The year’s scholarship on Herman Melville is refreshingly focused and succinct. Interest remains strong in new theoretical and interdisciplinary approaches to his work, and scholars interested in the environment and new media studies also find his fiction fertile ground for inquiry. In addition to nearly two dozen separate articles (not all of them discussed here), other publications include a collection of critical essays designed to introduce Moby-Dick to a new generation of readers, a slim biographical study of Melville’s friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne, and a single monograph that examines Thomas Carlyle’s influence on Melville’s interest in fashion, writing, and the construction of identity in the modern age.
i Biographies, Editions, and Reference Works
Erik Hage’s The Hawthorne-Melville Connection: A Study of the Literary Friendship (McFarland, 2013) covers familiar territory but with the enthusiasm of someone making connections for the first time. Though he offers no new evidence or compelling insight, Hage does provide a sustained chronological narrative of the documented encounters between the two authors and considers their mutual influence on one another’s writing. His primary concern is to distill “the essence of the friendship” from the “mythologizing and speculating” that has accumulated around these two writers ever since Julian Hawthorne published the first biography of his father. Hage studiously avoids consideration [End Page 33] of romantic attraction or professional rivalry and locates the true basis of the friendship of Melville and Hawthorne in their shared interest in “intellectual ideas and literary craft.”
In “The Florence” (Leviathan 16, i: 22–32), John Gretchko adds to our knowledge of Melville’s late career through a biographical survey of residents of the New York City apartment building Elizabeth Melville moved into following her husband’s death. Observing that Jane Louise Melville, the widow of his brother Allan, had lived at the Florence from May 1880 until her death on 30 March 1890, Gretchko surmises that Herman Melville may have visited her there regularly. He then proceeds to provide evidence of a range of residents of the building who may have influenced Melville’s thinking about art and authorship, including Edgar E. Saltus, whose biography Balzac (1884) Melville had received from his wife in 1885; Brander Matthews, founder of the Authors Club, which listed Melville among its original members (though he apparently declined the invitation); and Agnes Ethel Tracy, a friend and a primary patron of Elihu Vedder and owner of the entire set of Vedder’s drawings for the deluxe folio edition of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Gretchko’s research provides new insight into the circle of family and acquaintances Melville knew during the last decade of his life.
Finally, in “Deceased but Not Forgotten: Obituaries for Herman Melville in the Upstate Press” (Leviathan 16, ii: 58–68) Warren Broderick provides an account of eleven newly discovered obituaries. Broderick examines issues of 45 newspapers, for which copies still exist, published in September and October 1891 within a 50-mile radius of the towns of Albany, Lansingburgh, and Troy, New York, and Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He provides a comprehensive list of newly identified obituaries, previously identified obituaries, and newspapers in which no obituaries were printed. Broderick also includes transcriptions of the two most significant obituaries he has added to the record, those that appeared in the Troy Daily Press, 29 September 1891, and in the Northern Budget, 4 October 1891. The first contains new evidence of Melville’s early childhood friendship with his cousins Guert, Stanwix, and Leonard Gansevoort Jr., all of whom pursued careers as sailors, and the second mentions a previously unrecorded visit Melville made to his cousin Augustus A. Peebles of Lansingburgh in July 1886. Broderick’s efforts exemplify how archival research aided by digitization continues to turn up new evidence relevant to Melville’s life and work. [End Page 34]
A special issue of Leviathan (16, iii) includes four essays drawn from a 2012 international conference at the University of East Anglia organized by Sarah Thwaites that examine Melville’s “relationships to ‘America.’” Robert S. Levine’s “Melville and Americanness: A Problem” (pp. 1–22) builds on Levine’s conference keynote address and...