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  • All Astir
  • Mary K. Bercaw Edwards

The nor'easters will long be over by the time this issue of Leviathan reaches you, leaving only the memory of an intense cold such as Ishmael experiences in "The Carpet-Bag" chapter at the beginning of Moby-Dick as he stumbles through New Bedford where "the congealed frost lay ten inches thick in a hard, asphaltic pavement,—rather weary for me, when I struck my foot against the flinty projections." The Melville Society Cultural Project (MSCP) encountered just such congealed frost in New Bedford during its January visit scheduled to coincide with the Moby-Dick Marathon at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The Marathon began on Friday night, January 5, 2018, with a showing of David Shaerf's documentary film Call Us Ishmael, followed by a panel discussion that included David Shaerf and the six members of the MSCP: Jennifer Baker, Mary K. Bercaw Edwards, Wyn Kelley, Timothy Marr, Christopher Sten, and Robert K. Wallace. The weekend included the often-hilarious pre-Marathon "Stump the Scholars," during which members of the audience try to stump the MSCP with questions about Moby-Dick or Melville's biography. As usual, the MSCP in Janurary was rarely baffled, answering such questions as how many men died on the Delight (five), how many words are there in Moby-Dick (Wallace correctly answered "just over 200,000" to gasps of astonishment and thunderous applause), and who are Dough-Boy's parents (a bankrupt baker and a hospitable nurse), but was stumped by the names of Melville's horse and dog (Charley and Major; see Hershel Parker, Herman Melville: A Biography 2:126). This time only three "I Stumped the Scholars" buttons were handed out. The weekend also included the reading of "Extracts" just before the Marathon began and two "Chat with Melville Scholars" events, during which the MSCP fields a wide range of questions from an ever-larger audience.

For the second year in a row, New Bedford was beset with a major snowstorm during our visit; nonetheless, we were able to work long hours in the Melville Society Archive. Thanks to the skill, patience, and dedication of Robert Sandberg, Melville Society web editor, the results of that work is now available on the Melville Society website. Please go to the "Archives" tab on the Melville Society website <> and look through the drop-down menu, which includes the following: 1. Melville Society Archive [End Page 119] Introduction, 2. MSCP and Archive, 3. Book Collections, 4. Melville Society Papers, 5. Selected Archive Images, 6. Jay Leyda Papers, 7. Walter Bezanson Papers, 8. Art Works, and 9. Fellowships and Scholarships.

The first five boxes of the Melville Society Papers house correspondence and materials from the founding of The Melville Society in 1945 until 1981. The proposed creation of a complete edition of The Works of Herman Melville is discussed at length. The edition was to be published by Packard and Company of Chicago, but only The Collected Poems of Herman Melville, edited by Howard P. Vincent, was issued by that press. The remaining books became the Hendricks House edition. Although never completed, the Hendricks House edition is vital, for it includes Harrison Hayford's important introduction to Omoo, along with the only complete transcription of the British Consular Records of the revolt aboard the Lucy Ann; Luther S. Mansfield and Howard P. Vincent's exhaustive notes to their edition of Moby-Dick; Henry A. Murray's seminal introduction to Pierre; Elizabeth S. Foster's introduction to The Confidence-Man, which served as the basis for much further scholarship; and Walter Bezanson's pathbreaking introduction and notes to Clarel, of which an early reviewer wrote: "Every now and again a book appears that is destined not only to modify previous criticism but also to stimulate renewed interest in a great man and a great work. Such a book is Walter Bezanson's edition of Herman Melville's Clarel" (Joseph G. Knapp, New England Quarterly 34.4 [1961]: 539). The five boxes had been stored in the Newberry Library, but because they were never accessioned, the Library agreed to give them to the Melville Society Archive in 2006...


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