; dived into the bosoms of authors, and tore out
their hearts.” Melville’s friend Williams “was a thorough-going Yankee
from Maine, who had been both a pedlar and a pedagogue in his day. He
was honest, acute, witty, full of mirth and good humour--a laughing
philosopher.” Beyond these, Melville was chary of his friendship,
despite the personal intimacies imposed by the crowded conditions on
shipboard. For living on board a man-of-war is like living in a market,
where you dress on the doorsteps and sleep in the cellar.

Yet even on board the _United States_ Melville did find it possible to
get some solitude. “I am of a meditative humour,” he says, “and at sea
used often to mount aloft at night, and, seating myself on one of the
upper yards, tuck my jacket about me and give loose to reflection. In
some ships in which I have done this, the sailors used to fancy that
I must be studying astronomy--which, indeed, to some extent, was the
case. For to study the stars upon the wide, boundless ocean, is divine
as it was to the Chaldean Magi, who observed their revolutions from the

Melville was not only fortunate in his friends on the top, and
above, but also in the mess to which he belonged: “a glorious set of
fellows--Mess No. 1!--numbering, among the rest, my noble Captain Jack
Chase. Out of a pardonable self-conceit they called themselves the
_Forty-two-pounder Club_; meaning that they were, one and all, fellows
of large intellectual and corporeal calibre.”

In _White-Jacket_, Melville’s purpose was to present the variegated
life aboard a man-of-war; to give a vivid sense of the complexity of
the typical daily existence aboard a floating armed city inhabited by
five hundred male human beings. And no one else has ever done this so
successfully as has Melville. “I let nothing slip, however small,” he
says; “and feel myself actuated by the same motive which has prompted
many worthy old chroniclers to set down the merest trifles concerning
things that are destined to pass entirely from the earth, and which,
if not preserved in the nick of time, must infallibly perish from the
memories of man. Who knows that this humble narrative may not hereafter
prove the history of an obsolete barbarism?” For _White-Jacket_ is,
certainly, written with no intent to glorify war. It is a book that
a militaristic country would do well to suppress. “Courage,” Melville
teaches therein, “is the most common and vulgar of the virtues.” Of a
celebrated and dauntless fighter he says: “a hero in this world;--but
what would they have called him in the next?” “As the whole matter of
war is a thing that smites common sense and Christianity in the face,”
he contends, “so everything connected with it is utterly foolish,
unchristian, barbarous, brutal, and savouring of the Feejee Islands,
cannibalism, saltpetre, and the devil.”

But Melville’s anti-militaristic convictions in no sense perverted his
astonishingly vital presentation of life on board the _United States_.
Though in contemplation he despised war, and was open-eyed to the
abuses and iniquity on all sides of him on board the frigate; in actual
fact he seems to have been unusually happy as a sailor in the navy,
among his comrades of the top. The predominant mood of the book is the
rollicking good-humour of high animal spirits.

There were black moments in his pleasant routine, however: the terrible
nipping cold, and blasting gales, and hurricanes of sleet and hail
in which he furled the main-sail in rounding Cape Horn; the flogging
he witnessed; his watches at the cot of his mess-mate Shenley in the
subterranean sick-bay, and Shenley’s death and burial at sea; the
barbarous amputation he witnessed, and the death of the sick man at
the hands of the ship’s surgeon--a scene that Flaubert might well have
been proud to have written. And there were ugly experiences during the
cruise that were among the most lurid in his life.

Throughout the cruise, it seems, for upward of a year he had been an
efficient sailor, alert in duties, circumspect in his pleasures, liked
and respected by his comrades. The ship homeward bound, and he within
a few weeks of being a freeman, he heard the boatswain’s mate bawling
his name at all the hatchways and along the furtherest recesses of the
ship: the Captain wanted him at the mast. Melville’s heart jumped to
his throat at the summons, as he hurriedly asked Fluke, the boatswain’s
mate at the fore-hatchway, what was wanted of him.

“Captain wants you at the mast,” Fluke replied. “Going to flog ye, I

“For what?”

“My eyes! you’ve been chalking your face, hain’t ye?”

Swallowing down his heart, he saw, as he passed through the gangway
to the dread tribunal of the frigate, the quartermaster rigging
the gratings; the boatswain with his green bag of scourges; the
master-at-arms ready to help off some one’s shirt. On the charge of a
Lieutenant, Melville was accused by the Captain of failure in his duty
at his station in the starboard main-lift: a post to which Melville had
never known he was assigned. His solemn disclaimer was thrown in his
teeth, and for a thing utterly unforeseen, and for a crime of which he
was utterly innocent, he was about to be flogged.

“There are times when wild thoughts enter a man’s breast, when he seems
almost irresponsible for his act and his deed,” writes the grandson of
General Peter Gansevoort. “The Captain stood on the weather-side of the
deck. Sideways, on an unobstructed line with him, was the opening of
the lee-gangway, where the side-ladders are suspended in port. Nothing
but a slight bit of sinnate-stuff served to rail in this opening,
which was cut right to the level of the Captain’s feet, showing the
far sea beyond. I stood a little to windward of him, and, though he
was a large, powerful man, it was certain that a sudden rush against
him, along the slanting deck, would infallibly pitch him headforemost
into the ocean, though he who so rushed must needs go over with him.
My blood seemed clotting in my veins; I felt icy cold at the tips of
my fingers, and a dimness was before my eyes. But through that dimness
the boatswain’s mate, scourge in hand, loomed like a giant, and Captain
Claret, and the blue sea seen through the opening at the gangway,
showed with an awful vividness. I cannot analyse my heart, though it
then stood still within me. But the thing that swayed me to my purpose
was not altogether the thought that Captain Claret was about to degrade
me, and that I had taken an oath with my soul that he should not. No, I
felt my man’s manhood so bottomless within me, that no word, no blow,
no scourge of Captain Claret could cut me deep enough for that. I
but swung to an instinct within me--the instinct diffused through all
animated nature, the same that prompts even a worm to turn under the
heel. The privilege, inborn and inalienable, that every man has of
dying himself, and inflicting death upon another, was not given to us
without a purpose.”

Captain Claret ordered Melville to the grating. The ghost of Peter
Gansevoort, awakening in Melville, measured the distance between
Captain Claret and the sea.

“Captain Claret,” said a voice advancing from the crowd. Melville
turned to see who this might be that audaciously interrupted at a
juncture like this. It was a corporal of marines, who speaking in a
mild, firm, but extremely deferential manner, said: “I know that man,
and I know that he would not be found absent from his station if he
knew where it was.” This almost unprecedented speech inspired Jack
Chase also to intercede in Melville’s behalf. But for these timely
intercessions, it is very likely that Melville would have ended that
day as a suicide and a murderer. There is no lack of evidence, both in
his writings and in the personal recollections of him that survive,
that the headlong violence of his passion, when deeply stirred, balked
at no extremity. And that day as the scourge hung over him for an
offence he had not committed, he seems to have been as murderously
roused as at any other known moment in his life. Though hating war, he
boasted “the inalienable right to kill”: and the ghost of Mow-Mow, at
the day of final reckoning, can attest that this boast was not lightly
given. Like the whaling Quakers that he so much admired, he was “a
pacifist with a vengeance.”

This scene happened during the run of the _United States_ from Rio
to the Line. At Rio, Melville had gone ashore with Jack Chase and
a few other discreet and gentlemanly top-men. But of the dashing
adventures--if any--that they had on land, Melville is silent: “my
man-of-war alone must supply me with the staple of my matter,” he
says; “I have taken an oath to keep afloat to the last letter of my

In so far as fine weather and the ship’s sailing were concerned, the
whole run from Rio to the Line was one delightful yachting. Especially
pleasant to Melville during this run were his quarter watches in
the main-top. Removed from the immediate presence of the officers,
he and his companions could there enjoy themselves more than in any
other part of the ship. By day, many of them were industrious making
hats or mending clothes. But by night they became more romantically
inclined. Seen from this lofty perch, of moonlight nights, the frigate
must have been a glorious sight. “She was going large before the
wind, her stun’-sails set on both sides, so that the canvases on the
main-mast and fore-mast presented the appearance of two majestic,
tapering pyramids, more than a hundred feet broad at the base, and
terminating in the clouds with the light cope-stone of the royals. That
immense area of snow-white canvas sliding along the sea was indeed
a magnificent spectacle. The three shrouded masts looked like the
apparition of three gigantic Turkish Emirs striding over the ocean.”
From there, too, the band, playing on the poop, would tempt them to
dance; Jack Chase would well up into song during silent intervals:
songs varied by sundry yarns and twisters of the top-men.

One pleasant midnight, after the _United States_ had crossed the
Line and was running on bravely somewhere off the coast of Virginia,
the breeze gradually died, and an order was given to set the
main-top-gallant-stun’-sail. The halyards not being rove, Jack Chase
assigned to Melville that eminently difficult task. That this was a
business demanding unusual sharp-sightedness, skill, and celerity is
evident when it is remembered that the end of a line, some two hundred
feet long, was to be carried aloft in one’s teeth and dragged far out
on the giddiest of yards, and after being wormed and twisted about
through all sorts of intricacies, was to be dropped, clear of all
obstructions, in a straight plumb-line right down to the deck.

“Having reeved the line through all the inferior blocks,” Melville
says, “I went out to the end of the weather-top-gallant-yard-arm, and
was in the act of leaning over and passing it through the suspended
jewel-block there, when the ship gave a plunge in the sudden swells
of the calm sea, and pitching me still further over the yard, threw
the heavy skirts of my jacket right over my head, completely muffling
me. Somehow I thought it was the sail that had flapped, and under that
impulse threw up my hands to drag it from my head, relying upon the
sail itself to support me meanwhile. Just then the ship gave another
jerk, and head foremost I pitched over the yard. I knew where I was,
from the rush of air by my ears, but all else was a nightmare. A bloody
film was before my eyes, through which, ghost-like, passed and repassed
my father, mother, and sisters. An unutterable nausea oppressed me; I
was conscious of groping; there seemed no breath in my body. It was
over one hundred feet that I fell--down, down, with lungs collapsed as
in death. Ten thousand pounds of shot seemed tied to my head, as the
irresistible law of gravitation dragged me, head foremost and straight
as a die, towards the infallible centre of the terrequeous globe. All
I had seen, and read, and heard, and all that I had thought and felt
in my life--seemed intensified in one fixed idea in my soul. But dense
as this idea was, it was made up of atoms. Having fallen from the
projecting yard-arm end, I was conscious of a collected satisfaction in
feeling, that I should not be dashed on the deck, but would sink into
the speechless profound of the sea.

“With the bloody, blind film before my eyes, there was a still stranger
hum in my head, as if a hornet were there; and I thought to myself,
Great God! this is Death! Yet these thoughts were unmixed with alarm.
Like frost-work that flashes and shifts its scared hues in the sun, all
my braided, blended emotions were in themselves icy cold and calm.

“So protracted did my fall seem, that I can even now recall the feeling
of wondering how much longer it would be, ere all was over and I
struck. Time seemed to stand still, and all the worlds seemed poised on
their poles, as I fell, soul-becalmed, through the eddying whirl and
swirl of the Maelstrom air.

“At first, as I have said, I must have been precipitated head foremost;
but I was conscious, at length, of a swift, flinging motion of my
limbs, which involuntarily threw themselves out, so that at last I must
have fallen in a heap. This is more likely, from the circumstance that
when I struck the sea, I felt as if some one had smote me slantingly
across the shoulder and along part of my right side.

“As I gushed into the sea, a thunder-boom sounded in my ear; my soul
seemed flying from my mouth. The feeling of death flooded over me
with the billows. The blow from the sea must have turned me, so that
I sank almost feet foremost through a soft, seething, foamy lull.
Some current seemed hurrying me away; in a trance I yielded, and sank
deeper and deeper into the glide. Purple and pathless was the deep
calm now around me, flecked by summer lightnings in an azure afar. The
horrible nausea was gone; the bloody, blind film turned a pale green; I
wondered whether I was yet dead, or still dying. But of a sudden some
fashionless form brushed my side--some inert, coiled fish of the sea;
the thrill of being alive again tingled in my nerves, and the strong
shunning of death shocked me through.

“For one instant an agonising revulsion came over me as I found myself
utterly sinking. Next moment the force of my fall was expended; and
there I hung, vibrating in the mid-deep. What wild sounds then rang
in my ear! One was a soft moaning, as of low waves on the beach; the
other wild and heartlessly jubilant, as of the sea in the height of a
tempest. Oh soul! thou then heardest life and death: as he who stands
upon the Corinthian shore hears both the Ionian and the Ægean waves.
The life-and-death poise soon passed; and then I found myself slowly
ascending, and caught a dim glimmering of light. Quicker and quicker I
mounted; till at last I bounded up like a buoy, and my whole head was
bathed in the blessed air.”

With his knife, Melville ripped off his jacket, struck out boldly
towards the elevated pole of one of the life-buoys which had been cut
away, and was soon after picked up by one of the cutters from the

“Ten minutes after, I was safe on board, and, springing aloft, was
ordered to reeve anew the stun’-sail-halyards, which, slipping through
the blocks when I had let go the end, had unrove and fallen to the
deck.” Amphitrite had, indeed, interceded with Neptune, and the
sea-gods strove to answer Melville’s prayer. But Melville always, even
in the lowest abyss of despair, clung passionately to life. And the
night he was hurled from the mast he was hurled from among friends, and
into waters that washed the neighbouring shores of his birth.

Melville’s long wanderings were nearly at an end. With the home port
believed to be broad on their bow, under the stars and a meagre moon in
her last quarter, the main-top-men gathered aloft in the top, and round
the mast they circled, “hand in hand, all spliced together. We had
reefed the last top-sail; trained the last gun; blown the last match;
bowed to the last blast; been tranced in the last calm. We had mustered
our last round the capstan; been rolled to grog the last time; for the
last time swung in our hammocks; for the last time turned out at the
sea-gull call of the watch. We had seen our last man scourged at the
gangway; our last man gasp out the ghost in the stifling sick-bay; our
last man tossed to the sharks.”

And there Melville has left this brother band--with the anchor still
hanging from the bow--with the land still out of sight. “I love an
indefinite infinite background,” he says,--“a vast, heaving, rolling,
mysterious rear!”



  “As the vine flourishes, and the grape empurples close up to the very
  walls and muzzles of cannoned Ehrenbreitstein; so do the sweetest
  joys of life grow in the very jaws of its peril.”--HERMAN MELVILLE:

“Until I was twenty-five,” Melville once wrote to Hawthorne, “I had no
development at all.” When the cable and anchor of the _United States_
were all clear, and when he bounded ashore on his native soil, Melville
was in his twenty-fifth year. “From my twenty-fifth year,” he wrote
Hawthorne, “I date my life.”

His three years of wandering, crowded as they were with alienating
experiences, had, of course, worked deep changes in him: changes more
radical than in the dizzy whirl of strangely peopled adventures it was
possible for him to gauge. In memory, the fitful fever of the past,
deceitfully seems to strive not. But we delude ourselves when we fancy
that it sleeps well. During his far driftings, Melville had clung
reverently to thoughts of home, his imagination treacherously caressing
those very scenes whose intimate contact had filled him with revulsion.
“Do men ever hate the thing they love?” he asks in _White-Jacket_,
perplexed at the paradox of this perpetual recoil. He was eternally
looking both before and after, but never with the smug and genial
after-dinner optimism of Rabbi Ben Ezra. The insufficient present was
always poisoned, to him, by bitter margins of pining and regret. In
headlong escape from his household gods he had been landed among South
Sea islands that in retrospect he viewed as “authentic Edens.” Yet even
in Paradise did he feel himself an exile, teaching old Marheyo to say
“Home” and “Mother,” converting into sacred words the countersigns of
a former Hell. He tells in _White-Jacket_, how, with the smell of tar
in his nostrils, out of sight of land, with a stout ship under his
feet, and snuffing the ocean air, in the silence and solitude of the
deep, during the long night watches used to come thronging about his
heart “holy home associations.” And he closes _White-Jacket_ with the
reflection that “Life’s a voyage that’s homeward-bound!” But he sailed
with sealed orders.

Of Melville’s impressions upon his return he has left no record. During
his three years of whaling and captivity among cannibals, and mutiny,
and South Sea driftings, and adventures in the Navy, life at home had
gone along in its regular necessary way; and the scenes of his youth,
despite their transformation in his memory, lived on in solid fact
unchanged. The identical trees in the Boston Common blotted out the
same patterns against the New England stars; none of the streets had
swerved from off their prim and angular respectability. His mother he
found living in Lansingburg, just out from Albany, N. Y. There was the
same starched calico smell to his sister’s dresses, the same clang-tint
to his mother’s voice. Such was the calibre of his imagination, that he
must have found life at Lansingburg unbelievably like he knew it must
be, yet very different from what he was prepared to find.

His brothers must have first appeared intimate strangers to him. His
elder brother, Gansevoort, had given up his hat and fur shop, was
well established in law and had won a creditable name for himself
in politics. His younger brother, Allan, was beginning a successful
legal career, with his name emblazoned on a door at 10 Wall Street.
Maria was, after all, a Gansevoort; she was not too proud to keep her
brothers reminded that she had borne sons. Melville’s youngest brother,
Tom, had sprung from boyhood into the self-conscious maturity of youth.

From vagabondage in Polynesia to the stern yoke of self-supporting
citizenship was a dizzy transition. But Melville did not clear it at
a bound. The very violence of the impact between the two antipodal
types of experience for a time must have stunned Melville to their
incompatibility. Tanned with sea-faring, exuberant in health, rosy
with the after-glow of his proud companionship with Jack Chase, and
the respect and affection he had won from his associates on board the
_United States_, he was effulgent with amazing tales--the enviable
hero of endless incredible adventures. His home-coming may well have
been not only a staggering, but a joyous adventure. For he entered
Lansingburg trailing clouds of glory. He was panoplied in romance; and
though bodily he was in a suburb of Albany, his companion image was
the distant adventurer he saw mirrored in the admiring and jealous
imagination of his friends. With what melancholy--if any--he viewed
this reflected image, and to what degree he was, Narcissus-wise,
conscious of its irony, we do not know. But if _Typee_ and _Omoo_ be
any index of his mood, he returned home happier and wholesomer than at
any other period of his life. Before many years, unsolved problems of
his youth were to reassert themselves, heightened in difficulty and in
pertinacity. Yet for a time, at least, so it would appear, he reaped
very substantial benefits from his escape beyond civilisation.

According to J. E. A. Smith, Melville was soon beset by his enthralled
and wide-eyed friends to put his experiences into a book. Even if such
a challenge had never been made, it is difficult to see how Melville
could have escaped plunging into literature. For the hankering for
letters had earlier stirred in Melville’s blood,--a hankering that
he had before succumbed to, swathing a vacuity of experience in the
grave-wrappings of rhetoric and prolixity. Now he was rich in matter;
because of the very straitened circumstances of his family, he was
faced again by the necessity of earning some money if he stayed at
home; and in so far as we know, he was untempted to venture forth
either as vagabond or efficiency expert.

Soon after his arrival home he must have settled down to composition.
For the manuscript of _Typee_ was bought in London by John Murray, by
an agreement dated December, 1845.

At the time of the completion of _Typee_, Melville’s brother,
Gansevoort, was starting for London as Secretary to the American
Legation under Minister McLane. Gansevoort threw _Typee_ in among his
luggage, to try its luck among British publishers. Whether _Typee_ had
previously been refused in the United States has not yet transpired.
In any event, John Murray bought the English rights to print a
thousand copies of _Typee_--a purchase that cost him £100. Murray did
not close the sale, however, until he was assured that _Typee_ was a
sober account of actual experiences. _Typee_ appeared in two parts in
Murray’s “Colonial and Home Library.” Part I appeared on February 26,
1846; Part II on April 1 of the same year.

Encouraged by the temerity of John Murray, Wiley and Putnam of New
York bought the American rights for _Typee_. And by an agreement made
in England, _Typee_ appeared simultaneously in New York and London:
in America under the title, _Typee, a Peep at Polynesian Life During
Four Months’ Residence in a Valley of the Marquesas_. In 1849, Harper
Brothers took over _Typee_, and issued it shorn of some of the passages
the Missionaries had found most objectionable. Up to January 1, 1849,
Wiley and Putnam had sold 6,392 copies of _Typee_: a sale upon which
Melville gained $655.91. Up to April 29, 1851, 7,437 copies of _Typee_
had been sold in England, netting Melville, if accounts surviving in
Allan’s hand be correct, $708.40.

Under the date of April 3, 1846--two days after the appearance in
England of Part II of _Typee_, Gansevoort wrote Melville the following
letter--the last letter, it appears, he ever wrote:


  “Herewith you have copy of the arrangement with Wiley & Putnam for
  the publication in the U. S. of your work on the Marquesas. The
  letter of W. & P. under date of Jan. 13th is the result of a previous
  understanding between Mr. Putnam and myself. As the correspondence
  speaks for itself, it is quite unnecessary to add any comment. By
  the steamer of to-morrow I send to your address several newspaper
  comments and critiques of your book. The one in the _Sun_ was written
  by a gentleman who is very friendly to myself, and who may possibly
  for that reason have made it unusually eulogistic.

  “Yours of Feb. 28 was rec’d a few days ago by the daily packet
  from Joshua Bates. I am happy to learn by it that the previous
  intelligence transmitted by me was ‘gratifying enough.’ I am glad
  that you continue busy, and on my next or the after that will
  venture to make some suggestions about your next book. In a former
  letter you informed me that Allan had sent you $100 home, the fruit
  of my collection. (I refer to the money sent at your request). It
  appears that this was not so, for Allan informs me that the $100
  was part of the £90 s 10--making £100 which I sent out by the
  Jan. 2 Steamer. Allan seems to find it entirely too much trouble
  to send me the monthly accounts of receipts and disbursements. I
  have received no accounts from him later than up to Nov. 30th and
  consequently am in a state of almost entire ignorance as to what
  is transpiring at No. 10, Wall Street. This is very unthinking in
  him, for my thoughts are so much at home that much of my time is
  spent in disquieting apprehensions as to matters & things there. I
  continue to live within my income, but to do so am forced to live
  a life of daily self-denial. I do not find my health improved by
  the sedentary life I have to lead here. The climate is too damp &
  moist for me. I sometimes fear I am gradually breaking up. If it
  be so--let it be--God’s will be done. I have already seen about as
  much of London society as I care to see. It is becoming a toil to
  me to make the exertion necessary to dress to go out, and I am now
  leading a life really as quiet as your own in Lansingburg.--I think I
  am growing phlegmatic and cold. Man stirs me not, nor women either.
  My circulation is languid. My brain is dull. I neither seek to win
  pleasure or avoid pain. A degree of insensibility has been long
  stealing over me, & now seems completely established, which, to my
  understanding, is more akin to death than life. Selfishly speaking,
  I never valued life very much--it were impossible to value it less
  than I do now. The only personal desire I now have is to be out
  of debt. That desire waxes stronger within me as others fade. In
  consideration of the little egotism which my previous letters to you
  have contained, I hope that mother, brothers & sister will pardon
  this babbling about myself.

  “Tom’s matter has not been forgotten. You say there is a subject,
  etc., etc., ‘on which I intended to write but will defer it.’ What do
  you allude to? I am careful to procure all the critical notices of
  _Typee_ which appear & transmit them to you. The steamer which left
  Boston on the 1st inst. will bring me tidings from the U. S. as to
  the success of _Typee_ there. I am, with love and kisses to all,

  “Affectionately, Your brother,


With this letter, Gansevoort enclosed fourteen lines from Act III,
Scene I of _Measure for Measure_, beginning “Ah, but to die.” On
May 12, he was dead. His countrymen celebrated his decease. _The
Wisconsin,_ a newspaper published in Milwaukee, for example, published,
on July 1, a florid tribute to his memory, declaring him “dear
to the people of the West.” “And though he died young in years,”
the _Wisconsin_ goes on to say, “for genius, thrilling eloquence
and enlarged patriotism, he was known to the people from Maine to

But already had Melville achieved a wider, if less beatified,
reputation. The notice that _Typee_ attracted extended considerably
beyond either Maine or Louisiana. And its success was none the less
brilliant because it was in part a _succes de scandal_. Christendom has
progressed since 1846, and _Typee_ has, for present-day readers, lost
its charm of indelicacy. Yet, despite the violation of the proprieties
of which Melville was accused, Longfellow records in his journal for
July 29, 1846: “In the evening we finished the first volume of _Typee_,
a curious and interesting book with glowing descriptions of life in
the Marquesas.” There is no indication that even Longfellow found it
discreet to omit any passages as he read _Typee_ to his family before
the fire. It is to be remembered, however, that in 1851 the _Scarlet
Letter_ was attacked as being nothing but a deliberate attempt to
attract readers by pandering to the basest taste: “Is the French era
actually begun in our literature?” a shocked reviewer asked.

The appearance of _Omoo_ on January 30, 1847, augmented Melville’s
notoriety, and contributed to his fame. Both _Typee_ and _Omoo_
stirred up a whole regiment of critics, at home, in England and
in France. France was patronising, of course, after the manner of
the period; but France flattered Melville by the prolixity of her
patronage. The interest of France in Melville was not a merely literary
absorption, however. Melville had arrived at the Marquesas in the wake
of Admiral Du Petit-Thouars; and at Tahiti Melville had been a prisoner
on board the _Reine Blanche_. In England, Melville was flattered not
only by vitriolic evangelistical damnation, and the uncritical flatter
of Gansevoort’s friends, but even _Blackwood’s_, the most anti-American
of British journals, said of _Omoo_: “Musing the other day over our
matutinal hyson, the volume itself was laid before us, and we found
ourselves in the society of Marquesan Melville, the Phœnix of modern
voyages--springing, it would seem, from the mingled ashes of Captain
Cook and Robinson Crusoe.” Writing of _Typee_, the insular _John Bull_
said: “Since the joyous moment when we first read _Robinson Crusoe_ and
believed it, we have not met so bewitching a book as this narrative
of Herman Melville’s.” The _London Times_ descended to amiability and
said: “That Mr. Melville will favour us with his further adventures in
the South Seas, we have no doubt whatever. We shall expect them with
impatience, and receive them with pleasure. He is a companion after our
own hearts. His voice is pleasant, and we are sure that if we could
see his face it would be a pleasant one.” While such pronouncements
were no earnest of fame, they may have contributed somewhat to augment
Melville’s royalties. And in _Mardi_--written before Melville’s secular
critics began to assail him--Melville took a violent fling at his
reviewers. “True critics,” he said, “are more rare than true poets. A
great critic is a sultan among satraps; but pretenders are thick as
ants striving to scale a palm after its aerial sweetness. Oh! that an
eagle should be stabbed by a goose-quill!” Withal, when Melville wrote
_Mardi_ he had spent some reflection on the nature of Fame, and mocked
at those who console themselves for the neglect of their contemporaries
by bethinking themselves of the glorious harvest of bravos their ghosts
will reap. And time, he saw, was an undertaker, not a resurrectionist:
“He who on all hands passes for a cipher to-day, if at all remembered,
will be sure to pass to-morrow for the same. For there is more
likelihood of being overrated while living than of being underrated
when dead.”

Noticed by reviewers, and encouraged by payments from his publishers,
Melville began to look more hopefully at the world. In _Clarel_ he
later wrote: “The dagger-icicle draws blood; but give it sun.” He
seemed at last to have stepped decoratively and profitably into his
assigned niche in the cosmic order. It was delightful to rehearse
outlived pleasures and hardships; and it was a lucrative delight:
by writing, too, some men had achieved fame. And so, undeterred
by the wail of the Preacher of Jerusalem, Melville settled to the
multiplication of books. He would perpetuate his reveries--and he
doubted not that sparkling wines would crown his cup. Then it was that
the beckoning image of an ultimate earthly felicity swam over the
beaded brim.

Melville had dedicated _Typee_ to Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw of
Massachusetts. The Shaws and the Melvilles were friends of years’
standing. When a student at Amherst, Lemuel Shaw had been engaged to
Melville’s aunt, Nancy. “To his death,” says Frederic Hathway Chase in
his _Lemuel Shaw_, “Shaw carefully preserved two tender notes written
in the delicate hand of his first betrothed, timidly referring to
their immature plans for the future and her admiration and love for
him. The untimely death of the young lady, unhappily cut short their
youthful dreams, and not until he was thirty-seven years of age were
Shaw’s affections again engaged. The intimacy between Shaw and the
Melville family, however, continued after the young lady’s death.” Yet
were the demands of Shaw’s affections not satisfied by his intimacy
with the Melvilles or by the two love-letters among his precious
belongings. He married twice; the first time in 1818 to Elizabeth
Knapp; the second time in 1827 to Hope Savage. By each wife he had two
children. By Elizabeth, John Oakes, who died in 1902; and Elizabeth,
who married Melville. By Hope, was born to him Lemuel, who lived till
1884, and Samuel Savage, born in 1833 in the Shaw home at 49 Mount
Vernon Street, Boston, where he lived till his death in 1915. Melville
heartily detested his brothers-in-law.

On March 19, 1846, Melville wrote from Lansingburg to Chief Justice


  “Herewith you have one of the first bound copies of _Typee_ I have
  been able to procure--the dedication is very simple, for the world
  would hardly have sympathised to the full extent of those feelings
  with which I regard my father’s friend and the constant friend of all
  his family.

  “I hope that the perusal of this little narrative of mine will afford
  you some entertainment, even if it should not possess much other
  merit. Your knowing the author so well, will impart some interest
  to it.--I intended to have sent at the same time with this copies
  of _Typee_ for each of my aunts, but have been disappointed in
  not receiving as many as I expected.--I mention, however, in the
  accompanying letter to my Aunt Priscilla that they shall soon be

  “Remember me most warmly to Mrs. Shaw & Miss Elizabeth, and to all
  your family, & tell them I shall not soon forget that agreeable visit
  to Boston.

  “With sincere respect, Judge Shaw, I remain gratefully & truly yours,



The Aunt Priscilla mentioned in this letter was a sister of Melville’s
father--fifth child of Major Thomas Melville. She was born in 1784, and
upon her death in 1862, she showed that her appreciation of Melville’s
earlier solicitude had been substantial, by bequeathing him nine
hundred dollars. The Miss Elizabeth of the letter, the only daughter of
Chief Justice Shaw, and Melville were married on August 4, 1847.

On the evidence of surviving records, Melville’s father had resigned
himself to the institution of marriage as to one of the established
conveniences of Christendom. Allan was a practical man, and he soberly
saw that he gained more than he lost by generously sharing his bed
and the fireside zone with a competent accessory to his domestic
comforts. If he was ever a romantic lover, it was in the folly of his
youth. Though romantic love be a tingling holiday extravagance, he
mistrusted--and Allan never doubted his wisdom--its everyday useability
for a cautious and peace-loving man. And since Dante had married Gemma
Donati, since Petrarch had had children by an unknown concubine, Maria
had reason to congratulate herself that Allan evinced for her no
adoration of the kind lavished upon the sainted Beatrice or upon the
unattainable Laura.

In his approach to marriage, Melville showed none of the prosaic
circumspection of his father. From his idealisation of the proud
cold purity of Maria, Melville built up a haloed image of the wonder
and mystery of sanctified womanhood: without blemish, unclouded,
snow-white, terrible, yet serene. And before this image Melville
poured out the fulness of his most reverential thoughts and beliefs.
The very profundity of his frustrated love for Maria, and the accusing
incompatibility between the image and the fact, made his early life a
futile and desperate attempt to escape from himself. The peace, and at
the same time the stupendous discovery that he craved: that he found
neither at home nor over the rim of the world. When with Maria, he had
craved to put oceans between them; when so estranged, he was parched to

In his wanderings, he had seen sights, and lived through experiences to
disabuse him of his fantastic idealisation of woman. In fact, however,
such experiences may but tend to heighten idealisation. In the Middle
Age, the Blessed Mother was celebrated in a duality of perplexing
incompatibility: she was at once the Virgin Mother of the Son of God,
and the patron of thieves, harlots and cutthroats. She was at once an
object of worship and a subject of farce. She was woman. Protestantism,
restoring woman to her original Hebraic dignity of a discarded rib,
evinced in marriage an essentially biological interest, and regulated
romantic love into uxoriousness. Allan was a good Protestant. But
neither Mrs. Chapone nor Fayaway were able to precipitate Melville
into that form of heresy. Fayaway was Fayaway: and her father was a
cannibal. Civilisation had given her no veils; Christianity had given
her no compunctons. She was neither a mystery nor a sin. Untouched did
she leave the sacred image in his heart.

To Elizabeth Shaw, Melville transferred his idealisation of his
mother. In _Pierre_ he says: “this softened spell which wheeled the
mother and son in one orbit of joy seemed a glimpse of the glorious
possibility, of the divinest of those emotions which are incident to
the sweetest season of love.” In _Pierre_, Melville declared that the
ideal possibilities of the love between mother and son, seemed “almost
to realise here below the sweet dreams of those religious enthusiasts,
who paint to us a Paradise to come, when etherealised from all dross
and stains, the holiest passion of man shall unite all kindreds and
climes in one circle of pure and unimpaired delight.” And in this
“courteous lover-like adoration” of son for mother, Melville saw the
“highest and airiest thing in the whole compass of the experience of
our mortal life.” And “this heavenly evanescence,” Melville declares,
“this nameless and infinitely delicate aroma of inexpressible
tenderness and attentiveness,” is, “in every refined and honourable
attachment, contemporary with courtship.” In _Pierre_, Melville
spends a chapter of dithyramb in celebration of this sentiment which,
inspired by one’s mother, one transfers to all other women honourably
loved. “Love may end in age, and pain and need, and all other modes
of human mournfulness; but love begins in joy. Love’s first sigh is
never breathed, till after love hath laughed. Love has not hands, but
cymbals; Love’s mouth is chambered like a bugle, and the instinctive
breathings of his life breathe jubilee notes of joy.” And during his
courtship of Elizabeth Shaw, it seems that in Melville were “the
audacious immortalities of divinest love.”

None of Melville’s letters of courtship survive. There are more direct
evidences of the fruits of his love, than of its early bloom. There
are, however, two letters of his wife’s, written during the month of
the marriage. The first was written during the wedding trip.

      “CENTER HARBOR, Aug. 6th, 1847.


  “You know I promised to write you whenever we came to a stopping
  place, and remained long enough. We are now at Center Harbor, a most
  lonely and romantic spot at the extremity of Winnipiscogee Lake,
  having arrived last evening from Concord--and we intend to remain
  until to-morrow. One object in stopping so long and indeed principal
  one was to visit ‘Red Hill’--a mountain (commanding a most beautiful
  view of the lake) about four miles distant. But to-day it is so
  cloudy and dull, I am afraid we shall not be able to accomplish
  it--so you see I have a little spare time, and improve it by writing
  to relieve any anxiety you may feel. Though this is but the third day
  since our departure, it seems as if a long time had passed, we have
  seen so many places of novelty and interest. The stage ride yesterday
  from Franklin here, though rather fatiguing, was one of great
  attraction from the beautiful scenery. To-morrow we again intend to
  take the stage to Conway, and from there to the White Mountains. I
  will write again from there, and tell you more of what I have seen,
  but now I send this missive more to let you know of our safety and
  well-being than anything else.

  “I hope by this time you have quite recovered from your
  indisposition, and that I shall soon hear from you to be assured
  of it--I hardly dare to trust myself to speak of what I felt in
  leaving home, but under the influence of such commingling thoughts,
  it entirely escaped me to tell you of any place to which you might
  address a letter to me so that I should be sure to get it. Now I
  am _very_ anxious and impatient to hear from you, and I hope you
  will lose no time in writing if it be only a very few lines. Herman
  desires to add a postscript to my letter, and he will tell you when
  and where to write so that I may get it.

  “Remember me with affection to father and ask him to let me have
  a letter from him soon, to all members of the family and to Mrs.
  Melville and the girls--my mother and sisters--how strangely it
  sounds. Accept a great deal of love for yourself, my dear mother,
  and believe me as ever, your affectionate daughter, Elizabeth--even
  though I add to it--Melville--for the first time.

      “Friday morning.


