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Douglass, Melville, Quincy, Shaw: Epistolary Convergences ROBERT K. WALLACE Northern Kentucky University n spite of their similar dates, Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) and Herman Melville (1819-1891) are often thought of as having lived, and written, in Iseparate worlds. It therefore came as a revelation when John Stauffer in 2002 called attention to a passage from Moby-Dick in an essay about presidential politics in the March 7, 1856 issue of Frederick Douglassk Paper (in which James McCune Smith quotes Stubbs exhortation to the crew in chapter 61 to illustrate his characterization of Horace Greeley as the “boat-steerer of the Whig party”).l Equally significant is the fact that Frederick Douglass reprinted a long passageon “Tattooing”from Melville’sTypeein theJune 2, 1848issue of The North Star.2 Whether or not Melville reciprocated by alluding to Douglass in print is a question beyond the scope of this essay, given the absence of any explicit mention of Douglass or his works in Melville’s works as currently understood. Presumably, the Conference on Douglass and Melville to be held in New Bedford in June 2005 will deepen our understanding of any literary interaction between them. A letter written in 1847 by Edmund Quincy (1818-1877) shows that the socialworlds of Douglass and Melville were somewhat closer than we might have supposed. Quincy was the son of Josiah Quincy, President of Harvard College from 1828to 1845. Edmund graduated fromHarvard in 1827and he studied law but he never practiced. The murder of Elijah Lovejoy in Alton, Illinois, in 1837 turned him into an abolitionist-as it did Wendell Phillips. From then until the American CivilWar, Quincyand Phillipsworked side-by-sidewith WilliamLloyd Garrison as leaders of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, the New England Anti-Slavery Society,and the American Anti-SlaverySociety3 Smith wrote the essay “Horoscope”under his pen name Communipaw. SeeJohn Stauffer,Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionistsand the Transformation of Race (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), 66 and 306n37. Douglass prints verbatim the second, third, and fourth paragraphs from “A Professor of Tattooing” in chapter 31, beginning with “I beheld a man extended flat upon his back and ending with “merrily as a woodpecker.” For an intriguing overview of Quincp who also published fiction in Putnam’sMonthly Magazine concurrentlywith Melville,see M. A. DeWolfe Howe, “Biographer’sBait: A Reminder of Edmund Quincy” (Boston:n.p., 1950), 3-17; rpt. from Proceedings of the Massachusetts HistoricalSociety 68 (1944-46). 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 S6 3 R O B E R T K . W A L L A C E Edmund Quincy first met Frederick Douglass at the meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society at Nantucket in August 1841 in which Garrison “discovered” Douglass and made him a paid agent of the Society. Quincy and Douglass remained in close association during Douglass’s extensive lecturing activities until the Narrative of Frederick Douglass was published by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in May 1845. Because the Narrative named Douglass’sSouthern “master” for the first time, and disclosed Frederick Bailey as his enslaved name, its publication increased the danger that he might actually be arrested as a fugitive slave in the North. Douglass therefore embarked upon a very successful lecture tour of Great Britain from which he returned in late April 1847, presumably to resume his work for Quincy and other leaders of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society In view of their past association, it is not surprising that Quincy wrote a substantial paragraph about Douglass in his July 2, 1847 letter to Caroline Weston (an abolitionist in New Bedford whose sister Maria W. Chapman was a close associate of Quincy’s in Boston). What is surprising is Quincy’s tone and diction. In the previous paragraph, he had been discussing Charles Lenox Remond, another African-American speaker for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. Quincy wrote that Remond was “making a great fool of himself by desiring more of the proceeds than had been designated for him from lectures he had given in New Bedford and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 63-71
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
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