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R E V I E W HARRISON HAYFORD WITH A FOREWORD BY HERSHEL PARKER Melville’s Prisoners Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2003. Cloth, $59.95; xi, 213 pages. I n the concluding chapter to A Companion to Melville Studies (1986)—the magisterial essay titled “Melville and the World of Books”—G. Thomas Tanselle traces over a hundred years of writing by and about Herman Melville, and flatly concludes: “Of the events chronicled in these pages, there is no doubt who the hero is: Harrison Hayford has been responsible for more basic work—from the maintenance of a file of secondary material to the production of critical editions—than anyone else” (820). At the time Tanselle wrote these words, I had known Hayford for ten years. When I first met him, we both happened to live in the same metropolitan area: I was a graduate student on Chicago’s South Side; he, a world renowned Melville scholar and editor up north in Evanston. We agreed to meet half way, in 1973 at The Newberry Library, where he showed me the Library’s famous (now dispersed) Melville Room with its remarkable collection of materials including an equally famous (among Melvilleans) file cabinet of articles on all things Melville. He asked me questions about my dissertation and made me feel real, and his presence and nod gave me a crucial boost during a period of academic depression that drove many away from the profession. He did that for many younger scholars. So ten years later when I was compiling the Companion and first read Tanselle’s final paragraph, I fully agreed that Harrison Hayford was a great champion, but I queried Tanselle on that word “hero.” Wouldn’t Hayford, son of Maine and ever the New Englander, squint at the immodesty of that epithet? Perhaps so, was the reply, but he is a hero nonetheless. Now twenty years later, and a few years after Hayford’s death, Northwestern University Press has published a collection of essays and lectures that Hayford had been assembling in his retirement. Titled Melville’s Prisoners after its lead essay, the volume has been edited by Hershel Parker, one of Hayford’s students. In his Foreword, Parker relates how he had underlined the very passage quoted above in his copy of the Companion, how Hayford had come upon the underlined words while perusing Parker’s copy of the book during C  2006 The Authors Journal compilation C  2006 The Melville Society and Blackwell Publishing Inc A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L E S T U D I E S 89 R E V I E W a visit with Parker, and how Parker later found, initialed and dated, Hayford’s predicted marginalia: “Who? me?” Hayford was a large man in height and breadth, and large, too, as a critical presence. He was the leading force behind the Northwestern-Newberry (NN) edition of The Writings of Herman Melville, which remains a model of eclectic textual editing; he was a brilliant reader and editor of manuscripts as well, and a major contributor to the facts of Melville’s life. However, his contributions to literary criticism were few, and Parker’s repeated claim that Melville’s Prisoners is “the finest set of scholarly-critical essays ever written on Herman Melville” is the kind of exaggeration next to which Hayford might have penned once again: “Who? me?” Of course, Parker’s exaggeration carries within it its own qualifying phrase; this is a book of “scholarly-critical” essays, by which Parker means to indicate that they represent that intellectual genre in which scholarship (textual history and bibliographic facts) shapes and informs critical insight, and in which historicism and aesthetics fuse. In Parker’s view, Hayford is not only the “hero” who led the team that created the NN edition, and not only the “hero” on campus who inspired so many to “do” Melville or literature or good research and critical thinking, but he is also the hero who exemplifies the best that a scholar might do to explicate a text. In fact, Melville’s Prisoners contains several kinds of criticism: explication de...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 89-94
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
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