Monday, January 31, 2011

To accompany "California as it is in 2000"

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California as it is in 2000

From the University of Delaware Writenow Fall 2000

California as it is in 2000

The two most beautiful words in the English language are "early retirement." H---- and I are ecstatic at having washed ashore on the Central Coast of California. We have two furnaces and did not turn on either one all last winter, though we fired them up the first winter when the unacclimated Stillmans [Damie Stillman, retired Art History faculty member] and Olsen-¬Smiths (Steven Olsen-Smith, Ph.D. 2000) visited. At Morro Bay the temperature ranges between 70° in the day and 55° at night. The moon is full every night and at every noon the tide is low. Most days are dazzlingly clear, the ocean a prussian blue from Estero Point twelve miles north of our house, Angel del Mar, to Point Buchon, twelve miles to the south. Other days are mysterious, fog rising and low clouds falling, mist swirling, obscuring parts or all of Morro Rock, but always, all day long, a shaft of sunlight falls on and just around Angel del Mar. Morro Rock is the westernmost of several extinct volcanoes that extend inland in a row for 20 miles. We have climbed a few of these "rnorros" and have others on our list. The State of California and San Luis Obispo County are acquiring hunks of new parkland and new wildlife refuges every few months, so our list of new places to explore is lengthening even as we check off excursions we have made.

The birds are rarely as colorful as we saw in Landenberg, but Morro Rock is a peregrine falcon refuge, and we see red-tailed hawks, kestrels, and horned owls almost every day around the house. One noontime a large osprey flew up with a fish at least 14 inches long, perched atop a telephone pole across the street, and ate the fish to a skeleton over the next four hours. Otters and seals are pretty common in the bay. Last week I saw, from the house, a pod of a dozen or more humpbacked whales, as many as 5 or 6 spouting at the same time. Two days ago I saw several dolphins close to shore while I was running along the beach.

The Pacific is a quarter mile and one stoplight down the hill, seventy seconds if I catch the light on Hwy 1. No one under 50 is allowed on the beach unless accompanied by an adult, so it's pretty serene there. Occasionally a geriatric Fresnoid smokes on the beach until she is removed by the Chorizo Committee, a geezer squad affiliated with Wilmington's Kielbasa K-9 Korps across from Figiel's bakery. Other geezer groups decry the visual pollution created by sailboats and windsurfers, agitate to replace boardwalks at the beach with brick pathways, host wheelchair balloon-popping tournaments for Ralph Nader, and push other worthy causes, but I am still not a joiner, although I will red tag smokers as I run past, to help the Chorizos.

Physically we are in good shape. I run. H---- gets exercise working in the yard, which is on a 40 degree grade. She falls a lot but has learned to tuck in her head and hands and roll. She has the NordicTrack outside, facing the ocean, and uses it 40 minutes a day. At the border entrance-inspection near Donner Pass in June 1998 we agreed to certain procedures to fit us for California, most of which have been checked off the list--Lasik surgery for both of us (though I still wear glasses on the Harley), a dewlap nip under my chins, and very local liposuction for my love handles, hardly worth doing. We eat better than most politicians, thanks to the Farmers’ Market, where we bought, this week, strawberries ("half a flat"), a three-pack of raspberries (including an orangish variety), black figs, black plums, sugar plums, yellow freestone peaches, kiwis, heirloom tomatoes, Concord grapes, 2 kinds of basil--on and on. No white-fleshed nectarines this week; the oranges are little watery now; and it will be a few weeks before the tiny spicy See Canyon Anjou pears go on sale. Not even strawberries last all winter, but in rainy January there are wonderful fresh oranges, pears, apples, and pineapple guavas. My bread is better all the time thanks to the low humidity and the spores that waft down the coast from sourdough country.

H---- has done much volunteer work for the local opera company (not as thriving as Delaware's), and as PR person for the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden she has written press releases, done TV and radio interview and helped construct a web-site. She has the best, newest, and cheapest computer and printer in the house and has learned astonishing tricks such as scanning a photograph of me on my hog and sending it to Linda Russell.

We are slow to let the old cars go, but H---- has a new celadon-sage SAAB and I use the hog more and more now that I have enhanced the sound by perforating the muffler with a real harpoon thanatologist Edwin Shneidman sent me.

We worked for months reclaiming this Spanish Colonial fantasy structure with a west-gazing angel (hence the name Angel del Mar) in a niche high up outside the elevator shaft and below dragon-clawed corbels. Other features are a blue dome with a crescent moon and some yellow stars; a copper iguana running down the flagpole; double-headed ruby-eyed snakes hanging over the kitchen window (outside); assorted eagle-talons on less conspicuous corbels; on the main foyer floor a compass mosaic with sun-moon-and-stars images from Tarot cards; assorted sea-shells above exterior doors; projecting from the front walls, fish heads and four archangels blowing copper trumpets (functional downspouts); and for ocean viewing (and H----'s napping on a chaise) two battlements and a demi-Iune balcony on the top level, wrought iron balconies off the living room and the dining room, and, my addition last year, a whale-watching parapet outside the wine cellar tiled with swimming figures midmost of which is Mocha Dick, the White Whale of the Pacific. I call the house my Mies.

I swept up the cement mixes before I uncovered the computer. First I did a complete revision of the 1967 Norton Critical Edition of Moby-Dick then I focused on Volume 2 of my Melville biography, now complete in 2nd draft. I am polishing it before turning it over to Johns Hopkins for publication early in 2002. For the dust jacket blurbs I am hoping to line up creative people. Maybe Tony Kushner once more, and Sendak (who is doing the jacket again); perhaps Paul Seydor, the Sam Peckinpah expert; the novelist David Morrell, the creator of Rambo (who came to lunch last year and photographed Angel del Mar with expertise gained in writing Double Image); other novelists. No academics!

Saintly former students, Todd Richardson (1997 MA), Dan Lane, and Steven Olsen-Smith, have gone to libraries for me, and people from the Melville chat group calling themselves the Irregulars and have located items I needed such as a picture of a locomotive Melville's brother-in-law built in 1855 and details on a sister-in-law's will from 1890. Without their help I would have been stymied until I could get to the libraries at Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, or the Huntington.

The Internet has been a lifesaver. I use the Cornell "Making of America" site for surprisingly many 19th century books and magazines. Often I find just what I need at the moment on Google, such as a clear photograph of the monument to General Worth that Melville saw almost every day in his last years. The Internet is a bottomless source of battered, water-stained books that I buy cheap because no one else wants them, such as Ticknor and Fields 1850s and 1860s editions of Tennyson and Browning so I can see just what poems were in editions available to Melville. I have bought many ragged copies of books in the same editions Melville owned so I can mark them up with his marginalia. Without I could not have written V2 here. . . .

Soon I will be free to pursue other projects, some old like THE POWELL PAPERS, some new. I have completed a very rough draft of an autobiography called TO PLAY WITH THE WHITE KIDS (as in "all I ever wanted was to play &c"). (My last half-Indian aunt turns 100 this month [and survived to live in three centuries, but not very long in two of them].) I am far along on "The Beatification of Ginny Foat," an inside story based on diaries I kept in LA and just after going to Delaware. Another project less far along, WHETHER IT HAPPENED OR NOT, a history of academic theory, overlaps several arguments from FLAWED TEXTS AND VERBAL ICONS (1984). I very much want to write a popular, non-scholarly book on how previously-unknown episodes in biography get identified and created, a way of replying to New York intellectuals who are sure that no documentation for Melville’s life exists and that therefore anyone who writes a 2000-page biography has to be making it all up.

Trapped in the mind-set of the Great Depression, I have all my retirement in safe TIAA annuities instead of risky CREF stocks, but Social Security is ample for someone buying nothing much but marmalade-smeared sermons by Orville Dewey, and I am astounded at how much money the more elderly citizens here are willing to pay for a baguette held out toward them by a big old white-haired guy on a Harley, so we look forward to a secure older age. Our habits have not changed much, but the nature of retirement is being transformed around us. I type my name into Google to see if I exist and I learn just which graduate classes will be arguing this fall about my article on Walt Whitman's "Live Oak, with Moss"! New publications or not, I'm out there now, in cyberspace, still teaching passionately, and still hoping to get to play with the white kids.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Reviewing of Scholarly Editions

This essay ended my string of contributions to an annual review of scholarship, for the acting editor bluntly informed me that my intemperate attacks on Fredson Bowers and G. Thomas Tanselle could not be published. Many months later, absolutely unchanged except for a bracketed note about the suppression of the essay, still perfectly temperate toward Bowers and almost benign toward Tanselle, this essay was printed in Editors’ Notes: Bulletin of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals, 10 (Spring 1991). Fewer textual scholars and literary theorists saw it there than would have seen it in the glossier home it had been destined for, but I remain grateful to the bravery of Edna L. Steeves for taking a piece she knew had been suppressed already because it dared to challenge Bowers. I post it here as the first product of my I.R.I.S. scanning, cleaned up “by hand,” italics restored, I trust, and other minor glitches corrected, such as the attribution to Jerome McGann of a book called A Critique of Modem Textual Criticism.


