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Raymond Weaver, Melville Revival Pioneer:
An Annotated Checklist

The following checklist records the work of Raymond Melbourne Weaver (1888-1948), a professor and writer who in the 1920s and 1930s explored the life and art of Herman Melville (1819-1891). When Weaver undertook his research, Melville was almost three decades dead, and few outside literary and academic circles (and not many inside) read him. Weaver's explorations, particularly Herman Melville: Mariner and Mystic, his 1921 "pioneer biography" (Parker and Hayford 367)—not only the first book-length biography but also the first book of any kind about Melville—kindled a fire of popular interest in the author which became known as the Melville revival. Now, thanks to the revival and, in good part, to Weaver, Melville is ranked among America's greatest novelists and his masterpiece Moby-Dick (1851) among the world's greatest novels.

Weaver was an improbable Melville critic, let alone a pioneering one. An enthusiast of Renaissance literature, Weaver first came across Melville in 1909 when as a college junior he started reading Typee. He quickly found the work not to his taste, however, and "stopped at the beginning" (Weaver "Manuscript relating to Herman Melville"). It took a decade and some cajoling before he started reading Melville again.

By 1919 Weaver was a graduate student and teacher of English at Columbia University and a published magazine writer. That spring, at the English department's annual dinner, he found himself sitting next to his colleague Carl Van Doren, a young professor and the recently hired literary editor of The Nation. Unlike Weaver, Van Doren had devoured everything he could find by Melville after having read him for the first time some years earlier. He then wrote the article and compiled the bibliography for the Melville section of a chapter in the first volume of The Cambridge History of American Literature (1917), which he helped edit. Now, two years later, with Melville's centennial birthday just months away, Van Doren was seizing an opportunity to spread the word about this little-known and underappreciated author by commissioning a celebratory essay. And he wanted Raymond Weaver to write it.

Beyond his qualifications as both student of literature and journalist, Weaver seemed to Van Doren the right man for the job because of "his ability [End Page 63] to deal with a speculative subject" (Van Doren 22). So Van Doren proposed the project, and Weaver responded coolly. But Van Doren persisted and thawed Weaver's reservations with the fire of his "indignation, his bafflement, at the patronizing neglect into which Melville's name had fallen" (Weaver "Mumford Sees"). It helped Van Doren, too, that Weaver had reckoned this project as "child's play," merely "a day's job."

Weaver headed to Columbia's main library assuming Melville's literary oeuvre was small because his literary reputation was small and that it would, therefore, take no time to read. He also assumed he would find a mine of Melville information to quarry for his essay because even small authors could inspire big biographies. Once at the library, however, Weaver discovered he was wrong: Melville had written a great deal, yet his extensive oeuvre had not elicited a biography; in fact, to Weaver's bewilderment, it had hardly elicited anything at all.1 As he searched for answers, the Melville mystery only deepened, deepening Weaver's fascination with it. Even before his essay ran in the 2 August 1919 number of The Nation [see 10], Weaver had decided to pursue the elusive Melville and write the author's missing biography—a decision that helped launch the Melville revival.

In citing works in this checklist, I have not repeated Weaver's or Melville's name unless it appears misspelled in the original (as in item 1). Annotations of a cited work may consist of editorial commentary and / or a paraphrase of the item's argument. If offered, editorial commentary precedes the paraphrase and appears indented. In paraphrasing Weaver's arguments, I have not corrected Weaver's facts, dates, spellings, or book titles but have transcribed them as they were printed; hence, for example, the variable spelling of Moby-Dick (with and without a hyphen). Within these paraphrastic annotations, editorial interventions appear in brackets, and page numbers of quoted passages from the cited work appear parenthetically.


  1. 1. Raymond H. [sic] Weaver. "Over the Pass to Hakone: What a Foreign Devil Saw and Did in a Pilgrimage in the Shadow of Fujiyama." Outing (June 1916): 269-75.

    When his first article appeared in print, Weaver was twenty-seven years old and soon to start graduate studies in English at Columbia. The year before, he had returned to the US after having taught English in Hiroshima for three years. Weaver specialized in the teaching of English while at Teachers College in New York, from which he received a BS in education in 1910.2 [End Page 64]

  2. 2. Climbing Fujiyama." Illus. Harper's Magazine (September 1916): 563-73.

  3. 3. "Mediæval Opera in Modern Japan." Illus. Outlook (22 November 1916): 666-72.

  4. 4. "Housekeeping in Japan: A Bachelor's Experience with the Devious Ways of the Excellent Japanese Servant—Eggs at Eighteen Cents a Dozen: Oysters Five a Quart in Hiroshima." Illus. Travel (December 1917): 12-16.

    "Photographs by the Author and Others" appears under this article's byline. Judging from photo captions, we can assume that Weaver took most of the uncredited photographs illustrating his Japan articles.

  5. 5. "Sir Thomas Browne." The Bookman (October 1918): 174-81.

    Dodd, Mead had published The Bookman from its launch in 1895 until its sale in September 1918 to George H. Doran, future publisher of Weaver's Melville biography (see 19).

  6. 6. "The Miscellany of a Japanese Priest." The Bookman (January 1919): 590-99.

  7. 7. "What Is Description?" English Journal 8.2 (1919): 63-80.

    A revision of Weaver's Columbia 1917 MA thesis, "On the Teaching of Description to College Freshman [sic]."

