Posts Tagged ‘Melville’
* Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
As we celebrate cerebration, we might recall that it was on this date in 1851 that Harper & Brothers published Herman Melville‘s novel, Moby Dick; it had appeared in the U.K. about a month earlier as The Whale. Based on Melville’s experience aboard a whaler and dedicated to Melville’s friend Nathaniel Hawthorne, the book received mixed reviews and sold poorly. It is now, of course, considered a classic– the peak of the American Renaissance.
This crew list for the whaler Acushnet, filed with the collector of customs in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in December 1840, incudes the name and physical description of the 21-year-old Herman Melville. The list marks the beginning of the epic trip that was to provide the author with material he used to write his maritime novels Typee (1846); Omoo (1847); Mardi (1849); Redburn (1849); White-Jacket (1850); and Moby-Dick (1851).
Although he had signed up with the Acushnet’s captain Valentine Pease for a journey of four years, Melville deserted on the Marquesas Islands (now French Polynesia) 18 months into the voyage. Eleven of 26 of the Acushnet‘s crew and officers were to do the same before the trip was over. Desertions like these were not uncommon in the 18th- and 19th-century maritime world. Historian Marcus Rediker writes that desertion was one way for sailors, whose labor was often coerced or abused, to protest poor conditions on ship: extreme punishments, poor rations, voyages that were extended involuntarily.
Before he returned to Massachusetts, Melville was to live with the indigenous Taipi people; ship aboard an Australian whaler (the Lucy-Ann) where tough conditions also prevailed; be jailed for mutiny; sign onto another whaler (the Charles & Henry); spend some time in Hawaii; and return to the mainland via a stint as an enlisted seaman on the USS United States.“
Besides providing content for his future writing,” Carl E. Rollyson, Lisa Olson Paddock, and April Gentry write, “Melville’s Pacific travels also shaped the intellectual and philosophical perspectives that would mark his later work.” His complicated relationship with discipline and hierarchy, his sensitivity to the trials of the working man, and the cosmopolitan perspective that led Melville to make Queequeg one of the most sympathetic and interesting characters in Moby-Dick were all gained on this voyage.
From Rebecca Onion’s “Whaling Ship Crew List Shows Melville Embarking on a Journey That Inspired Moby-Dick.”
* Herman Melville
As we go down to the sea in ships, we might note that this is Chaos Never Dies Day– a day of recognition of the turmoil that surrounds us. Chaos Never Dies Day is an annual occasion to admit that the perfect, quiet moment for which so many of us strive doesn’t – and likely never will – exist… and to celebrate unruly reality.
Because one never knows when one will need to know: The List of Lists of Lists.
[TotH to Pop Loser]
As we scrawl scintillating series, we might send carefully-lined birthday greetings to Herman Melville; he was born on this date in 1819. The author of Moby Dick (along with other novels, short stores, and essays) was a fan of an altogether different kind of listing:
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, and not the dull tramp of these plodders, plodding their dull way from their cradles to their graves. Let me snuff thee up, sea-breeze! and whinny in thy spray. Forbid it, sea-gods! intercede for me with Neptune, O sweet Amphitrite, that no dull clod may fall on my coffin! Be mine the tomb that swallowed up Pharaoh and all his hosts; let me lie down with Drake, where he sleeps in the sea.
– White Jacket (1850)