            My topic is the reviewing of scholarly editions of literary works after the promulgation of W. W. Greg's rationale of copy-text. Except for the Wesleyan Fielding and the Clarendon Dickens, I restrict my examples to what I know most about, editions of American prose works, philosophical writings as well as belles-¬lettres, mainly the collected editions sponsored by the Center for Editions of American Authors (CEAA) or the successor organization, the Center for Scholarly Editions (CSE), and published, most often, by American university presses. I also refer to a few single-shot editions such as the reconstruction of the original text of The Red Badge of Courage that Norton published in 1982 and one or two other texts in popular series (such as the Riverside Editions).
            In adjacent terrain there are two excellent statements on the reviewing of multiple volume editions of American historical documents. In the Newsletter of the Association for Documentary Editing 2 (September 1980) Gregg L. Lint eloquently protested the American Historical Review policy of reviewing at length only the first volume in a series, and in the American Archivist 43 (Winter 1980) Fredrika J. Teute sorted out dozens of reviews according to positions taken on various much-debated issues. Closest to my present concern is Lint's declaration that the effect of the AHR policy was to relegate documentary editions "to a historical backwater, somewhere beneath monographs" (p. 1). As an editor, a former member of the CEAA advisory committee, a frequent examiner ("vettor") of CEAA editions before publication (Clemens, Cooper, Hawthorne, Irving, Thoreau), and the one who, for several years, reviewed more CEAA editions than anyone else (Brown, Clemens, Cooper, Crane, Hawthorne, Howells, and in effect Melville), I can vouch that what Lint sees as a historical backwater is bigger and darker, a Dismal Swamp where editions of the papers of John Adams and his predecessor jostle oilily against Mohamet and his Successors, and where An Amateur Laborer makes A Chance Acquaintance with George Washington's papers and George's Mother. The CEAA and CSE volumes offered reviewers dozens of chances to educate themselves and their colleagues about the theory and practice of textual editing. Driven by no Imperative Duty, most of them threw away their chances.
            During the decade before the great American editing enterprise was started, the New Criticism had won all the theoretical battles and had achieved practical domination over the academy. So strong was the New Critical prejudice against anything textual, bibliographical, and biographical that most people regarded the new editions with suspicion or disdain. Still worse, the fact that the New Criticism had been entrenched for several years meant that many of the younger editors had to educate themselves as they went along, in an Operation Textual Bootstraps. More insidious was the fact that the dominant editorial theory had close and debilitating affinities with the New Criticism: W. W. Greg's rationale of copy-text ignored the relevance of information about the process of composition and revision very much the way the New Criticism disdained biographical information. The new editors often performed feats of contortion to distance their supposedly pure textual analyses from grubby biographical research.
            Part of the problem, also, was the antagonism engendered by the politics of organizing the CEAA and lobbying for federal funding. To the victors went the spoils, and the losers were widely regarded as spoil-sports. Lewis Mumford's and Edmund Wilson's abuse of the CEAA in the New York Review of Books (1969) is infamous history now, and looking coolly back at the scene of carnage G. Thomas Tanselle and I have said enough about the dubious motives, misreadings, and inaccuracies of these Grand Old Men. (See my summary in Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons [Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1984], pp. 64-65.) Now one can admit that the victors sometimes behaved more like rambunctious late nineteenth-century American poli¬ticians than decorous late twentieth-century academicians, for having gained posses¬sion of the feeding trough some of them publicly scorned those they had pushed away. When Fredson Bowers lacerated conscienceless hacks of textbook-makers (as he did at the 1965 MLA) he not only set up a false distinction (I'd put the Riverside The House of the Seven Gables or the Norton Critical Edition of Maggie against the Ohio State House and the Virginia Maggie), he alienated people with residual good will toward textual editing and polarized the academy to the point that to be critical of Bowers was to be labeled an enemy of responsible editing. Over the years there was even some none-too-subtle intimidation, as when thorough, and thoroughly damning, reviews were suppressed. [Months after the preceding sentence was written, this essay was itself suppressed.] People were treated badly, and you had to identify the hidden agenda of grievances whenever you tried to interpret a new review.
            The biggest part of the problem was the heritage of respect for authority. Bowers's stature as the chief disciple of Greg and the most eminent American bibliographer was such that his authority as an editor prevailed even when he was editing someone on whom he had not previously been an authority. There was, also, an engrained sense that if a literary critic like Sylvere Monod knew Dickens intimately (as we all knew he did) and was devoted to his service (as we all knew he was), then he would be just the editor to give fullest respect to the authority of his author. This belief in the mystical authority of authorities revealed itself unexpectedly, as when Jack Stillinger in reviewing Little Dorrit for Nineteenth-Century Fiction 35 (March 1981) declared the question of copy-text was settled merely because Philip Gaskell and Sylvere Monod were "firmly on the side of using printed versions as copy-texts" (p. 545). (To challenge the Dickens editions, as Bowers and Tanselle did, required only moderate skepticism and routine examination of the editorial policies.)
            When CEAA volumes and other modem textual editions began limping from the presses, editors of journals felt no duty to review them extensively or seriously. It is easy to accuse the boards of many journals and annuals of choosing a pack of incompetent literary critics, choosing old-time editors (which meant writers of explanatory notes), or choosing aggrieved friends of authorities who had been shoved aside by New Bibliographers. I complained in Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons (p. 63) about two sets of reviewers, the persnickety ones who gleefully pointed out typographical errors and the sycophants who abased themselves before the master-editors. The snits may have been less offensive than the idolators, one of whom said: "The blend of astute critical judgment and technical expertise needed to effect this text" is "awe inspiring." Bowers's methodology inspired "a firmer faith that here are stories as close as human ingenuity can bring them to what Stephen Crane meant to create." The language was quasi-religious: awe inspiring editing led to firmer faith; yet a less devout motive may be discerned in some professions of faith, such as that in Luther S. Mansfield's fast move past the apparatus in the textually simple Redburn: "For the readers willing to take the scholarly accuracy of the text on faith, when this apparatus is present, the major interest of this volume may well be the thirty-eight page ‘Historical Note’" (American Literature 42 [November 1970], p. 406). When you're bored, say you are taking it on faith.
            By its association with the American Literature section of MLA, American Literature ought to have set the standard for reviewing the new CEAA and CSE volumes lavishly and rigorously, at least ought to have set a policy of identifying and devoting more space to volumes that raised complex textual issues than to volumes that involved comparatively routine textual problems. Instead, American Literature sent out the first volumes for review, then disposed of later volumes with brief notices. No reviewer bothered to determine what was complex enough or new enough or challenging enough to warrant special attention. To make matters worse, American Literature printed unusually long and hostile reviews of scholarly editions by scholars with vested academic interest (and on a petty scale even vested commercial interest) in opposing the texts under review. Was I the only one who protested that this policy invited unpleasant misconstrual?
            Some journals did better. Nineteenth-Century Fiction, perhaps because of the early presence at UCLA of Leon Howard and other people interested in editing, frequently allowed reviewers four or five pages, or even more, and encouraged them to review two or more volumes of an edition. David V. Erdman welcomed discussions of editorial issues in the Bulletin of the New York Public Library and its short-lived successor, the Bulletin of Research in the Humanities. Proof printed essay reviews on different CEAA editions, and Review has carried on where Proof left off, treating British editions as well as American. Still other incisive reviews of the new editions came, less frequently, in JEGP, Resources for American Literary Study, Modern Philology, American Literary Scholarship, and particularly in three special issues of Studies in the Novel (on Hawthorne, on Textual Studies in the Novel, on Stephen Crane).
            The people who became competent reviewers were learning how to edit by editing. Any list of notable reviewers would include the editors 0 M Brack, Jr., Robert H. Hirst, Joseph McElrath, James B. Meriwether, and David J. Nordloh. Several fine reviewers were veterans of Meriwether' s South Carolina classes: Thomas L. McHaney, Noel Polk, James L. W. West III. Of the competent reviewers from outside the editorial establishment, very few pursued their arguments through two or more reviews or other textual essays and still fewer educated themselves through dealing with a series of different textual questions. John Freehafer, who deplored what a critic might conclude about Hawthorne upon encountering in the Centenary Marble Faun "sham Briticisms, false personifications, pretentious capitals, and miscorrections" (Studies in the Novel 2 [Winter 1970], p.499), soon gave up on the CEAA rather than continuing to try to improve it. For many years the best reviewing of the CEAA and CSE volumes went unpublished-some of the "vetting reports" by Meriwether, Michael Millgate, Nordloh, for instance. The education of everyone concerned with the CEAA was retarded by the decision that CEAA "vetting" reports were to be kept secret, sent only to the executive (later advisory) committee and the editor of the volume being "vetted." For a good decade at our very cleverest we reinvented the wheel every few months.
            The sum total of stringent and elaborate essays on single volumes or several volumes of an edition was very small. John Freehafer's essay on The Marble Faun in Studies in the Novel 2 (Winter 1970) was perhaps the most notable review of one work. Reviews of the in-progress Hawthorne, Howells, Melville, and Thoreau editions appeared in the first four volumes of Proof. Surely the best review of a completed edition was David Nordloh' s "On Crane Now Edited" in the special Crane issue of Studies in the Novel 10 (Spring 1978). There were very few comprehensive essays on the CEAA. PBSA commissioned me to write a general article, "The CEAA: An Interim Assessment" (First Quarter 1974) that proved useful to two subsequent surveyors, Peter Shaw in American Scholar 45 (Winter 1975-76) and Tom Davis in Library 32 (March 1977). For the special textual issue of Studies in the Novel 7 (Fall 1975) Tanselle wrote a major article which amounted to a multiple review of both British and American editions, "Problems and Accomplishments in the Editing of the Novel." Tanselle's (unsigned) essay in PMLA 92 (September 1977) on the founding of the CSE included a review of major reviews of the CEAA. But a look at the density and scale of Tanselle' s analyses and summaries reminds one anew just how few were the attempts to grapple strenuously with individual CEAA volumes or the whole enterprise.
            As Thomas L. McHaney said in the "Forum" of the "Textual Studies in the Novel" special issue of Studies in the Novel 7 (Fall 1975), p. 399, reviewers had seldom raised "the important questions." Conspicuously, the utility and possible hazards of creating an eclectic text were seldom discussed in these reviews of eclectic editions. Donald Pizer insisted in the Bulletin of the New York Public Library 75 (March 1971) that each authorially revised form "constitutes a distinctive work with its own aesthetic individuality and character" (p. 149). As I pointed out in BNYPL 75 (October 1971), the "aesthetic individuality and character" of most editions after the first is often specious, the result of a host of new compositorial changes mixed we any new authorial revisions. The issues are extremely delicate, but the fullest examination, Bowers's "Remarks on Eclectic Texts" (Proof 4, 1975) emphasized practical ways of creating eclectic texts rather than principles that might make you want to create one. No reviewer of the CEAA and CSE volumes has made more than a feint toward identifying--much less exploring--the basic historical and aesthetic arguments for and against eclectic editions.
            The few important editorial essays of these years were usually by Tanselle. For Bowers's Studies in Bibliography Tanselle wrote a series of magisterial general essays--several of which are collected in Selected Studies in Bibliography (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1979)--on such topics as principles for editorial apparatuses, Greg's theory of copy-text, the editorial problem of final authorial intention, and the central questions of editing. These were most often general surveys where an attempt to describe developments on a wide front led Tanselle to quote from the editors' own descriptions of their activities rather than to evaluate what they had in fact done. In his lucid and comprehensive article on "Some Principles for Editorial Apparatus" (Studies in Bibliography 25 [1972]), Tanselle said that the typical Bowers apparatus had come in recent years to represent "one possible standard" for apparatuses for scholarly editions (p. 45), but despite the caution of his phrasing he helped to standardize Bowers because he was so lucid and because he did not go on to explore--or urge others to explore--textual situations where that apparatus would not tell the serious student the most important things he might want to know. The purpose of explaining a large enterprise must partly account for Tanselle's habit of discussing Bowers's editorial principles but not scrutinizing his actual editorial performances. Tanselle's 1970s essays on editing are classic general statements, but they are not, except indirectly, part of the reviewing of the CEAA and CSE', and they tended, on the whole, to deflect criticism from Bowers's editing at a time when the whole textual enterprise would have benefited from open discussion. While Tanselle's essays dealt with "the central questions of editing" in a narrow sense, they did not deal with some of the central questions of textual scholarship (such as the bearing on textual study of cognitive psychology and research into creativity) or textual criticism (such as study of the aesthetic implications of textual evidence). Tanselle chose another road (a higher one, I can now testify) and none of the rest of us turned into ideal reviewers.