  8. 8. "On Japan and the Book-Making Impulse." Rev. of The Development of Japan, by Kenneth Scott Latourette, and Japan: The Rise of a Modern Power, by Robert P. Porter. The Bookman (March 1919): 98-100.

  9. 9. "Japanese Women." Columbia University Quarterly 21.2 (1919): 153-65.

  10. 10. "The Centennial of Herman Melville." The Nation (2 August 1919): 145-46. Rpt. One Hundred Years of The Nation: A Centennial Anthology. Ed. Henry M. Christman and Abraham Feldman. New York: Macmillan, 1965. 113-18.

Even in 1851—his best year, with Moby-Dick published, a home in the Berkshires [Massachusetts], admiring writers for neighbors, renown in America and Europe, and a happy marriage--Herman Melville lived in tribulation [End Page 65] and despair: readers preferred his first novels to the later ones he considered better work.

Melville knew hardship early. In adolescence he sailed to escape it [1838] but could not, and returned home. Failure goaded him in 1841 to sail again. His accounts of this voyage--Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847)--garnered some success, encouraging him to write for a living and to marry. But his third book, Mardi (1849), a "baffling but glorious chaos of adventure, rhapsody, epigram, allegory, satire, and mysticism" (145), failed. So Melville returned to autobiography with Redburn (1849) and Whitejacket (1850), both "modelled after . . . and worthy successors of" R. H. Dana Jr.'s 1840 Two Years Before the Mast (145-46). Melville moved his family in 1850 from New York City to the Berkshires. He wrote Moby-Dick, which "reads like a great opium dream" and is "an amazing masterpiece" not to "be read by philistines or pragmatists." Yet what followed "mark[ed] a deepening of despair" (146): Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852); Israel Potter [1855; Putnam's Monthly Magazine, July 1854-March 1855]; Piazza Tales (1856); and The Confidence Man (1857), after which his career as a novelist ended. Ailing, Melville went to the Holy Land in 1857; a trip he transformed into the book-length poem Clarel (1876).

The Melvilles returned to New York City in 1863. Herman lived in obscurity, composing undistinguished poetry in his free time. "To turn from his great novels to his poetry is to be reminded of a star that drops a line of streaming fire down the vault of the sky--and then the heavy shapeless thing that sinks into the earth" (146) [For Weaver's reversal of this view, see 36, annotation]. He died in 1891. On a ship's deck or at a writing desk, Melville was "[e]ssentially . . . a mystic. . . . If he does not eventually rank as a writer of overshadowing accomplishment, it will be owing not to any lack of genius, but to the perversity of his rare and lofty gifts" (146).

  1. 11. R. W. "He Philosophizes On Life, In Poetry: 'R. W.' Waxes Poe-esque in Anathemmatizing [sic] the Cosmic Unit," night final [New York] Evening Sun (4 Oct. 1919): 9.

    A satirical pastiche in verse with three stanzas of twelve, eighteen, and fourteen lines respectively, this piece ran in the newspaper's "What Think" column under the title "A Soliloquy." Weaver is believed to be "R. W." because a clipping of this poem with marginalia was found among his papers at Columbia.

  2. 12. "Emperor Worship." Illus. Asia: The American Magazine on the Orient (June 1920): 472-80. [End Page 66]

  3. 13. "Some Currents and Backwaters of Contemporary Poetry." Rev. of Gates of Paradise, by Edwin Markham; Something Else Again, by Franklin P. Adams; Forgotten Shrines, by John Chipman Farrar; Mephistopheles Puffeth the Sun Out, by Lucile Vernon; The Golden Whales of California, by Vachel Lindsay; The Dark Wind, by W. J. Turner; The Hesitant Heart, by Winifred Welles; Lancelot, by Edwin Arlington Robinson; For Remembrance, by A. St. John Adcock; Picture-Show, by Siegfried Sassoon; and Argonaut and Juggernaut, by Osbert Sitwell. The Bookman (June 1920): 453-60.

  4. 14. "Swinburne and Peter Pan." Rev. of Swinburne as I Knew Him, by Coulson Kernahan. The Bookman (July 1920): 569-70.

  5. 15. "Japan—Real and Imaginary." Rev. of The Geisha Girl, by T. Fujimoto; Letters from China and Japan, by John Dewey and Alice Chapman Dewey; Have We a Far Eastern Policy?, by Charles H. Sherrill; Japan—Real and Imaginary, by Sydney Greenbie; The Far East Unveiled, by Frederic Coleman; and A History of the Japanese People, by Capt. F. Brinkley with the collaboration of Baron Kikuchi. The Bookman (August 1920): 629-34.

  6. 16. "What Ails Pegasus?" The Bookman (September 1920): 57-66.

    An essay on contemporary poetry.

  7. 17. Untitled rev. of Macbeth; production by Arthur Hopkins, Robert Edmond Jones, and Lionel Barrymore. "New Plays and Old." The Bookman (May 1921): 273-74.

  8. 18. "The Noble Savage." Rev. of White Shadows in the South Seas and Mystic Isles of the South Seas, by Frederick O'Brien. The Nation (22 June 1921): 898-99.

