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Spring 2012 Volume 62, No. 2
A Publication of the Nantucket Historical Association
M E LVI L L E ISSuE
Herman Melville “Nothing else to do” but Sign on a Whaleship
very like a
WHALE Editions of Moby-Dick
Free speech and
Nantucket’s Morris Ernst
& “Mystery Man” Identity Revealed
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NANTUCKET HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION
Historic Nantucket A Publication of the Nantucket Historical Association
Board of Trustees
Janet L. Sherlund, PRESIDENT Kenneth L. Beaugrand, VICE PRESIDENT
Vol. 62, No. 2
The Unemployable Herman Melville: “Nothing else to do”
Jason A. Tilroe, VICE PRESIDENT Thomas J. Anathan, TREASURER
but Sign on a Whaleship
William R. Congdon, CLERK
Josette Blackmore William J. Boardman
11 “Very Like a Whale”:
Constance Cigarran W. Michael Cozort
Editions of Moby –Dick
Franci N. Crane
From the first English and American
Denis H. Gazaille
editions to the illustrated versions
Nancy A. Geschke
MARY K . BERCAW EDWARDS
Whitney A. Gifford Georgia Gosnell, TRUSTEE EMERITA Kathryn L. Ketelsen,
William E. Little Jr.
Free Speech and Bike Paths: Nantucket’s Morris Ernst
Hampton S. Lynch Jr.
Civil rights and literary lawyer
Mary D. Malavase
advocates on Nantucket
FRIENDS OF THE NHA REPRESENTATIVE
Sarah B. Newton
Anne S. Obrecht Christopher C. Quick Laura C. Reynolds David Ross,
FRIENDS OF THE NHA REPRESENTATIVE
L. Dennis Shapiro
Literature and Life NATHANIEL PHILBRICK
Nancy M. Soderberg
21 “Mystery Man” Identity Revealed
William J. Tramposch EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
NHA News Notes
Benjamin Simons EDITOR
ON THE COVER: “Ahab is Ahab, man,” ink on Bristol board illustration by Matt Kish, 2011, for p. 539 of Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page (Tin House, 2011). COURTESY OF MATT KISH
Elizabeth Oldham COPY EDITOR
Eileen Powers/Javatime Design DESIGN AND ART DIRECTION
Historic Nantucket welcomes articles on any aspect of Nantucket history. Original research; firsthand accounts; reminiscences of island experiences; historic logs, letters, and photographs are examples of materials of interest to our readers. ©2012 by the Nantucket Historical Association
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Historic Nantucket (ISSN 0439-2248) is published by the Nantucket Historical Association, 15 Broad Street, Nantucket, Massachusetts. Periodical postage paid at Nantucket, MA, and additional entry offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Historic Nantucket, P.O. Box 1016, Nantucket, MA 02554 –1016; (508) 228–1894; fax: (508) 228–5618, email@example.com For information log on to www.nha.org
Printed in the USA on recycled paper, using vegetable-based inks.
PHOTO: MELISSA PHILBRICK
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Literature and Life NATHANIEL PHILBRICK
efore twenty-one-year-old Herman Melville shipped aboard the New Bedford whaleship Acushnet on 3 January 1841, his run of luck had run dry. He had found occasional employment as a teacher, a clerk, a “young attorney,” and a farmhand. He had lit out for what was then the western frontier of Illinois, but had found nothing. He’d even used his family’s political connections to land a job on the Erie Canal, but had again been rebuffed. He was truly “the unemployable Herman Melville.” What was left for a young American, even one of middle-class upbringing with a solid education, to do with his life in 1841? Melville turned to that “last resort” of desperados and down-and-outs: signing aboard a whaling voyage. In an economy with “10 candidates for every vacancy,” the shrewd owners and factors of whaleships knew their way around the bottom of the labor pool: several years of labor for little pay, or in some cases, indebtedness. It would have been hard in 1840 and 1841 to look ahead, as Ishmael does in chapter 33 of Moby-Dick, to “what shall be grand,” in the life of young Herman Melville. Melville, sadly, remained largely “unemployable” for much of his life, even long after he had penned his masterpiece. His life stands as a tragic reminder that sometimes worldly success and literature are deeply alien to each other, even though great literature may be born from that incompatibility. In his brilliant two-volume biography of Melville, Hershel Parker presented groundbreaking detail of just what Melville was up to before he went to sea. In this issue of Historic Nantucket, Parker presents even more recent discoveries of the circuitous and frustrating path
that led Melville to New Bedford. In the process, Parker shares reflections on his own journey as a biographer sifting through the vast fields of discovery. This issue also features Mary K. Bercaw-Edwards’s article that provides an overview of important editions of Moby-Dick— from the first English and American editions up through the Lakeside Press edition, with Rockwell Kent’s illustrations, and the Arion Press version featuring engravings by Barry Moser. Julie Stackpole describes in a sidebar her artful casing of the Lakeside edition. And, in a nod to a more recent luminary, Ken Moby-Dick illustrated by Rockwell Roman presents the Kent, Lakeside Press Edition, Volume I, Nantucket story of literary Chapter XLI, p. 273. COURTESY OF PLATTSBURGH STATE ART MUSEUM and civil rights attorney Morris Ernst.
Historian and NHA Research Fellow Philbrick will speak at the Annual Meeting of the Nantucket Historical Association on July 6, 2012, on the topic of his most recent book, Why Read Moby-Dick? (Viking, 2011).
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After All this time, we are still learning a little more about herman melville’s decision to sign on a whaleship rather than to be “pent up in lath and plaster—tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks,” as ishmael says in the first chapter of Moby-Dick, “loomings.”
