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Mariner and Mystic 


Sngraved on tcood, bv L. F. Grant. 
From a photograph. 





NEW ^tmjf YORK 






" il maestro cortest 

To Professor Carl Van Doren, to Miss Cora Paget, 
and to Mrs. Eleanor Melville Metcalf, I am, in the writ- 
ing 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. Met- 
calf gave me access to all the surviving records of her 
grandfather: Melville manuscripts, letters, journals, an- 
notated books, photographs, and a variety of other ma- 
terial. 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 I, 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. Haw- 
thorne's memoir, are included through the cour- 
tesy of Messrs. Houghton Mifflin Company. 






























IN 1820 

IN 1865 




ONE OF Six WHALING PRINTS . . . . . . 160 


IN 1846 

IN 1865 













Mariner and Mystic 



"!F ever, my dear Hawthorne," wrote Melville in the sum- 
mer 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 pleas- 
antly 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 out- 
posts of human experience. Nor was his a kid-gloved and ex- 
pensively staged dip into studio savagery. "For my part, I 
abominate all honourable respectable toils, trials, and tribula- 
tions 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 man- 



hood 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 con- 
clusive 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 

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 phe- 
nomenal 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 inconse- 
quential 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 in- 
sufficient 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 psy- 
chological 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 be- 
came a dreamer, wrapping himself up in a vague kind of mys- 
ticism, 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 essen- 
tial facts critics of Melville have been fluent in hypothesis to 
account for this "complete change." A German critic pa- 
triotically lays the blame on Kant. English-speaking critics, 
with insular pride, have found' a sufficiency of disruptive agen- 
cies nearer at home. Some impute Melville's decline to Sir 
Thomas Browne; others to Melville's intimacy with Haw- 
thorne; others to the dispraise heaped upon Pierre. Though 
there is a semblance of truth in each, such attempts at explana- 
tion 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 ac- 
counts for Melville's swift obscuration in a summary and com- 
prehensive manner, by intimating that Melville went insane. 

Such an intimation is doubtless highly efficacious to medioc- 
rity in bolstering its* own self-esteem. But otherwise it is with- 
out 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 phe- 
nomena 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, un- 
touched 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 Celes- 
tial Bacchus! drive them mad. This multitude of vagabonds, 
hungry for eloquence, hungry for poetry, starving for sym- 
bols, 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 So- 
crates that Xantippe did not write his memoirs : but there was 
sufficient libel in hemlock. In ancient and mediaeval 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 re- 
fined 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 hem- 
lock: and there is ironic justice in the boast. Openly to har- 
bour 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 at- 
tacked 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 it- 
self 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 re- 
duced 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 in- 

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 disap- 
pointment 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 in- 
adequate 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 seren- 
ity 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 re- 
sistless; 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 lit- 
erary 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 pos- 
terity 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," Mel- 
ville 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 times : 

"It is clear that the wind of the spirit, when it once begins 
to blow through the English literary mind, possesses a surpris- 
ing 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 He- 
brew fashion to buy and to read ft. He then expressed him- 
self 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 ob- 
served 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 dis- 
putable 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 Rabe- 
lais ;" prized in England by the author of The City of Dread- 
ful 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 coun- 
trymen 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, as- 
suredly, 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 re- 
pudiation 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 la- 
boured 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 Mel- 
ville wrote. This man, whose closest literary affinities were 
Rabelais, Zola, Sir Thomas Browne, Rousseau, Meredith, and 
Dr. John Donne, a combination to make the unitiated 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 in- 


stinctive 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 pilgrim- 
age to Melville in the Berkshires Melville turned to Haw- 
thorne 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 interest- 
ing as that of more distinguished writers." But Mrs. Haw- 
thorne 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 Haw- 
thorne's study, which to Mrs. Hawthorne's wifely adoration 
was consecrated by "his presence in the morning." Mrs. Haw- 
thorne looked from the "wonderful, wonderful eyes" of her 
husband each eye "like a violet with a soul in it," to Mel- 
ville's eyes, and confessed to her mother her grave and jealous 
suspicion of Melville : "I am not quite sure that / 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; earn- 
est, 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 every- 
thing 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 ex- 
pression, out of these eyes to which I have objected; an in- 
drawn, 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 

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 convic- 
tion 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 Eng- 
land sky. Time may yet harp her worst fears aright. 

For despite his comparative obscurity, Melville is as can- 
not be too frequently iterated one of the chief and most un- 
usual 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 dis- 
coverer 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 Maug- 
ham, 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 Rus- 
sell, "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 Mel- 
ville created a new world, not by the discovery, but by the in- 
terpretation 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 intelli- 
gence 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 imagina- 
tion 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 ro- 
mance" 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 un- 
wearied 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 Cap- 
tain 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 devas- 
tating 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 it- 
self only when the fiction is the fact and the moral the induc- 
tion; 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 lit- 
eral-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 night- 
mare 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 Ant- 
arctic; 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 dra- 
matic but perfectly plausible incidents interspersed, is enough 
to make the book completely engrossing without the white 
whale and Captain Ahab's fatal monomania." 

So diverse are the samples out of which Moby-Dick is com- 
pounded, 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 affirmed. 

In Moby-Dick, all the powers and tastes of Melville's com-v/ 
plex genius are blended. Moby-Dick is at once indisputably 
the greatest whaling novel, and "a hideous and intolerable al- 
legory." 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 in- 
dulges freely in independent moralisings, half essay, half rhap- 
sody ; 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 col- 
oured critical judgment of Moby-Dick. But though critics 
may mouth it as they like about digressions, improbability, 1 
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 substan- 
tial. 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 impeccabil- 
ity is a fatal sign of weakened vitality. Intensity of imag- 
ination and Melville exhibited it prodigally in Moby-Dick 
is an infinitely rarer and more precious gift than technical so- 
phistication. Shakespeare has survived, despite his "monstrous 
irregularities." But since Shakespeare, as Francis Thompson 
has observed, there has been a gradual decline from imperfec- 
tion. Milton, at his most typical, was far too perfect; Pope 
was ruined by his quest for the quality. No thoughtful per- 
son can contemplate without alarm the idolatry bestowed upon 
this quality by the contemporary mind : an idolatry that threat- 
ens to reduce all art to the extinction of unendurable excel- 
lence. How insipid would be the mere adventures of a Don 
Quixote recounted by a Stevenson. 

The astonishing variety of contradictory qualities synthe- 
sised 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 manu- 
script 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 in- 
spiration, 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 prac- 
tically 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 Red- 
burn. 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 be- 
ing 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 be- 

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 charac- 
ter known in life as Herman Melville. "I am like one of those 
seeds taken out of the Egyptian Pyramids," he wrote to Haw- 
thorne 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 green- 
ness, 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, Mel- 
ville 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 com- 
fortable 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 cer- 
tain 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 per- 
pendicular 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 
irom 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 do'wn 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 anji 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, sing- 
ing. 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 Doc- 
tor 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 cor- 
ner, there to cross their legs in the celestial grass that is for- 
ever tropical, and to discourse pleasantly of all the things mani- 
"fold 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 multi- 
plying 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 Rus- 
kin, to Whitman, and to Queen Victoria, the same birth year. 
On August i, 1819, Herman Melville was born at No. 6 Pearl 
Street, New York City. 

Melville's vagabondage as a common sailor on a merchant- 
man, on whaling vessels, and in the United States Navy, to- 
gether with his Bohemian associations with cannibals, muti- 
neers, and some of the choicest dregs of our Christian civilisa- 
tion, must have wrenched a chorus of groans from a large con- 
gregation of shocked ancestral ghosts. For Melville was de- 
scended 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 emi- 
grants to New England. Both of his grandfathers distin- 
guished 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 

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 sev- 
eral cubits to their stature. Lacking the prophetic vision to 



glory in being ancestors, they chose the more comfortable role 
of parading as descendants. Melville's father, Allan, was suf- 
ficiently absorbed in his genealogy to compile, in 1818, an elab- 
orately 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 uncompromis- 
ing burghers. Her ancestor, Harmen Harmense Van Ganse- 
voort, 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. Dur- 
ing the centuries following his death his name crossed itself 
with that of the Van Rensselaers, the Ten Brocks, 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 

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 unfortu- 
nate assault upon Quebec. In the summer of 1777, when Bur- 
goyne'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 de- 
fence of Fort Stanwix in August, 1777, he prevented the June- 


ture 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 Al- 
bany in 1789, was long one of the most prominent and hon- 
oured 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 child- 
hood 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 man- 
sion, 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 Revo- 
lutionary War his grandfather had for several months de- 
fended a rude but all-important stockaded fort, against the re- 
peated 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 vindic- 
tive 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 circum- 


scribed 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 Wash- 
ington. Col. Peter Gansevoort, on this occasion, presented 
to the artillery a large brass Drum, a trophy of the revolu- 
tion, 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 gar- 
den by way of ceremonial cane, a long, majestic, silver-tipped 
staff, a Major-General's baton, once wielded oh the plume- 
nodding and musket-flashing review by the same grand- 
father several times here-in-before mentioned?" 

Not content to leave this a rhetorical query, Melville an- 
swers his own catechism in unambiguous terms : "I should say 
that considering Pierre was quite young and very unsophisti- 
cated 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 ster- 
ling 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. Demo- 
cratic he may have been, but only in the most unpopular mean- 
ing 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 De- 
mocracy:" 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 repub- 
licanism, 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 hold- 
ing. 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 


As Melville grew away from boyhood, he came to distin- 
guish between the accidentals and the essentials that distin- 
guish 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 varie- 
gated colours. And he discovered, too, that his uncritical boy- 
hood pride in his blood was, withal, not entirely a mere savage 
delight in calico prints. 

He was, as he^ boasts in the sub-title of Redburn, "the son- 
of-a-gentleman," reared in an environment rich with the mel- 
lowing 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 rig- 
ging 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 incom- 
prehensible deliberation in dining ; remote, unguarded allusions 
to belle-lettres affairs; and other trifles superfluous to men- 

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 rev- 
erently 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 imag- 
ination, "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 anni- 
hilated 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, child- 
like, 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 trag- 
ically 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 Ganse- 
voort, whom he never knew in the flesh, seemed to Melville, 
to be libels upon their Divine Original. According to Mel- 
ville'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 sur- 


mise 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, in- 
spired 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 appoint- 
ment 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 inde- 
pendent 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 Jive 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 grand- 
mother (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 Prince- 
ton. 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 sym- 
pathy with the Sons of Liberty, and with Paul Revere, one 
of the "Indians" to take part in the Boston Tea Party of De- 
cember 1 6, 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 slip- 
pers 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, 
lie took the rank of Major in Croft's regiment of Massachu- 
setts 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 com- 
pelled to resign his commission." In 1789 he was commis- 
sioned 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 Gen- 
eral and Governor-in-Chief of the islands ceded to Eng- 
land by France in 1763, and at the time of his death in 


1809, with one exception, the oldest General in the British 

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 fash- 
ionable 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 Mas- 
sachusetts, was Fire Warden between 1818 and 1821. Mel- 
ville'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 Her- 
man's marriage, may have been first kindled by a burning 

The tradition survives of Major Melville that the excite- 
ment 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 writ- 
ings. It is a peculiarity of Melville's writings indeed, com- 
pletely to disregard all of his female relatives, with the not- 
able 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 re- 
lated to Melville not only by direct blood descent, but Mel- 
ville's great-great-uncle, John Melville (who died in London 
in 1798) married Deborah Scollay, Melville's great-aunt. De- 
borah Scollay, Priscilla's sister, was the first of thirteen chil- 
dren; 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, un- 
resting diligence." Major Thomas Melville had eleven chil- 
dren by his wife Priscilla, Melville's father Allan being the 
fourth child and second son. Of the influence of Allan's nu- 
merous brothers and sisters upon Melville there are scant rec- 
ords 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 Expe- 
dition 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 ques- 
tioned him concerning this passage in Langsdorff. He sub- 
stantiates 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 impres- 
sion 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 any- 
thing 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 role in Melville's develop- 
ment. After an eventful residence of twenty-one years in 


France, Thomas returned to America with his wife Franchise 
Raymonde Eulogie Marie des Douleurs Lame 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 f 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 
I 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 Mel- 
ville and his wife, Marie des Douleurs, from Paris to the rus- 
tic 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 con- 
sumption. 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 com- 
mittee, 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 inter- 
esting, 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 satin- 
wood, gracefully help himself to a pinch of snuff, while lean- 
ing 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 capa- 
cious 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 sympa- 
thetic observer that his heart, thawed to the core under the in- 
fluence 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 pro- 
duced 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 Francois 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 pos- 

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 repeat- 
edly stated, but at a neighbouring farm, christened Arrowhead 
by Melville. Arrowhead was Melville's home for the follow- 
ing thirteen years. 

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, Fife- 
shire. 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 Alexan- 
der 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 ir- 
relevancy 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 enter- 
taining literary vagabond, in France (see the typically patron- 
ising Etudes sur la Litterature et les Mceurs des Anglo-Ameri- 
cains du XIXe Siecle 'Paris, 1851 by M. Philarete Chasles) 
as a representative product of a crude and traditionless civili- 
sation, 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, uncrys- 
tallising 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 pedi- 
grees, 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 Graf ton, 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 parent- 
age 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 de- 
scent, he strove to show, at one and the same time, both the ab- 
surdity 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 grati- 
tude 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 al- 
though he always signed his own name with an underscoring of 
tangled flourishes, he wrote the name of God and his corre- 
spondence is liberally scattered with Deity with three con- 
spicuous capitals of his most ornate penmanship. Melville was 
patently modelling the father of Pierre after his own male par- 
ent, when he recorded Pierre's father's platitudinous insist- 
ence "that all gentlemanhood was vain, all claims to it prepos- 
terous 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 congre- 
gation of courtiers, scholars and divines. 

So prolific has been the Melville family, so extended its his- 
tory, that its intricate branchings from the veritable Aaron's 
rod in which it had its source, have never been completely un- 
tangled 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 imagina- 

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 coun- 
try 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 Memoir es de M. de Cheva- 
lier de Melville (Amsterdam, 1704) was eulogised for his 
valour and his protestantism. 

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 ex- 
uberant 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, Wil- 
liam, 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 Pre- 
late'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 some- 
thing 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 im- 

Contemporary with Allan, there lived in Scotland, direct de- 
scendants 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 charac- 
teristically business-like, and stoically naked of personal re- 
flections : 

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 Junc- 
tion of the Perth, Cupar & Dundee Roads, 
6 miles. 

May 26, 1818 Reached Melville house at y 2 past 3 P.M. 
10 miles & met with a very hospitable & 
friendly reception from his lordship & family. 

May 2f, 1818 Left Melville house at */2 past 1 1 in his lord- 
ship'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 in- 
tended for a foolish bravado, and not with a solid purpose in view." 


SAMUEL BUTLER, who with Thomas Huxley cherished cer- 
tain 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, chil- 
dren would be spared the incubus of parents. After the ease- 
ful 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 ac- 
cepted 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 autobio- 
graphical 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 corrupt- 
ible riches. Nothing in his life so ill became him as his be- 
quest 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 pronounc- 
ing, 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 Glen- 
dinning, owes much more to Melville's mother, Maria Ganse- 
voort, than the initials of her name. And in this book, Mel- 
ville 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 pre- 
serve the father to a later time, too often the filial obsequies 
are less profound, the canonisation less ethereal." 