Melville was the first "competent literary artist" of the South Seas (898). Typee and Omoo remain the "first, and . . . the finest" books on an outsider's experience of the region and its inhabitants. Compared with Melville's, O'Brien's "literary manner [is] more showy, more theatrical." Although Melville knew the South Sea natives in their pristine state, his enthusiasm for them is "less intemperate" and sentimental than O'Brien's in these books that retread some seventy years later the ground of Typee and Omoo. [End Page 67]

  1. 19. "Herman Melville." Illus. The Bookman (December 1921): 318-26.

    Reprints most of "Devil's Advocate," chapter one of Herman Melville: Mariner and Mystic (see 20).

By 1851, thirty-two-year-old Melville had "sown in tears that he might reap in triumph" (318), having accumulated through hardship and bitter struggle a lifetime's worth of worldly experience and literary achievement. But he reaped tribulation not triumph; so he turned his back on the world for the next forty years. To the critic these later years--which truth may show were Melville's best--cast a shadow over the earlier ones.

The "brilliant early achievement, its long and dark eclipse" (320) is, then, the paradox central to this biography. Of many explanations offered by critics with little or no grasp of facts, only one merits discussion: that Melville went insane. He did not. Melville, who in life and art quested after what lies beyond reality, appeared insane to an "America . . . exuberantly and unquestionably 'sane,'" populated by the "dull and decent Philistine"; for the "herd must always be intolerant of all who violate its sacred and painfully reared traditions, . . . [and] Melville sinned blackly against the orthodoxy of his time" (321). Misunderstood, even by family and friends, and outside the bounds of provincial New England's reigning narrow aestheticism, Melville had to retreat. After 1857 he wrote mostly for himself--largely poetry but also one last novel, discovered posthumously in manuscript--while working in New York's customs houses. Despite the damning yet groundless indictment of insanity, this second phase of Melville's life may have been brighter "in serenity and mental equipoise" than the first (322).

Melville is in fact "one of the greatest and most unusual geniuses of our native literature" (323): because he discovered the South Seas for literature; because he (and R. H. Dana Jr.) interpreted the common sailor's life; and because Melville wrote Moby Dick, a book "without issue and without descent." This masterpiece synthesizes an "astonishing variety of contradictory qualities . . . discoverable . . . in all of Melville's writings" (325). And although some of what Melville wrote is "distinctly disquieting in devastating insight, and much of it is very uneven in inspiration, none of it is undistinguished."

  1. 20. Herman Melville: Mariner and Mystic. Illus. New York: Doran, 1921. Rpt. London: Oxford UP, 1922; Introd. Mark Van Doren. New York: Pageant, 1961; New York: Cooper Square, 1968.

The facts of Herman Melville's life belie the speculation about his sanity provoked by the paradoxical trajectory of his literary career. Melville was not [End Page 68] a madman but an "adventurer of the soul" (21) who sought to strike through reality's mask--a quest which challenged the orthodoxies of his age and won him only professional disappointment and personal disillusionment. Still he was and is "one of the most distinguished of our writers" (22) and among the "most complex, and massive, and original characters in literature" (29), whose work, because complicated and versatile, does not enjoy the renown it deserves.

The boy Melville idealized his parents and ancestors. But the reality of his materially and emotionally straitened home exposed the "absurdity of all pride in blood" (48), a theme Melville illustrated especially in Pierre (1852). He then idealized the sailor's life and signed on to a merchant ship as a common seaman for a New York-Liverpool round trip. Reality again dashed his ideals, sharpening his growing disillusionment. Yet Redburn (1849), his frank account of that trip, ranks Melville with Dana as a pioneer of nautical literature. Failure on land in the following years eventually outweighed disillusionment; so in 1841 Melville shipped out again. Although the experience only deepened his disillusionment, Melville nevertheless mined his four years in the Pacific for the writing of Typee (1846), Omoo (1847), White-Jacket (1850), and Moby-Dick (1851). Read as "psychological synthesis" (331), Moby-Dick is an "adventure . . . upon the highest plane of spiritual daring" (332, also 133), a "quality which in our cowardice we call madness" (333).

Home again, Melville felt like an exile. The disillusionment of Melville's final ideal—a transcendent friendship with his Pittsfield, Massachusetts, neighbor Hawthorne—completed his descent into despair where he buried his creativity. Pierre is an "anatomy of despair" (341). Melville's career as a novelist ended in 1857 with The Confidence-Man. Becoming a customs inspector after moving back to New York City from Pittsfield in 1863, he devoted his off-hours to poetry and metaphysics. But when he died in 1891, Melville had left the manuscript of a novel, Billy Budd, in his desk.

  1. 21. "Hazlitt's Biography." Rev. of The Life of William Hazlitt, by P. P. Howe. The Bookman (March 1923): 89-91.

  2. 22. "Narcissus and Echo." Rev. of Studies in Classic American Literature, by D. H. Lawrence, and Studies in Victorian Literature, by Stanley T. Williams. The Bookman (November 1923): 327-28.

  3. 23. Raymond W. [sic] Weaver, ed. with an introd. note. Billy Budd and Other Prose Pieces (1924). Vol. 13 of The Works of Herman Melville. Standard Edition. Pp. v-vi. 16 vols. Michael Sadleir, dir. London: Constable, 1922-24.Rpt. New York: Russell & Russell, 1963; Tokyo: Meicho Fukyu Kai, 1983. [End Page 69]

    The volume appeared in a limited edition of 750 sets in March of 1924 (English Catalogue of Books, 1016). Besides having edited volume 13, Weaver and W. Clark Durant provided "very complex details of certain American first editions" concerning works in volumes 1-12 (Sadleir 340). In his note of thanks, Sadleir says the Standard Edition's Melville bibliography is an expansion of the one published in his 1922 Excursions in Victorian Bibliography, a book to which Weaver also contributed. Constable's account of Weaver's role in its Melville project was lost with its files in the bombing of London during World War II.