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Left: View of the Erie Canal, watercolor on paper by John William Hill (1812–79), 1830–32. COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY Opposite: ”Melville,” hand-colored etching by Jack Coughlin (b. 1932), 1993. COLLECTION OF THE EDITOR
Melville haD helD Many jobs . . . before then, perhaps as many as ishmael, who in Ch. 104 of Moby-Dick facetiously presents his credentials as a geologist by listing outdoor or at least subterranean jobs: “. . . in my miscellaneous time i have been a stone-mason, and also a great digger of ditches, canals and wells, wine-vaults, cellars, and cisterns of all sorts.” When Melville was twelve he had been put to work as a clerk in an Albany bank, and then two years later, in 1834, was taken out to clerk in his brother Gansevoort’s fur store there. Gansevoort lost the store in April 1837 at the start of the Panic, which stretched into a five-year depression. That summer, Herman ran the Melvill [Original spelling of the name.—Ed.] farm south of Pittsfield, presumably without pay, after his Uncle Thomas left for Galena, Illinois; then in the fall he taught in a country school in the Berkshires, nearby. After the term ended early in 1838 he may have held jobs that we do not know about. We have no idea where Melville had been in a long stretch of time before 7 November 1838, when he arrived at the Melvilles’ new home, a cheap rented house in Lansingburgh, across the Hudson from Albany and a little north. There at the Lansingburgh Academy he took courses in surveying and engineering with the hope of getting a job on the Erie Canal (though the long-term benefits were from his literary papers and declamations, as scholar Dennis Marnon is finding). In April 1839 his uncle, Peter Gansevoort, recommended him to a Canal official in unenthusiastic terms: “He . . . submits his application, without any pretension & solicits any situation, however humble it may be” (Jay Leyda, The Melville Log [New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1951], p. 83). No position, “however humble,” was forthcoming. On 23 May, Melville’s mother, Maria Gansevoort Melville, wrote
to Peter that “Herman has gone out for a few days on foot to see what he can find to do” (Log, p. 85), and the next day Gansevoort, who had been at home in Lansingburgh sick for several months, reported that Herman had “returned from his expedition, without success” (Log, p. 85). Leaving his mother frantic about unpaid bills, Gansevoort returned to New York, taking with him his brother Allan, the next younger after Herman, who had just quarreled with his employer, Uncle Peter, and left his law office. Gansevoort promptly wrote his mother that Herman should come down and sign on a “Vessel.” (Allan soon returned to work in a different Albany law office.) In the first volume of my biography, I began chapter 8 this way: “On 31 May 1839 Gansevoort summoned Herman from Lansingburgh down to Manhattan, sure that he could get him on some sort of vessel, whaler or merchant” (Hershel Parker, Herman Melville: A Biography, 1819–1851 [Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1996, p. 143]). That letter is known only from the reply Maria Melville wrote on 1 June for Herman to carry down to New York. On blank spaces of the letter, as William H. Gilman first pointed out in Melville’s Early Life and “Redburn” (New York: New York University Press, 1951, p. 128), Gansevoort plotted out the distances between New York and two Long Island whaling ports—Sag Harbor 109 miles away by the “lower road” and River Head 81 miles away by the “middle road” (p. 332). Gilman said Spring 2012 | 5
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The uneMployable herMan Melville
that from the “figures that Gansevoort jotted down” it was “possible to conclude that Herman had some intention of going to sea as a whaleman” (p. 128). If so, he continued, Herman “was reasoned out of his folly.” Unlike Gilman, I take it that the brothers seriously considered Herman’s striking out across Long Island to a whaling port, perhaps “on foot” again. It seems to me likely that the brothers rationally considered the options, a whaleship or a merchant vessel. I speculated this way (p. 144): “Herman and Gansevoort weighed the possibilities with perturbation—the time, expense, and uncertainty of getting to the whaling ports influenced their decision to settle on a merchant ship sailing from Manhattan. Maybe in a few months’ time (rather than the years a whaling voyage might last) more jobs around Albany would be open.” Herman signed on a merchant ship for a voyage to Liverpool. In “The Pacific,” chapter 111 of Moby-Dick, Ishmael declares “. . . the long supplication of my youth was answered,” on greeting that ocean. Perhaps Herman in the 1830s made such a supplication many a time, perhaps not, but after his return from Liverpool in 1839 his efforts to support himself (while not contributing to the support of his mothers, sister, and youngest brother) continued to be miserably unsuccessful. He found a teaching job at the Greenbush & Schodack Academy but was not able to pay his board because the school was not paying his salary. On 3 April 1840, Gansevoort summed things up as they then stood: “Herman is becoming more & more indebted for his board, & should he in the end be disappointed in receiving the sum that is due him for his winter services, will be so much the more difficult to pay” (Log, pp. 103–4). The Academy failed, without paying Herman all that he was owed, and he taught for a while at a school in Brunswick, northeast of Troy, but was not paid the six dollars he had earned. Despite these disappointments, Herman did not yield to any longing to see the Pacific. He and a close friend, James M. (Eli) Fly, who for years had been Peter Gansevoort’s clerk, decided to follow his Uncle Thomas in making their careers in the American West, on the Mississippi. Why not? Wasn’t his uncle now a prominent citizen of the flourishing lead-mining town of Galena, Illinois? Of course Herman would not have written his uncle about his intention to visit him: the fun would be in surprising his uncle, aunt, and cousins. We do not have a letter from Herman declaring that he was determined to rise in the West with the help of his uncle, Major Melvill. Happily, we do have explicit statements from his friend Fly, the letter he wrote his employer, Peter Gansevoort, on 2 June 1840 (Log, p. 105): I have had, for some weeks past a very strong desire to try my fortune in the Western territories of this country.—I believe that a young man, with temperance & perseverance joined with my knowledge of the legal profession, will succeed much better in a new state, than in this . . . . I am aware that I am taking a very singular step, and it may be a fatal one,—but I am prepared for the worst.
