Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"To Every[one] who Feels [Their] Soul in [Them]"

fig. 1
An anxious, nervous Herman Melville

fig. 2
Evret A. Duyckinck; Melville's friend and editor at the Literary World


Here's a letter excerpted from Meade Minnigerode's "Some Personal Letters of Herman Melville and a bibliography" ((c) 1922, by the Brick and Row Book Shop, Inc.). It is a letter to his good friend and editor of the Literary World, Mr. Duyckinck (a spelling Melville's wife Elizabeth never mastered).


Written from Boston; April 5, 1849 (not yet thirty years old & days before the publication of Mardi, his outlandish, romantic fictitious novel to follow the huge successes of his first two Typee & Omoo, which were largely criticized as well as celebrated for what had to be gross untruths. You'll find the American edition censored and expurgated (compared with the British edition) to clean up Melville's "discredited true story". But Melville swears that his accounts are all true. Ask Toby (Richard Tobias Greene), the subject of the second book (Omoo). He wouldn't lie, would he? There is a letter written by Toby to the editor of The Commercial Advertiser (Buffalo, NY) to corroborate Melville's tale of their escape from the cannibals.
I don't know yet how this excerpt fits into, or will influence the progress of our "Woman Under the Influence" but we are collecting, aren't we? I know that already I have already been moved by the excerpt which follows, it's only a matter of time and diligence before I can figure out just how much it has effected everything from this point on.

THE LETTER: H. Melville to E.A. Duyckinck

"Dear Duyckinck...
"Poor Hoffman [one of the editors at Literary World]...This going mad of a friend or acquaintance comes straight home to every man who feels his soul in him, which but a few men do. For in all of us lodges the same fuel to light the same fire. And he who has never felt, momentarily, what madness is has but a mouthful of brains. What sort of sensation permanent madness is may very well be imagined just as we might imagine how we felt when we were infants, tho' we can not recall it. In both conditions we are irresponsible and riot like gods without fear of fate--It is the climax of a wild night of revelry when the blood has been transmuted to brandy--But if we prate much of this, why we shall be illustrating our own proposition. ...
"Would that a man could do something and then say It is finished--not that one thing only, but all others--that he has reached his uttermost and can never exceed it. But live and push--tho' we put one leg forward ten miles is no reason the other must lag behind--no, that must again distance the other--and so we go till we get cramp and die. ...

H. Melville"

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