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 possibil- 
ity do wrong or say an untruth." And as a gesture expres- 
sive 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 di- 
rections 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 disappoint- 
ment 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 fam- 
ily 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 circum- 
stances, 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 to- 


wards 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 re- 
motely acquired. Melville boasted a smattering of a Poly- 
nesian dialect or two: but so imperfect was this smattering 
that it moved Stevenson to complain that Melville, like Charles 
Lamb, "had no ear." 

In th 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 peregrinations: 

"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. 

It was in Albany that Allan met Maria Gansevoort : a meet- 
ing 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 suc- 
cumbed to the flesh, it is not impossible, on the face of it, that 
Allan, in the unredeemed years before his comparatively late 

From a Painting 
made in Paris, 1810. 


marriage, may have been anointed in mortality. But in his 
later life as was Wordsworth he was a paragon of pro- 
priety, and he must be acquitted of indiscretion until more 
damning facts are mustered to accuse him. All surviving evi- 
dence 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 for- 
bidden 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 indis- 
pensable 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 supe- 
riority of mind over unconscious matter, even in its fair- 
est terms," gave Allan opportunity to pay Maria a veiled 

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 inscrip- 
tion he vented, and with no compromise to himself, in a trop- 
ical tangle of copy-book flourishes that he made below his 

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 be- 
ing 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 sketch- 
ing 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 pres- 
ent of Dr. Akenside and Mrs. Chapone gave her generous op- 
portunity 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 prud- 
ently 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 pro- 
priety : 

"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 

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 ignor- 
ance might dine in security against the intrusion and vanity 
of erudition." The inscription reads: 

"The liberal cultivation of the female mind is the best secur- 
ity 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 pre- 
sented 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 ac- 
tion." And Miss Maria may have taken to heart Mrs. Cha- 
pone'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 ac- 
tion" to melt Miss Maria to becoming compassion can never 


be known. During the months immediately before the mar- 
riage, 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 

Maria kept no journal; if she presented Allan with in- 
scribed 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. 

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 tradi- 
tions that survive of her do not halo her memory. She is re- 
membered 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 vig- 
orous 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, Gen- 
eral Gansevoort as the mirror of manly perfection. 


In Pierre, Melville is said to have drawn an essentially ac- 
curate 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 un- 
fluctuating 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 com- 
pletely uncoiled itself from her waist, nor smoothness un- 
scrolled 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 appear- 
ances 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 fash- 
ioned 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. Bar- 
bauld, and Mrs. Chapone, be denied their due credit in con- 
tributing to the finished product. 

Between Maria and her son there existed a striking per- 
sonal 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 op- 
posite sex." But of his mother's love for him, Pierre enter- 
tained 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 

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 fail- 
ure 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 re- 
buffed 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 Ish- 
mael 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 Ish- 
mael." "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 

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 vio- 
lated 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 in- 
vokes : "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 inex- 
plicable, 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 rav- 

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- 

October 4, 1814 Left Albany at n A.M. in a hack witK 
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 Y* past 9, dined at 
Southampton & slept at Belchertown. 

October 7, 1814 Left Belchertown at 9, dined at Brook- 
field & slept at Worcester. 

October 8, 1814 Left Worcester at y 2 past 9, dined at Farm- 
ingham & 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 men- 
tioned, 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. 6 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 uni- 
versal 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 surviv- 
ing 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 pilgrim- 
ages to Albany with, his mother to be exhibited to his grand- 
mother Gansevoort. There are frequent references to his ail- 
ing 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 

At this time Allan signed "a 4 yrs. lease at $300 per annum 
freer of taxes, for a new brick 2 story house replete with con- 
veniences, to be handsomely furnished in the most modern 
style under my own direction & a vacant lot of equal size at- 
tached to it which will be invaluable as a play ground for the 
children. It is situated in Bleecker, the first south, and par- 
allel to Bond St. ... An open, dry & elevated location equi- 
distant 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 


In 1865 


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 re- 
move professionally on the ist of May to No. 102 Pearl St. up- 
stairs in the very focus of Business & surrounded by the auc- 
tion rooms which have become the Rial to of the modern mer- 
chants but where I dare say even Shylock would be shy of 
making his appearance." 

By December 29, 1824, we hear of Herman that "he at- 
tends 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 fellow." 

On the same date, Maria writes to her brother about pick- 
ling 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 re- 
ceived 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 hap- 
pened 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 re- 
turned home with renovated spirits." 

In December, 1825, Allan is moved to "lament little Her- 
man's melancholy situation, but we trust in humble confidence 
that the <>3B 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 un- 
wonted 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 destina- 
tion was his mother's people in Albany, and his custodian dur- 
ing the trip a Mr. Walker. Allan shifts his responsibility for 
his son on the shoulders of his brother-in-law, Peter Ganse- 
voort, 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 back- 
ward 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 Sum- 
mer 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 re- 
main 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 revela- 
tion 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 ideal- 
ising 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 Glen- 
dinning." 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, regu- 
larly recalled his son to the city with the opening of school. 

This is the recall for the year 1826, dated "12 Sept. Tues- 
day, 4 P.M.": "We expect Gansevoort on Sunday, at far- 
therest, 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 under- 
stand 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 Or- 
der & 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 un- 
profitable 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: 

nth 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 be- 
fore 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 be- 


trays 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 where- 
abouts 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 Clin- 
ton Square n. Pearl. 
Melville, widow Maria, 3 Clinton Square n. Pearl. 

After 1835 the family scattered, Melville to begin his wan- 
derings 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 Albany. 

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 fol- 
lowing 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 rec- 
ollections of his school-days at the Albany Academy were then 
passing through Melville's head, we haven't sufficient knowl- 
edge 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 exhibi- 
tions 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 

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 Prin- 
cipal as he was then called) Dr. T. Romeyn Beck was an ex- 
traordinary 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 ob- 
ject 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 Melville : 

ist 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 : 

Caesar, 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 Mel- 
ville that in 1891 he wrote for The Evening Journal of Pitts- 
field, Massachusetts, says of Melville's school-days: 

"In 1835, Professor Charles E. West . . . was president 
of the Albany Classical Institute for boys, and Herman Mel- 
ville became one of his pupils. Professor West now remem- 
bers him as a favourite pupil, not distinguished for mathe- 
matics, but very much so in the writing of 'themes' or 'com- 
positions' and fond of doing it, while the great majority of 
pupils dreaded it as a task, and would shirk it if they could." 

In 1835, Melville was clerk in his brother's shop. If J. E. 
A. Smith's record is accurate, Melville was at the time alter- 
nating business with education. 

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 pub- 
lished 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 history. 

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 bend- 
ing like twigs ; and all about Havre, and Liverpool, and about 
going up into the ball of St. Paul's in London. Indeed, dur- 
ing my early life, most of my thoughts of the sea were con- 
nected 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 geog- 
raphy 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 im- 
mediate 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. Mel- 
ville'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 ques- 
tioned^ '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 "sec- 
ond sight." 

"We had several pieces of furniture in the house," says Mel- 
ville, 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 descend- 
ants. "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 Ana- 
tole 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 trav- 
eller 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 worry- 
ing 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 land- 
scape, 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 im- 
petuosity 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 



"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, ^nd 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 transi- 
tion 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, con- 
spired within me, to send me to sea as a sailor." 

In Redburn: His First Voyage. Being the Sailor-boy Con- 
fessions 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 exub- 
erant 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 seven- 
teen. He was not old enough, not wise enough, to regard his 
dreams as impalpable projections of his defeated desires: de- 
sires 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 re- 
marked: "Gad! she'd better." Melville, when only seventeen, 
had not yet come to Carlyle's dyspeptic resignation to the cos- 
mic 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, admon- 
itory 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 "spon- 
taneous 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, cal- 
culated 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, can- 
not 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 Mel- 
ville'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 unfore- 
seen hardships of a sea-faring life." In 1849 he was still un- 
adjusted to unpalatable reality, and in Redburn he seems intent 
upon revenging himself upon his early disillusion by an in- 
verted 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 re- 
cording with photographic literalness the most hideous details 
of his penurious migration. His romantic realism remind- 
ing one of Zola and certain pages out of Rousseau he alter- 
nates with malicious self -satire, and its obverse gesture, ob- 
trusive self-pity. To those austere and classical souls who 
are proudly impatient of this style of writing, it must be in- 
sisted with what Arnold called "damnable iteration" that Red- 
burn 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 thoroughly." 

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 cap- 
tains had written of their voyages, it is true; or when they 
themselves left no record, their literary laxity was usually cor- 
rected 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, Traifiques 
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 cen- 
tury folio of Captain Charles Johnson's A General History 
of the Lives and Adventures of the Most Famous Highway- 
men, 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, treach- 
erous, cruel and profligate miscreants though the most pic- 
turesque of them were. 

But these hardy adventurers were men of action ; men proud 
of their own exploits, but untouched by any corrupt self -con- 
sciousness of their Gilbert-and-Sullivan, or Byronic possibili- 
ties; 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 sur- 
mise as a transition to more notable sureties. An apprecia- 


tion of the romance of the sea, and of the humbler details of 
the life of the common sailor is one of our most recent so- 

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 ac- 
curacy of his description of the manoeuvres 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 sea- 
men, 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 merchant- 
man'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 nar- 
ratives, 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 inti- 
mate. 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 de- 
scriptive 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 su- 
perb physical vigour: and his blackest plunges of discourage- 
ment and philosophical despair were always wholesomely amen- 
able 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 immor- 
tality in substantial fare," he later wrote; "we are like bal- 
loons, 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 invul- 
nerable. "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, Mel- 
ville 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 de- 
tailed 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 Eng- 
land originality and audacity, Boston shipped cargoes of ice 
to Calcutta. And for thirty years a regular trade in Massa- 
chusetts 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 fore- 
bears of our early national era ; and Melville's father, an im- 
porting 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 inter- 
ests 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 
1 9th 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 prom- 
ising 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 com- 
bined 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, after- 
wards 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 con- 
versation 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 

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 

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 

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 to- 
gether 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 

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 

Only a lunatic, of course, would expect to find very com- 
modious or airy quarters, any drawing-room amenities, Chau- 
tauqua uplift, or Y.M.C.A. insipidities aboard a merchant- 
man 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 previ- 
ously 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, igno- 
rance, 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 pro- 
tect 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 recol- 
lection; 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 circum- 
stances 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 smok- 
ing 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 sports- 
manship, 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/' "lob- 
scouse," 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. Some- 
times it tasted fishy, as if it were a decoction of Dutch her- 
ring; 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. Notwithstand- 
ing 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 contem- 
poraneous 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 tablespoons ful, be- 
fore they could shovel the mess into their craving stomachs." 
Melville never complains of maggots or weevils in his bis- 
cuits, 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 ttiat 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 right- 
eousness, 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 pic- 
ture of the amenities of food-taking: "the sailors sitting cross- 
legged at their chests in a circle, and breaking the hard bis- 
cuit, 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, read- 
ing 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 Ship- 
wrecks 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 drunken- 
ness, 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 backgam- 
mon board we had at home, lettered on the back The History 
of Rome, was quite as full of matter, and a great deal more 

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, to- 
bacco 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, sup- 
posed 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- 

"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 mo- 
ment 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 eter- 
nal 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 mate. 

" '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 fore- 
castle alone, and none would laugh or sing there : none but 
Jackson. But he, while the rest would be sitting silently smok- 
ing 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 back- 
slidings, 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 com- 
parison with Jackson. Larry, the old whaler, with his senti- 
mental distaste for civilised society, was a forerunner of Mr. 
H. L. Mencken ; and as such, deserves a more prominent men- 
tion. "And what's the use of bein' snivelized?" he asks Mel- 
ville; "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 Mada- 
gasky; it's too darned bad! Blast Ameriky, I say." 

But flat, stale and unprofitable seem the whole ship's com- 
pany in comparison with the demoniacal Jackson. Sainte- 
Beuve, in reviewing an early work of Cooper's, speaks enthu- 
siastically of Cooper's "faculte creatrice qui enfante et met au 
monde des caracteres nouveaux, et en vertu de laquelle Rabelais 


a produit Tanurge,' Le Sage 'Gil Bias/ et Richardson 'Cla- 
rissa.' ' 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 "orig- 
inals" Jackson deserves, as Melville says, a "lofty gallows." 

"Though Tiberius come in the succession of the Caesars, 
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 gal- 
lows 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 Mel- 
ville that squinting eye "was the most deep, subtle, infernal- 
looking eye that I ever saw lodged in a human head. I be- 

lieve 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 impu- 
dence, 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 accord- 
ing 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 every- 
thing 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 impa- 
tient to make his port before a shift of wind. Four sullen 
weeks previous to this had Jackson spent in the forecastle with- 
out 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 unex- 
pectedly 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 top- 
sail 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 exer- 
tion 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 

" 'Haul out to windward !' coughed Jackson, with a blas- 
phemous 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 

"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 sur- 
veyed the ribbed pillars around him. A pretty large belly, to be sure, 
thought he, but not so big as it might have been." 


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 destina- 
tion. 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 excur- 
sion 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 fore- 
castle ; 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 expectations. 

"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 flood. 

"Presently, in the misty twilight, we passed immense buoys, 
and caught sight of distant objects on shore, vague and shad- 
owy shapes, like Ossian's ghosts." And then it was that Mel- 
ville 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 

"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 ex- 
traordinary 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 Eng- 
land 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 fore- 
castle, 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 destina- 
tion in a narrow lane filled with boarding-houses, spirit-vaults 
and sailors. While Melville's shipmates were engaged in tip- 
pling 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 "meditat- 
ing upon the fact that I was now seated upon an English bench, 
under an English roof, in an English tavern, forming an in- 
tegral 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 circumnavigat- 
ing 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 reali- 
sation began to creep chillingly over Melville that his prospect 
of seeing the world as a sailor was, after all, but very doubt- 
ful. 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, op- 
portunity to make slightly more extended observations. Dur- 
ing these weeks he was free to go where he pleased between 
four o'clock in the afternoon and the following dawn. Sun- 
days 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 Vic- 
toria and such like notables, he knew by name no living soul 
in the British Isles. And neither his companions in the fore- 
castle, nor the remote and elaborately titled strangers of Mel- 
ville House, offered encouragement of an easy and glowing in- 
timacy. With but three dollars as his net capital money ad- 
vanced him in Liverpool by the ship and without a thread of 
presentable clothing on his back, he could not hope promis- 
cuously to ingratiate himself either by his purse or the adorn- 


ments 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, sub- 
dued, 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 vol- 
ume, 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 Ho- 
garth, before I will part from you. Yes, I will go to the ham- 
mer myself, ere I send you to be knocked down in the auc- 
tioneer'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, Mel- 
ville added, while on the Atlantic, drawings of ships and an- 
chors, 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 pre- 


paring 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 Mel- 
ville dreamed was, of course, without date and local habitation. 
When Melville found himself face to face with the solid real- 
ity 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 dis- 
carded 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 predestina- 
tion 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 rev- 


elry 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 mur- 
derous look." Melville excuses himself in the name of pro- 
priety 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 Juve- 
nile Total Abstinence Association and of an Anti-Smoking So- 
ciety 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, be- 
fore 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 ade- 
quate reason that united to his innocence of years, his very 
limited finances spared him the solicitations of toping com- 
panions 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 tne fumes of 
tobacco, whether inhaled through hookah, narghil, chibouque, 
Dutch porcelain, pure Principe, or Regalia." On another occa- 
sion he expressed a desire to "sit cross-legged and smoke out 



eternity." And the youthful pillar of the Juvenile Total Ab- 
stinence 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 ac- 
claim 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 drain- 
ing 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 cala- 
bashes 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 So- 
crates, 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 seven- 
teen 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 be- 
half 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 win- 
ning 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 ship- 
mates, his own seems not to have been jeopardised by any 
hankering after the instruments of damnation. 