Around 4 June, Fly left Albany “for the West,” accompanied by 6 | Historic Nantucket
One-room schoolhouse in Brunswick, New York (northeast of Troy), where Melville taught in 1840. Pen drawing, circa 1975, by Douglas Bucher. COURTESY OF THE BRUNSWICK HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Herman Melville. There is no reason to think that Herman did not share his friend’s “very strong desire” to try his fortune in the Western territories. They would make their fortunes together. In 1840, Fly’s hopes for trying his fortune in the “Western territories” were dashed very rapidly, and that fall he took the bar exam in New York, as I mention later. Two and a half years later, on 25 January 1843, Fly wrote to Peter Gansevoort (Log, pp. 161–62): “In the Summer of 1840, I left you—whether wisely or not, time will determine—to act alone & for myself. Since that time I have had to struggle with many difficulties, incident to the life of a young attorney during the first few years in this City,—have been in trouble & in want, and am now just supporting myself by my profession—& nothing more.” In 1843, he wanted Peter’s help in gaining the appointment as “commissioner of Deeds” for New York City. Ironically and a little contemptuously, Peter declared that the request was beyond his power to fulfill (Log, p. 162): “Well, Fly, this is very pretty—mental perception—a real touch of abstract mathematics—but if you will doff your gown & slippers & step into the world of the metropolis—you will find 10 candidates for every vacancy who all booted & spurred with Petitions Letters &c have actively anticipated the fees of many months in a circuitous Journey to the Capitol & there have been encouraged by nothing more than a mere shake, of the Governors hand.” Herman’s hopes to rise in the West with the help of his uncle, Major Melvill, also were dashed. Stanton Garner’s “The Picaresque Career of Thomas Melvill, Junior, Part II” (Melville Society Extracts, No. 62 [May 1985]) is the most detailed investigation of Melville’s uncle’s life in Galena. Sure that the Galena Melvills were prosperous and active in the town, Garner was a little perplexed that Thomas Melvill was not more involved in the raucous political campaign: “This summer a presidential campaign was in progress, though the part the major played in it, if any, was not prominent” (p. 6). The reason for Major Melvill’s not helping Herman find a job in Galena was not apparent to Garner. Garner had found in a historical journal an account of the
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major’s being caught stealing from the till in his employer’s store. A daughter of Hezekiah Gear, the store owner, had put on record the appalling story replete with this quintessentially melodramatic dialogue (p. 8): Thomas Melvill Jr: “Oh, Captain, spare me.” Hezekiah Gear: “You must make some restitution.” Thomas Melvill Jr: “I can’t, for the money is spent. It’s been going on for years.” Hezekiah Gear: “There is nothing to do. I could send you to prison for life, but that would not bring back the money. [He pauses for a moment then continues.] Major, for the sake of your good family and for the sake of your gray hair, I’ll not punish you, but I never want to lay eyes on you again.”
Garner dated the incident to the summer of 1841. Since Herman had sailed for the Pacific in January 1841, Garner did not see the incident as having any significance for whatever occurred when Melville and his friend arrived in 1840 to make their fortunes in the West. After I took over The New Melville Log in 1987, as Jay Leyda was dying, I needed to date Garner’s 1985 discovery so I could confidently place it in the Log. I inched through microfilms of unpublished letters in the Shaw Papers I had first handled in 1962. On 26 June 1840 Melvill wrote Shaw: Here, as elsewhere, the effects of the policy & measures, of the past & present administrations, are most severely felt—Not the less so, for being more tardy— Few houses, doing business in 1834.5.6. & 7. have been able to withstand it. The one, with which I was, is among the Number. In March last, I found it necessary, and for the interest of both parties, to retire—& with some (to me,) considerable loss, or its equivalent, delay— You may have observed by the Papers—that I have made an agency establishment—which in the present state of things, seemed to be the only kind of business to which, I could turn my attention. . . . . . . such is the situation of this place at present, that money is almost unobtainable in any manner, or at any rate—It may be said, not to exist. . . . The political excitement here, is great—In fact, it is almost the only business of the present times—There will be a large majority for Harrison in Illinois—(MHS-S)
s o i n M a r c h 1 8 4 0 , Melville “found it necessary” to “retire” from the business where he had worked—a masterful transformation of the scene which Gear’s daughter recounted decades later. On 2 July, Melvill Jr. wrote Shaw again at the foot of the original of his letter of 26 June, the copy of which he had mailed by mistake. In this new passage he did not mention his nephew Herman, so presumably Herman and Fly had not yet arrived, although they probably did within a very few days. Melvill’s letters in the Shaw Papers from 1840 until his death in 1846 show that he never had a job in a store in Galena again, so this evidence conclusively ties the thievery to early 1840, to March, if Melvill reported the month accurately.
