Abstract

This article transcribes and analyzes newly recovered inscriptions in Herman Melville’s copy of Dante’s Commedia, or The Vision, as translated by Henry Francis Cary. Evidence consists of an erased and overwritten notation on “the Monk’s Vision,” an alleged manuscript source for the Commedia; a superimposed and partially-erased notation that excerpts and responds to Walter Savage Landor’s criticism of The Inferno; and faded inscriptions illustrating (1) Melville’s use of the image of the Trinity in the final canto of Paradise (and of Cary’s accompanying commentary on Plato) as source material for crafting his own “Vision” episode in chapter 188 of Mardi, “Babbalanja Relates to Them a Vision,” and (2) an extrapolation of the late President John Quincy Adams’s position on slavery, and its correspondence to reflections on the subject in chapter 162 of Mardi, “They visit the extreme South of Vivenza.” Through recovery of the inscriptions listed above, and in the absence of surviving manuscript documents for these two chapters, this article contributes to knowledge of Melville’s source use by offering new facts about the effect of Melville’s interpretation of Dante on his philosophically and religiously ambitious third novel.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 41-58
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-20
Open Access
No
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