This volume--comprising Billy Budd, "a novel finished by Melville five months before his death in 1891, and never before published," and twenty-two other pieces--all but "closes the count of Melville as a writer of prose" (v). Previously unpublished work was copied exactly from Melville's manuscript except where its "heavily corrected condition" demanded "slight adjustments in the interests of grammar or of style." Two Melville pieces were reprinted from The Apple-Tree Table and Other Sketches [1922] with the permission of Princeton University Press.

  1. 24. Ed. with an introd. and bibliog. Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile. Pequod Edition of Herman Melville's Collected Works. American Library 3. New York: Albert & Charles Boni, 1924. Pp. vi-ix. Rpt. London: Jarrolds, 1925.

    The volume appeared in the autumn of 1924. In their fall catalogue, under the heading "The Complete Works of Herman Melville" in the American Library section, the Bonis announced, "[t]hrough special arrangement with Melville's family and Professor Raymond M. Weaver, the editor of this edition, . . . a complete and uniform edition of Herman Melville." Below this, Israel Potter and Redburn are listed in print (Boni 9).

This "romance of the American Revolution" (v), replete with often beautifully told adventures on ship and shore, is an allegory of Melville's life. It closes "by wasting itself in an impotent rage at life's small ironies." Melville writes in the book's dedication to the Bunker Hill Monument that he--as they for whom the monument was erected--"would be a fool to count on 'other requital than the solid reward of its granite' " (vi). But character portraits, such as John Paul Jones "presented as a young and gallant Captain Ahab" (vii), and scenes, like the Bon Homme Richard battling the Serapis, show Melville at his best and are among the finest in literature. [End Page 70]

  1. 25. Ed. with an introd. and bibliog. Redburn: His First Voyage. Pequod Edition of Herman Melville's Collected Works. American Library 4. New York: Albert & Charles Boni, 1924. Pp. v-vii. Rpt. London: Jarrolds, 1925.

    The Masefield, Salt, and Russell quotations in this introduction are excerpted from Herman Melville: Mariner and Mystic (29, 79, and 24-25, respectively).

In adolescence Melville, "both by temperament and training, at odds with himself and reality," had to confront the "premature necessity of coming to . . . terms with life on his own account" (v). The despair of failing to find a career on land and the "delusion that some stupendous discovery of happiness lay just over the world's rim" (vi) goaded Melville at eighteen to a sea "hegira" on a vessel trading with Liverpool. Redburn is his account of it; a book which, by its frank and revealing interpretations of the sailor's life below as well as above deck, ranks Melville with Dana as a preeminent pioneer of nautical literature.

  1. 26. "Pepys from the Plymouth Rock." Rev. of The Soul of Samuel Pepys, by Gamaliel Bradford. The Bookman (September 1924): 93-94.

  2. 27. "Aldous Huxley." The Bookman (November 1924): 262-68.

    An edited reprint titled "Aldous Huxley: Moralist and Artist" (on the table of contents page but only "Aldous Huxley" for the article heading) appeared as the first essay in Aldous Huxley, Satirist and Humanist: Being a Collection of Critical and Biographical Studies by Eminent Critics (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran, n.d.).

  3. 28. "When the Heavens Are Dark." Rev. of Dead Reckonings in Fiction, by Dorothy Brewster and Angus Burrell. The Bookman (December 1924):498-500.

  4. 29. Ed. with an introd. and bibliog. Moby-Dick or The Whale. Pequod Edition of Herman Melville's Collected Works. American Library 15. New York: Albert & Charles Boni, 1925. Pp. v-xi. Rpt. illus. Raymond Bishop. New York: Boni, 1933.

    Under "New Titles in the American Library" of the Bonis' catalogue for fall 1924, Moby-Dick and Pierre or the Ambiguities are listed as due in "the uniform authorized edition" on "Oct. 21" (Boni 7). While Moby-Dick appeared as scheduled, Pierre was never released. [End Page 71]

Except for a long passage from Pierre (viii-x) and the quotation from D. H. Lawrence's Melville chapter in Studies in Classic American Literature (xi), this introduction was excerpted from Herman Melville: Mariner and Mystic, in particular, pp. 25-28. For the excerpts from the letter to Hawthorne, see pp. 320-24.

Moby-Dick is "Melville's supreme claim to distinction" (v). Although its central theme is about one man's hunt for a particular whale, Moby-Dick is nevertheless the "history of a soul's adventure" and "an allegory of the demonism at the cankered heart of nature." But the novel, because so embedded in facts, may be read as an adventure story as well as an adventure on the "highest plane of spiritual daring" (vi). Despite its formal flaws, Moby-Dick is a work of singular imaginative power. It was conceived in desperation: Melville's work wouldn't sell, his debts were mounting, and he feared that Moby-Dick would exhaust his creative strength. Melville recorded the agonies he suffered while writing Moby-Dick in "Pierre and [sic] His Book," [Book 25] in his next novel, Pierre. The result of those agonies is nevertheless both "indisputably the greatest whaling novel" and, for F. J. Mather Jr. quoting Ishmael, "'a hideous and intolerable allegory'" (x).

