Tuesday, July 26, 2011



00 Contents
00 Preface

§ I.--Biographer and Biography (with short headnote)

01 The Textual Editor as Biographer in Training: The Norton Moby-Dick and the NN The Writings of Herman Melville
02 Entangled by Pierre: Doing Biography Away from the Archives
03 Creating The New Melville Log
04 Melville and the Footsteps Theory of Biography
05 Facts Which Do Not Speak for Themselves
06 Desiderata and Discoveries--In Traditional Archives and Databases

§ II.—Critics vs. Biographical Scholarship (with short headnote)

07 Editors and Agenda-Driven Reviewers: Melville in the New York Newspapers and Magazines vs.Hopeful Loomings from Litblogs and “Ragtag Bloggers”
08 Little Jack Horners and Archivophobics
09 Biographical Scholars and Recidivist Critics
10 Presentism in Melville Biography
11 The Late 20th-Century Mini-Melville: New York City Intellectuals
without Information
12 The Early 21st-Century Mini-Melville: New York Intellectuals without Information

§ III.—Demonstrations of Biographical Scholarship and challenges (with short headnote)
13 Melville as the “Modern Boccaccio”: The Fascinations of Fayaway
14 Melville’s Courtship of Elizabeth Shaw
15 Melville's Short Run of Good Luck (1845-1849): Fool’s Paradise without International Copyright
16 Melville as the Harper “Sacrifice” for the “Public Good”
17 Melville and Hawthorne at the Hotel in Lenox
18 Why Melville Took Hawthorne to the Holy Land: Biography Enhanced by Databases and an Amateur Blogger
19 Melville as a Titan of Literature among High-Minded English Admirers: The Kory-Kory Component
20 Damned by Dollars: Moby-Dick and the Price of Genius

What I have been doing instead of blogging! I intend to turn in this book by Labor Day. I have not written the headnotes to the sections yet. References to many other books on biography such as Mark Bostridge's Lives for Sale mainly will be in the footnotes, not the text.

Sunday, July 17, 2011



00 Preface

§ I.--Biographer and Biography
01 The Textual Editor as Biographer in Training: The Norton Moby- Dick and the Northwestern-Newberry The Writings of Herman Melville
02 Entangled by Pierre: Doing Biography Away from the Archives
03 Creating The New Melville Log
04 Melville and the Footsteps Theory of Biography
05 Facts Which Do Not Speak for Themselves
06 Desiderata and Discoveries in Traditional Archives and Databases

§ II.—Critics vs. Archival Scholarship

07 Little Jack Horners and Archivophobics
08 Presentism in Melville Biography
09 Scholars and Recidivist Critics
10 Partisan Editors and Agenda-Driven Reviewers: Melville in the MSM vs. Hopeful Loomings of Litblogs and “Ragtag Bloggers”
11 The Malign Legacy of the New Criticism
12 The Late 20th-Century Mini-Melville: New York Intellectuals without Information
13 The Early 21st-Century Mini-Melville: New York Intellectuals without Information

§ III.—Demonstrations of Biographical Scholarship and Interpretation
14 Melville as the “Modern Boccaccio”: The Fascinations of Fayaway
15 Melville’s Courtship of Elizabeth Shaw
16 Melville's Short Run of Good Luck (1845-1849): Fool’s Paradise without International Copyright
17 Melville as the Harper “Sacrifice” for the “Public Good”
18 Melville and Hawthorne at the Hotel in Lenox
19 Why Melville Took Hawthorne to the Holy Land: Biography Enhanced by Databases and an Amateur Blogger
20 Melville as a Titan of Literature among High-Minded English Admirers: The Kory-Kory Component
21 Damned by Dollars: Moby-Dick and the Price of Genius

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Gene Costner and Alice Bell Costner's family, Early 1911, Guymon, OK

Back Row: Elbert, Euna, Lee, Ona, Alice, Gene
Little children: Mary, Martha, Helen.
Alice is pregnant with Ethel, born in August 1911

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Brenda Wineapple Slaughters the Lamb of God

Brenda Wineapple's Defilement of the Agnus Dei and Melville

On Amazon.com the editorial reviews of Brenda Wineapple’s 2003 HAWTHORNE: A LIFE are, as they say now, to die for. Sacvan Bercovitch was ecstatic: “Clearly the best biography of Hawthorne; the Hawthorne for our time. Beautifully conceived and written, it conveys the full poignancy and complexity of Hawthorne’s life; it makes vivid the times and people and places, and what a rich array of people and events! A delight to read from start to end.”

Benita Eisler, we know from Wineapple’s acknowledgments, is a buddy of Wineapple’s, but she overcame her familiarity in this objective comment: “Brenda Wineapple’s Hawthorne is, quite literally, an electrifying life. The power and sweep of the writing galvanizes a subject frozen, by earlier biographies, into a series of stills. We understand, finally, a man and artist torn by every conflict of his time, adding a few of his own, a man both strange and strangely familiar. The great achievement of this stunning biography lies in the feat of restoring Hawthorne to the rich and roiling America of his own period, while revealing him, for the first time, as our contemporary.”

Robert D. Richardson was awe-struck: “With the possible exception of Herman Melville, no one has ever understood the grand tragic Shakespearian nature of Nathaniel Hawthorne's life and work as well as Brenda Wineapple. Her brilliant, powerful, nervy, unsettling and riveting book is authoritatively researched and beautifully written; it has itself the dark mesmeric power of a Hawthorne story.”

And so the quotations go, down to Jamie Spencer’s: “Wineapple is a splendid stylist and a master of concision. She can capture an entire personality and life in a brief paragraph. She can define a complex amatory relationship in a sentence. Her eloquent hands bring Hawthorne vividly alive for us.”