            In realistic terms, how could we have? The ideal reviewer would have to have possessed or to have acquired, pronto, a high level of expertise in the life of a writer being edited as well as in textual and editorial theory and practice, and occasionally he would have had to acquire some knowledge of analytical bibliography. Then he would have had to devote to a volume of any complexity not the three or four days that he might put into reviewing a critical book but weeks--weeks in which he would have redone some of the editorial work from scratch in order to verify it and supplement it.
            Starting with the most accessible part of the editorial apparatus, the ideal reviewer would have examined the "historical" essay that purported to layout the circumstances of composition, publication, reception, and (sometimes) subsequent critical reputation. He would have found that the biographical experts were fallible. William Charvat repeated the "germ theory" of the composition of The Scarlet Letter when the available evidence should have made it clear that James T. Fields had nothing to do with the length the novel reached even though he had everything to do with its being published as anovel rather than the longest piece in a collection of tales. Leon Howard and I overlooked a document crucial for the dating of Melville's enlargement of Pierre. Fredson Bowers overlooked a well-reported pre-publication excerpt from The Red Badge of Courage which ought to have been used as copy-text since it was set directly from now missing manuscript pages (Henry Binder laid out the facts, in an essay, not a review, in PBSA [First Quarter, 1978]); Bowers also overlooked a previously-reported letter to Crane in which Ripley Hitchcock accepted The Third Violet for Appleton but made it clear that he had reservations about it (Henry Binder printed the letter in Studies in the Novel 10 [Spring 1978]). Almost never did a reviewer challenge the editors for biographical lapses. (Needless to say, reviewers seldom recognized new research when there was new research. An exception was the frequent recognition that Martin Battestin had some news to tell in Tom Jones.)
            Inspired by Tanselle' s argument that what makes an edition definitive is the apparatus, not the presentation of a text, the ideal reviewer would have dirtied himself in the textual lists, but only a handful of reviewers devoted any thought to what a list is for, how well a list fulfills its purpose, and whether or not the purpose is worthwhile. At times by blindly imitating Bowers's practices or by overzealously inventing new practices, editors created apparatuses which were not only clumsy and error-ridden but so misconceived that no user could find from them the information he would most naturally want to have. Being lucid of mind himself, and perfectly capable of following complicated rules (such as those by which everything not specified as so-and-so is considered to be such-and-such), even Tanselle has demanded too little of apparatuses. The academic establishment as a whole-biographers, literary historians, literary critics (not to mention theorists)--has demanded too little of textual apparatuses. Yet as Melville said, there is an aesthetics in all things--even in editorial apparatuses. You wouldn't know it from reading the reviewers who lost sight of the use people might make of a list of variants for a particular work--real people who love literature and are concerned with the process of literary creation more than they are with the vagaries of compositors.
            Anyone who set out to use the textual lists in Maggie to find out how the 1896 edition differs from the 1893 and how the Virginia edition differs from 1893 could spend hundreds of hours without ever determining this information--partly because the emendations list is extremely long, partly because it is filled with errors (as is the Historical Collation), partly because the pattern of the Virginia Edition is to adopt the 1896 readings so that the putative copy-text is hardly that at all. My guess is that the Virginia Edition was set from a marked copy of 1896--for it contains the inevitable errors that result when actual printer's copy is not a photographic copy of the copy-text if the copy-text is a print. An apparatus becomes simply unusable when many errors occur in the lists; when the lists are misleadingly and inadequately defined; and when many unnecessary emendations are made, especially when many are taken from a later edition (you can't keep chronology straight if the variants you make note of in the margins are the early readings).
            There are subtle relationships between the form of the lists and the editor's sense of what stages of textual history are most significant. The lists reveal that the editors were preoccupied with printed forms of the text and especially with book forms, when magazine publication preceded book form. In the Cooper Edition the list of "Rejected Readings" consists mainly of readings in "authorial" editions (editions Cooper supervised or at least authorized) which the editors have judged to be non-authoritative. That is, in the case of volumes edited from manuscript they mainly consist of misreadings made by the first compositors, misreadings never corrected by Cooper in later editions. In the case of volumes for which the first edition is copy-text, the list consists mainly of words in later authorized editions which the editors think are not changes made by Cooper but by others, primarily compositors. There is nothing inherently wrong about printing a list of words you do not adopt because you are pretty sure they are non-authorial, but sometimes the lists are long--eighteen pages in The Pathfinder--a lot of space to devote to words you think are non-¬authorial. Whatever the economic justifications, the effect of the policy is to valorize the non-authorial printed variants over the variants which survive from the author's active engagement in the creative process.
            Even Tanselle has by implication endorsed this valorizing of printed variants: in his overview in Studies in the Novel 7 (Fall 1975), p. 346, he criticized the editor of Oliver Twist for listing only almost all of the differences in wording between manuscript and print but went on to assume that she, as a matter of course, must have listed all verbal variants in printed texts. I have seen NEH applications where would ¬be editors proposed to ignore a great English writer's revisions between manuscript and serial and between serial and book yet promised to record all the compositorial variants between late English and late American editions. Almost all editing inspired by Greg and Bowers has tended to valorize printed variants over manuscript variants, so that in a subtle, silent way evidence of the creative process was suppressed. The printing of these elaborate lists of rejected variants seems to me a case of doing meticulously something that is not the most desirable thing to do. As apparatuses proliferated and became standard, they came to be monuments to their makers, not lists that contained valuable information. Some imitative Bowersean apparatuses are as bad as or even worse than the worst of Bowers's owe--witness the useless nineteen-page Kent State University Arthur Mervyn "Historical List of Substantive Variants," which does not include variants in authorial editions.
            The ideal reviewer would have slogged back and forth from list to text to the essay which lays out the textual policies of the edition. These essays are often formidably difficult to understand, yet in them basic editorial theory is promulgated. Sometimes the essays contain minefields where explosive departures from Greg's rationale are hidden under innocent-looking discussion of something so innocuous as an emendation policy. In Maggie Bowers violates a crucial part of W. W. Greg's "The Rationale of Copy-Text" (Studies in Bibliography 3 [1950-51])--indeed, the part where Greg made his momentous half-step beyond Ronald B. McKerrow's argument in Prolegomena for the Oxford Shakespeare (1939) that once having decided that an edition, "taken as a whole,” contains authorial variants, an editor "must accept all the alterations of that edition, saving any which seem obvious blunders or misprints" (p. 18). Looking at the so-called "indifferent" readings in Maggie, Bowers found the variants so "neutral, perhaps, as to require adjudication on a rather impressionistic basis" (p.lxxiii). This subjectivity flies in the face of Greg's sensible comment that if there is no reason for altering the copy-text reading, "the obvious thing seems to be to let it stand" (p. 31). Bowers's emending hardens into textual dogma in the insistence that once an author's revising hand is established in a reprint, every substantive variant should be presumed innocent (or authorial) unless proven guilty. Here Greg's best-known disciple, without saying so, is repudiating Greg's rationale of copy-text. By ignoring the evidence that the publisher had intervened in the text of Maggie and also ignoring the well-documented tendency of compositors to make casual alterations which are not always recognizable as errors, Bowers retrogresses behind the mature wisdom of Greg's rationale, which advocates discriminating among late variants and adopting only those the editor is convinced are authorial, back toward McKerrow's outdated argument. A conscientious reviewer would have seized on Bowers's retrogression, for Greg's rationale rests on his rejecting the all-or-nothing policy, and if you are going to print an eclectic text, Greg's theory is still the only game in town.
            Pity the ideal reviewer who confronts Bowers's arguments for superseding the manuscript as copy-text in the Harvard University Press Pragmatism (1975). Bowers calls the manuscripts "something close to drafts," in so "rough" a state of inscription that they cannot "be thought of as normal authorial printer's copy" (p. 199). Suspending skepticism, the ideal reviewer would have to pursue Bowers outside an edition to find an explicit elaboration of his divergence from Greg. I quote from Tanselle's summary in Studies in Bibliography 34 (1981), p. 36: "Whereas Greg criticized 'the tyranny of the copy-text' . . . by arguing in favor of the use of editorial judgment to determine authorial revisions or corrections that should be incorporated into the copy-text, Bowers points out a different kind of tyranny: Greg's concept of divided authority, he says, ‘has been so welcome to recent textual critics that they have had a tendency to overreact against any other rationale' and thus 'have been loath to accept any suggestion of a return to unified authority even when the special situation warrants it." ("Unified authority" means a later print when manuscript or some earlier print survives: here Tanselle is quoting Bowers's "Scholarship and Editing," PBSA 70 [Second Quarter 1976], p. 180.) As usual, Tanselle is more the historian of Bowers's altering notions than critic of them, but Bowers's recent quarreling with Greg deserved scrutiny, particularly his questioning "whether Greg's advice is a good editorial principle to adopt under changed conditions from those of Renaissance compositorial and scribal free-wheeling" ("Greg's 'Rationale of Copy-Text' Revisited," Studies in Bibliography 31 [1978], p. 155.)
            When I asked Carolyn Jakeman for xeroxes of some chapters of the Houghton's manuscript of Pragmatism, I found that the manuscripts are not rough drafts at all, but perfectly legible fair copy, from which the first printers set very nicely. The printers made a few errors, of course, and since Bowers had relegated the manuscript to an inferior status he did not collate it carefully and did not notice misreadings which have persisted through every printed version. For instance, at one point in "Pragmatism and Humanism" (Lecture 7), the manuscript reads "logics, geometries, or arithmetics"--altered from the earlier "logic, geometry, arithmetic"; the first printer mistook the perfectly legible "geometries" for "geometrics," and every subsequent text, including Bowers's, prints "geometrics." Bowers's arguments are elaborate and intimidating, but they are also specious. Where James's manuscripts survived they ought to have been copy-text. The situation is a vindication of Greg's insights, and a condemnation of Bowers's rationalizations, which should be seen for what they are, not as valuable "extensions" of Greg.
            For years the genuine textual issues, small and great, went unexamined by reviewers or only carelessly examined. Editors mired themselves in minutiae, fussing over perfectly acceptable spelling variants and old-fashioned punctuational practices, often regularizing spelling and punctuation in violation of their claims to be printing unmodernized texts. All the while, they were blindly following a rationale of copy-text that (although perfect in some very simple situations) was incompatible with what is known of the creative process, since, denying that the process is a process, it assumes that an author's aesthetic control over anything he writes lasts as long as he lives. Editors, in short, did not rethink editorial theory and editorial apparatus or, more basically, rethink Greg.
            And while textualists and reviewers alike have been confused or flippant, or merely ponderous, on most of the textual-editorial issues, both of theory and procedure, they have seemed almost unaware of a much more important area, that ambiguous terrain where textual and biographical evidence create aesthetic consequences. Biography has been kept away from editorial theory; creativity theory has been kept away from editorial theory-and is banished in Jerome McGann's modish A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism (Chicago 1983), an influential pastiche of the views of James Thorpe and Donald Pizer; cognitive psychology (with its rich new discoveries about human memory) has been kept out of editorial theory. Until editors care passionately about literature again, until editors approach the creative process with wonder and awe, we are not going to have great triumphs of textual editing and we are not going to have great new reviews of scholarly editions.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Talk at the Air Force Academy 1 December 1995