  “At my desire Lizzie has left a small space for a word or two.--We
  arrived here last evening after a pleasant ride from Franklin, the
  present terminus of the Northern Rail Road. The scenery was in many
  places very fine, & we caught some glimpses of the mountain region
  to which we are going. Center Harbor where we now are is a very
  attractive place for a tourist, having the lake for boating and
  trouting, and plenty of rides in the vicinity, besides Red-Hill, the
  view from which is said to be equal to anything of the kind in New
  England. A rainy day, however, has thus far prevented us from taking
  our excursion, to enjoy the country.--To-morrow, I think we shall
  leave for Conway and thence to Mt. Washington & so to Canada. I trust
  in the course of some two weeks to bring Lizzie to Lansingburgh,
  quite refreshed and invigourated from her rambles.--Remember me to
  Mrs. Shaw & the family, and tell my mother that I will write to her
  in a day or two.

  “Sincerely yours,


  “Letters directed within four or five days from now, will probably
  reach us at Montreal.”

The second letter explains itself:

      “LANSINGBURGH, Aug. 28th, 1847.


  “We arrived here safe and well yesterday morning, and I intended to
  have written a few lines to you then, but I was so tired, and had
  so much to do to unpack and put away my things, I deferred it until

  “We left Montreal on Tuesday evening and the next day in the
  afternoon hailed Whitehall, at the foot of Lake Champlain, after
  a very pleasant sail on that beautiful piece of water. The next
  question was whether we should proceed to Lansingburgh by stage or
  take the canal boat. We thought stage riding would be rather tame
  after the beautiful scenery of Vermont, and as I had never been in
  a canal boat in my life, Herman thought we had better try it for
  the novelty. This would expedite our journeying, too, and having
  once set our faces homeward, we were not disposed to delay. Being
  fully forewarned of the inconvenience we might expect in passing a
  night on board a canal boat--a crowded canal boat, too, and fully
  determined to meet them bravely, we stepped on board--not without
  some misgivings, however, as we saw the crowds of men, women and
  children come pouring in, with trunks and handbags to match. Where so
  many people were to store themselves at night was a mystery to be yet
  unravelled, and what they all _did_ do with themselves is something
  I have not yet found out. Well, night drew on--and after sitting on
  deck on trunks or anything we could find (and having to bob our heads
  down every few minutes when the helmsman sang out ‘Bridge!’ or ‘Low
  Bridge!’) it became so damp and chilly that I was finally driven

  “Here was a scene entirely passing description. The Ladies’ ‘Saloon!’
  they politely termed it so, so we were informed by a red and gilt
  sign over it. A space about as large as my room at home, was
  separated from the gentlemen’s ‘Saloon’ by a curtain only. About 20
  or 25 women were huddled into this. Each one having two children
  apiece of all ages, sexes, and sizes, said children, as is usual on
  such occasions, lifting up their respective voices, very loud indeed,
  in one united chorus of lamentations.

  “A narrow row of shelves was hooked up high on each side and on
  these some & more fortunate mothers had closely packed their
  sleeping babies while they sat by to prevent their rolling out. I
  looked round in vain for a place to stretch my limbs, but it was
  not to be thought of--but after a while by a fortunate chance I
  got a _leaning_ privilege, and fixing my carpet-bag for a pillow,
  I made up my mind to pass the night in this manner. One by one the
  wailing children dropped off to sleep and I had actually lost myself
  in a sort of doze, when a new feature in the case became apparent.
  Stepping carefully over the outstretched forms on the floor came
  two men, each bearing a pile of boards or little shelves like those
  already suspended. These they hooked up against the sides in the
  smallest conceivable spaces, using every available inch of room--and
  were intended to sleep (!) upon. I immediately pounced upon one of
  them which I thought might be accessible, and was just consulting
  with myself as to the best means of getting onto it, when I was
  politely requested by one of the sufferers to take the shelf above
  from which she wished to remove her children to the one I thought to
  occupy--of course I complied, and after failing in several awkward
  attempts, I managed to climb and crawl into this narrow aperture like
  a bug forcing its way through the boards of a fence. Sweltering and
  smothering I watched the weary night hours pass away, for to sleep
  in such an atmosphere was impossible. I rose at 3 o’clock, thinking
  it was five, spent a couple of hours curled up on the floor, and was
  right glad when Herman came for me, with the joyful intelligence that
  we were actually approaching Whitehall--the place of our destination.
  He also passed a weary night, though his sufferings were of the
  opposite order--for while I was suffocating with the heat and bad
  atmosphere, he was on deck, chilled and half-frozen with the fog and
  penetrating dampness, for the gentlemen’s apartment was even more
  crowded than the ladies’--so much so that they did not attempt to
  hang any shelves for them to lie upon. All they could do was to sit
  bolt upright firmly wedged in and if one of them presumed to _lean_
  at all or even to _nod_ out of the perpendicular it was thought
  a great infringement of rights, and he was immediately called to
  order. So Herman preferred to remain on deck all night to being in
  this crowd. We left the boat and took the cars about an hour’s ride
  from Lansingburgh, and surprised the family at 6 o’clock in the
  morning before they were up. We were very warmly welcomed and cared
  for and soon forgot our tribulations of the canal boat. I was much
  disappointed to miss the boys--they had only left the day before--it
  was too bad--I am looking forward with such impatience to see you
  and father, and sincerely hope nothing will happen to prevent your

  “I suppose we shall not be long here. Allan is looking out for a
  house in N. Y. and will be married next month.

  “You know a proposition was made before I came here that I should
  furnish my own room, which for good reasons were then set aside--but
  if it is not too late now, I should like very much to do it if we go
  to N. Y.--but we can talk about that when I see you. I must bring my
  scribbling to a close, after I have begged you or somebody to write
  me. I have not received a single line since I left home. How did the
  dinner party go off? I want to hear about everything and everybody
  at home. Please give my warmest love to all and believe me your
  affectionate daughter,

      “ELIZABETH S. M.

  “Herman desires his kindest remembrances to all.”

Soon after the marriage, Melville and his wife moved from Lansingburg
to New York, where they lived with Melville’s brother, Allan, and his
household of sisters. The letters of Mrs. Melville’s are the only
surviving records of the intimate details of this domestic arrangement.
They are interesting, too, as revelation of the character of Mrs.
Melville. The three following are typical:

  “NEW YORK, Dec. 23rd, 1847.

  “Thank you, dear Mother, for your nice long letter. I was beginning
  to be afraid you had forgotten your part of the contract for that
  week, but Saturday brought me evidence to the contrary and made us
  even. And I should have written you earlier, but the days are so
  short, and I have so much to do, that they fly by without giving me
  half the time I want. Perhaps you will wonder what on earth I have
  to occupy me. Well in fact I hardly know exactly myself, but true
  it is little things constantly present themselves and dinner time
  comes before I am aware. We breakfast at 8 o’clock, then Herman goes
  to walk and I fly up to put his room to rights, so that he can sit
  down to his desk immediately on his return. Then I bid him good-bye,
  with many charges to be an industrious boy and not upset the inkstand
  and then flourish the duster, make the bed, etc., in my own room.
  Then I go downstairs and read the papers a little while, and after
  that I am ready to sit down to my work whatever it may be--darning
  stockings--making or mending for myself or Herman--at all events,
  I haven’t seen a day yet, without _some_ sewing or other to do. If
  I have letters to write, as is the case to-day, I usually do that
  first--but whatever I am about I do not much more than get thoroughly
  engaged in it, than ding-dong goes the bell for luncheon. This is
  half-past 12 o’clock--by this time we must expect callers, and so
  must be dressed immediately after lunch. Then Herman insists upon
  taking a walk of an hour’s length at least. So unless I can have rain
  or snow for an excuse, I usually sally out and make a pedestrian
  tour a mile or two down Broadway. By the time I come home it is two
  o’clock and after, and then I must make myself look as bewitchingly
  as possible to meet Herman at dinner. This being accomplished, I
  have only about an hour of available time left. At four we dine, and
  after dinner is over, Herman and I come up to our room and enjoy a
  cosy chat for an hour or so--or he reads me some of the chapters he
  has been writing in the day. Then he goes down town for a walk, looks
  at the papers in the reading room, etc., and returns about half-past
  seven or eight. Then my work or my book is laid aside, and as he does
  not use his eyes but very little by candle light, I either read to
  him, or take a hand at whist for his amusement, or he listens to our
  reading or conversation, as best pleases him. For we all collect in
  the parlour in the evening, and generally one of us reads aloud for
  the benefit of the whole. Then we retire very early--at 10 o’clock
  we all disperse. Indeed we think that quite a late hour to be up.
  This is the general course of daily events so you see how my time is
  occupied; but sometime--dear me! we have to go and make calls! and
  then good-bye to everything else for _that_ day! for upon my word,
  it takes the whole day, from 1 o’clock till four! and then perhaps
  we don’t accomplish more than two or three, if unluckily they chance
  to be in--for everybody lives so far from everybody else, and all
  Herman’s and Allan’s friends are _so_ polite, to say nothing of Mrs.
  M.’s old acquaintances, that I am fairly sick and tired of returning
  calls. And no sooner do we do up a few, than they all come again, and
  so it has to be gone over again.

  “You know ceremonious calls were always my abomination, and where
  they are all utter strangers and we have to send in our cards to
  show who we are, it is so much the worse. Excepting calls, I have
  scarcely visited at all. Herman is not fond of parties, and I don’t
  care anything about them here. To-morrow night, for a great treat, we
  are going to the opera--Herman & Fanny and I--and this is the first
  place of public amusement I have attended since I have been here but
  somehow or other I don’t care much about them now.

  “I am glad to hear that father and all are so well--except Sam--how
  is his cough now? don’t forget to tell us when you write.

  “If Susan Haywood and Fanny Clarke are at our house please give my
  love to them and ask Susan to answer my letter. How is Mrs. Marcus
  Morton and Mrs. Hawes? I hope you will be able to write me this week
  though I know _your_ time is very much occupied--but then you know
  any letter--even the shortest and most hurried is acceptable and
  better than none--though I must confess my prejudice sins in favour
  of _long_ ones--but I am glad to hear _anything_ from home. You
  addressed my last letter just right and it came very straight--but
  Allan’s name is spelt with an ‘a’ instead of an ‘e’--as Allan--not
  Allen--different names, you see--I am hoping that sometime or other
  father will find time to write to me--though I know he is so much
  occupied with other matters.

  “Thank you for your kindness about the picture box--as I do not need
  any article at present, I will keep the dollar till I do--it will be
  the same thing, you know, and I have already got such a New Year’s
  present in the big box upstairs--by the way, in about a week more, it
  will be time to open it. Oh, what do you think about my calling on
  Mrs. Joe Henshaw and Josephine--they are living here and came here
  after I did, so perhaps I ought to call first if it is best for me
  to visit them--being connected with the Haywoods perhaps it would be
  better to renew the acquaintance. What do you think about it? Please
  tell me when you write, and get their address from Aunt Haywood, if
  you think I had better call. I am afraid you are tired of this long
  letter; but I have done now. Good-bye, and love to all.

  “Affectionately yours,


  “P. S. I have a letter from Mrs. Warpwell a few days since--I didn’t
  know she had lost one of her twins before. Why didn’t you tell me? My
  love to Mrs. Sullivan. I hope she is quite well again. Tell Lem we
  expect him next month in his mention to make us a visit.”

      “NEW YORK, Feb. 4th, 1848.

      “103 Fourth Avenue.


  “Every day for the last week I have been trying to write to you,
  but have been prevented. I received your letter by Lemuel with much
  pleasure and the next time you write I want you to tell me more about
  Carrie--how she and the small baby are getting along--and whether she
  took ether when she was sick and if so, with what effect. What they
  have decided to name the baby and all about it. Your presents were
  very acceptable--Herman was much gratified with your remembrance to
  him--and intends to make his acknowledgment for himself. You forgot
  Kate in the multitude of Melvilles--so I just gave her my share of
  the bill you enclosed without saying anything about it--knowing you
  would not intentionally leave her out--or rather I gave the bill to
  Helen for herself, Fanny and Kate, as she could get what they most
  wanted better than I--so it’s all right now, and I will take the will
  for the deed and thank you all the same.

  “The key of the basket that you wanted me to send--you know--I have
  _no bills_ there whatever--you have them all. I only have an account
  of the expenditure and a memorandum of the bills that were paid--not
  the item of the bills. If you have an opportunity where it will come
  safe I should like to have you send me that basket very much.

  “You speak of a Mr. Crocker whom you wish me to receive. If he will
  call I shall be very happy to see him. You know we are recently
  renumbered and our address now is ‘No. 103 Fourth Avenue’, ‘between
  11th & 12th Streets’--it is safer to add for a time.

  “Lem seems to be enjoying himself highly with the amusements out of
  doors, and the society within. Last night he went to a masked ball,
  under the auspices of Mrs. Elwell, through Aunt Marat’s kindness,
  and a very fine appearance he presented, I can assure you, in an
  old French court dress--with a long curled horse-hair wig, chapeau
  bras--knee breeches, long stockings, buckles, snuff box and all--it
  was a very becoming dress to him, and exactly suited to his carriage
  and manners--I wish you could have seen him. We went to a party
  ourselves last evening, but we had a deal of fun helping him to
  dress--he went masked of course, but being introduced by Mrs. Elwell
  was very kindly received--taking Mrs. Dickinson (the hostess) down
  to supper, and doing the polite thing to the nine Misses Dickinson.
  He enjoyed it much, as you may suppose, and did not get home till
  four o’clock in the morning, and even then the ball had not broken
  up. At this present moment--11 o’clock--I believe he is dozing on the
  parlour sofa--to gain strength to go to the opera this evening.

  “We have been very dissipated this week for us, for usually we are
  very quiet. Wednesday evening we passed at Mrs. Thurston’s and were
  out quite late--last night at a party--a very pleasant one too, where
  by the way--I passed off for Miss Melville and as such was quite a
  belle!! And to-night in honour of our guest, we go to the Opera. We
  have resolved to stop after this though and not go out at all for
  while Herman is writing the effect of keeping late hours is very
  injurious to him--if he does not get a full night’s rest or indulges
  in a late supper, he does not feel right for writing the next day.
  And the days are too precious to be thrown away. And to tell the
  truth I don’t think he cares _very_ much about parties either, and
  when he goes it is more on my account than his own. And it’s no
  sacrifice to me, for I am quite as contented, and more--to stay at
  home so long as he will stay with me. He has had communications from
  London publishers with very liberal offers for the book in hand--and
  one from Berlin to translate from the first sheets into German--but
  as yet he has closed with none of them, and will not in a hurry.

  “I believe I forgot in my last to acknowledge the receipt of a paper
  from father--I was very glad of it--please present my thanks--I
  have intended to write to father for a good while--but I like to
  have answers to my letters--so if father has not time to write in
  reply, you must write for him. Give my love to him and to all the
  family--and when you see Susan Morton ask her to write to me.

  “Tell Aunt Lucretia I was delighted to get her note, and I will write
  to her.

  “Now I have written you a famous long letter and I hope you will
  write me as long a one very soon, for I have not heard from home for
  more than a week now--not since Lem came.

  “Give my love to Mrs. Sullivan, and believe me as ever truly yours,

      “E. S. MELVILLE.”

      “NEW YORK, May 5th, 1848.


  “I am very much occupied to-day but I snatch a few moments to reply
  to your letter which though rather tardy in forthcoming was very
  acceptable. But you did not tell me what I most wanted to know--about
  Sam. And your indefinite allusion to it, when we were all waiting to
  hear, was rather tantalising. Does ‘this season’ means _now_ in his
  present vacation, or sometime in the course of the year? I suppose
  his vacation has already commenced if he is out at Milton, then why
  not let him come immediately and make his visit, because if he waits
  till warm weather it will not be nearly so pleasant or so beneficial
  for him. Maria Percival writes me that she is coming on soon and he
  might come with her. Please write me something _definite_ about it,
  as soon as you can, and do let him come. We want him to very much,
  and the sooner the better.

  “You ask about our coming to Boston but I guess the house will be
  ready to _clean again_ by that time--for it will not be before
  July, perhaps August. Herman of course will stick to his work till
  ‘the book’ is published and his services are required till the last
  moment--correcting proof, etc. The book is done now, in fact (you
  need not mention it) and the copy for the press is in progress, but
  when it is published on both sides of the water a great deal of delay
  is unavoidable and though Herman will have some spare time after
  sending the proof sheets to London which will be next month sometime
  probably he will not want to leave New York till the book is actually
  on the book-sellers’ shelves. And then I don’t care about leaving
  home till my cold is over because I could not enjoy my visit so much.
  So though I am very impatient for the time to come I must e’en wait
  as best I may and enjoy the anticipation.

  “We are looking out for Tom to return every day, his ship has been
  reported in the papers several times lately as homeward bound and
  Herman wrote to the owner at Westport and received answer that he
  looked for the ship the first of May. That has already past and we
  are daily expecting a letter to announce her actual arrival. Then
  Herman will have to go over to Westport for Tom and see that he is
  regularly discharged and paid, and bring him home. As yet he, Tom,
  is in entire ignorance of the changes that have taken place in his
  family and of their removal to New York. So he will be much surprised
  I think. As you may suppose, Mother is watching and counting the days
  with great anxiety for he is the baby of the family and his mother’s

  “Augusta is going to Albany in a few days to visit the Van
  Renssalaers. They have been at her all winter to go up the river but
  she would not, and now Mr. Van Renssalaer is in town and will not go
  back without her. And in a few weeks Helen is going to Lansingburgh
  to visit Mrs. Jones.

  “I should write you a longer letter but I am very busy to-day copying
  and cannot spare the time so you must excuse it and all mistakes. I
  tore my sheet in two by mistake thinking it was my copying (for we
  only write on one side of the page) and if there is no punctuation
  marks you must make them yourself for when I copy I do not punctuate
  at all but leave it for a final revision for Herman. I have got so
  used to write without (.) I cannot always think of it.

  “Please write me _very soon_ this week--if only a few lines and tell
  me about Sam’s coming.

  “My love to all, to father when you write and to Sue Morton if she is
  at our house, Mrs. Hawes etc. and believe me as ever your affectionate

      “E. S. MELVILLE.

  “Miss Savage & Miss Lincoln called to see me a day or two ago.

  “Please spell Allan’s name with an A, not E. _Allan_, not _Allen_.”

During this period, the household at 103 Fourth Avenue was busy getting
_Redburn_ and _Mardi_ ready for the press. Melville’s sister Augusta
seems to have been exhaustless in copying manuscript. Melville’s
mother-in-law reports “Miss Augusta is all energy, united with much
kindness.” Augusta also evinced a strong religious bent, and during
song services--which she loved to attend--she used to grip her hymnal
athletically, and beat time with an aggressive rhythm. Her Hymn Book
survives, pasted up with dozens of clippings of hymns and prayers, a
“selection” entitled _The Sinner’s Friend_, and the vivacious couplet:

  “Jesus, mine’s a pressing case.
  Oh, more grace, _more grace, MORE GRACE_!”


But song-services, and copying manuscript, were not enough to fill
Augusta’s busy days. In January, 1848, she was commissioned to find
a name satisfactory for Melville’s first child. Mrs. Herman Melville
was in Boston to be with her mother and family at the time of the
childbirth. On January 27, 1849, Augusta wrote from New York to “My
dear Lizzie, My sweet Sister,” reporting that she had been “searching
the Genealogical Tree” with designs upon an ancestor with a choice
name: and she spends two very diverting and animated pages recounting
her adventures among the branches. Her search was rewarded to her
satisfaction: “_Malcolm Melville!_ how easily it runs from my pen; how
sweetly it sounds to my ear; how musically it falls upon my heart.
Malcolm Melville! Methinks I see him in his plaided kilts, with his
soft blue eyes, & his long flaxen curls. How I long to press him to my
heart. There! I can write no more. The last proof sheets are through.
_Mardi’s_ a book.” Augusta concludes with a quotation from _Mardi_:
“‘Oh my own Kagtanza, child of my prayers. Oro’s blessing on thee!’”

In her search of the Genealogical Tree, Augusta had contemptuously
brushed by all female branches: she had determined that Melville’s
first child should be a son--and a son with blue eyes and blond
hair--and in her choice of a name for the unborn infant, she
contemptuously ignored the possibility of the child turning out to be
a girl. On February 16, 1849, was born in Boston, to Melville and his
wife, their first child. There was potency in Augusta’s prayers. It was
a boy.

On April 14, 1849, _Mardi_ appeared, published, as was _Omoo_, by
Harper and Brothers in America, by Richard Bentley in London. _Redburn_
appeared on August 18 of the same year. By February 22, 1850 (the date
of Melville’s fifth royalty account from Harper and Brothers), 2,154
copies of _Mardi_, and 4,011 copies of _Redburn_ had been sold. On
February 1, 1848, Melville had overdrawn his account with Harper’s to
the extent of $256.03. On December 5, 1848, Harper’s advanced Melville
$500; on April 28, 1848, $300; on July 2, 1849, $300; on September 14,
1849, $500. Though _Mardi_ and _Redburn_ had had a fairly generous
sale, the deduction of his royalties on February 22, 1850, left him
in debt to Harper’s $733.69. The outlook was not bright for the
responsibilities of fatherhood.

On April 23, Melville sent to his father-in-law a note “conveying
the intelligence of Lizzie’s improving strength, and Malcolm’s
precocious growth. Both are well.” Melville went on to say that
Samuel, the brother-in-law for whom he felt not the most enthusiastic
affection, was expected by all “to honour us with his presence during
the approaching vacation: and I have no doubt he will not find it
difficult to spend his time pleasantly with so many companions.” Does
Melville here imply that for himself, as a sensible man, he would
prefer more solitude? In conclusion, Melville says: “I see that _Mardi_
has been cut into by the _London Atheneum_, and also burnt by the
common hangman by the _Boston Post_. However, the _London Examiner_
& _Literary Gazette_ & other papers this side of the water have done
differently. These attacks are matters of course, and are essential to
the building up of any permanent reputation--if such should ever prove
to be mine--‘There’s nothing in it!’ cried the dunce when he threw
down the 47th problem of the 1st Book of Euclid--‘There’s nothing in
it!’--Thus with the posed critic. But Time, which is the solver of all
riddles, will solve _Mardi_.”

The riddle of _Mardi_ goes near to the heart of the riddle of
Melville’s life. “Not long ago,” Melville says in the preface to
_Mardi_, “having published two narratives of voyages in the Pacific,
which, in many quarters, were received with incredulity, the thought
occurred to me, of indeed writing a romance of Polynesian adventure,
and publishing it as such; to see whether the fiction might not,
possibly, be received for a verity: in some degree the reverse of my
previous experience. This thought was the germ of others, which have
resulted in _Mardi_.”

_Mardi_, as _Moby-Dick_, starts off firmly footed in reality. The
hero, discontented on board a whaler, hits upon the wild scheme of
surreptitiously cutting loose one of the whale boats, and trusting to
the chances of the open Pacific. It is sometimes the case that an old
mariner will conceive a very strong attachment for some young sailor,
his shipmate--a Fidus-Achates-ship, a league of offence and defence, a
copartnership of chests and toilets, a bond of love and good-feeling.
Such a relationship existed between the hero of _Mardi_ and his Viking
shipmate Jarl. Jarl was an old Norseman to behold: his hands as brawny
as the paws of a bear; his voice as hoarse as a storm roaring round the
peak of Mull; his long yellow hair waving about his head like a sunset.
In the crow’s-nest of the ship the project of escape was confided to
Jarl. Jarl advised with elderly prudence, but seeing his chummy’s
resolution immovable, he changed his wrestling to a sympathetic hug,
and bluntly swore he would follow through thick and thin. The escape
was successfully made, and for days the two men drifted at sea: and
it was an eventful if solitary drifting. After sixteen days in their
open boat, “as the expanded sun touched the horizon’s rim, a ship’s
uppermost spars were observed, traced like a spider’s web against
its crimson disk. It looked like a far-off craft on fire.” Bent upon
shunning a meeting--though Jarl “kept looking wistfully over his
shoulder; doubtlessly praying Heaven that we might not escape”--they
lowered sail. As the ship bore down towards them, they saw her to
be no whaler--as they had feared--but a small, two-masted craft in
unaccountable disarray. They lay on their oars, and watched her in
the starlight. They hailed her loudly. No return. Again. But all was
silent. So, armed with a harpoon, they eventually boarded the strange
craft. The ship was in a complete litter; the deserted tiller they
found lashed. Though it was a nervous sort of business, they explored
her interior. Many were the puzzling sights they saw; but except for a
supernatural sneeze from the riggings, there was no evidence of life
aboard. At dawn, however, they discovered, in the maintop, a pair of
South Sea Islanders: Samoa, and Annatoo. “To be short, Annatoo was a
Tartar, a regular Calmuc; and Samoa--Heaven help him--her husband.”
Upon this pair, Melville has lavished chapter after chapter of the most
finished and competent comedy. Annatoo is as perfect, in her way, as is
Zuleika Dobson. And Samoa--well, Samoa, on occasion, thinks it discreet
to amputate his wounded arm.

“Among savages, severe personal injuries are, for the most part,
accounted but trifles. When a European would be taking to his couch in
despair, the savage would disdain to recline.

“More yet. In Polynesia, every man is his own barber and surgeon,
cutting off his beard or arm, as occasion demands. No unusual thing,
for the warriors of Varvoo to saw off their own limbs, desperately
wounded in battle. But owing to the clumsiness of the instrument
employed--a flinty, serrated shell--the operation has been known to
last several days. Nor will they suffer any friend to help them;
maintaining, that a matter so nearly concerning a warrior is far better
attended to by himself. Hence it may be said, that they amputate
themselves at their leisure, and hang up their tools when tired. But,
though thus beholden to no one for aught connected with the practice
of surgery, they never cut off their own heads, that ever I heard; a
species of amputation to which, metaphorically speaking, many would-be
independent sort of people in civilised lands are addicted.

“Samoa’s operation was very summary. A fire was kindled in the little
caboose, or cook-house, and so made as to produce much smoke. He then
placed his arm upon one of the windlass bitts (a short upright timber,
breast-high), and seizing the blunt cook’s axe would have struck the
blow; but for some reason distrusting the precision of his aim, Annatoo
was assigned to the task. Three strokes, and the limb, from just above
the elbow, was no longer Samoa’s; and he saw his own bones; which
many a centenarian can not say. The very clumsiness of the operation
was safety to the subject. The weight and bluntness of the instrument
both deadened the pain and lessened the hemorrhage. The wound was then
scorched, and held over the smoke of the fire, till all signs of blood
vanished. From that day forward it healed, and troubled Samoa but

“But shall the sequel be told? How that, superstitiously averse to
burying in the sea the dead limb of a body yet living; since in that
case Samoa held, that he must very soon drown and follow it; and how,
that equally dreading to keep the thing near him, he at last hung it
aloft from the topmast-stay; where yet it was suspended, bandaged over
and over in cerements. The hand that must have locked many others in
friendly clasp, or smote a foe, was no food, thought Samoa, for fowls
of the air nor fishes of the sea.

“Now, which was Samoa? The dead arm swinging high as Haman? Or the
living trunk below? Was the arm severed from the body, or the body from
the arm? The residual part of Samoa was alive, and therefore we say it
was he. But which of the writhing sections of a ten times severed worm,
is the worm proper?”

There are more cosy pleasures aboard the old ship, however, than
amputation: “Every one knows what a fascination there is in wandering
up and down in a deserted old tenement in some warm, dreamy country;
where the vacant halls seem echoing of silence, and the doors creak
open like the footsteps of strangers; and into every window the old
garden trees thrust their dark boughs, like the arms of night-burglars;
and ever and anon the nails start from the wainscot; while behind it
the mice rattle like dice. Up and down in such old spectre houses one
loves to wander; and so much the more, if the place be haunted by some
marvellous story.

“And during the drowsy stillness of the tropical sea-day, very much
such a fancy had I, for prying about our little brigantine, whose
tragic hull was haunted by the memory of the massacre, of which it
still bore innumerable traces.”

After delightful and exciting, and irresponsible days spent sailing
without chart, they find the vessel unseaworthy, leaking in every pore;
so again they take to their whale boat soon to fall in with strangers.
With this meeting, _Mardi_ swings into allegory,--and then it is that
Melville first tries his hand at the orphic style.

This second part of _Mardi_ in its manner defies simple
characterisation, though its purpose is simple enough. It is a quest
after Yillah, a maiden from Oroolia, the Island of Delight. A voyage is
made through the civilised world for her: and though they find occasion
for much discourse on international politics, and an array of other
topics, Yillah is not found. And in an astonishing variety of fantastic
and symbolic scenes--many conceived in the manner of the last three
books of Rabelais--they go on in futile search for her. They search
among the Islands of “those Scamps the Plujii,” where all evil which
the inhabitants could impute neither to the gods nor to themselves were
blamed upon the Plujii. There they meet an “old woman almost doubled
together, both hands upon her abdomen; in that manner running about
distracted.” When asked of the occasion of her distraction she screamed
“The Plujii! The Plujii!” affectionately caressing the field of their

“And why do they torment you?” she was soothingly asked.

“How should I know? and what good would it do me if I did?”

And on she ran.

“Hearing that an hour or two previous she had been partaking of some
twenty unripe bananas, I rather fancied that that circumstance might
have had something to do with her suffering. But whatever it was, all
the herb-leeches on the island would not have been able to alter her
own opinions on the subject.”

They visit jolly old Borabolla, and discuss the hereafter of fish. “As
for the possible hereafter of the whale,” says Melville, “a creature
eighty feet long without stockings, and thirty feet round the waist
after dinner is not inconsiderably to be consigned to annihilation.”
They are entertained by the gentry of Pimminee, and their host, being
told they were strolling divinities, demigods from the sun “manifested
not the slightest surprise, observing incidentally, however, that the
eclipses there must be a sad bore to endure.” They are entertained
by the pallid and beautiful youth Donjalolo, with wives thirty in
number, corresponding in name to the nights of the moon: wives “blithe
as larks, more playful than kittens,” though “but supplied with
the thirtieth part of all that Aspasia could desire.” Over flowing
calabashes they discourse of super-men, and vitalism, and toad-stools,
and fame, and thieves, and teeth, and democracy, and an interminable
variety of other irrelevant and diverting matters. Incredible is the
rich variety of _Mardi_.

There is infinite laughter in the book--but the laughter is at bottom
the laughter of despair. “It is more pleasing to laugh, than to weep,”
Montaigne has said. But Montaigne preferred laughter not for that
reason, but because “it is more distainfull, and doth more condemne us
than the other. And me thinkes we can never bee sufficiently despised
according to our merit.” Melville’s laughter, however, grew out of a
desolation less emancipated than Montaigne’s. “Let us laugh: let us
roar: let us yell.” Melville makes the philosopher in _Mardi_ say:
“Weeds are torn off at a fair; no heart bursts but in secret; it is
good to laugh though the laugh be hollow. Women sob, and are rid of
their grief; men laugh and retain it. Ha! ha! how demoniacs shout; how
all skeletons grin; we all die with a rattle. Humour, thy laugh is
divine; hence mirth-making idiots have been revered; and so may I.”
And one of the ultimate discoveries of the book is: “Beatitude there
is none. And your only Mardian happiness is but exemption from great
woes--no more. Great Love is sad; and heaven is Love. Sadness makes
the silence throughout the realms of space; sadness is universal and

For _Mardi_, in its intention to show the vanity of human wishes, is
a kind of _Rasselas_; but because of its “dangerous predominance of
imagination,” it is a _Rasselas_ Dr. Johnson would have despised.
And the happiness sought in _Mardi_ is of a brand of felicity unlike
anything the Prince of Abyssinia ever had any itching to enjoy. _Mardi_
is a quest after some total and undivined possession of that holy
and mysterious joy that touched Melville during the period of his
courtship: a joy he had felt in the crucifixion of his love for his
mother; a joy that had dazzled him in his love for Elizabeth Shaw.
When he wrote _Mardi_ he was married, and his wife was with child. And
_Mardi_ is a pilgrimage for a lost glamour.

In these wanderings in search of Yillah, the symbol of this faded
ecstasy, the hero of _Mardi_ is pursued by three shadowy messengers
from the temptress Hautia; she who was descended from the queen who had
first incited Mardi to wage war against beings with wings. Despairing
of ever achieving Yillah, Melville in the end turned towards the island
of Hautia, called Flozella-a-Nina, or “The Last-Verse-of-the-Song.”
“Yillah was all beauty, and innocence; my crown of felicity; my heaven
below:--and Hautia, my whole heart abhorred. Yillah I sought; Hautia
sought me. Yet now I was wildly dreaming to find them together. In some
mysterious way seemed Hautia and Yillah connected.”

They land on the shore of Hautia’s bower of bliss, when “all the sea,
like a harvest plain, was stacked with glittering sheaves of spray. And
far down, fathoms on fathoms, flitted rainbow hues:--as seines-full of
mermaids; half-screening the bower of the drowned.” Hautia lavished
him with flowers, and with wine, that like a blood-freshet ran through
his veins, she the vortex that draws all in. “But as my hand touched
Hautia’s, down dropped a dead bird from the clouds.” And at the end
of the madness into which Hautia had betrayed him, he and she stood
together--“snake and victim: life ebbing from out me, to her.”

In _Pierre_, Melville sadly reflects upon “the inevitable evanescence
of all earthly loveliness: which makes the sweetest things of life only
food for ever-devouring and omnivorous melancholy.” And the nuptial
embrace, he says, breaks love’s airy zone. The etherealisations of the
filial breast, he wrote, while contemporary with courtship, _preceding_
the final banns and the rites, “like the bouquet of the costliest
German wines, too often evaporate upon pouring love out to drink in the
disenchanting glasses of the matrimonial days and nights.” “I am Pluto
stealing Proserpine,” says Pierre; “and every accepted lover is. I am
of heavy earth, and she of airy light. By heaven, but marriage is an
impious thing!”

Yillah was to Melville lost for ever; and in Hautia was a final
disillusionment. And on the shore, awaiting to destroy, “stood the
three pale sons of him I had slain to gain the lost maiden, sworn to
hunt me round eternity.”

“‘Hail! realm of shades!’”--so _Mardi_ concludes--“and turning my
prow into the racing tide, which seized me like a hand omnipotent, I
darted through. Churned in foam, that outer ocean lashed the clouds;
and straight in my white wake, headlong dashed a shallop, three fixed
spectres leaning o’er its prow: three arrows poising. And thus,
pursuers and pursued fled on, over an endless sea.”

Within a week of the completion of _Mardi_, Melville’s wife wrote to
her mother:

“I suppose by this time that you have received Sam’s letter and are
relieved of anxiety concerning his safe arrival. I was very glad to
see him at last & hope he will enjoy his vacation. You need not fear
his getting too much excited--he will not take too much exercise,
for he can always get in an omnibus when he feels tired of walking.
Yesterday he went down town with Tom--to the Battery--and to a gallery
of paintings--and in the afternoon took a short walk with the girls. We
should have gone to Brooklyn, but it was very cloudy and looked like
rain--but we are going to-day as soon as I get done my copying (by
the way we are nearly through--shall finish this week). Sam is very
well and finds much amusement, especially in the ‘ad-i-s-h-e-e-e-s!’
(radishes) screamed continually under our window in every variety of
cracked voices.

“I was very much pleased with my presents especially the ‘boots’ which
fit me admirably--but I meant that to be a business transaction--else
I should not have sent. ‘Tapes’ are _always_ useful, especially if one
has a husband who is continually breaking strings off of drawers as
mine is--the cuffs were very pretty also--Herman was very much pleased
with his pocket-book & says ‘he has long needed such an article, for
his bank bills accumulate to such an extent he can find no place to put

“Mother feels very uneasy because Tom wants to go to sea again--he has
been trying for a place in some store ever since he came home but not
succeeding, is discouraged and says he must go to sea immediately.
Herman has written Mr. Parker (Daniel P.) to see if he can send him out
in one of his ships. I hope he will, if Tom must go, for Mr. Parker
would be likely to take an interest in him and promote him.