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 isola- 
tion, he says, "to give his whole soul to another; in its lone- 
liness it was yearning to throw itself into the unbounded bosom 
of some immaculate friend." In Rcdburn, Melville spends a 
generous number of pages in celebrating his encounter with a 
good-for-nothing but courtly youth whom he calls Harry Bol- 
ton. "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 engag- 
ing dandy kidnaps Melville, and takes him for a mysterious 
night up to London: a night spent, to Melville's consterna- 
tion, 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 uncon- 
vincing 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 sur- 
prising 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 history. 

In Liverpool Melville seems to have spent his leisure in com- 
pany 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 com- 
pany 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 Liver- 
pool, though longer than the out-bound passage, was for Mel- 
ville 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 ab- 
sence 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 steer- 
age were, the cabin, perhaps, presented a scene equally de- 
spairing. 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 imag- 
ined, from her appearance, that the Highlander had made other 


than a tidy and prosperous voyage. "Thus, some sea-cap- 
tains 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 sun- 
rise, 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, Mel- 
ville 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 hard- 
ship departed, is sweeter than the presence of delight." Ac- 
cording to this philosophy, the more accumulated and over- 
whelming 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, look- 


ing 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, leav- 
ing 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 dis- 
turbance. The Paymaster-general looked up. Melville de- 
manded 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 

"Ah, yes, I remember," said the captain. "Mr. Jones! 
Ha! Ha! I remember Mr. Jones: a very gentlemanly gentle- 
man; and stop you, too, are the son of a wealthy French 
importer; and let me think was not your great-uncle a 

"No!" thundered Melville, his Gansevoort temper up. 

Captain Riga suavely turned over his accounts. "Hum, 
hum ! yes, here it is : Wellingborough Redburn, at three dol- 
lars a month. Say four months, that's twelve dollars: less 


three dollars advanced in Liverpool that makes it nine dol- 
lars; 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 resent- 
ment. 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 

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 be 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." 


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. Mel- 
ville), 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 Sted- 
man, "was occupied with school teaching. While so engaged 
at Greenbush, now East Albany, N. Y., he received the mu- 
nificent 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 

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 him- 
self 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 in- 
telligent 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 maga- 
zines and other polite periodicals. Not only the public had ap- 
plauded 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, sup- 
pressed maxim of Dr. Goldsmith's, which asserts that what- 
ever is new is false, went on to apply it to the excellent pro- 
ductions before him ; concluding with this : 'He has translated 
the unruffled gentleman from the drawing-room into the gen- 
eral 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 ironic- 
ally 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 re- 
moved from vulgarity and vigour." They were "character- 
ised throughout by Perfect Taste," as he makes one critic ob- 
serve "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 vul- 


garity and vigour, but with the milder accompanying vices of 
indecency and irreverence. His earliest writings were un- 
touched 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." Mel- 
ville 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 ef- 
fusions to the family circle." A third had no reserve in say- 
ing that "the predominant end and aim of this writer was 
evangelical piety." Melville is here patently satirising the 
vitriolic abuse which Typee and Omoo provoked. 

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 muti- 
lated clipping, in lacking the closing paragraphs, can give no 
evidence as to concluding signature. Copies of these two ar- 
ticles 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 cer- 
tain, 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 ef- 
forts 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 derived. 

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

For the Democratic Press 

NO. I 

MY DEAR M , I can imagine you seated on that dear, 

delightful, old-fashioned sofa; your head supported by its lux- 
urious 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 iden- 
tical seat in which old Burton composed his Anatomy of Mel- 
ancholy. I see you reluctantly raise your optics from the huge- 
clasped quarto which encumbers your lap, to receive the pack- 
age 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 protege. 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 ele- 
gant 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 appella- 
tions 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 resentment. 

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 ex- 
traordinary powers, stored with universal knowledge, and em- 
bellished 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 intelli- 
gent stranger who may chance to meet me, as a distingue 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 foot- 
men 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 company. 

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 an- 
other; tapping this one under the chin, and clasping this one 
round the waist ; and finally, winding up the operation by kiss- 
ing 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 dam- 
sels as one would wish to look upon on a dreamy summer day ! 
When I traverse the broad pavements of my own metropo- 
lis, 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 orna- 
ment, 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 else- 
where is beheld; no, here are all varieties, all the orders of 
Beauty's architecture ; the Doric, the Ionic, the Corinthian, all 
are here. i 

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 orders. 

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 imagina- 
tion, must in some of his reveries have conjured up from the 
realms of fancy, a being bright and beautiful beyond every- 
thing he had ever before apprehended, whose main and dis- 
tinguishing attribute invariably proves to be a form the in- 
describable 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 Prome- 
thean spark throw life and animation into the Venus de Me- 
dici, 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 dis- 
solves the most frigid heart and heals the wounds she gave 

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 divini- 
ties, 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 present- 
ments," do not fail to show them to and solicit her 

opinion as to their respective merits. 

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, "embel- 
lished with every polite accomplishment." Melville called 
down the Nine Gods, and a host of minor deities; he ran- 
sacked Athens, Rhodes, Cyprus, Circassia, Lydia, Lilliputia, 
Damascus, this world and the next, for geographical adorn- 
ments; he called up Burton, Shakespeare, Scott, Byron, Mil- 


ton, 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 after- 
noons in the deep recesses of his father's fastidiously picked 
and decorous library." Not in vain, either, had he been sub- 
mitted 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 imagin- 
ings of the second and third degree of poets he freely and com- 
prehendingly ranged." Melville was always a wide if desul- 
tory 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 CEdipus 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 reveal- 
ing the crude beginnings of one of the manners superbly mas- 
tered in parts of Moby-Dick. This early effusion, by reveal- 
ing 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 crema- 
tion, 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 remorse- 
less pertinacity. In Pierre, he satirises his youthful and reck- 
less 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 house- 
maids in sweeping; went for kindlings to the fires; and for- 
ever 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 preoccupa- 
tion. He traces his own development through the To ve- friend- 
ship 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 "innumer- 
able wandering glances settled upon some one specific ob- 

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 frag- 
ment 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 ris- 
ing 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 cool- 
ness 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 effec- 
tually 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 mar- 
vellous !" and stooping down, I picked up an elegant little, rose- 
coloured, lavender-scented billet-doux, and hurriedly break- 
ing the seal (a heart, transfixed with an arrow) I read by the 
light of the moon, the following: 


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


"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 pos- 
sible, 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, beck- 
oning me forward. I started towards her; but, as I ap- 
proached, 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 be- 
ing, 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 her." 


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 un- 
der 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 

"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 oc- 
casion, was busily occupied in assigning some fearful motive 
for such unusual precautions, my leader suddenly halted be- 
neath 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 explana- 
tion : 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 creak- 
ings, 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 en- 
trance, 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 

"For a moment my brain spun round, and I had not at 
command a single of my faculties. Recovering my self-pos- 
session, 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 ab- 
ruptly torn, and the reader is left cruelly suspended. 

From the publication of Lalla Rookh, in 1817, to the pub- 
lication 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 indebted- 
ness, 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 so- 


berly tempered by Mrs. Chapone and Mrs. Barbauld, Mel- 
ville had, under the goadings of poverty, the frustrations of 
his environment, and the teasing lure of some stupendous dis- 
covery 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 im- 
pressed him less than did the sights of the poverty and vicious- 
ness 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 teach- 
ing 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 author- 
ship. 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 case- 
ment ; but the greater part of the watery world was still to be 
viewed. "Why," he asks himself perplexed at his own mys- 
tery, "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 Seas. 



"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." 


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 de- 
velopment into mysticism and metaphysics was a melancholy 
perversity to be viewed with a charitable forbearance, and for- 
given 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 remin- 
iscences, always to be rebuffed by Melville's invariable rejoin- 
der : "That reminds me of the eighth book of Plato's Repub- 
lic." 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 canon- 
isation because of this intimacy with unholy flesh. Stedman 
published in the New York World for October 1 1, 1891, a trib- 
ute to his dead friend, significantly headed : "Marquesan" Mel- 
ville. A South Sea Prospero who Lived and Died in New 
York. The Island Nymphs of Nukuhcva's Happy Valley. 
While Stedman was not necessarily responsible for this cap- 
tion, it is, nevertheless, a just summary of the fullest insight 
he ever got into Melville's life and works. The friendship be- 
tween 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 super- 
latives 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 con- 
trived 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 

"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 pub- 
lished in 1840, and was at once talked of everywhere. Mel- 
ville must have read it at the time, mindful of his own expe- 
rience as a sailor. At any rate, he once more signed a ship's 
articles, and on January I, 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 Mel- 


ville sailed in the Acushnet is corroborated by a statement in 
the journal of Melville's wife; in the record surviving in Mel- 
ville's handwriting, headed "what became of the ship's com- 
pany on the whaleship Acushnet, according to Hubbard, who 
came back in her (more than a four years' voyage) and vis- 
ited 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 Acush- 
net 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, sne 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 neces- 
sarily 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 i ; Starbuck, Jan- 
uary 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 De- 
cember 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 fore- 
castle of a whaler : to make such a shifting of whereabouts a 
sign of jolly romantic exuberance, is engagingly naive in its 

Just what specific circumstances were the occasion of Mel- 
ville'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 read- 
ing 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 simplic- 
ity than insight. 

Melville never wearies of iterating his "itch for things re- 
mote." Like Thoreau, he had a "naturally roving disposi- 
tion," 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 de- 
sires there was always, to the end of his life, a blatant incom- 
patibility. 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 inex- 
orable 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 him- 
self 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 ade- 
quately appreciated. Melville's more violent and restive im- 
pulses never permitted him to feel any such flattering attach- 
ment to his whereabouts, whether it was Albany, Liverpool, 
Lima, Tahiti or Constantinople. Like Rousseau, who con- 
fessed himself "burning with desire without any definite ob- 
ject," 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 pref- 
erence 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 sum- 
mer of 1842 with a companion, Richard T. Greene (Toby) at 
the bay of Nukuheva in the Marquesas Islands" is the state- 
ment 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 of- 
fers 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 weari- 
ness of counting-house inventories; and in despair of present- 
ing 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 li- 
censed in the best interests of truth to expurgate reality. And 
though Captain Ahab's hunt of the abhorred Moby-Dick be- 
longs as essentially to the realm o,f 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 con- 
sidering 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 con- 
tours 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 through- 
out 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 

There is but one attempt at a comprehensive history of whal- 
ing: 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 accu- 
racy, compactness and clarity. The most comprehensive popu- 
lar 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. Repre- 
sentative 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 

Although the literature of whaling extends by repeated di- 
lutions 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, Appa- 
ratus and Methods of the Whale Fishery and a History of the 
Present Condition of the Whale Fishery. The facts presented 
in these last two encyclopaedic treatments are drawn princi- 
pally 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 re- 
gards 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 con- 
tradictory 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. 

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 Mel- 
ville 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 in- 
stance of a ship being actually sent to the bottom by the ram- 
ming 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 nar- 
rative: 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 so- 
berly 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 jour- 
nal kept during a whaling trip, published in 1872 under the 
title Nimrod of the Sea. 

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. Rich- 
ard 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 un- 
daunted 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. Be- 
lieving 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 

Tower establishes the fact that among the first colonists 
there were men at least acquainted with, if not actually experi- 
enced in whaling. And it is quite generally accepted that the 
settlement of Massachusetts was prompted not only by a prot- 
estant 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 estab- 
lished 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 neigh- 
bouring 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 Bed- 
ford, 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 actu- 
ally stranded. 

In 1712, through the instrumentality of Christopher Hus- 
sey, 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 

Hussey's exploit marked a radical change in whaling meth- 
ods. All Nantucket lusted after sperm whales. The indom- 
itable 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 smit- 
ing 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 sug- 
gests 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, Cap- 
tain 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 Eng- 
land," 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 whal- 
ing 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 ac- 
tive men perished in the war that in the eight hundred Nan- 
tucket families there were two hundred and two widows and 
three hundred and forty-two orphan children. 

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 Lon- 
don. This was, as a contemporary London newspaper re- 
marks, "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 con- 
stant 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 Bed- 
ford as incomparably the greatest whaling port in the history 
of the world. It was a Nantucket whaler, however, who in 
11835 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, fur- 
nishing 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 

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 allure- 
ments 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 over- 


hauling 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 dec- 
ades 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, prodi- 
gious. 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, bak- 
ers and bankers. Aside from the necessary whaling equip- 
ment, 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 en- 
tries, 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 com- 
munity upon the whalemen's luck. During the time of con- 
tinual 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 Quaker- 
ess 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 any- 
thing 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 ex- 
pected 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 con- 
versant 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 appear- 
ance. 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 
24O-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 charac- 
teristic 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 clip- 
per. Three peculiarities chiefly distinguished the whalers from 
other ships of the same general character, (i) 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, Artifi- 
cially, 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 Wash- 
ington 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-1-o-o-ws! Blo-o-ows!" was 
then sung out from the mast-head : the signal for the chase. 

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 indo- 
lently 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 Mel- 
ville'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 Nan- 
tucket to eschew the bad business of shipping "romantic, melan- 
choly, 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 him- 
self upon the mast-head of some luckless disappointed whale- 
ship," 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-discov- 
ered, 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 Mel- 
ville'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 de- 
veloped until practical perfection had been reached. Never 
has boat been built which for speed, staunchness, seaworthiness 
and hardiness excels the whaleboat of the Massachusetts whale- 
men. 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 high- 
est 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 mo- 
ment, it is like looking up and down in a twilight glade, inter- 
minable ; 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 out- 
stretched 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 whale." 

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 "tran- 
quilly and contentedly, like a quiet ghost with a clean con- 
science 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 destruc- 
tion, 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 operation. 

