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MORE EVIDENCE OF H. M. TOMLINSON'S ROLE IN THE MELVILLE REVIVAL Mary A. Taylor University of Delaware In the "Historical Note" to the 1988 edition of Moby-Dick, Hershel Parker stresses the importance to the Melville Revival of H. M. Tomlinson (1873—1958), the journalist and popular writer of seafaring novels. Tomlinson, Parker points out, was one of the British literary figures who "shared an astonished enthusiasm for Moby-Dick" and "used the columns of the Nation and Athenaeum in promoting the reputation of Melville and his masterpiece."1 Tomlinson even called for an American to write a biography while people who knew Melville were still alive.2 In Moby-Dick as Doubloon, Parker and Harrison Hayford printed four of Tomlinson's enthusiastic essays on Melville.3 In the G. K. Hall Critical Essays on Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick" edited by Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker, now in preparation, three pieces by Tomlinson are included, one that is in Doubloon and two that are not. Such collections and the "Historical Note" are making clear for the first time just how important Tomlinson really was in reviving Melville's reputation. A recently discovered document confirms and strengthens these recent claims for Tomlinson's role in the revival. In a letter to the editor of The New York Evening Post on February 9, 1922, Fairfax Lee refers to a column by Christopher Morley in that paper, which he claims "is entitled to very much of the credit ... of bringing about the revival of interest in Herman Melville and his books."4 The sought-after Morley document appears on the editorial page of The Evening Post on February 5, 1921.5 The piece is not only a Morley column; it also contains previously unearthed information on H. M. Tomlinson. What Christopher Morley prints in this column that Lee quite accurately recalled is an excerpted letter from one "who knows what he is talking about," H. M. Tomlinson. Tomlinson's letter, which Morley admitted "was not intended for print," was apparently addressed to the editorial staff in New York from London. Here is Morley's excerpt from Tomlinson's letter: I've been reading again a writer I've never heard an American mention. Not once. I cannot recall that I've ever seen him referred to in a book on American letters. (You'll be surprised, perhaps alarmed, to hear that Concord, Mass., is a place of such august memories to me that perhaps it is best I should never visit it.) But 112Ñores this writer—an American all right—puts it across all the sea writers I know. For that sort of work your side of the water not only holds the belt, but is going to keep the championship. The title cannot be contested. You have held the championship since 1851. Conrad, Masefield, Marryat—not on your life! They're not in it. I regret to have to say it, but there it is. This very sea book (which I have not named to you) was, in my presence this week, admitted by ArnoldBennett, AugustineBirrell, Massingham,John Middleton Murry, and Swinnerton, to be the—well, to be IT. There ain't nothing like it. There never will be again. What book is that? My stars, I'd belt some of you Americans over your really tremendous classic when you bring forward the English sea writers. The way America has taken to Conrad, considers Masefield a classic, and has even bought up an edition of Old Junk, and another of The Sea and the Jungle, makes writers on this side very grateful. But MOBY DICK ... ah, the secret is out! That's the Immense book of the sea. Following Tomlinson's letter, Morley prints his response on behalf of the Evening Post: But it does seem a little odd to us that Mr. Tomlinson has never seen Moby Dick mentioned inAmerican journalism. Melville, like Dana, has so long been accepted as a classic over here that he is more or less taken as a matter of course (as a matter of college course too often, we fear) and too little mentioned. Yet we have never seen a year go...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-5806
Print ISSN
0091-8083
Pages
pp. 111-113
Launched on MUSE
2014-10-01
Open Access
No
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