“And now for something which I hardly know whether to write you or not
I feel so undecided about it. My cold is very bad indeed, perhaps worse
than it has ever been so early, and I attribute it entirely to the warm
dry atmosphere so different from the salt air I have been accustomed
to. And Herman thinks I had better go back to Boston with Sam to see
if the change of air will not benefit me. And he will come on for me
in two or three weeks, if he can--and then in August when he takes his
vacation he will take me there again. But I don’t know as I can make
up my mind to go and leave him here--and besides I’m afraid to trust
him to finish up the book without me! That is, taking all things into
consideration I’m afraid I should not feel at ease enough to enjoy my
visit without him with me. But there is time enough to consider about
it before Sam goes--and if my cold continues so bad I think I shall go.
But I must go to my writing else I shall not get done in time to go to



  “You said you were married, I think? Well, I suppose it is wise,
  after all. It settles, centralises, and confirms a man, I have heard.
  Yes, it makes the world definite to him; it removes his morbid
  subjectiveness, and makes all things objective; nine small children,
  for instance, may be considered objective. Marriage, hey!--A fine
  thing, no doubt, no doubt:--domestic--pretty--nice, all round.--So
  you are married?”

  --HERMAN MELVILLE: _Pierre_.

In October, 1849, at the age of thirty, five years after his return
from the South Seas, and two years after his marriage, Melville again
left home. His departure was not prompted by any lack of diversion at
home: there had been plenty of it at 103 Fourth Avenue. Melville’s
brothers Allan and Tom, his sisters Augusta, Fanny and Helen, his
mother, his wife, and the visits from Boston of the Shaws, had been a
sufficiently varied company to divert any lover of humanity, and to
enamour a misanthrope to the family hearth. Withal, Melville was not
only a husband, but a father: and duties towards the support of the
company with whom he lived were blatantly clear. For this support he
depended solely upon the earnings from his books. In three years he
had published five volumes: _Typee_, _Omoo_, _Mardi_ (in two volumes)
and _Redburn_. Though he had attracted wide attention as a writer, he
was, nevertheless, in debt to his publishers. Despite sisters, and
brothers, and wives, and babies, and mothers, and callers, he had
stuck relentlessly to his desk, and another book--_White-Jacket_--he
had finished in manuscript. His, as well as his sister Augusta’s, was
“a pressing case.” So he decided to go to England, to make personal
intercession with publishers, hoping thereby to improve his income from
the other side of the Atlantic.

On October 11, 1849, after a detention of three or four days, owing
to wind and weather, he went on board the tug _Goliath_ a little
after noon. A violent storm was blowing from the west, and with some
confusion the passengers were transferred to the _Southampton_, a
regular London liner that lay in the North River. By half-past five,
with yards square, and sailing in half a gale, Melville was again out
of sight of land.

“As the ship dashed on,” says Melville in his journal of the trip,
“under double-reefed topsails, I walked the deck, thinking of what
they might be doing at home, and of the last familiar faces I saw on
the wharf--Allan was there, and George Duyckinck, and a Mr. McCurdy, a
rich merchant of New York, who had seemed somewhat interested in the
prospect of his son (a sickly youth of twenty, bound for the grand
tour) being very romantic. But to my great delight, the promise that
the Captain had given me at an early day, he now made good; and I find
myself in the individual occupancy of a large state-room. It is as
big almost as my own room at home; it has a spacious berth, a large
wash-stand, a sofa, glass, etc., etc. I am the only person on board who
is thus honoured with a room to himself. I have plenty of light, and a
little thick glass window in the side, which in fine weather I may open
to the air. I have looked out upon the sea from it, often, tho not yet
24 hours on board.”

The George Duyckinck who was among the party that had waved him off
was, of course, one of two Duyckinck brothers who published in 1855
the two volume _Cyclopædia of American Literature_: a work vituperated
in its day for shocking omissions and inaccuracies. Both the work and
its critics have now fallen into a decent oblivion. Withal, in this
same antiquated _Cyclopædia_ is to be found one of the best informed
summaries of the first half of Melville’s life ever printed.

On October 12, Melville records in his journal his impressions upon
finding himself again on the ocean. “Walked the deck last night
till about eight o’clock,” he says, “then made up a whist party and
played till one of the number had to visit his room from sickness.
Retired early and had a sound sleep. Was up betimes and aloft, to
recall the old emotions of being at the mast-head. Found that the
ocean looked the same as ever. Have tried to read but find it hard
work. However, there are some very pleasant passengers on board,
with whom to converse. Chief among these is a Mr. Adler, a German
scholar, to whom Duyckinck introduced me. He is author of a formidable
lexicon (German or English); in compiling which he almost ruined his
health. He was almost crazy, he tells me, for a time. He is full of
the German metaphysics and discourses of Kant, Swedenborg, etc. He
has been my principal companion thus far. There is also a Mr. Taylor
among the passengers, cousin of James Bayard Taylor, the pedestrian
traveller. There is a Scotch artist on board, a painter, with a most
unpoetical looking child, a young-one all cheeks and forehead, the
former preponderating. Young McCurdy I find to be a lisping youth of
genteel capacity, but quite disposed to be sociable. We have several
Frenchmen and Englishmen. One of the latter has been hunting, and
carries over with him two glorious pairs of antlers (moose) as trophies
of his prowess in the Woods of Maine. We have also a middle-aged
English woman, who sturdily walks the decks and prides herself upon
her sea-legs, and being an old tar.” There was also aboard “a Miss
Wilbur (I think) of New York.” Melville reports of Miss Wilbur
that she “is of a marriageable age, keeps a diary, and talks about
‘winning souls to Christ.’” In the evening, Melville “walked the
deck with the German, Mr. Adler, till a late hour, talking of ‘Fixed
Fate, Free-will, free-knowledge absolute’ etc. His philosophy is
_Coleridgean_; he accepts the Scriptures as divine, and yet leaves
himself free to inquire into Nature. He does not take it, that the
Bible is absolutely infallible, and that anything opposed to it in
Science must be wrong. He believes that there are things not of God and
independent of Him,--things that would have existed were there no God;
such as that two and two make four; for it is not that God so decrees
mathematically, but that in the very nature of things, the fact is

On the following morning, Melville was up early. “Opened my bull’s
eye window, and looked out to the East. The sun was just rising--the
horizon was red;--a familiar sight to me, reminding me of old times.
Before breakfast, went up to the mast-head by way of gymnastics. About
ten o’clock the wind rose, the sun fell, and the deck looked dismally
empty. By dinner time, it blew half a gale, and the passengers mostly
retired to their rooms, sea-sick. After dinner, the rain ceased, but it
still blew stiffly, and we were slowly forging along under close-reefed
top-sails--mainsail furled. I was walking the deck, when I perceived
one of the steerage passengers looking over the side; I looked too,
and saw a man in the water, his head completely lifted above the
waves,--about twelve feet from the ship, right amast the gangway. For
an instant, I thought I was dreaming; for no one else seemed to see
what I did. Next moment, I shouted ‘Man Overboard!’ and turned to go
aft. I dropped overboard the tackle-fall of the quarter-boat, and swung
it toward the man, who was now drifting close to the ship. He did not
get hold of it, and I got over the side, within a foot or two of the
sea, and again swung the rope toward him. He now got hold of it. By
this time, a crowd of people--sailors and others--were clustering about
the bulwarks; but none seemed very anxious to save him. They warned
_me_, however, not to fall overboard. After holding on to the rope,
about a quarter of a minute, the man let go of it and dropped astern
under the mizzen chains. Four or five of the seamen jumped over into
the chains and swung him more ropes. But his conduct was unaccountable;
he could have saved himself, had he been so minded. I was struck by the
expression of his face in the water. It was merry. At last he dropped
off under the ship’s counter, and all hands cried ‘He’s gone!’ Running
to the taffrail we saw him again, floating off--saw a few bubbles, and
never saw him again. No boat was lowered, no sail was shaken, hardly
any noise was made. The man drowned like a bullock. It afterward turned
out, that he was crazy, and had jumped overboard. He had declared he
would do so, several times; and just before he did jump, he had tried
to get possession of his child, in order to jump into the sea, with the
child in his arms. His wife was miserably sick in her berth.”

In the steerage another crazy man was reported. But his lunacy turned
out to be delirium tremens, consequent upon “keeping drunk for the last
two months.”

Sunday the fourteenth was “a regular blue devil day; a gale of wind,
and everybody sick. Saloons deserted, and all sorts of nausea heard
from the state-rooms. Managed to get thro’ the day somehow, by reading
and walking the deck, tho’ the last was almost as much as my neck was
worth. Saw a lady with a copy of _Omoo_ in her hand two days ago. Now
and then she would look up at me, as if comparing notes. She turns out
to be the wife of a young Scotchman, an artist, going out to Scotland
to sketch scenes for his patrons in Albany, including Dr. Armsby. He
introduced himself to me by mentioning the name of Mr. Twitchell who
painted my portrait gratis. He is a very unpretending young man, and
looks more like a tailor than an artist. But appearances are etc.--”
The portrait painted by Mr. Twitchell is now not known to exist.

Monday broke fair. “By noon the passengers were pretty nearly all on
deck, convalescent. They seem to regard me as a hero, proof against
wind and weather. My occasional feats in the rigging are regarded
as a species of tight-rope dancing. Poor Adler, however, is hardly
himself again. He is an exceedingly amiable man, and a fine scholar
whose society is improving in a high degree. This afternoon Dr.
Taylor and I sketched a plan for going down the Danube from Vienna
to Constantinople; thence to Athens on the steamer; to Beyrout and
Jerusalem--Alexandria and the Pyramids. From what I learn, I have no
doubt this can be done at a comparatively trifling expense. Taylor has
had a good deal of experience in cheap European travel, and from his
knowledge of German is well fitted for a travelling companion thro
Austria and Turkey. I am full (just now) of this glorious Eastern
jaunt. Think of it:--Jerusalem and the Pyramids--Constantinople, the
Egean and also Athens!--The wind is not fair yet, and there is much
growling consequently. Drank a small bottle of London stout to-day for
dinner, and think it did me good. I wonder how much they charge for it?
I must find out.”

On the sixteenth his journal looks back towards home. “What’s little
Barney about?” he asks of his son Malcolm. And of his wife: “Where’s
Orianna?” Four days later, having been “annoyed towards morning by a
crying baby adjoining” he repeats this simple catechism.

The entire morning of the eighteenth--the day delightful and the ship
getting on famously--Melville spent “in the maintop with Adler and Dr.
Taylor, discussing our plans for the grand circuit of Europe and the
East. Taylor, however, has communicated to me a circumstance that may
prevent him from accompanying us--something of a pecuniary nature. He
reckons our expenses at $400.” Though Melville played with this idea
of the trip into the East for some days, he in the end was forced by
lack of funds to give it up. Not until 1856 did he see Greece, and
Constantinople, and the Holy Land, and then under tragic circumstances.

The rest of the week went by eventlessly. Melville read, lounged,
played cards, went into the Ladies’ Saloon for the first time, there
to “hear Mrs. Gould, the opera lady, sing.” When he comes to Sunday,
October 21, he is unusually laconic: on ship board at least, Melville
was in a mood to sympathise with Fielding’s liberties with the
calendar in _Tom Jones_ in counting six secular days as a full week.
“Cannot remember what happened to-day,” he writes; “it came to an end
somehow.” But on the morrow, his memory cleared. “I forgot to mention
that _last night_ about 9:30 P. M., Adler and Taylor came into my
room, and it was proposed to have whiskey punches, which we _did_ have
accordingly. Adler drank about three tablespoons full--Taylor four or
five tumblers, etc. We had an extraordinary time and did not break up
till after two in the morning. We talked metaphysics continually, and
Hegel, Schlegel, Kant, etc., were discussed under the influence of
the whiskey. I shall not forget Adler’s look when he quoted La Place
the French astronomer--‘It is not necessary, gentlemen, to account
for these worlds by the hypothesis’, etc. After Adler retired, Taylor
and I went out on the bowsprit--splendid spectacle.” Three days later
there was further inducement to metaphysical discussion. “By evening
blew a very stiff breeze and we dashed on in magnificent style. Fine
moonlight night, and we rushed on thro’ snow-banks of foam. McCurdy
invited Adler, the Doctor and I into his room and ordered champagne.
Went on deck again and remained till near midnight. The scene was
indescribable--I never saw such sailing before.”

On Saturday, October 27: “Steered our course in a wind. I played
shuffle-board for the first time. Ran about aloft a good deal. McCurdy
invited Adler, Taylor and I to partake of some _mulled wine_ with him,
which we did, in my room. Got--all of us--riding on the German horse
again. Taylor has not been in Germany in vain. We sat down to whist,
and separated at about three in the morning.”

On the morrow, “Decks very wet, and hard work to take exercise. (‘Where
dat old man?’) Read a little, dozed a little and to bed early.” So
passed another vacant Sabbath. In the margin opposite “Where dat old
man?” Melville’s wife has added in pencil: “Macky’s baby words.”
Melville thrice quotes this question of Malcolm’s--and each time Mrs.
Melville explains it in the margin, and initials her explanation each
time. The third time she writes: “First words of baby Malcolm’s. E.S.M.”

Monday was wet and foggy. Some of the passengers were sick. “In the
afternoon tried to create some amusement by arraigning Adler before
the Captain in a criminal charge. In the evening put the Captain in
the chains, and argued the question ‘which was best, a monarchy or
a republic?’ Had some good sport during the debate--the Englishman
wouldn’t take part in it tho’.--After claret and stout with Monsieur
Moran and Taylor, went on deck and found it a moonlight midnight. Wind
astern. Retired at 1 A. M.”

On November 1, Melville wrote: “Just three weeks from home, and made
the land--Start Point--about 3 P. M.--well up channel--passed the
Lizzard. Very fine day--great number of ships in sight. Thro’ these
waters Blake’s and Nelson’s ships once sailed. Taylor suggested that
he and I should return McCurdy’s civilities. We did, and Captain
Griswold joined and ordered a pitcher of his own. The Captain is a
very intelligent and gentlemanly man--converses well and understands
himself. I never was more deceived in a person than I was in him.
Retired about midnight. Taylor played a rare joke upon McCurdy this
evening, passing himself off as Miss Wilbur, having borrowed her cloak,
etc. They walked together. Shall see Portsmouth to-morrow morning.”

Saturday, Nov. 3rd: “Woke about six o’clock with an insane idea that
we were going before the wind, and would be in Portsmouth in an hour’s
time. Soon found out my mistake. About eight o’clock took a pilot, who
brought some papers two weeks old. Made the Isle of Wight about 10 A.
M. High land--the Needles--Wind ahead and tacking. Get in to-night or
to-morrow--or next week or year. Devilish dull, and too bad altogether.
Continued tacking all day with a light wind from West. Isle of Wight
in sight all day and numerous ships. In the evening all hands in high
spirits. Played chess in the ladies’ saloon--another party at cards;
good deal of singing in the gentlemen’s cabin and drinking--very
hilarious and noisy. Last night every one thought. Determined to go
ashore at Portsmouth. Therefore prepared for it, arranged my trunk to
be left behind--put up a shirt or two in Adler’s carpet bag and retired
pretty early.”

Sunday, Nov. 4th: “Looked out of my window first thing upon rising and
saw the Isle of Wight again--very near--ploughed fields, etc. Light
head wind--expected to be in a little after breakfast time. About 10
A. M. rounded the Eastern end of the Isle, when it fell flat calm.
The town in sight by telescope. Were becalmed about three or four
hours. Foggy, drizzly; long faces at dinner--no porter bottles. Wind
came from the West at last. Squared the yards and struck away from
Dover--distant 60 miles. Close reefed the topsails so as not to run too
fast. Expect now to go ashore to-morrow morning early at Dover--and
get to London via Canterbury Cathedral. Mysterious hint dropped me
about my green coat. It is now eight o’clock in the evening. I am alone
in my state-room--lamp in tumbler. Spite of past disappointments,
I _feel_ that this is my last night aboard the _Southampton_. This
time to-morrow I shall be on land, and press English earth after the
lapse of ten years--_then a sailor_, now H. M. author of _Peedee_,
_Hullabaloo_ and _Pog-Dog_. For the last time I lay aside my ‘log’ to
add a line or two to Lizzie’s letter the last I shall write aboard.
(‘Where dat old man?--Where looks?’)”

The account of his experiences in England is preserved in a separate
note-book, formally beginning: “Commenced this journal at 25 Craven
Street at 6-1/2 P. M. on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 1849--being just arrived
from dinner at a chop house, and feeling like it.”

“_Mon. Nov. 5th, 1849_: Having at the invitation of McCurdy cracked
some champagne with him, I returned about midnight to my state-room,
and at four in the morning was wakened by the Captain in person, saying
we were off Dover. Dressed in a hurry, ran on deck, and saw the lights
ashore. A cutter was alongside, and after some confusion in the dark,
we got off in her for the shore. A comical scene ensued, the boatman
saying we could not land at Dover, but only at Deal. So to Deal we
went, and were beached there just at break of day. Some centuries ago a
person called Julius Cæsar jumped ashore about in this place, and took
possession. It was Guy Fawkes day also. Having left our baggage (that
is, Taylor, Adler and myself) to go round by ship to London, we were
wholly non-encumbered, and I proposed walking to Canterbury--distant
18 miles, for an appetite to breakfast. So we strode thru this quaint
old town of Deal, one of the Cinque Ports, I believe, and soon were in
the open country. A fine Autumnal morning and the change from ship to
shore was delightful. Reached Sandwich (6 miles) and breakfasted at a
tumble down old inn. Finished with ale and pipes, visited ‘Richbors’
Castle’--so called--a Roman fortification near the sea shore. An
imposing ruin, the interior was planted with cabbages. The walls
some ten feet thick grown over with ivy. Walked to where they were
digging--and saw, defined by a trench, the exterior wall of a circus.
Met the proprietor--an antiquary--who regaled me with the history of
the place. Strolled about the town, on our return, and found it full of
interest as a fine specimen of the old Elizabethan architecture. Kent
abounds in such towns. At one o’clock took the 2nd class (no 3rd) cars
for Canterbury. The cathedral is on many accounts the most remarkable
in England. Henry II, his wife, and the Black Prince are here--and
Becket. Fine cloisters. There is a fine thought expressed in one of the
inscriptions on a tomb in the nave. Dined at the Falstaff Inn near the
Westgate. Went to the theatre in the evening, & was greatly amused at
the performance: More people on the stage than in the boxes. Ineffably
funny, the whole affair. All three of us slept in one room at the
inn--odd hole.

“_Tuesday, Nov. 6th_: Swallowed a glass of ale and away for the R.
R. Station & off for London, distant some 80 miles. Took the third
class car--exposed to the air, devilish cold riding against the wind.
Fine day--people sociable. Passed thro Penshurst (P. S.’s place &
Tunbridge--fine old ruin that). Arrived at London Bridge at noon.
Crossed at once over into the city and down at a chop-house in the
Poulberry--having eaten nothing since the previous afternoon dinner.
Went and passed St. Paul’s to the Strand to find our house. They
referred us elsewhere. Very full. Secured room at last (one for each)
at a guinea and a half a week. Very cheap. Went down to the Queen’s
Hotel to inquire after our ship friends--(on the way green coat
attracted attention)--not in. Went to Drury Lane at Julien’s Promenade
Concerts (admittance 1 s.) A great crowd and fine music. In the reading
room to see ‘Bentley’s Miscellany’ with something about _Redburn_. (By
the way, stopped at a store in the Row & inquired for the book, to see
whether it had been published. They offered it to me at a guinea). At
Julien’s also saw Blackwoods’ long story about a short book. It’s very
comical. Seemed so, at least, as I had to hurry on it. But the wonder
is that the old Tory should waste so many papers upon a thing which I,
the author, know to be trash, and wrote it to buy some tobacco with. A
good wash & turned in early.

“_Thursday, Nov. 8th_: Dressed, after breakfast at a coffee-house, and
went to Mr. Bentley’s. He was out of town at Brighton. The notices
of _Redburn_ were shown me.--Laughable. Staid awhile, and then to
Mr. Murray’s, out of town. Strolled about and went into the National
Gallery. Dined with the Doctor & Adler, and after dark a ramble thro’
Chancery Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, we turned into Holborn & so to
the Princess’s Theatre in Oxford Street. Went into the pit at the hall
price--one shilling. The part of a Frenchman was very well played. So
also, skater on the ice.

“_Friday, Nov. 9th_: Breakfasted late and went into Cheapside to see
the ‘Lord Mayor’s show’ it being the day of the great civic feast &
festivities. A most bloated pomp, to be sure. Went down to the bridge
to see the people crowding there. Crossed by Westminster, thro’ the
Parks to the Edgeware Road, & found the walk delightful, the sun coming
out a little, and the air not cold. While on one of the bridges, the
thought struck me again that a fine story might be written about a Blue
Monday in November London--a City of Dis (Dante’s) Cloud of Smoke--the
damned, etc., coal boxes, oily waters, etc.--its marks are left upon
you, etc., etc., etc.”

In _Israel Potter_ (1855) Melville devoted one chapter to a description
of London Bridge: a chapter entitled: “In the City of Dis.” The
description begins: “It was late on a Monday morning in November--a
Blue Monday--a Fifth of November--Guy Fawkes’ Day!--very blue, foggy,
doleful and gunpowdery, indeed.” Melville had been husbanding for six
years the impressions gathered on November 9, 1849.

On November 10, Melville received a reply to the note he had sent
to Bentley announcing his presence in London. Bentley expressed a
willingness to come up from Brighton to see Melville at any time
convenient to Melville. Melville appointed “Monday noon, in New
Burlington Street,” and went forth again to explore the city. He
visited the Temple Courts. By way of Cock Lane--reflecting on Dr.
Johnson’s Ghost--he walked on to the Charter House, “where I had a
sociable chat with an old pensioner who guided me through some fine old
cloisters, kitchens, chapels.” Saturday night, with Adler, he strolled
over to Holborn “vagabonding thro’ the courts and lanes and looking in
at windows. Stopped at a penny theatre--very comical. Adler afraid. To
bed early.” On Sunday Melville went “down to Temple Church to hear the
music,” looked in at St. Paul’s, and then, with Adler, “took a bus for
Hampton Court.” They enjoyed the ride down, the pictures at Hampton
Court, and then dinner at the Adelphi in the evening.

On Monday, Melville saw Bentley. “Very polite,” says Melville. “Gave
me his note for £100 at ten days for _Redburn_. Couldn’t do better,
he said. He expressed much anxiety and vexation at the state of the
copyright question. Proposed my new book _White-Jacket_ to him and
showed him the table of contents. He was much pleased with it, and
notwithstanding the vexatious and uncertain state of the copyright
matter, he made me the following offer: To pay me £200 for the first
thousand copies of the book (the privilege of publishing that number)
and as we might afterwards arrange concerning subsequent editions. A
liberal offer. But he could make no advance--left him and called upon
Mr. Murray. Not in. Out of town.... Walked to St. Paul’s and sat over
an hour in a dozy state listening to the chanting of the choir. Felt
homesick and sentimentally unhappy.”

To sweeten his blood, he sallied forth, with Adler, early on the
morrow, “to see the last end of the Mannings. An innumerable crowd in
all the streets. Police by hundreds. Men and women fainting. The man
and wife were hung side by side--still unreconciled to each other--what
a change from the time they stood up to be married together! The mob
was brutish. All in all, a most wonderful, horrible, and unspeakable
scene.--Breakfasted about 11 A. M. and went to the Zoological Gardens,
Regent’s Park. Very pretty. Fine giraffes. Dreary and rainy day.”

On the morrow “Rigged up again, and in my _green_ jacket called
upon Mr. Murray in Albemarle Street. He was very civil, much vexed
about copyright matters. I proposed _White-Jacket_ to him--he seemed
decidedly pleased and has since sent for the proof sheets, according
to agreement. That evening we went to the New Strand Theatre, to
see Coleman’s _The Clandestine Marriage_.” Melville’s comment upon
Leigh Murray, who played Melvil, would do credit to the lost diary of
Mrs. Pepys: “the finest leg I ever saw on a man--a devilishly well
turned-out man, upon my soul.”

The day following--November 15--was by the Queen appointed as a day
of special thanksgiving. Melville again sallied forth sight-seeing. On
the morrow he made two attempts to see Murray; the second found him
in. “Very polite--but would not be in his line to publish my book.” On
November 17, Colbour declined Melville’s offer of £200 for a thousand
copies of _White-Jacket_, “and principally because of the cussed
state of the copyright. Bad news enough--I shall not see Rome--I’m
floored--appetite unimpaired, however.” On the 19th, he saw Longman, to
be told “they bided by the original terms.” On the twentieth, he saw
Moxen, the publisher. “Found him in--sitting alone in a back room. He
was at first very stiff, cold, clammy and clumsy. Managed to bring him
to, tho, by clever speeches. Talked of Charles Lamb--he warmed up and
ended by saying he would send me a copy of his works. He said he had
often put Lamb to bed--drunk. He spoke of Dana--he published D’s book
here.” Moxen sent Melville copies of Lamb’s works: but Moxen did not
accept Melville’s invitation to publish _White-Jacket_.

On November 22--after a jovial evening spent over porter, gin, brandy,
whiskey, and cigars--Melville rose late, and with a headache. So he
rode out to Windsor, to inspect the state apartments,--which he found
“cheerlessly damned fine”--and to view the Royal Stables. “On the way
down from the town, met the Queen coming from visiting the sick Queen
Dowager. Carriage and four going past with outriders. The Prince with
her. My English friend bowed, so did I--salute returned by the Queen
but not by the Prince. I would commend to the Queen, Rowland’s Kalydon
for clarifying the complexion. She is an amiable domestic woman though,
I doubt not, and God bless her, say I, and long live the ‘Prince of
Whales’--The stables were splendid.”

On Friday, November 23, at quarter to eleven, Melville “had just
returned from Mr. Murray’s where I dined agreeable to invitation. It
was a most amusing affair. Mr. Murray was there in a short vest and
dress coat, looking quizzical enough; his footman was there also,
habited in small clothes and breeches, revealing a despicable pair
of sheepshanks. The impudence of the fellow in showing his legs, and
such a pair of legs too! in public, I thought extraordinary. The
ladies should have blushed, one would have thought, but they did not.
Lockhart was there also, in a prodigious white cravat (made from Walter
Scott’s shroud, I suppose). He stalked about like a half galvanised
ghost,--gave me the tips of two skinny fingers, when introduced to
me, or rather, I to him. Then there was a round faced chap by the
name of Cook--who seemed to be Murray’s factotum. His duty consisted
in pointing out the portraits on the wall and saying that this or
that one was esteemed a good likeness of the high and mighty ghost
Lockhart. There were four or five others present, nameless, fifth-rate
looking varlets and four lean women. One of them proved agreeable in
the end. She had visited some time in China. I talked with her some
time. Besides these there was a footman or boy in a light jacket with

The lines following, Melville has heavily crossed out. They are,
in most part, decipherable, however, and they are not excessively
complimentary either to his host or the guest of honour. “I managed to
get through, though, somehow,” Melville continues after this blotted
abuse, “by conversing with Dr. Holland, a very eminent physician,
it seems,--and a very affable, intelligent man who has travelled
immensely. After the ladies withdrew, the three decanters, port,
sherry and claret, were kept going the rounds with great regularity.
I sat next to Lockhart and seeing that he was a customer who was
full of himself and expected great homage, and knowing him to be a
thoroughgoing Tory and fish-blooded Churchman and conservative, and
withal editor of the _Quarterly_--I refrained from playing the snob
to him like the rest--and the consequence was he grinned at me his
ghastly smiles. After returning to the drawing-room coffee and tea were
served. I soon after came away.” After two more blotted lines, Melville
concludes: “Oh, Conventionalism, what a ninny thou art, to be sure. And
now I must turn in.”

Melville continued to interview publishers, and publishers continued
to chasten him with reflections on the state of the copyright laws.
Between times he amused himself as best he could; but there was
little novelty, brilliancy or excitement in the amusement. He was once
entertained very formally at dinner, however: a Baroness Somebody
on his left, an anonymous Baron opposite him, and near him at table
“a most lovely young girl, a daughter of Captain Chamier, the sea
novelist.” And in these brilliant surroundings, he saw a copy of
_Typee_ on a table in the drawing room. He ran upon an old friend
of Gansevoort’s, too, and as a result was betrayed into sober and
sentimental reflections. “No doubt, two years ago, or three, Gansevoort
was writing here in London, about the same hour as this--alone in his
chamber, in profound silence, as I am now. This silence, is a strange
thing. No wonder the Greeks deemed it the vestibule to the higher

He paid for his sentimentality, however, by passing “a most
extraordinary night--one continuous nightmare--till daybreak.
Hereafter, if I should be condemned to purgatory, I shall plead the
night of November 25, 1849, in extenuation of the sentence.”

On November 27, he abruptly left England, to find himself, two days
following, “right snugly roomed in the fifth story of a lodging house
No. 12 & 14 Rue de Bussy, Paris. It is the first night I have taken
possession,” he says, “and the chambermaid has lighted a fire of wood,
lit the candle and left me alone, at 11 o’clock P. M. On first gazing
round, I was struck by the apparition of a bottle containing a dark
fluid, a glass, a decanter of water, and a paper package of sugar
(loaf) with a glass basin next to it. I protest all this was not in the
bond. But tho if I use these things they will doubtless be charged to
me, yet let us be charitable, so I ascribe all this to the benevolence
of Madame Capelle, my most polite, pleasant and Frenchified landlady
below. I shall try the brandy before writing more--and now to resume
my Journal.” The account of Israel Potter’s first night in Paris,
after Benjamin Franklin shows him into lodgings in the Latin Quarter,
is certainly built upon Melville’s experience on this occasion.
Israel finds in his room a heavy plate glass mirror; and among the
articles genially reflected therein, he notes: “seventh, one paper of
loaf sugar, nicely broken into sugar-bowl size; eighth, one silver
teaspoon; ninth, one glass tumbler; tenth, one glass decanter of cool
pure water; eleventh, one sealed bottle containing a richly hued
liquid, and marked ‘Otard.’” Melville makes a chapter out of Israel’s
adventures with this bottle of Otard,--a chapter in which Benjamin
Franklin unburdens himself of much almanac moralising upon the almanac

Despite the Otard, and the snug quarters, and the diversions of
Paris--diversions somewhat restricted by Melville’s complete inability
to speak French--Melville was not happy every moment he was in France.
“Fire made, and tried to be comfortable. But this is not home and--but
no repinings.” Adler was in Paris at the time, however, and this
somewhat cheered his solitude. Yet on December 2, when Melville left
Adler after an evening of eau de vie and cigars, he “strolled out into
a dark rainy night and made my melancholy way across the Pont (rather
a biscuit’s toss of the Morgue) to my sixth story apartment.” And once
safely in his room, he complained: “I don’t like that mystic door
tapestry leading out of the closet.” On the following day he “looked in
at the Morgue,” and “bought two pair of gloves and one pair of shoes
for Lizzie.” That night, he dined with Adler, and “talked high German
metaphysics till ten o’clock.”

He visited the Hotel de Cluny, and found “the house just the house
I’d like to live in.” He made a half-hearted effort to see Rachel
at the Theatre Française, but failed. He saw the obvious sights and
on December 6 hurried away from Paris. He closes the record of his
departure with a “Selah!” Even in Paris, he speaks of taking his “usual
bath” upon getting up in the morning.

He touched at Brussels: and despite its architecture, “a more dull,
humdrum place I never saw:” he hurried through Cologne, where he
found “much to interest a pondering man like me.” From Cologne he was
headed for Coblenz: but he looked forward to the voyage with little
eagerness: “I feel homesick to be sure--being all alone with not a soul
to talk to--but the Rhine is before me, and I must on.” Of Coblenz he
wrote: “Most curious that the finest wine of all the Rhine is grown
right under the guns of Ehrenbreitstein.” “Opposite is this frowning
fortress--and some 4000 miles away is America and Lizzie. To-morrow I
am _homeward_-bound! Hurrah and three cheers!” “In the horrible long
dreary cold ride to Ostend on the coach, in a fit of the nightmare
was going to stop at a way-place, taking it for the place of my

By December 13, he was back to his old chamber overlooking the Thames.
Upon his arrival he was vaguely told “a gentleman from St. James called
in his coach,” and “was handed, with a meaning flourish, a note sealed
with a coronet.” The note was from the Duke of Rutland,--perversely
called at times by Melville, _Mr._ Rutland--inviting Melville to visit
Belvoir Castle “at any time after a certain day in January.” “Cannot
go,” Melville writes--“I am homeward bound, and Malcolm is growing all
the time.” He called at Bentley’s for letters. “Found one from Lizzie
and Allan. Most welcome but gave me the blues most horribly. Felt like
chartering a small boat and starting down the Thames embarked for New
York.” So he drank some punch to cheer him, and walked down the Strand
to buy a new coat, “so as to look decent--for I found my green coat
plays the devil with my respectability here.” He haunted the bookshops,
and “at last succeeded in getting the much desired copy of Rousseau’s
_Confessions_,” as well as an 1686 folio of Sir Thomas Browne.

On December 15, Melville “rigged for Bentley, whom I expect to meet at
1 P. M. about _White-Jacket_. Called but had not arrived from Brighton.
Walked about a little and bought a cigar case for Allan in Burlington
Arcade. Saw some pretty things for presents--but could not afford to
buy.” So back to his room he came, and filled up the time before four
o’clock, when he was to call again at Bentley’s, by writing up his
journal. “He does not know that I am in town,” Melville writes--“I
earnestly hope that I shall be able to see him and I shall be able to
do something about that ‘pesky’ book.”

At six o’clock, Melville was back again in his room. “Hurrah and three
cheers! I have just returned from Mr. Bentley’s and have concluded an
arrangement with him that gives me to-morrow his note for two hundred
pounds (sterling). It is to be at 6 months and I am almost certain
I shall be able to get it cashed at once. This takes a load off my
heart. The two hundred pounds is in anticipiation, for the book is not
to be published till the last of March next. Hence the long time of the
note. The above mentioned sum is for the first 1000 copies, subsequent
editions (if any) to be jointly divided between us. At eight to-night I
am going to Mrs. Daniels’. What sort of an evening is it going to be?
Mr. Bentley invited me to dinner for Wednesday at 6 P. M. This will do
for a memorandum of the enjoyment. I have just read over the Duke of
Rutland’s note, which I had not fully perused before. It seems very
cordial. I wish the invitation was for next week, instead of being
so long ahead, but this I believe is the mode here for these sort of
invitations into the country. (Memo. At 1 P. M. on Monday am to call at
Mr. Bentley’s.)”

Under Sunday, December 16, Melville wrote: “Last night went in a cab to
Lincoln’s Inn Fields and found Mrs. Daniel and daughters. Very cordial.
The elder ‘daught’ remarkably sprightly and the mother as nice an old
body as any one could desire. Presently there came in several ‘young
gents’ of various complexions. We had some coffee, music, dancing,
and after an agreeable evening I came away at 11 o’clock, and walking
to the Cock near Temple Bar, drank a glass of stout and home to bed
after reading a few chapters in _Tristram Shandy_, which I have never
yet read. This morning breakfasted at 10 at the Hotel De Sabloneue
(very nice cheap little snuggery being closed on Sundays). Had a sweet
omelette which was delicious. Thence walked to St. Thomas’s Church,
Charter House, to hear my famed namesake (almost) ‘The Reverend H.
Melvill.’ I had seen him placarded as to deliver a charity sermon.
The church was crowded--the sermon admirable (granting the Rev.
gentleman’s premises). Indeed he deserves his reputation. I do not
think that I hardly ever heard so good a discourse before--that is for
an ‘orthodox’ divine. It is now 3 P. M. I have had a fire made and am
smoking a cigar. Would that one I knew were here. Would that the Little
One too were here,--I am in a very painful state of uncertainty. I am
all eagerness to get home--I ought to be home. My absence occasions
uneasiness in a quarter where I most beseech heaven to grant repose.
Yet here I have before me an open prospect to get some curious ideas
of a style of life which in all probability I shall never have again.
I should much like to know what the highest English aristocracy really
and practically is. And the Duke of Rutland’s cordial invitation to
visit him at the castle furnishes me with just the thing I want. If I
do not go, I am confident that hereafter I shall reprimand myself for
neglecting such an opportunity of procuring ‘material.’ And Allan and
others will account me a ninny.--I would not debate the matter a moment
were it not that at least three whole weeks must elapse ere I start
for Belvoir Castle--three weeks! If I could but get over them! And if
the two images would only down for that space of time. I must light a
second cigar and resolve it over again. (1/2 past 6 P. M.) My mind is
made, rather is irrevocably resolved upon my first determination. A
visit into Leicester would be very agreeable--at least very valuable,
and in one respect, to me--but the three weeks are intolerable.
To-morrow I shall go down to London Dock and book myself a state-room
on board the good ship _Independence_. I have just returned from a
lonely dinner at the Adelphi, where I read the Sunday papers. An
article upon the ‘Sunday School Union’ particularly struck me. Would
that I could go home in a steamer--but it would take an extra $100 out
of my pocket. Well, it’s only thirty days--one month--and I can weather
it somehow.”