  1. 30. Ed. with an introd. and bibliog. Mardi and A Voyage Thither. Pequod Edition of Herman Melville's Collected Works. American Library 16. New York: Albert & Charles Boni, 1925. Pp. v-viii.

    Much of this introduction was taken from Herman Melville: Mariner and Mystic. Cf. pp. 274-75 and 277-79.

When his first two books--Typee and Omoo, the fact-based chronicles of his South Seas adventures--were believed fictions, Melville wrote his third, Mardi, as a fiction of South Seas adventure in the expectation of its being believed fact. Mardi begins as the story of two shipmates who flee a Pacific whaler in a small boat and cross paths with a ship abandoned by all but a Polynesian couple. When the four embark on a quest after a maiden named Yillah, Mardi "defies characterization" (vii). The protagonists' inconclusive quest through a fantastical and symbolical world has as its moral the "vanity of human wishes." Mardi is two books in one: the first, a "straightforward adventure" (vii); the second, a "novel of ideas" (viii) worthy of joining the masterpieces of the genre.

  1. 31. "Petrarch the Individual." Rev. of a translation of Francis Petrarch's The Life of Solitude, with an introduction and notes, by Jacob Zeitlin. The Nation (24 June 1925): 721-22. [End Page 72]

    An edited, untitled version of this review ran in the "Book Reviews" section of The Journal of Philosophy 23.24 (1926): 667-70.

  2. 32. Black Valley. New York: Viking, 1926; London: Geoffrey Bles, 1926.

    Set in Japan, Weaver's novel shares an anti-missionary theme with Melville's early books of the Pacific. It did not sell, and Weaver did not write another. The American and British editions were published in January and April, respectively (English Catalogue 1641).

  3. 33. Introd. Moby Dick. Modern Library 119. New York: Random House, 1926. Pp. v-viii. Rpt. New York: Carlton House, n.d.

Melville's masterpiece, like God's, was leviathan. But unlike God, Melville conceived his whale in despair, from the detritus of youthful illusions tested against reality. Melville was thirty-two years old, "[u]nhappily married, unwell, threatened with blindness, and goaded by debts" when he wrote Moby Dick (v). His white whale is thus a "symbol of the malice and terror that he felt at the core of existence," which "mad Captain Ahab" must pursue to its or his own extinction (vii). But "such is the breadth, the vitality, the solid substance out of which Melville's allegory is fashioned . . . [that] the account of Ahab's hunt of the abhorred whale can be read in all but perfect innocence of Melville's dark intent." Regardless of one's innocence to Melville's intent, all readers of Moby Dick agree upon its "elemental force. . . . It achieves the effect of illusion, and to a degree peculiar to the highest feats of the imagination" (viii).

Hawthorne misread Melville, as Melville did Hawthorne, when they first met and became instant friends then neighbors during the summer of 1850 in the Berkshires. Hawthorne did not expect Melville's "screaming to him as a brother in despair across the wastes of alienation" (1); and Melville did not expect Hawthorne's shrinking from the sound. So by the time Hawthorne moved away in late 1851, the friendship had cooled. Their star-crossed encounter helped, however, inspire both authors' next novels: Melville's Pierre and Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance (fittingly published on the same day, [End Page 73] 14 July 1852). In Pierre, Melville modeled Plotinus Plinlimmon, the "symbol of worldly wise, self-sufficient non-benevolence," (6) on Hawthorne. In Blithedale Romance, Hawthorne modeled Hollingsworth on Melville--a claim no one has made before.3 Moreover, the scene of Hollingsworth and Coverdale (already accepted as modeled by Hawthorne on himself) piling stones on a dike reveals an "essential psychological pattern of what . . . happened in the hearts of two New England gentlemen . . . in the Berkshires some seventy-five years ago."

  1. 36. Introd. Shorter Novels of Herman Melville. Black and Gold Library. New York: Horace Liveright, 1928. Pp. vii-li. Rpt. Black and Gold Edition.[New York]: Liveright, 1942; Grosset's Universal Library UL-32. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, [1957];4 Premier World Classic d105. Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett, 1960.

    A sanitized version of Weaver's introduction—without the intimations of homosexuality and spousal abuse and the accusations of the family's obtuseness to Melville's genius—was published as "Melville" in American Writers on American Literature: By Thirty-Seven Contemporary Writers. Ed. John Macy. New York: Liveright, 1931. Pp. 190-206.

Billy Budd, first published in 1924 for Constable's Works of Herman Melville [see 23], appears a second time here with minor textual variants. The Encantadas, Bartleby, and Benito Cereno first appeared in Putnam's Monthly Magazine during the early 1850s, then in The Piazza Tales of 1856, and again in the Constable edition. Nonesuch published Benito Cereno [1926] as well. These important literary works are evidence of Melville's artistic and personal growth.

Only through a romantic, irresponsible lens does Melville's career resemble a "star that drops a line of streaming fire down the sky--and then the dark and blasted shape that sinks into the earth"; indeed, this "figure is profoundly misleading" [See 10, annotation, for Weaver's original use of this metaphor to make a different point.] And, to claim insanity extinguished his career is "both true and perniciously deceptive" (xii).