This discovery put a different light on Melville’s arriving in Galena for a surprise visit, hoping to rise in the West with the help of his uncle, Major Melvill. If his uncle had been successful in Galena and the town had been flourishing, Herman might indeed have stayed there indefinitely. On Herman’s arrival, the major was not only jobless but disgraced, unable to help even himself and his sons, and certainly not a mere nephew. It is possible that no one in the family confessed to Herman that the old man had been caught stealing. Whatever he learned, Melville was disappointed, although we do not know just what ingredients went into the bitter mix. Herman found no reason to linger very long in Galena, contrary to what had been thought. In his 1951 Herman Melville: A Biography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951), pp. 36–37, Leon Howard had decided that Herman “was to stay with his uncle long enough to see the silks of the prairie corn turn brown in the autumn and to receive the impressions later incorporated in his poem, ‘Trophies of Piece,’ but there was little for him to do. . . . At the beginning of autumn there was nothing for Melville and his companion to do but turn homeward with the hope of finding some sort of employment in New York.” No, much sooner than Howard had thought, Melville returned home, with consequences for literature—his signing on a whaling voyage. Good researchers sooner or later experience the high excitement of discovering unknown episodes of their subjects’ lives. That excitement does not necessarily make the biographers the best narrators of what they discover, although it sometimes assures that they will make a more comprehensive and sensitive narrator than anyone else could do, at least in the first telling. Stanton Garner told a good story about Uncle Thomas’s being caught stealing in the store in Galena while Melville was in the Pacific. I told a Portrait of Herman Melville by Asa truer story, and one directly Twitchell (1820–1904), oil on canvas, circa 1846/7. involving Melville, since I COURTESY OF THE BERKSHIRE ATHENAEUM had discovered that the theft and the firing had occurred shortly before Melville showed up unannounced in Galena. When I wrote the episode I was in a wrought-up state because for many months I alone had known and sympathized with what I foresaw would be Melville’s disappointment at finding his uncle jobless and unable to help him. That sounds peculiar, but you can know something previously unknown is going to happen in your Winter 2012 | 7
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The uneMployable herMan Melville
narrative but not focus on it acutely until you actually start writing it. Melville understood this when in chapter 33 of Moby-Dick he has Ishmael look ahead to “what shall be grand” in Ahab, in the narrative. The first teller of a new story gets the privilege of choosing, but to a great degree the manner of telling should be controlled by the amount and the nature of the documentary evidence available. I see now that I chose to tell this story about Galena pretty baldly in my biography despite my strong emotions, perhaps because I was leery of over-coloring the story with those emotions, and also because I simply did not know how much Herman had learned about the new shame to the family. He learned that hard times had hit Galena, but what, if anything, he learned about his uncle’s disgrace is still not known. There is no hint of the Galena scandal in the memoir Melville wrote of his uncle for the History of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, but neither is there any hint of his uncle’s staying in Lenox jail in earlier decades as a debtor. On reading my new revelation about his own discovery, Garner in his review of my first volume in Melville Society Extracts, No. 112 (March 1998), p. 28, behaved just the way a fine scholar should behave: As an editor of the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville’s works, Parker has long been close to what is, collaterally, a large biographical project. The experience also seems to have schooled him in the techniques of discovering material where it lies hidden and developed in him a sense of what may remain to be discovered if only one persists. Nor has Parker been reticent in obtaining the assistance of others, thus extending his reach beyond scholarly arm’s length. The result is stunning. What in the past has been no more than a hint, a reference, or a brief note in Howard becomes an illuminating account of an incident in Melville’s life, and what was an error (in this case, a date in my own report on Uncle Thomas’s disgrace in Galena, Illinois), is corrected, uncloaking a new insight into Melville’s early search for a career and thus into his motive for voyaging aboard the Acushnet. If this is a large volume, it is also one in which questions are answered, misapprehensions set aright, and whole briskets of knowledge added to our hoarded heaps.
This was characteristically magnanimous, and surely Garner was recalling the cooperation behind a footnote on p. 490 of his The Civil War World of Herman Melville (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1993). Garner said this about the letter in which John Hoadley described how he, Melville, and others participated in Pittsfield’s celebration of the news from Gettysburg and Vicksburg: “I am indebted to the late Jay Leyda and to Hershel Parker for their aid in reading this almost illegible letter.” It took all three of us, but we got it—got it in time for Garner’s book and in plenty of time for the second volume of my biography and (ultimately) The New Melville Log. Garner died in November 2011 without knowing that I had made a reference to his “largeness of spirit in envisioning Melville” in my Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative (forthcoming from Northwestern University Press in 2012). 8 | Historic Nantucket
in The Trove of Melliville papers mainly acquired by the New York Public Library in 1983 (NYPL Gansevoort-Lansing Additions), a portion of the papers of Melville’s sister Augusta, was a very damaged letter where the ink was so pale that even in the late 1980s, with only middle-aged eyes, I had to gird myself up to struggle with it under my lighted magnifier. In it Elizabeth Gansevoort, a cousin living in Bath, in western New York, on 2 September 1840, pleaded with Augusta to visit her: “you have a Brother that I know has nothing else to do, and would be willing to come with you.” (Elizabeth’s underlining; the letter is quoted in the first volume of my biography, p. 179.) Once I deciphered the letter, I did a survey of the whereabouts of the four Melville brothers and decided, Tom being far too young and Allan and Gansevoort being at work in Albany and New York, respectively, that the unoccupied brother had to be Herman, home already from Galena, and home for some time, unlike what Howard had thought. So Herman was at home with his mother in early September, and had been home long enough for Augusta to have written her cousin about his return from the West and for Elizabeth to have replied with the letter of 2 September. We know that the cousins did not usually answer letters by return mail, even if they did not have to wait for someone to carry the letter to the recipient: Herman could have returned as early as July. He was unlucky, not lazy, and would have been looking for work, I thought, whatever his cousin in Bath thought. I am wary about taking anything in Melville’s fiction as autobiography, but I have learned not to blind myself with skepticism. While working on the first volume of my biography I paid attention to the passage in “Loomings,” where Ishmael explains that when he goes to sea as a simple sailor the officers order him about in a way that is “unpleasant enough.” He goes on: “It touches one’s sense of honor, particularly if you come of an old established family in the land, the Van Rensselaers, or Randolphs, or Hardicanutes. And more than all, if just previous to putting your hand into the tar-pot, you have been lording it as a country schoolmaster, making the tallest boys stand in awe of you. The transition is a keen one, I assure you, from a schoolmaster to a sailor. . . .” Melville’s mother, of course, was a Van Rensselaer, and his sister Augusta was so regular a visitor to the Manor House