            I've just come from New York City where I signed books with the only literary genius I have ever met, Maurice Sendak.  These last years, knowing Sendak, I have stronger views than ever about what is now scorned as the solitary creative genius, or the individual literary creator.  Those views will underlie what I say here.

            Some of you have built substantial careers by working on Stephen Crane.  Well, working on Stephen Crane wrecked my career as a textual scholar.  The essay Brian Higgins and I wrote on Fredson Bowers’s edition of Maggie in 1974 and 1975 was never printed in the textual annual we wrote it for, and proved unprintable in the United States, even long after Bowers's death.  That essay was published last month, in Australia.  Offprints have not come, so I brought Xeroxes, which I urge you to copy for friends and students.  The essay on Maggie and my subsequent work on The Red Badge of Courage brought down on me repeated threats of lawsuits, and threats also to sue Nineteenth-Century Fiction and the MLA along with me.  With such threats Fredson Bowers successfully blackballed me from the Center for Scholarly Editions, when he thought I might have become its first director.  Hounded out of textual scholarship, I took what work I could get, and became a metatextualist and literary theorist in Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons. Then I was further reduced to writing a two-volume, two thousand-page biography of Herman Melville, the first volume of which should appear next Fall.  I don't get out much any more, so today I'm going to get a few propositions off my chest.

            The first one involves what I learned about Crane when the Parker-Higgins Maggie essay was so cruelly and effectively suppressed.  The lesson was not a benefit Fredson had planned for me, and not a lesson I wanted to learn.  Having the Maggie essay on our hands hurt the career of my young colleague Brian Higgins, since many months of his work went into limbo.  It hurt mine less, in some ways, more in others.  The worst of it was that I had been trying out ideas in the piece--ideas which didn't get exposed to public reaction.  Thereafter, my career had a great hole in it, so that in my own view its logic, its coherence was reduced.
            If Higgins and I felt our careers were damaged by the burden of this unpublished essay, if we felt from that point that we had done more than the public knew, that our careers were perceived only partially, then what did young Stephen Crane feel after he spent his inheritance in printing Maggie but never got it widely reviewed?  What did young Stephen Crane feel after he finished The Red Badge of Courage then tried month after month to get it into print?