I hate it when I disagree with experts, as I frequently do with the idolators of James Wood, and I hate it when I think back to the 1840s when there was in the reviewing coteries of Manhattan something then known as the Mutual Admiration Society, and, having thought back, look askance at modern reviewing in such revered organs as the New York TIMES, the NATION, the NEW YORKER, the NEW REPUBLIC, and THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS.

I know something of Hawthorne and more of Melville, and I find only one reviewer who has been honest about Wineapple, Denis Donoghue, and only in an organ far distant from Manhattan, the Los Angeles TIMES. He found that Wineapple’s prose frequently lapsed into “the style of romantic fiction” and quoted examples of vulgarities of language.

I stayed away from Wineapple’s biography of Hawthorne for years because I was so shocked by her quite savage dismissal of my biography of Melville as a companion to Edmund Morris’s DUTCH, as dishonest as any review I have ever seen, but I mustered my declining forces and read it, starting with the passages on Herman Melville, where I feel most secure, even if I am secure only in my fantasy, as Wineapple declared. In HAWTHORNE: A LIFE Wineapple is nowhere near as contemptuous of me: it is as if after having knocked me out of contention for a Pulitzer in a popular magazine she had blocked the whole review from her mind and assumed no one would remember it.

[It strikes me that Wineapple's behavior is like Andrew Delbanco's saying in 2002 in the NEW REPUBLIC that I could not be trusted anywhere because I made up THE ISLE OF THE CROSS and POEMS then in his 2005 book casually mentioning the existence of THE ISLE OF THE CROSS and POEMS, but not bringing up his having so vehemently challenged their existence in 2002. To savagely review my biography in 2002 was to write for the eyes of the Pulitzer judges, of course. In 1997 the Pulitzer jury reported that the first volume of my biography of Herman Melville contained "great passages of exciting writing." My biography would "be the one that scholars and Melville fans will be reading and referring to for the next fifty years. . . . This biography is a stunning achievement." Wineapple, Richard H. Brodhead, and Delbanco knew that I had been a finalist in 1997 and could not risk the next jury feeling the same way the 1997 jury had felt. What if there were no misery memoir like ANGELA'S ASHES to captivate the jury by its brevity, as one of the judges later confessed?--A misery memoir marketed honestly in the UK and Ireland as fiction, by the way, as Trevor Butterworth reported.]

I am horrified, utterly appalled at the casualness of Wineapple's telling about Hawthorne and Melville, for casualness slides quickly into carelessness. One passage I have mentioned in another post and call attention to it here because I simply cannot understand how any of her admirers failed to alert her to a gaff so humiliating that it should send her out of the field of biography forever. I am talking about lambs.

Appallingly, all but unbelievably, Wineapple misquoted what Melville wrote Hawthorne three or four days or so after their farewell meeting in Lenox at the Wilson (later Curtis) Hotel in mid November 1851 This was in response to Hawthorne’s letter which, from the evidence, praised MOBY-DICK—praised it very highly, maybe even extravagantly. According to Wineapple, Melville professed in the aftermath of reading Hawthorne’s praise to "feel spotless as a lamb."

We are dependent upon Rose Hawthorne Lathrop's transcription, but this daughter of Hawthorne's knew a Biblical reference when she saw one. Melville felt then, after reading Hawthorne's letter, anyone who knows the Bible or falteringly consults a biblical concordance would have recognized, as spotless as Jesus, the Lamb of God. Wineapple apparently visualized Melville as the Pittsfield farmer who milked his own cow and had been around exceptionally clean sheep, if he was going to say that he felt "spotless as a lamb."

Well, Melville HAD been around the Melvill farm when there were sheep, and nearby when sheep went astray, as in November 1837, when there was a notice in the Pittsfield SUN, accompanied by a woodcut of a sheep: “STRAYED From the subscriber on or about the first inst. sixteen sheep, consisting of thirteen EWES and three WETHERS marked by a crop of the left ear. Whoever shall return said Sheep, or give information where they may be found, shall be liberally rewarded. / ROBERT MELVILL.”

But Melville felt as spotless as Jesus, not as bedraggled as these 13 ewes and three wethers or any other besoiled sheep he had seen in New York or Massachusetts.

Think what this means: think what Wineapple missed of Melville’s religious nature and his sometimes reckless application of religious terms to mundate affairs or to his own high theological skepticism and all but instinctive belief. Baa-baa, thinks Wineapple, spotless as a lamb. Can you trust anything she says about Melville, Hawthorne, and religion?

Wineapple misquoted the text of Melville’s letter so as to desecrate the Biblical meaning just as she trivialized the whole of the last encounter in the Berkshires of these two momentous men. In another post I will give some embarrassing examples of Wineapple’s casualness with fact sliding fast into carelessness and outright error. I say embarrassing. This sort of thing ought to be embarrassing to Wineapple, but I find that I am embarrassed myself, partly for Hawthorne and Melville, I suppose, and partly for the sake of the ideal of the responsible biographer, who first absorbs all that has previously been garnered reliably and then does no new harm.

Not one of Wineapple’s ecstatic friends saved her from her baa-baa blunder. Not one of Wineapple’s ecstatic reviewers mentioned it. You see why I keep thinking of Duyckinck and Mathews or Mathews and Duyckinck and the Mutual Admiration Society of 1840s Manhattan.

Bodice-Ripping prose of Brenda Wineapple as Biographer

Brenda Wineapple in CONTEMPT FOR BIOGRAPHICAL FACTS SERIES--Romantic Fiction or Bodice-Ripping Prose? Wineapple on the Day Melville Met Hawthorne

I began adding to Jay Leyda’s 1951 LOG as early as 1987, as preparation for the NN “Historical Note,” concentrating first on letters from 1850 and 1851, and made minor additions up to the publication of the first volume of my biography in 1996. I did not go back to verify Luther S. Mansfield’s 1930s transcriptions of Evert Duyckinck’s letters until 1998. Then, in 1998, I made several minor corrections and one very important correction. Hawthorne had not been “mildly” looking about for his Great Carbuncle on the way up Monument Mountain the now famous Monday, 5 August: excited or unnerved by the little mob of people including his new acquaintance with Melville, he had been hamming it up, looking “wildly” about, just as, hours later, he made what we see as uncharacteristic noise in the Icy Glen.