On Monday, Melville concluded his arrangements with Bentley, who gave
him a note for two hundred pounds sterling at six months. Melville also
walked down to the London Docks to inspect the _Independence_. “She
looks small and smells ancient,” Melville writes. “Only two or three
passengers engaged. I liked Captain Fletcher, however. He enquired
whether I was a relative of Gansevoort Melville and of Herman Melville.
I told him I was. I engaged my passage and paid ten pounds down....
Thence home; and out again, and took a letter for a Duke to the post
office and a pair of pants to be altered to a tailor.”

On Tuesday, Melville made another of his many pilgrimages to the old
book stores about Great Green Street and Lincoln’s Inn. “Looked over
a lot of ancient books of London. Bought one (A. D. 1766) for 3 and 2
pence. I want to use it in case I serve up the Revolutionary narrative
of the beggar.” What was the title of this “ancient book of London”
is not known, and hence it is impossible to know what use he put it
to, when in _Israel Potter_ he did finally “serve up the Revolutionary
narrative of the beggar.” The same day he “stopped at a silversmith’s
(corner of Craven St. & Strand) and bought a solid spoon for the boy
Malcolm--a fork, I mean. When he arrives to years of mastication I
shall invest him with this fork--as in yore they did a young knight,
with his good sword. Spent an hour or so looking over _White-Jacket_
preparatory to sending it finally to Bentley--who, tho he has paid his
money has not received his wares. At 6 I dine with him.”

The dinner with Bentley went off well. Melville “had a very pleasant
evening indeed” and “began to like” his publisher “very much.” Melville
reported that “He seems a very fine, frank, off-handed old gentleman.
We sat down in a fine old room hung round with paintings (dark walls).
A party of fourteen or so. There was a Mr. Bell there--connected with
literature in some way or other. At all events an entertaining man and
a scholar--but looks as if he loved old Pat. Also Alfred Henry Forester
(‘Alfred Crowquill’)--the comic man. He proved a good fellow--free
and easy and no damned nonsense, as there is about so many of these
English. Mr. Bentley has one daughter, a fine woman of 25 and married,
and four sons--young men. They were all at table. Some time after 11,
went home with Crowquill, who invites me to go with him Thursday and
see the Pantomime rehearsal at the Surrey Theatre.”

The following evening Melville dined with Mr. Cook--whom he had
despised, at first meeting, as Murray’s factotum--in Elm Court, Temple,
“and had a glorious time till noon of night. It recalled poor Lamb’s
‘Old Benchers.’ Cunningham the author of _Murray’s London Guide_ was
there and was very friendly. Mr. Rainbow also, and a grandson Woodfall,
the printer of Junius, and a brother-in-law of Leslie the printer.
Leslie was prevented from coming. Up in the 5th story we dined.”
With a typical departure from the conventional orthography, Melville
pronounced the evening, “The Paradise of Batchelors.”

In _Harper’s New Monthly Magazine_ for April, 1854, Melville published
a sketch entitled _Paradise of Bachelors and Tartarus of Maids_. In
1854 he was living in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in a household of
women and young children--three of his sisters, his mother, his wife,
and three of his own children. So surrounded, he had relinquished
none of the pleasant memories of that December evening, in 1849, in
those high chambers near Temple-Bar. “It was the very perfection of
quiet absorption of good living, good drinking, good feeling, and
good talk,” Melville wrote in 1854. “We were a band of brothers.
Comfort--fraternal, household comfort, was the grand trait of the
affair. Also, you could plainly see that these easy-hearted men had no
wives or children to give an anxious thought. Almost all of them were
travellers, too; for bachelors alone can travel freely, and without
any twinges of their conscience touching desertion of the fireside.”
The antithesis of this, Melville pictures in the second part of his
account--_The Tartarus of Maids_.

Yet just on the eve of his going to these high festivities in the
Temple, a letter was left him--“from home!” The letter reported: “All
well and Barney (“Baby boy,” Mrs. Melville has written in annotation on
the margin of the journal) more bouncing than ever, thank heaven.” On
the following day, Melville began and finished the _Opium Eater_, and
pronounced it “a most wonderful book.”

On December 24, Melville was in Portsmouth. On Christmas morning he
jumped into a small boat with the Captain and a meagre company of
passengers, and “pulled off for the ship about a mile and a half
distant. Upon boarding her we at once set sail with a fair wind, and
in less than 24 hours passed the Land’s End and the Scilly Isle--and
standing boldly out on the ocean stretched away for New York. I shall
keep no further diary. I here close it, with my departure from England,
and my pointing for home.”

On a blank page at end of his journal, he jotted some brief “Memoranda
of things on the voyage.” He noted Sir Thomas Browne’s reference to
cannibals in _Vulgar Errors_, and the fact that Rousseau, as a school
master “could have killed his scholars sometimes.” He observed that “a
Dandy is a good fellow to scout and room with;” and copied out from Ben
Jonson “Talk as much folly as you please--so long as you do it without
blushing, you may do it with impunity.” He itemised in his journal,
too, the books obtained while abroad: a 1692 folio of Ben Jonson;
a 1673 folio of Davenant; a folio of Beaumont and Fletcher; a 1686
folio of Sir Thomas Browne, and a folio of Marlowe’s plays. He brought
with him, also, a _Hudibras_, a _Castle of Otranto_, a _Vathek_, a
_Corinne_, besides the confessions of Rousseau and of DeQuincey, and
the autobiography of Goethe. The other books were guides, old maps, and
other material for _Israel Potter_.

Melville arrived at 103 Fourth Avenue, on February 2, 1850. Mrs.
Melville, in her journal, thus summarises her husband’s trip. “Summer
of 1849 we remained in New York. He wrote _Redburn_ and _White-Jacket_.
Same fall went to England and published the above. Stayed eleven weeks.
Took little satisfaction in it from mere homesickness, and hurried
home, leaving attractive invitations to visit distinguished people--one
from the Duke of Rutland to pass a week at Belvoir Castle--see his

Of his life after his return home, she says: “We went to Pittsfield and
boarded in the summer of 1850. Moved to Arrowhead in fall--October,

On September 27, 1850, Bayard Taylor dispatched from the Tribune
Office, New York, a note to Mary Angew. “Scarcely a day passes,” Taylor
wrote, “but some pleasant recognition is given me. I was invited last
Friday to dine with Bancroft and Cooper; on Saturday with Sir Edward
Belcher and Herman Melville. These things seem like mockeries, sent to
increase the bitterness of my heart.” It is not unlikely that Melville
and Taylor fed and drank and smoked together on that Saturday evening,
and that they parted, each envying the other as a happy and successful



  “And here again, not unreasonably, might invocation go up to those
  three Weird Ones, that tend Life’s loom. Again we might ask them,
  what threads are these, oh, ye Weird Ones, that ye wove in the years

  --HERMAN MELVILLE: _Pierre_.

At the time when Melville moved into the Berkshire Hills, the region
around Lenox boasted the descriptive title: “a jungle of literary
lions”--a title amiably ferocious in its provincial vanity. In this
region, it is true, Jonathan Edwards had written his treatises
on predestination, and with sardonic optimism had gloated over
the beauties of hell; here Catherine Sedgewick wrote her amiable
insipidities; here Elihu Burritt, “the learned Blacksmith” wrote out
his _Sparks_; here Bryant composed; here Henry Ward Beecher indited
many _Star-Papers_; here Headley and Holmes, Lowell and Longfellow,
Curtis and G. P. R. James, Audubon and Whipple, Mrs. Sigourney and
Martineau, Fanny Kemble and Frederick Bremer and the Goodale sisters
either visited or lived. Impressed by this array of names--an array
deceptively impressive to the New England imagination,--local pride has
not blushed to explain: “By the river Arno, in the ‘lake region’ of
Cumberland and Westmoreland, or on the placid river which flows through
the Concord meadows, what congestion of literary associations! Like the
instinct of the bee which, separated by great distances from the hive,
possesses the infallible sense of direction for its return, so, too,
the lovely ‘nooks and corners’ on the earth’s surface are irresistibly
and unerringly attracting choice spirits, which some way are sure to
find them out and pre-empt them in the interests of their craft or
clan. Berkshire is no exception to this.”

When, in 1850, both Melville and Hawthorne moved into the Berkshires,
these literary wilds were tamely domesticated, and sadly thinned of
prowling genius. The coming of Melville and Hawthorne, however, marked
the most important advent ever made into these regions. For there
Melville wrote _Moby-Dick_; and there Melville and Hawthorne were to be
thrown into an ironical intimacy.

In the autumn of 1850, Melville bought a spacious gambrel-roofed
farmhouse at Pittsfield, situated along Holmes Road and not far from
Broadhall, formerly the home of his uncle, and familiar to Melville’s
youth. Melville named the place Arrowhead. To Arrowhead he brought his
retinue of female relatives, and set about to alternate farming with

In the first of the _Piazza Tales_ (1856), in _I and My Chimney_
(_Putnam’s Magazine_, March, 1856), and in _The Rose-wood Table_
(_Putnam’s Magazine_, May, 1856), Melville has left descriptions of
Arrowhead, its inmates, and the surrounding country.

“When I removed into the country,” Melville says in the _Piazza Tales_,
“it was to occupy an old-fashioned farmhouse which had no piazza--a
deficiency the more regretted because not only did I like piazzas,
as somehow combining the cosiness of indoors with the freedom of
outdoors, and it is so pleasant to inspect your thermometer there,
but the country round about was such a picture, that in berry time no
boy climbs hill or crosses vale without coming upon easels planted in
every nook, and sunburned painters painting there. A very paradise of
painters. The circle of the stars cut by the circle of the mountains.
At least, so it looks from the house; though once upon the mountains,
no circle of them can you see. Had the site been chosen five rods off,
this charmed circle would not have been.

“The house is old. Seventy years since, from the heart of the Hearth
Stone Hill, they quarried the Kaaba, or Holy Stone, to which, each
Thanksgiving, the social pilgrims used to come. So long ago that
in digging for the foundation, the workmen used both spade and axe
fighting the Troglodytes of those subterranean parts--sturdy roots of
a sturdy wood, encamped upon what is now a long landslide of sleeping
meadow, sloping away off from my poppy bed. Of that knit wood but one
survivor stands--an elm, lonely through steadfastness.

“Whoever built the house, he builded better than he knew; or else Orion
in the zenith flashed down his Damocles’ sword to him some starry
night, and said: ‘Build there.’ For how, otherwise, could it have
entered the builder’s mind that, upon the clearing being made, such a
purple prospect would be his? Nothing less than Greylock, with all his
hills about him, like Charlemagne among his peers.

“A piazza must be had.

“The house was wide--my fortune narrow ... upon but one of the
four sides would prudence grant me what I wanted. Now which side?
Charlemagne, he carried it.

“No sooner was ground broken than all the neighbourhood, neighbour
Dives in particular, broke too--into a laugh. Piazza to the north!
Winter piazza! Wants, of winter midnights, to watch the Aurora
Borealis, I suppose; hope he’s laid in a good store of polar muffs and

“That was in the lion month of March. Not forgotten are some of the
blue noses of the carpenters and how they scouted at the greenness of
the cit, who would build his sole piazza to the north. But March don’t
last forever; patience, and August comes. And then, in the cool elysium
of my northern bower, I, Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, cast down the hill
a pitying glance on poor old Dives, tormented in the purgatory of his
piazza to the south.

“But, even in December, this northern piazza does not repel--nipping
cold and gusty though it be, and the north wind, like any miller,
bolting by the snow in finest flour--for then, once more, with frosted
beard, I pace the sleety deck, weathering Cape Horn.

“In summer, too, Canute-like, sitting here, one is often reminded of
the sea. For not only do long ground-swells roll the slanting grain,
and little wavelets of the grass ripple over upon the low piazza, as
their beach, and the blown down of dandelions is wafted like the spray,
and the purple of the mountains is just the purple of the billows, and
a still August noon broods over the deep meadows, as a calm upon the
Line; but the vastness and the lonesomeness are so oceanic, and the
silence and the sameness, too, that the first peep of a strange house,
rising beyond the trees, is for all the world like spying, on the
Barbary coast, an unknown sail.”

In _I and My Chimney_ Melville makes the old chimney at Arrowhead
the chief character in a sketch of his domestic life at Pittsfield:
himself and his wife, both freely idealised, are the other actors.
This chimney, twelve feet square at the base, was built by Capt.
David Bush who erected the house in 1780. It has three fireplaces on
the first floor and the one formerly used for the kitchen fireplace
is large enough for a log four feet long. This fireplace is panelled
in pine, and above it hangs an Indian tomahawk, found and hung there
by Melville. Around it are many nooks and cupboards. In _I and My
Chimney_ Melville wrote: “And here I keep mysterious cordials of a
choice, mysterious flavour, made so by the constant naturing and subtle
ripening of the chimney’s gentle heat, distilled through that warm
mass of masonry. Better for wines it is than voyages to the Indies; my
chimney itself is a tropic. A chair by my chimney in a November day is
as good for an invalid as a long season spent in Cuba. Often I think
how grapes might ripen against my chimney. How my wife’s geraniums bud
there! But in December. Her eggs too--can’t keep them near the chimney
on account of hatching. Ah, a warm heart has my chimney.”

Col. Richard Lathers, in his reminiscences of his Pittsfield residence,
writes: “One of my nearest neighbours at Pittsfield was Herman
Melville, author of the interesting and very original sea tales,
_Typee_ and _Omoo_ (which were among the first books to be published
simultaneously in London and New York), and of various other volumes
of prose and verse. I visited him often in his well-stocked library,
where I listened with intense pleasure to his highly individual views
of society and politics. He always provided a bountiful supply of good
cider--the product of his own orchard--and of tobacco, in the virtues
of which he was a firm believer. Indeed, he prided himself on the
inscription painted over his capacious fireplace: ‘I and my chimney
smoke together,’ an inscription I have seen strikingly verified more
than once when the atmosphere was heavy and the wind was east.”

When Melville set up his family at Arrowhead, Hawthorne had already
been settled at Lenox, some miles away, for a number of months. “I have
taken a house in Lenox”--so he announced his removal--“I long to get
into the country, for my health is not what it has been. An hour or two
in a garden and a daily ramble in country air would keep me all right.”

Though Melville and Hawthorne were at this time neither in very
affluent circumstances, Hawthorne was, to all outward appearances,
the more straitened of the two. He described his new home as “the
very ugliest little bit of an old red farmhouse you ever saw,” “the
most inconvenient and wretched house I ever put my head in.” His
wife, however, was not so precipitous in her damnation, and writing
to her mother on June 23, 1850, said: “We are so beautifully arranged
(excepting the guest-chamber), and we seem to have such a large
house _inside_, though outside the little reddest thing looks like
the smallest of ten-feet houses. Enter our old black tumble-down
gate,--no matter for that,--and you behold a nice yard, with an oval
grass-plot and a gravel walk all round the borders, a flower-bed,
some rose-bushes, a raspberry-bush, and I believe a syringa, and also
a few tiger-lilies; quite a fine bunch of peonies, a stately double
rose-columbine, and one beautiful Balsam Fir tree, of perfect pyramidal
form, and full of a thousand melodies. The front door is wide open.
Enter and welcome.” Mrs. Hawthorne then elaborates upon the wealth
of beauty she finds in her tactful disposition of the pictures, the
furniture, and flowers, in the cramped interior. In this tabernacle
she enshrined her two small children; and in the “immortal endowments”
of her husband, she was inarticulate in felicity. “I cannot possibly
conceive of my happiness,” she wrote, “but, in a blissful kind of
confusion, live on. If I can only be so great, so high, so noble,
so sweet, as he in any phase of my being, I shall be glad. I am not
deluded nor mistaken, as the angels know now, and as all my friends
well know, in open vision!”

Of the actual daily events at Arrowhead and the Red House there is a
great inequality in the wealth of records. Of the Red House we know
much; of Arrowhead we know only too little. Though Mrs. Hawthorne was
always childlike in her modesty and simplicity, “her learning and
her accomplishments were rare and varied.” She not only read Latin,
Greek and Hebrew, but she kept an invaluable journal of the momentous
trifles of her husband’s life; and she wrote letters home that her
Mother very properly preserved for posterity. Mrs. Melville positively
knew no Hebrew; and what accounts of her husband she wrote have all
disappeared. Only one letter of hers of this period survives:

      “ARROWHEAD, Aug. 3, 1851.


  “I have been trying to write to you ever since Sam came, but could
  not well find a chance. As it proved, I was not mistaken in supposing
  the little parcel he brought was a present from you, though I had no
  letter. The contents were beautiful and very acceptable. Do accept my
  best thanks for them. We were delighted to see Sam Savage on Tuesday,
  but as he did not notify us of the day we were not in waiting for him
  at the depot. However, he found his way out to us. To-day he and Sam
  have gone over to Lebanon to see the Shakers. The girls were much
  pleased with the collars, and Mother M. with her remembrance. The
  scarf you sent me was very handsome, but I am almost sorry you did
  not keep it for yourself, for it does not seem to me as if I should
  ever wear it--and certainly not this summer as I go nowhere not even
  to church. It will look very handsome with my new shawl, if ever I do
  wear it, though.

  “You need not be afraid of the boys staying too long--I am only sorry
  that they cannot stay longer, but they think or rather Sam Savage
  thinks he must go to Red Hook this week. You know we do not make any
  difference for them and let them do just as they please and take
  care of themselves. Yesterday they went with Herman and explored a
  neighbouring mountain.

  “Oh, you will be glad to hear, and I meant to have written it to
  father the other day, that in consideration of the recent decisions
  with regard to the copyright question, Mr. Bentley is to give Herman
  £150 and half profits after, for his new book--a much smaller sum
  than before, to be sure, but certainly worth waiting for--and quite
  generous on Mr. Bentley’s part considering the unsettled state of

  “I cannot write any more--it makes me terribly nervous--I don’t know
  as you can read this I have scribbled it so.”

At the time of Melville’s moving to Arrowhead he was writing
_Moby-Dick_. In the brief life of Melville in her journal, Mrs.
Melville says: “Wrote _White-Whale_ or _Moby-Dick_ under unfavourable
circumstances--would sit at his desk all day not writing anything till
four or five o’clock--then ride to the village after dark--would be up
early and out walking before breakfast--sometimes splitting wood for
exercise. Published _White-Whale_ in 1851--wrote _Pierre_, published
1852. We all felt anxious about the strain on his health in the spring
of 1853.”

When Hawthorne moved to Lenox he was forty-six years old--Melville’s
senior by fifteen years. “Bidding good-bye for ever to literary
obscurity and to Salem,” Mr. Julian Hawthorne says in his _Nathaniel
Hawthorne and His Wife_, “Hawthorne now turned his face towards the
mountains. The preceding nine months had told upon his health and
spirits: and, had _The Scarlet Letter_ not achieved so fair a success,
he might have been long in recovering his normal frame of mind. But
the broad murmur of popular applause, coming to his unaccustomed ears
from all parts of his native country, and rolling in across the sea
from academic England, gave him the spiritual refreshment born of the
assurance that our fellow-creatures think well of the work we have
striven to make good. Such assurance is essential, sooner or later, to
soundness and serenity of mind. No man can attain secure repose and
happiness who has never found that what moves and interests him has
power over others likewise. Sooner or later he will begin to doubt
either his own sanity or that of all the rest of the world.” Melville
was never to know any such repose and happiness.

Within the sanctities of the Red House, and among the solitudes of
the surrounding country, Hawthorne enjoyed all the companionship he
desired. In 1842, Mrs. Hawthorne had written to her mother: “Mr.
Hawthorne’s abomination of visiting still holds strong, be it to see
no matter what angel;” and in 1850, Hawthorne was no more eager for
alliances even with celestials. Not, indeed, that he was indifferent to
his fellowmen: that, his literary vocation would not permit. In _Sights
from a Steeple_ he states: “The most desirable mode of existence might
be that of a spiritualised Paul Pry, hovering invisible round men and
women, witnessing their deeds, searching into their hearts, borrowing
brightness from their felicity, and shade from their sorrow, and
retaining no emotion peculiar to himself.” Hawthorne’s son writes:
“Now Hawthorne, both by nature and by training, was of a disposition
to throw himself imaginatively into the shoes (as the phrase is) of
whatever person happened to his companion. For the time being, he
would seem to take their point of view and to speak their language;
it was the result partly of a subtle sympathy and partly of a cold
intellectual insight, which led him half consciously to reflect what
he so clearly perceived. Thus, if he chatted with a group of rude
sea-captains in the smoking-room of Mrs. Blodgett’s boarding-house,
or joined a knot of boon companions in a Boston bar-room, or talked
metaphysics with Herman Melville on the hills of Berkshire, he would
aim to appear in each instance a man like as they were; he would have
the air of being interested in their interests and viewing life by
their standards. Of course, this was only apparent; the real man stood
aloof and observant.” “Seeing his congenial aspect towards their little
round of habits and beliefs, they would leap to the conclusion that he
was no more and no less than one of themselves; whereas they formed
but a tiny arc in the great circle of his comprehension.” Yet even
when not in the rôle of unimpassioned spectator, Hawthorne was not
the man to sit in pharisaical judgment upon his fellows. In _Fancy’s
Show-Box_ he wrote: “Man must not disclaim his brotherhood, even
with the guiltiest, since, though his hand be clean, his heart has
surely been polluted by the flitting phantoms of iniquity.” Emerson
once said that there was no crime he could not commit: an amiable
vanity he shared with many a more prosaic fellow. Hawthorne studied
his own pure heart and learned that “men often over-estimate their
capacity for evil.” “I used to think,” he wrote, “that I could imagine
all feelings, all passions, and states of the heart and mind.” Again:
“Living in solitude till the fulness of time was come, I still kept
the dew of my youth and the freshness of my heart. Had I sooner made
my escape into the world, I should have grown hard and rough, and been
covered with earthly dust, and my heart might have become callous by
rude encounters with the multitude.” G. P. Lathrop, in his _Study of
Hawthorne_, says: “The visible pageant is only of value to him as it
suggests the viewless host of heavenly shapes that hang above it like
an idealising mirage.” Yet never for a second did he lose himself among
these heavenly visitations. He was eminently a man of sound sense: as
W. C. Brownell has pointed out, he was “distinctly the most hard-headed
of our men of genius.” His son said of him: “He was the slave of no
theory and no emotion; he always knew, so to speak, where he was and
what he was about.” His nature clearly was self-sustaining. He never
felt the need of the support that in the realm of the affections is the
reward of self-surrender. “He had no doubt an ideal family life,” W. C.
Brownell points out--“that is to say, ideal in a peculiar way, for he
had it on rather peculiar terms, one suspects. These were, in brief,
his own terms. He was worshipped, idolised, canonised, and on his side
it probably required small effort worthily to fill the rôle a more
ardent nature would have either merited less or found more irksome. He
responded at any rate with absolute devotion. His domestic periphery
bounded his vital interests.”

[Illustration: ARROWHEAD]

[Illustration: THE FIREPLACE


J. E. A. Smith, however, who knew Hawthorne in the flesh, undertakes
to portray Hawthorne in less austere outline. In his book _Taghconic:
The Romance and Beauty of the Hills_ (Boston, 1879) J. E. A. Smith,
writing under the pseudonym “Godfrey Greylock,” says: “But that Mr.
Hawthorne’s heart was warm and tender, I am well assured by more than
one circumstance, which I do not know that I am at liberty to recall
here. But there can be no wrong in mentioning the origin, as I have
heard it, of the brotherly friendship between him and Herman Melville.
As the story was told me, Mr. Hawthorne was aware that Melville was
the author of a very appreciative review of the _Scarlet Letter_ which
appeared in the _Literary World_, edited by their common friends, the
Duyckincks; but this very knowledge, perhaps, kept two very sensitive
men shy of each other, although thrown into company. But one day it
chanced that when they were out on a picnic excursion, the two were
compelled by a thunder-shower to take shelter in a narrow recess of the
rocks of Monument Mountain. Two hours of enforced intercourse settled
the matter. They learned so much of each other’s character, and found
that they held so much of thought, feeling and opinion in common, that
the most intimate friendship for the future was inevitable.”

Mr. Julian Hawthorne reports that Herman Melville--or Omoo, as they
called him,--soon became familiar and welcome at the Red House. In
a letter dated September 4, 1850, Mrs. Hawthorne reported to her
mother: “To-day, Mr. Hawthorne and Mr. Melville have gone to dine
at Pittsfield.” It is in this letter that Mrs. Hawthorne wrote the
characterisation of Melville quoted in Chapter I.

Hawthorne finished _The House of the Seven Gables_ on January 27, 1851.
The four months following Hawthorne gave over to a vacation. “He had
recovered his health,” his son says, “he had done his work, he was
famous, and the region in which he dwelt was beautiful and inspiriting.
At all events, he made those spring days memorable to his children. He
made them boats to sail on the lake, and kites to fly in the air; he
took them fishing and flower-gathering, and tried (unsuccessfully for
the present) to teach them swimming. Mr. Melville used to ride or drive
up, in the evenings, with his great dog, and the children used to ride
on the dog’s back.”... “It was with Herman Melville that Hawthorne
held the most familiar intercourse at this time, both personally and
by letter.” Hawthorne’s son quotes “characteristic disquisitions”
by Melville; “but Hawthorne’s answers, if he wrote any,” Mr. Julian
Hawthorne goes on to say, entertaining a philosophical doubt in the
face of Melville’s specific mention of letters from Hawthorne, “were
unfortunately destroyed by fire.”

What would appear to be the earliest of the surviving letters of
Melville to Hawthorne follows:

      “PITTSFIELD, Wednesday morning.


  “Concerning the young gentleman’s shoes, I desire to say that a
  pair to fit him, of the desired pattern, cannot be had in all
  Pittsfield,--a fact which sadly impairs that metropolitan pride I
  formerly took in the capital of Berkshire. Henceforth Pittsfield must
  hide its head. However, if a pair of _bootees_ will at all answer,
  Pittsfield will be very happy to provide them. Pray mention all this
  to Mrs. Hawthorne, and command me.

  “‘_The House of the Seven Gables_: A Romance. By Nathaniel Hawthorne.
  One vol. 16mo, pp. 344.’ The contents of this book do not belie
  its rich, clustering, romantic title. With great enjoyment we
  spent almost an hour in each separate gable. This book is like a
  fine old chamber, abundantly, but still judiciously, furnished
  with precisely that sort of furniture best fitted to furnish it.
  There are rich hangings, wherein are braided scenes from tragedies!
  There is old china with rare devices, set out on the carved buffet;
  there are long and indolent lounges to throw yourself upon; there
  is an admirable sideboard, plentifully stored with good viands;
  there is a smell as of old wine in the pantry; and finally, in one
  corner, there is a dark little black-letter volume in golden clasps,
  entitled _Hawthorne: A Problem_. It has delighted us; it has piqued
  a re-perusal; it has robbed us of a day, and made us a present of
  a whole year of thoughtfulness; it has bred great exhilaration and
  exultation with the remembrance that the architect of the Gables
  resides only six miles off, and not three thousand miles away,
  in England, say. We think the book, for pleasantness of running
  interest, surpasses the other works of the author. The curtains are
  more drawn; the sun comes in more; genialities peep out more. Were
  we to particularise what most struck us in the deeper passages, we
  would point out the scene where Clifford, for a moment, would fain
  throw himself forth from the window to join the procession; or the
  scene where the judge is left seated in his ancestral chair. Clifford
  is full of an awful truth throughout. He is conceived in the finest,
  truest spirit. He is no caricature. He is Clifford. And here we
  would say that, did circumstances permit, we should like nothing
  better than to devote an elaborate and careful paper to the full
  consideration and analysis of the purport and significance of what
  so strongly characterises all of this author’s writings. There is a
  certain tragic phase of humanity which, in our opinion, was never
  more powerfully embodied than by Hawthorne. We mean the tragedies of
  human thought in its own unbiassed, native, and profounder workings.
  We think that into no recorded mind has the intense feeling of the
  usable truth ever entered more deeply than into this man’s. By
  usable truth, we mean the apprehension of the absolute condition of
  present things as they strike the eye of the man who fears them not,
  though they do their worst to him,--the man who, like Russia or the
  British Empire, declares himself a sovereign nature (in himself)
  amid the powers of heaven, hell, and earth. He may perish; but so
  long as he exists he insists upon treating with all Powers upon an
  equal basis. If any of those other Powers choose to withhold certain
  secrets, let them; that does not impair my sovereignty in myself;
  that does not make me tributary. And perhaps, after all, there is
  _no_ secret. We incline to think that the Problem of the Universe
  is like the Freemason’s mighty secret, so terrible to all children.
  It turns out, at last, to consist in a triangle, a mallet, and an
  apron,--nothing more! We incline to think that God cannot explain His
  own secrets, and that He would like a little information upon certain
  points Himself. We mortals astonish Him as much as He us. But it is
  this _Being_ of the matter; there lies the knot with which we choke
  ourselves. As soon as you say _Me_, a _God_, a _Nature_, so soon you
  jump off from your stool and hang from the beam. Yes, that word is
  the hangman. Take God out of the dictionary, and you would have Him
  in the street.

  “There is the grand truth about Nathaniel Hawthorne. He says NO! in
  thunder; but the Devil himself cannot make him say _yes_. For all men
  who say yes, lie; and all men who say no,--why, they are in the happy
  condition of judicious, unincumbered travellers in Europe; they cross
  the frontiers into Eternity with nothing but a carpet-bag,--that is
  to say, the Ego. Whereas those _yes_-gentry, they travel with heaps
  of baggage, and, damn them! they will never get through the Custom
  House. What’s the reason, Mr. Hawthorne, that in the last stages of
  metaphysics a fellow always falls to _swearing_ so? I could rip an
  hour. You see, I began with a little criticism extracted for your
  benefit from the _Pittsfield Secret Review_, and here I have landed
  in Africa.

  “Walk down one of these mornings and see me. No nonsense; come.
  Remember me to Mrs. Hawthorne and the children.

      “H. MELVILLE.

  “P. S. The marriage of Phœbe with the daguerreotypist is a fine
  stroke, because of his turning out to be a _Maule_. If you pass
  Hepzibah’s cent-shop, buy me a Jim Crow (fresh) and send it to me by
  Ned Higgins.”

When, at the end of this letter, Melville found himself in Africa, he
mistook gravely if he imagined he occupied the same continent with
Hawthorne. Emile Montégut, it is true, has described Hawthorne as a
“romancier pessimiste.” Pessimist Hawthorne doubtless was,--a pessimist
being precisely a nature without illusions. Hawthorne of course had,
as Brownell has sufficiently taken pains to show, “the good sense,
the lack of enthusiasm, the disillusioned pessimism of the man of
the world.” Hawthorne did say “No!” to life: but never, as Melville
deceived himself into believing, “in thunder.” Such an emphatic denial
would have been an expression of ardour: and Hawthorne was as without
ardour as he was without illusion. Both Melville and Hawthorne were, in
a sense, pessimists. Both were repelled by reality; both were quite out
of sympathy with their time and its tendencies. But they had arrived at
this centre of meeting from opposite points of the compass. Hawthorne
was a pessimist from lack of illusions; the ardour of illusion,
because of its exuberance in Melville, was at the basis of Melville’s
despair. Hawthorne took the same severely fatalistic view of himself
and the life about him, as he did of life in his books. He accepted
the universe as being unalterable, and towards his own destiny he felt
satisfaction without elation. Like the Mohammedans who believe that
they are preordained--but preordained to conquer,--so Hawthorne in his
Calvinism, despite his depressed moods, had no serious doubts as to his
election. Melville’s endless questioning of “Providence and futurity,
and of everything else that lies beyond human ken” were to Hawthorne
merely a weariness of the flesh: he was satisfied in his fatalism, and
without interest in speculation.

The next two letters announce that _Moby-Dick_ is going through the
press,--but they contain other incidental matter that must have been
interesting--as a “human document” at least--even to Hawthorne. It is
true that at this time, so his own son says, “Hawthorne became a sort
of Mecca of pilgrims with Christian’s burden upon their backs. Secret
criminals of all kinds came to him for counsel and relief.” He was
weary, perhaps, of human documents: and Melville came to him, not for
counsel, but in the intimate fraternity of the disenchanted.

      “PITTSFIELD, June 29, 1851.


  “The clear air and open window invite me to write to you. For some
  time past I have been so busy with a thousand things that I have
  almost forgotten when I wrote you last, and whether I received an
  answer. This most persuasive season has now for weeks recalled me
  from certain crotchety and over-doleful chimeras, the like of which
  men like you and me, and some others, forming a chain of God’s
  posts round the world, must be content to encounter now and then,
  and fight them the best way we can. But come they will,--for in the
  boundless, trackless, but still glorious wild wilderness through
  which these outposts run, the Indians do sorely abound, as well as
  the insignificant but still stinging mosquitoes. Since you have been
  here, I have been building some shanties of houses (connected with
  the old one) and likewise some shanties of chapters and essays. I
  have been ploughing and sowing and raising and printing and praying,
  and now begin to come out upon a less bristling time, and to enjoy
  the calm prospect of things from a fair piazza at the north of the
  old farmhouse here.

  “Not entirely yet, though, am I without something to be urgent
  with. The _Whale_ is only half through the press; for, wearied with
  the long delays of the printers, and disgusted with the heat and
  dust of the Babylonish brick-kiln of New York, I came back to the
  country to feel the grass, and end the book reclining on it, if I
  may. I am sure you will pardon this speaking all about myself; for
  if I _say_ so much on that head, be sure all the rest of the world
  are thinking about themselves ten times as much. Let us speak,
  though we show all our faults and weaknesses,--for it is a sign of
  strength to be weak, to know it, and out with it; not in set way and
  ostentatiously, though, but incidentally and without premeditation.
  But I am falling into my old foible,--preaching. I am busy, but shall
  not be very long. Come and spend a day here, if you can and want
  to; if not, stay in Lenox, and God give you long life. When I am
  quite free of my present engagements, I am going to treat myself to
  a ride and a visit to you. Have ready a bottle of brandy, because I
  always feel like drinking that heroic drink when we talk ontological
  heroics together. This is rather a crazy letter in some respects,
  I apprehend. If so, ascribe it to the intoxicating effects of the
  latter end of June operating upon a very susceptible and peradventure
  feeble temperament. Shall I send you a fin of the _Whale_ by way of a
  specimen mouthful? The tail is not yet cooked, though the hell-fire
  in which the whole book is broiled might not unreasonably have
  cooked it ere this. This is the book’s motto (the secret one), _Ego
  non baptiso te in nomine_--but make out the rest yourself.

      “H. M.”


  “I should have been rumbling down to you in my pine-board chariot a
  long time ago, were it not that for some weeks past I have been more
  busy than you can well imagine,--out of doors,--building and patching
  and tinkering away in all directions. Besides, I had my crops to
  get in,--corn and potatoes (I hope to show you some famous ones
  by and by),--and many other things to attend to, all accumulating
  upon this one particular season. I work myself; and at night my
  bodily sensations are akin to those I have so often felt before,
  when a hired man, doing my day’s work from sun to sun. But I mean
  to continue visiting you until you tell me that my visits are both
  supererogatory and superfluous. With no son of man do I stand upon
  any etiquette or ceremony, except the Christian ones of charity and
  honesty. I am told, my fellow-man, that there is an aristocracy of
  the brain. Some men have boldly advocated and asserted it. Schiller
  seems to have done so, though I don’t know much about him. At any
  rate, it is true that there have been those who, while earnest in
  behalf of political equality, still accept the intellectual estates.
  And I can well perceive, I think, how a man of superior mind can,
  by its intense cultivation, bring himself, as it were, into a
  certain spontaneous aristocracy of feeling,--exceedingly nice and
  fastidious,--similar to that which, in an English Howard, conveys a
  torpedo-fish thrill at the slightest contact with a social plebeian.
  So, when you see or hear of my ruthless democracy on all sides, you
  may possibly feel a touch of a shrink, or something of that sort.
  It is but nature to be shy of a mortal who boldly declares that a
  thief in jail is as honourable a personage as Gen. George Washington.
  This is ludicrous. But Truth is the silliest thing under the sun.
  Try to get a living by Truth--and go to the Soup Societies. Heavens!
  Let any clergyman try to preach the Truth from its very stronghold,
  the pulpit, and they would ride him out of his church on his own
  pulpit bannister. It can hardly be doubted that all Reformers are
  bottomed upon the truth, more or less; and to the world at large are
  not reformers almost universally laughing-stocks? Why so? Truth is
  ridiculous to men. Thus easily in my room here do I, conceited and
  garrulous, revere the test of my Lord Shaftesbury.