"By midnight," says Melville, "the works were in full opera- 
tion. 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 whale- 
ship'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 black- 
ness of the sea and the night; and scornfully champed, and 
viciously spat round her on all sides." During this scene Mel- 
ville stood at the helm, "and for long silent hours guarded 
the way of this fire-ship on the sea. Wrapped, for that inter- 
val, 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 chap- 
ters 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 his- 
tory," 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 bound- 
less 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 black- 
ness 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 con- 
scious" that "whatever swift rushing thing I stood on was not 
so much bound to any haven ahead as rushing 1 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 unfath- 
omably 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 alto- 
gether 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 



"At the battle of Breviex in Flanders, my glorious old gossiping an- 
cestor 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 gener- 
alities celebrated the heroic enterprise of the hunters of levia- 
than. But Burke viewed both whaling and knight-errantry 
from a safe remove of time or place, and the crude every- 
day realities of each he smothered beneath billows of gorgeous 
generalisation. Burke offers a notable instance wherein ro- 
mance 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 repug- 
nant to wholesomemindedness. Intimately considered, both 
whaling and knight-errantry were shabby forms of the butch- 
ering 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 right- 
eousness. In flight from the deadly virtues, Melville was pre- 
cipitated 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 un- 
godly 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 Acushnct has not yet 

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 uncom- 
mon measure throughout the golden age of whaling, the pecu- 
liarities of the Quaker. Never perhaps in the history of the 
world has there been mated two aspects of life more humor- 
ously 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 conscien- 
tious 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 thou- 
sand 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 sig- 
nificantly 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 Cap- 
tain 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 en- 
tirely by American-born seamen, including a certain propor- 
tion 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 qualifica- 
tions 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 remark- 
able 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 con- 
tingent 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 swal- 
low-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 Mel- 
ville paints them when they signed the ship's papers, not know- 
ing a harpoon from a handspike. It is a curious paradox in 
the history of whaling, a paradox best elaborated by Ver- 
rill, that the ship's crew were almost never sailors. The 
captain, of course, the officers and the harpooners were usu- 
ally 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 com- 
petent deep-water sailors stuck to the navy or the merchant 
marine. When Melville shipped from Honolulu as an "ordi- 
nary seaman in the United States Navy," he soon found occa- 
sion "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 con- 
temptuously style those who hunt the leviathan." 

When the farmer lads came down to the sea no more in ade- 
quate 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, em- 
ployed agents scattered here and there in the principal cities, 
especially in the Middle West and the interior of New Eng- 
land. 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 advertise- 
ments 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 propor- 
tioned 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 hun- 
dred 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 exem- 
plify the relation that, in Melville's mind, existed between pro- 
fanity 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 com- 
petent outfitter managed to ship his embryo whalemen with- 
out 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 toler- 
ably 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 perse- 
cuted, 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 whal- 
ing chanteys, a lyric which must have been sung with heart- 
felt 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 tirre 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 his- 
tory 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 Mel- 
ville 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 perse- 
cuted, a school for the dissipated, an asylum for the needy." 
J. Ross Browne was warned before his sailing that New Bed- 
ford "was the sink-hole of iniquity; that the fitters were all 
blood-suckers, the owners cheats, and the captains tyrants." 

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 self- 
ishly withheld from any man, no matter what the race, or the 
complexion of his hide or his morals. The Spanish, Portu- 
guese, 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 parentheti- 
cally in Redburn. It would have been difficult for him to find 
a more promising field for the exercise of this inherited char- 
acteristic, than was whaling in 1841 : and this, indeed, with- 
out the nuisance of leaving New Bedford. "In thoroughfares 
nigh the docks," he says, "any considerable seaport will fre- 


quently 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 Bom- 
bay, in the Apollo Green, live Yankees have often scared the 
natives. But New Bedford beats all Water street and Wap- 
ping. 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 Bed- 
ford in bed with one of these very cannibals; and on the fol- 
lowing morning, in a spirit of amiable and transcendent char- 
ity, goes down on his knees with his tattooed bed-fellow be- 
fore 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 pro- 
miscuous 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 fore- 
castle 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 Mel- 
ville's ship-mates, on the whole, seem to have varied this mo- 
notony. 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 Pitts field 
in 1850. 


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



"Captain Pease returned & lives in asylum at the Vine- 

"Raymond, ist Mate had a fight with the Captain & went 
ashore at Payta. 

"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 

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

"Barney, boatswain, came home. 

"Carpenter, went ashore at Mo wee half dead with disreputa- 
ble disease. 

"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 end. 

"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 Oahu. 

"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 sev- 
eral 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. 

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 typi- 
cal 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 sin- 
gularly 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 com- 
mon 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 Mel- 
ville, "who never reveal their origin, never allude to home, 
and go rambling over the world as if pursued by some myste- 
rious 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 Mel- 
ville a lock of his hair, an amiable vanity, perhaps, at Mel- 
ville's celebration of his personal charms. 

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 con- 
spicuous 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 imagina- 
tion. All known pictures of Melville postdate his creative 
period. They are pictures of Melville the disenchanted phi- 
losopher. As pictures of Melville the adventurer and artist, 
they survive as misleading posthumous images. 

Of Toby's character, Melville says : "He was a strange way- 
ward 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. 

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 uncor- 
rupted 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 jurispru- 
dence 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 1846 

In 1865 


In 1857 he moved to Chicago and took a place on the Times. 
With the Civil War he enlisted in the 6th Infantry of Mis- 
souri 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 ist 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 ex- 
changes of recognition and gratitude between him and Mel- 
ville. 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 Rich- 
ard 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 them- 
selves in the comment : "The Encantadas called up reminis- 
cences 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 Mel- 
ville visit him while in Cleveland. If the visit was ever made, 
it has not transpired. In 1860 Toby wrote to Melville: 
"Hope yoil 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 moon- 
light 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 hu- 
man 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 noth- 
ing else." 

The ship itself was, at the expiration of this period, de- 
plorable 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 admin- 
istered as effectually to silence the aggrieved party." 

"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 pecu- 
liarities 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 pro- 
vided 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 white- 
ness, 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 cheru- 

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 disin- 
clination 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 inexora- 
ble 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 wa- 
tery 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 rov- 
ings 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 ex- 
cited prospect. "Naked houris cannibal banquets groves of 
cocoa-nut coral reefs tattooed chiefs and bambo 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 sacri- 

After fifteen months aboard the Acushnet, Melville was 
ripe to discover alluring Edenic beauties in tropical heathen- 
dom. 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." 


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 be- 
hind one difficult and dangerous portal. During these centu- 
ries 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 glit- 
tering on the mast-head, and exorcised the demon of the water- 
spout by elevating their swords in the form of crosses. Mer- 
maids 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 be- 
headed. 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 west- 



ern boundary of the Pacific had been approached by the Portu- 
guese, Francisco Serrano having discovered the Molucca 
Islands immediately after the conquest of Malacca by the 
celebrated Albuquerque. To stimulate exertion, and to pre- 
clude 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 Portu- 
guese 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 ren- 
dered the decision important To ascertain this was the pur- 
pose 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 La- 
drones, 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 Masa- 
f uera they knew ; a part of China, a part of Japan, the Philip- 
pines, 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 Abbe Raynal states 
that the strictest orders were given by the Spanish Govern- 
ment prohibiting captains on any account to deviate from the 
track laid down on their charts during the voyage between these 

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 pertina- 
ciously 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 Fernan- 
dez and Tasman had touched at various points of this con- 
tinent. Politicians and poets agreed that treasures of all kinds 
would be found there, though they varied in their appropria- 
tion 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 Col- 
lection of the Several Voyages and Discoveries in the South 
Pacific Ocean. Dalrymple was an ardent advocate of the re- 
ality of the Terra Australis Incognita, and to encourage an 
experimental confirmation of his faith, he dedicated his hand- 
some quarto : "To the man who, emulous of Magellan and the 
heroes of former times, undeterred by difficulties and unse- 
duced by pleasure, shall persist through every obstacle, and not 
by chance but by virtue and good conduct succeed in estab- 
lishing an intercourse with a Southern Continent." Dr. Kip- 
pis, Captain Cook's biographer, writing in 1788, says he re- 
members 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 follow- 
ing Dalrymple's dedication, Captain Cook, back from his first 
voyage in the Pacific, was commissioned by the Earl of Sand- 


wich, 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 

In 1595, Alvaro Mendana de Neyra, departing from the 
beaten track across the Pacific on his way to occupy the Solo- 
mon 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 me- 
morial, to die before he accomplished the object of his voyage, 
and to leave the Marquesas unmolested by visitors until vis- 
ited 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 indo- 
lent 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 Dam- 
pier 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, Car- 
taret, deviated from Dampier's track, confining his explora- 
tions 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 So- 
ciety "to be pronounced so as to rhyme with the adjective 
mighty" and its people, occupies a great part of his narra- 
tive. 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, leav- 
ing the felicitation of the strangers in the hands of his consort, 
Oberea, "whose whole character," according to the observa- 
tions of the London Missionary Society, "for sensuality ex- 
ceeded even the usual standard of Otaheite." In the estab- 
lishment 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 re- 
peatedly in the later annals of Tahiti. 

Early in April, 1768, Tahiti was again visited by Euro- 
peans. 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 Outoo- 
roo, as well as others aboard, were infected with venereal 
disease. Wallis very specifically asserts that his ship's com- 
pany 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 sea- 
sonably averted by the happy influence of the gospel." The 
steady extinction of the Polynesian races would seem to indi- 
cate 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 com- 
petent barbarism to the devastating aggressions of civilisa- 

Everybody knows how in 1769 the Royal Society, discov- 
ering 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, Wal- 
lis 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 adven- 
tures 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 for- 
eign 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 Ha- 
waii, 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 aft- 
erwards 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 ad- 
judged him the Copley Gold Medal. Six times was his por- 
trait 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 atten- 
tion 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 edifi- 
cation 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 pre- 
sented 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., trans- 
lated 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 Ex- 
planatory 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 danc- 
ing, 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 festivi- 
ties. 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 inclina- 
tion 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 dis- 
coveries made in the great southern seas by the voyages under- 
taken at the command of his present majesty, George the 
Third," says a spokesman for the community, "excited won- 
derful 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 coun- 
tries 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 Septem- 


her 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 dis- 
eases 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 ever- 
lasting 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 candi- 
dates for the mission who applied in great numbers as to 
their views, capacity, and "knowledge in the mystery of godli- 
ness." 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 weav- 
ers, 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 Cap- 
tain 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 Spit- 
head. 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 Sab- 
bath 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 be- 
haviour, 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 petti- 
coat for the Sundays, "when dressed, made a very decent ap- 
pearance ; 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 per- 
plexed 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 bless- 
ings, 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 beau- 
tiful females, who were employed to pass the ball, or carry 
the tar-bucket, etc. ; and this they did with the greatest assidu- 
ity, often besmearing themselves with the tar in the execu- 
tion of their office. No ship's company, without great 
restraints from God's grace, could ever have resisted such 

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 pitia- 
ble 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. Dis- 
covering so many strangers, he was greatly terrified ; and, per- 
ceiving 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 whale- 
men, and though they had been occasionally visited by enter- 
prising 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 reinforce- 
ment 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 Mel- 
ville, were in large part virgin in their barbarism. 

At Tahiti, the brethren of the London Missionary Society 
continued to work unrestingly, and against incredible discour- 
agement. The natives were, as Captain Cook discovered, "pro- 
digious 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 pad- 
lock. 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 repro- 
bation 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 Mission- 
ary 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 grati- 
tude 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 appre- 
hension 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 inter- 
course," 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 dif- 
ferent 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 impec- 
cably 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 re- 
marks upon the missionaries' clothes, or upon their appearance. 

"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 

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

"The woman whom you see is a heathen, car- 
rying 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 mas- 

From Story of the Morning Star, 
By Rev. Hirarn Bingham. 



Thus Satan filled their hearts with folly, lest they should be- 
lieve 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 un- 
appreciative 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 responsibili- 
ties : that, they found totally incomprehensible. 

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 Aristo- 
phanes and the Greek Anthology: the abyss between the ani- 
mal 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 Jour- 
nals 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 incep- 
tion of Christianity, the pagan world was going to its doom, 
and its death agonies were frightful in the extreme. Some- 
thing had to be done to save humanity, and something dras- 
tic. 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 de- 


pravity. "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 in- 
troduced into Tahiti by the rival proselyting of French Catho- 
lic 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 mis- 
givings. Their faith was extraordinary. No less extraordi- 
nary 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 breth- 
ren in peril of their lives without releasing them to celestial 
jubilation. The Napoleonic wars cut them off from com- 


munication 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 mis- 
sionaries 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 discon- 
tinued, 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 grati- 
fying 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 at- 
tended one of these services, and was less favourably im- 

In 1823, the French establishment of the (Euvre de la prop- 
agation 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 Abbe 
Coudrin had founded the Society of Picpus "to promote the 
revival of the Roman Catholic religion in France, and to prop- 
agate it by missions among unbelievers or pagans." This es- 
tablishment 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 ap- 
pointed as his prefect; two priests, Caret and Laval, and a 
catechist, Columban, or Murphy, were placed under his direc- 
tion. In May, 1834, the Catholic missionaries arrived at Val- 
paraiso, 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 Con- 
siderations generates sur la Colonisation Franfaise dans 
I'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 multiplica- 
tion 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 mission- 


ary 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-col- 
oured 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 mis- 
sionaries, aware of this regulation, succeeded, however, in ef- 
fecting 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 cor- 
respondence 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 maj- 
esty; 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 am- 
plitude 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 un- 
able to offer much assistance. The French Admiral bore in- 
structions 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 Eng- 

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 of- 
fice 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 adven- 
tured in letters, and in his Voyages aux lies du Grand Ocean 
he exposes many of the corrupt practices that he himself was 
instrumental in bringing about. The Admiral and Moeren- 
haut, 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, cruis- 
ing the Pacific, arrived at the Marquesas with two corvettes, 
the Astrolabe and the Zele, 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 ar- 
rival 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'Ur- 
ville is a more detailed account of a similar surrender. Mel- 
ville 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 be- 
gan to fall from her eyes, as she threw them on me with an evi- 
dent expression of anger. At the same moment I also per- 
ceived that Captain Du Petit-Thouars endeavoured to dimin- 
ish 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 Novem- 
ber 8, 1838, despatched a letter to her sister sovereign, Vic- 
toria, 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 La- 
place on the Artemise out to Tahiti "to obtain satisfaction from 
the Lutheran evangelists who had forced themselves on a 
simple and docile people." As the Artemise 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 Artemise: "From the first, 
the most perfect harmony prevailed between the ship's com- 
pany 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 Ta- 
hitian, 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 char- 
acter of our people ; they had never met with such gaiety, ex- 
pansiveness, and kindness in any other foreigners. The beach 
presented the aspect of a continual holiday, to the great scan- 
dal of the missionaries. We have seen how the men managed, 
and what friends they found. The officers were not less for- 
tunate. 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 mid- 
shipmen. 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 pub- 
licly to declare to the islanders "how shameful and even dan- 


gerous 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 Artemise to 
sign a treaty guaranteeing no discrimination against the 
French. Pomare' s despondency at the beginning of the pro- 
ceedings was solaced by champagne and brandy. Casimir 
Henricy, who accompanied the Artemise throughout her cir- 
cumnavigatory 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 Poly- 
nesian diplomacy; and, certainly, never was a political hori- 
zon 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 pos- 
session 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 Pacific.' " 


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 Mel- 
ville 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 pro- 
longation 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." In- 
stead 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 %ith their 
short inland vistas of new and startling beauty, one of the 
sailors exclaimed to Melville, pointing with his hand in the di- 



rection 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 

Towards noon they swung abreast of their harbour. No de- 
scription 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 an- 
chorage: 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 Acush- 
net he told his history. "Thrown upon the world a foundling, 
his paternal origin was as much a mystery to him as the gene- 
alogy 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 ammuni- 
tion, and soon became, what he was when Melville found him, 
military leader of the tribe, war-god of the entire island, liv- 
ing under the sacred protection of an express edict of the taboo, 
his person inviolable forever. In lies Marquises, ou Nouka- 
Hiva, Histoire, Geographic, Mceurs et Considerations Gen- 
erates (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. Rob- 
erts, 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 sub- 
mitted 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 insur- 
mountable 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 can- 
nibalism of the Marquesans as an amiable weakness, he gazed 
upon Hardy "with a feeling akin to horror." Hardy's tat- 
tooing 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 per- 
haps a wrinkle, or a freckle, which some of our modern cos- 


metics might have effaced." But Hardy's tattooing was to 
Melville a mark indelible of the blackest of all betrayals. 