Hawthorne, in all likelihood, was as excited at meeting Melville as Melville was at meeting him: how often did he invite strangers to stay overnight in his house? Chances are that Melville became still more excited about meeting Hawthorne three days later, when he began writing his essay on Mosses from an Old Manse, and by the time he finished the essay the next day he was far more excited about Hawthorne than Hawthorne ever became about him. Before completing the first volume of my biography I understood enough from the published accounts to stress that the attraction was mutual, but I would have given a stronger account if I had known Hawthorne had been looking “wildly” about instead of “mildly.” As it was, I put the new information into the back of the second volume (2002) at the start of Documentation where any reader would be sure to encounter it. Any reviewer as careful as Brenda Wineapple would surely have seen it.

Now I begin this post on Brenda Wineapple’s errors in her pages on Hawthorne and Melville by copying unto this file all the pages in my electronic LOG about the meeting of Melville and Hawthorne. I won’t print them but I will be consulting them regularly.

Page and line numbers are to Wineapple’s HAWTHORNE: A LIFE.

222.3 “the Pittsfield farm owned by Melville’s cousin.” Wineapple means Robert Melvill. No, the farm had already been sold to the Morewoods and anyhow it had never been owned by Robert Melvill.

222.8: “August 5, a day soon to be promoted as an American Déjeuner sur l’Herbe (without the scandal) . . . .” Well, the day was described in the Literary World on 24 August 1850 in Cornelius Mathews’ “Several Days in Berkshire." Joel T. Headley in "Berkshire Scenery," New York Observer, 14 September 1850, described his leading the tour of the Icy Glen, late in the afternoon. But then the meeting was forgotten, I think, as far as public knowledge went, for many years. Through the 1850s and 1860s the day was not “promoted as an American Déjeuner sur l’Herbe (without the scandal).” The 1868 Passages from the American Note-Books contained only a very short mention of the outing.

I think James T. Fields in the Atlantic Monthly for February 1871 was the first to characterize the event in something close to our way of celebration of it, although he did not put Hawthorne and Melville alone together and he got the Field dinner and the Icy Glen backwards. (The Atlantic came out in January, as usual, so there was at least one newspaper reprint before the first of February.) This account Fields reprinted in Yesterdays with Authors (Boston, 1878). In the next year, 1879, in his new edition of Taghconic J. E. A. Smith said Melville and Hawthorne sealed their friendship when they took shelter in a narrow recess of the rocks for two hours: clearly wrong, but putting them alone together, I think for the first time. America's literary critics did not rush to read TAGHCONIC and celebrate this intimacy of NH and HM. What critic or biographer first mentioned this TAGHCONIC edition? In the 1940s or 1950s? I don’t see the meeting described in Julian Hawthorne’s 1884 NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE AND HIS WIFE. I don’t see the actual meeting described in Weaver (1921), either. The 5 August 1850 meeting is mentioned in a few lines in Mumford (1929) but not at all as “an American Déjeuner sur l’Herbe.” The promotion of the meeting as an idyl in the Berkshires was a phenomenon of the 1930s or later, it seems to me. I’ll check further.

So, no, the day was NOT soon to be promoted as a significant day in American literary history.

222.9-13. Wineapple then does something odd: she offers a lurid account then equates it with a calmer account: “Hawthorne, fully clothed, pursues the Great Carbuncle while Herman Melville, Mr. Neptune, rapturously pursues Mr. Noble Melancholy. It’s a good story: friendship forged in the blue mountains between two of the most singular of all American writers, attended by a retinue of lesser-knowns.” I will ignore “fully clothed.” The source of “blue mountains” is not clear to me. The forging of a friendship on this day is not part of American literary folklore for decades—not in a prominent place for almost a century?

All this is sloppy, ruined by the word “soon,” in “soon to be promoted,” and the depiction is, to use Denis Donoghue’s term, from Wineapple’s “romantic fiction” mode. Also, she ought to have taken note of my correction of the transcription “mildly” to “wildly,” since the context is Hawthorne’s looking WILDLY about for his Great Carbuncle.

222.18. Does anyone say Fields actually slips in his patent leather shoes? Did his patent leather shoes just possibly have regular soles? At Delaware cotillions and black tie chaired professors' dinners I saw men in patent leather Brooks Brothers shoes but these shoes all had regular soles good for dancing without slipping. A fault that occurs several times just in Wineapple's pages on Melville is her inability to visualize--whether it is visualizing how many people Sophia saw on 5 August or visualizing Melville INSIDE the barn. Part of Wineapple's problem is just not paying attention, as here she is not paying attention to what was actually recorded about the problem that patent leather shoes posed. Slipping in them was NOT the problem.

222.19: “Herman Melville is the daredevil who sprints from rock to jutting rock.” Who says this? Duyckinck says that Melville, “the boldest of all,” seated himself “astride a projecting bow sprit of rock.” Fields in the Atlantic says Melville bestrode a peaked rock, which ran out like a bowsprit, but not that he ran or leaped.

Who says he sprints (or leaps)? Melville sprinted from rock to jutting rock? I don’t see any authority for this. This is Runaway Wineapple in her “Bodice-Ripping Prose” mode. Might as well have him lassooing the Devil's Pulpit and tightrope walking over to it then doing somersaults there while, as she says elsewhere, BELLOWING. If you are Going for Gothic, go, go.

