Friday, February 2, 2018

Why so dull?

"Why so dull?" --Babbalanja in Melville's Mardi: And a Voyage Thither

"Ah, why so dull?" --I. F. [Imaginary Friend] in the September 1851 installment of Scenes Beyond the Western Border; and Scenes and Adventures in the Army
More accusations of dullness, in dialogue:

"How very dull you are."  --deleted in revision of Melville's The Lightning-Rod Man (appears in Putnam's magazine but not The Piazza Tales.

I. F. "Talk of dullness! and you are half asleep, and have just made a pun that is malicious premeditated dullness."  --September 1851 Scenes Beyond the Western Border; and Scenes and Adventures in the Army

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Something of the sort

The highlighted line by C. in this prairie dialogue from the August 1852 installment of Scenes Beyond the Western Border was deleted in revision and does not appear in the 1857 book version.

F. "Is it not the impression of massiveness, which the extent of the level shape adds to the effect of height?
C. "Something of the sort:—perhaps so.... 
--August 1852 Scenes Beyond the Western Border
 "Something of the sort" in the 1852 version was changed to "There may be something in that."

 PIERRE - 1852
  • Already Pierre had anticipated something of this sort;
  • I believe I was dreaming—sleep-walking, or something of that sort.
  •  "So, when you see or hear of my ruthless democracy on all sides, you may possibly feel a touch of a shrink, or something of that sort"
MOBY-DICK - 1851
  • I heard Stubb tell Flask, one morning watch, that there was something of that sort in the wind.”
  • ever since then has something of the same sort of license prevailed....
  • “Oh, I never hurt when I hit, except when I hit a whale or something of that sort; 
  • his silver watch, or his soul, or something of that sort....
MARDI - 1849
... Traitor, I'll stand by this to the last gasp, you are inebriated, Babbalanja."
"Perhaps so, my lord; but I was treating of the imagination, may it please you."

"It seems to have been added for a postscript," rejoined Braid-Beard, screwing his eyes again.
"Perhaps so," said Babbalanja, "but some wag must have done it."

Friday, January 19, 2018

Nerves, strong coffee

Old subjects but perhaps worth another look--especially in view of deletions in the book version...

 March 1853-Scenes Beyond the Western Border:
But now, "the morn is up again,"—and we have marched many miles fasting, and have been attracted through a turbid river by the sight of grass, and have stopped for breakfast under some cotton woods,—and in their shade I am scribbling with a pencil—

F.—"Yes, and fine work you are making of it! The day should commence with the morning, and the brighter the better; not with the nightmare of a sleeper, who should have watched."

C.—"Perhaps a nervous fit—from your strong coffee?"
Herman Melville, Redburn: His First Voyage
... the fact was, his nerves could not stand it; in the course of his courtly career, he had drunk too much strong Mocha coffee and gunpowder tea, and had smoked altogether too many Havannas.
March 1853-Scenes Beyond the Western Border:
F.—"Now, listen to the song of that bird; it will soothe your nerves."

C.—"Nerves! It is medicine to the mind!—it comes like a message of love!"
The book version of this invented prairie dialogue drops all reference to nerves and coffee.
July 7th.—But now, "the morn is up again," and we have marched many miles fasting, and have been attracted over the turbid river by the sight of grass, and have stopped and breakfasted under some cotton-woods; and in their shade my pipe and pencil are struggling for exclusive attention;—but pipe has it!—for here comes my sympathetic companion of the night, looking as discontented as if he had not been luxuriously talked to sleep.

"What's the matter?"

Friend.—O, confound the bivouac! the dew or frost has got into my joints.
"Delicate, indeed!"

Friend.—I believe this the very Valley of Acheron! in fact I had bad dreams,—of midnight incantations,— infernal revels.

"Pshaw! it was a calm and beautiful night; and never shone the stars through purer air, into the dark mountain vale. Listen to that sweet bird! it is piping now of some dream of love."  --Scenes and Adventures in the Army
  Herman Melville, 1849 journal entry:
I impute the nightmare to a cup of prodigiously strong coffee...
 Herman Melville, Letter to Catherine Gansevoort Lansing (12 August 1878):
After two prodigious bumpers of coffee at the depot (from the effect of which I have hardly yet recovered)...