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 swim- 
ming 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 en- 
veloping 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 ele- 


ment; 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 frol- 
icking about the decks. Many of them went forward, perch- 
ing 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 pre- 
lude "to every species of riot and debauchery." According to 
Melville's account, on board the Acushnet "the grossest licen- 
tiousness and the most shameful inebriety prevailed, with oc- 
casional 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 sta- 
tioned about one hundred soldiers ashore, according to Mel- 
ville'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 
Elysees," 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 puarkec 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 gal- 
lant at the Marquesas. An officer of the Reine Blanche, writ- 
ing at sea on October 10, 1842, of the exploits of his country- 
men 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 sup- 
pressed 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 cour- 
ageously 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 cap- 
tain's bad treatment of the crew, and his non-fulfilment of 
agreements. Life aboard the Acushnet has already been suffi- 
ciently expatiated upon. 

Melville knew that immediately adjacent to Nukuheva, and 
only separated from it by the mountains seen from the har- 
bour, lay the lovely valley of Happar, whose inmates cher- 
ished the most friendly relations with the inhabitants of Nuku- 
heva. On the other side of Happar, and closely adjoining it, 
lay the magnificent valley of the dreaded Typee, the unappeas- 
able enemies of both these tribes. These Typees enjoyed a 


prodigious notoriety all over the islands. The natives of Nuku- 
heva, 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 hav- 
ing 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 con- 
cluded that unperceived he might effect a passage to the moun- 
tains, 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 him- 
self seated beneath a cocoanut tree on the brow of the moun- 
tain, 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 knowl- 
edge of Toby's hearty detestation of the ship, of his dauntless 
courage, and his other engaging traits as companion in high ad- 
venture, 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. 

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 

In 1855 


Editor of the Sandusky Mirror 


readers though never for an instant their patience. After 
reading these adventures, Stevenson expressed his slangy ap- 
proval 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 Mel- 
ville through parching fever and agonising lameness, disap- 
point the lugubrious reader. On the third day after their es- 
cape, their ardour is cooled to a resolve to forego futile ram- 
blings for a space. They crawled under a clump of thick 
bushes, and pulling up the long grass that grew around, cov- 
ered themselves completely with it to endure another down- 
pour. 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. Mid- 
way towards the sea, and peering here and there amidst the 
foliage, might be seen the palmetto-thatched houses of its in- 
habitants 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. Every- 


where 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 pro- 
fusion 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. De- 
spite the defeats of the preceding day, Toby awoke on the 
following morning as blithe and joyous as a young bird. Mel- 
ville's fever and his swollen leg, however, had left him not so 

"What's to be done now?" Melville inquired, after their 
morning repast of a crumb of sweat-mixed biscuit and to- 
bacco, 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 devour- 
ing 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 king-, 
dom 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 fantas- 
tic 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 con- 
tacts 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. Mel- 
ville reports that as late as his day "wanton acts of cruelty are 
not unusual on the part of sea captains landing at islands com- 
paratively 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 mere ignorant and degraded men are, the more contemptu- 
ously 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 ex- 
ceedingly virulent disease among savage peoples. "Our watch- 
words are," these jolly traders said, " 'sweep the creatures 
into the sea, and let white men occupy the soil/ ' This senti- 
ment 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 tech- 
nique of libel by imputing to the unbreeched heathen a touch- 
ing 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 re- 
spect 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 be- 
lieved that savage peoples were descended from a stock that 
Eve had conceived by an angel before the fall. In his dithy- 
ramb 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 no- 

The myth of the "noble savage" was a taking conceit, how- 
ever, 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 Rous- 
seau's influence on the drawing rooms, Taine says that "The 
fops dreamed between two madrigals of the happiness of sleep- 
ing 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 back- 
ward glance to the vanished paradise of childhood, not a find- 
ing 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 ir- 
repressibly among the upholsterings of civilisation. The soft 
and ardent dreamer, no less than the sleek and parched imag- 
ination 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 Lemaitre, was 
a "magnificent series of attitudes" showed incredible hardi- 
hood of attitudinising in crossing the Atlantic in actual quest 
of the primitive. In the forest west of Albany he did pre- 
tend 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 sav- 
agery than he was with nature. His first savages he found 
under a shed taking dancing lessons from a little Frenchman, 
who, "bepowdered and be frizzled" 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 Rous- 
seau?" 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 them- 
selves 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 an- 
nexed, 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 pa- 
triotism 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 orf 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 Poly- 

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 inti- 
mately of the heathen : but their records are redolent with sanc- 
tity, not sympathy. The South Sea vagabonds were the best 
hope of letters: but they all seem to have died without dictat- 
ing their memoirs. William Mariner, it is true, thanks to a 
mutiny at the Tongo Islands in 1805, was "several years resi- 
dent in those islands:" and upon Mariner's return, Dr. John 
Martin spent infinite patience in recording every detail of sav- 
age 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 nu- 
merous 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 play- 
ing "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 transpire. 

This originality lies partly, of course, in the novelty of Mel- 
ville'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 pub- 


lication in England, it was accepted not as fiction but as eth- 
nology, 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 inter- 
changeable terms. Men do, in fact, believe pretty much what 
they find it most advantageous to believe. We live by preju- 
dices, 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 dis- 
patched 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 ap- 
prove in self-righteousness. But one ventures the "ungar- 
nished 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 shape- 
less 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 main- 
tained 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 unno- 
ticed 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." Mel- 
ville's name was suspiciously examined as being a nom de 
plume used to cover a cowardly and supercilious libel. A gen- 
tleman signing himself G. W. P. and writing in the American 
Review (1847, Vol. IV, pp. 36-46) was scandalised by Mel- 
ville'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: (i) only the impotent make amorous boasts ; (2) Mel- 
ville 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 truth." 

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 in- 
debted 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 tat- 
toos, 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 end- 
lessly, without ever appearing to make any perceptible ad- 
vance. 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 hav- 
ing 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 tran- 
quillity imaginable. Sometimes slipping them through the 
slits in his ears, he would seize his spear and go stalking be- 
neath 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 project- 
ing eaves of the house, and rolling his clumsy trinkets care- 
fully in a piece of tappa, would resume his more pacific opera- 
tions as quietly as if he had never interrupted them." 

Kory-Kory's mother was, so Melville reports, the only in- 
dustrious 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 mus- 
cular 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 Faya- 
way, 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 sum- 
mer 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*8, "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 Faya- 
way 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 re- 
turned 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 Mel- 
ville 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 contend- 
ing. 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 per- 


sonal 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 val- 
ley, 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 Eng- 
lish 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 Mel- 
ville, 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 Nuku- 
heva, had been informed of Melville's detention in Typee. 
Desirious 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. Ac- 
companied 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 clamor- 
ously 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 excite- 
ment 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 

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 ter- 
rible. 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 dis- 
covered 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 but- 
tress wall where the mountain bounds the valley, to the blaz- 
ing 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" 


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 every- 
thing denoting an ill state of affairs aboard. Leaning care- 
lessly over the bulwarks were the sailors, wild, haggard-look- 
ing 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 dur- 



ing his wanderings in the South Seas, he says: "The fre- 
quency, however, with which these incidents have been ver- 
bally related, has tended to stamp them upon the memory." 
There is novelty in his logic: all twice-told tales are not al- 
ways 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 sym- 
pathies 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, en- 
gaging 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." Mel- 
ville felt he was leaving cannibalism forever and the depar- 
ture 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 re- 
gret 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 

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 

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. Mel- 
ville 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 cap- 
tain 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 con- 
tents of a tin of soaked biscuit and tea-leaves. Things were 
not well aboard the Julia. 

But it was Doctor Long Ghost he who so mocked the cap- 
tain 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 occa- 
sionally 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 cap- 
tain 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 him- 
self; but it was Melville's conviction that he had certainly at 
some time or other spent money, drunk Burgundy, and asso- 
ciated 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 Muscat. 

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 distin- 
guished guests. There they talked, played chess with an out- 
fit 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 hol- 
low 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 manoeuvre 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 Eng- 
land; 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 foun- 
tain head. They gazed on the bitter waters, did a stout menag- 
erie 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?" Mel- 
ville 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 keeping. 

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 com- 
forts, 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 re- 
members 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 persua- 
sion 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 desist." 

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. Mel- 
ville improved his leisure by attending, each Sunday, the ser- 
vices 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 in- 
congruous 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 morn- 
ing, 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 even- 
ing. While the doctor engaged the two younger girls, Mel- 
ville 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 reserva- 
tions ; 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 doc- 
tor and myself. As soon as good-breeding would permit, we 
took leave." 

It is Melville's contention that the very traits in the Tahi- 
tians which induced the London Missionary Society to regard 
them as the most promising subjects Tor conversion, were> in 
fact, the most serious obstruction to their ever being Chris- 
tians. "An air of softness in their manners, great apparent in- 
genuousness 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 re- 
straint; 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 en- 
joy 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 civi- 
lised life." 

Paul Gauguin, in his Intimate Journals, seems to share Mel- 
ville's conviction that the Polynesians are disqualified by na- 
ture 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 Al- 
mighty, 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, charac- 
terised the pioneers of all faith. And although in zeal and 
disinterestedness, the missionaries now on the island are, per- 
haps, inferior to their predecessors, they have, nevertheless, 
in their own way, at least, laboured hard to make a Christian 
people of their charge." 

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 accomplish- 


ments 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 mis- 
sionaries, 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 incom- 
patible 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." 

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 invin- 
cible 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 Protes- 
tant 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 ob- 
ject "to show that his statements respecting the Protestant 


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


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


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 disap- 
pointed 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 discount- 
ing 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 char- 
ity which he believed to be Christian. Amiable Protestant 
brethren undertook to disabuse him of his naive belief that 
the guardians of the faith of Christendom invariably regu- 
late their conduct in the spirit of Christ. As Melville grew 
in wisdom he grew in disillusion : and his early tilt at the Lon- 
don 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 Clarel: 

"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 iden- 
tical 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 con- 
vinced 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 in- 
iquity. "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 an- 
other 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 eter- 
nal 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 propheti- 
cally forward to the Inter-Church World Movement. In The 
Confidence Man he makes one of the characters say: "Mis- 
sions 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 gain- 
ing 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 emanci- 
pated notions than he later achieved. He was then to all out- 
ward 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 

With the Long Doctor, Melville sailed across to the neigh- 
bouring 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 men- 
dicant grandees, they started out on a tour of discovery around 
the island of Imeeo. After about ten days of pleasant adven- 
ture and hospitality from the natives they arrived at Partoo- 
wye 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 

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 retire- 
ment 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 Po- 
mare, Melville improved his time by studying the native life, 
and by visiting a whaler in the harbour the Leviathan tak- 
ing 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 prom- 
ising. "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' non- 
sense" about his and Long Ghost's expectation of court prefer- 
ment, "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 hap- 
pened 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 degen- 
eracy 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 assem- 
blage 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 apartment." 

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, car- 
rying 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 spoon." 

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 some- 
what 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 Vine- 
yard 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 Cap- 
tain suspected Melville of being from Sydney : a suspicion not 
intended as flattery. Unaccompanied by Long Ghost, Mel- 
ville finally interviewed the Captain, to find that worthy mel- 
lowed 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 fra- 
grant 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 morning. 



"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! inter- 
cede 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." 


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 vol- 
ume, 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 ac- 
cepted 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 num- 
ber 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 har- 
bours 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 sea- 
men 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 aft- 
erwards 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 W kite-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 pun- 
ishment in its stead ; and this was exactly in accord with Mel- 
ville'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 intel- 
ligence, and a born leader. His top-mates adored him, al- 
though 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 ener- 
getic Midshipman, who made himself felt and heard about 
the decks, he called Mr. Pert; the Gunner was 'Old Com- 
bustibles.' 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 bring- 
ing 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 pas- 
sages, 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, Mel- 
ville shipped on board the United States from Tahiti. Ac- 
cording 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 em- 
ployed by his lordship" Sir George Paulet. In both Typce 
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 sum- 
mer 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 Mar- 
quesas 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 Alarquesas. 
Though in this statement Melville is patently careless in his 
chronology, there is no reason to doubt his geography. Ac- 
cording 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 Sted- 
man, he was "employed as a clerk." In the Introductory Note 
to White-Jacket he says : "In the year 1843 I shipped as 'ordi- 
nary 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 dis- 
charged 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 ports. 

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 har- 
bour 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 con- 
cerning the Decalogue; but in this they resemble landsmen, 
both Christian and cannibal. And in Melville's day as be- 
fore 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." Ac- 
cording 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 boast- 
ing 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 base- 
ment 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 sta- 
tioned 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 re- 
cline 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 noth- 
ing; nor flattering, nor scandalising any; but meting out to 
all commodore and messenger boy alike their precise de- 
scriptions 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 hap- 
piest 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 pro- 
nounce 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 Mel- 
ville 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, wher- 
ever 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 "Obermensch. So con- 
tagious is Melville's love for his ship-mate that strange infec- 
tions seem to have been caught therefrom. Though it is cer- 
tainly not true that "all the world loves a lover," Melville's 
affection for Jack Chase won him at least one rather star- 
tling 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 wis- 
dom 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 ex- 
ceedingly 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 strangers. 

"permite me Dear, Sir to subskribe myself your friend al- 
though unseen and at a Distance "ELIZA GORDON 
"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 Lems- 
ford, "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 Mon- 
taigne." 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 peda- 
gogue 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 inti- 
macies 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 study- 
ing 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 plain." 

Melville was not only fortunate in his friends on the top, 
and above, but also in the mess to which he belonged : "a glori- 
ous set of fellows Mess No. I ! 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 intellec- 
tual and corporeal calibre." 

In White-Jacket, Melville's purpose was to present the varie- 
gated 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 mat- 
ter of war is a thing that smites common sense and Chris- 
tianity in the face," he contends, "so everything connected with 
it is utterly foolish, unchristian, barbarous, brutal, and savour- 
ing of the Feejee Islands, cannibalism, saltpetre, and the 

But Melville's anti-militaristic convictions in no sense per- 
verted 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 rollick- 
ing 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 Shen- 
ley'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 dur- 
ing 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 free- 
man, 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 guess." 

"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 quarter- 
master 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 star- 
board 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 Cap- 
tain 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. Noth- 
ing 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 alto- 
gether 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 dis- 
tance 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 deferen- 
tial 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 inter- 
cessions, 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 narrative." 

