Tag Archives: Herman Melville

Should Moby-Dick Be Hyphenated?

Ahab reloaded
“When this interlude was over, Captain Mayhew began a dark story concerning Moby Dick; not, however, without frequent interruptions from Gabriel, whenever his name was mentioned, and the crazy sea that seemed leagued with him.”

Why do we occasionally see Moby Dick with a hyphen? Because that’s how the original title ran. Erin Blakemore of the Smithsonian calls it a Victorian convention, but that doesn’t satisfy many readers.

“Moby-Dick; Or, The Whale” was published in the United States on this day in 1851, having been previously released in the United Kingdom. It didn’t sell well compared to his other books, and critics took a dim view:

The idea of a connected and collected story has obviously visited and abandoned its writer again and again in the course of composition. The style of his tale is in places disfigured by mad (rather than bad) English; and its catastrophe is hastily, weakly, and obscurely managed.

Melville’s Lost Novel

What manuscripts by accomplished authors have been lost to us over the years, snatched by bibliophilic Huns or discarded as immature? The Smithsonian has a list of ten of would likely be the best lost books. The Shakespearean play on a character in Don Quixote is incredible to imagine, but here’s a good story of the great Melville doing his normal thing and finding a dead end.

On a trip to Nantucket in July 1852, Herman Melville was told the tragic story of Agatha Hatch— the daughter of a lighthouse keeper who saved a shipwrecked sailor named James Robertson, then married him, only later to be abandoned by him.

The tale would serve as inspiration for a manuscript titled The Isle of the Cross, which Melville presented to Harper & Brothers in 1853. But the publisher, for reasons unknown, turned it down. And no copy of the manuscript has ever been found. In an essay in a 1990 issue of the journal American Literature, Hershel Parker, a biographer of Melville’s, claims, “The most plausible suggestion is that the Harpers feared that their firm would be criminally liable if anyone recognized the originals of the characters in The Isle of the Cross.”

Reading Moby Dick Aloud

More than hundred writers and artists read ten minutes each of Moby Dick last weekend at the Whitney Museum of American Art In New York. The marathon reading event started in 2012 as a biennial celebration, but the Whitney wanted to do again this year. Many participants had not read the novel completely beforehand, which one person said may be part of the appeal.

It sounds like fun and perhaps exhausting, but I doubt they have an edge on the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Moby-Dick Marathon, which “celebrated its fifteenth annual non-stop reading of Herman Melville’s literary masterpiece [in January 2011] with an expanded 3-day program.” Take a look at these photos.

Some read in Portuguese, Japanese, Italian, Danish, Spanish, Hebrew, Russian and/or French, followed by that same passage in English. One passage is read from Braille.  The Seamen’s Bethel hosts the singing of “The Ribs and Terrors in the Whale” and the reading of Father Mapple’s sermon. At the end, a few hardy souls will have stayed for the whole adventure.

Hawthorne family reunited?

The news out of Concord, Mass. is that about 40 descendants of Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne gathered in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to view the reburial of Sophia and her daughter Una, who were previously entered in a London cemetery where they lived after Nathaniel’s death in 1864.

Now the bodies are near each other in Concord, but the article quotes a literature professor, talking about their passionate marriage, as saying, “It’s a misfortune that they were separated in death. It’s very satisfying to anyone who knows the story of the Hawthorne marriage that they’re being reunited for eternity.”

It probably isn’t polite to disagree with this small point of theology, but that’s why we blog, isn’t it? I’m glad the family is encouraged by this burial decision, but I hope they know that Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne have been eternally together for over a hundred years now, rejoicing along with Longfellow and Melville in the love of God the Father who has welcomed them for eternity through the redemption of Jesus Christ.