Thursday, January 18, 2018


HERMAN MELVILLE'S PIERRE (first published at the end of July 1852):
Not his refined, courtly, loving, equable mother, Pierre felt, could unreservedly, and like a heaven's heroine, meet the shock of his extraordinary emergency, and applaud, to his heart's echo, a sublime resolve, whose execution should call down the astonishment and the jeers of the world.
"... does not that involve for thee unending misery? And my truthful soul would echo—Unending misery!"  --Pierre; Or, The Ambiguities
 MARCH 1853 - SCENES BEYOND THE WESTERN BORDER, reprinted in Part II of Scenes and Adventures in the Army (subtitle: "Romance of Military Life"; working title: "Fragments of a Military Life"):
Southern Literary Messenger - March 1853
"... Chill winds wail,—wild beasts howl,—and my heart echoes, 'Far—lone—forgot.'"
--Scenes Beyond the Western Border
 Oh, Yillah, Yillah! All the woods repeat the sound, the wild, wild woods of my wild soul. Yillah! Yillah! cry the small strange voices in me, and evermore, and far and deep, they echo on. --Mardi: And a Voyage Thither - Volume 1
 "Amen! amen! amen!" cried echoes echoing echoes.  --Mardi: And a Voyage Thither - Volume 2

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Memnon and Mount Pike

A Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie, by Albert Bierstadt, 1866, oil on canvas - Brooklyn Museum - DSC09396

Revisions to the May 1853 episode of Scenes Beyond the Western Border included deletion of the simile comparing a loud "crash" of thunder to the sound of splitting rock. The deleted figure begins with the formula, "as of a..."; thus:
".. as of a mountain of rock torn asunder."
Southern Literary Messenger - May 1853
In Pierre (1852) Melville poetically describes the Egyptian monument to Memnon that in ancient times made a musical sound when first struck by sunlight every morning. Melville's Memnon passage includes a close parallel to the deleted simile in "Scenes Beyond the Western Border." Using the same "as of a..." formula, Melville in Pierre compares the sound once emitted from the stone monument to the sound of a breaking harp-string:
Touched by the breath of the bereaved Aurora, every sunrise that statue gave forth a mournful broken sound, as of a harp-string suddenly sundered, being too harshly wound. --Pierre; Or, The Ambiguities
 Both similes begin with as + of + a; both employ a form of sunder:
as of a harp-string suddenly sundered (Pierre)
as of a mountain of rock torn asunder (Scenes Beyond the Western Border)
The example from "Scenes Beyond the Western Border" does not appear in the 1857 book version.

MAY 1853
The storm which had followed the higher range, was now in our front; sporting as with fierce joy, amid the mountain tops. Suddenly, with a crash, as of a mountain of rock torn asunder, lightning revealed through a vista of black and magnificently wild array of clouds, Mount Pike,—splendent with the glare, but simple, serene, sublime amid the chaos of elemental war. Like a fata morgana, turned to stone. --May 1853 Scenes Beyond the Western Border
But the storm which had followed the higher range, now came sweeping on, sporting as with fierce joy amid the mountain tops; and here, and there, and far, the spectral peaks seemed rising to the capricious gleams, and many-voiced Echo swelled the glorious diapason. Sport and music of the Gods!—O! it was joy unspeakable, to stand thus on the very throne of the storm, whilst its fierce wings hurtled the mountains around,—and the wanton thunderbolts made the elements to tremble! But suddenly, with a direful crash amid the Titanic rocks, there came a wondrous glare, that revealed through a vista of the black array of clouds, Mount Pike, splendent, sublime, serene, amid the chaotic war!—like a Fata Morgana, turned to stone. --Scenes and Adventures in the Army
 Also deleted: the adjective elemental, lost in revision of "chaos of elemental war" to "chaotic war."