As a boy Melville experienced "morbidity, bitterness, and rebellion" (xiv). Pierre, his "dark wild book of incest and disaster[, which] is of the greatest importance as a document in autobiography," reveals that Melville felt "a poignant incompatibility between reality and heart's desire" and saw "perfect happiness . . . lurking always just beyond the horizon." It also reveals—as does Moby-Dick—that narcissism was "fundamental and persistent" in him (xv). His failure at various jobs, which his father's untimely death forced Melville to take, engendered bitterness and yearning for distant horizons in the boy. By going to sea, he revolted against the "irksome respectabilities of well-to-do uncles [End Page 74] and cousins and aunts" (xvii). But, according to Redburn, life at sea was bitter and disillusioning too. After again failing to find his way on land, however, he succumbed to the "teasing lure of some stupendous discovery awaiting . . . at the rainbow's end" (xviii-xix).

That Pacific voyage brought Melville the little literary renown he ever knew and the "one glamorous and exultant attachment . . . that time never marred" (xx), which he memorialized in the dedication to Billy Budd. Thanks to the success of Typee and Omoo, written in health and happiness found in the Pacific, Melville married in 1847. But just two years later, after having transferred his mother idealization to his wife, Melville produced Mardi. Its scathing reviews warned him he could not support a family by writing "cryptic libels upon it" (xxiv). He responded with reality-based Redburn, which he went to England to sell. There he experienced the ambivalence of homesickness and of craving for escape (from his wife in the present, from his mother in the past).

In 1850 Melville moved his wife, child, mother, and sisters to a western Massachusetts farm he named Arrowhead, the "scene of the apex of his achievement, and of the blackest night of his defeat" (xxvi). He wrote Moby-Dick (1851) and befriended Nathaniel Hawthorne, to whom he dedicated his masterpiece. But Hawthorne's departure shattered Melville's final ideal: a "[u]topian friendship that might solace him for all his earlier defeats" (xxviii). Moby-Dick sold poorly, provoking Melville to write Pierre; or, The Ambiguities. In it, he says that the "more transcendent a man's ideals, the more certain and devastating his worldly defeat"; and that only "accident and inherent defect . . . [not] superior merit" keep him from the "incest, murder, and suicide" (xxxii) that are Pierre's rewards for virtue.

After Pierre, Melville did not want to write but had no other way to support his family and pay his debt to his publisher. So he wrote in a popular vein, producing the serialized novel Israel Potter and fifteen stories and sketches for magazines from 1853 to 1856. The novel was gathered into a book in 1855, and five of the stories appeared in The Piazza Tales a year later. Israel Potter is a "competent and entertaining picaresque," but The Piazza Tales is the "most totally amazing of all the surprises of Melville's career" (xxxv).

The Encantadas and Benito Cereno are "coming to be chosen as marking the supreme technical achievement of Melville as an artist" (xxxv). Only romantics, whose criterion of excellence is a work's passionate timbre, will hear a slight on Moby-Dick in the praise of pieces once consigned to Melville's decline; they are listening not for the artist but for the "tortured and cryptic personality" (xl) in the expressions of self on his pages. Especially with Benito Cereno, Melville saved his artistic soul "by losing it in something outside of himself" and rising to the "ground of universal reason, above the passionate experiences." But that [End Page 75] effort met no encouragement; so he abandoned his career. To relieve Melville's deepening moodiness, his father-in-law sent him to Europe and the Middle East in 1856, which inspired an epic-length poem Clarel (1876). Melville then lectured for almost three years but gained little from it. In 1863 the family returned to New York City where Melville worked as a customs inspector until 1888. In his free time, he wrote mostly verse, some printed in limited editions.

Common sense, then, not insanity, was the reason Melville stopped writing in mid-career, for he had "challenged the world with his genius, and the world defeated him by ignoring the challenge and starving him" (xliv). But that is not the only reason: Melville's "was a soul . . . divided against itself" (xlv). "[I]n his writing, as in his life, is an abundance of masculine passion, an extremity of devotion, which suggest an indecision of frontier between friendship and love" (xlviii). In his final book, Melville pits the young sailor Billy Budd's innocence against the officer Claggart's depravity. He knew Claggart's hatred of Billy, "[f]or when he wrote Pierre, one part of him hated the youthful guilelessness of his earlier self as represented in the hero of that novel" (xlix); and he knew Claggart's "expression . . . of soft yearning, as if [he] could even have loved Billy but for fate and ban" (l). In Pierre, Melville "hurled himself into a fury of vituperation against the world; with Billy Budd he would justify the ways of God to man" (li).

  1. 37. "Mumford Sees New Cultural Synthesis in Melville." Rev. of Herman Melville, by Lewis Mumford. New York Evening Post, night ed. (9 March 1929): sec. 3, M11.

Formerly an overlooked author, Melville is now the subject of biographies and critical studies, and his first editions command high prices. Moby Dick, the highest achievement of Melville's triumphant oeuvre is for Mumford a story of "the eternal Narcissus in man, gazing into all rivers and oceans to grasp the unfathomable phantom of life." Mumford believes that the reader of this labyrinthine and universal book will see in it the "drama of his own experience and that of his contemporaries. . . . Each age . . . will find its own symbols in 'Moby Dick.'" Melville, he says, presents "a part, and a great part, of a new cultural synthesis" in his vision of human endeavor, a synthesis symbolized in Ahab's high-minded yet tragic quest after the whale Moby Dick. The novel is an antidote to the accommodating approach to life taken by the "routineers and Philistines of all time—and they have never perhaps been so numerous as today," which results in the spiritual impoverishment of individuals and cultures. Mumford's is a "'true' and brilliant and eloquent biography," not for its portrayal of Melville's day-to-day life, the evidence of which is fragmentary, but [End Page 76] for its portrayal of Melville's "ideas, his feelings, his urges, his vision of life," of which his many confessional volumes hold ample and complete evidence.