Notice that Fields does not say that Melville ran out on the rock: IT ran out like a bowsprit, and he bestrode it. Bestrode means he straddled it, put one leg on one side of it and the other leg on the other side, not that he strode on it, fast or not. Here we have the problem Donoghue bemoaned, Wineapple’s uncertainty with vocabulary?

222.24. Actually, Fields says Hawthorne was NOT looking “amiably on” at the dinner but was stoutly arguing with Dr. Holmes, denying that Americans were degenerating. Now, this is probably wrong, and Duyckinck was probably right in crediting Melville with arguing with Holmes, but we can’t just assert that all Hawthorne did was look amiably on.

222.35-36. I don’t see the source for Holmes’s shouting “If you’d give your authors another 10 percent, you wouldn’t have so much fat.” When the prose is this vulgar I suspect the Romantic Fiction mode but it sounds as if it may have a real basis. I may not have all of Headley’s article in the New York OBSERVER. [Must Check.]

222.37: “Of the group, Melville captured Sophia’s fancy.” Well, what group? I have not listed all those who climbed Monument Mountain or those who dined at the Field house or those who went to the Icy Glen. The only ones Sophia saw that day were Field (and Mrs. Field?) who called for Hawthorne in a comfortable “chariott and two”—two horses. Now, she saw some others later, including Melville. But Sophia never was exposed to “the group” who had made such a day of 5 August 1850. This is perplexing: Wineapple has failed to visualize the scenes. This is slovenly writing.

223.5. Who would in 2003 call Redburn “autobiographical” without qualification? Only Wineapple?

223.12-15: “In America the family had distinguished itself during the Revolution, with one grandfather dumping tea in Boston Harbor and the other raising his musket in defense of Fort Stanwix.” I find this cheap writing.

223.25 “the bushy-bearded young man”—Melville. There is no source for his being bushy-bearded on 5 August 1850. This is the Romantic Fiction mode, as Donoghue called it, edging to Bodice Ripper prose. At least she assured us that Hawthorne remained "fully clothed" . . . . (What was in her imagination that would have prodded her to assure us that Hawthorne remained "fully clothed"?) Problem: Wineapple has fictionalizing imagination, bad enough, but that flaw is coupled with an inability to envision scenes that are actually documented.

Aside: I did warm-up exercises for group scenes as I prepared to write. I tried to think not only who was wearing what but who was carrying what and, more than that, what they had just come from doing ("just" meaning immediately or over the past days or longer). I did not always get very far, I admit, but the exercise got me in the right frame for beginning to think how to depict the scene. Do other biographers do such warm-up exercises? I would love some comments from any who do.

223.29: Prose: “Plus, like Melville, he loved the sea . . . .” Does Wineapple ask her students to begin sentences, “Too,” or “Plus,”?

223.35-37: “Melville was the coxswain, not a dry-docked Custom House inspector, come back to tell all, striding off the gangplank into a garret where he could dip his pen into the inkpot and be, of all things, a writer.” Here we have Wineapple in her Romantic Fiction mode, with a lapse into Prufrock (“come back to tell you all”). Melville had not been a coxswain, as far as we know, had he? So he claims to Bentley to have been a harpooneer! Melville may have stridden off a gangplank or walked slowly off one or he may have left the United States by a rope ladder for all we know. When did he write in a garret (can you imagine the problem of lighting one?).” This is cheap fiction, and precisely the thing Wineapple accused me of writing when I envisioned Hawthorne's nervous hand gestures at the end of my first volume: I was going by what everyone described Hawthorne as always doing in such situations, so I felt secure in thinking he would have done what I attributed to him. But I did not witness the scene in the dining room in mid November 1850, I admit. What is interesting to me now is what I show in another post: that I "invented" very very little because the documentation was so thick. "Largely invented" in the New York Times Magazine was way off base.

224.12: “Though it’s not clear when Melville began the review, whether before or after meeting Hawthorne . . . .” Maria Melville’s letter to her daughter Augusta allowed me to make it, I think, quite clear that Melville began writing the Thursday after the Monday he met Hawthorne. If Wineapple disagreed, she could have challenged me.

224.13: “it’s obvious that Melville was smitten with Hawthorne and his work.” I find this “smitten” so vulgar as to be shocking. Whatever happened to the ideal of writing decorously? And then in the last line of 224 Wineapple has Melville knowing that “morbidness is the clear-eyed admission that all the tanks have been drained.” The image is one Mark Twain might have used, but never Melville. The inappropriateness is shocking to my sensibilities.

225. It’s late at night as I type this, so I will just say that I am stopping at a ghastly place, where “Melville pictured Hawthorne as a mate bobbling like him on the troubled seas of publishing, recognition, and posterity.”

I will force myself to go on one of these days. Tomorrow I intend to look this over and correct any mistakes I can find.

P.S. the next morning. Wineapple accuses me of being envious of Hawthorne for Melville. Tell you what I am envious of. Bottom of 488 and top of 489: "I am grateful to the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities for full fellowships that released me from my teaching duties for years at a time."

The ACLS and the NEH did not get good value for our money.

Brenda Wineapple's violation of the "biographical imperative"

Great Melville Authority Brenda Wineapple vs Harrison Hayford--Challenge to Wineapple
This is the first of three posts to be read as a group.

HERE IS SOME OF THE SCATHING DISMISSAL OF MY BIOGRAPHY BY BRENDA WINEAPPLE, WHO WROTE MUCH OF “HAWTHORNE: A LIFE” IN THE GENRE OF “ROMANTIC FICTION” (Denis Donoghue’s term in his review of her book)—Brenda Wineapple, whose outright errors (and pervasive vulgarities) about Melville and Hawthorne are detailed in other posts in my blog already posted and will be supplemented in more posts.