Portrait of Herman Melville, by Joseph Eaton, 1870. SC770, ORIGINAL PAINTING AT HOUGHTON LIBRARY
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that she had her own room there. Knowing from Elizabeth Gansevoort’s letter that Melville had returned from Galena much earlier than we had thought, I decided that in late 1840 Melville, like Ishmael, might have gone more or less directly from schoolmaster to whaleman: perhaps “just previous” meant “just previous.” In the first volume I ventured a guess (Parker 1:179) “Late that summer, for all we know, he may very well have looked for another job teaching school around Lansingburgh.” A sidelight on method: how was I to avoid writing parts of my biography from Melville’s more or less autobiographical books? I resolved on extreme measures. I set myself the goal of creating a full first draft of the part of 1842 which Melville described in Typee and Omoo by working solely from other surviving documents (some authentic, some plainly skewed), never quoting those two books. That salutary exercise helped me break the 1920s reliance on Melville’s books as straight biography. Breaking that reliance, I emphasize, requires heroic discipline, and disciplined judgment of another sort is required in acknowledging that Typee and others of Melville’s books are in fact, in passages, something like straight autobiography. I guessed right about Melville’s teaching school when he got home from Galena just because I allowed for the possibility that something in “Loomings” could be straight (or something very close to straight) autobiographical. You have to be imaginative, alert, subtle, and supplied with a kit of phrases like “as far as we know,” and “it just might be,” or my favorite, “for all we know.” Even if reviewers mock you for your “perhapses,” you can take satisfaction in being honest. in 1999, a new DocuMenT emerged from a liquor box in Paul Metcalf’s house. These were papers loaned to Metcalf’s mother by her second cousin, Agnes Morewood, and now (with one exception) belatedly rejoined with the bulk of the Morewood documents in the Berkshire Athenaeum. The oldest Melville brother, Gansevoort, had written to Allan on 6 October 1840: “I am very glad that Herman has taken a school so near home.” Hurrah! From the documents available to anyone at the Massachusetts Historical Society I had discovered a story of the poignantly disappointing ending to Herman’s hopeful trip to Illinois (however much or little he learned about his uncle’s disgrace). What I cautiously proposed about Herman’s teaching school was only an educated guess, phrased as such (“for all we know”), one happily verified three years after the volume was published. “Only an educated guess,” I just admitted. That warrants a comment. Leon Howard, whom I loved like an uncle, and a more helpful one than Herman’s blood uncles, was a shrewd, responsible scholar, who had been browbeaten, as he said, into writing his biography from Leyda’s yet-unpublished Log. He had not spent years in the archives himself. Howard was not a years-in-thearchives man. He was the sort of scholar who would chat up the director of a library, look over a famous manuscript with him (the director of course was male in those years), and come to reasonable conclusions about it that more pedestrian workers might plod away for a long time without perceiving. That is what happened at Harvard with the
October 6, 1840, letter from Gansevoort Melville to his brother Allan Melville confirming Herman’s teaching school. COURTESY OF BERKSHIRE ATHENEUM
manuscript of Billy Budd. In his biography, Howard made many educated guesses about Melville, which by my tally were without exception wrong. The problem was that given two or more choices the would-be rational Howard always pushed Melville into taking the sensible one. Informed, or I might say beaten down by a much greater mass of evidence, I became predisposed to accept irregular, irrational behavior from Melville. After a time I was never surprised when he ran headlong away from the course that Maria Gansevoort Melville and I both thought represented his own best interests. On the matter of what Melville did after returning from Spring 2012 | 9
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The uneMployable herMan Melville
Galena, I merely considered what he would naturally have done once he was back in Lansingburgh. In instances where evidence has later emerged, my record with educated guesses is, I think, perfect, so far, and I would not be surprised to learn that other biographers who have toiled in the archives would bet a few dollars on their own best educated guesses. We are far from infallible, but when we are forced to guess, we may bring an imposing array of evidence to the topic, even if our reasons have to be dragged up from a murky level of consciousness and even if, as in this instance, they involve taking some of the details in a piece of fiction like “Loomings” as possibly autobiographical. While Herman was teaching school near home, Fly set himself to study for the bar. On 6 October, Gansevoort wrote Allan, who was clerking in Albany, not with Uncle Peter, saying he would be glad if Fly would write him “a detailed account of the examination” (Berkshire Athenaeum, Metcalf Donation). (On 4 November 1840, Scott Norsworthy recently informed me, the New York American reported that Fly had been admitted to the New York bar at the October term.) Herman’s schoolteaching near Lansingburgh did not last long, for on 26 November Gansevoort wrote Allan (Log, 110):
looking at the Judge & something about a Cloake, Sir, I believe which Mr Melville had given him? A post mortem examination had taken place, one lung was entirely gone, of the other but half remained. The widow was inconsolable.
The deathbed scene is Dickensian, we now think, and of course Thackeray actually used the pen name “Michael Angeleo Titmarsh.” Census records show that this real Mary T. Tidmarsh [sic] lived in Hingham all thorough the 1850s. Perhaps this concerned a most mundane fact, but the passage I quote was what you could fairly describe as a deathbed message. Who would not be intrigued by “something about a Cloake” which Herman had given him? For several years I was haunted by the scene, inexplicably moved by Fly’s dying message to Herman Melville. Then, in the liquor box that Paul Metcalf opened in 1999 was a letter (now part of the Berkshire Athenaeum Metcalf Donation) from Gansevoort to Allan on 14 January 1841, just after Herman had sailed on the Acushnet: Fly called to see me on Sunday last and dined at Bradford’s. He manages to scrape along on the slender salary which he receives from Mr Edwards. He is very attentive to his duties, & steady & regular in his
Herman is still here—He has been & is a source of great anxiety to
habits. In the end he will doubtless succeed. Herman sent to Fly as a
me—He has not obtd a situation—Fly is still on the lookout—He has
parting souvenir his vest & pantaloons. The coat was exchanged at New
so far been entirely unsuccessful—You need not mention this to [John
Bedford for duck shirts &c. At sea[,] shore toggery is of no use to a sailor.