  “It seems an inconsistency to assert unconditional democracy in all
  things, and yet confess a dislike to all mankind--in the mass. But
  not so.--But it’s an endless sermon,--no more of it. I began by
  saying that the reason I have not been to Lenox is this,--in the
  evening I feel completely done up, as the phrase is, and incapable
  of the long jolting to get to your house and back. In a week or so,
  I go to New York, to bury myself in a third-story room, and work and
  slave on my _Whale_ while it is driving through the press. _That_ is
  the only way I can finish it now,--I am so pulled hither and thither
  by circumstances. The calm, the coolness, the silent grass-growing
  mood in which a man _ought_ always to compose,--that, I fear, can
  seldom be mine. Dollars damn me; and the malicious Devil is for
  ever grinning in upon me, holding the door ajar. My dear Sir, a
  presentiment is on me,--I shall at last be worn out and perish, like
  an old nutmeg-grater, grated to pieces by the constant attrition of
  the wood, that is, the nutmeg. What I feel most moved to write, that
  is banned,--it will not pay. Yet, altogether, write the _other_ way I
  cannot. So the product is a final hash, and all my books are botches.
  I’m rather sore, perhaps, in this letter; but see my hand!--four
  blisters on this palm, made by hoes and hammers within the last few
  days. It is a rainy morning; so I am indoors, and all work suspended.
  I feel cheerfully disposed, and therefore I write a little bluely.
  Would the Gin were here! If ever, my dear Hawthorne, in the eternal
  times that are to come, you and I shall sit down in Paradise, in
  some little shady corner by ourselves; and if we shall by any means
  be able to smuggle a basket of champagne there (I won’t believe in a
  Temperance Heaven), and if we shall then cross our celestial legs in
  the celestial grass that is forever tropical, and strike our glasses
  and our heads together, till both musically ring in concert,--then,
  O my dear fellow-mortal, how shall we pleasantly discourse of all
  the things manifold which now so distress us,--when all the earth
  shall be but a reminiscence, yea, its final dissolution an antiquity.
  Then shall songs be composed as when wars are over; humorous, comic
  songs,--‘Oh, when I lived in that queer little hole called the
  world,’ or, ‘Oh, when I toiled and sweated below,’ or, ‘Oh, when
  I knocked and was knocked in the fight’--yes, let us look forward
  to such things. Let us swear that, though now we sweat, yet it is
  because of the dry heat which is indispensable to the nourishment
  of the vine which is to bear the grapes that are to give us the
  champagne hereafter.

  “But I was talking about the _Whale_. As the fishermen say, ‘he’s
  in his flurry’ when I left him some three weeks ago. I’m going to
  take him by his jaw, however, before long, and finish him up in
  some fashion or other. What’s the use of elaborating what, in its
  very essence, is so short-lived as a modern book? Though I wrote
  the Gospels in this century, I should die in the gutter.--I talk
  all about myself, and this is selfishness and egotism. Granted.
  But how help it? I am writing to you; I know little about you, but
  something about myself. So I write about myself,--at least, to you.
  Don’t trouble yourself, though, about writing; and don’t trouble
  yourself about visiting; and when you _do_ visit, don’t trouble
  yourself about talking. I will do all the writing and visiting and
  talking myself.--By the way, in the last _Dollar Magazine_ I read
  ‘The Unpardonable Sin.’ He was a sad fellow, that Ethan Brand. I
  have no doubt you are by this time responsible for many a shake and
  tremour of the tribe of ‘general readers.’ It is a frightful poetical
  creed that the cultivation of the brain eats out the heart. But it’s
  my _prose_ opinion that in most cases, in those men who have fine
  brains and work them well, the heart extends down to hams. And though
  you smoke them with the fire of tribulation, yet, like veritable
  hams, the head only gives the richer and the better flavour. I stand
  for the heart. To the dogs with the head! I had rather be a fool
  with a heart, than Jupiter Olympus with his head. The reason the
  mass of men fear God, and _at bottom dislike_ Him, is because they
  rather distrust His heart, and fancy Him all brain like a watch.
  (You perceive I employ a capital initial in the pronoun referring to
  the Deity; don’t you think there is a slight dash of flunkeyism in
  that usage?) Another thing. I was in New York for four-and-twenty
  hours the other day, and saw a portrait of N. H. And I have seen and
  heard many flattering (in a publisher’s point of view) allusions
  to the _Seven Gables_. And I have seen _Tales_ and _A New Volume_
  announced, by N. H. So upon the whole, I say to myself, this N. H.
  is in the ascendant. My dear Sir, they begin to patronise. All Fame
  is patronage. Let me be infamous: there is no patronage in _that_.
  What ‘reputation’ H. M. has is horrible. Think of it! To go down
  to posterity is bad enough, any way; but to go down as a ‘man who
  lived among the cannibals’! When I speak of posterity, in reference
  to myself, I only mean the babies who will probably be born in the
  moment immediately ensuing upon my giving up the ghost. I shall go
  down to some of them, in all likelihood. _Typee_ will be given to
  them, perhaps, with their gingerbread. I have come to regard this
  matter of Fame as the most transparent of all vanities. I read
  Solomon more and more, and every time see deeper and deeper and
  unspeakable meanings in him. I did not think of Fame, a year ago, as
  I do now. My development has been all within a few years past. I am
  like one of those seeds taken out of the Egyptian Pyramids, which,
  after being three thousand years a seed and nothing but a seed, being
  planted in English soil, it developed itself, grew to greenness,
  and then fell to mould. So I. Until I was twenty-five, I had no
  development at all. From my twenty-fifth year I date my life. Three
  weeks have scarcely passed, at any time between then and now, that
  I have not unfolded within myself. But I feel that I am now come to
  the inmost leaf of the bulb, and that shortly the flower must fall
  to the mould. It seems to me now that Solomon was the truest man who
  ever spoke, and yet that he a little _managed_ the truth with a view
  to popular conservatism; or else there have been many corruptions and
  interpolations of the text--In reading some of Goethe’s sayings, so
  worshipped by his votaries, I came across this, ‘_Live in the all_.’
  That is to say, your separate identity is but a wretched one,--good;
  but get out of yourself, spread and expand yourself, and bring to
  yourself the tinglings of life that are felt in the flowers and the
  woods, that are felt in the planets Saturn and Venus, and the Fixed
  Stars. What nonsense! Here is a fellow with a raging toothache. ‘My
  dear boy,’ Goethe says to him, ‘you are sorely afflicted with that
  tooth; but you must _live in the all_, and then you will be happy!’
  As with all great genius, there is an immense deal of flummery in
  Goethe, and in proportion to my own contact with him, a monstrous
  deal of it in me.

      “H. MELVILLE.

  “P. S. ‘Amen!’ saith Hawthorne.

  “N. B. This ‘all’ feeling, though, there is some truth in. You must
  often have felt it, lying on the grass on a warm summer’s day. Your
  legs seem to send out shoots into the earth. Your hair feels like
  leaves upon your head. This is the _all_ feeling. But what plays the
  mischief with the truth is that men will insist upon the universal
  application of a temporary feeling or opinion.

  “P. S. You must not fail to admire my discretion in paying the
  postage on this letter.”

When Melville speaks of “the calm, the coolness, the silent
grass-growing mood in which a man _ought_ to compose,” he has
caught a demoralisation from Hawthorne. _Moby-Dick_, he says, was
“broiled in hell-fire”; and the complete “possession” that mastered
Hawthorne during the composition of _The Scarlet Letter_ has been
amply attested. Each man once, and once only, wrestled with the angel
of his inspiration gloriously to conquer. But Hawthorne had little
relish for such athletics: he preferred the relaxation of painstaking
placidity. He said of _The Scarlet Letter_ that “he did not think it a
book natural for him to write.” The pity of it is that he was not more
frequently so unnatural. As an old man, Melville looked back upon his
achievement, and recanted the corruption he had learned from Hawthorne:


  In placid hours well-pleased we dream
  Of many a brave unbodied scheme.
  But form to lend, pulsed life create,
  What unlike things must meet and mate;
  A flame to melt--a wind to freeze;
  Sad patience--joyous energies;
  Humility--yet pride and scorn;
  Instinct and study;--love and hate:
  Audacity--reverence. These must mate,
  And fuse with Jacob’s mystic heart,
  To wrestle with the angel--art.

Apropos of the two letters last quoted, Mr. Julian Hawthorne says: “Mr.
Melville was probably quite as entertaining and somewhat less abstruse,
when his communications were by word of mouth. Mrs. Hawthorne used to
tell of one evening when he came in, and presently began to relate the
story of a fight which he had seen on an island in the Pacific, between
some savages, and of the prodigies of valour one of them performed with
a heavy club. The narrative was extremely graphic; and when Melville
had gone, and Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne were talking over his visit, the
latter said, ‘Where is that club with which Mr. Melville was laying
about him so?’ Mr. Hawthorne thought he must have taken it with him;
Mrs. Hawthorne thought he had put it in the corner; but it was not
to be found. The next time Melville came, they asked him about it;
whereupon it appeared that the club was still in the Pacific island, if
it were anywhere.”

In the entry in his journal for July 30, 1851, Hawthorne wrote:
“Proceeding homeward, we were overtaken by a cavalier on horseback,
who saluted me in Spanish, to which I replied by touching my hat. But,
the cavalier renewing his salutation, I regarded him more attentively,
and saw that it was Herman Melville! So we all went homeward together,
talking as we went. Soon Mr. Melville alighted, and put Julian in the
saddle; and the little man was highly pleased, and sat on the horse
with the freedom and fearlessness of an old equestrian, and had a ride
of at least a mile homeward. I asked Mrs. Peters to make some tea for
Herman Melville, and so she did; and after supper I put Julian to bed,
and Melville and I had a talk about time and eternity, things of this
world and of the next, and books, and publishers, and all possible and
impossible matters, that lasted pretty deep into the night. At last he
rose, and saddled his horse and rode off to his own domicile, and I
went to bed....”

On August 8, 1851, Hawthorne reports in his journal: “To-day Herman
Melville and the two Duyckincks came in a barouche, and we all went to
visit the Shaker establishment at Hancock.” Of the Shakers, Hawthorne
wrote: “They are certainly the most singular and bedevilled set of
people that ever existed in a civilised land.” One wonders what would
have been Hawthorne’s report of the valley of Typee.

The next letter acknowledges a lost communication from Hawthorne. It is
dated, in Hawthorne’s writing: “received July 24, 1851.”

  “MY DEAR HAWTHORNE: This is not a letter, or even a note, but merely
  a passing word to you said over your garden gate. I thank you for
  your easy flowing long letter (received yesterday), which flowed
  through me, and refreshed all my meadows, as the Housatonic--opposite
  me--does in reality. I am now busy with various things, not
  incessantly though; but enough to require my frequent tinkering; and
  this is the height of the haying season, and my nag is dragging home
  his winter’s dinners all the time. And so, one way and another, I am
  not a disengaged man, but shall be very soon. Meanwhile, the earliest
  good chance I get, I shall roll down to you, my good fellow, seeing
  we--that is, you and I--must hit upon some little bit of vagabondage
  before autumn comes. Greylock--we must go and vagabondise there. But
  ere we start, we must dig a deep hole, and bury all Blue Devils,
  there to abide till the last Day.... Good-bye.”

      HIS X MARK.

And the last letter is a dithyramb of gratitude to Hawthorne for a
letter of Hawthorne’s (would that it survived!) in appreciation of

      “PITTSFIELD, Monday Afternoon.


  “People think that if a man has undergone any hardship he should
  have a reward; but for my part, I have done the hardest possible
  day’s work, and then come to sit down in a corner and eat my supper
  comfortably--why, then I don’t think I deserve any reward for my hard
  day’s work--for am I not at peace? Is not my supper good? My peace
  and my supper are my rewards, my dear Hawthorne. So your joy-giving
  and exultation-breeding letter is not my reward for my ditcher’s work
  with that book, but is the good goddess’s bonus over and above what
  was stipulated for--for not one man in five cycles, who is wise,
  will expect appreciative recognition from his fellows, or any one of
  them. Appreciation! Recognition! Is love appreciated? Why, ever since
  Adam, who has got to the meaning of this great allegory--the world?
  Then we pigmies must be content to have our paper allegories but
  ill comprehended. I say your appreciation is my glorious gratuity.
  In my proud, humble way,--a shepherd-king,--I was lord of a little
  vale in the solitary Crimea; but you have now given me the crown of
  India. But on trying it on my head, I found it fell down on my ears,
  notwithstanding their asinine length--for it’s only such ears that
  sustain such crowns.

  “Your letter was handed to me last night on the road going to Mr.
  Morewood’s, and I read it there. Had I been at home, I would have
  sat down at once and answered it. In me divine magnanimities are
  spontaneous and instantaneous--catch them while you can. The world
  goes round, and the other side comes up. So now I can’t write
  what I felt. But I felt pantheistic then--your heart beat in my
  ribs and mine in yours, and both in God’s. A sense of unspeakable
  security is in me this moment, on account of your having understood
  the book. I have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as the
  lamb. Ineffable socialities are in me. I would sit down and dine
  with you and all the Gods in old Rome’s Pantheon. It is a strange
  feeling--no hopelessness is in it, no despair. Content--that is it;
  and irresponsibility; but without licentious inclination. I speak now
  of my profoundest sense of being, not of an incidental feeling.

  “Whence came you, Hawthorne? By what right do you drink from my
  flagon of life? And when I put it to my lips--lo, they are yours and
  not mine. I feel that the God-head is broken up like the bread at the
  Supper, and that we are the pieces. Hence this infinite fraternity
  of feeling. Now, sympathising with the paper, my angel turns over
  another leaf. You did not care a penny for the book. But, now and
  then as you read, you understood the pervading thought that impelled
  the book--and that you praised. Was it not so? You were archangel
  enough to praise the imperfect body, and embrace the soul. Once you
  hugged the ugly Socrates because you saw the flame in the mouth, and
  heard the rushing of the demon,--the familiar,--and recognised the
  sound; for you have heard it in your own solitudes.

  “My dear Hawthorne, the atmospheric scepticisms steal over me now,
  and make me doubtful of my sanity in writing you thus. But, believe
  me, I am not mad, most noble Festus! But truth is ever incoherent,
  and when the big hearts strike together, the concussion is a little
  stunning. Farewell. Don’t write me a word about the book. That
  would be robbing me of my miserable delight. I am heartily sorry I
  ever wrote anything about you--it was paltry. Lord, when shall we
  be done growing? As long as we have anything more to do, we have
  done nothing. So, now, let us add _Moby-Dick_ to our blessing, and
  step from that. Leviathan is not the biggest fish;--I have heard of

  “This is a long letter, but you are not at all bound to answer it.
  Possibly if you do answer it, and direct it to Herman Melville, you
  will missend it--for the very fingers that now guide this pen are
  not precisely the same that just took it up and put it to the paper.
  Lord, when shall we be done changing? Ah! it is a long stage, and no
  inn in sight, and night coming, and the body cold. But with you for a
  passenger, I am content and can be happy. I shall leave the world,
  I feel, with more satisfaction for having come to know you. Knowing
  you persuades me more than the Bible of our immortality.

  “What a pity that, for your plain, bluff letter, you should get such
  gibberish! Mention me to Mrs. Hawthorne and to the children, and so,
  good-bye to you, with my blessing.


  “P. S. I can’t stop yet. If the world was entirely made up of
  Magians, I’ll tell you what I should do. I should have a paper-mill
  established at one end of the house, and so have an extra riband for
  foolscap rolling in upon my desk; and upon that endless riband I
  should write a thousand--a million--a billion thoughts, all under the
  form of a letter to you. The divine magnet is on you, and my magnet
  responds. Which is the bigger? A foolish question--they are _one_.


  “P. P. S. Don’t think that by writing me a letter, you shall always
  be bored with an immediate reply to it--and so keep both of us
  delving over a writing-desk eternally. No such thing! I sha’n’t
  always answer your letters and you may do just as you please.”

Hawthorne had written Melville a “plain, bluff letter,” and in reply
was to be told, with “infinite fraternity,” that “the god-head is
broken up like the bread at the Supper” and that he was one of the
pieces. Melville had dedicated _Moby-Dick_ to Hawthorne, and Hawthorne
made some sort of acknowledgment of the tribute. Melville, shrewdly
suspected him, however, of caring “not a penny” for the book, but in
archangelical charity praising less the “imperfect body” than the
“pervading thought” which “now and then” he understood.

_Moby-Dick_ was an allegory, of course--but withal an allegory of a
solidity and substance that must have appeared to Hawthorne little
short of grossly shocking. Hawthorne had been praised from his “airy
and charming insubstantiality.” And of himself he wrote, with engaging
candour: “Whether from lack of power, or an unconquerable reserve,
the Author’s touches have often an effect of tameness.” Hawthorne’s
“reserve” is, of course, all myth. Both Hawthorne and Melville, though
each a recluse in life, overflow to the reader. And as Brownell says
of Hawthorne: “He does not tell very much, but apparently he tells
everything.” But to Hawthorne, Melville’s overflowing, like a spring
freshet, or a tidal wave, must have been little less than appalling.
Hawthorne’s was eminently a neat, fastidious style, as free from any
eccentricity or excess as from any particular pungency or colour.
Melville’s was extravagant, capricious, vigorous, and “unliterary”: the
energy of his undisciplined genius is its most significant quality.
After all, was it possible for Hawthorne to feel any deep sympathy for
Melville’s passionate enthusiasms, for Melville’s catholic toleration,
for Melville’s quenchless curiosity, for Melville’s varied laughter,
for Melville’s spiritual daring? It is true that Hawthorne found
Story’s “Cleopatra”--inspired, it might appear, by a fancy of the
young Victoria in discreet negligée--“a terrible, dangerous woman,
quite enough for the moment, but very like to spring upon you like a
tigress.” He never visited George Eliot because there was another Mrs.
Lewes. He was much troubled by the nude in art. He pronounced Margaret
Fuller’s “in many respects,” a “defective and evil nature,” and
“Providence was kind in putting her and her clownish husband and their
child on board that fated ship.” It is true that he wrote a graceful if
not very genial introductory essay--once mistaken for a marvel quite
eclipsing “Elia”--to relieve the dark tone of _The Scarlet Letter_. And
it is also true that he accepted the adoration of his wife with the
utmost gravity and appreciation. Mrs. Hawthorne, in one of her letters
to her mother, by a transition in praise of Hawthorne’s eyes--“They
give, but receive not”--comments at some length, on her husband’s
“mighty heart,” that “opens the bosom of men.” “So Mr. Melville,” she
says, “generally silent and incommunicative, pours out the rich floods
of his mind and experience to him, so sure of appreciation, so sure of
a large and generous interpretation.”

What interpretation Hawthorne gave to _Moby-Dick_ has not transpired.
Hawthorne mentions _Moby-Dick_ once in his published works. In the
_Wonder Book_ he says: “On the hither side of Pittsfield sits Herman
Melville, shaping out the gigantic conception of his white whale, while
the gigantic shape of Greylock looms upon him from his study window.”
Only one available Hawthorne-Melville document is still unprinted: the
“Agatha” letter, mentioned by Mr. Julian Hawthorne. But the “Agatha”
letter says nothing of _Moby-Dick_; and though of impressive bulk, its
biographical interest is too slight to merit its publication.

Born in hell-fire, and baptised in an unspeakable name, _Moby-Dick_
is, with _The Scarlet Letter_, among the few very notable literary
achievements of American literature. There has been published no
criticism of Melville more beautiful or more profound than the essay
of E. L. Grant Watson on _Moby-Dick_ (_London Mercury_, December,
1920). It is Mr. Watson’s contention in this essay, that the _Pequod_,
with her monomaniac captain and all her crew, is representative of
Melville’s own genius, and in the particular sense that each character
is deliberately symbolic of a complete and separate element. Because
of the prodigal richness of material in _Moby-Dick_, the breadth and
vitality and solid substance of the setting of the allegory, the
high quality of _Moby-Dick_ as a psychological synthesis has very
generally been lost sight of. Like Bunyan, or Swift, Melville has
enforced his moral by giving an independent and ideal verisimilitude
to its innocent and unconscious exponents. The self-sustaining
vitality of Melville’s symbols has been magnificently vouched for by
Mr. Masefield in his vision of the final resurrection. And the superb
irony--whether unconscious or intended--of _Moby-Dick’s_ “towing
the ship our Lord was in, with all the sweet apostles aboard of
her,” would surely have delighted Melville. _Pilgrim’s Progress_ is
undoubtedly a tract; but, as Brownell observes, if it had been only
a tract, it would never have achieved universal canonisation. Both
_Pilgrim’s Progress_ and _Moby-Dick_ are works of art in themselves,
each leaning lightly--though of course to all the more purpose--on
its moral. Most persons probably read _Gulliver_ for the story, and
miss the satire. In the same way, a casual reader of _Moby-Dick_
may skip the more transcendental passages and classify it as a book
of adventure. It is indeed a book of adventure, but upon the highest
plane of spiritual daring. Ahab is, of course, the atheistical captain
of the tormented soul; and his crew, so Melville says, is “chiefly
made of mongrel renegades, and cast-aways and cannibals.” And Ahab is
“morally enfeebled, also, by the incompetence of mere unaided virtue or
rightmindedness in Starbuck, the invulnerable jollitry of indifference
or recklessness of Stubb, and the pervading mediocrity of Flash!”
But Ahab is Captain; and his madness is of such a quality that the
white whale and all that is there symbolised, needs must render its
consummation, or its extinction. On the waste of the Pacific, ship
after ship passes the _Pequod_, some well laden, others bearing awful
tidings: yet all are sane. The _Pequod_ alone, against contrary winds,
sails on into that amazing calm, that extraordinary mildness, in which
she is destroyed by _Moby-Dick_. “There is a wisdom that is woe, and
there is a woe that is madness.” And in _Moby-Dick_, the woe and the
wisdom are mingled in the history of a soul’s adventure.

Though _Moby-Dick_ is not only an allegory, but an allegory designed
to teach woeful wisdom, nowhere in literature, perhaps, can one find
such uncompromising despair so genially and painlessly administered.
Indeed, the despair of _Moby-Dick_ is as popularly missed as is the
vitriolic bitterness of _Gulliver_. There is an abundance of humour in
_Moby-Dick_, of course: and there is mirth in much of the laughter.
In _Moby-Dick_, it would appear, Melville has made pessimism a gay
science. “Learn to laugh, my young friends,” Nietzsche counsels, “if
you are at all determined to remain pessimists.” If there are tears,
he smiles gallantly as he brushes them aside. “There are certain
queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life,”
Melville says, “when a man takes this whole universe for a vast
practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discovers, and
more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.
There is nothing like the perils of whaling to breed this free and
easy sort of genial, desperado philosophy; and with it I regard this
whole voyage of the _Pequod_, and the great white whale its object.”
And for the most part, he does. But he declares, withal, that “the
truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books
is Solomon’s, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe.
All is vanity. ALL.” _Moby-Dick_ was built upon a foundation of this
wisdom, and this woe; and so keenly did Melville feel the poignancy of
this woe, so isolated was he in his surrender to this wisdom, that this
wisdom and this woe, which he had learned from Solomon and from Christ,
he felt to be of that quality which in our cowardice we call madness.



  “My towers at last! These rovings end,
  Their thirst is slacked in larger dearth:
  The yearning infinite recoils,
      For terrible is earth.”

      --HERMAN MELVILLE: _L’Envoi_.

On a bleak and snowy November day in 1851, the Hawthorne family, with
their trunks, got into a large farm wagon and drove away from the
little red house. And with the departure of Hawthorne, Melville had
dreamed the last of his avenging dreams. There may have been some
association between the two men while Hawthorne was in West Newton,
and later in Concord, but no records survive. In 1856, on his way to
the Holy Land, Melville visited Hawthorne at Southport two days after
arriving in Liverpool. Melville’s account of the meeting is thus
recorded in his journal:

  “_Sunday, Nov. 9_: Stayed home till dinner. After dinner took
  steamboat for Rock Ferry to find Mr. Hawthorne. On getting to R. F.
  learned he had removed thence 18 months previous and was now residing
  out of town.

  “_Monday, Nov. 10_: Went among the docks to see the Mediterranean
  steamers. Saw Mr. Hawthorne at Consulate. Invited me to stay with
  him during my sojourn at Liverpool. Dined at Anderson’s, a very nice
  place, and charges moderate.

  “_Tuesday, Nov. 11_: Hawthorne for Southport, 20 miles distant on the
  seashore, a watering place. Found Mrs. Hawthorne & the rest awaiting
  tea for us.

  “_Wednesday, Nov. 12_: At Southport, an agreeable day. Took a long
  walk by the sea. Sand & grass. Wild & desolate. A strong wind. Good
  talk. In the evening stout & fox & geese. Julian grown into a fine
  lad. Una taller than her brother. Mrs. Hawthorne not in good health.
  Mr. Hawthorne stayed home with me.

  “_Thursday, Nov. 13_: At Southport till noon. Mr. H. & I took train
  then for Liverpool. Spent rest of day putting enquiries among

  “_Friday, Nov. 14_: Took bus for London Road. Called at Mr.
  Hawthorne’s. Met a Mr. Bright. Took me to his club and luncheoned me

  “_Sunday, Nov. 16_: Rode in the omnibus. Went out to Foxhill Park,
  &c. Grand organ at St. George’s Hall.”

Three days later, Melville was off for Constantinople. In his _English
Note-boo_k, under November 30th, 1856, Hawthorne wrote:

  “_November 30_: A week ago last Monday, Herman Melville came to
  see me at the Consulate, looking much as he used to do, and with
  his characteristic gravity and reserve of manner.... We soon found
  ourselves on pretty much our former terms of sociability and
  confidence.... He is thus far on his way to Constantinople. I do
  not wonder that he found it necessary to take an airing through
  the world, after so many years of toilsome pen-labour, following
  upon so wild and adventurous a youth as his was. I invited him to
  come and stay with us at Southport, as long as he might remain in
  this vicinity, and accordingly he did come the next day.... On
  Wednesday we took a pretty long walk together, and sat down in a
  hollow among the sand-hills, sheltering ourselves from the high cool
  wind. Melville, as he always does, began to reason of Providence and
  futurity, and of everything else that lies beyond human ken.... He
  has a very high and noble nature, and is better worth immortality
  than the most of us.... On Saturday we went to Chester together. I
  love to take every opportunity of going to Chester; it being the one
  only place, within easy reach of Liverpool, which possesses any old
  English interest. We went to the Cathedral.”--And then architecture
  gives place to personal comment.

Mr. Julian Hawthorne reports of this meeting: “At Southport the chief
event of interest during the winter was a visit from Herman Melville,
who turned up at Liverpool on his way to Constantinople, and whom
Hawthorne brought out to spend a night or two with us. ‘He looked
much the same as he used to do; a little paler, perhaps, and a little
sadder, and with his characteristic gravity and reserve of manner. I
felt rather awkward at first, for this is the first time I have met
him since my ineffectual attempt to get him a consular appointment
from General Pierce. However, I failed only from real lack of power
to serve him; so there was no reason to be ashamed, and we soon
found ourselves on pretty much the former terms of sociability and
confidence. Melville has not been well, of late; he has been affected
with neuralgic complaints, and no doubt has suffered from too constant
literary occupation, pursued without much success latterly; and his
writings, for a long while past, have indicated a morbid state of
mind. So he left his place in Pittsfield, and has come to the Old
World. He informed me that he had “pretty much made up his mind to be
annihilated”; but still he does not seem to rest in that anticipation,
and I think will never rest until he gets hold of some definite belief.
It is strange how he persists--and has persisted ever since I knew him,
and probably long before--in wandering to and fro over these deserts,
as dismal and monotonous as the sandhills amidst which we were sitting.
He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is
too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other. If he
were a religious man, he would be one of the most truly religious and
reverential; he has a very high and noble nature, and better worth
immortality than most of us.’

“Melville made the rounds of Liverpool under the guidance of Henry
Bright; and afterwards Hawthorne took him to Chester; and they parted
the same evening, ‘at a street corner, in the rainy evening. I saw him
again on Monday, however. He said that he already felt much better
than in America; but observed that he did not anticipate much pleasure
in his rambles, for that the spirit of adventure is gone out of him.
He certainly is much overshadowed since I saw him last; but I hope
he will brighten as he goes onward. He sailed on Tuesday, leaving
a trunk behind him, and taking only a carpet-bag to hold all his
travelling-gear. This is the next best thing to going naked; and as he
wears his beard and moustache, and so needs no dressing-case,--nothing
but a toothbrush,--I do not know a more independent personage. He
learned his travelling habits by drifting about, all over the South
Seas, with no other clothes or equipage than a red flannel shirt and
a pair of duck trousers. Yet we seldom see men of less criticisable
manners than he.’”

There is no record of these two men ever meeting again.

From the beginning, there had been, between Melville and Hawthorne, a
profound incompatibility. When they met, Melville was within one last
step of absolute disenchantment. One illusion, only, was to him still
unblasted: The belief in the possibility of a Utopian friendship that
might solace all of his earlier defeats. Ravished in solitude by his
alienation from his fellows, Melville discovered that the author of
_The Scarlet Letter_ was his neighbour. He came to know Hawthorne: and
his eager soul rushed to embrace Hawthorne’s as that of a brother in
despair. Exultant was his worship of Hawthorne, absolute his desire for
surrender. He craved of Hawthorne an understanding and sympathy that
neither Hawthorne, nor any other human being, perhaps, could ever have
given. His admiration for Hawthorne was, of course, as he inevitably
discovered, built upon a mistaken identity. Yet, on the evidence of
his letters, he for a time drew from this admiration moments both
of tensest excitement and of miraculous and impregnating peace. It
would be interesting, indeed, to know what _Moby-Dick_ owed to this
inspiration. It is patent fact, however, that with the publication of
_Moby-Dick_, and Hawthorne’s departure from Lenox, Melville’s creative
period was at its close. At the age of thirty-two, so brilliant, so
intense, so crowded had been the range of experience that burned
through him, that at the period of his life when most men are just
beginning to strike their gait, Melville found himself looking forward
into utter night. Nearly forty years before his death, he had come
to be the most completely disenchanted of all considerable American

From his youth, Melville had felt the flagrant and stubborn discord
between aspiration and fact. He was born with an imagination of
very extraordinary vigour, and with a constitution of corresponding
vitality. In sheer capacity to feel, most American writers look pale
beside him. Fired by his rebellious imagination, and abetted by his
animal courage, he sallied forth in quest of happiness. Few men have
ever compassed such a span of experience as he crowded within the
thirty-two years of his quest; few men have lived with such daring,
with such intensity. And one by one, as he put his illusions to the
test, the bolts of his imagination, discharged against reality, but
blazed out charred avenues to despair. It was Dante, he says in
_Pierre_, who first “opened to his shuddering eyes the infinite cliffs
and gulfs of human mystery and misery;--though still more in the way of
experimental vision, than of sensational presentiment or experience.”
By the age of thirty-two, he had, by first-hand knowledge of life,
learned to feel the justice of Schopenhauer’s statement: “Where did
Dante find the material for his _Inferno_ if not from the world; and
yet is not his picture exhaustively satisfactory? But look at his
Paradise; when he attempted to describe it he had nothing to guide him,
this pleasant world could not offer a single suggestion.” This passage
is marked in Melville’s copy of Schopenhauer. And in _Pierre_ he wrote:
“By vast pains we mine into the pyramid; by horrible gropings we come
to the central room; with joy we espy the sarcophagus; but we lift the
lid--and nobody is there!--appallingly vacant, as vast as the soul of
a man.”

Melville’s disillusionment began at home. The romantic idealisation
of his mother gave place to a recoil into a realisation of the cold,
“scaly, glittering folds of pride” that rebuffed his tormented love;
and he studied the portrait of his father, and found it a defaming
image. In _Pierre_ this portrait thus addresses him: “To their young
children, fathers are not wont to unfold themselves.... Consider this
strange, ambiguous, smile; more narrowly regard this mouth. Behold,
what is this too ardent and, as it were, unchastened light in these
eyes. Consider. Is there no mystery here?” In _Pierre_, he thought that
there was.

In his boyhood, poverty added its goad to launch him forth to find
happiness in distance. He discovered hideousness; and later, escaped
into virgin savagery, he saw by contrast the blatant defaults of
civilisation; and he learned that it was the dubious honour of the
white civilised man of being “the most ferocious animal on the face
of the earth.” In Tahiti he was brought face to face with the bigotry
and stupid self-righteousness of the proselyting Protestant mind; and
there he learned that Christianity--or what passes for it--may under
some circumstances be not a blessing but a blight. In _Typee_ and
_Omoo_ he innocently turned his hand to right matters to a happier
adjustment, soon to reap the reward of such temerity. In the navy he
was made hideously aware of the versatility of the human animal in
evil. There he found not only a rich panorama of human unloveliness,
but “evils which, like the suppressed domestic drama of Horace Walpole,
will neither bear representing, nor reading, and will hardly bear
thinking of.” There, he was also struck by the criminal stupidity of
war. In _White-Jacket_ he asked, “are there no Moravians in the Moon,
that not a missionary has yet visited this poor pagan planet of ours,
to civilise civilisation and Christianise Christendom?” He was, as he
calls himself, a “pondering man”: and in his evaluation of individual
human life he soon came to share the judgment of Josiah Royce, another
“pondering man”: “Call it human life. You can not find a comparison
more thoroughly condemning it.” And he marked Schopenhauer’s tribute to
his fellows: “They are just what they seem to be, and that is the worst
that can be said of them.”

As “the man who lived among the cannibals” he was famous by the
age of twenty-eight. But when he attempted to put his earnest
convictions on paper, he was to discover that the value of the paper
deteriorated thereby. When he made this discovery he was married,
and a father: and debtors had to be held at bay by the point of the
pen. On April 30, 1851, Harper and Brothers denied him any further
advance on his royalties: they were making “extensive and expensive
improvements”--and besides, he had already overdrawn nearly seven
hundred dollars.

He had, too, sought personal happiness in the illusion of romantic
love. The romantic lover is in especial peril of finding in marriage
the sobered discovery that all his sublime and heroic effort has
resulted simply in a vulgar satisfaction, and that, taking all things
into consideration, he is no better off than he was before. In his poem
_After the Pleasure Party_ (in _Timoleon_, 1891) Melville tells such
a “sad rosary of belittling pain.” As a rule, Theseus once consoled,
Ariadne is forsaken; and had Petrarch’s passion been requited, his
song would have ceased. Francesca and Paolo, romantic lovers who had
experienced the limits of their desire, were by Dante put in Hell:
and their sufficient punishment was their eternal companionship.
By the very ardour of his idealisation, Melville was foredoomed to
disappointment in marriage. Though both he and his wife were noble
natures--indeed for that very reason--their marriage was for each a
crucifixion. For between them there was deep personal loyalty without
understanding. Bacon once said, “he that hath wife and children
hath given hostages to fortune, for they are impediments to great
enterprises, either of virtue or of mischief.” Melville gave such
hostages to fortune: but, such was his temperament, it is difficult
to believe that unencumbered he would have magnified his achievement.
Mrs. Melville is remembered as a gentle, gracious, loyal woman who bore
with him for over forty years, in his disillusion, his loss of health,
his poverty, his obscurity. And his father-in-law, Chief Justice Shaw,
befriended him with forbearance and with more substantial gifts.