Brenda Wineapple accused me of “fudging the biographical imperative”; in her treatment of Melville and Hawthorne she did not fudge that imperative so much as repudiate it altogether for a prose that vacillates between “romantic fiction” and the luridness of the “bodice ripper.” Think of Melville sprinting from rock to jutting rock! Think of Melville spotless as a Berkshire lamb! Think of the years Wineapple had free to perfect her method of fictionalizing documentary material thanks to the ACLS and NEH!

Will you believe Hayford or Wineapple? Did Wineapple spend even one day on the two volumes of my biography of Melville? I vouch for HH’s spending the 10 days and nights he specifies he devoted to the first volume. (He did not live to read the second volume but he read a draft of it a decade before it was published.)

Wineapple in the NATION: As Hawthorne held Moby-Dick in his hand, "he could open the book in his nervous way (more nervous even than normally)," writes Parker, "and get from his friend a guided tour of the organization of the thing now in print, and even sample a few paragraphs that caught his eye or that the author eagerly pointed out to him." He could indeed. Whether he did is another matter, though not for Parker, as secure in his fantasy as Edmund Morris is in his imaginary Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan. Yet despite the hulking material he's amassed from a mountain of newspapers, a fairly new cache of family papers and a host of collateral letters, to name just a few of his sources, Parker continually veers into unwonted speculation that then careens into certainty, moving back and forth between data and guesswork, seamlessly fusing the two and squandering his credibility as biographer along the way. . . .

Wineapple in the NATION: [Q]uestions remain, skirted by Parker, as if his dizzying array of biographical detritus would prevent our posing them. Cramming his book with long, bloodless catalogues of what Melville might have seen or read, Parker layers each sentence with so much stuff he sacrifices drama, insight and even, on occasion, grammar. "Knowing Melville's sightseeing habits as detailed in his journals," Parker obfuscates, "chances are he saw all he could see, keeping a lookout for superb views." He then provides us with all these vistas, plus newspaper reports and tangential historical information, fudging the biographical imperative: to show how Melville transforms the shaggy minutiae of life and its myriad characters (whether Hawthorne, Malcolm, a besieged wife or a shipmate) into an alembic of wishes, conflicts and disappointments that, taken together, reflect him, a mysterious, roiling, poignant writer alive, painfully alive, in every phrase he wrote.


I challenge Brenda Wineapple: take any 10 scenes in my biography and justify your saying that I “continually” veer “into unwonted speculation that then careens into certainty, moving back and forth between data and guesswork, seamlessly fusing the two” and squandering my “credibility as biographer along the way.” Brenda Wineapple, you got an early copy of my second volume in order to make this accusation in a way to set the tone for all subsequent reviews. Now you have matured even more as a scholar and are able to give examples of what you accuse me of, I invite you a fair debate. Show people what so offended you about my handling of evidence. I promise to swat up my Hawthorne scholarship to deal with you on your ground, too, on 10 scenes of my choosing from HAWTHORNE: A LIFE.

Errors and Vulgarities in Brenda Wineapple

A continuation of a close reading of Wineapple on Melville and Hawthorne. DOES ACCURACY MATTER IN BIOGRAPHY? AM I BEING PEDANTIC TO CARE ABOUT ACCURACY?

From the conclusion:
Would you give these pages anything above a D+ if you were grading sophomore papers? Yet go to Amazon.com and look at the ecstatic reviews of HAWTHORNE: A LIFE. To explain such mysteries you have to appeal to that Academic sense of Scratch-My-Back-and-I’ll-Scratch-Yours, for in certain moods no man can weigh the writing and reviewing of New York academic biography without throwing in something somehow like “Mutual Admiration Society” to strike the uneven balance.

224: Wineapple: “When Duyckinck returned to New York City, he carried the first installment of Melville’s review of Mosses from an Old Manse.”

No, he carried the full thing, and delayed his departure so he could carry the full thing. Wineapple ignores the detailed (I won’t say meticulous) account in the first volume of my biography of Melville (1996) in which I used the long-known documents along with documents in the 1983 NYPL-GL trove known as the “Augusta Papers.” My account totally superseded the account in the 1987 NN Piazza Tales &c volume. There are further details in my new footnotes to the Mosses essay in the 2nd Norton Critical Edition of MOBY-DICK, out in September 2001, for the sesquicentennial, in plenty of time for Wineapple to use them.

Every responsible teacher of MOBY-DICK knew that new textual information was in the 1967 first Norton edition and every teacher in 2001 and thereafter ought to have known that the newest information would be incorporated in the new edition. Why, by the way, is Wineapple not using the textual information in The Piazza Tales about the MOSSES essay and not using the information and the slightly improved text of the MOSSES essay in the new Norton Critical Edition? She makes no comment on her choice of text.

224: Wineapple: “Though it’s not clear when Melville began the review, whether before or after meeting Hawthorne” . . . .

Well, it certainly is clear, and if Wineapple wants to disagree with the evidence in my biography then she ought to challenge it rather than taking a doubtful position that would have been respectable before the Augusta Papers had been incorporated into the story but not afterwards.

224: Wineapple: “Pretending to be a Virginian on vacation in New England, he says he’s just read Hawthorne’s book while lying on the new-mown clover near the barn.” Well, where to begin? When Melville wrote the words about lying on clover he had not yet disguised himself by sticking Virginian into the title of his essay. He wrote the words in his “own” voice as literary critic. Then (oh, Wineapple’s recurrent failures to visualize) Melville does not say he is lying on clover NEAR the barn. The clover is already inside the barn, and the hill-side breeze is blowing over him through the wide barn door.

224-225. I am going to quote the whole little paragraph.

