Friday, March 9, 2012

The culpability of Richard Brodhead, destroyer of reputations

Richard H. Brodhead is now defending himself from lawsuits in North Carolina as well as James Van de Velde's reinstated lawsuit in Connecticut. Duke is trying very hard just now to keep the truth coming out in Discovery. It's time to tell again about my experience with him.

Richard H. Brodhead excused himself for not defending the falsely accused lacrosse players by saying the facts kept changing. He was trained to get away with acting as if the truth kept changing—the truth was whatever you wanted it to be at a given moment.

I have had the personal experience of being the victim of a gigantic, devastating lie by Brodhead, one apparently designed to destroy my reputation. I want to review the facts again while Duke is trying to prevent the Discovery process from producing anything incriminating. Brodhead as a great Yale literary critic and putative Melville “scholar” was hired by the prestigious New York TIMES to review Hershel Parker’s HERMAN MELVILLE: A BIOGRAPHY: 1851-1891 in 2002.

Now, one of the problems of Melville’s loss of fame in his own lifetime was that in the 20th century scholars had to piece together facts and rediscover episodes in his life. The 1921 biographer Raymond Weaver did not know that in 1860 Melville had sailed for the Pacific with his brother, the Captain of the METEOR, leaving behind a collection of poems for publication. The next year, Meade Minnigerode published a book called SOME PERSONAL LETTERS OF HERMAN MELVILLE AND A BIBLIOGRAPHY. In Ch. 9, “An Unpublished Manuscript,” Minnigerode published several documents he had found in the NYPL, Melville’s 21 May 1860 request to Evert Duyckinck to do him a favor—to help see into print a manuscript which would arrive in NYC “in the course of two weeks.” His wife, he explained in a second letter, was still not finished with copying the manuscript. Among the documents in the Duyckinck Collection at the NYPL was Melville’s 22 May 1860 instructions to his brother, Allan, which survives in his wife’s hand, perhaps as he dictated it: “Memoranda for Allan / Concerning the publication of my verses.” There are 12 detailed points. Then subsequently he added a 13th. The 6th point is “Let the title-page be simply / Poems / by / Herman Melville.” He was specific to the point of explaining, in the 9th point, “In the M.S.S. each piece is on a page by itself, however small the piece. This was done merely for convenience in the final classification, and should be no guide for the printer. Of course in printing two or more pieces will sometimes appear on the same page—according to length of pieces etc. You understand.” Here I am quoting from the spelling and punctuation in Minnigerode (1922.

This was big news, and Lewis Mumford used the new information a little in his 1929 critical biography, where he corrected a guess by Minnigerode that the book might have been something that went into the 18,000 line poem CLAREL (1876): “Melville’s concern, in his memoranda for Allan, that each piece should be printed on a page by itself . . . shows . . . that it could not have been” CLAREL. Then in his widely used classroom text in 1938, HERMAN MELVILLE: REPRESENTATIVE SELECTIONS, Willard Thorp summarized what was known, and concluded: “But the book found no publisher. We do not even know for certain what there first poems of Melville’s were. They cannot have been the long poem Clarel, as Minnigerode supposed, for the “Memoranda for Allan concerning the publication of my verses” . . . prove them to have been a collection of short poems.” Everyone who wanted to know anything about Melville henceforth knew about POEMS. Leon Howard (1951) summarized what was known about the volume, stressing that Melville sailed thinking his family and friends would arrange publication in his absence. Jay Leyda had given Howard documents to work with, and in 1951 published THE MELVILLE LOG: A DOCUMENTARY LIFE OF HERMAN MELVILLE 1819-1891. There Leyda added a new document, Charles Scribner’s rejection of POEMS, and quoted (sometimes condensing) all the 12 point memoranda. This memoranda was of course included in Merrell R. Davis’s and William H. Gilman’s 1960 THE LETTERS OF HERMAN MELVILLE. Once again anyone could look at a new book and see Memo #6: “Let the title-page be simply, / Poems / by / Herman Melville.” Everybody knew about POEMS. The Memoranda are printed, of course, in the Northwestern-Newberry CORRESPONDENCE (1993).

Parker’s treatment in Ch. 18, “The Poet and the last Lecture, ‘Travel’—Summer 1859-Early 1860,” was by far the most detailed. It deals with Melville’s reading of poetry and his annotations of poetry and of criticism of poetry as no other study had done. In particular, it draws on Melville’s marginalia that no other scholar had seen, such as his detailed annotations in his father’s copy of SPENSER. And of course Parker printed, on p. 424, the 12 points of the Memoranda, although condensing some of them. The middle of page 424 very clearly has point 6: “Let the title-page be simply, / Poems / by / Herman Melville.”

Now, there is a related problem of another book which Melville completed but which was never printed (as far as we know) and has been lost. Davis and Gilman made it clear on the basis of a November 1853 letter that Melville had completed a prose book in the Spring of 1853. Merton Sealts confirmed their conclusion, as did others. In 1987 I discovered the title, THE ISLE OF THE CROSS, and thereafter Sealts, in 1990, said, “Hershel Parker, working with Augusta Melville’s correspondence as recently added to the Gansevoort-Lansing Collection, New York Public Library, has established that this [1853] work was in fact ‘completed under the title of The Isle of the Cross.’” Now, Sealts and Parker assumed that The Isle of the Cross was the book Melville told Hawthorne in December 1852 that he was going to write, himself, rather than trying to persuade Hawthorne to write it. We can’t prove what the content of The Isle of the Cross is, and of course critics have guessed irresponsibly, but there is no disputing that the book was completed in May 1853 and entitled The Isle of the Cross. Brodhead in the New York Times for 23 June 2002 disparaged “Parker's surmises about works Melville never published that did not survive”:

He makes the case that in 1852-53 Melville wrote a novel based on materials he shared with Hawthorne about a sailor who deserted his wife. If this is true, then the theory that Melville renounced writing after "Pierre" is just wrong . . . . Parker is also convinced that Melville prepared a volume of poems in 1860 that failed to be published. If this is so, a stretch that had seemed empty of literary strivings was instead a time of new effort and new failure--a black hole Parker alone has the instruments to detect.

Now, what are Parker’s surmises? Not that Melville finished a book in May 1853. That is a fact, although it has been known as an absolute fact only since the 1960 LETTERS (Leyda did not have the November 24, 1853 letter that makes it clear). It was treated as fact long before Parker found the title in 1987. And as for POEMS, what possible justification can there be for asserting, not implying, that Parker was the only one with (this is ironic) instruments to detect POEMS? Everyone since Minnigerode in 1922 had known about POEMS.

Even to mention the treatment of THE ISLE OF THE CROSS and POEMS mean that his eyes had to see documents quoted, including “Poems / by / Herman Melville.” Yet Brodhead put all of his authority as a Dean at Yale in this assault on Parker’s reputation for accuracy.

He was sure he could get away with lying, and he did, and went on to bow down in the gigantic K for the coach, to fire Michael Pressler, to defame the lacrosse players (“Whatever they did was bad enough”), to refuse to meet with the parents of the lacrosse players, to refuse to look at evidence of their innocence, to refuse to make a judgment on Potti (there must have been some “intermediate explanation” for the falsifications on the vita and the falsification of the results of research into cancer causes and possible cures . . . .)

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