With the departure of Hawthorne from Lenox, Melville was left without
companionship and without illusions. And he was aware of the approach
of his Nemesis even before it overtook him. He confessed to Hawthorne
while finishing _Moby-Dick_ his feeling that he was approaching
the limit of his power. And these intimations were prophetic. With
_Moby-Dick_ his creative period closed.

Of the end of this period his wife says: “Wrote _White Whale_ or
_Moby-Dick_ under unfavourable circumstances--would sit at his desk
all day not writing anything till four or five o’clock--then ride
to the village after dark--would be up early and out walking before
breakfast--sometimes splitting wood for exercise. Published _White
Whale_ in 1851.--Wrote _Pierre_: published 1852. We all felt anxious
about the strain on his health in Spring of 1853.”

In _Pierre_, Melville coiled down into the night of his soul, to
write an anatomy of despair. The purpose of the book was to show
the impracticability of virtue: to give specific evidence, freely
plagiarised from his own psychology, that “the heavenly wisdom of
God is an earthly folly to man,” “that although our blessed Saviour
was full of the wisdom of Heaven, yet his gospel seems lacking in
the practical wisdom of the earth; that his nature was not merely
human--was not that of a mere man of the world”; that to try to live in
this world according to the strict letter of Christianity would result
in “the story of the Ephesian matron, allegorised.” The subtlety of
the analysis is extraordinary; and in its probings into unsuspected
determinants from unconsciousness it is prophetic of some of the
most recent findings in psychology. “Deep, deep, and still deep and
deeper must we go,” Melville says, “if we would find out the heart
of a man; descending into which is as descending a spiral stair in a
shaft, without any end, and where that endlessness is only concealed
by the spiralness of the stair, and the blackness of the shaft.” In
the winding ambiguities of _Pierre_ Melville attempts to reveal man’s
fatal facility at self-deception; to show that the human mind is like
a floating iceberg, hiding below the surface of the sea most of its
bulk; that from a great depth of thought and feeling below the level
of awareness, long silent hands are ever reaching out, urging us to
whims of the blood and tensions of the nerves, whose origins we never
suspect. “In reserves men build imposing characters,” Melville says;
“not in revelations.” _Pierre_ is not conspicuous for its reserves.

_Pierre_ aroused the reviewers to such a storm of abuse that legend
has assigned Melville’s swift obscuration to this dispraise. The
explanation is too simple, as Mr. Mather contends. But there is,
doubtless, more than a half truth in this explanation. The abuse
that _Pierre_ reaped, coming when it did in Melville’s career,
and inspired by a book in which Melville with tragic earnestness
attempted an apologia of worldly defeat, must have seemed to him in
its heartlessness and total blindness to his purpose, a definitive
substantiation of the thesis of his book.

_Pierre_ has been very unsympathetically handled, even by Melville’s
most penetrating and sympathetic critics. Mr. Frank Jewett Mather,
Jr., for example, in the second of his two essays on _Herman Melville_
(_The Review_, August 9 and 16, 1919), says of _Pierre_ that “it is
perhaps the only positively ill-done book” of Melville’s. Mr. Mather
grants power to the book, but he finds it “repellent and overwrought.”
He recommends it only as a literary curiosity. And as a literary
curiosity Mr. Arthur Johnson studied its stylistic convolutions in _The
New Republic_ of August 27, 1919. It is certainly true, as Mr. Johnson
has said, that “the plot or theme, were it not so ‘done’ as to be
hardly decipherable, would be to-day considered rather ‘advanced.’” Mr.
Johnson contends that for morbid unhealthy pathology, it has not been
exceeded even by D. H. Lawrence. All this may be very excellent ethics,
but it is not very enlightening criticism.

Melville wrote _Pierre_ with no intent to reform the ways of the
world. But he did write _Pierre_ to put on record the reminder that
the world’s way is a hypocritic way in so far as it pretends to be any
other than the Devil’s way also. In _Pierre_, Melville undertook to
dramatise this conviction. When he sat down to write, what seemed to
him the holiest part of himself--his ardent aspirations--had wrecked
itself against reality. So he undertook to present, in the character
of Pierre, his own character purged of dross; and in the character of
Pierre’s parents, the essential outlines of his own parents. Then he
started his hero forth upon a career of lofty and unselfish impulse,
intent to show that the more transcendent a man’s ideal, the more
certain and devastating his worldly defeat; that the most innocent
in heart are those most in peril of being eventually involved in
“strange, _unique_ follies and sins, unimagined before.” Incidentally,
Melville undertakes to show, in the tortuous ambiguities of _Pierre_,
that even the purest impulses of Pierre were, in reality, tainted of
clay. _Pierre_ is an apologia of Melville’s own defeat, in the sense
that in _Pierre_ Melville attempts to show that in so far as his own
defeat--essentially paralleling Pierre’s--was unblackened by incest,
murder, and suicide, he had escaped these disasters through accident
and inherent defect, rather than because of superior virtue. Pierre had
followed the heavenly way that leads to damnation.

Such a thesis can be met by the worldly wisdom that Melville slanders
in _Pierre_, only with uncompromising repugnance. There can be no
forgiveness in this world for a man who calls the wisdom of this world
a cowardly lie, and probes clinically into the damning imperfections of
the best. His Kingdom is surely not of this world. And if this world
evinces for his gospel neither understanding nor sympathy, he cannot
reasonably complain if he reaps the natural fruits of his profession.
Melville agreed with the Psalmist: “Verily there is a reward for the
righteous.” But he blasphemed when he dared teach that the reward of
virtue and truth in this world must be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Like Dante, Melville set himself up against the world as a party of
one. A majority judgment, though it has the power, has not necessarily
the truth. It is theoretically possible that Melville, not the world,
is right. But one can assent to Melville’s creed only on penalty
of destruction; and the race does not welcome annihilation. Hence
this world must rejoice in its vengeance upon his blasphemy: and the
self-righteous have washed their feet in the blood of the wicked.

After _Pierre_, any further writing from Melville was both an
impertinence and an irrelevancy. No man who really believes that all
is vanity can consistently go on taking elaborate pains to popularise
his indifference. Schopenhauer did that thing, it is true; but
Schopenhauer was an artist, not a moralist; and he was enchanted with
disenchantment. Carlyle, too, through interminable volumes shrieked
out the necessity of silence. But after _Pierre_, Melville was without
internal urgings to write. “All profound things, and emotions of
things,” he wrote in _Pierre_, “are preceded and attended by silence.”
“When a man is really in a profound mood, then all merely verbal or
written profundities are unspeakably repulsive, and seem downright
childish to him.” Infinitely greater souls than Melville’s seem to
have shared this conviction. Neither Buddha nor Socrates left a single
written word; Christ wrote once only, and then in the sand.

As if the gods themselves were abetting Melville in his recoil from
letters and his contempt for his hard-earned fame, the Harper’s fire
of 1853 destroyed the plates of all his novels, and practically all
of the copies of his books then in stock. One hundred and eighty-five
copies of _Typee_ were burned; 276 copies of _Omoo_; 491 copies of
_Mardi_; 296 copies of _Redburn_; 292 copies of _White-Jacket_; 297
copies of _Moby-Dick_; 494 copies of _Pierre_. There survived only 10
copies of _Mardi_, 60 copies of _Moby-Dick_ and 110 copies of _Pierre_.
All of these books except _Pierre_ were reissued, but with no rich
profit either to Harper’s or to Melville. A typical royalty account is
that covering the period between October 6, 1863, and August 1, 1864.
During this period, 54 copies of _Typee_ were sold; 56 of _Omoo_; 42
of _Redburn_; 49 of _Mardi_; 29 of _White-Jacket_; 48 of _Moby-Dick_;
and 27 of _Pierre_. It was a fortunate year, indeed, for Melville that
brought him in $100 royalties. During most of his life, Melville’s
account with Harper’s was overdrawn: a fact that speaks more for the
generosity of his publisher than for the appreciation of his public.
Melville surely never achieved opulence by his pen. Convinced of the
futility of writing and effort, Melville wanted only tranquillity for
thought. But his health was breaking, and his family had to be fed. So
he looked about him for some unliterary employment.

The following letter from Richard Henry Dana explains itself:

      “BOSTON, May 10, 1853.


  “I am informed by the Chief Justice that my friend, Mr. Herman
  Melville, has been named to the Government as a suitable person for
  the American Consulship at the Sandwich Islands.

  “I acknowledge no little personal interest in Mr. Melville, but apart
  from that, I know, from my early experience, and from a practice of
  many years in Admiralty & Maritime causes, the great importance of
  having a consul at the Sandwich Islands who knows the wants of our
  vast Pacific Marine, and shall stand clear of those inducements of
  trade consignments which lead so many consuls to neglect seamen and
  lend their influence indiscriminately in favour of owners and masters.

  “Mr. Melville has been all over the Pacific Ocean, in all sorts of
  maritime service & has the requisite acquaintance & interest to an
  unusual degree. Beyond this, his reputation, general intelligence
  & agreeable manners will be sure to make him a popular and useful
  officer among all our citizens who visit the Islands. I cannot
  conceive of a more appropriate appointment, & I sincerely hope it
  will be given him.

  “If I knew the President or the Secretary of State, personally, I
  would take the liberty to write them. As I do not, I beg you will use
  whatever influence I may have in any quarter in his favour.

  “Very truly yours,



Melville was not appointed to a consular post in the Pacific: so his
brother Allan busied himself in looking for an appointment elsewhere,
as the following letter, addressed to Hon. Lemuel Shaw, shows:

      “NEW YORK, June 11, 1853.


  “Yours of the 8th reached me yesterday advising me of the recent
  information you have received through a confidential source from
  Washington respecting a consulate for Herman.

  “There can be no consulship in Italy, not even Rome, where the fees
  would amount to sufficient to make it an object for Herman to accept
  a position there.

  “I have positive information of the value of the Antwerp consulate
  and understand it to be worth from $2,500 to $3,000. Should this be
  tendered, Herman ought to accept it.

  “I don’t know that I can say anything more on this subject.

  “Herman is in town and will see you on your arrival.

  “Very truly yours,


  “I may add that Herman has been specially urged for the Antwerp
  position & that Mr. Hawthorne spoke to Mr. Cushing of that place.

  “A. M.”

Of the domestic happenings at Arrowhead at this time, very little is
known. One letter of Mrs. Melville’s survives:

      “ARROWHEAD, Aug. 10th, 1853.


  “I did not mean that so long a time should elapse, of your absence
  from home, without my writing you, especially when I have two letters
  of yours to answer. It is not because I have not thought of you much
  and often, but really because I can not find the time to seat myself
  quietly down to write a letter--that is more than for a hasty scrawl
  to mother occasionally--and inasmuch as my occupations are of the
  useful and not the frivolous kind I know you will appreciate the
  apology and accept it. Three little ones to look after and ‘do for’
  takes up no little portion of the day, and my baby is as restless a
  little mortal as ever crowed. She is very well and healthy in every
  respect, but not very fat, as she sleeps very little comparatively
  and is very active. A few weeks since Malcolm made his début as a
  scholar at the white school house of Dr. Holmes’. I was afraid he
  would lose the little he already knew ‘of letters’ and as I could not
  find the time to give him regular instruction, I sent him to school
  rather earlier than I should have done otherwise. The neighbours’
  children call for him every morning, and he goes off with his pail
  of dinner in one hand and his primer in the other, to our no small
  amusement. The grand feature of the day to him seems to be the
  ‘eating his dinner under the trees’--as he always gives that as
  his occupation when asked what he does at school--and as his pail
  is invariably empty when he returns, he does full justice to the
  noon-tide meal. Stannie begins to talk a great deal, and seems to be
  uncommonly forward for his age. He has a severe cough, which I think
  will prove the whooping-cough as there is a great deal of it about at

Failing of a consular appointment, Melville was forced to continue
writing. He busied himself with the story of the “revolutionary
beggar.” Melville based his story upon “a little narrative, forlornly
published on sleazy grey paper,” that he had “rescued by the
merest chance from the rag-pickers.” Copies of this narrative are
not excessively rare. The title page reads: “_Life and Remarkable
Adventures of Israel R. Potter_ (a native of Cranston, Rhode Island)
who was a soldier in the American Revolution, and took a distinguished
part in the Battle of Bunker Hill (in which he received three wounds)
after which he was taken Prisoner by the British, conveyed to England,
where for thirty years he obtained a livelihood for himself and family,
by crying ‘_Old Chairs to Mend_’ through the Streets of London.--In
May last, by the assistance of the American Consul, he succeeded
(in the 79th year of his age) in obtaining a passage to his native
country, after an absence of 48 years. Providence: Printed by Henry
Trumbull--1824 (Price 28 cents).” The result was _Israel Potter_,
published in book form by G. P. Putnam in 1855, after having appeared
serially in _Putnam’s Monthly Magazine_. _Israel Potter_ is, in most
part, a spirited narrative containing, so Mr. Mather states, “the best
account of a sea fight in American fiction.” It was praised, too, by
Hawthorne for its delineations of Franklin and John Paul Jones, and
doubtless deserves a wider recognition than has ever been given it.
Interestingly enough, the book is dedicated to Bunker Hill Monument.

Between 1853 and 1856, Melville published twelve articles, inclusive
of _Israel Potter_, in _Putnam’s Magazine_ and in _Harper’s Monthly_.
Melville made from a selection from these his _Piazza Tales_ (1856),
published in New York by Dix and Edwards, in London by Sampson Low.
Of these, _The Bell Tower_, _Don Benito Cereno_ and _The Encantadas_
show the last glow of Melville’s literary glamour, the final momentary
brightening of the embers before they sank into blackness and ash.
There exists a letter from _Putnam’s Monthly_, dated May 12, 1854, and
signed by Charles T. Briggs--refusing a still unpublished story of
Melville’s out of fear of “offending the religious sensibilities of
the public and the Congregation of Grace Church.” This letter is less
important because of its exquisite sensitiveness, than because of its
mention of a letter from Lowell; a letter in which Lowell is reported
to have read _The Encantadas_. According to Briggs’ communication,
Lowell was so moved that “the figure of the cross on the ass’ neck
brought tears into his eyes, and he thought it the finest touch of
genius he had seen in prose.” Swinburne speaks of “the generous
pleasure of praising”: this pleasure Lowell indulged frequently, and
in his wholesome and whole-hearted way. Of Hawthorne, Lowell said:
“The rarest creative imagination of the century, the rarest in some
ideal respects since Shakespeare.” _The Confidence Man_ was published
in 1857: but it was a posthumous work. Thereafter, Melville was to try
his hand at poetry, and with results little meriting the total oblivion
into which his poetry has fallen; and in his old age he was again to
turn to prose: but before Melville was half through his mortal life his
signal literary achievement was done. The rest, if not silence, was



  “The round face of the grub-man peered upon me now. ‘His dinner is
  ready. Won’t he dine to-day, either? Or does he live without dining?’

  “‘Lives without dining,’ said I, and closed the eyes.

  “‘Eh! He’s asleep, ain’t he?’

  “‘With kings and counsellors,’ murmured I.”

  --HERMAN MELVILLE: _Bartleby the Scrivener_.

“The death of Herman Melville,” wrote Arthur Stedman, “came as a
surprise to the public at large, chiefly because it revealed the fact
that such a man had lived so long.” The New York _Times_ missed the
news of Melville’s death (on September 28, 1891) and published a few
days later an editorial beginning:

“There has died and been buried in this city, during the current week,
at an advanced age, a man who is so little known, even by name, to the
generation now in the vigour of life, that only one newspaper contained
an obituary account of him, and this was of but three or four lines.”

In 1885, Robert Buchanan published in the London _Academy_ a pasquinade
containing the following lines:

  “... Melville, sea-compelling man,
  Before whose wand Leviathan
  Rose hoary white upon the Deep,
  With awful sounds that stirred its sleep;
  Melville, whose magic drew Typee,
  Radiant as Venus, from the sea,
  Sits all forgotten or ignored,
  While haberdashers are adored!
  He, ignorant of the draper’s trade,
    Indifferent to the art of dress,
  Pictured the glorious South Sea maid
    Almost in mother nakedness--
  Without a hat, or boot, or stocking,
  A want of dress to most so shocking,
  With just one chemisette to dress her
  She _lives_--and still shall live, God bless her,
  Long as the sea rolls deep and blue,
    While Heaven repeats the thunder of it,
  Long as the White Whale ploughs it through,
  The shape my sea-magician drew
    Shall still endure, or I’m no prophet!”

In a footnote, Buchanan added:

“I sought everywhere for this Triton, who is still living somewhere in
New York. No one seemed to know anything of the one great writer fit to
stand shoulder to shoulder with Whitman on that continent.”

If this man, who had in mid-career been hailed at home and abroad as
one of the glories of our literature, died “forgotten and ignored,” it
was, after all, in accordance with his own desires. Adventurous life
and action was the stuff out of which his reputation had been made.
But in the middle of his life, he turned his back upon the world, and
in his recoil from life absorbed himself in metaphysics. He avoided
all unnecessary associations and absorbed in his own thoughts he lived
in sedulous isolation. He resisted all efforts to draw him out of
retirement--though such efforts were very few indeed. Arthur Stedman
tells us: “It is generally admitted that had Melville been willing to
join freely in the literary movements of New York, his name would have
remained before the public and a larger sale of his works would have
been insured. But more and more, as he grew older, he avoided every
action on his part and on the part of his family that might look in
this direction, even declining to assist in founding the Authors Club
in 1882.” With an aggressive indifference he looked back in _Clarel_ to

  “Adventures, such as duly shown
  Printed in books, seem passing strange
  To clerks which read them by the fire,
  Yet be the wonted common-place
  Of some who in the Orient range,
  Free-lances, spendthrifts of their hire,
  And who in end, when they retrace
  Their lives, see little to admire
  Or wonder at, so dull they be.”

When Titus Munson Coan was a student at Williams College, prompted by
a youthful curiosity to hunt out celebrities, he called upon Melville
at Arrowhead. In an undated letter to his mother he thus recounted
the experience: “I have made my first literary pilgrimage--a call
upon Herman Melville, the renowned author of _Typee_, &c. He lives in
a spacious farm-house about two miles from Pittsfield, a weary walk
through the dust. But it was well repaid. I introduced myself as a
Hawaiian-American and soon found myself in full tide of talk--or rather
of monologue. But he would not repeat the experiences of which I had
been reading with rapture in his books. In vain I sought to hear of
Typee and those Paradise islands, but he preferred to pour forth his
philosophy and his theories of life. The shade of Aristotle arose like
a cold mist between myself and Fayaway. We have quite enough of Greek
philosophy at Williams College, and I confess I was disappointed in
this trend of the talk. But what a talk it was! Melville is transformed
from a Marquesan to a gypsy student, the gypsy element still remaining
strong in him. And this contradiction gives him the air of one who has
suffered from opposition, both literary and social. With his liberal
views he is apparently considered by the good people of Pittsfield as
little better than a cannibal or a ‘beach-comber.’ His attitude seemed
to me something like that of an Ishmael; but perhaps I judged hastily.
I managed to draw him out very freely on everything but the Marquesas
Islands, and when I left him he was in full tide of discourse on all
things sacred and profane. But he seems to put away the objective side
of life and to shut himself up in this cold North as a cloistered

An article appearing in the New York _Times_, under the initials
O. G. H., a week after Melville’s death, said of him:

“He had shot his arrow and made his mark, and was satisfied. With
considerable knowledge of the world, he had preferred to see it from a
distance.... I asked the loan of some of his books which in early life
had given me pleasure and was surprised when he said that he didn’t own
a single copy of them.... I had before noticed that though eloquent in
discussing general literature he was dumb when the subject of his own
writings was broached.”

In her sketch of her husband’s life, Mrs. Melville says: “In February,
1855, he had his first attack of severe rheumatism--and in the
following June an attack of sciatica. Our neighbour in Pittsfield, Dr.
O. W. Holmes, attended and prescribed for him. A severe attack of what
he called crick in the back laid him up at his mother’s in Gansevoort
in March, 1858--and he never regained his former vigour and strength.”
In 1863, so runs the account of J. E. A. Smith, while Melville was in
process of moving from Arrowhead, “he had occasion for some household
articles he left behind, and, with a friend, started in a rude wagon to
procure them. He was driving at a moderate pace over a perfectly smooth
and level road, when a sudden start of the horse threw both occupants
from the wagon; probably on account of an imperfectly secured seat.
Mr. Melville fell with his back in a hollow of the frozen road, and
was very severely injured. Being conveyed to his home by Col. George
S. Willis, near whose farm on Williams Street the accident happened,
he suffered painfully for many weeks. This prolonged agony and the
confinement and interruption of work which it entailed, affected him
strangely. He had been before on mountain excursions a driver daring
almost to the point of recklessness.... After this accident he not
only abandoned the rides of which he had been so fond, but for a time
shrank from entering a carriage. It was long before the shock which
his system had received was overcome; and it is doubtful whether
it ever was completely.” Ill health certainly contributed more to
Melville’s retirement from letters than any of his critics--Mr. Mather
excepted--have ever even remotely suggested.

[Illustration: HERMAN MELVILLE IN 1868]

During the last half of his life, Melville twice journeyed far from
home. In her journal Mrs. Melville says: “In October, 1856, his health
being impaired by too close application, he again sailed for London.
He went up the Mediterranean to Constantinople and the Holy Land. For
much of his observation and reflection in that interesting quarter
see his poem of _Clarel_. Sailed for home on the steamer _City of
Manchester_ May 6, 1857. In May, 1860, he made a voyage to San
Francisco, sailing from Boston on the 30th of May with his brother
Thomas Melville who commanded the _Meteor_, a fast sailing clipper
in the China trade--and returning in November, he being the only
passenger. He reached San Francisco Oct. 12th--returned in the _Carter_
Oct. 20 to Panama--crossed the Isthmus & sailed for New York on the
_North Star_. This voyage to San Francisco has been incorrectly given
in many of the papers of the day.”

Of this trip to the Holy Land there survive, beside _Clarel_ and
Hawthorne’s accounts of the meeting _en route_, a long and closely
written journal that Melville kept during the trip, and twenty-one
shorter poems printed in _Timoleon_ under the caption “Fruit of Travel
Long Ago.” Typical of these shorter poems is


  (The Parthenon uplifted on its rock first challenging the view on the
  approach to Athens)

  Abrupt the supernatural Cross,
  Vivid in startled air,
  Smote the Emperor Constantine
  And turned his soul’s allegiance there

  With other power appealing down,
  Trophy of Adam’s best!
  If cynic minds you scarce convert
  You try them, shake them, or molest.

  Diogenes, that honest heart,
  Lived ere your date began:
  Thee had he seen, he might have swerved
  In mood nor barked so much at man.

The journal was surely never written with a view to publication. It
is a staccato jotting down of impressions, chiefly interesting (as is
Dr. Johnson’s French journal) as another evidence of Melville’s scope
of curiosity and keenness of observation. A typical entry is that for
Saturday, December 13,--Melville’s first day in Constantinople:

“Up early; went out; saw cemeteries where they dumped garbage. Sawing
wood over a tomb. Forest of cemeteries. Intricacies of the streets.
Started alone for Constantinople and after a terrible long walk found
myself back where I started. Just like getting lost in a wood. No plan
to streets. Pocket compass. Perfect labyrinth. Narrow. Close, shut
in. If one could but get _up_ aloft, it would be easy to see one’s
way out. If you could get up into a tree. Soar out of the maze. But
no. No names to the streets no more than to natural alleys among the
groves. No numbers, no anything. Breakfasted at 10 A. M. Took guide
($1.25 per day) and started for tour. Took Cargua for Seraglio. Holy
ground. Crossed some extensive grounds and gardens. Fine buildings of
the Saracenic style. Saw the Mosque of St. Sophia. Went in. Rascally
priests demanding ‘baksheesh.’ Fleeced me out of 1/2 dollar; following
me round, selling the fallen mosaics. Ascended a kind of hose way
leading up, round and round. Came into a gallery fifty feet above the
floor. Superb interior. Precious marbles. Prophyry & Verd antique.
Immense magnitude of the building. Names of the prophets in great
letters. Roman Catholic air to the whole. To the hippodrome, near which
stands the six towered mosque of Sultan Achmed; soaring up with its
snowy white spires into the pure blue sky. Like light-houses. Nothing
finer. In the hippodrome saw the obelisk with Roman inscription on the
base. Also a broken monument of bronze, representing three twisted
serpents erect upon their tails. Heads broken off. Also a square
monument of masoned blocks. Leaning over and frittered away,--like
an old chimney stack. A Greek inscription shows it to be of the time
of Theodoric. Sculpture about the base of the obelisk, representing
Constantine & wife and sons, &c. Then saw the ‘Burnt Column.’ Black and
grimy enough & hooped about with iron. Stands soaring up from among a
bundle of old wooden stakes. A more striking fire mount than that of
London. Then to the cistern of 1001 columns. You see a rounded knoll
covered with close herbage. Then a kind of broken cellar-way you go
down, and find yourself on a wooden, rickety platform, looking down
into a grove of marble pillars, fading away into the darkness. A
palatial sort of Tartarus. Two tiers of pillars, one standing on the
other; lower tier half buried. Here and there a little light percolates
through from breaks in the keys of the arches; where bits of green
struggle down. Used to be a reservoir. Now full of boys twisting silk.
Great hubbub. Flit about like imps. Whirr of the spinning Jenns. In
going down, (as into a ship’s hold) and wandering about, have to beware
the innumerable skeins of silk. Terrible place to be robbed or murdered
in. At whatever place you look, you see lines of pillars, like trees in
an orchard arranged in the quincunx style.--Came out. Overhead looks
like a mere shabby common, or worn out sheep pasture.--To the bazaar.
A wilderness of traffic. Furniture, arms, silks, confectionery, shoes,
saddles,--everything. (Cario) Covered overhead with stone arches,
with wide openings. Immense crowds. Georgians, Armenians, Greeks,
Jews & Turks are the merchants. Magnificent embroidered silk & gilt
sabres & caparisons for horses. You lose yourself & are bewildered and
confounded with the labyrinth, the din, the barbaric confusion of the
whole.--Went to Watch Tower within a kind of arsenal (Immense arsenal)
the tower of vast girth & height in the Saracenic style--a column. From
the top, my God, what a view! Surpassing everything. The Propontis, the
Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, the domes, the minarets, the bridges, the
men-of-war, the cypresses.--Indescribable. Went to the Pigeon Mosque.
In its court, the pigeons covered the pavement as thick as in the West
they fly in hosts. A man feeding them. Some perched upon the roof of
the colonnades & upon the fountain in the middle & on the cypresses.
Took off my shoes and went in. Pigeons inside, flying round in the
dome, in & out the lofty windows. Went to Mosque of Sultan Suleiman.
The third one in point of size and splendour. The Mosque is a sort of
marble mosque of which the minarets (four or six) are the stakes. In
fact when inside it struck me that the idea of this kind of edifice
was borrowed from the tent. Though it would make a noble ball room.
Off shoes and went in. This custom more sensible than taking off hat.
Muddy shoes; but never muddy head. Floor covered with mats & on them
beautiful rugs of great size & square. Fine light coming through the
side slits below the dome. Blind dome. Many Turks at prayer; lowering
head to the floor towards a kind of altar. Charity going on. In a
gallery saw lot of portmanteaux, chests & bags; as in a R. R. baggage
car. Put there for safe-keeping by men who leave home, or afraid of
robbers and taxation. ‘Lay not up your treasures where moth and rust do
corrupt’ &c. Fountains (a row of them) outside along the side of the
mosque for bathing the feet and hands of worshippers before going in.
Natural rock.--Instead of going in in stockings (as I did) the Turks
wear overshoes and doff them outside the mosque. The tent-like form
of the Mosque broken up & dumbfounded with infinite number of arches,
trellises, small domes, colonnades, &c, &c, &c. Went down to the
Golden Horn. Crossed bridge of pontoons. Stood in the middle and not a
cloud in the sky. Deep blue and clear. Delightful elastic atmosphere,
although December. A kind of English June cooled and tempered
sherbet-like with an American October; the serenity & beauty of summer
without the heat.--Came home through the vast suburbs of Galatea,
&c. Great crowds of all nations--money changers coins of all nations
circulate--placards in four or five languages: (Turkish, French, Greek,
Armenian) Lottery advertisements of boats the same. Sultan’s ship in
colours--no atmosphere like this for flags. You feel you are among the
nations. Great curse that of Babel; not being able to talk to a fellow
being, &c.--Have to tend to your pockets. My guide went with his hands
to his.--The horrible grimy tragic air of the Streets. (Ruffians of
Galatea) The rotten & wicked looking houses. So gloomy & grimy seem
as if a suicide hung from every rafter within.--No open spaces--no
squares or parks. You suffocate for room.--You pass close together.
The cafés of the Turks. Dingy holes, faded splendour, moth eaten. On
both sides rude seats and divans where the old musty Turks sit smoking
like conjurers. Saw in certain kiosks (pavilions) the crowns of the
late Sultan. You look through gilt gratings & between heavy curtains
of lace, at the sparkling things. Near the Mosque of Sultan Suleiman
saw the cemetery of his family--big as that of a small village, all his
wives and children and servants. All gilt and carved. The women’s tombs
carved with heads (women no souls). The Sultan Suleiman’s tomb & that
of his three brothers in a kiosk. Gilded like mantel ornaments.”

_Clarel_ was, in 1876, printed at Melville’s expense. More accurately,
its printing was made possible by his uncle, Hon. Peter Gansevoort,
who, as Melville says in the dedication, “in a personal interview
provided for the publication of this poem, known to him by report, as
existing in manuscript.”

Not the least impressive thing about _Clarel_ is its length: it extends
to 571 pages. Mr. Mather states: “Of those who have actually perused
the four books (of verse) and _Clarel_, I am presumably the only
survivor.” Mr. Mather is mistaken: there are two. But since, because of
the excessive length of _Clarel_ and the excessive scarcity of _John
Marr_ and _Timoleon_ (both privately printed in an edition of only
twenty-five copies) it would be over-optimistic to presume that there
will soon be a third, some account must be given of Melville’s poetry.

Stevenson once said: “There are but two writers who have touched the
South Seas with any genius, both Americans: Melville and Charles
Warren Stoddard; and at the christening of the first and greatest,
some influential fairy must have been neglected; ‘He shall be able to
see’; ‘He shall be able to tell’; ‘He shall be able to charm,’ said
the friendly godmothers; ‘But he shall not be able to hear!’ exclaimed
the last.” When Stevenson wrote his passage, the artist in him seems
for the moment to have slept; taking no account of Melville’s frequent
mastery of the magic of words, he berates Melville’s genius for
misspelling Polynesian names as a defect of genius. That Melville had
an ear sensitive to the cadences of prose is shown by the facility with
which he on occasion caught the rhythm both of the Psalms and of Sir
Thomas Browne. Yet the same man who at his best is equalled only by Poe
in the subtle melody of his prose, at times fell into ranting passages
of obvious and intolerable parody of blank verse. The following from
_Mardi_ is an example: “From dawn till eve, the bright, bright days
sped on, chased by the gloomy nights; and, in glory dying, lent their
lustre to the starry skies. So, long the radiant dolphins fly before
the sable sharks; but seized, and torn in flames--die, burning:--their
last splendour left, in sparkling scales that float along the sea.”
In his poetry, as in his prose, is the same incongruous mating of
astonishing facility and flagrant defect. It is the same paradox that
one finds in Browning and in Meredith,--whose poetry Melville’s more
than superficially resembles. Melville shared with these men a greater
interest in ideas than in verbal prettiness, and like the best of them,
when mastered by a refractory idea, he was not over-exquisite in his
regard for prosody and syntax in getting it said. When he had a mind
to, however, he could pound with a lustiness that should endear him to
those who delight in declamation contests: a contemptible distinction,
perhaps--but even that has been denied him. The poem to the Swamp
Angel, for example, the great gun that reduced Charleston, is fine in
its irony and vigour. The poem begins:

  There is a coal-black Angel
    With a thick Afric lip
  And he dwells (like the hunted and harried)
    In a swamp where the green frogs dip
  But his face is against a City
    Which is over a bay by the sea,
  And he breathes with a breath that is blastment
    And dooms by a far degree.

Though there are memorable lines and stanzas in _Battle-Pieces_, only
one of the poems in the volume has ever been at all noticed: _Sheridan
at Cedar Creek_, beginning:

  Shoe the steed with silver
    That bore him to the fray,
  When he heard the guns at dawning
    Miles away;
  When he heard them calling, calling--
    Mount! nor stay.

The following letter to his brother Tom bears upon Melville’s

      “PITTSFIELD, May 25th, 1862.

  “MY DEAR BOY: (or, if that appears disrespectful)

  “Yesterday I received from Gansevoort your long and very entertaining
  letter to Mamma from Pernambuco. Yes, it was very entertaining.
  Particularly the account of that interesting young gentleman whom you
  so uncivilly stigmatise for a jackass, simply because he improves
  his opportunities in the way of sleeping, eating & other commendable
  customs. That’s the sort of fellow, seems to me, to get along with.
  For my part I love sleepy fellows, and the more ignorant the better.
  Damn your wide-awake and knowing chaps. As for sleepiness, it is one
  of the noblest qualities of humanity. There is something sociable
  about it, too. Think of those sensible & sociable millions of good
  fellows all taking a good long friendly snooze together, under the
  sod--no quarrels, no imaginary grievances, no envies, heartburnings,
  & thinking how much better that other chap is off--none of this:
  but all equally free-&-easy, they sleep away & reel off their nine
  knots an hour, in perfect amity. If you see your sleepy ignorant
  jackass-friend again, give him my compliments, and say that however
  others may think of him, I honour and esteem him.--As for your
  treatment of the young man, there I entirely commend you. You
  remember what the Bible says:--

  “Oh ye who teach the children of the nations,
  Holland, France, England, Germany or Spain,
  I pray ye _strap_ them upon all occasions,
  It mends their morals--never mind the pain.”

  “In another place the Bible says, you know, something about sparing
  the strap & spoiling the child.--Since I have quoted poetry above,
  it puts me in mind of my own doggerel. You will be pleased to learn
  that I have disposed of a lot of it at a great bargain. In fact, a
  trunk-maker took the whole lot off my hands at ten cents the pound.
  So, when you buy a new trunk again, just peep at the lining & perhaps
  you may be rewarded by some glorious stanza staring you in the
  face & claiming admiration. If you were not such a devil of a ways
  off, I would send you a trunk, by way of presentation-copy. I can’t
  help thinking what a luckless chap you were that voyage you had a
  poetaster with you. You remember the romantic moonlight night, when
  the conceited donkey repeated to you about three cables’ length of
  his verses. But you bore it like a hero. I can’t in fact recall so
  much as a single _wince_. To be sure, you went to bed immediately
  upon the conclusion of the entertainment; but this much I am sure of,
  whatever were your sufferings, you never gave them utterance. Tom, my
  boy, I admire you. I say again, you are a hero.--By the way, I hope
  in God’s name, that rumour which reached your owners (C. & P.) a few
  weeks since--that dreadful rumour is not true. They heard that you
  had begun to take to--drink?--Oh no, but worse--to sonnet-writing.
  That off Cape Horn instead of being on deck about your business, you
  devoted your time to writing a sonnet on your mistress’ eyebrow, &
  another upon her thumbnail.--‘I’ll be damned,’ says Curtis (he was
  very profane) ‘if I’ll have a sonneteer among my Captains.’--‘Well,
  if he has taken to poetising,’ says Peabody--‘God help the ship!’

       *       *       *       *       *

  And now, my boy, if you knew how much laziness I overcame in writing
  you this letter, you would think me, what I am

  “Always your affectionate brother,


Melville’s family seem all to have been more sceptical of his verse
than they were of his prose. In 1859 Mrs. Melville wrote to her mother
“Herman has taken to writing poetry. You need not tell any one, for you
know how such things get around.” Mrs. Melville was too optimistic:
her husband’s indiscreet practice is still pretty much a secret to the
world at large. And _Clarel_, his longest and most important poem, is
practically impossible to come by.