224-225: Wineapple:
Melville will set the record straight. “For spite of all the Indian-summer sunlight on the hither side of Hawthorne’s soul, the other side—like the dark half of the physical sphere—is shrouded in blackness, ten times black.” Melville understands despondency and vile doubt; they stalk him too, and he knows that what most reviewers term morbidness is the clear-eyed admission that all the tanks have been drained. It’s a perception that “derives its force from its appeals to that Calvinistic sense of Innate Depravity and Original Sin,” he continues, “from whose visitations, in some shape or other, no deeply thinking mind is always and wholly free. For, in certain moods, no man can weigh this world[,] without throwing in something, somehow like Original Sin, to strike the uneven balance.

224-225: In her commentary Wineapple identifies Hawthorne’s blackness as “despondency and vile doubt.” But between the passage about “Indian-summer sunlight” and the passage about “Innate Depravity and Original Sin” Melville does NOT deal with “despondency and vile doubt.” He is focussed, instead, on two possibilities. One is that as a prose artist Hawthorne consciously uses blackness for particular aesthetic effects (“the wondrous effects he makes it [the blackness] to produce in his lights and shades”). The other possibility is that there really lurks in Hawthorne (whether he is aware of it or not) “a touch of Puritanic gloom.”

“Puritanic gloom” is not the equivalent of “despondency and vile doubt,” which are merely obstacles on any pilgrim’s way to the celestial city. Puritanic gloom is the bleak outlook that comes from the conviction that all human beings are born damned to burn in Hell endlessly (unless they are somehow spared). This is not a light thought. Listen to T. Walter Herbert, Jr.: “the intellectual conflict between liberal and Calvinistic points of view was a potent ingredient in Melville’s psychic difficulties, not as a mask for ‘deeper’ problems merely, but as an authentic locus of psychic distress.” Herbert, I think accurately, distinguishes between Melville’s psychic suffering over a Calvinistic view of the world and Hawthorne’s melancholy ennui over such a tiring topic. In this passage this second possibility Melville attributes to Hawthorne is not one that Hawthorne went through life experiencing any great psychic agony about.

Back to Wineapple: She asserts that a particular perception “derives its force” from thoughts that one needs a concept like Original Sin to explain the world. The perception is merely this: “what most reviewers term morbidness is the clear-eyed admission that all the tanks have been drained.” I find this shift to empty tanks not only vulgar but nonsensical. There is nothing in the context about a writer’s writing himself out, exhausting his resources. One would like to survey the reviews of Hawthorne up through the reviews of The Scarlet Letter to see if “morbidness” is a recurrent them among reviewers. I can and have searched the word in Melville’s known reviews which I have in my computer and do not find “morbid” coming up before MOBY-DICK except in the Literary World assurance 17 November 1849 that REDBURN contained NO “morbid feeling” but rather a manly sense of actuality. Melville is not writing about tanks running dry, though you could argue that Hawthorne’s did run dry several years before he died. Wineapple's topic is an irrelevant intrusion here.

Yet the perception that the tanks have run dry derives its force from a Calvinistic sense of Innate Depravity and Original Sin, Wineapple says.

In her little sandwich of a paragraph Wineapple puts down one slice of richly textured Melville-bread (something like my strongest sourdough rye) then smears in a little layer of something she finds on a workbench in a garage, perhaps, a sentence about empty tanks, then asserts a connection between her smear and the next layer of Melville-bread. The little sandwich does not bond together. The Wineapple layer slides off onto the floor when you try to pick up the sandwich because it is totally irrelevant. The particular perception she mentions has nothing to do with what she has just quoted and nothing to do with what she goes on to quote.

225: A short paragraph from Wineapple: “Melville’s Man of Mosses (as he referred to Hawthorne in his review) is a man of brooding unbelief.”

Do not Melville’s queries about Hawthorne point to belief rather than unbelief? Take the paragraph that takes “Earth’s Holocaust” as portraying the sacrifice of all vanities until what remains is only “the all-engendering heart of man” from which new vanities will spring: that is Calvinistic, and it is belief, not unbelief.

Melville brooded about belief but he does not attribute such a brooding to Hawthorne.

225. Wineapple’s next paragraph is even stranger than the one I quoted above, the one beginning “Melville will set the record straight.” This one starts off by saying, infelicitously, that Melville was writing about Hawthorne and himself both. Then comes some of Wineapple’s romantic fiction: “For all his magniloquent prose, Melville pictures Hawthorne as a mate bobbing like him on the trouble seas of publishing, recognition, and posterity.” If there were not other still worse sentences in Wineapple, I would nominate that for one of the worst sentences in American literary criticism. Writing it seems to have upset Wineapple, for without anything intervening she lurches many months ahead: “’What I feel most moved to write, that is banned,--it will not pay,’ he would confide to his new friend. ‘Yet, altogether, write the other [other italicized] way I cannot.’” What? We were talking about Melville’s essay on Hawthorne’s MOSSES.

The next paragraph contains shocking vulgarities: “’Let him write like a man, for then he will be sure to write like an American,’ Melville boomed . . . .” Melville BOOMED?

“As for Hawthorne, he is the flesh and blood of the land.” No, he is “of” Americans’ own flesh and blood. He is not the American Christ, he’s just an authentic American.

Would you give these pages anything above a D+ if you were grading sophomore papers? Yet go to Amazon.com and look at the ecstatic reviews of HAWTHORNE: A LIFE. To explain such mysteries you have to appeal to that Academic sense of Scratch-My-Back-and-I’ll-Scratch-Yours, for in certain moods no man can weigh New York academic biography without throwing in something somehow like “Mutual Admiration Society” to strike the uneven balance.