In so far as fine weather and the ship's sailing were con- 
cerned, 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 im- 
mediate 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 romanti- 
cally 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 mag- 
nificent 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 dur- 
ing 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 obstruc- 
tions, 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 

"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 Mael- 
strom 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 6n 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 ^gean 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 frigate. 

"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, in- 


terceded 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 mus- 
tered 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 

And there Melville has left this brother band with the 
anchor still hanging from the Sow 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: Pierre. 

"UNTIL I was twenty-five," Melville once wrote to Haw- 
thorne, "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 Haw- 
thorne, "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 mem- 
ory, 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," con- 
verting 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 throng- 
ing 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 drif tings, 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 un- 
changed. The identical trees in the Boston Ccmmon 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- far ing, 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 envia- 
ble hero of endless incredible adventures. His home-coming 
may well have been not only a staggering, but a joyous adven- 
ture. 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 ad- 
venturer he saw mirrored in the admiring and jealous imagina- 
tion 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 civilisa- 

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; be- 
cause 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, 

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 Brit- 


ish 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 i 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 simul- 
taneously 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 i, 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 Eng- 
land, netting Melville, if accounts surviving in Allan's hand 
be correct, $708.40. 

Under the date of April 3, 1846 two days after the appear- 
ance in England of Part II of Typee, Gati^evoort wrote Mel- 
ville 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. I3th 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. 
3Oth 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 some- 
times 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 de- 
gree 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 val- 
ued 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 Mil- 
waukee, for example, published, on July I, 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 Louisiana." 

But already had Melville achieved a wider, if less beatified, 
reputation. The notice that Typee attracted extended consid- 
erably 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 even ng we finished the first volume of Typee, a curi- 
ous 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 litera- 
ture?" 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. Mel- 
ville 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 flat- 
tered not only by vitriolic evangelistical damnation, and the 
uncritical flatter of Gansevoort's friends, but even Black- 
wood'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 Phcenix of modern voy- 
ages springing, it would seem, from the mingled ashes of 
Captain Cook and Robinson Crusoe." Writing of Typee, the 
insular John Butt 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 pleas- 
ant one." While such pronouncements were no earnest of 
fame, they may have contributed somewhat to augment Mel- 
ville'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 contem- 
poraries by bethinking themselves of the glorious harvest of 
bravos their ghosts will reap. And time, he saw, was an un- 


dertaker, 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 multiplica- 
tion 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 Mel- 
villes 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 Shaw: 


"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 im- 
part 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 Pris- 
cilla that they shall soon be forthcoming. 

"Remember me most warmly to Mrs. Shaw & Miss Eliza- 
beth, 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 every- 
day 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 con- 
gratulate herself that Allan evinced for her no adoration of 
the kind lavished upon the sainted Beatrice or upon the unat- 
tainable 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 incompati- 
bility 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 return. 

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 dig- 
nity of a discarded rib, evinced in marriage an essentially bio- 
logical 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 canni- 
bal. 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 be- 
low 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, Mel- 
ville saw the "highest and airiest thing in the whole compass of 
the experience of our mortal life." And "this heavenly evanes- 
cence," 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 

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 writ- 
ten 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 ex- 
tremity 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 beauti- 
ful 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 im- 
prove 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 Frank- 
lin 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 Moun- 
tains. 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 let- 
ter, 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 fam- 
ily 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 affec- 
tionate 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. Cen- 
ter 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 to-day. 

"We left Montreal on Tuesday evening and the next day in 
the afternoon hailed Whitehall, at the foot of Lake Cham- 
plain, 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 below. 

"Here was a scene entirely passing description. The La- 
dies' '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 sus- 
pended. 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 ohfo 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 suf- 
focating with the heat and bad atmosphere, he was on deck, 
chilled and half-frozen with the fog and penetrating damp- 
ness, 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 imme- 
diately 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 im- 
patience to see you and father, and sincerely hope nothing 
will happen to prevent your coming. 


"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 every- 
body at home. Please give my warmest love to all and believe 
me your affectionate daughter, 


"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. 2yd, 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 down- 
stairs 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 usu- 
ally 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 immedi- 
ately 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 avail- 
able 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 con- 
versation, as best pleases him. For we all collect in the par- 
lour 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 i 
o'clock till four! and then perhaps we don't accomplish more 
than two or three, if unluckily they chance to be in for every- 
body 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. Ex- 
cepting 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 some- 
how 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 

"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 ad- 
dressed my last letter just right and it came very straight- 
but Allan's name is spelt with an V instead of an V as Allan 
not Allen different names, you see I am hoping that some- 
time 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 Hay wood, 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 remem- 
brance 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 nth & I2th Streets' it is safer to 
add for a time. 

"Lem seems to be enjoying himself highly with the amuse- 
ments 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 be- 
coming 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. Dick- 
inson (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 n 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 hon- 
our 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 


"NEW YORK, May 5th, 1848. 

"I am very much occupied to-day but I snatch a few mo- 
ments 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 indefi- 
nite allusion to it, when we were all waiting to hear, was rather 
tantalising. Does 'this season' means now in his present vaca- 
tion, 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 

"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 re- 
quired 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 

"We are looking out for Tom to return every day, his ship 
has been reported in the papers several times lately as home- 
ward 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 pet. 

"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 Mor- 
ton if she is at our house, Mrs. Hawes etc. and believe me as 
ever your affectionate 


"Miss Savage & Miss Lincoln called to see me a day or two 

"Please spell Allan's name with an A, not E. Allan, not 

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 rfiythm. 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 com- 
missioned 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 Genealogi- 
cal Tree" with designs upon an ancestor with a choice name : 
and she spends two very diverting and animated pages recount- 
ing 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! Me- 
thinks 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 quota- 
tion from Mardi: " 'Oh my own Kagtanza, child of my pray- 
ers. Oro's blessing on thee !' ' 

In her search of the Genealogical Tree, Augusta had con- 
temptuously brushed by all female branches: she had deter- 
mined 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 possi- 
bility 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 i, 1848, Mel- 
ville had overdrawn his account with Harper's to the extent 
of $256.03. On December 5, 1848, Harper's advanced Mel- 
ville $500; on April 28, 1848, $300; on July 2, 1849, $3; 
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 father^ 
hood. t 

On April 23, Melville sent to his father-in-law a note "con- 
veying 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. How- 
ever, the London Examiner & Literary Gazette & other pa- 
pers 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 ist 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 incred- 
ulity, 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 ver- 
ity: in some degree the reverse of my previous experience. 
This thought was the germ of others, which have resulted in 

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 some- 
times 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 Vik- 
ing 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 im- 
movable, 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 six- 
teen 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 shouler; doubtlessly pray- 
ing 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 unac- 
countable 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 even- 
tually 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 supernat- 
ural 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 them- 
selves 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, metaphor- 
ically 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 as- 
signed 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 clum- 
siness 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 little. 

"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 cere- 
ments. 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, how- 
ever, 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, leak- 
ing 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 char- 
acterisation, 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 Rabe- 
lais 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 them- 
selves were blamed upon the Plujii. There\they meet an "old 
woman almost doubled together, both hands upon her ab- 
domen; 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 

And on she ran. 

"Hearing that an hour or two previous she had been par- 
taking 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 Mel- 
ville, "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 de- 
sire." 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 pre- 
ferred 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 deso- 
lation 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 eternal." 

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 Yil- 
lah, 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. Yeff 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 evan- 
escence 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 dis- 
enchanting glasses of the matrimonial days and nights." "I 
am Pluto stealing Proserpine," says Pierre; "and every ac- 
cepted 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 amuse- 
ment, especially in the 'ad-i-s-h-e-e-e-s !' (radishes) screamed 
continually under our window in every variety of cracked 

"I was very much pleased with my presents especially the 
'boots' which fit me admirably but I meant that to be a busi- 
ness transaction else I should not have sent. 'Tapes' are 
always useful, especially if one has a husband who is continu- 
ally 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 them.' 

"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 np 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 with- 


out 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 Brooklyn." 



"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?" 


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 suffi- 
ciently 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 to- 
wards 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 1 White- 
Jacket he had finished in manuscript. His, as well as his sis- 
ter Augusta's, was "a pressing case." Sc\he decided to go to 
England, to make personal intercession with publishers, hop- 
ing thereby to improve his income from the other side of the 

On October 1 1, 1849, a ^ ter 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 trans- 
ferred 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, think- 
ing 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 pros- 
pect of his son (a sickly youth of twenty, bound for the grand 
tour) being very .romantic. But to my great delight, the prom- 
ise 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 Cyclopaedia of Ameri- 
can Literature: a work vituperated in its day for shocking omis- 
sions and inaccuracies. Both the work and its critics have now 
fallen into a decent oblivion. Withal, in this same antiquated 
Cyclopaedia 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 impres- 
sions 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 Mc- 
Curdy 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 Cokridgean; 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 op- 
posed 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 s decrees mathemat- 
ically, but that in the very nature of things, the fact is thus." 
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 un- 
der 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 tc save him. 
They warned me, however, not to fall overboard. After hold- 
ing 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 Al- 
bany, including Dr. Armsby. He introduced himself to me by 
mentioning the name of Mr. Twitchell who painted my por- 
trait 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 

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 ex- 
ceedingly amiable man, and a fine scholar whose society is im- 
proving 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 nottfair 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, hav- 


ing been "annoyed towards morning by a crying baby adjoin- 
ing" he repeats this simple catechism. 

The entire morning of the eighteenth the day delightful 
and the ship getting on famously Melville spent "in the main- 
top 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 some- 
how." 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 Ad- 
ler 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 in- 
yited Adler, the Doctor and I into his room and ordered cham- 


pagne. Went on deck again and remained till near midnight. 
The scene was indescribable I never saw such sailing be- 

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 ex- 
plains it in the margin, and initials her explanation each time. 
The third time she writes: "First words of baby Malcolm's. 

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 ques- 
tion '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 I A. M." 

On November i, 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 num- 
ber of ships in sight. Thro' these waters Bfiake's and Nelson's 
ships once sailed. Taylor suggested that he and I should re- 
turn 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 under- 
stands 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 to- 
gether. 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 top- 
sails 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 dis- 
appointments, I feel that this is my last night aboard the South- 
ampton. 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- l / 2 P. M. on Wednesday, Nov. 
7, 1849 being just arrived from dinner at a chop house, and 
feeling like it." 

"Man. Nov. ^th, 1849: Having at the invitation of Mc- 
Curdy 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 Caesar 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 Canter- 
bury 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 in- 
terest 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 clois- 
ters. There is a fine thought expressed in one of the inscrip- 
tions 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 is.) 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. Laugh- 
able. 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 Hoi- 
born & 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. yth: Breakfasted late and went into Cheap- 
side 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 Edge- 
ware 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 Novem- 
ber Guy Fawkes' Day! very blue, foggy, doleful and gun- 
powdery, 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 ap- 
pointed "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 Red- 
burn. Couldn't do better, he said. He expressed much anx- 
iety and vexation at the state of the copyright question. Pro- 
posed my new book White-Jacket to him and snowed him the 
table of contents. He was much pleased with it, and notwith- 
standing 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 pub- 
lishing that number) and as we might afterwards arrange con- 
cerning 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 unspeak- 
able scene. Breakfasted about n 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 Clan- 
destine 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 ap- 


pointed as a day of special thanksgiving. Melville again sal- 
lied 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 W 'kite- 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 
I9th, 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." Moxfn, 
sent Melville copies of Lamb's works : but Moxen did not ac- 
cept 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 agree- 
able to invitation. It was a most amusing affair. Mr. Mur- 
ray 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 bell- 

The lines following, Melville has heavily crossed out. They 
are, in most part, decipherable, however, and they are not ex- 
cessively complimentary either to his host or the guest of 
honour. "I managed to get through, though, somehow," Mel- 
ville 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 re- 
frained 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, Mel- 
ville 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 anony- 
mous 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 mysteries." 

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, m extenua- 
tion 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 cham- 
bermaid has lighted a fire of wood, lit the candle and left me 
alone, at n 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 oolite, pleasant 
and Frenchified landlady below. I shall try tha brandy before 
writing more and now to resume my Journal. The account 
of Israel Potter's first night in Paris, after Benjamin Frank- 
lin 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 virtues. 

Despite the Otard, and the snug quarters, and the diversions 
of Paris diversions somewhat restricted by Melville's com- 
plete inability to speak French Melville was not happy every 
moment he was in France. "Fire made, and tried to be com- 
fortable. 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 Franchise, 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 get- 
ting 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 Amer- 
ica 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 destination." 

By December 13, he was back to his old chamber overlook- 
ing 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 I 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 jour- 
nal. "He does not know that I am in town," Melville writes 
"I earnestly hope that I shall be able to see him ^nd I shall be 
able to do something about that 'pesky' book." 

At six o'clock, Melville was back again in hir room. "Hur- 
rah and three cheers! I have just returned from Mr. Bent- 
ley'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 be- 
tween 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 I P. M. on Monday am to call at Mr. Berkley'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 vari- 
ous complexions. We had some coffee, music, dancing, and 
after an agreeable evening I came away at u 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 break- 
fasted 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 de- 
liver a charity sermon. The church was crowded the ser- 
mon 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 'ortho- 
dox' 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 fur- 
nishes me with just the thing I want. If I do not go, I am 
confident that hereafter I shall reprimand myself for neglect- 
ing 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. ( l / 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 val- 
uable, and in one respect, to me but the three weeks are in- 
tolerable. 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 ster- 
ling 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 threje passengers 
engaged. I liked Captain Fletcher, however. He enquired 
whether I was a relative of Gansevoort Melville and of Her- 
man 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 nar- 
rative of the beggar." The same day he "stopped at a silver- 
smith's (corner of Craven St. & Strand) and bought a solid 
spoon for the boy Malcolm a fork, I mean. When he ar- 
rives 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 entertain- 
ing man and a scholar but looks as if he loved old Pat. Also 
Alfred Henry Forester ('Alfred Crowquih") 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 n, went home with Crowquill, who invites me to go with 
him Thursday and see the Pantomime rehearsal at the Surrey 

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 or- 
thography, Melville pronounced the evening, "The Paradise 
of Batchelors." 

In Harper's New Monthly Magazine for April, 1854, Mel- 
ville published a sketch entitled Paradise of Bachelors and 
Tartarus of Maids." In 1854 he was living in Pittsfield, Mas- 
sachusetts, 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 per- 
fection 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 com- 
fort, 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 Christ- 
mas morning he jumped into a small boat withfthe Captain 
and a meagre company of passengers, and "pulleu 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 item- 
ised 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 DeQuin- 
cey, 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 Eng- 
land 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 journal." 

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, 1850." 

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 Her- 
man Melville. These things seem like mockeries, sent to in- 
crease the bitterness of my heart." It is not unlikely that Mel- 
ville 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 man. 


"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 
foregone ?" 


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 writ- 
ten his treatises on predestination, and with sardonic opti- 
mism 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. Im- 
pressed by this array of names an array deceptively impres- 
sive 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 lit- 
erary associations! Like the instinct of the iiee^ which, sep- 
arated by great distances from the hive, possesses the infal- 
lible sense of direction for its return, so, too, the lovely 'nooks 
and corners' on the earth's surface are irresistibly and un- 
erringly 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 Mel- 
ville and Hawthorne, however, marked the most important ad- 
vent 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 literature. 