alone in the room, & Mrs Shaw very much engaged. So we had all her
Is it possible that Fly, knowing he was dying, remembered that in 1841, if not longer, he had worn the vest and pantaloons of an impoverished young whaleman who would become one of the greatest American writers? Did he glory, as he died, in the memory of that very tangible intimacy with a friend of high genius? It’s possible. Dickens, with what Melville thought was his characteristic over-plotting, would have made this so. I would not put it in a biography as fact, but I like the story I imagine. Something about a vest & pantaloons. . . . Something dating back, perhaps, to the days when Herman Melville was unemployable. Melville, of course, was unemployable in a government office in 1847, 1853, 1857, and 1861, as Harrison Hayford and Merrell Davis showed in “Herman Melville as Office-Seeker,” Modern Language Quarterly, 10.2 (June 1949), 168–83 and 10.3 (September 1949), 377–88. In 1860, Melville was unemployed, once he had given his last lecture, and he remained unemployed till near the end of 1866, when he gained his appointment in the New York Custom House. For several years now, thanks to databases of newspapers, Scott Norsworthy, Dennis Marnon, and George Monteiro have pointed out that Melville’s nineteen years of uninterrupted employment were achieved only through the intervention of an angel in the Custom House, a man with a Lansingburgh connection, Chester A. Arthur. _____________________________________________________________
conversation. The subject happened to be about Hingham. In one of
Hershel Parker talked about “The Metaphysics of Indian-hating” at the Melville
the pauses I enquired if she knew Mr Fly. Oh yes the most interesting
Society meeting in Chicago in 1960. He is the author of the forthcoming Melville
man she had ever seen. She did not wonder, that notwithstanding his
Biography: An Inside Narrative (available for pre-order on Amazon), and of the
bad health Miss Hinkley had married him. I then enquired about his
classic two-volume Herman Melville: A Biography (1996 and 2002) as well as the
death. Mr Fly had left a message to Herman said Mrs Titmarsh,
longtime editor of The New Melville Log. He blogs at
J.] Hill, as his little mind would gloat over Fly’s disappointment— They are both in good health & tolerable spirits—& are living at a cheap rate of $2.50 per week, exclusive of dinner—They dine with me every day but Sunday at Sweeny’s & are blessed with good appetites— as my exchequer can vouch—Herman has had his hair sheared & whiskers shaved & looks more like a Christian than usual. . . .
The brothers soon concluded that there was no point in looking longer for work in New York City. On December 21, Maria Melville reported to Allan that “Hermans destination” was being decided: “The particulars you will hear when we see you” (Berkshire Athenaeum). She continued: “Fly has a situation with a Mr Edwards, where he has incessant writing from morning to Eveg.” Leaving Fly to Bartleby-like industry, Herman had decided upon a desperate grand physical adventure. In this glance at Melville’s early job-hunting, I skip over evidence for Melville and Fly’s later relationship, though we know that after his return from the Pacific Melville was able to befriend Fly, who over a period of several years was slowly dying. I skip all the way to a 4 March 1854 letter Maria Gansevoort Melville wrote to Augusta from Longwood, near Boston (NYPL Gansevoort-Lansing Additions). Here the judge is Melville’s father-in-law, Lemuel Shaw, and Lizzie is Herman’s wife, and Mrs. Shaw is the judge’s second wife: The next morning Miss Titmarsh called . . . Lizzie, the Judge & I were
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Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick originally appeared in 1851 to little fanfare and even less renown. With a drab, darkish, dreary cover, the first American edition look s undistinguished, even shabby. The first English edition is much handsomer; each of its three volumes has a gold whale on its spine. Unfortunately, the whales are right whales, not sperm whales. Melville heaped contempt upon right whales, who swam so “sluggishly” that they appeared “lifeless masses of rock,” which could be mistaken for “bare, blackened elevations of the soil”; in contrast, he called sperm whales—such as Moby Dick— “the most majestic in aspect” of all whales.
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“Very Like a WhaLe’: EDiTions of Moby-Dick
Above: “Moby Dick was now again steadily swimming forward,” acrylic on watercolor paper illustration by Matt Kish, 2011, for p. 546 of Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page (Tin House, 2011). COURTESY OF MATT KISH Previous page and top right: Woodcut illustrations of sperm whale and “View of Nantucket Harbor” by Barry Moser (b. 1940) for 1979 Arion Press edition of Moby-Dick. COURTESY OF ANDREW HOYEM.
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The first American edition was set directly in type from Melville’s manuscript, but it was not published first. In order to secure copyright protection, a book by a non-British author had to have its initial publication in England. The proof sheets were therefore sent to Richard Bentley, Melville’s London publisher, where they were edited and sections considered too blasphemous or bawdy cut. Bentley released the book under its original title The Whale on October 18, 1851. Harper & Brothers published the book as Moby-Dick in New York on November 14, 1851. The Bentley edition was only 500 copies. Even though Bentley inserted a new title page into some copies in 1853, those copies were still composed of the original sheets. The Harper edition was much bigger— 2,915 copies—with new printings of roughly 250 copies in 1855, 1863, and 1871. Part of the reason for the new printings was the Harper fire in 1853. These were new printings, not new editions. In the forty years between Moby-Dick’s publication in 1851 and Melville’s death in 1891, only one British and one American edition were published. Even while writing Moby-Dick Melville experienced deep frustration. He wrote to Nathaniel Hawthorne, “What I feel most moved to write, that is banned,—it will not pay. Yet, altogether, write the other way I cannot. So the product is a final hash, and all my books are botches.” Such anguish is still painful to read 160 years later. But there is one consolation: Melville dedicated Moby-Dick to Hawthorne, and upon Hawthorne’s receipt of the book, he sent Melville a “joy-giving and exultation-breeding letter.” Melville added, in his response to Hawthorne’s letter, “A sense of unspeakable security is in me this moment, on account of your having understood the book.” And so the book was published. The review in the New Bedford, Mass., Daily Mercury called the first American edition “a bulky, queer looking volume, in some respects ‘very like a whale’ even in outward appearance.” We know of one whaleman who read it: Benjamin Boodry aboard the Arnolda in 1852. But few others did. Melville died in 1891 with no expectations of literary fame for his whaling book. In fact, on Melville’s death, the obituaries registered surprise not so much that he had died as that he had still been alive: “There died yesterday at his quiet home in this city a man who, although he had done almost no literary work during the past sixteen years, was once the most popular writer in the United States. . . . Probably, if the truth were known, even his own generation has long thought him dead.” One year after his death, in 1892, Melville’s literary executor, Arthur Stedman, republished Moby-Dick in what is sometimes called the Spring 2012 | 13
