Thursday, June 20, 2013

When Dating Matters--1869, insignificant; 1867, tremendously important

I came on this today while checking Lizzie's handwriting for Robert Sandberg, who is immured in Houghton Library.
Here is a great example of how something means nothing until it is dated correctly.
Leyda read 1869 and put it in the LOG that way in 1951.
I think the writing at the bottom left is Ruth Degenhardt's as she sent the page to Merton M. Sealts, Jr., from the Berkshire Athenaeum. Mert seems to have misinterpreted what she was saying about their location. RD had not lost them!
You see Mert's 1991 note to me over at the bottom right.
You may not be able to read my notes. The slanted lines at top right are mine: This was in the LOG 1951 as 1869.
Then the red pencil is mine: "file 1867"--that is, move from the 1869 folder to the 1867 folder.
Then this red pencil is mine: "I'm calling this 1867, not 9 [9 circled for emphasis] 12 June 1999."
The dating made a tremendous difference. Melville's wife was dealing with her half-brothers' and maybe her brother's suggestion that she go to Boston, away from her husband, and dealing with the wild melodramatic suggestions of her minister as he was packing for Europe. This shows her resolution to stay with her husband almost in the act of making the decision. It's the climactic piece of evidence in a story first opened in the 1970s by Dr. Donald Kring, who was working in the papers of Henry W. Bellows, the minister at All Souls.

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