Thursday, March 10, 2011

New Light on the Philo Logos Controversy--A New Eye-Witness Account of Melville

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  1. Van Loon, the author of The History of Man?

  2. Another world. But his abolitionist speeches are still to be found in newspapers.

  3. Ooops! Here is the rest of the introductory comment.

    had laid out his connection with Melville in the Auburn American on 4 January 1858. Like Sealts, living far away from Eastern libraries, I found the item thanks to the foresight and magnanimity of someone else, the heroic Tom Tryniski, the founder and operator of Tryniski’s microfilm from the Cornell University Library did not provide a clear copy, but, like Sealts still, I appealed to librarians until Dennis Marnon, the administrative officer of Houghton Library, used his powerful connections to acquire from Cornell University Library “a scan from microfilm”! Who had known there could be such a thing as a scan from microfilm?
    Now we know that Charles Van Loon became an early and influential abolitionist and when he died suddenly in 1847 (younger than Melville’s brother Gansevoort had been when he died in 1846) was much lamented not only by his family and church but by the anti-slavery movement. He was something of a momentous man even in 1837 and 1838, just as Melville was. We still do not know how much of the mud-slinging was happy practice in imitation of unseemly British rhetorical models, but the news in the Auburn American goes a little way toward filling in the story of what went on in the actual debating room of the Philo Logos Society. I print first the comments as copied from, then from the miraculous scan from microfilm, then my imperfect but good working transcription.