            I propose to you that Crane felt that his most extraordinary literary experiments had never really been tested, so that for months on end he never really knew whether or not they had been brilliant successes or failures.  I had tenure, and Brian Higgins got tenure after our failure to publish the Maggie essay.  Crane did not have tenure.  He did not always have good food and warm clothing, and as month after month passed he was not receiving what he needed: critical responses to his boldest literary experiments.  Everyone waits impatiently for publications, but it is an especially terrible thing for a sick young genius to have his greatest efforts blocked, kept from the public.  When that happens to you, you may agree to do anything an editor wants you to do: better get the work into print, even if what gets into print is not the whole of the work.  As I know from experience, you can't quite get on with your later work when so large a part of your early work has been suppressed.

            My second proposition is about expurgated texts and the definition of American literary naturalism.  Some of you may know that I offered Don Pizer the idea of reconstructing the original form of The Red Badge of Courage for the Norton Critical Edition and that he turned me down.  I didn't have time to do it myself, so I helped a fine student of mine, Henry Binder, do it.  As you know, I edited a special Crane issue of Studies in the Novel so as to showcase Binder's assignment, Steven Mailloux's assignment, and other pieces by my students and by established critics.  Donald Pizer's opposition has been unremitting, to the point that reviewers of his recent G. K. Hall collection on Red Badge have complained about his one-sidedness.  In the intervening decades, we have learned of other works besides Red Badge that got into print in severely truncated forms, notably Sister Carrie, the restored edition of which Donald Pizer denounced in what I was told was the longest review yet published in American Literature.

            The excisions from the Appleton Red Badge were made so carelessly that words were left without referents or without grammatical agreement.  Hasty alterations have left other books riddled with such anomalies.  I talked about such anomalies in Pudd'nhead Wilson, as did my student Philip Cohen.  My student Kevin Hayes did an article on aesthetic anomalies in Sister Carrie.  The excisions from Sister Carrie tended to be patched over, although hastily, but they left incoherencies throughout.  They diminished the characterization of Sister Carrie to the point of making it less comprehensible that she would be drawn to the theatre.  One important set of excisions cut several passages which dealt with forces of nature on human beings--sections that might have been of great use in arriving at a theory of literary naturalism, just as the original chapter twelve of Red Badge might have been.

            In the unpublished Maggie essay, long ago, I said something that is truer than I knew before the Pennsylvania Sister Carrie was published.  Now I will say more emphatically that all definitions of American literary naturalism are severely flawed because in one way or another they have been deduced from severely truncated texts such as the 1895 Red Badge, the 1896 Maggie, and the 1900 Sister Carrie.  That is, whenever Pizer or anyone else has talked about naturalism in Sister Carrie, he has been talking on the basis of a text which does not contain, for example, several passages on the power of natural forces, such as cold weather.  Walcutt, Pizer, and other writers on naturalism have all drawn their examples of naturalistic novelists and naturalistic novels and naturalistic characters from texts that had been toned down and cleaned up for publication.  It may well be that more books (books of enduring significance) were altered by publishers before publication in the 1890's and 1900's than in any other decades--because in these decades several of the most energetic and original young writers were striving to break out of the limits of conventional, acceptable literature.  What we know of Crane, Dreiser--and Norris, and Upton Sinclair--has been what the publishers let the public see.  So any theories of American literary naturalism have been theories of literary naturalism as censored or otherwise screened by publishers.  Is that the American literary naturalism we want to be writing articles and books about, to the exclusion of the literature that the authors wrote and tried to get into print?

            Even after we thought everyone had agreed that we should be reading the 1893 Maggie, critics kept on writing about naturalism in Maggie on the basis of the 1896 text.  In his Norton Critical Edition Gullason uses the 1893 text, but he prints some very recent essays on color imagery by critics who drew all their examples from the 1896 text.  Is there no one who would want to see whether or not Crane in the 1893 Maggie used color imagery in a way that might be considered naturalistic?  Am I freakish in not caring much about what editors let get into print, but caring passionately about what writers write and try to get into print?

            My third proposition concerns the now triumphant notion that the literary text that counts is not the product of individual creative genius but of social forces.  This was a wondrously labor-saving idea when James Thorpe promulgated it in the 1960s and 1970s--labor-saving because you never had to do any textual research and never had to perform any textual thinking: all you had to do was read whatever got into print, because getting into print was what bestowed artistic integrity upon a work.  Now this simple idea has been adopted by Pizer, Jerome McGann, Jack Stillinger, and many others, most recently in such a way as to derogate the very idea of individual creative genius and to celebrate all works as collaborative.

            Fredson Bowers may well have thought he was God, but the more modest McGann is now being treated as God.  In the June Resources for American Literary Study Michael Guemple tries to make "A Case for the Appleton Red Badge of Courage" by reliance on McGann:
                        McGann provides us with criteria we can apply to the editing to Red Badge to show that the Appleton version is the result of Crane's efforts and is thus the authoritative edition. . . .
                        Guided by McGann's criteria in preparing a critical edition, we can conclude only that the Appleton edition is the result of Crane's efforts and thus is more authoritative than the Binder edition.
Black is white, white is black.  The author is not authoritative, the editorially approved Red Badge or Maggie is authoritative.

            The strangest thing about this celebration of the taste of the Appleton editor is that Guemple sees Crane's "development" as manifested in the process of expurgation:
                        McGann signals a resurrection of the author into the world of flesh and blood and frequently helpful editors.  In any case (irrespective of the helpfulness or intrusiveness of particular editors), he attempts to account for the actual development of texts from authorial autonomy and privacy to publication and publicity.  If we turn from Binder's account of Ripley Hitchcock's role in the publication of Red Badge to better documented accounts, we find McGann's model of the development of the text from psychological phenomenon to social artifact to ofer a reliable explanation of what happened.
Without fawning over McGann, thank goodness, James Colvert similarly talks of Crane's development as the final manuscript was changed into the Appleton text.  I suggest that last minute expurgation is not development.  If anyone wants to study development in Stephen Crane's Red Badge, the thing to do is to go to the surviving pages of the draft and compare those passages with the final manuscript.  There's development.

            If we want to talk about the book Crane wrote and the book he tried for many months to get into print, then we have to talk about the nearest thing to it, the Binder reconstruction.  If we say anything about Crane and his book after he finished the final draft and before the late stages of publication, long after the initial acceptance by Hitchcock, then we have to talk about the book as it stood then, the Binder reconstruction.  If you want to know what Crane actually wrote about war, for instance, what he tried to achieve on winter in cold New York City, and what he did achieve, you look at what he completed and what he hoped against hope to get into print, month after month.  Let me read from Henry Binder's eloquent ending:
            In the final chapter Henry reflects on his experiences during both days of battle with the intention to appraise himself. As many critics have pointed out, Henry, from the beginning of the story, goes to war in search of a mature identity, to discover what kind of man he might be. He has had the usual youth’s abiding faith in his destiny, “never challenging his belief in ultimate success and bothering little about means and roads” (p. 12). Aroused in the first chapter by Jim Conklin’s rumor of an impending engagement, he becomes introspective and discovers that “as far as war was concerned he knew nothing of himself” (p. 13). The Henry who sets off to war looks forward to becoming a “man of traditional courage.” But after he runs from the first battle, he needs, more desperately, a reassurance of dignity, even a false one, and pursues this not by examining his own thoughts and motives but in raging against the “universe.” Conklin’s death compounds his despair; and when he deserts the tattered soldier, he moves into an even more dangerous sidetrack of psychological and social cowardice by betraying a seriously wounded man. In the twelfth chapter, he expends himself in a waste of illusions about world-reconstruction. But for all this, “fate” rewards him with the kindness and help of the cheery-voiced soldier and the friendship of Wilson. In the next chapters, his traditional manhood is established in the eyes of all, and it seems his earlier cowardice will not be discovered; but in the concluding scenes, he has no fleeting thought for the dead Jimmie Rogers; and, never seeming to comprehend the man at his shoulder—a “duty” more fundamental and more difficult than heroism or friendship—his “interpretation” of battle is that “death is for others.”
            The Red Badge of Courage as Stephen Crane wrote it is the story of an episode in the life of Henry Fleming. The final mystery of heroism in this episode is that Henry finds no real identity or selfhood in battle, and his notions of “fate” remain justifications for his own errors, reinforcements for his youthful vanity. The intricacies of each character’s thoughts and feelings in the continuum of the war press along their own paths, perhaps breaching final walls, perhaps not. Conklin is a man before he goes to battle; Wilson becomes one; Henry does not change. From the first, we sense the advancing edge of Henry’s expectations for himself; but as the story proceeds, in the no-man’s land between his wavering self-image and his intermittent scorn and eagerness concerning bravery, there is no footing for a real change to prevail, never an awakening in him to what manhood is, only the confusion of his delusive explanations.
            There's loving criticism.  Last time I looked, we were not holding a conference on Ripley Hitchcock's taste in literature or his wary concern to avoid shocking the reading public.  After 100 years, isn't it time that we trust that skinny tubercular genius instead of Ripley Hitchcock?

