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In Memoriam Paul Metcalf, 1917-1999 ROBERT G . NEWMAN The Berkshire Athenaeum ike his great-grandfather Herman Melville, Paul Cuthbert Metcalf does not fit into a snug literary matrix. Partly for that reason both men were Llargely unappreciated by contemporary readers. Melville did not begin to gain a national reputation until after his death, and Metcalf not until the latter years of his career. Since his writings -both novels and poems -drew only a limited readership, major publishers were not generally interested in Metcalf. He, therefore, relied perforce on small “idealistic” presses such as Coffee House andJargon Society.In so doing, he was not only talking to a special coterie but also creating a recognizable style-book all his own. A notable characteristic is his ingenious combining of dissimilar elements that one way or another elucidate his prose and poetry. Born in East Milton, MA on November 7, 1917, into a distinguished family,Paul was the son of Henry Knight Metcalf,a direct descendant of Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, and William Bradford, second governor of Plymouth Colony. His mother was Eleanor Thomas Metcalf, eldest granddaughter of Herman Melville. ~~~ ~ L E V I A T H A N 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 7 3 I N M E M O R I A M The family soon moved to Cambridge, where as a child Paul attended the Shady Hill School. After graduation from the Taft School in Watertown, CT, he was registered at Harvard in 1936,but did not like it and left after three months. From Harvard he went to the Hedgerow Theater in Philadelphia, where he was an actor and playwright. Later, hejoined the Dock Street Theater in Charleston, SC. There he met a young debutante, Nancy Harman Blackford, whom he married on Memorial Day, 1942. The couple lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn,and in 1934 their daughter, Anne, was born. In 1946,they changed residence to the mountains of North Carolina, where Metcalf worked at a variety of jobs. A second daughter, Adrienne, was born in Asheville, NC. In 1963, the family moved to Becket, MA in the Berkshire Hills to be nearer to aging parents. Here, Metcalf established a small real estate business, in which he continued for several years. Afterwardshe wrote books, gave readings , lectured, taught classes and conducted tours. In addition to readers, many writers and artists were friends of the Metcalfs. All were saddened by Paul’s death from a massive heart attack onJanuary 21, 1999. Besides his wife and daughters, he is survived by a brother, David, and two grand-daughters. Coming fairly late to an appreciation of Herman Melville, Metcalf admitted that he had not read the works of his famous ancestor until he himself started to write. “I neglected Melville,”he said. “I didn’t read him. It wasn ’t until I started writing that I finallydecided that I was being ridiculous about it.”When he did begin, Metcalf soon became a respectful reader and admirer of his forebear’sliterary mastery as well as a creative author of the first rank in his own right. Long interested in the Melville collection of The Berkshire Athenaeum, the public library in Pittsfield, MA, members of the Metcalf family have been generous donors of manuscript, books, portraits, and artifacts pertaining to Melville. The Melville Memorial Room, presented by their friend, the late Dr. Henry A. Murray of Harvard, contains a large collection of memorabilia , enriched especially by gifts from the Metcalf family. In 1921, in the attic of Eleanor Metcalf‘shome in Wellesley,a tin box was discovered containing the manuscript of Melville’s novel, Silly Budd. A second find surprised Melvilleans in the spring of 1998,when Paul and Nancy Metcalf came upon two long-forgotten cartons in the attic of their Becket home. The contents of the boxes, described by Ruth T. Degenhardt in Extracts 115 (February 1999), include Melville-Morewood family correspondence and related items, the bulk of which have been donated by the Metcalfs to The Berkshire Athenaeum. 7 4 L E V I A T H...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 73-75
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
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