In the first of the Piazza Tales ( 1856), in / 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 

"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 cosi- 
ness 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 stead- 

"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 mittens. 

"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 sleetyjieck, weather- 
ing Cape Horn. 

"In summer, too, Canute-like, sitting here, one is often re- 
minded 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 / 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 mys- 
terious 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 orig- 
inal 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 fire- 
place : '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 

Though Melville and Hawthorne were at this time neither 
in very affluent circumstances, Hawthorne was, to all out- 
ward appearances, the more straitened of the two. He de- 
scribed 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 ar- 
ranged (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 pos- 
sibly 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 rny 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 accomplish- 
ments were rare and varied." She not only read Latin, Greek 
and Hebrew, but she kept an invaluable journal of the mo- 
mentous 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 pres- 
ent 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 them- 
selves. 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 cer- 
tainly worth waiting for and quite generous on Mr. Bent- 
ley's part considering the unsettled state of things. 

"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 jour- 
nal, 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 evercise. 
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 Haw- 
thorne says in his Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife, "Haw- 
thorne now turned his face towards the mountains. The pre- 
ceding 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 unac- 
customed 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 sound- 
ness and serenity of mind. No man can attain secure repose 
and happiness who has never found that what moves and inter- 
ests 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 soli- 
tudes 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 visit- 
ing 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 
f ellowmen : 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, search- 
ing into their hearts, borrowing brightness from their felicity, 
and shade from their sorrow, and retaining no emotion pecu- 
liar 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 sym- 
pathy 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 con- 
genial 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 role of unimpassioned spectator, Hawthorne 
was not the man to sit in pharisaical judgment upon his fel- 
lows. In Fancy's Show-Box he wrote: "Man must not dis- 





claim his brotherhood, even with the guiltiest, since, though his 
hand be clean, his heart has surely been polluted by the flit- 
ting 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 hq 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 role 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." 

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 pseu- 


donym "Godfrey Greylock," says: "But that Mr. Haw- 
thorne'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 men- 
tioning the origin, as I have heard it, of the brotherly friend- 
ship 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 ap- 
peared 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 Monu- 
ment 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 
Nat 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 Mel- 
ville 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 chil- 
dren. 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 swim- 
ming. Mr. Melville used to ride or drive up, in the evenings, 
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 person- 
ally 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, entertain- 
ing a philosophical doubt in the face of Melville's specific men- 
tion of letters from Hawthorne, "were unfortunately de- 
stroyed by fire." 

What would appear to be the earliest of the surviving let- 
ters 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. Hence- 
forth 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 Na- 
thaniel Hawthorne. One vol. i6mo, pp. 344.' The con- 
tents 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, abun- 
dantly, but still judiciously, furnished with precisely that sort 
of furniture best fitted to furnish it. There are rich hang- 
ings, 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 thought fulness; 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 par- 
ticularise 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 pro- 
cession ; or the scene where the judge is left seated in his ances- 
tral 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 circum- 
stances 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 cer- 
tain 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 Brit- 
ish 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 dic- 
tionary, 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, unin- 
cumbered 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 criti- 
cism extracted for your benefit from the Pittsfield Secret Re- 
view, and here I have landed in Africa. 

"Walk down one of these mornings and see me. No non- 
sense; come. Remember me to Mrs. Hawthorne and the 


"P. S. The marriage of Phoebe 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 Montegut, it is true, 
has described Hawthorne as a "romancier pessimiste." Pessi- 
mist 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 illu- 
sion. Both Melville and Hawthorne were, in a sense, pessi- 
mists. 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 con- 
quer, 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 every- 
thing 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 pil- 
grims with Christian's burden upon their backs. Secret crimi- 
nals 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 

"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 sea- 
son 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 shan- 
ties of chapters and essays. I have been ploughing and sow- 
ing 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 speak- 
ing 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 po- 
tatoes (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 de- 
mocracy 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 liv- 
ing by Truth and go to the Soup Societies. Heavens ! Let 
any clergyman try to preach the Truth from its very strong- 
hold, 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 laugh- 
ing-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 iffl 
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 cham- 
pagne 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 here- 

"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 elabo- 
rating 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 selfish- 
ness 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 talk- 
ing 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 in- 
famous: there is no patronage in that. What 'reputation' 
H. M. has is horrible. Think of it! To go down to pos- 
terity 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 like- 
lihood. Typee will be given to them, perhaps, with their gin- 
gerbread. 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 man- 
aged 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 pro- 
portion to my own contact with him, a monstrous deal of it 
in me. 


"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 tempo- 
rary feeling or opinion. 

"P. S. You must not fail to admire my discretion in pay- 
ing 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 "posses- 
sion" 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 glori- 
ously 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 Haw- 
thorne 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 'ex- 
tremely 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 cava- 
lier 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." 

"Mv 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 an- 
other, 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 Haw- 


thorne for a letter of Hawthorne's (would that it survived I), 
in appreciation of Moby-Dick. 

"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! Recog- 
nition! 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 

"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 be- 
cause 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 to- 
gether, 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 Krakens. 

"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 con- 


tent 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 mil- 
lion 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 acknowl- 
edgment of the tribute. Melville, shrewdly suspected him, 
however, of caring "not a penny" for the book, but in arch- 
angelical 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 alle- 
gory 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 "re- 


serve" is, of course, all myth. Both Hawthorne and Mel- 
ville, 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 eccen- 
tricity or excess as from any particular pungency or colour. 
Melville's was extravagant, capricious, vigorous, and "un- 
literary" : the energy of his undisciplined genius is its most 
significant qualty. After all, was it possible for Hawthorne 
to feel any deep sympathy for Melville's passionate enthusi- 
asms, for Melville's catholic toleration, for Melville's quench- 
less 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 negligee "a terrible, dangerous 
woman, quite enough for the moment, but very like to spring 
upon you like a tigress." He never visited George Eliot be- 
cause 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 "Provi- 
dence 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 incommuni- 
cative, pours out the rich floods of his mind and experience 
to him, so sure of appreciation, so sure of a large and generous 

What interpretation Hawthorne gave to Moby-Dick has not 
transpired. Hawthorne mentions Moby -Dick once in his pub- 

lished 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 en- 
feebled, also, by the incompetence of mere unaided virtue or 
rightmindedness in Starbuck, the invulnerable jollitry of in- 
difference or recklessness of Stubb, and the pervading medi- 
ocrity of Flask!" 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 ex- 
tinction. 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 his- 
tory of a soul's adventure. 

Though Moby-Dick is not only an allegory, but an allegory 
designed to teach woeful wisdom, nowhere in literature, per- 
haps, 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 noth- 
ing 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 cow- 
ardice 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." 


ON a bleak and snowy November day in 1851, the Haw- 
thorne 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 Haw- 
thorne 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 Medi- 
terranean steamers. Saw Mr. Hawthorne at Consulate. In- 
vited me to stay with him during my sojourn at Liverpool. 
Dined at Anderson's, a very nice place, and charges moderate. 

"Tuesday, Nov. n: Hawthorne for Southport, 20 miles 
distant on the seashore, a watering place. Found Mrs. Haw- 
thorne & the rest awaiting tea for us. 

"Wednesday, Nov. 12: At Southport, an agreeable day. 
Took a long walk by the sea. Sand & grass. Wild & deso- 
late. 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. Haw- 
thorne stayed home with me. 

"Thursday, Nov. 13: At Southport till noon. Mr. H. & I 
took train then for Liverpool. Spent rest of day putting en- 
quiries among steamers. 

"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 there. 

"Sunday, Nov. 16: Rode in the omnibus. Went out to Fox- 
hill Park, &c. Grand organ at St. George's Hall." 

Three days later, Melville was off for Constantinople. 
In his English Note-book, under November 3Oth, 1856, 
Hawthorne wrote: 

"November 50; 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 Cathe- 
dral." And then architecture gives place to personal com- 


Mr. Julian Hawthorne reports of this meeting : "At South- 
port 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 lit- 
erary 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 com- 
fortable 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 criti- 
cisable 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, Mel- 
ville 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 hs fellows, Melville discovered that the author of The 
Scarlet Letter was his neighbour. He came to know Haw- 
thorne: 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 Haw- 
thorne, 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 admi- 
ration 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 in- 
tense, 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 look- 
ing forward into utter night. Nearly forty years before his 


death, he had come to be the most completely disenchanted of 
all considerable American writers. 

From his youth, Melville had felt the flagrant and stub- 
born discord between aspiration and fact. He was born with 
an imagination of very extraordinary vigour, and with a con- 
stitution 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 com- 
passed 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 shud- 
dering 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 realisa- 
tion of the cold, "scaly, glittering folds of pride" that re- 
buffed his tormented love ; and he studied the portrait of his 
father, and found it a defaming image. In Pierre this por- 
trait 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 -righteous- 
ness of the proselyting Protestant mind; and there he learned 
that Christianity or what passes for it may under some cir- 
cumstances 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 pano- 
rama of human unloveliness, but "evils which, like the sup- 
pressed 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 thor- 
oughly condemning it." And he marked Schopenhauer's trib- 
ute 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 dis- 
covery he was married, and a father: and debtors had to be 
held at bay by the point of the pen. On April 30, 1851, Har- 
per and Brothers denied him any further advance on his royal- 


ties: they were making "extensive and expensive improve- 
ments" 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 be- 
littling 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 com- 
panionship. 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 rea- 
son 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 en- 
terprises, either of virtue or of mischief." Melville gave such 
hostages to fortune : but, such was his temperament, it is diffi- 
cult to believe that unencumbered he would have magnified his 
achievement. Mrs. Melville is remembered as a gentle, gra- 
cious, 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 ten- 
sions 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 dis- 
praise. The explanation is too simple, as Mr. Mather con- 


tends. 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 Mel- 
ville 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 posi- 
tively 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 con- 
sidered 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 re- 
minder 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 char- 
acter 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 
unblackeried 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 Mel- 
ville slanders in Pierre, only with uncompromising repug- 
nance. 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: "Ver- 
ily 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 Mel- 
ville'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 be- 
lieves 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 urg- 


ings 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 Bud- 
dha 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 Red- 
burn; 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 1 10 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 I, 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 Sand- 
wich 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 consign- 
ments which lead so many consuls to neglect seamen and lend 
their influence indiscriminately in favour of owners and 

"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, person- 
ally, I would take the liberty to write them. As I do not, 
I beg you will use whatever influence I may have in any quar- 
ter 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 appoint- 
ment elsewhere, as the following letter, addressed to Hon. 
Lemuel Shaw, shows: 

"NEW YORK, June n, 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. Gush- 
ing 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. loth, 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 occa- 
sionally 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 babyt 
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 debut as a scholar at the white &Iodl 
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 re- 
turns, he does full justice to the noon-tide meal. Stannic 
begins to talk a great deal, and seems to be uncommonly for- 
ward 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 present." 

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 sol- 
dier 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 
'Esumbull 1824 (Price 28 cents) ." The result was Israel Pot- 
ter, 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. 
Matk^r states, "the best account of a sea fight in American 
fiction." It was praised, too, by Hawthorne for its delinea- 
tions 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 Har- 
per'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 bright- 
ening 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 un- 
published 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 cre- 
ative imagination of the century, the rarest in some ideal 
respects since Shakespeare." The Confidence Man was pub- 
lished 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 Mel- 
ville was half through his mortal life his signal literary achieve- 
ment was done. The rest, if not silence, was whisper. 


"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 edi- 
torial 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 de- 
sires. 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 sedu- 
lous isolation. He resisted all efforts to draw him out of re- 
tirement 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 direc- 
tion, 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 Col- 
lege, 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 my- 
self as a Hawaiian-American and soon found myself in full 
tide of talk or rather of monologue. But he would not re- 
peat 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 atti- 
tude seemed to me something like that of an Ishmael; but per- 
haps 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 pro- 
fane. 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 the New York Times, under the ini- 
tials O. G. H., a week after Melville's death, said of him: 

"He had shot his arrow and made his mark, and was satis- 
fied. With considerable knowledge of the world, he had pre- 
ferred 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 oi 
them. ... I had before noticed that though eloquent in dis- 


cussing 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 neigh- 
bour 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 

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 obser- 
vation and reflection in that interesting quarter see his poem 
of Clarel. Sailed for home on the steamer City of Manches- 



ter May 6, 1857. In May, 1860, he made a voyage to San 
Francisco, sailing from Boston on the 3Oth of May with his 
brother Thomas Melville who commanded the Meteor, a fast 
sailing clipper in the China trade and returning in Novem- 
ber, he being the only passenger. He reached San Francisco 
Oct. 1 2th 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 cap- 
tion "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 publi- 
cation. It is a staccato jotting down of impressions, chiefly in- 
teresting (as is Dr. Johnson's French journal) as another evi- 
dence of Melville's scope of curiosity and keenness of observa- 
tion. 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. Break- 
fasted 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 l / 2 
dollar; following me round, selling the fallen mosaics. As- 
cended a kind of hose way leading up, round and round. 
Came into a gallery fifty feet above the floor. Superb in- 
terior. Precious marbles. Prophyry & Verd antique. Im- 
mense magnitude of the building. Names of the prophets, in 
great letters. Roman Catholic air to the whole. To the hip- 
podrome, 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 hippo- 
drome 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 frit- 
tered 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 Tar- 
tarus. 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 innum- 
erable skeins of silk. Terrible place to be robbed or mur- 
dered 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. Fur- 
niture, arms, silks, confectionery, shoes, saddles, everything. 
(Cario) Covered overhead with stone arches, with wide open- 
ings. 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. Inde- 
scribable. 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 bath- 
ing the feet and hands of worshippers before going in. Nat- 
ural 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, al- 
though December. A kind of English June cooled and tem- 
pered 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) Lot- 
tery 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 sui- 
cide hung from every rafter within. No open spaces no 
squares or parks. You suffocate for room. You pass close 
together. The cafes of the Turks. Dingy holes, faded splen- 
dour, moth eaten. On both sides rude seats and divans where 
the old musty Turks sit smoking like conjurers. Saw in cer- 
tain 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 mis- 
taken : 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 

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 Stev- 
enson wrote his passage, the artist in him seems for the mo- 
ment 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 mel- 
ody 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 dol- 
phins 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 min^i 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 Mel- 
ville's Battle -Pieces. 


"PITTSFIELD, May 25th, 1862. 
"Mv 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 jack- 
ass, 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 sleepi- 
ness, 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 imag- 
inary 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 voy- 
age you had a poetaster with you. You remember the roman- 
tic 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 sev- 
eral 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 ex- 
cepted) 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; un- 
principled 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 prob- 
lem of faith is the pivot of endless discussion : and upon this 
pivot is made to turn all of the problems of destiny that en- 
gage 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 / 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 pas- 
sages 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 pri- 
vate 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 im- 
pelled to write Mr. Russell in regard to one of his newly pub- 
lished novels." This was the beginning of a correspondence 
between Russell and Melville. Melville's letters are not avail- 
able. 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 Mel- 
ville 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 Mel- 
ville'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 be- 
cause he also preserved his income. If a man is blessed with 
a comfortable fortune, then it is easy for him to lead a tran- 
quil 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 any- 
thing in my power to aid your preparation, and make the voy- 
age 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 ulti- 
mately arranged, what I should be able to do by way of pro- 
vision 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 ut- 
terly nugatory. 