The Footsteps Theory of Biography

This is the draft of a chapter for MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE, to be published by Northwestern University Press. I post this piece with the approval of Henry L. Carrigan in the hope that it will elicit helpful commentary from other biographers, particularly those associated with THE BIOGRAPHER'S CRAFT.

The Footsteps Theory of Biography

         Paul Murray Kendall in The Art of Biography (1965) emphasizes that the modern biographer needs to be "acutely conscious of the importance of locale." Kendall is sure that the "physical ambiences" of "the subject's habitat" can "enable the life-writer to tighten his grip on character, even to solve enigmas of behavior, mysterious responses to experience." The biographer steeped in the subject's locales tells a better life but also develops "the life-relationship"--the unique if "indefinable" relationship between the biographer and the subject:
         The biographer opens himself to all that places and things will tell him, in his struggle to visualize, and to sense, his man in being. ¶Deepest of all, the particular kind of biographer of whom I am speaking, cherishes, I believe, a conviction--call it a romantic quirk, if you will--that where the subject has trod he must tread, what the subject has seen he must see, because he thus achieves an indefinable but unmistakable kinship with his man. The winning of this kinship, more than anything else he can do, helps to annihilate the centuries, the spaces, the deceptions of change, the opacity of death.
Calling Kendall's book his "favorite work about biography," Frank E. Vandiver [1982, 1983 see in copyright page of Biog as High Adventure] endorses Kendall's insistence on going where the subject went, even to Louis XI's battlefield at Montlhéry, however much the terrain had changed in half a millennium. This notion of the "life-relationship" is enormously appealing because it exalts the biographer toward the level of the subject. What biographer would not want "to annihilate the centuries, the spaces, the deceptions of change, the opacity of death" and stand face to face with his subject, perhaps lending an elbow or a shoulder now and then?

         Richard Holmes in the 1986 Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer is a soul-brother to Kendall. Writing on Romantic and romantic literary figures, Holmes is himself a romantic fellow, not a hard-nosed postmodern biographer but a lover of writers, what they wrote, and where they wrote. The youthful Holmes with his grown man's pipe and his willingness to try any drink was endearing to the French, for there is nothing like sharing little pleasurable vices to foster intimacy. Of course he encountered folks who knew just whose ancestor stabled Robert Louis Stevenson's donkey! Holmes is so adept at teasing out the significances of places for him and for his nominal subjects such as Stevenson that one yearns to believe him when he describes his great early revelation:
         Have I explained myself at all? It is the simplicity of the idea, the realisation, that I am after. It was important for me, because it was probably the first time that I caught an inkling of what a process (indeed an entire vocation) called "biography" really means. I had never thought about it before. "Biography" meant a book about someone's life. Only, for me, it was to become a kind of pursuit, a tracking of the physical trail of someone's path through the past, a following of footsteps. You would never catch them; no, you would never quite catch them. But maybe, if you were lucky, you might write about the pursuit of that fleeing figure in such a way as to bring it alive in the present.
This man is a Whitmanesque charmer: "Have I explained myself at all?" We surrender ourselves to his complex storytelling, becoming as interested in Holmes, for the moment, as in Stevenson. And we glorify ourselves as trackers of more than physical trails.

         Even more staid biographers like me will admit that Richard Holmes's sort of direct involvement pays off. If he had worked on Melville the ineffable Holmes would have found a way to sail on the Charles W. Morgan for a week or two guided by the globe-navigating Melville scholar Mary Kay Bercaw, whom he, with his luck, would have found harbored, like the whaleship, at Mystic Seaport. He would have discovered a hectare in Tahiti absolutely untouched by Westerners since 1842, would have taken in all the smells of Peru, would have gnawed duff in the bowels of the Constitution and slept there in a hammock by special permission of the U. S. Navy and the National Park Service. And we would have loved him more for the sensual, tactile impressions he brought to us.

         Holmes would never have suffered my discomfiture in 1988 when I wanted to see what Melville saw in Dupuytren's Museum in the School of Medicine in Paris. Even that year, as a man of middle age, and even if he had not spoken French, Holmes would not have been subjected to a thirty minute preliminary negotiation with Mme Thérèse. Non, this "Herman Melville" could not have seen nothing in 1849 because the museum was founded in 1936, hein! Melville, whoever he was, could not have seen the museum because it had not existed pas! I might if I were so minded--it was up to me--return to my hotel for Melville's journal, even printed in English, and return, and then it might be decided that I could enter into the museum, but if I did not return in fifty minutes--she used an unfamiliar expression which was not tant pis but some more brutal French vernacular word for "Tough!" And besides the journal I would have to have with me a guide who spoke English because I would not understand nothing merely by looking, and none was visible. To the hotel, on the right bank, seizing merely photocopies of the journal, all I had, not the tome itself, and back. Would the tome be demanded? Mme Thérèse nowhere visible. Isabelle, the speaker of anglais! Sweet Isabelle! Two-headed French Babies. French Babies joined at chest. French Babies joined at belly. French Cancers. Vats. French Tumors. Many big French Tumors. Vats. Heart of a French miser with a big franc stuck in aorta. Genitals & parts of genitals--nonfunctional parts of French genitals. Vats of formaldehyde. Away, flushed with victory, fifty francs well spent, in time to behold a modern marvel--French athletes in the Luxembourg Gardens smoking their Gauloises vigorously while moderately engaged in du jogging.

         What good had it done me to see the two-headed French babies? In Mardi, written before his trips abroad in 1849 and 1856-57, Melville had described Hooloomooloo, the Isle of Cripples, and in White-Jacket (Ch. 61) had described the Parisian cast of the head of an elderly woman with "a hideous, crumpled horn, like that of a ram, downward growing out of the forehead." Melville knew, already, of the departments of Morbid Anatomy and the Anatomical Museums of Europe, and knew he wanted to see them, for his friend Duyckinck had been to Dupuytren's Museum of monstrosities. Melville was a man who would pay to look at the grotesque. So, I persisted until I saw the miser's heart, plugged up by a franc, just as I had persisted in the always closed Natural History Museum in Florence, where my wife with her UCLA Italian proclaimed the stature of her husband the professor and got us into the great room with large wax figures of pregnant women and men with bisected penises designed for students of anatomy to study and copy, and she chatted up the attendant while I peered at the dioramas of Naples in the time of the plague. Again, I asked, what good had it done me, since I knew already that Melville was interested in monstrosities? So much for the romance of scholarship? But against such skepticism is the late-century vignette Scott Norsworthy found about New York City during the cholera epidemic of July 1849--an "Old Fogy" who recollected venturing out and encountering Melville in company with Evert Duyckinck and Cornelius Mathews. For long Manhattan moments those four men were the only New Yorkers visible in the deserted streets. Also, Melville remembered being left in Albany in the time of the plague, 1832, when all the rest of the family fled to the safety of Pittsfield. He knew what it was to be in cities in the time of the plague.

         No such romantic pilgrim as Holmes, I nevertheless did my best to follow Melville, visiting and revisiting places where his feet had trod and his horses' hooves had trod in the United States and even some his feet had trod in Europe. Almost always, I was reflecting, with lurking skepticism and a tinge of guilt, on just how valuable it really was to see what he saw, other than as a tax write-off. I went to Albany, Amsterdam, Chester, Coblenz, Cologne, Como, Edinburgh, Florence, Gansevoort, Glasgow, Glens Falls, Lansingburgh, Lenox, Liverpool, London, Nantucket, New Bedford, Paris, Pittsfield, Rome, San Francisco, Staten Island, Troy, and even Venice, where it's hard to follow footsteps. What I saw, sometimes, was pretty much what Melville saw, such as the cathedral he and Hawthorne went to in Chester. One room, the Tribuno at the Uffizi, seemed almost fixed in time, so many of the same paintings and sculptures were still there. In Florence, also, there were clear remnants of the old architecture so we could see that in Melville's time the now squared-off Donay would have looked exotic, a bit like a masonry caravanserie. Sometimes little or nothing was left. Liverpool in the 1980s was rough, left to decay with only the folly of a new "cathedral" to mock the impoverished scene. At least I got a sense of how high above the squalid dock area the once-elegant Adelphi stood, where Evert Duyckinck and then Lemuel Shaw Jr stayed, and saw how decrepit it had become. Not one historical postcard of Liverpool was for sale, but at least the Nelson statue was where Melville had seen it. After the Blitz the narrow London streets Melville had wandered through were gone. I had to reconstitute the village of Gansevoort in my mind from the directories and the family letters.