Brenda Wineapple and Romantic Fiction Passing as Biography

BRENDA WINEAPPLE--The Substance as well as the Style of Romantic Fiction.
Denis Donoghue accurately observed that “a lot” of Brenda Wineapple’s HAWTHORNE: A LIFE “is in the style of romantic fiction.” But romantic fiction is in the substance as well as the style of her book. After putting up my posts on the dismaying thicket of outright errors in her few pages on Hawthorne and Melville in 1850-1851, including the worst error ever made in a discussion of Melville, her failure to realize that he felt as spotless as the Lamb of God, not a Berkshire sheep, I want to make a point about how Wineapple envisions her scenes. In the previous blogs I have criticized her for not envisioning, for example, just what members of the Monument Mountain party Sophia Hawthorne saw on 5 August 1850 and for not envisioning Melville (in his voice as literary critic, before he decided to make the speaker of the MOSSES essay retroactively a Virginian vacationing in Vermont) as reclining inside the barn, not NEAR it. This is a failure to read documents skillfully, but it is also a failure to SEE the characters in action.

Intermixed with this lack of attention to documents is the wild imagination of a devotee of romantic fiction. Melville “is the daredevil who sprints from rock to jutting rock.” This is a movie version of Heathcliff? Melville strides “off the gangplank into a garret where he could dip his pen into the inkpot.” Did he, to start with, stride off a gangplank of lower himself on a rope ladder or go off the ship in another fashion? He certainly did not go into a dark garret. Here you have both the substance and the style of the most pathetic romantic fiction. In Wineapple you see the failure to employ a responsible , attentive imagination coupled with the reckless indulgence of an irresponsible imagination.

Hershel Parker said...

As a preparatory exercise I tried to make myself envision where characters in a group had been, what they had been thinking about in the days or hours previous, what they had brought with them as they came together, what they did after they went away from the group. Often, of course, I did not know, but surprisingly often I could assemble enough information to let me see a little into what their perspective would have been on a day like the climb of Monument Mountain, to stick with that example. Melville had come to think of the book he was writing as a tragic drama, already, I suspect, and might have wanted Mathews around so they could talk together about the place of drama in American literature. You can be contemptuous of Mathews, but there is testimony that he could be a serious resource in conversation, if you got him off quietly. Now, Melville did not have any time alone with Mathews, but what happened that week was out of his control, a result of David Dudley Field’s encountering Mathews and Duyckinck on their way to Pittsfield.

For what it was worth, and I thought it worth doing, I tried this envisioning, and there were times when it worked perfectly, up to a point. What did Herman Melville have with him on the way from Boston to New York in October 1844. Start with the letter he had received from his brother Allan. What was he thinking about? the news of the family in that letter, whatever other news of the family he had learned in Boston, all the contacts he had made in Boston, how he was going to surprise his mother, when he would meet the Orator of the Human Race, Gansevoort, what he would do with the next years of his life, how it felt to be on land much of the journey—all that and more, but all that certainly.

The Vulgar Gothicizing of Biography: Brenda Wineapple

Wineapple's vision of Melville is far more dramatic than anything I could have written, but it comes from Gothic fiction, not from the known documents.

In Wineapple you see the failure to employ a responsible, attentively visualizing imagination coupled with reckless indulgence of an irresponsible imagination. As I have pointed out in other postings here, Brenda Wineapple’s Herman Melville (but not the real Melville) is a “bushy-bearded young man, a “daredevil who sprints from rock to jutting rock” after “striding off the gangplank into a garret” and before “lying on the new-mown clover near the barn” and before picturing “Hawthorne as a mate bobbing like him on the troubled seas of publishing, recognition, and posterity” and before telling “the Hawthornes a story about a man and a large oak cudgel” (it wasn’t just any story about a man—it was a thrilling story about a South Sea adventure) and before he “bellowed after reading THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES,” and before “Julian was especially thrilled when Melville, galloping down the road, stopped, bent down, and scooped him up into the saddle.”

Has Wineapple been reading a chapter or two of WUTHERING HEIGHTS (or, heaven forfend, THE MONK) as a preparatory exercise before writing her book about Hawthorne? Does she carry in her mind images of “large jutting stones” in WUTHERING HEIGHTS and does she hear the beat of horses’ feet galloping down “t’ broad road,” galloping out of sight? For the “bushy-bearded” Melville is NOT galloping along the road when he spies Hawthorne and his son sitting off the road in Love Grove and he does NOT bend down and scoop Julian up into the saddle before him. The lurid figure, nominally Melville, has more to do with Heathcliff than the real Herman Melville.

Wineapple displays remarkable inattention to what the documents actually say and displays a mind stuffed to overflowing with the clichés of Gothic novels. In hours when I need the force of dramatic narrative I read the best of John Buchan and the best of Zane Grey and the best of Erskine Childers. In a public library does Wineapple gravitate to books with garish pink covers, the ones guaranteed to be the best modern equivalents of the old “romantic fiction” which Donoghue saw pervading much of HAWTHORNE: A LlFE? Or did Donoghue include modern “romantic fiction” in his analysis?

Sprinting, striding, galloping, bobbing, scooping up a child like a Mongolian horseman! No wonder the comments on HAWTHORNE: A LIFE in Amazon.com are ecstatic! Exciting stuff! Not good biography at all, but exciting stuff. Bellow on, bushy-bearded sprinter, strider, bobber, galloper and scooper! Off into the sunset!

Brenda Wineapple Reconsidered: The Failure to Visualize

reposting to July for visibility.

In writing my biography of Melville I tried to visualizing every scene, even to the point of making rough seating charts at big family dinners. This may sound silly, but it helped me with the interrelationships of the characters. Perhaps because I understood 19th century modes of transportation so well (better than anyone else of my academic time, I am sure!--see the "Footsteps" article) I always visualized ways in which characters got to a given place, the time it took, how dirty and exhausted they would have been, and so on. There were moments when this paid off, as in my understanding the triumphant journey of Cousin Priscilla to Illinois by rail in the early 1850s after she had made the journey the old ways [I do mean "ways"] in the late 30s, or when people who had crossed Massachusetts by stagecoach crossed it by rail.