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“Very Like a WhaLe’: EDiTions of Moby-Dick “deathbed edition.” Three other editions followed: the Scribner’s edition in 1899, with illustrations by I.W. Taber; the “Everyman’s Library” edition in 1907; and the “World’s Classics” edition in 1920. Then, in 1921, everything changed. That year, a Columbia University professor, Raymond Weaver, published a biography of Melville titled Herman Melville: Mariner and Mystic. It is poor biography, but its importance cannot be overemphasized. Having read the biography, readers clamored for Melville’s works. Twelve new editions of Moby-Dick appeared in the next eight years, over half of which were illustrated. Weaver served as editor of the Constable edition of The Works of Herman Melville, Standard Edition (1922–24), which remains the only complete set of Melville’s works. The first color illustrations appeared in the 1922 Dodd, Mead edition. Mead Schaeffer created the first full-length portrait of Ahab. Schaeffer’s style is realistic; one can even see the grain of the wood on the quarterdeck and the details of Ahab’s belt-buckle. But, as Elizabeth Schultz asks in Unpainted to the Last: Moby-Dick and Twentieth-Century American Art (1995), “How does a realistic artist depict ‘an infinity of firmest fortitude’ or ‘the nameless regal overbearing dignity of some mighty woe’ or even the adjective ‘moody’?”—all phrases used in the initial description of Ahab when he finally appears in chapter 28, “Ahab.” The answer is he cannot. “[T]he Pequod’s captain,” Schultz writes, “looks like nothing more than a common seaman, hardly the tragic, isolated figure—romanticized or demonized—of later illustrators.” Schaeffer’s Ahab stands in strong contrast to that drawn by the most famous of all illustrators of Moby-Dick: Rockwell Kent. Kent’s Ahab is brawny and powerful with a craggy face and determined eyes gazing over the side of the Pequod. The full-length portrait of Ahab does not appear until midway through chapter 46, “Surmises.” It takes twenty-eight chapters for Ahab as a character to appear, and forty-six chapters for Ahab as an illustration to appear. As Schultz notes: “Kent intentionally postpones his presentation of the Pequod’s captain in the full power of his personality. Rigid in mind and body, dark-clothed and dark in his thoughts, he stands alone.” Kent’s three-volume Lakeside Press edition, containing 280 engravings and published in an aluminum slipcase, appeared in 1930. His are by far the most well known of all illustrations. Although only a thousand copies of the Lakeside Press edition existed, in 1930 Random House issued a short, squat, one-volume copy containing 270 of the 280 illustrations that was picked up by the Book-of-the-Month Club. In 1944, the Modern Library Giant appeared, also containing Kent’s illustrations. Kent’s fame, of course, does not rest on easy public access to his illustrations, but on their tremendous power. Our vision of the white whale is inextricably bound to Kent’s image of Moby Dick ascending from black waters into a dark sky, sprinkled with stars, the jet of his white spout flowing back across his back. The bubbles of the whale’s wake seem inseparable from the stars. Kent’s other most famous illustration of Moby Dick is a radiant 14 | Historic Nantucket
A Special Container for the Lakeside Press Moby-Dick By Julie H. B. Stackpole Some great books and their illustrators are indelibly linked in the minds of almost everyone—Alice in Wonderland and Tenniel, Treasure Island and N. C. Wyeth. For Moby-Dick, the black-and-white drawings of Rockwell Kent are the perfect companion pieces to Melville’s epic. Rockwell Kent was already a well-established painter, wood engraver, and illustrator in 1926 when he was asked by Lakeside Press, the fine-press division of the Chicago publisher R. R. Donnelley & Sons, to illustrate a deluxe edition of Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years before the Mast, but Kent declared his preference for Moby-Dick. He prepared for the task by thoroughly researching whales and whaling at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the Museum of Natural History in New York, and India ink illustration of Ahab in all the literature on the subject. by Rockwell Kent (1882–1971) In addition, Kent’s Zpersonal in Lakeside Press edition of Moby-Dick, Volume II, p. 36. history of adventures in Alaska, COURTESY OF PLATTSBURGH Newfoundland, and Tierra del STATE ART MUSEUM Fuego; then being shipwrecked on a sailboat in Greenland during the middle of the project, gave him unique insight into and sympathy with the crew of the Pequod and their creator, Melville. Donnelly was so pleased with the first group of drawings Kent produced that they gave him carte blanche to design the binding, slipcase, and typography as well. The final drawings were completed in Denmark at explorer Knud Rasmussen’s home, where he went after his Greenland escapade. Kent’s Moby-Dick drawings have frequently been erroneously described as “engravings,” but they were all created with India ink and brush or pen. Kent was a master wood engraver, and his drawing style was similar to that even before he took up engraving in 1919, and afterwards borrowed even more from it as he learned to balance dramatic areas of black and white. A fine-tipped stiff brush was his preferred tool. The 1930 Lakeside Press deluxe edition of a thousand copies was in three volumes in an aluminum slipcase (hence its nickname in the book trade “Whale-in-a-Pail”), with 280 illustrations. It has been praised in Constance Martin’s Distant Shores for its “integration of text and imagery . . . its energy and suggestive power” and “Kent’s identification with Melville’s story.” Donnelley also printed a smaller-sized one-volume trade edition with fewer illustrations for Random House. So quickly had Kent’s illustrations become identified with Moby-Dick that author Melville’s name was left off the binding!