          I went through Arrowhead many times, and slept one night there. I got no frisson from prowling spirits of the Melvilles but I got what any tourist could get--a realizing sense of the power of the sight, on a good hour, of Greylock to the north from Melville's study window. Still, in Mark Bostridge's collection Lives for Sale I knew just what Antonia Fraser meant: "I would never have understood the pattern of events following the murder of Riccio at Holyrood, had I not been able to go and investigate the layout of the palace myself." Very much in her spirit, I climbed into the attic of the Lansingburgh house because I was pretty sure some of the boys slept up there, low headroom or not. I climbed into the attic of Broadhall because I wanted to see how the house had been altered from the time that Melville described the spot where he was working on his whaling book in August 1850. I got into the Mount Vernon Street house by accosting the owner with a copy of the advance proofs of my first volume. I walked round and round the Gansevoort, New York, house and made a detailed floor plan of it on the basis of dozens of references in family letters, although I did not get inside. The ineffable Holmes would have hailed a child to summon a caretaker, have been admited, and been offered at least a cold collation and tea. I worried about the careless way one downstairs room was identified in a letter: "state" room or "slate" room? Finally, exercising one of the few powers of a biographer, I decreed that it would be the "slate" room; if a captain could "make it noon," I could "make it slate." (Only after this chapter was drafted did John Gretchko present me with a detailed floor plan of the Gansevoort house.) I also made a floor chart of the 26th Street house, based on a great range of evidence including Melville's granddaughter Frances's corrections in her copy of Mumford's biography then in the possession of Priscilla Ambrose. I identified with Melville's love of strong old elegant furniture and shared his distaste for new geegaws. It is no coincidence that my humbler but memento-filled study in Pennsylvania was photographed for the New York Times Magazine.

         But how did all my charts of preserved or lost houses, including the Manor House of the Van Rensselaers (disassembled stone by stone) and Uncle Peter Gansevoort's house and the Governor's House at Sailors' Snug Harbor, help me? In an obvious way, I could contrast better the substantial unostentatious house where Elizabeth Shaw Melville grew up with what she experienced as a visitor at the Lansingburgh house while Melville was in the Pacific and at Arrowhead. Knowing that Melville had paid for the small, rundown Arrowhead exactly what the Morewoods paid for the mouldering grandeur of the Melvill estate (with much greater acreage) told me something about Melville's business sense. I knew that on a smaller scale than Broadhall Uncle Herman's Gansevoort house where Melville's mother spent her last years was furnished with fine strong colonial pieces as well as some imported furniture and that she reigned there in near-feudal splendor. I understood Melville daughter Frances's anger the better for knowing Melville as a collector and preserver of beautiful objects, however destructive he had been, at times, of his own writings and of letters that now would be worth good money to lucky descendants or other owners, such as the letter from Hawthorne in praise of Moby-Dick, or the manuscript of The Isle of the Cross. (Someone who reads this may know just where some treasures are stored.) Knowing the houses inside and out let me understand the human relationships better, guess responsibly at suppressed feelings, understand human weaknesses better. Truly, there was value in knowing where and how the family lived, even if I never in a mystical moment caught the scent of Melville's "segar" or heard the swish of colonial gowns when they were brought down from the attic at Gansevoort for airing and possible use in ceremonies in 1876.

         Melville sought out high places for superb views and reminders of satanic temptation. I knew what it felt like to live beneath mountains. During the War, when Southerners were transported west to build ships, Mount Hood had dominated the terrain to the West on clear days. Photographs of Cavanough Mountain from my parents' eastern Oklahoma farm are hard to distinguish, sometimes, from photographs of the much higher Greylock. Some things I guessed at, as when I declared that Melville experienced the sense of Vermont shouldering up behind him while he was at Lansingburgh. I was going by what I would have felt, and what I knew of Gansevoort's fur-buying expeditions into Massachusetts and Vermont. Melville would have lifted up his eyes unto the hills, from whence his help just might come. This I absolutely knew because of a religious indoctrination similar to his.
         Myself a lover of the Romantics, I seized the chance to wend my way down from the Baths of Caracalla to the Protestant Cemetery-- by a natural progression, Melville recorded. The comment might be elliptical to moderns since he did not mention Shelley, but it would have been obvious to any educated person in his time, who would have known that at the baths Melville, like any tourist, would thought of Shelley's composing parts of Prometheus Unbound there, would perhaps have remembered an engraving of the scene, and then naturally have made his way down to see where Shelley's heart was buried. Did my trek down to outside the walls of Rome help? Well, as I worked my way down the torturous working-class streets from the baths of Caracalla to the Protestant Cemetery, following Melville following Shelley, I had time to reflect on Shelley's significance. The unexpected benefit was the perception that Melville, musing on Shelley, might have been blindsided by the proximity of the tomb of the still lesser known Keats's body. Perhaps much of the value in following the footsteps of writers lies in leaving yourself open to the indirect and unanticipated.

         On the whole, I decided, it was much more important to follow Melville around the paintings and sculptures in the Tribuno in Florence than to look at Saint Mark's in Venice. Having coffee at Florian's was pleasant, but did it bring me closer to Melville? Only ironically, for a card on each of the outside tables listed notables who had sat there, Melville among them--Melville who had been an inconspicuous, almost broken man when he was there. The grander the monument the less of it Melville could have taken in, I suspected, but I never regretting peering a painting he had seen, or a piece of sculpture. Melville himself drew the connection between Italian paintings and English literature, noting in his Milton that the devils in Paradise Lost were influenced by the paintings the poet saw in Italy. I thought it was valuable to have touched the green drapery marble of the Jesuit Church in Venice that Melville had so admired and that the snobbish noncombatant Howells would soon scorn. Melville's appreciation of the marble showed me something I liked about his sense of aesthetics--something for which most of the evidence lay in his marginalia.

         Was I able to fake what I did not see? Would readers of my biography hoot at how obvious it was that I never got to the Marquesas or Mar Saba? Did I describe Honolulu successfully on the basis of newspapers and histories and ships' logs, or has Hawaii so changed that a person born after it became a state would not know how close or how remote I was from an accurate description of what it felt like to have been there in 1843? Did I give a sense of the now lost Greek splendor of the buildings of the Sailors' Snug Harbor as you saw them from across the Bay in Manhattan? Did I convey the sense of what you would have encountered in the 1870s as you walked along the Hudson around the Battery and up the East River? What I learned in my researches was a revelation to me--sawmills on the Hudson; north of Coenties Slip bowsprits run in over street traffic so you could touch the figureheads; the ship-chandlery shops north of Market Street (halfway between the Battery and Corlears Hook). These last details I took thankfully from Charles H. Farnham's "A Day on the Docks" in the May 1879 Scribner's Magazine.

         Perhaps following Melville was not as valuable as knowing what it was to live a nineteenth-century life. I survived one northern Oklahoma winter in a tent and lived for years without electricity and running water and some years with electricity but without running water. Therefore I knew what it meant when I belatedly discovered from an 1850 advertisement that the Fourth Avenue house Melville left in 1850 had water closets and hot water to the third floor, and I knew what it meant for Elizabeth Shaw Melville to go to Arrowhead, which had a kitchen pump and no water closet or hot water. I knew how to picture the scene Melville’s brother-in-law John Hoadley sketched in his 28 March 1854 letter to Augusta in which he envisions the "Arrowheads" in the evening (bereft of Maria and Fanny, who are with him in Lawrence):
I can see you now, your face, shaded by your hand,--glowing in the ruddy light, and full of changeful expression, as the flickering fire burns brighter or subsides;--changeful, yet continuous, like the notes of an Irish melody; while Lizzie looks up at intervals from her sewing or her book, to recall by a tone and look of love, the musing wanderer from his enchanted Isles."
I knew about reading by firelight and the light from a coal oil lamp, though not a whale-oil lamp.

         I knew about modes of transportation. I had traveled in a wagon drawn by a team of horses I had harnessed up myself, and I had ridden horses I had saddled. I knew how to plough and build fences and milk cows. I had walked for hours at night on railroad tracks and dirt roads, so I knew what it meant for Melville to walk fifteen or twenty miles home to Lansingburgh from where he was teaching. I could imagine what it meant to Melville to have, in different decades, crossed the whole of Massachusetts in a stagecoach and then to have crossed the same parts of Massachusetts on a train. From talk about the early 1930s and from what I witnessed once in Hebronville, Texas, I knew what it meant to go out on foot looking for work, although I never did it myself. I had traveled thousands of miles in a Model T and thousands of miles on a troop train in 1942 and many thousands of miles on trains when I was deadheading as a railroad telegrapher in the early 1950s. I had a realizing sense of the weeks of travel Uncle Thomas and his family experienced in 1837, going from Pittsfield to Galena, Illinois. Better than most people I understood just what the change meant to Cousin Priscilla, a decade and a half later, when she boarded a train in Manhattan and went all the way to Chicago and beyond to Galena in a few days. Perhaps no other American biographer working in the 1990s had as instinctive a sense as I did of changes in modes of transportation in the 19th century.