In 1884, Melville said of _Clarel_ in a letter to Mr. James Billson: “a
metrical affair, a pilgrimage or what not, of several thousand lines,
eminently adapted for unpopularity.” Though this is completely true,
Melville used in _Clarel_ more irony, vividness, and intellect than
the whole congregation of practising poets of the present day (a few
notable names excepted) could muster in aggregate. Yet with all this
wealth of the stuff of poetry, the poem never quite fulfils itself. In
_Clarel_ Melville brings together in the Holy Land a group of pilgrims;
pilgrims nearly all drawn from the life, as a study of his Journal of
1856-7 shows. In this group there are men devout and men sceptical,
some suave in orthodoxy, and some militant in doubt. There are dreamers
and men of action; unprincipled saints, and rakes without vice. In
the bleak and legend-haunted Holy Land Melville places these men, and
dramatises his own reactions to life in this setting. The problem of
faith is the pivot of endless discussion: and upon this pivot is made
to turn all of the problems of destiny that engage a “pondering man.”
These discussions take place against a panorama of desert and monastery
and shrine. In some of the interpolated songs of _Clarel_, Melville
almost achieved the lyric mood.

  My shroud is saintly linen,
    In lavender ’tis laid;
  I have chosen a bed by the marigold
    And supplied me a silver spade.

And there are, too, incidental legends and saints’ tales:

  Those legends which, be it confessed
  Did nearer bring to them the sky--
  Did nearer woo it in their hope
  Of all that seers and saints avow--
  Than Galileo’s telescope
  Can bid it unto prosing science now.

_Clarel_ is by all odds the most important record we have of what was
the temper of Melville’s deeper thoughts during his long metaphysical
period. Typical quotations have already been made.

The most recurrent note of the poem is a parched desire for
companionship; a craving for

  A brother that he well might own
  In tie of friendship.

            Could _I_ but meet
  Some stranger of a lore replete,
  Who, marking how my looks betray
  The dumb thoughts clogging here my feet
  Would question me, expound and prove,
  And make my heart to burn with love.

         *       *       *       *       *

                Doubt’s heavy hand
  Is set against us; and his brand
  Still warreth for his natural lord
  King Common-place.

         *       *       *       *       *

  Art thou the first soul tried by doubt?
  Shall prove the last? Go, live it out.
  But for thy fonder dream of love
  In man towards man--the soul’s caress--
  The negatives of flesh should prove
  Analogies of non-cordialness
  In spirit.

         *       *       *       *       *

                Why then
  Remaineth to me what? the pen?
  Dead feather of ethereal life!
  Nor efficacious much, save when
  It makes some fallacy more rife.
  My kin--I blame them not at heart--
  Would have me act some routine part.
  Subserving family, and dreams
  Alien to me--illusive schemes.
    This world clean fails me: still I yearn.
  Me then it surely does concern
  Some other world to find. But where?
  In creed? I do not find it there.

         *       *       *       *       *

  This side the dark and hollow bound
  Lies there no unexplored rich ground?
  _Some other world_: well, there’s the New--
  Ah, joyless and ironic too!

         *       *       *       *       *

                  Ay, Democracy
  Lops, lops; but where’s her planted bed?
  The future, what is that to her
  Who vaunts she’s no inheritor?
  ’Tis in her mouth, not in her heart.
  The past she spurns, though ’tis the past
  From which she gets her saving part--
  That Good which lets her evil last.

  Behold her whom the panders crown,
  Harlot on horseback, riding down
  The very Ephesians who acclaim
  This great Diana of ill fame!
  Arch strumpet of an impious age,
  Upstart from ranker villainage:
  Asia shall stop her at the least
  That old inertness of the East.

         *       *       *       *       *

  But in the New World things make haste:
  Not only men, the _state_ lives fast--
  Fast breed the pregnant eggs and shells,
  The slumberous combustibles
  Sure to explode. ’Twill come, ’twill come!
  One demagogue can trouble much:
  How of a hundred thousand such?

         *       *       *       *       *

  Indeed, those germs one now may view:
  Myriads playing pygmy parts--
  Debased into equality:
  Dead level of rank commonplace:
  An Anglo-Saxon China, see,
  May on your vast plains shame the race
  In the Dark Ages of Democracy.

         *       *       *       *       *

  Your arts advance in faith’s decay:
  You are but drilling the new Hun
  Whose growl even now can some dismay;
  Vindictive is his heart of hearts.
  He schools him in your mines and marts
  A skilled destroyer.

         *       *       *       *       *

                  Old ballads sing
  Fair Christian children crucified
  By impious Jews: you’ve heard the thing:
  Yes, fable; but there’s truth hard by:
  How many Hughs of Lincoln, say,
  Does Mammon, in his mills, to-day,
  Crook, if he does not crucify?

  The impieties of “Progress” speak;
  What say _these_, in effect to God?
  “How profits it? And who art Thou
  That we should serve Thee? Of Thy ways
  No knowledge we desire; _new_ ways
  We have found out, and better. Go--
  Depart from us!”--And if He do?
  Is aught betwixt us and the hells?

         *       *       *       *       *

  Against all this stands Rome’s array:
  Rome is the Protestant to-day.
  The Red Republic slinging flame
  In Europe--she’s your Scarlet Dame.
  Rome stands: but who may tell the end?
  Relapse barbaric may impend,
  Dismission into ages blind--
  Moral dispersion of mankind.
  If Luther’s day expand to Darwin’s year,
  Shall that exclude the hope--foreclose the fear?

         *       *       *       *       *

  Yea, ape and angel, strife and old debate,
  The harps of heaven and dreary gongs of hell;
  Science the feud can only aggravate--
  No umpire she betwixt the chimes and knell,
  The running battle of the star and clod
  Shall run forever--if there is no God.

         *       *       *       *       *

  Then keep thy heart, though yet but ill resigned--
  Clarel, thy heart, the issues there but mind;
  That like the crocus budding through the snow--
  That like a swimmer rising from the deep
  That like a burning secret which doth go
  Even from the bosom that would hoard and keep;
  Emerge thou mayst from the last wheeling sea
  And prove that death but routs life into victory.

Though _Clarel_ is unconscionably long, and though there are arid
wastes strewn throughout its length, a patient reading is rewarded by
passages of beauty, and more frequently by passages of astonishing
vigour and daring. And it speaks more for the orthodoxy of America than
for her intellect, that _Clarel_--which reposes in the outer limbo of
oblivion--is about all she has to show, as Mr. Mather has observed, for
the poetical stirrings of the deeper theological waters which marked
the age of Matthew Arnold, Clough, Tennyson, and Browning. We should
blush for our neglect of a not unworthy representative.

Besides _Battle-Pieces_ and _Clarel_, Melville printed for private
circulation two slender volumes: _John Marr and Other Sailors_ (1888)
and _Timoleon_ (1891): selections from a larger body of poetry, the
remainder of which is still preserved in manuscript. In these, the
inspiration flags throughout. Two of the better poems have already been
quoted. _John Marr_ was dedicated to W. Clark Russell, _Timoleon_ to
Elihu Vedder.

In 1886, according to Arthur Stedman, Melville “felt impelled to write
Mr. Russell in regard to one of his newly published novels.” This
was the beginning of a correspondence between Russell and Melville.
Melville’s letters are not available. Russell’s reply to Melville’s
first letter follows:

      “July 21, 1886.


  “Your letter has given me a very great and singular pleasure. Your
  delightful books carry the imagination into a maritime period so
  remote that, often as you have been in my mind, I could never satisfy
  myself that you were still amongst the living. I am glad, indeed, to
  learn from Mr. Toft that you are still hale and hearty, and I do most
  heartily wish you many years yet of health and vigour.

  “Your books I have in the American edition. I have _Typee_, _Omoo_,
  _Redburn_, and that noble piece, _Moby-Dick_. These are all I have
  been able to obtain. There have been many editions of your works
  in this country, particularly the lovely South Sea sketches; but
  the editions are not equal to those of the American publishers.
  Your reputation here is very great. It is hard to meet a man whose
  opinion as a reader is worth having who does not speak of your
  works in such terms as he might hesitate to employ, with all his
  patriotism, towards many renowned English writers.

  “Dana is, indeed, great. There is nothing in literature more
  remarkable than the impression produced by Dana’s portraiture of the
  homely inner life of a little brig’s forecastle.

  “I beg that you will accept my thanks for the kindly spirit in which
  you have read my books. I wish it were in my power to cross the
  Atlantic, for you assuredly would be the first whom it would be my
  happiness to visit.... The condition of my right hand obliges me to
  dictate this to my son; but painful as it is to me to hold a pen I
  cannot suffer this letter to reach the hands of a man of so admirable
  genius as Herman Melville without begging him to believe me to be,
  with my own hand, his most respectful and hearty admirer,


Elihu Vedder and Melville never met or corresponded. The acknowledgment
of the dedication came only after Melville’s death. “I may not have
been very successful in a worldly way,” he said, “but the knowledge
that my art has gained me so many friends--even if unknown to me--makes
ample amends.”

Schopenhauer was enabled to preserve his disillusions because he also
preserved his income. If a man is blessed with a comfortable fortune,
then it is easy for him to lead a tranquil and unpretentious existence,
sheltered from all intruders. But for an unsuccessful writer with a
wife, four children, and no income, to throw down the pen and retire
from the world (except for a season in California and another in the
Holy Land); the secret of such a feat should be popularised. The secret
transpires in the following letter to Melville from his father-in-law,
Justice Shaw.

      “BOSTON, 15 May, 1860.


  “I am very glad to learn from your letter that you intend to accept
  Thomas’ invitation to go on his next voyage. I think it affords
  a fair prospect of being a permanent benefit to your health, and
  it will afford me the greatest pleasure to do anything in my power
  to aid your preparation, and make the voyage most agreeable and
  beneficial to you.

  “The prospect of your early departure renders it proper and necessary
  to bring to a definite conclusion the subject we have had a
  considerable time under consideration, a settlement of the matter of
  the Pittsfield estate, with a view to which you handed me your deeds,
  when I was in Pittsfield last autumn.

  “You will recollect that when you proposed to purchase a house in
  N. York I advanced to you $2000. and afterwards, when you purchased
  the Brewster place, I again advanced you $3000. For these sums, as
  well as for another loan of $500. afterwards, I took your notes.
  This I did, not because I had then any fixed determination to treat
  the advances as debts, to be certainly repaid, but I was in doubt at
  the time in reference to other claims upon me, and how my affairs
  would be ultimately arranged, what I should be able to do by way of
  provision for my daughter, and I put these advances upon the footing
  of loans until some future adjustment.

  “I always supposed that you considered the two first of the
  above-named advances as having substantially gone into the purchase
  of the Brewster farm, and that I had some equitable claim upon it
  as security. I presume it was upon that ground that you once sent
  me a mortgage of the estate prepared by your brother Allan. I never
  put that mortgage on record nor made any use of it; and if the
  conveyances are made, which I now propose, that mortgage will become
  superseded and utterly nugatory.

  “What I now propose is to give up to you the above mentioned notes
  in full consideration of your conveyance to me of your present
  homestead, being all the Brewster purchase except what you sold to
  Mr. Willis. This being done and the estate vested in me, I propose
  to execute a deed conveying the same in fee to Elizabeth. This will
  vest the fee as an estate of inheritance in her, subject of course
  to your rights as her husband during your life. If you wish to know
  more particularly what will be the legal effect and operation of
  these conveyances Mr. Colt will explain it to you fully. I have
  written to him and enclosed him a draft of a deed for you to execute
  to me and my deed executed to be delivered to you and your notes to
  be surrendered. I have explained the whole matter to Mr. Colt and I
  have full confidence in his prudence and fidelity. I do not see any
  advantage in giving the business any more notoriety than will arise
  from putting the deeds on record.

  “Elizabeth now writes me that you wish the note for $600., given by
  the town and coming from the sale of the Brewster place, that part of
  it not sold to Mr. Willis, so placed that it may be applied as you
  have heretofore, in your own mind, appropriated it, for building a
  new barn.

  “I propose to treat this as I did the estate itself: first purchase
  it of you for a full consideration and then apply it to Elizabeth’s
  use. In looking for a consideration for this purchase there is the
  interest of the above notes not computed in the consideration for the
  deed and now amounting to several thousand dollars.

  “But there is another consideration, respecting which I have never
  had any direct communication, I believe, but I can see no reason why
  it should not be now clearly understood. When you went to Europe in
  the fall of 1856 I advanced the money necessary for your outfit and
  the expenses of your tour. This was done through your brother Allan
  and amounted to about fourteen or fifteen hundred dollars. In my own
  mind, though I took no note or obligation for it, I treated it like
  the other advances, to be regarded as advance by way of loan or a
  gift according to some future arrangement. I propose now to consider
  that sum as a set off against the note of $600. and, as to all
  beyond that, to consider it cancelled and discharged. This will make
  the note mine. At the same time I propose to appropriate it to its
  original use, to build a barn, in which case it will go to increase
  the value of the estate already Elizabeth’s, or should anything occur
  to prevent such use of the money I shall appropriate it in some other
  way to her use. The effect of this arrangement will be to cancel and
  discharge all debt and pecuniary obligation of every description
  from you to myself. You will then leave home with the conscious
  satisfaction of knowing that you are free from debt: that if by a
  Providential dispensation you should be prevented from ever returning
  to your beloved family, provision will have been made at least for a
  home, for your wife and children.

  “Affectionately and ever faithfully

  “Your sincere friend

      “LEMUEL SHAW.”

[Illustration: MELVILLE AS ARTIST]


After his return from the Holy Land, Melville tried to eke out the
small income from his books and his farm by lecturing. J. E. A. Smith
says: “Between 1857 and 1861, a rage for lyceum lectures prevailed all
over the northern and western states. In Pittsfield the Burbank hall,
now Mead’s carriage repository, was filled at least once every week to
its full capacity of over a thousand seats, with eager and intelligent
listeners to the most brilliant orators in the country. Some of the
most noted authors, as well as orators, were induced to mount the
platform partly by the liberal pay which they received directly--and
also for the increased sale which it gave their books. Among these
was Herman Melville, who lectured in Burbank hall, and in Boston,
New York, Philadelphia, Montreal, St. Louis, San Francisco as well
as intermediate cities and towns. He did not take very kindly to the
lecture platform, but had large and well pleased audiences.”

If his audiences were composed of people of the jaunty and shallow
provincialism of J. E. A. Smith--and J. E. A. Smith is a very fair
product of his country and his time--Melville’s distaste for their
prim, bland receptivity does not pass understanding. The place and
date of Melville’s lectures, together with the “liberal pay directly
received” follows.


  November 24  Concord, Mass.        $30.00
  December  2  Boston, Mass.          40.00
     „     10  Montreal               50.00
     „     30  New Haven, Conn.       50.00
  January   5  Auburn, N. Y.          40.00
     „      7  Ithaca, N. Y.          50.00
     „     10  Cleveland, Ohio        50.00
     „     22  Clarksville            75.00
               Chillicothe, Ohio      40.00
    n. d.      Cincinnati, Ohio       50.00
  Feb.     10  Charleston, Mass.      20.00
   „       23  Rochester, N. Y.       50.00
    n. d.      New Bedford, Mass.     50.00

              Travelling expenses    221.30


  Dec.  6, 1858    Yonkers, N. Y.         $30.00
   „   14,  „      Pittsfield, Mass.       50.00
  Jan. 31, 1859    Boston, Mass.           50.00
  Feb.  7,  „      New York, N. Y.         55.00
   „    8,  „      Baltimore, Md.         100.00
   „   24,  „      Chicago, Ill.           50.00
   „   25,  „      Milwaukee, Wisc.        50.00
   „   28,  „      Rockford, Ill.          50.00
  Mar.  2,  „      Quincy, Ill.            23.50
   „   16,  „      Lynn, Mass. (2 lec)     60.00


  November  7,    Flushing, L. I.         $30.
  February 14,    Danvers, Mass.           25.
     „     21,    Cambridgeport, Mass.     55.

For these lyceum gatherings, Melville prepared two lectures: one on the
_South Seas_, one on _Statuary in Rome_.

On December 2, 1857, in competition with another Melville, a bareback
rider, who at the circus at Bingo “nightly performed before the élite
and respectability of the city,” Melville lectured on _Statuary
in Rome_. On December 3, 1857, the Boston _Journal_ thus reported
Melville’s lecture:

  “A large audience assembled last evening to listen to the author
  of _Omoo_ and _Typee_. He began by asserting that in the realm of
  art there was no exclusiveness. Dilettanti might accumulate their
  technical terms, but that did not interfere with the substantial
  enjoyment of those who did not understand them. As the beauties of
  nature could be appreciated without a knowledge of botany, so art
  could be enjoyed without the artist’s skill. With this principle in
  view, he, claiming to be neither critic nor artist, would make some
  plain remarks on the statuary of Rome.

  “As you approach the city from Naples, you are first struck by
  the statues of the Church St. John Lateran. Here you have the
  sculptured biographies of ancient celebrities. The speaker then
  vividly described the statues of Demosthenes, Titus Vespasian,
  Socrates, looking like an Irish comedian. Julius Cæsar, so sensible
  and business-like of aspect that it might be taken for the bust of a
  railroad president; Seneca, with the visage of a pawn broker; Nero,
  the fast young man; Plato, with the locks and air of an exquisite,
  as if meditating on the destinies of the world under the hand of a
  hair-dresser. Thus these statues confessed, and, as it were, prattled
  to us of much that does not appear in history and the written works
  of those they represent. They seem familiar and natural to us--and
  yet there is about them all a heroic tone peculiar to ancient life.
  It is to be hoped that this is not wholly lost from the world,
  although the sense of earthly vanity inculcated by Christianity may
  have swallowed it up in humility.

  “The lecturer next turned to the celebrated Apollo Belvedere. This
  stands alone by itself, and the impression made upon all beholders is
  such as to subdue the feelings with wonder and awe. The speaker gave
  a very eloquent description of the attitude and the spirit of Apollo.
  The elevating effect of such statues was exhibited in the influence
  they exerted upon the mind of Milton during his visit to Italy.

  “Among the most wonderful works of statuary is that of Lucifer and
  his associates cast down from heaven. This is in Padua, and contains
  three-score figures cut out of solid rock. The variety and power of
  the group cannot be surpassed. The Venus de Medici, as compared with
  the Apollo, was lovely and not divine. Mr. Melville said he once
  surprised a native maiden in the precise attitude of the Venus. He
  then passed to a rapid review of the Laocoon and other celebrated
  sculptures, to show the human feeling and genius of the ancient
  artists. None but a gentle heart could have conceived the idea of the
  Dying Gladiator. The sculptured monuments of the early Christians,
  in the vaults of the Vatican, show the joyous triumph of the new
  religion--quite unlike the sombre momentoes of modern times.

  “The lecturer then eloquently sketched the exterior of the Vatican.
  But nearly the whole of Rome was a Vatican--everywhere were fallen
  columns and sculptured fragments. Most of these, it is true, were
  works of Greek artists. And yet the grand spirit of Roman life
  inspired them. Passing from these ancient sculptures, tribute was
  paid to the colossal works of Benvenuto Cellini and Michael Angelo.
  He regretted that the time would not allow him to speak of the
  scenery and surroundings of the Roman sculptures--the old Coliseum,
  the gardens, the Forum, and the villas in the environs. He sketched
  some of the most memorable of the latter, and the best works they

  “He concluded by summing up the obvious teachings of these deathless
  marbles. The lecture was quite interesting to those of artistic
  tastes, but we fancy the larger part of the audience would have
  preferred something more modern and personal.”

The report of Melville’s other lecture is quoted from the Boston
_Journal_, January 31, 1859.

  “At the Tremont Temple last evening, Herman Melville, Esq., the
  celebrated author and adventurer, delivered the ninth lecture of the
  course under the auspices of the Mechanic Apprentices’ Association.
  Subject--‘The South Seas.’ The audience was not large, but about
  equal to the usual attendance at this and the Mercantile course.

  “On being introduced to the audience, Mr. Melville said that the
  field of his subject was large, and he should not be expected to go
  over it all: nor should he be expected to read again what had long
  been in print, touching his own incidental adventures in Polynesia.
  But he proposed to view the subject in a general manner, in a random
  way, with here and there an incident by way of illustration.

  “He first referred to the title of the lecture, and the origin
  and date of the name ‘South Seas’ which was older than the name
  ‘Pacific,’ to which preference is usually given now. The voyages of
  early navigators into the South Seas, and especially the Balboa,
  commander of the petty port of Darien, from whence he had taken
  formal possession of all the South Seas, and all lands and kingdoms
  therein, in behalf of his masters, the King of Castile and Leon, were
  noticed by the lecturer.

  “Magellan was the man who, after the first hazardous and tortuous
  passage through the straits which now bear his name, gave the
  peaceful ocean to which he came out the name of ‘Pacific.’ It was
  California, said the lecturer, which first made the Pacific shores
  the home of the Anglo-Saxons. Even now, there were many places in
  this wide waste of waters which were not found upon the charts.
  But what was known, and well known, afforded an abundant theme for
  a lecture. The fish found in that water would furnish an abundant
  subject, of which he named the sword fish, a different fish from
  that of the same name found in our northern latitudes--and the devil
  fish, over which a mystery hangs, like that over the sea-serpent in
  northern waters. The birds, also, in those latitudes, might occupy a
  full hour. The lecturer said he wondered that the renowned Agassiz
  did not pack his carpet bag and betake himself to Nantucket, and from
  thence to the South Seas, than which he could find no richer field.

  “Full of interest also were the fisheries of the South Seas and the
  life of the whaling crews on the broad waters, or visiting lands.
  Seldom, if ever, touched by any but themselves, was covered over with
  a charm of novelty. Again the islands were an interesting study. Why,
  asked the lecturer, do northern Englishmen, who own large yachts,
  with which they sail up the Mediterranean, why don’t they go yachting
  in the South Seas? The white race have a very bad reputation among
  the Polynesians. With few exceptions they were considered the most
  bloodthirsty, atrocious and diabolical race in the world. But there
  were no dangers to voyagers if they treated the natives with common

  “In the Pacific there were yet unknown and unvisited isles. There
  were many places where a man might make himself a sylvan retreat and
  for years, at least, live as much removed from Christendom as if in
  another world.

  “The lecturer described an interview he had with a poetical young
  man who called upon him to get his opinion upon what would be the
  prospects of a number, say four score, of disciples of Fourier to
  settle in the valley of Typee. He had not encouraged the scheme,
  having too much regard for his old friends, the Polynesians. The
  Mormons had also such a scheme in view--to discover a large island
  in the Pacific, upon which they could increase and multiply. The
  Polynesians themselves have ideas of the same nature. Every one
  has heard of the voyage of Ponce de Leon to find the fountain of
  perpetual youth. Equally poetical, and more unfamiliar, was the
  adventure of Cama Pecar, who set sail alone from Hawaii to find the
  fount of eternal joy, which was supposed to spring up in some distant
  island where the people lived in perpetual joy and youth. Like all
  who go to Paradise, he was never heard from again. A tranquil scene
  from the South Seas was remembered by the lecturer. In a ship from a
  port of the Pacific coast he had sailed five months, and came upon
  an island where the natives lived in a state of total laziness.
  Here they found a white man who was a permanent inhabitant, and
  comfortably settled with three wives, who, however, failed to keep
  his wardrobe in good order.

  “Wonderful tales were told of the adventures in the South Seas, and
  the lecturer said that he believed that the books _Typee_ and _Omoo_
  gave scarcely a full idea of them, except that part which tells of
  the long captivity in the valley of Typee. He had seen many of these
  story tellers of adventures in the South Seas with good vouchers
  of their tales in the shape of tattooing. A full and interesting
  description of the process of tattooing with its various styles was
  given. Tattooing was sometimes, like dress, an index of character,
  and worn as an ornament which would never wear off and could not be
  pawned, lost or stolen. The lecturer had successfully combated all
  attempts to naturalise him by marks as from a gridiron, on his face,
  for which he thanked God.

  “A brief notice was made of the islands of the Pacific, where the
  Anglo-Saxons had settled, and civilised the people, and the lecturer
  had been disgusted, and threw down a paper published in the Sandwich
  Islands, which suggested the propriety of not having the native
  language taught in the common schools.

  “In conclusion, the lecturer spoke of the desire of the natives of
  Georges Island to be annexed to the United States. He was sorry to
  see it, and, as a friend of humanity, and especially as a friend of
  the South Sea Islanders, he should pray, and call upon all Christians
  to pray with him, that the Polynesians might be delivered from all
  foreign and contaminating influences.

       *       *       *       *       *

  “The lecture gave the most ample satisfaction, and was frequently

Melville cut short his third year of lecturing to make the trip
to California with his brother. Upon his return, he again made an
unsuccessful attempt to be appointed to a consularship. Such a mission
took him to Washington in 1861. This trip was chiefly notable because
of the meeting of Melville and Lincoln. Melville recounted the
experience in a letter to his wife: “The night previous to this I was
at the second levee at the White House. There was a great crowd and a
brilliant scene--ladies in full dress by the hundreds--a steady stream
of two-and-two’s wound through the apartments shaking hands with Old
Abe and immediately passing on. This continued without cessation for an
hour and a half. Of course I was one of the shakers. Old Abe is much
better looking than I expected and younger looking. He shook hands like
a good fellow--working hard at it like a man sawing wood at so much per

Melville struggled on for two more years at Pittsfield, and in October,
1863, moved with his family to 104 East 26th Street, New York, where he
spent the remaining years of his life. His house in New York he bought
from his brother Allan, giving $7,750 (covered by mortgages and in time
paid for by legacies of his wife) and the Arrowhead place, valued at

The last years in Pittsfield and the early years in New York were, in
financial hardship, perhaps the darkest in Melville’s life. He was in
ill health, and except for the pittance from his books he was without
income. His lectures were a desperate if not lucrative measure. But for
the generosity of his wife’s father, he would have been in destitution.

On December 5, 1866, he was appointed Inspector of Customs in New
York--a post he held until January 1, 1886. He was sixty-seven years
old when he resigned. His wife had come into an inheritance that
allowed him an ultimate serenity in his closing years.


  Malcolm, Frances, Elizabeth, Stanwix
  (From left to right)

R. H. Stoddard, in his _Recollections_, thus speaks of Melville:

  “My good friend Benedict sent me, one gloomy November forenoon,
  this curt announcement of a new appointment in Herman Melville: ‘He
  seems a good fellow, Dick, and says he knows you, though perhaps he
  doesn’t, but anyhow be kind to him if this infernal weather will
  let you be so to anybody.’ I bowed to the gentleman who handed the
  note to me, in whom I recognised a famous writer whom I had met some
  twenty-five years before; no American writer was more widely known in
  the late forties and early fifties in his own country and in England
  than Melville, who in his earlier books, _Typee_, _Omoo_, _Mardi_,
  and _White Jacket_, had made himself the prose poet of the strange
  islands and peoples of the South Seas.

  “Whether any of Melville’s readers understood the real drift of his
  mind, or whether he understood it himself, has often puzzled me.
  Next to Emerson he was the American mystic. He was more than that,
  however, he was one of our great unrecognised poets, as he manifested
  in his version of ‘Sheridan’s Ride,’ which begins as all students of
  our serious war poetry ought to know: ‘Shoe the steed with silver
  that bore him to the fray.’ Melville’s official duty during the last
  years of my Custom-House life confined him to the foot of Gansevoort
  Street, North River, and on a report that he might be changed to
  some district on the East River, he asked me to prevent the change,
  and Benedict said to me, ‘He shan’t be moved,’ and he was not; and
  years later, on a second report of the same nature reaching him, I
  saw Benedict again, who declared with a profane expletive, ‘He shall
  stay there.’ And if he had not died about a dozen years ago he would
  probably be there to-day, at the foot of Gansevoort Street.”

It is interesting that a man of the intellect of R. H. Stoddard should
have found Melville’s mind such a shadowed hieroglyph. With Stoddard so
perplexed, it is less difficult to understand Melville’s preference for

In his copy of Schopenhauer, Melville underlined the phrase--“this
hellish society of men;” and he vigorously underscored the aphorism:
“When two or three are gathered together, the devil is among them.”
Melville occupied himself with his books, with collecting etchings,
with solitary walks; and for companionship he was satisfied with the
society of his grandchildren. His grand-daughter, Mrs. Eleanor Melville
Metcalf, thus records her recollections of such association:

  “I was not yet ten years old when my grandfather died. To put aside
  all later impressions gathered from those who knew him longer and
  coloured by their personal reactions, all impressions made by
  subsequent reading of his books, results in a series of childish
  recollections, vivid homely scenes wherein he formed a palpable
  background for my own interested activities.

  “Setting forth on a bright spring afternoon for a trip to Central
  Park, the Mecca of most of our pilgrimages, he made a brave and
  striking figure as he walked erect, head thrown back, cane in hand,
  inconspicuously dressed in a dark blue suit and a soft black felt
  hat. For myself, I skipped gaily beside him, anticipating the long
  jogging ride in the horse cars, the goats and shanty-topped granite
  of the upper reaches of our journey, the broad walks of the park,
  where the joy of all existence was best expressed by running down the
  hills, head back, skirts flying in the wind. He would follow more
  slowly and call ‘Look out, or the “cop” may catch you!’ I always
  thought he used funny words: ‘cop’ was surely a jollier word than

  “We never came in from a trip of this kind, nor indeed from any walk,
  but we stopped in the front hall under a coloured engraving of the
  Bay of Naples, its still blue dotted with tiny white sails. He would
  point to them with his cane and say, ‘See the little boats sailing
  hither and thither.’ ‘Hither and thither’--more funny words, thought
  I, at the same time a little awed by something far away in the tone
  of voice.

  “I remember mornings when even sugar on the oatmeal was not enough
  to tempt me to finish the last mouthful. It would be spring in the
  back yard too, and a tin cup full of little stones picked out of
  the garden meant a penny from my grandmother. He would say in a
  warning whisper, ‘Jack Smoke will come down the chimney and take
  what you leave!’ That was another matter. The oatmeal was laughingly
  finished and the yard gained. Across the back parlour and main hall
  upstairs ran a narrow iron-trimmed porch, furnished with Windsor
  and folding canvas chairs. There he would sit with a pipe and his
  most constant companion--his cane, and watch my busy activity below.
  Against the wall of the porch hung a match holder, more for ornament
  than utility, it seems. It was a gay red and blue china butterfly.
  Invariably he looked to see if it had flown away since we were there

  “Once in a long while his interest in his grandchildren led him to
  cross the river and take the suburban train to East Orange, where
  we lived. He must have been an impressive figure, sitting silently
  on the piazza of our little house, while my sister and I pranced by
  with a neighbour’s boy and his express wagon, filled with a satisfied
  sense of the strength and accomplishment of our years. When he had
  had enough of such exhibitions, he would suddenly rise and take the
  next train back to Hoboken.

  “Chiefly do I think of him connected with different parts of the 26th
  Street house.

  “His own room was a place of mystery and awe to me; there I never
  ventured unless invited by him. It looked bleakly north. The great
  mahogany desk, heavily bearing up four shelves of dull gilt and
  leather books; the high dim book-case, topped by strange plaster
  heads that peered along the ceiling level, or bent down, searching
  blindly with sightless balls; the small black iron bed, covered with
  dark cretonne; the narrow iron grate; the wide table in the alcove,
  piled with papers I would not dream of touching--these made a room
  even more to be fled than the back parlour, by whose door I always
  ran to escape the following eyes of his portrait, which hung there
  in a half light. Yet lo, the paper-piled table also held a little
  bag of figs, and one of the pieces of sweet stickiness was for me.
  ‘Tittery-Eye’ he called me, and awe melted into glee, as I skipped
  away to my grandmother’s room, which adjoined.

  “That was a very different place--sunny, comfortable and familiar,
  with a sewing machine and a _white_ bed like other peoples’ In the
  corner stood a big arm chair, where he always sat when he left the
  recesses of his own dark privacy. I used to climb on his knee, while
  he told me wild tales of cannibals and tropic isles. Little did I
  then know that he was reliving his own past. We came nearest intimacy
  at these times, and part of the fun was to put my hands in his thick
  beard and squeeze it hard. It was no soft silken beard, but tight
  curled like the horse hair breaking out of old upholstered chairs,
  firm and wiry to the grasp, and squarely chopped.

  “Sad it is that he felt his grandchildren would turn against him
  as they grew older. He used to forebode as much. As it is, I have
  nothing but a remembrance of glorious fun, mixed with a childish awe,
  as of some one who knew far and strange things.”

As the last meed of glory, Melville received this flattering letter:

      “12 Lucknow Terrace,
      “HALIFAX, N. S.
      Nov. 21, 1889.


  “Although a stranger, I take the liberty of addressing you on the
  ground of my ardent admiration for your works. For a number of years
  I have read and reread _Moby-Dick_ with increasing pleasure in every
  perusal: and with this study, the conviction has grown up that the
  unique merits of that book have never received due recognition. I
  have been a student for ten years and have dabbled in literature
  more or less myself. And now I find myself in a position which
  enables me to give myself to literature as a life-work. I am anxious
  to set the merits of your books before the public and to that end,
  I beg the honour of corresponding with you. It would be of great
  assistance to me, if I could gather some particulars of your life
  and _literary methods_ from you, other than given in such books as
  Duyckinck’s dictionary. In the matter of style, apart from the matter
  altogether I consider your books, especially the earlier ones, the
  most thoroughly New World product in all American literature.

  “Hoping that I am not asking too much, I remain,

  “Yours most respectfully,


  “Munro Professor of English at Dalhousie University.”

Melville replied:

      “104 E. 26th St.


  “I beg you to overlook my delay in acknowledging yours of the 12th
  ult. It was unavoidable.

  “Your note gave me pleasure, as how should it not, written in such a

  “But you do not know, perhaps, that I have entered my 8th decade.
  After 20 years nearly, as an outdoor custom house officer, I have
  lately come into possession of unobstructed leisure, but only just
  as, in the course of nature, my vigour sensibly declines. What little
  of it is left I husband for certain matters as yet incomplete, and
  which indeed may never be completed.

  “I appreciate, quite as much as you would have me, your friendly good
  will and shrink from any appearance to the contrary.

  “Trusting that you will take all this, & what it implies, in the same
  spirit that prompts it, I am,

  “Very truly yours,


  “_Professor MacMeehan_,
  “_Dec. 5, ’89._”

Melville was using his “unobstructed leisure” in a return to the
writing of prose. Ten prose sketches and a novel were the result. But
the result is not distinguished. The novel, _Billy Budd_, is built
around the character of Jack Chase, the “Handsome Sailor.” In the
character of Billy Budd, Melville attempts to portray the native purity
and nobility of the uncorrupted man. Melville spends elaborate pains
in analysing “the mystery of iniquity,” and in celebrating by contrast
the god-like beauty of body and spirit of his hero. Billy Budd, by
his heroic guilelessness is, like an angel of vengeance, precipitated
into manslaughter; and for his very righteousness he is hanged. _Billy
Budd_, finished within a few months before the end of Melville’s
life, would seem to teach that though the wages of sin is death, that
sinners and saints alike toil for a common hire. In _Billy Budd_ the
orphic sententiousness is gone, it is true. But gone also is the brisk
lucidity, the sparkle, the verve. Only the disillusion abided with him
to the last.

Melville died at 104 East 26th Street, New York, on Monday,
September 28, 1891. His funeral was attended by his wife and his two
daughters--all of his immediate family that survived him--and a meagre
scattering of relatives and family friends. The man who had created
Moby-Dick died an obscure and elderly private citizen. He had in early
manhood prayed that if indeed his soul missed its haven, that his
might, at least, be an utter wreck. “All Fame is patronage,” he had
once written; “let me be infamous.” But as if in contempt even for this
preference, he had, during the last half of his life, cruised off and
away upon boundless and uncharted waters; and in the end he sank down
into death, without a ripple of renown.

“Oh, what quenchless feud is this, that Time hath with the sons of


  Herman Melville’s Sea Tales. 4 Volumes. Edited by Arthur Stedman.
  _New York_, 1892, 1896; _Boston_, 1900, 1910, 1919.

      Typee (with a biographical and critical introduction by the

  Typee: a Peep at Polynesian Life. During a Four Months’ Residence in
  a Valley of the Marquesas.... _New York_, 1846.