  1. 38. "The New Art of Biography." Writers of Modern America. Ed. Franklin T. Baker. New York: Columbia University Press, 1929. Pp. 555-62. Vol.18 of The Columbia University Course in Literature: Based on the World's Best Literature. Ed. John W. Cunliffe et al., Morningside Edition. 18 vols. 1928-29.

    Weaver answers critics who faulted his book's use of a Freudian lens to view Melville's life and work by defending this critical apparatus in the writing of biography.

  2. 39. Introd. Thaïs. By Anatole France. Trans. Robert B. Douglas. 1909. New York: Book League of America, 1929. Pp. vii-xxi.

  3. 40. Introd. The Counterfeiters. By André Gide. Trans. Dorothy Bussy. 1927. Modern Library 187. New York: Random House, 1931. Pp. xi-xx.

  4. 41. Ed. with an introd. and a note on the text. Journal up the Straits: October 11, 1856-May 5, 1857. Illus. New York: Colophon, 1935. Pp. iii-xxx. Rpt. New York: Cooper Square, 1971.

    Printed in a limited edition of 650 (Advertisement). The "Note" (xxviii-xxx) has a brief account of the trials undergone in transcribing Melville's manuscript.

Five times Melville went to sea, all but once in desperation caused directly or indirectly by financial woe and professional failure.5 On his third voyage—to England to sell White-Jacket and the English rights to Redburn in 1849—Melville planned a journey to the Holy Land. Seven years later he went there, dispatched and funded by his family in the hope of improving his mental health. Although his relatives suspected his sanity then, as have many literary critics since, Melville was nevertheless not insane; he had, however, undergone an emotional crisis. After writing Moby-Dick, Melville knew only defeat as both an artist and a man; his books would not sell and he could not support his family. The strain of this altered his behavior, and Melville appeared insane to a world incapable of recognizing his genius. So, for the fourth time, he went—rather, was sent—to sea. Clarel, the book-length poem that Melville composed from observations written in this journal during the trip, strikes "one of [its] deepest and truest notes" in the search of a "tired sick man hungry in his heart for some understanding companionship" (xxiv). [End Page 77]

Weaver's note on the text relates that the Journal up the Straits was begun on the blank pages left in Melville's journal of 1849 and continued in two pocket-size notebooks of fifty pages each. Despite two years spent transcribing these before the Constable edition of The Works of Herman Melville was proposed, the Journal could not be included because of Melville's "handwriting that seemed to defy deciphering" (xxviii; with handwriting reproduction, xvi and xvii). The text presented here is based on a transcription begun by Columbia graduate student Gerald Crona. It is not a perfect copy of Melville's original, for an exact rendering of his many orthographic peculiarities "would be to caricature him into cypher" (xxix). Melville's markings in the text have been disregarded for want of a correspondence between them and his later writings. Textual notes were made strictly for clarity's sake.

  1. 42. Introd. Typee: A Romance of the South Seas. Illus. Miguel Covarrubias. New York: Limited Editions Club, 1935. Pp. iii-xxii. Rpt. New York: Heritage, 1963.

    The volume was issued in August of 1935 (US Copyright Office 1281) in a limited edition of 1500.

Typee, the work for which Melville was best known, has since Melville's centenary (1919) been eclipsed by Moby-Dick. But "[t]here is . . . something stupid and unbalanced in this neglect of Typee" (iv), for with this book Melville pioneered a genre, becoming the literary discoverer of the South Pacific and the originator of a manner of writing about the region as yet unsurpassed.

  1. 43. "Legend and Reality." Rev. of Catherine de' Medici and the Lost Revolution, by Ralph Roeder. The Nation (16 January 1937): 75-76.

  2. 44. "Her Gossamer Soul." Rev. of A Cardinal of the Medici. Being the Memoirs of the Nameless Mother of the Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici, by Susan Hicks Beach. The Nation (29 May 1937): 623-24.

  3. 45. Introd. Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly. By Harriet Beecher Stowe. Illus. Miguel Covarrubias. New York: Limited Editions Club, 1938. Pp. iii-xi. Rpt. Modern Library 261, New York: Random House, 1948; New York: Heritage, [1962]; 100 Greatest Books Ever Written, Norwalk, Conn.: Easton, 1979 [ltd. subscription ed.].

    The 1938 volume was issued in an edition of 1500 copies; for the dating of the Heritage edition, see Parfait 225. [End Page 78]

In his last published comment on Melville, Weaver contrasts the "long and deepening shadow over the genius of Herman Melville" with the "effulgence about Mrs. Stowe" (iii) that engulfed each author during and after 1851, the year of publication for both Uncle Tom's Cabin and Moby Dick. He thereby reiterates in veiled terms his indictment of Victorian America for philistinism in the tragic failure of Melville's writing career.