Now that I have been looking at Wineapple on Melville for several days I am struck again, this morning, by her debilitating failure to visualize her characters in motion. Well, her Gothic Imagination kicks in so that she has Melville, bushy beard blowing in the wind, galloping, galloping up to Love Grove. I mean visualizing responsibly.

Take, for instance, this on 243:"Early in November, Hawthorne met Melville for dinner at the Lenox hotel, and that night Melville presumably gave Hawthorne his inscribed copy of Moby-Dick" . . .

Leave aside the outright errors (it was not early November,and it was not night but afternoon).

"Hawthorne met Melville." Visualize. Melville texted Hawthorne asking if he could start walking to the Hotel and he would leave after a while and meet him there. No, Melville TELEPHONED Hawthorne and asked him . . . No, Melville got his copies of MOBY-DICK and even though he knew from the real meeting he had had at the Sedgwicks' EARLY in November that the Hawthornes were leaving any day he was confident enough in the speed of the postal service and PATIENT enough to drop Hawthorne a note saying he would like to get together and PATIENT enough to wait for Hawthorne's reply and . . . . No, that's not like Melville.

No, Melville had to go to the Little Red Cottage AND GET HAWTHORNE AND GO WITH HIM TO THE HOTEL and maybe even accompany him home before making the long trek back to Arrowhead.

Think about it.

I am thinking about it before I start my new and dismayingly long series about Wineapple's errors of fact about Hawthorne.

Brenda Wineapple's Carelessness with Fact


I am moving some of the Best of Wineapple up to July for greater accessibility.

I finally looked at Brenda Wineapple’s review of my biography in the NATION and am stunned by the reckless writing. Here are examples:

In 1841 Melville signed on to the whaler Acushnet . . . .


. . . the autobiographical Redburn (1849), followed by a story of seamen, White-Jacket (1850) . . .


. . . . And on the basis of this gossip column . . . .


According to Parker, who expertly excavated information about the lost manuscript, including its title ("The Isle of the Cross"), Melville finished this book, which his publisher, Harper's, was prevented from printing for some unknown reason. (Parker thinks the Harper brothers feared a suit from survivors . . .)


. . . "The Encantadas," sketches that Melville may have purloined from a longer unpublished manuscript of his about tortoises . . . .


Judge Shaw dispatched the ailing Melville to Rome, Egypt and the Levant . . .


[Egypt] . . . hoping to find among the hieroglyphics tidings to quiet his uneasy soul.


His works falling out of print,he solaced himself in long walks around New York City after he and his family moved there in 1863, and eventually landed
a dry-dock job as a Custom House inspector.


A DEFINITION FROM FLICKR.COM: “Dry docks are great chambers below water level used for the repair and construction of ships. A ship can be brought in from the adjoining body of water once the chamber has been filled with water. The chamber is then drained, allowing the ship to rest on wooden blocks so that work may proceed. After work is completed, the chamber is flooded to outside water level, the gate is opened, and the ship can depart.” JUST THE PLACE FOR A CUSTOMS INSPECTOR TO WORK!

. . . allegations about Melville's abuse of his wife, which so upset her brothers they wanted to kidnap her and the children and hustle them back to Boston.


The beleaguered Melville frequently did abandon his wife, whom he seemed to love, though he was clearly drawn to the company of men . . . .


What can you say about this level of sloppiness?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Names, in the hope of finding Internet Cousins

Thomas L. Brashier, Sarah Lindsay, William Parks, Rachel Slimp or Schlemp, Mary Daugherty, John Isaac Dougherty, Cynthia Dougherty, Samuel Henderson, Cynthia Martha Parks, Rachel Jane Hughes, Margaret Knox, Christiana Boyd, Jane C. Tindall, John Levi Costner, Susanna Rudisill

Something ever comes of all persistent inquiry; we are not so continually curious for nothing.

Alice Bell Costner and Edgar Lugene Costner

Copies of this, slightly larger, must have been given to all the Costner children, in studio cardboard frames. I don't have the one my mother had, so I am grateful to Internet Cousin Paula for this copy.

I think Lee means in her note that she is now about the age her mother was in this picture.

Nancy Ann Stewart Costner, Elizabeth Parish, James Bartlett Simms, Elizabeth Peach, Joseph Sparks, Leonard Coker

Why not try an experiment with names, since we have found Internet Cousins merely by mentioning a name once. Let me add more to the links slot.

Nancy Ann Stewart Costner with Edgar Lugene Costner, b. 1872

This is from Internet Cousin Paula B, the granddaughter of Gene Costner's oldest daughter. It is our first picture of John Andrew Jackson Costner's wife.

This blog caught the attention of this Internet Cousin. There are other Internet Cousins who might have more pictures from the late 19th century or early 20th century which we can pool.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Gene Costner

From Cousin Paula's files.

Nancy Ann Stewart Costner--Kevin Costner's Great Great Grandmother

I said several weeks ago that through the Social Network I was going to find a Stewart face. We had never seen a picture of my great grandmother Nancy Ann Stewart Costner. Soon after I said that, one of us spotted an Internet Cousin's photos in which was a female Stewart relative of this woman, then today from Internet First Cousin Once Removed Paula comes this, cropped from a picture of NASC with her young son, Edgar Lugene Costner, my grandfather.

Martha Izora Henderson Bell and Isaac Franklin Bell

Thanks to the Social Network and Internet First Cousin Once Removed Paula B., at the age of 75 I get to see for the first time a picture of my Bell great grandparents. Martha Izora Henderson Bell is a descendant of the young Patriot Ezekiel Henderson and his rough Regulator father, Argulus Hercules Bell, and Isaac Franklin Bell is a descendant of Thomas Bell, who was at King's Mountain on the right side along with his father-in-law Robert Ewart and more than half a dozen uncles and cousins--a clan making up a sizable portion of the local fighters who joined with the Overmountain men.