         The Melvillean Warner Berthoff, whom I never met, wrote me on 29 January 1997 that he was "a sucker for various topographical details." He had been amused, he said, "by a remark about the tedious journey from Pittsfield to Albany--tedious, of course, in the 1830s before the railroad came in, but also tedious, I can imagine, to a late 20th century researcher who had to travel it oftener than he liked." That was the response I wanted. I had, in fact, hitchhiked from Albany to Pittsfield on a hot August day in 1962 and remembered the repeated undulations of the topography and could imagine the difference between an early stagecoach ride across that stretch and, after Melville's return from the Pacific, the speed of transit on the railway cars. With Berthoff, at least, I succeeded in making use of my attempts to follow Melville's footsteps.

         I was no good at ocean voyaging, but I paid attention to Melville and water within the continents. He knew waterfalls from his youth, Poesten Kill in Troy, a few miles south of the house his mother rented in Lansingburgh, and Cohoes Falls where the Mohawk enters the Hudson. He would have known Glens Falls early. We assume he knew the falls at Kaaterskill Clove, the scene of Asher B. Durand's painting of Cole and Bryant. He saw Niagara, and probably went to see the falls of Saint Anthony when he was in Galena. In Melville's first book in the descent into the interior of the island, his companion Toby is deterred neither by "Typees or Niagaras." Melville made repeated trips to Bash-Bish to see the divided waterfalls. In 1840 he may have seen the confluence of the Missouri and the Mississippi and the confluence of the Ohio and the Mississippi; later they were certainly vivid in his mind's eye. In 1849 he went to the confluence of the Moselle and the Rhine at Coblenz, the name of which, he knew, meant confluence. In 1856 he saw the confluence of the Clyde and the Leven below Dumbarton Castle. Why would he not seek out confluences of rivers, since from childhood he had walked on the Battery, seeing where the East River and the Hudson (or "North River") merged after they poured separately into the Bay.

         To declare that Melville was interested in bodies of water, lakes, ponds, flowing water, waterfalls, and confluences of rivers, and oceans is to announce the obvious. But there was more. Melville was fascinated by, perhaps haunted by, feelings of being subterranean, in the orlop-deck, in vaults, in passages such as Belzoni wormed his way through, in depths below depths as in the Hotel de Cluny. He was particularly intrigued by waters that went subterranean and emerged far away. From Tuckerman, apparently, Melville learned the story of the Arethusa fountain which he told in Ch. 41 of Moby-Dick:
So that here, in the real living experience of living men, the prodigies related in old times of the inland Strella mountain in Portugal (near whose top there was said to be a lake in which the wrecks of ships floated up to the surface); and that still more wonderful story of the Arethusa fountain near Syracuse (whose waters were believed to have come from the Holy Land by an underground passage); these fabulous narrations are almost fully equalled by the realities of the whaleman.
The "pouring in of contributory streams (Pierre 283) fascinated Melville because he associated flowing water, on the surface or subterranean, with processes of the mind and particularly with the way literary influences work on a man engaged, as he was, in a lifelong course of self-education. Whole ships could float, intact, up to the surface of a lake? So could memories surge up, terrifyingly intact. Images from distant sources could suddenly, shockingly invade the conscious mind from the subconscious. In Pierre (107) Melville pledged: "I shall follow the endless, winding way,--the flowing river in the cave of man; careless whither I be led, reckless where I land." Rivers, particularly subterranean rivers, flowed like the streams of thought in the depths of the human mind. After a while, when I looked at waterfalls and confluences he had seen I began to see them as I thought he had seen them.

         What's important for a biographer, I decided, is not visiting Niagara but understanding that Melville, born near where both the East River and the Hudson poured into the Bay, raised on a great river near spectacular confluences and waterfalls, thought of diverse literary influences as waves at work on him simultaneously: "Homer's old organ rolls its vast volumes under the light frothy wave-crests of Anacreon and Hafiz; and high over my ocean, sweet Shakespeare soars, like all the larks of the spring" (Mardi Ch. 119). There Melville concludes: "And as the great Mississippi musters his watery nations: Ohio, with all his leagued streams; Missouri, bringing down in torrents the clans from the highlands; Arkansas, his Tartar rivers from the plain;--so with all the past and present pouring in me, I roll down my billow from afar." Had Melville in 1849, weeks or months after his rapt encounter with Shakespeare, felt that Milton was flowing in over the currents of Shakespeare which were still flowing in his memory? Did Spenser, first read as soft pornography that stimulated him in early adolescence, flow in upon the current of Wordsworth about the time Melville finished Moby-Dick? In the spring of 1862, if he read Ruskin's Modern Painters then, did he think of Ruskin's words as flowing over sometimes identical words in the preface Arnold had written to his Poems?

         Melville was particularly moved by complex literary influences such as I described (183) in Melville: The Making of the Poet, his meditation on Arnold's tribute to Wordsworth in Wordsworth's tribute to Collins' tribute to Thomson. He knew the two earlier poems in 1862 when he was caught by the first line of Arnold's "The Youth of Nature":
Rais'd are the dripping oars--
Silent the boat: the lake,
Lovely and soft as a dream,
Swims in the sheen of the moon.
The mountains stand at its head
Clear as the pure June night,
But the valleys are flooded with haze.
Rydal and Fairfield are there;
In the shadow Wordsworth lies dead.
So it is, so it will be for aye.
         Nature is fresh as of old,
Is lovely: a mortal is dead.
Melville noted "And oft suspend the dashing oar / To bid his gentle spirit rest," and identified the words as coming from the poem by Collins on Thomson ("Ode on the Death of Thompson. The Scene on the Thames near Richmond"). Then Melville wrote "Then let us, as we float along / For him suspend the dashing oar." Here Melville identified these words as Wordsworth's on Collins ("Remembrance of Collins. Composed upon the Thames near Richmond"). Melville commented: "How beautifully appropriate therefor this reminiscent prelude of Arnold concerning Wordsworth." This vividly shows Melville's sensitivity to literary echoes which for him represent a literary continuity to be treasured. As it happens, I copied the lines from Arnold from my copy of the 1856 Ticknor and Fields Poems which John Greenleaf Whittier had owned and which Samuel T. Pickard had annotated: "Many pages uncut. I fear thee did not read thy book through, Friend John." Now, there's a slight frisson, in concluding this paragraph, one Kendall and Holmes might have enjoyed, and an added frisson in knowing, as we do now, that Whittier and Melville were cousins, through Melville's paternal grandmother, although probably neither man knew of the relationship.

         I did what I could, but about biography as "a tracking of the physical trail of someone's path through the past" I am skeptical--indeed, almost an unbeliever. I was, in the 1990s, following emotional trails through family letters and Melville's prose and poetry, and most of them were harrowing and required bravery. When I was luckiest in absolutely capturing an episode, the episode usually was too painful to live with, it seemed. How many other biographers discovered one painful new episode after another in decades of their subjects' lives, with very little alleviation from new scenes of joy? Those discoveries awakened my sympathies for Melville the man. What I would have given, months on end, to have been following only physical trails, and cheerful physical trails at that, no matter how many blackflies swarmed on the slopes of Monument Mountain! Yet by looking at contributory streams, gazing at great confluences, I may have learned better to understand both Melville's sense of depth psychology and his sense of the gigantic power of literary influences, literal inflowings.

         Kendall's "what the subject has seen" must be reinterpreted to include sculpture, paintings, and especially books and words in books. You see what "the subject has seen" very clearly in Melville's marginalia, where you see his direct response to what he has just read on the page. In the long run, I think my convalescent five-months 1956 sederunt with Shakespeare before reading Moby-Dick, then my having had a seminar on Milton in 1957, and having the next year read Spenser and then Wordsworth on my own, as he did, before beginning to write on Melville, is what annihilated the "deceptions of change" and the "opacity of death" in the matter of Melville and me. I have known some brave men. Paul Watson, the heroic captain, valiantly ate my sourdough blueberry pancakes here by the Pacific. My own fantasy of high adventure (sailing as a superannuated factotum with Watson against Japanese whale ships) pales against the real dangers I had confronted in following Melville's mental processes, discovering his greatest joys, sharing his high literary ambitions, discovering his greatest sorrows, understanding his financial misery, seeing him as a human being who always, always, ignored my sagest warnings that the footpaths he was taking were disastrous.