"What I now propose is to give up to you the above men- 
tioned notes in full consideration of your conveyance to me of 
your present homestead, being all the Brewster purchase ex- 
cept 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 particu- 
larly what will be the legal effect and operation of these con- 


veyances 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 

"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, ap- 
propriated it, for building a new barn. 

"I propose to treat this as I did the estate itself : first pur- 
chase it of you for a full consideration and then apply it to 
Elizabeth's use. In looking for a consideration for this pur- 
chase 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 con- 
sider 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 ap- 
propriate 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 my- 





self. You will then leave home with the conscious satisfaction 
of knowing that you are free from debt: that if by a Provi- 
dential dispensation you should be prevented from ever re- 
turning 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 


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 ca- 
pacity 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 re- 
ceived directly and also for the increased sale which it gave 
their books. Among these was Herman Melville, who lec- 
tured 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 under- 
standing. 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. 



Ithaca, N. Y. 



Cleveland, Ohio 





Chillicothe, Ohio 


n. d. 

Cincinnati, Ohio 


Feb. 10 

Charleston, Mass. 



Rochester, N. Y. 


n. d. 

New Bedford, Mass. 



Travelling expenses 




Dec. 6, 1858 

Yonkers, N. Y. 


" TA " 


Pittsfield, Mass. 


Jan. 31, 1859 

Boston, Mass. 


Feb. 7, " 

New York, N. Y. 



Baltimore, Md. 


" 24, " 

Chicago, 111. 


" 25, " 

Milwaukee, Wise. 


" 28, " 

Rockford, 111. 


Mar. 2, " 

Quincy, 111. 


" 16, " 

Lynn, Mass. (2 lee) 




November 7, 

Flushing, L. I. 


February 14, 

Danvers, Mass. 



Cambridgeport, Mass. 




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 Mel- 
ville, a bareback rider, who at the circus at Bingo "nightly per- 
formed before the elite 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 ac- 
cumulate 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 Ves- 
pasian, Socrates, looking like an Irish comedian. Julius Caesar, 
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 at- 
titude 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 sculp- 
tures, to show the human feeling and genius of the ancient ar- 
tists. 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 tri- 
umph of the new religion quite unlike the sombre mementoes 
of modern times. 

"The lecturer then eloquently sketched the exterior of the 
Vatican. But nearly the whole of Rome was a Vatican every- 
where 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 contain. 

"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 

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 attend- 
ance 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 espe- 
cially 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 sub- 
ject, 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 lati- 
tudes, might occupy a full hour. The lecturer said he won- 
dered 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 vis- 
iting 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 north- 
ern 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 na- 
tives with common kindness. 

"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 dis- 
ciples 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 
Typec 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 na- 
tives of Georges Island to be annexed to the United States. 
He was sorry to see it, and, as a friend of humanity, and espe- 
cially as a friend of the South Sea Islanders, he should pray, 
and call upon all Christians to pray with him, that the Poly- 
nesians might be delivered from all foreign and contaminat- 
ing influences. 

"The lecture gave the most ample satisfaction, and was fre- 
quently applauded." 

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 con- 
sularship. Such a mission took him to Washington in 1861. 
This trip was chiefly notable because of the meeting of Mel- 
ville and Lincoln. Melville recounted the experience in a let- 
ter 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 shak- 
ing 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 cord." 

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 des- 
perate 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 Cus- 
toms in New York a post he held until January i, 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. 

R. H. Stoddard, in his Recollections, thus speaks of Mel- 
ville : 

"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, 


Malcolm, Frances, Elizabeth, Stanwix 
(From left to right) 


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 un- 
recognised 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. Stod- 
dard should have found Melville's mind such a shadowed 
hieroglyph. With Stoddard so perplexed, it is less difficult to 
understand Melville's preference for solitude. 

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 grand- 
children. His grand-daughter, Mrs. Eleanor Melville Met- 
calf, 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 im- 
pressions 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 ac- 

"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 be- 
side 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 'policeman.' 

"We never came in from a trip of this kind, nor indeed 
from any walk, but we stopped in the front hall under a col- 
oured 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 

"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 grand- 
mother. 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 up- 
stairs ran a narrow iron-trimmed porch, furnished with Wind- 
sor and folding canvas chairs. There he would sit with a pipe 
and his most constant c mpanion 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 last. 


"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 ad- 

"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 

As the last meed of glory, Melville received this flattering 
letter : 

"12 Lucknow Terrace, 
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 my- 
self. 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, espe- 
cially the earlier ones, the most thoroughly New World prod- 
uct 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 1 2th ult. It was unavoidable. 


"Your note gave me pleasure, as how should it not, written 
in such a spirit. 

"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 cer- 
tain matters as yet incomplete, and which indeed may never be 

"I appreciate, quite as much as you would have me, your 
friendly good will and shrink from any appearance to the con- 

"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, >8 9 ." 

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, Mel- 
ville attempts to portray the native purity and nobility of the 
uncorrupted man. Melville spends elaborate pains in analys- 
ing "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, pre- 
cipitated 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 Mon- 


day, 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 

"Oh, what quenchless feud is this, that Time hath with the 
sons of Men!" 



Herman Melville's Sea Tales. 4 Volumes. Edited by Arthur Sted- 
man. New York, 1892, 1896; Boston, 1900, 1910, 1919. 

Typee (with a biographical and critical introduction by 

the editor). 

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. . . . Lon- 
don, 1846, 1847, 1855, 1861. 

Typee: a Peep at Polynesian Life. . . . Revised edition, with a 
Sequel, The Story of Toby. . . . New York, 1846, 1847, l8 49 
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. Ger stacker, 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, 

Translated into German by L. Marezoll, Grintma, 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 

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. Lon- 
don, 1857. 

Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War. . . . New York, 1866. 

Clarel: a Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land. . . . New York, 

John Marr and Other Sailors. . . . New York, 1888. (Privately 

Timoleon, tc. New York, 1891. (Privately printed). 



Fragments from a Writing Desk. The Democratic Press and Lan- 
singburgh Advertiser, 4 May ; 18 May ; 1849. 

Hawthorne and His Mosses, By a Virginian Spending a July in Ver- 
mont. 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. Put- 
nam's Monthly Magazine. May, 1856. 



The March to the Sea (poem). Putnam's Monthly Magazine. Feb., 

The Cumberland (poem). Putnam's Monthly Magazine. March, 

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's Magazine. 
July, 1866. 

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, 20O, 202, 2l6. 

Adams, C. F., 78. 

Adler, Dr., 285, 287, 288, 289, 

291, 292, 293, 294, 298. 
Ahab, Captain, 25, 26, 32, 133, 


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. 
Artemise, 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, 


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, 

Browne, Sir Thomas, 17, 22, 27, 

94, 121, 134, 146, 299, 304, 


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, i2O, 121, 


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, 


Cartaret, 174, 176. 
Cavendish, 173. 
Champlain, Lake, 34, 262. 
Chapone, Mrs., 58, 59, 61, 65, 126, 


Chase, Frederic Hathway, 257. 
Chase, Jack, 32, 234, 238, 239, 

240, 241, 242, 245, 246, 251, 


Chase, Owen, 136, 137. 
Chasles, Philarete, 47. 
Chateaubriand, Franqois Rene, 


Chatterton, Thomas, 67. 
Chesterfield, Lord, 116, 121. 
Chicago Times, i6 . 
Churchill's Voyages, 80. 
Clarel, 29, 105, 186, 225, 226, 227, 

257, 350, 35 2 , 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, 

Congregation of the Propaganda, 

1 88. 
Conrad, Joseph, 25, 81, 93. 

Constantinople, 132, 335, 336, 352, 

353, 354- 
Cook, Captain James, 80, 169, 172, 

173, 176, 177, 178, 183, 206, 


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, 


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 

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, 

Edwards, Jonathan, 305. 

Eliot, George, 330. 

Elizabeth, Queen of England, 50, 


Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 18, 313, 


Encantadas, The, 165, 348. 
Essex, The, 137, 148. 

Fairhaven, 130. 

Fanning, 182. 

Fayaway, 32, 128, 210, 211, 213, 
260, 351. 

Fedellah, 32. 

Fielding, Henry, 27, 288. 

Flaubert, Gustave, 94, 132, 243. 

Fletcher, John, 27, 304. 

Fletcher, Captain, 301. 

Fleury, Franchise Raymonde Eu- 
logie Marie de Doulcurs 
Lame (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, 


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. Al- 
lan 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 

Greenlander, 92, 93. 

Griswald, 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, 

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, 3'3> 3M, 3I5 3i6, 317, 



318, 320, 321, 323, 324, 326, 

327 328, 329, 330, 334, 335, 
336, 337, 340, 346, 347, 348, 


Hawthorne, Una, 24, 334. 
Henricy, Casimir, 193. 
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, 


Israel Potter, 293, 302, 304, 

Israel Potter, 297, 298. 

Jackson, 32, 92, 93, 94, 96, 97, 


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, 


Johnson, Captain Charles, 80. 
Jones, John Paul, 347. 
Henry, Joseph, 71. 
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. 
Lemaitre, Jules, 205. 
Lemsford, 241. 
Lenox, 305, 309, 311, 319, 337, 


Leviathan, The, 229, 231. 
Lincoln, Abraham, 231, 375, 376. 
Liverpool, 55, 73, 79, 83, 85, 91, 

98, 99, 101, 102, 103, 107, 108, 

in, 113, 126, 132, 334, 335, 


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, 232. 
Louis Philippe of France, 189, 

Lowell, James Russell, 22, 33, 

3<>5, 348. 

Mac Maehan, 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, I98, 1 
199, 200, 211, 214, 233, 236, 
237, 253, 255, 256, 351. 

Marryat, Captain Frederick, 20, 
81, 88, 240. 

Martin, Dr. John, 206. 

Martin, Winthrope L., 135. 

Mary, Queen of Scots, 50. 

Masefield, John, 22, 25, 29, 30, 

79, 331- 

Massinger, Philip, 27. 
Mather, Jr., Frank Jewell, 27, 

34i, 342, 347, 352, 357, 365- 
Mather, Richard, 138. 
Matilda, The, 179, 181. 

Maugham, Somerset, 24. 

Max, 92, 93. 

Melvil of Hallhill, Sir James, 50, 


Melvil, William, 50. 

Melville, Alexander, 6th Earl of, 
etc., 51, 52, 101. 

Melville, Allan (Melville's great- 
grandfather), 47. 

Melville, Allan (Melville's fa- 
ther), 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 broth- 
er), 251, 254, 265, 267, 272, 
283, 284, 299, 301, 345, 346, 
3 6 7, 368, 376. 

Melville, Mrs. Allan (nee Maria 
Gansevoort, Melville's moth- 
er), 33, 34, 54, 56, 57, 58, 59, 
60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 68, 69, 
85, 88, 251, 259, 261, 283, 359. 

Melville, Andrew ("Episcopomas- 
trix"), 49, 50. 

Melville, Andrew (Chevalier), 

Melville, Anna Marie Priscilla, 

Melville, Augusta (Melville's sis- 
ter), 271, 272, 273, 283. 

Melville, Deborah (wife of John. 
See Scollay, Deborah). 

Melville, Elizabeth Shaw (Mel- 
ville'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, 

Melville, Fanny, 283. 

Melville, Gansevoort (Melville's 
brother), 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 
69, 82, 206, 251, 252, 253, 
255, 297, 30i. 



Melville, Helen (Melville's aunt), 

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, 


Melville, Mary (Mrs. John De 
Wolf), 44. 

Melville, Pierre Franqois Henry 
Thomas Wilson, 46. 

Melville, Priscilla (wife of Major 
Thomas See Scollay, Pris- 

Melville, Sir Richard de, etc., 34,^ 


Melville, Sir Robert, 50. 

Melville, General Robert, 42. 

Melville, Thomas (Melville's 
great-great-grandfather), 47, 

Melville, Major Thomas (Mel- 
ville's grandfather), 40, 42, 

43, 44, 45. 

Melville, Thomas (Melville's un- 
cle), 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, 

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, 33i. 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, 


Montegut, Emile, 317. 
Montgomery, Mrs. Helen Barrett, 


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, 1 60, 373. 

Nation, The London, 21. 

New Bedford, 129, 130, 139, 142, 
143, 144, 154, 155, 156, 159, 
1 60. 

New England, 16, 20, 22, 24, 33, 
83, 126, 132, 134, 138, 139, 
140, 142, 154, 155, 156, 157, 


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, 

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. 
Otaheiti (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, 

33 2 , 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, 34i, 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, 

33i, 336, 35i, 352, 359, 367, 

369, 376. 

Plato, 1 8, 128, 371. 
Po-Po, Jeremiah, 228, 229, 231, 


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 

Pringle, Sir John, 177. 

Pritchard, The Rev. (British Con- 
sul at Tahiti), 190, 219. 

Putnam, G. P., 347. 

Queequeg, 32, 147. 

Rabelais, Franqois, 21, 22, 27, 93, 

105, 134, 277. 
Raynal, Abbe, 172. 
Redburn, 29, 38, 44, 54, 62, 68, 78, 

79, 81, 82, loo, 106, 107, 133, 

157, 159, 272, 273, 283, 292, 

294, 304, 344, 365. 
Reine Blanche, The, 193, 199, 219, 


Repplier, Agnes, 58, 166. 
Revere, Paul, 42. 
Reybaud, Louis, 192. 
Reynolds, Sir Joshua, 177. 
Rhode Island, 42, 44. 
Ricketson, Daniel, 136. 
Riga, Captain, no, in. 
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, 


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. f 
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, 


Sedgewick, Catherine, 305. 
Seward, Miss (The Swan of 

Litchfield), 178. 
Shakespeare, William, 21, 28, 

120, 240, 348. 
Shaw, Elizabeth (see Melville 

Mrs. Herman). 
Shaw, John Oakes, 257. 
Shaw, Chief Justice Lemuel, 16, 

43, 2 57, 258, 340, 344, 345, 

366, 369. 

Shaw, Lemuel (son of Chief Jus- 
tice), 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, 


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, 
_I95, 196, 203, 205, 206, 216, 
"219, 234, 236, 251, 256, 283, 
337, 357, 37i, 373, 374, 375, 

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, 


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. 

Tanae, 182. 

Tennyson, Lord Alfred, 365. 

Thackeray, William Makepeace, 
28, 125. 

Thompson, Francis, 28, 129. 

Thomson, James, 22, 28. 

Thoreau, Henry David, 22, 131, 

Timoleon, 340, 353, 357, 365. 

Toby, 32, 130, 133, 162, 164, 165, 
1 66, 1 68, 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, 
1 66, 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, Franqois, 94. 
Vincendon-Dumoulin, 188, 196. 
Voltaire, Franqois, 203. 

Willis, Captain, 174, 175, 176. 

Walpole, Horace, 339. 

Washington, George, 35, 36, 42, 

Watson, E. L. Grant, 331. 

Watson, Elkahah, 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, 


Yillah, 277, 279, 280. 
Young, Edward, 151. 

,Zola, Emile, 22, 79. 


Weaver, Raymond Melbourne 
2386 Herman Melville, mariner and 

W4 mystic