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“Travel”: New Evidence on Melville’s Third Lecture STEVEN OLSEN-SMITH University of Delaware n a 1942 note entitled “Toward the Whole Evidence on Melville as a Lecturer,” Newton Arvin made an appeal for research on Melville’slyceum Iphase.1 Scholars knew from a few contemporary newspaper reports that Melville had delivered three separate lectures over three successive seasons from 1857 to 1860, the only period during which Melville is known to have mounted the lecture platform. As Merton M. Sealts,Jr., later reflected, “Arvin’s query stimulated a number of other scholars to locate and reprint additional reports by contemporary newspapers of Melville’s lecture engagements.”2The new burst of scholarship substantially enlarged the record of evidence on Melville’s first two lectures, “Statues in Rome” (delivered sixteen times by Melville) and the “South Seas” (delivered ten times). But it produced nothing on Melville’s third lecture on the subject of “Travel,” for which Melville secured only three engagements. Perhaps due to the discouraging lack of engagements, research on Melville’sthird lecture has been less thorough than for the others, resulting in misinformation that has persisted to the present time. Here I offer corrective evidence on several points and identify a possible source for Melville’s lecture on “Travel.” It was John Howard Birss who in 1934 revealed that Melville had lectured on the subject of travel during his third and final attempt at the lyceum circuit. In his article, ‘“Travelling’:A New Lecture By Herman Melville,”Birss announced that Melville’slast known appearance on the lecture platform was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 21 February 1860. Birss discovered his evidence in the 25 February 1860 issue of the Cambridge Chronicle, which reproduced , under the heading “Travel,”eight paragraphs of the lecture Melville had delivered for the Dowse Institute of Cambridgeport, in Cambridge City Hall.3 Newton Arvin, “Toward the Whole Evidence on Melville as a Lecturer,” American Notes and Merton M. Sealts,Jr., Melville as Lecturer(Cambridge,Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1957),p. viii. John Howard Birss, “‘Travelling’:A New Lecture By Herman Melville,” New England Quarterly 7 (December 1934): 725-28. Birss was prompted by the final entry in Melville’s notebook of lecture engagements (still preserved at the Houghton Library of Harvard University), which lists February “21st Cambridgeport, Mass” under the heading, “1859-60.” Contrary to Birss’s assumption that Melville delivered his lecture “at Dowse Institute” (725), an announcement headed “The Lecture Season” in the 29 October 1859 Chronicle makes clear that the Dowse lectures were to be held at Cambridge City Hall. Queries 2 (May 1942):21-22. A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L ES T U D I E S 4 5 S T E V E N O L S E N - S M I T H Disregarding the Chronicle’s heading and reprinting the extracts as “Travelling,” Birss justified his choice of titles with the following note: “Melville also delivered this lecture at Flushing, Long Island, where it was advertised as ‘Travelling:Its Pleasures, Pains, and Profits.’ To Mr. George W Valentine I am indebted for his searching of early Flushing newspapers deposited in the library of the Long Island Historical Society” (727-28n). Birss seems to have adopted “Travelling”because he believed it to be from Melville’s full and original title (Flushing having been Melville’searliest engagement for the lecture), but Birss did not cite the advertisements discovered by his associate George Valentine, nor did he name the Flushing newspapers in which those advertisements were printed. Moreover,although Birss did not explicitly state that the Flushing newspapers neglected to review Melville’slecture or to print extracts (as the Cambridge Chronicle would do), his silence on this point left it to be assumed that Melville’sFlushing engagement had failed to generate a report. Twenty-threeyears after Birss’s discovery,Sealts’swide-ranging search for newspaper reports of the lectures culminated in Melville us Lecturer (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1957). Along with biographically and critically analyzing Melville’s lecturing phase, Sealts compiled extracts from the reports and printed reconstructed versions of “The South Seas” and “Statuesin Rome.” Relying on Birss’s...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 45-55
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
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