Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The Shade of Napoleon Brooding over his Tomb--Hidden Art
This is one of the variant images Melville had in mind in the last chapter of THE CONFIDENCE-MAN. When I was working on the 2006 Norton Critical Edition I hit the passage on "the figure of Napoleon outlined by the tree" and decided, Duh!, that he was referring to something his audience would recognize. I Googled
Napoleon outline tree
and immediately got one image of an 1830 engraving--an example of hidden art, where you either can't see the standing figure of Napoleon or else can't stop seeing the standing figure of Napoleon. Now, the next day I tried to locate the Internet site again and found it only after many attempts and with different key words. Go figure, not to pun too humorously.
One moral here: if we even slightly sense that there is something covert going on in a 19th text, something that looks a trifle like a topical allusion---go to Google! I got triangular duel that way, for the 2006 NCE.