The deleted idea of warfare among the elements occurs also in Melville's Pierre, with reference to the Fountain of Enceladus. Melville figures it as "elemental rivalry," in this instance between water and volcanic fire. In the Enceladus Grove at the Palace of Versailles, the water spouting from the mouth of the fallen Titan figuratively battles the fire that Enceladus supposedly breathed, being buried under Mount Etna. Melville in Pierre is comparing a local rock formation dubbed "Enceladus" to Gaspard Marsy's Versailles sculpture of Enceladus,
"from whose still twisted mouth for sixty feet the waters yet upgush, in elemental rivalry with those Etna flames, of old asserted to be the malicious breath of the borne-down giant...." --Pierre; Or, The Ambiguities

Saturday, January 6, 2018

retain what? temperature, youth, loftiness, spotlessness, softness
Like the great dome of St. Peter's, and like the great whale, retain, O man! in all seasons a temperature of thine own. --Moby-Dick, The Blanket (1851) 
One of these little infants, that from certain queer tokens seemed hardly a day old, might have measured some fourteen feet in length, and some six feet in girth. He was a little frisky; though as yet his body seemed scarce yet recovered from that irksome position it had so lately occupied in the maternal reticule; where, tail to head, and all ready for the final spring, the unborn whale lies bent like a Tartar’s bow. The delicate side-fins, and the palms of his flukes, still freshly retained the plaited crumpled appearance of a baby’s ears newly arrived from foreign parts. Moby-Dick, The Grand Armada
In the example above from the Grand Armada chapter of Moby-Dick, comparison with Melville's source shows definitely that retain is Melville's word--one of his own contributions, added during creative revision of the borrowed passage in Frederick Debell Bennett's A Whaling Voyage Round the Globe (Volume 2, pages 167-8), along with vivid figures also not Bennett's: the "reticule"; "Tartar's bow"; and "baby's ears."
When the substance is gone, men cling to the shadow. Places once set apart to lofty purposes, still retain the name of that loftiness, even when converted to the meanest uses. It would seem, as if forced by imperative Fate to renounce the reality of the romantic and lofty, the people of the present would fain make a compromise by retaining some purely imaginative remainder....--Pierre; Or, The Ambiguities (1852)
"... it was a marvel how, under such circumstances, these hands retained their spotlessness."  --The Confidence-Man
For ye who green or gray retain
Childhood's illusion, or but feign;
As bride and suite let pass a bier—
So pass the coming canto here.  --Clarel Part 2 Canto 35, Prelusive
From the August 1853 installment of Scenes Beyond The Western Border; and Scenes and Adventures in the Army:

Scenes Beyond the Western Border
Southern Literary Messenger 19 - August 1853
C.—"Well, well,—I wrote what pleased myself; and,—another object I have, which I did not mention: with scarce a book to read, if one did not write, I fancy the beef and pork and beans would in time form a coating round his brain,—turn it all perhaps to thick and solid skull! How is it with you, Frank? Does yours retain a slight softness?"
From Mardi: And a Voyage Thither, Volume 2 (Babbalanja Falleth Upon Pimminee Tooth And Nail):
For these Tapparians have no brains. In lieu, they carry in one corner of their craniums, a drop or two of attar of roses; charily used, the supply being small. They are the victims of two incurable maladies: stone in the heart, and ossification of the head.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

1857 Utah expedition

"I have one hundred and forty-four horses, and have lost one hundred and thirty-four. Most of the loss has occurred much this side of South Pass, in comparatively moderate weather. It has been of starvation. The earth has a no more lifeless, treeless, grassless desert; it contains scarcely a wolf to glut itself on the hundreds of dead and frozen animals which for thirty miles nearly block the road with abandoned and shattered property, they mark, perhaps, beyond example in history, the steps of an advancing army with the horrors of a disastrous retreat." --Philip St. George Cooke

The report by Philip St. George Cooke of his 1857 march in brutal winter conditions from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to Fort Bridger, Wyoming is available in a Congressional publication of 1858 (Thirty-fifth Congress, first session, House of Representatives, Ex. Doc. No. 71) titled The Utah expedition.

Cooke's gritty narrative also circulated widely in contemporary newspapers. The New York Times (January 29, 1858), published the entire account, aptly described in another column as "terse and graphic." On February 4, 1858 the Pittsfield Sun gave extensive quotes from Cooke's report in an article reprinted from the Boston Post under the heading, "Col. Cook's March to Join the Utah Army." Elsewhere headlines read "Terrible Sufferings."
Pittsfield Sun - February 4, 1858