  A Four Months’ Residence among the Natives of a Valley of the
  Marquesas Islands; or, a Peep at Polynesian Life.... _London_, 1846,
  1847, 1855, 1861.

  Typee: a Peep at Polynesian Life.... Revised edition, with a Sequel,
  The Story of Toby.... _New York_, 1846, 1847, 1849, 1855, 1857, 1865,
  1871. _London_, 1892, 1893 (ed. H. S. Salt), 1898, 1899. _Boston_,
  1902 (ed. William P. Trent). _London_, 1903 (ed. William P. Trent).
  _London and New York_, 1904 (ed. W. Clark Russell); 1907 (ed. Ernest
  Rhys). _London_ 1910; another edition 1910 (ed. W. Clark Russell).
  _New York_, 1911 (ed. W. Clark Russell); 1920 (ed. A. L. Sterling).
  _New York and London_, 1921 (ed. Ernest Rhys).

  Translated into German by R. Garrique, _Leipzig_, 1846; into Dutch,
  _Haarlem_, 1847.

Omoo: a Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas.... _New York_,
1847 (five editions the same year). _London_, 1847, 1849. _New York
and London_, 1855. _London_, 1861. _New York_, 1863, 1868. _London_,
1892, 1893 (ed. H. S. Salt). _London and New York_, 1904 (ed. W. Clark
Russell); 1908 (ed. Ernest Rhys); 1911 (ed. W. Clark Russell); 1921
(ed. Ernest Rhys).

  Translated into German by F. Gerstäcker, _Leipzig_, 1847.

Mardi: and a Voyage Thither.... _New York_, 1849 (2 volumes). _London_,
1849 (3 volumes). _New York_, 1855, 1864.

Redburn: His First Voyage. Being the Sailor-Boy Confessions and
Reminiscences of the Son-of-a-Gentleman, in the Merchant Service....
_New York_, 1849. _London_, 1849 (2 volumes). _New York_, 1855, 1863.

  Translated into German by L. Marezoll, _Grimma_, 1850.

White-Jacket: or, The World in a Man-of-War.... _New York_, 1850.
_London_, 1850 (2 volumes). _New York and London_, 1855. _London_,
1892, 1893, 1901.

Moby-Dick; or, the Whale.... _New York_, 1851.

The Whale.... _London_, 1851, 1853 (3 volumes).

Moby-Dick; or, the Whale.... _New York_, 1863. _London_, 1901 (ed. L.
Becke). _London and New York_, 1907 (ed. Ernest Rhys). _London_, 1912;
1920 (ed. Violet Maynell). _London and New York_, 1921 (ed. Ernest
Rhys). The editions since 1892 have borne the title Moby-Dick; (or) the
(Great) White Whale.

Pierre: or The Ambiguities.... _New York_, 1852, 1855.

Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile.... _New York_, 1855 (three
editions in the same year). _London_, 1855, 1861. (The book appeared
serially in _Putnam’s Monthly Magazine_, July, 1854-March, 1855. It was
pirated at _Philadelphia_, n. d. (entered 1865), as The Refugee, with
the original dedication and table of contents omitted).

The Piazza Tales.... _New York_, 1856. _London_, 1856. (Contains: The
Piazza; Bartleby; Benito Cereno; The Lightning-Rod Man; The Encantadas;
The Bell-Tower).

The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade.... _New York_, 1857. _London_, 1857.

Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War.... _New York_, 1866.

Clarel: a Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land.... _New York_, 1878.

John Marr and Other Sailors.... _New York_, 1888. (Privately printed).

Timoleon, etc. _New York_, 1891. (Privately printed).


  Fragments from a Writing Desk. _The Democratic Press and Lansingburgh
  Advertiser_, 4 May; 18 May; 1849.

  Hawthorne and His Mosses, By a Virginian Spending a July in Vermont.
  _Literary World._ 17 Aug.; 24 Aug.; 1850.

  The Town-Ho’s Story. (Ch. 54 of Moby-Dick.) _Harper’s New Monthly
  Magazine._ Oct., 1851.

  A Memorial to James Fenimore Cooper. Discourses and tributes by
  Bryant, Bancroft, Irving, Melville, etc., etc. _New York_, 1852.

  Bartleby, the Scrivener. A story of Wall-Street. _Putnam’s Monthly
  Magazine._ Nov.-Dec., 1853.

  Cock-a-Doodle-Doo! or, The Crowing of the Cock of Benentano.
  _Harper’s New Monthly Magazine._ Dec., 1853.

  The Encantadas, or Enchanted Isles, by Salvator R. Tarnmoor.
  _Putnam’s Monthly Magazine._ March-May, 1854.

  The Lightning-Rod Man. _Putnam’s Monthly Magazine._ Aug., 1854.

  Poor Man’s Pudding and Rich Man’s Crumbs. _Harper’s New Monthly
  Magazine._ June, 1854.

  Happy Failure. A Story of the River Hudson. _Harper’s New Monthly
  Magazine._ July, 1854.

  The Fiddler. _Harper’s New Monthly Magazine._ Sept., 1854.

  Paradise of Bachelors and Tartarus of Maids. _Harper’s New Monthly
  Magazine._ April, 1855.

  The Bell-Tower. _Putnam’s Monthly Magazine._ Aug., 1855.

  Benito Cereno. _Putnam’s Monthly Magazine._ Oct.-Dec., 1855.

  Jimmy Rose. _Harper’s New Monthly Magazine._ Nov., 1855.

  The ’Gees. _Harper’s New Monthly Magazine._ March, 1856.

  I and My Chimney. _Putnam’s Monthly Magazine._ March, 1856.

  The Apple-Tree Table: or, Original Spiritual Manifestations.
  _Putnam’s Monthly Magazine._ May, 1856.

  The March to the Sea (poem). _Putnam’s Monthly Magazine._ Feb., 1856.

  The Cumberland (poem). _Putnam’s Monthly Magazine._ March, 1866.

  Philip (poem). _Putnam’s Monthly Magazine._ April, 1866.

  Chattanooga (poem). _Harper’s New Monthly Magazine._ June, 1866.

  Gettysburg: July, 1863 (poem). _Harper’s New Monthly Magazine._ July,

  The History of Pittsfield, Mass., Compiled and written, under the
  general direction of a committee, by J. E. A. Smith, Pittsfield,
  1876. (The account of Major Thomas Melville, pp. 399-400, was written
  by Melville.)


  Abbott, Willis J., 84, 135, 144.

  Abernethy, John, 40.

  _Acushnet, The_, 127, 129, 130, 133, 134, 145, 147, 151, 152, 154,
        160, 162, 164, 165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 191, 193, 194, 195,
        197, 198, 199, 200, 202, 216.

  Adams, C. F., 78.

  Adler, Dr., 285, 287, 288, 289, 291, 292, 293, 294, 298.

  Ahab, Captain, 25, 26, 32, 133, 332.

  Akenside, Dr. Mark, 57, 61, 114.

  Albany, 34, 35, 36, 56, 63, 64, 65, 66, 68, 69, 70, 112, 113, 132,
205, 251, 252, 271.

  Albany Academy, 70, 71, 121.

  Alcott, Amos Bronson, 132.

  Ames, Nathaniel, 79, 87.

  Amherst, 257.

  Angew, Mary, 304.

  Annatoo, 275.

  Arnold, Matthew, 365.

  Arnold, Dr. Thomas, 44, 79.

  Arrowhead, 47, 306, 309, 310, 311, 346, 351, 352, 376.

  _Artémise, The_, 192, 193.

  Balboa, 170, 373.

  Banks, Sir Joseph, 178, 206.

  Barbauld, Mrs., 57, 61, 126.

  Barrie, Sir James, 22, 27.

  _Battle Pieces_, 358, 365.

  “Beauty,” 217.

  Beck, Dr. T. Romeyn, 70.

  Becke, Louis, 24.

  Beecher, Henry Ward, 305.

  Behn, Aphra, 203.

  Bennett, F. D., 137.

  Bentley, Richard, 273, 292, 293, 294, 299, 300, 301, 302, 311.

  Berkshires, 23, 169, 305, 312.

  Besant, Walter, 80, 177.

  Bildad, 27, 32, 154, 155, 157.

  Bildad, Aunt Charity, 144.

  Billson, James, 360.

  _Billy Budd_, 239, 381.

  Blake, William, 74.

  Bligh, Captain, 179, 181.

  Bob, Captain, 220, 221.

  Bolton, Harry, 106, 107.

  Boomer, Captain, 27.

  Borabolla, 278.

  Borgia, Rodrigo, 171, 176.

  Borrow, George, 15, 81.

  Boston, 40, 42, 43, 47, 56, 63, 64, 68, 83, 236, 251, 255, 258, 270,
        283, 312, 353, 369.

  Boston Tea Party, 42.

  _Bounty, The_, 179.

  Bristol, R. I., 44.

  Broadhall, 45, 47, 306.

  Browne, J. Ross, 137, 158, 159, 166.

  Browne, Sir Thomas, 17, 22, 27, 94, 121, 134, 146, 299, 304, 357.

  Brownell, C. W., 313, 330, 331.

  Browning, Robert, 358, 365.

  Bryant, William Cullen, 305.

  Buchanan, Robert, 349, 350.

  _Buffalo Courier_, 164.

  Bullen, Frank T., 90.

  Bunker, Captain Uriah, 140.

  Bunyan, John, 134, 331.

  Burke, Edmund, 140, 153.

  Burney, Fanny, 66, 177.

  Burton, Robert, 116, 120, 121, 126.

  Burton, Sir Richard, 15.

  Butler, Samuel, 53.

  Byron, Lord, 66, 120, 239.

  Byron, Captain, 174, 176.

  Cabri, Joseph, 196.

  Cape Cod, 139, 142, 155.

  Caret, 188.

  Cargill, David, 40.

  Cargill, Mrs. Mary, 40, 42.

  Carlyle, Thomas, 44, 78, 82, 343.

  Cartaret, 174, 176.

  Cavendish, 173.

  Champlain, Lake, 34, 262.

  Chapone, Mrs., 58, 59, 61, 65, 126, 259.

  Chase, Frederic Hathway, 257.

  Chase, Jack, 32, 234, 238, 239, 240, 241, 242, 245, 246, 251, 381.

  Chase, Owen, 136, 137.

  Chasles, Philarete, 47.

  Chateaubriand, François René, 205.

  Chatterton, Thomas, 67.

  Chesterfield, Lord, 116, 121.

  _Chicago Times_, 165.

  Churchill’s _Voyages_, 80.

  _Clarel_, 29, 105, 186, 225, 226, 227, 257, 350, 352, 353, 357,
        360, 361, 365.

  Claret, Captain, 235, 243, 244, 245.

  Clough, Arthur Hugh, 365.

  Coan, Titus Munson, 23, 128, 351.

  Coffin, Long Tom, 81.

  Coleridge, Samuel, 121, 146.

  College of New Jersey, 42.

  _Confidence Man, The_, 17, 94, 227, 348.

  Congregation of the Propaganda, 188.

  Conrad, Joseph, 25, 81, 93.

  Constantinople, 132, 335, 336, 352, 353, 354.

  Cook, Captain James, 80, 169, 172, 173, 176, 177, 178, 183, 206, 256.

  Cooke, Edmund, 174.

  Cooper, James Fenimore, 18, 20, 81, 93, 177, 203, 304.

  Covent Garden Theatre, 178.

  Cowley, Abraham, 174.

  Cowper, William, 151.

  Curtis, George William, 305, 360.

  Customs House, 16, 19, 20, 376, 377.

  Duyckinck, George, 284, 285, 314, 326, 380.

  _Daedalus, The_, 179, 181.

  Dalrymple, Alexander, 172.

  Dampier, William, 171, 174.

  Dana, Richard Henry, 24, 25, 78, 80, 81, 82, 84, 86, 87, 129,
        131, 295, 344, 345, 366.

  Dante, 27, 37, 109, 259, 293, 338, 340, 343.

  Darling, Captain, 183.

  Darwin, Charles, 134.

  Davis, Captain, 138, 167.

  D’Wolf, Captain (see De Wolf II, Captain John).

  Defoe, Daniel, 137.

  Dekker, Thomas, 27.

  Delaney, Mrs., 58.

  Delano, R., 138.

  de Bougainville, Louis, 175, 192.

  Desgraz, C., 188, 196.

  De Wolf II, Captain John, 44.

  De Wolf, Mrs. John (see Mary Melville).

  Dibdin, 102.

  Donjalolo, 278.

  Donne, Dr. John, 22.

  Drake, Sir Francis, 173.

  Dryden, John, 134.

  _Duff, The_, 180, 182.

  Du Petit-Thouars, Admiral, 189, 190, 191, 193, 198, 219, 256.

  D’Urville, Captain Dumont, 190, 191.

  Edwards, Jonathan, 305.

  Eliot, George, 330.

  Elizabeth, Queen of England, 50, 173.

  Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 18, 313, 377.

  _Encantadas, The_, 165, 348.

  _Essex, The_, 137, 148.

  Fairhaven, 130.

  Fanning, 182.

  Fayaway, 32, 128, 210, 211, 213, 260, 351.

  Fedallah, 32.

  Fielding, Henry, 27, 288.

  Flaubert, Gustave, 94, 132, 243.

  Fletcher, John, 27, 304.

  Fletcher, Captain, 301.

  Fleury, Franchise Raymonde Eulogie Marie de Douleurs Lamé (see
        Mrs. Thomas Melville--Melville’s aunt).

  Fluke, 243, 244.

  Forbes, Thomas T., 85.

  Foster, Newton, 81.

  France, Anatole, 74, 136.

  Franklin, Benjamin, 73, 134, 297, 298, 347.

  Franklin, Admiral S. R., 233, 234, 235.

  Freud, Sigmund, 17.

  Fuller & Co., Bradford, 130.

  Fuller, Margaret, 78, 330.

  Furneaux, Lieutenant, 175, 177.

  Gansevoort (Saratoga County, N. Y.), 35.

  Gansevoort, Harmen Harmense Van, 34.

  Gansevoort, General Herman, 35.

  Gansevoort, Maria (see Mrs. Allan Melville).

  Gansevoort, General Peter, 34, 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 60, 89.

  Gansevoort, Hon. Peter, 35, 36, 66, 68, 70, 71, 357.

  Gardener, George, 155.

  Gauguin, Paul, 185, 223.

  George the Third, King, 175, 177, 179, 182.

  Glendinning, Marie, 54, 61.

  Glendinning, Pierre (see Pierre).

  Goethe, 132, 304, 323, 324.

  Goldsmith, Oliver, 66, 114, 209.

  Goode, G. Brown, 135, 155.

  Gordon, Eliza, 241.

  Greene, Herman Melville, 165.

  Greene, Richard Tobias (see Toby).

  Greenlander, 92, 93.

  Griswold, Captain, 284, 289, 291.

  Guam, 171.

  Guy, Captain, 217, 219, 221.

  Hair, Richard Melville, 165.

  Hakluyt’s _Voyages_, 80.

  Hannamanoo, 195.

  Hardy, Lem, 195, 196, 197.

  Hardy, Thomas, 29.

  Harper, 19, 253, 273, 339, 344.

  Harris’ _Voyages_, 80.

  Hart, Col. Joseph C., 145.

  Harvard College, 20, 42.

  Hautia, 279, 280.

  Hawkins, Sir Richard, 173.

  Hawthorne, Julian, 311, 312, 314, 315, 325, 326, 331, 334, 336.

  Hawthorne, Mrs. Nathaniel, 22, 23, 24, 309, 310, 312, 314, 317,
        325, 329, 330, 334, 335.

  Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 15, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, 30, 32, 134, 169,
        250, 305, 306, 309, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318,
        320, 321, 323, 324, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330, 334, 335, 336,
        337, 340, 346, 347, 348, 353.

  Hawthorne, Una, 24, 334.

  Henricy, Casimir, 193.

  Henry, Joseph, 71.

  _Highlander, The_, 88, 90, 98, 100, 101, 105, 108, 109, 218.

  Hervey, Captain, 187.

  Hobard, Mary Anna Augusta (Mrs. Thomas Melville--Melville’s aunt), 45.

  Hobbes, Thomas, 134.

  Hodges, W., 177.

  Holland, Dr., 296.

  Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 40, 305, 346, 352.

  Honolulu, 156, 236.

  Hook, Captain, 22, 27.

  Howe, Julia Ward, 33.

  Hubbard, 130, 160.

  Hun, Dr. Henry, 70, 71.

  Hussey, Christopher, 139, 140.

  Huxley, Aldous, 132.

  Huxley, Thomas, 53.

  Imeeo, 228, 231.

  _Independence, The_, 301.

  Irving, Washington, 18.

  Ishmael, 18, 27, 62, 89, 131, 160, 351.

  _Israel Potter_, 293, 302, 304, 347.

  Israel Potter, 297, 298.

  Jackson, 32, 92, 93, 94, 96, 97, 100.

  Jackson, Andrew, 42.

  James, G. P. R., 23, 305.

  _Janet, The_, 148.

  Jarl, 32, 274, 275.

  Jermin, John, 217, 219, 221.

  Jewell, J. Grey, 88.

  _John Marr_, 357, 365.

  Johnson, Arthur, 342.

  Johnson, Dr., 78, 177, 178, 279, 353.

  Johnson, Captain Charles, 80.

  Jones, John Paul, 347.

  _Julia, The_, 215, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221.

  Kant, Immanuel, 17, 108, 285, 288.

  Kemble, Fanny, 305.

  Kingsley, Charles, 33.

  Kippis, Dr., 172.

  Knapp, Elizabeth, 257.

  Knox, John, 50, 185.

  Kory-Kory, 32, 209, 210, 212, 213.

  Krusenstern, Admiral, 44, 182.

  Ladrones, 171.

  La Farge, John, 24, 211, 220.

  La Maire, Captain, 173.

  Lamb, Charles, 27, 56, 295.

  Langsdorff, Captain, 44.

  Lansingburg, 69, 118, 126, 251, 252, 258, 262, 263, 265, 271.

  Laplace, Captain, 192, 193.

  Larry, 93.

  Lathers, Col. Richard, 308.

  Lathrop, G. P., 313.

  Lavendar, 93.

  Lawrence, D. H., 342.

  Lawton, William Cranston, 20.

  Lemaître, Jules, 205.

  Lemsford, 241.

  Lenox, 305, 309, 311, 319, 337, 340.

  _Leviathan, The_, 229, 231.

  Lincoln, Abraham, 231, 375, 376.

  Liverpool, 55, 73, 79, 83, 85, 91, 98, 99, 101, 102, 103, 107, 108,
        111, 113, 126, 132, 334, 335, 336.

  Lockhart, John Gibson, 296.

  Long Island, 139, 155.

  Lono, 176, 177.

  Lombroso, Cesare, 17.

  London, 290, 291, 293, 297, 299, 302, 308, 352.

  London, Jack, 24.

  London Missionary Society, 19, 174, 175, 178, 180, 182, 183, 184, 208,
        222, 225, 227.

  Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 22, 255, 305.

  Long Ghost, Doctor, 32, 217, 218, 219, 222, 227, 228, 229, 230, 231,

  Louis Philippe of France, 189, 190.

  Lowell, James Russell, 22, 33, 305, 348.

  MacMeehan, Archibald, 380, 381.

  Macy, Obed, 136, 141, 145, 155.

  Magellan, 170, 171, 172, 173, 373.

  Mandeville, Sir John, 29.

  Mapple, Father, 27, 32.

  _Mardi_, 20, 37, 38, 105, 121, 148, 151, 240, 256, 272, 273, 274, 277,
        278, 279, 280, 283, 344, 357, 377.

  Marheyo, 209, 212, 213, 250.

  Mariner, William, 206.

  Marnoo, 32.

  Marquesas Islands, 133, 161, 168, 169, 173, 176, 178, 181, 182, 190,
        191, 193, 194, 197, 198, 199, 200, 211, 214, 233, 236, 237, 253,
        255, 256, 351.

  Marryat, Captain Frederick, 20, 81, 88, 240.

  Martin, Dr. John, 206.

  Martin, Winthrop L., 135.

  Mary, Queen of Scots, 50.

  Masefield, John, 22, 25, 29, 30, 79, 331.

  Massinger, Philip, 27.

  Mather, Jr., Frank Jewell, 27, 341, 342, 347, 352, 357, 365.

  Mather, Richard, 138.

  _Matilda, The_, 179, 181.

  Maugham, Somerset, 24.

  Max, 92, 93.

  Melvil of Hallhill, Sir James, 50, 51.

  Melvil, William, 50.

  Melville, Alexander, 6th Earl of, etc., 51, 52, 101.

  Melville, Allan (Melville’s great-grandfather), 47.

  Melville, Allan (Melville’s father), 33, 34, 44, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53,
        54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 74,
        102, 103, 258, 259.

  Melville, Allan (Melville’s brother), 251, 254, 265, 267, 272, 283,
        284, 299, 301, 345, 346, 367, 368, 376.

  Melville, Mrs. Allan (née Maria Gansevoort, Melville’s mother), 33,
        34, 54, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 68, 69, 85, 88,
        251, 259, 261, 283, 359.

  Melville, Andrew (“Episcopomastrix”), 49, 50.

  Melville, Andrew (Chevalier), 50.

  Melville, Anna Marie Priscilla, 46.

  Melville, Augusta (Melville’s sister), 271, 272, 273, 283.

  Melville, Deborah (wife of John. See Scollay, Deborah).

  Melville, Elizabeth Shaw (Melville’s wife), 113, 130, 257, 258, 260,
        261, 262, 265, 268, 270, 272, 273, 279, 289, 290, 298, 299, 303,
        304, 310, 311, 340, 346, 352, 360, 368, 376, 382.

  Melville, Fanny, 283.

  Melville, Gansevoort (Melville’s brother), 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 69, 82,
        206, 251, 252, 253, 255, 297, 301.

  Melville, Helen (Melville’s aunt), 63.

  Melville, Helen Marie (Melville’s sister), 63, 64, 271, 283.

  Melville of Carnbee, Sir John, 47, 49.

  Melville, John--Lord of Raith in Fife, 50.

  Melville, John, 43.

  Melville, Malcolm (Melville’s son), 273, 287, 289, 299, 302, 346.

  Melville, Mary (Mrs. John De Wolf), 44.

  Melville, Pierre François Henry Thomas Wilson, 46.

  Melville, Priscilla (wife of Major Thomas--See Scollay, Priscilla).

  Melville, Sir Richard de, etc., 34, 47.

  Melville, Sir Robert, 50.

  Melville, General Robert, 42.

  Melville, Thomas (Melville’s great-great-grandfather), 47, 50.

  Melville, Major Thomas (Melville’s grandfather), 40, 42, 43, 44, 45.

  Melville, Thomas (Melville’s uncle), 44, 45, 46, 47, 72.

  Melville, Thomas (Melville’s brother), 85, 251, 255, 271, 281, 283,
        353, 358, 366.

  Mencken, H. L., 93.

  Mendoca, 173.

  Meredith, George, 22, 29, 105, 358.

  Metcalf, Eleanor Melville, 377.

  Miguel, 91, 92, 93.

  Milton, John, 28, 37, 120, 134, 372.

  _Moby-Dick_, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 44, 62, 116, 121, 130, 133, 134,
        135, 136, 137, 144, 149, 150, 154, 159, 162, 167, 274, 306, 311,
        318, 319, 324, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 332, 333, 337, 340, 341,
        344, 365, 380.

  Moby-Dick, 30, 31, 131, 133, 382.

  Moerenhaut (French consul at Tahiti), 190.

  Molucca Islands, 171.

  Monluc, Bishop of Valence, 50.

  Montaigne, Michel, 204, 205, 241, 278.

  Montégut, Emile, 317.

  Montgomery, Mrs. Helen Barrett, 187.

  Moore, Tom, 125, 126.

  More, Mrs. Hannah, 57, 114.

  Mortimer, Mrs. F. L., 183.

  Mouat, Captain, 174.

  Mow-Mow, 212, 213, 245.

  Munsell, Joel, 36.

  Murphy, Father, 221.

  Murray, John, 252, 253, 292, 294, 295, 296, 302.

  Nantucket, 27, 42, 130, 136, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145,
        147, 154, 155, 160, 373.

  _Nation, The London_, 21.

  New Bedford, 129, 130, 139, 142, 143, 144, 154, 155, 156, 159, 160.

  New England, 16, 20, 22, 24, 33, 83, 126, 132, 134, 138, 139, 140,
        142, 154, 155, 156, 157, 305.

  Newfoundland, 140.

  New Guinea, 174.

  New London, 139, 142, 156.

  New York City, 33, 44, 63, 68, 73, 79, 82, 83, 91, 99, 108, 109,
        142, 265, 271, 303, 304, 308, 350, 353, 367, 369, 376, 381.

  Nietzsche, Friedrich, 16, 240, 332.

  Nord, 241.

  Nordau, Max, 17.

  Nukuheva, 193, 199, 200, 202, 211, 212, 233.

  Nye, N. H., 144.

  Oberea, 175, 178.

  O’Brien, Frederick, 24, 206, 214.

  “Old Combustibles,” 235.

  Omai, 177, 178.

  _Omoo_, 21, 29, 115, 133, 167, 206, 208, 215, 224, 235, 236, 252,
        255, 256, 273, 283, 287, 308, 339, 344, 365, 371, 375, 376.

  Otaheite (see Tahiti).

  Oto (see Pomare II, King).

  Outooroo, 175.

  Paine, Ralph D., 83.

  _Pandora, The_, 179.

  Paris, 297, 298.

  Parker, Daniel P., 281.

  Paton, John G., 203.

  Paulet, Sir George, 235.

  Pease, Captain, 130, 147, 161, 166, 169, 195.

  Peleg, 27, 32, 154, 157.

  _Pequod, The_, 131, 149, 162, 331, 332, 338.

  Pert, Mr., 235.

  Philippines, 171.

  _Piazza Tales_, 165, 306, 348.

  _Pierre_, 17, 19, 20, 29, 35, 48, 54, 56, 61, 62, 63, 113, 114,
        115, 122, 125, 208, 225, 260, 280, 311, 338, 339, 341, 342,
        343, 344.

  Pierre, 32, 35, 36, 37, 39, 49, 54, 61, 62, 63, 67, 114, 115, 121,
        280, 342, 343.

  Pittsfield, 45, 46, 47, 63, 72, 113, 130, 160, 169, 228, 303, 304,
        306, 308, 314, 315, 318, 327, 331, 336, 351, 352, 359, 367,
        369, 376.

  Plato, 18, 128, 371.

  Po-Po, Jeremiah, 228, 229, 231, 232.

  Poe, Edgar Allan, 152, 357.

  Polynesia, 29, 186, 187, 203, 221, 223, 224, 228, 251, 275, 373.

  Pomare I, King, 181, 186, 187.

  Pomare II, King, 187, 221.

  Pomare, Queen, 187, 189, 190, 191, 193, 219, 229, 230, 231, 234.

  Pope, Alexander, 28, 134.

  Porter, Captain, 182, 194.

  Providence, R. I., 139.

  Priestly, Joseph, 177.

  Princeton (see College of New Jersey).

  Pringle, Sir John, 177.

  Pritchard, The Rev. (British Consul at Tahiti), 190, 219.

  Putnam, G. P., 347.

  Queequeg, 32, 147.

  Rabelais, François, 21, 22, 27, 93, 105, 134, 277.

  Raynal, Abbé, 172.

  _Redburn_, 29, 38, 44, 54, 62, 68, 78, 79, 81, 82, 100, 106, 107,
        133, 157, 159, 272, 273, 283, 292, 294, 304, 344, 365.

  _Reine Blanche, The_, 193, 199, 219, 256.

  Repplier, Agnes, 58, 166.

  Revere, Paul, 42.

  Reybaud, Louis, 192.

  Reynolds, Sir Joshua, 177.

  Rhode Island, 42, 44.

  Ricketson, Daniel, 136.

  Riga, Captain, 110, 111.

  Rio (de Janeiro), 31, 167, 245.

  Roberts, E., 196.

  Rodney, Mate, 27.

  Rome, 132, 371, 372.

  Rouchouse, Bishop of Nilolopis, 188, 190, 191.

  Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 22, 79, 132, 151, 204, 299, 304.

  Royal Society, 176, 177, 178, 206.

  Royce, Josiah, 339.

  Ruskin, John, 33.

  Russell, W. Clark, 24, 79, 174, 365, 366.

  Rutland, Duke of, 299, 300, 301, 304.

  Sabine, Lorenzo, 136, 138.

  Saddle-Meadows, 35, 36, 39.

  Safroni-Middleton, A., 24.

  Sag Harbor, 142.

  Sainte-Beuve, Charles Augustin, 93, 94.

  Salem, Mass., 83.

  Samoa, 275, 276.

  Salt, H. S., 79.

  _Sandusky Mirror_, 164.

  Sandwich, Earl of, 172.

  Sandwich Islands, 46, 178, 223, 235, 345, 375.

  Savage, Hope, 257.

  Scammon, C. M., 136.

  Schopenhauer, Arthur, 338, 339, 343, 366, 377.

  Schouten, 173, 174.

  Scollay, Deborah, 43.

  Scollay, Priscilla, 43, 44.

  Scoresby, William, 136.

  Scott, Sir Walter, 81, 120, 239, 296.

  Sedgewick, Catherine, 305.

  Seward, Miss (The Swan of Lichfield), 178.

  Shakespeare, William, 21, 28, 120, 240, 348.

  Shaw, Elizabeth (see Melville--Mrs. Herman).

  Shaw, John Oakes, 257.

  Shaw, Chief Justice Lemuel, 16, 43, 257, 258, 340, 344, 345, 366, 369.

  Shaw, Lemuel (son of Chief Justice), 257, 268, 269, 270, 273.

  Shaw, Samuel Savage, 257, 267, 270, 272, 280, 281, 282, 310.

  Shenley, 243.

  Sigourney, Mrs., 305.

  Smith, Adam, 91.

  Smith, J. E. A., 45, 72, 113, 252, 313, 352, 369.

  Smollett, Tobias, 27, 81.

  Society Islands, 174, 236.

  Society of Picpus, 188.

  Socrates, 18, 344, 371.

  Solomon, 29, 30, 151, 152, 323, 333.

  Solomon Islands, 173, 174.

  _Southampton, The_, 284, 290.

  Southport (England), 30, 334, 335, 336.

  South Seas, 24, 113, 127, 131, 141, 174, 177, 178, 179, 187, 188,
        195, 196, 203, 205, 206, 216, 219, 234, 236, 251, 256, 283,
        337, 357, 371, 373, 374, 375, 377.

  Spencer, John C., 164.

  Spenser, Edmund, 134.

  Spilbergen, Joris, 173.

  Stanwix, Fort, 34, 36.

  Starbuck, Alexander, 130, 135, 136, 141, 332.

  Stearns, Frank Preston, 23.

  Stedman, Arthur, 113, 128, 129, 130, 131, 236, 349, 350, 365.

  Steelkilt, 27.

  Stevenson, Robert Louis, 20, 22, 24, 28, 56, 201, 357.

  Stoddard, Charles Warren, 24, 357, 376, 377.

  Sturges, William, 85.

  Swift, Jonathan, 21, 40, 331.

  Tahiti, 16, 132, 174, 175, 177, 178, 179, 180, 182, 183, 184,
        185, 186, 187, 189, 191, 192, 193, 199, 219, 221, 224,
        225, 227, 228, 230, 231, 234, 235, 236, 256, 339.

  Taji, 105.

  Tashetego, 32.

  Tasman, 172, 173, 174.

  Taylor, Bayard, 304.

  Taylor, Dr., 285, 287, 288, 289, 291, 292.

  Tenae, 182.

  Tennyson, Lord Alfred, 365.

  Thackeray, William Makepeace, 28, 125.

  Thompson, Francis, 28, 129.

  Thomson, James, 22, 28.

  Thoreau, Henry David, 22, 131, 132.

  _Timoleon_, 340, 353, 357, 365.

  Toby, 32, 130, 133, 162, 164, 165, 166, 168, 200, 201, 202,
        203, 209, 211, 212.

  Tonga Islands, 206.

  Tower, Walter S., 135, 138, 142.

  _Typee_, 21, 29, 113, 114, 115, 116, 128, 130, 133, 162, 163,
        165, 166, 199, 206, 207, 208, 209, 211, 216, 223, 235,
        236, 237, 252, 253, 255, 256, 257, 258, 283, 297, 308,
        323, 339, 344, 351, 365, 371, 375, 376.

  _United States, The_, 233, 235, 236, 237, 239, 240, 242, 243,
        245, 246, 250, 252.

  University of New York, 35.

  Van Schaek, Henry, 45.

  Van Schaick, Catharine, 34, 43.

  Vedder, Elihu, 365, 366.

  _Venus, The_, 189.

  Verrill, Hyatt, 135, 142.

  Victoria, Queen of England, 22, 33, 101, 189, 191, 230, 231, 295, 330.

  Villon, François, 94.

  Vincendon-Dumoulin, 188, 196.

  Voltaire, François, 203.

  Willis, Captain, 174, 175, 176.

  Walpole, Horace, 339.

  Washington, George, 35, 36, 42, 320.

  Watson, E. L. Grant, 331.

  Watson, Elkanah, 45.

  Webster, Daniel, 134.

  Webster, John, 27.

  Wendell, Barrett, 20.

  West, Professor Charles E., 72.

  West, Captain Isaiah, 155.

  _White-Jacket_, 29, 133, 167, 234, 236, 237, 240, 242, 250, 251,
        283, 294, 295, 299, 302, 304, 339, 344, 377.

  Whitman, Walt, 33, 221, 350.

  Wiley & Putnam, 253.

  Williams, 242.

  Willis, Col. George S., 352.

  Wilson, Captain, 180.

  Wordsworth, William, 56, 57, 78, 132.

  Yillah, 277, 279, 280.

  Young, Edward, 151.

  Zola, Emile, 22, 79.

Transcriber's Note

Duplicate headings have been removed.

Illustrations have been moved next to the text which they illustrate,
and may no longer correspond to the locations given in the List of

The following apparent errors have been corrected:

p. 17 "bolstering it" changed to "bolstering its"

p. 22 "unitiated" changed to "uninitiated"

p. 111 "be imbibed" changed to "he imbibed"

p. 161 "_Smith_" changed to "“_Smith_"

p. 212 "Desirious" changed to "Desirous"

p. 222 "‘Mickonaree _ena_" changed to "‘Mickonaree _ena_’"

p. 223 "are!”" changed to "are!’"

p. 261 "Remember" changed to "“Remember"

p. 275 "shouler" changed to "shoulder"

p. 290 "early." changed to "early.”"

p. 293 "took" changed to "“took"

p. 294 "_Marriage_." changed to "_Marriage_.”"

p. 296 "away." changed to "away.”"

p. 303 "_Maids_.”" changed to "_Maids_."

p. 311 "evercise" changed to "exercise"

p. 330 "qualty" changed to "quality"

p. 337 "from hs" changed to "from his"

p. 350 "prophet!" changed to "prophet!”"

p. 351 "appearing the" changed to "appearing in the"

p. 362 "Common-place.”" changed to "Common-place."

p. 378 "c mpanion" changed to "companion"

p. 388 "Harper’s New Monthly’s" changed to "Harper’s New Monthly"

p. 393 "Fedellah" changed to "Fedallah"

p. 393 "Griswald" changed to "Griswold"

p. 394 "Henry, Joseph, 71." moved to alphabetical order

p. 395 "Mac Maehan" changed to "MacMeehan"

p. 395 "Winthrope" changed to "Winthrop"

p. 397 "Otaheiti" changed to "Otaheite"

p. 397 "_Pequod The_" changed to "_Pequod, The_"

p. 397 "56. 61," changed to "56, 61,"

p. 398 "Litchfield" changed to "Lichfield"

p. 399 "Tanae" changed to "Tenae"

p. 399 "Elkahah" changed to "Elkanah"

Non-standard and inconsistent punctuation, spelling and hyphenation,
have otherwise been left as printed.

On p. 65, "GOD" was printed in black-letter type.

On p. 123 the closing quotation mark in "address her.”" has no
corresponding opening quote.

The index entry for "Fleury, Franchise Raymonde Eulogie Marie de
Douleurs Lamé" refers to an entry for "Mrs. Thomas Melville--Melville’s
aunt", which appears not to exist.

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