Columbia granted Raymond Weaver tenure in 1937. However, some time in the mid-1930s, he abandoned Melville scholarship and, in fact, literary research altogether. But it seems Weaver did more than just abandon his almost-two-decades-long pursuit of Melville; he rejected him. Although he had advised Charles Olson on his Call Me Ishmael, Weaver astonished the publisher Robert Giroux, his former Columbia student, by declining to read the manuscript that Olson submitted for publication (Giroux as qtd in Spark 228). Weaver's English department colleague Lionel Trilling said, "He came to regard Melville with some irony, as too much a romantic," preferring Dante and Italian Renaissance writers. Weaver, who had never completed his Ph.D., was finally promoted to full professor in 1946. He did not long enjoy his new status, however. On the morning of 4 April 1948, the fifty-nine-year-old Weaver died in his apartment near Columbia University's Morningside Heights campus.

Aimery de France Dunlap-Smith
New York City


1. For studies on Melville predating Weaver, see separate works by Sealts and Higgins.

2. An independent undergraduate school in the late nineteenth century, Teachers College became by 1926 the graduate professional school affiliated with Columbia University that it remains today (Cremin, Shannon, and Townsend).

3. Weaver says he is "prepared to establish at greater length than is at my disposal here" (6) that Hollingsworth was modeled on Melville. He never did.

4. The Grosset and Dunlap edition date of publication is recorded in Cumulative Book Index 1459.

5. The exception was the fifth voyage, from Boston to San Francisco on a ship captained by his brother Thomas in 1860. Weaver put the New England Quarterly in contact with Melville's granddaughter, Eleanor Melville Metcalf, who permitted it to publish Melville's log of the trip, "Journal of Melville's Voyage in a Clipper Ship" (January 1929), and a letter, "Melville's 'Agatha' Letter to Hawthorne" (April 1929).


Raymond M. Weaver Papers. Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Columbia University. New York, New York. Hereafter cited as Weaver Papers.
Weaver's papers, devoted almost entirely to his work on Melville, are comprised of letters and manuscripts, published and unpublished, and clippings that span from 1919 to 1940, the Melville revival's early years. The few items with little or no relation to Melville appear to have been added after the papers arrived at Columbia, the date of which is unknown. Information by and about Weaver, concerning Melville and not, may also be found in the papers of Weaver's [End Page 79] Columbia English department colleagues John Erskine, Mark Van Doren, and Lionel Trilling, also archived in the university's Rare Book and Manuscript Library. See also the transcripts of interviews of Weaver's friends and associates conducted by Columbia's Oral History Office. The website for Columbia University Libraries provides a finding aid: www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/archival/collections/ldpd_4079455/
The Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives and Special Collections. Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. University of Connecticut, Storrs. http://charlesolson.uconn.edu/
Henry A. Murray Papers. Harvard University Archives. Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/~hua09001
Thayer Hobson Papers. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. University of Texas, Austin. www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/uthrc/00330/00330-P.html
Carl Van Doren Papers. Rare Books and Special Collections. Princeton University. Princeton, New Jersey. www.harks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/9g54xh68g
Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection (Collection 100). Charles E. Young Research Library Department of Special Collections. University of California, Los Angeles. [See Box 18: Weaver correspondence, notably with Michael Sadleir and Havelock Ellis, about Melville.]www.oac.cdlib.org.

Works Cited

[Advertisement for Journal up the Straits]. The Colophon ns 1.1 (Summer 1935): 146.
Boni, Albert and Charles Boni. "Catalogue of Publications: Autumn 1924." Publishers' Trade List Annual 1924, A-D. 3 vols. New York: Bowker, August 1924.
Cremin, L. A., D. A. Shannon, and M. E. Townsend. A History of Teachers College: Columbia University. New York: Columbia UP, 1954.
Cumulative Book Index: World List of Books in the English Language, 1957-58. Ed Nina R. Thompson. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1959.
English Catalogue of Books, vol. 11. London: Publishers' Circular, 1926.
Giroux, Robert. Letter to Charles Olson, 28 February 1946, as qtd. in Clare Spark. Hunting Captain Ahab. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2001.
Higgins, Brian. Herman Melville: An Annotated Bibliography, 1846-1930. G. K. Hall, 1979.
Parfait, Claire. The Publishing History of Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1852-2002. Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, 2007.
Parker, Hershel and Harrison Hayford, eds. Moby-Dick as Doubloon: Essays and Extracts (1851-1970). New York: Norton, 1970.
Sadleir, Michael. "Compiler's Note." "Bibliography of the First Editions of the Prose Works of Herman Melville." In The Confidence Man. The Works of Herman Melville, vol. 12. London: Constable, 1922.
Sealts, Merton M., Jr. The Early Lives of Melville: Nineteenth-century Biographical Sketches and Their Authors. U. of Wisconsin P, 1974.
Trilling, Lionel. "A Recollection of Raymond Weaver." In University on the Heights. Ed. Wesley First. New York: Doubleday, 1969.
US Copyright Office, Catalogue of Copyright Entries. Washington: Library of Congress, 1891-1977.
Van Doren, Carl. "Choosing a Topic for Research," English Institute Annual, 1939. 1940; rpt. New York: AMS, 1965.
Weaver, Raymond M. "Manuscript relating to Herman Melville." Weaver Papers.
Weaver, Raymond. "Mumford Sees New Cultural Synthesis in Melville," night ed. New York Evening Post (9 March 1929): M11. [End Page 80]