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Illustrations from the handtooled leather slipcase by Julie Stackpole for Lakeside Edition of Moby-Dick. COURTESY OF JULIE STACKPOLE
My copy of the three-volume Lakeside Press Moby-Dick descended to me from my paternal grandfather, Hayo Hans Hinrichs, a malt and grain broker in New York. He was a friend, patron and “collaborator” of Rockwell Kent and had many of his drawings, engravings, and paintings in his homes in Quogue and Staten Island, New York, which I saw and admired as a young girl. In 1960, at age nine, I came home to Nantucket when my family joined that of my stepfather, summer resident Walter Beinecke Jr., who was a keen appreciator of Nantucket’s whaling history as well as of rare books and fine printing. It was because of his influence that I eventually became a bookbinder, so I could both work with books and live on Nantucket. When I married maritime historian and one-time curator of the Whaling Museum, Renny Stackpole, I also received the bonus of having America’s preeminent whaling expert Edouard A. Stackpole as a father-in-law. Our Moby-Dick did not have a slipcase when my father, Herbert Hinrichs, decided it logically belonged with me on Nantucket. For years I meant to make one. A few years ago, when I decided to put it on the market, something finally had to be done to protect the valuable volumes. I thought of making a slipcase covered in silver paper to imitate the aluminum one (boring). Instead, I seized the opportunity to be creative, and to differentiate this copy from the others without harming, or replacing, the original Kent bindings. The “art box” I made is a slipcase with a front flap, so the three books are entirely enclosed. Covered in gray Niger goatskin, it has panels on the two sides and the front with scenes taken directly from Kent’s illustrations. These are carried out with thin onlays of different colors and textures of leather that have been tooled “in blind” (without gold) and embossed with linoleum cuts. Although the panels copy Kent’s drawings, I interpreted them in color rather than slavishly reproducing the black and white. There is no title, but the iconic scene of the white whale rising out of the water on the front flap leaves no question as to what is in the box, I think. To tie the box to my Stackpole connections, a small oval scrimshawed whaleship that once belonged to E.A.S. covers the area of Velcro on the top where the flap attaches. The inside is lined with a handmarbled paper by Chena River Marblers. _________________________________________________________________ Julie H. B. Stackpole lives in Thomaston, Maine, with her husband, Renny Stackpole. She does hand bookbinding and rare-book restoration as well as period-costume research and reproduction. Her Web site is www.juliestackpole.com.
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“Very Like a WhaLe’: EDiTions of Moby-Dick white whale soaring into heaven, trailing white water behind him, dazzling light surrounding him: a true apotheosis. Kent consulted with Robert Cushman Murphy, who had made a whaling voyage on the Daisy in 1912–13 and visited the New Bedford Whaling Museum and the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan, then, as now, berthed in New Bedford, before creating his illustrations. But his research pales in comparison to that undergone by Barry Moser for the 1979 Arion Press edition. Each illustration that Moser completed had to be vetted by a group of maritime-museum curators. For example, Moser’s first illustration of a cutting stage was sent back because the version he had drawn did not come into use until after Melville returned from his four years at sea in 1844. During a visit to San Francisco in October of 1977, Moser met Andrew Hoyem and agreed to produce a hundred engravings for the Arion Press’s forthcoming Moby-Dick. Hoyem strictly controlled the project. He believed that “pictorial presentation of the characters or interpretations of events would inhibit a reader’s imagination” and therefore Moser’s woodcuts “depict only whales (live and dead, skeletal and blubbery), the objects, tools, and processes used in whaling, the types of vessels from which the hunts were conducted, the ports from which they sailed, and the seas over which they voyaged.” Moser himself has long chafed against Hoyem’s restrictions and talks of producing a new version of Moby-Dick in which he will engrave Ahab, Ishmael, Queequeg, and the other characters as he has imagined them. Nonetheless, his 1979 engravings remain deeply loved. Arion Press produced only 265 copies (250 for sale), so they are now extremely rare. In 1981, however, the University of California Press issued a seventy-percent smaller version in hardback and paperback, therefore ensuring that the general public could have access. Actor Daniel Day Lewis and director Paul Thomas Anderson were so impressed when they saw a copy of the Arion Press Moby-Dick that they hired typographer Kenny Howard to set the type and print the title sequence for “There Will Be Blood” (2007). Not all editions are as grand, imposing, or—Hoyem’s word— “monumental” as that of the Arion Press; some are simply fun, quirky, or odd. As early as 1925, Grosset & Dunlap released an edition that was “Illustrated with Scenes from the Photoplay.” The photographs show such elusive characters as Ahab’s evil brother Derek and loyal girlfriend Esther Harper—elusive, of course, because they do not exist in Melville’s text. Filmed in 1925 and released in January of 1926, this silent black-and-white film was titled The Sea Beast, but based on Moby-Dick. A new version, a talkie, starring John Barrymore, was released in 1930; called Moby Dick, Ahab’s beloved is now named Faith Mapple. In both versions, we finally learn Ahab’s last name: Ceely. Grosset & Dunlap had a later printing with photographs from the 1930 film. In contrast to the quirky editions were the scholarly editions. For these, textual editors try to present a text as close as possible to what Melville wrote. Texts are corrupted in many ways, accidentally by printers’ sloppy compositorial work, or purposefully by editors in order to remove anything they fear might be offensive. Textual editors 16 | Historic Nantucket
report all changes, then seek to determine whether any change is “authorial” (done by the author) or not. For the 1952 Hendricks House edition, Luther S. Mansfield and Howard P. Vincent report a small number of editorial changes and “verbal changes made in the first English edition.” Their edition is justifiably famous above all for their extensive “Explanatory Notes,” which run for 263 pages. The next scholarly edition after Mansfield-Vincent was Harrison Hayford and Hershel Parker’s Norton Critical Edition of Moby-Dick (1967, but in progress since the early 1960s and independent of the Melville Project). For two decades the NCE, designed to make textual history and issues accessible to students, was the standard edition of Moby-Dick. Textually the 1967 NCE was almost identical to the 1988 Northwestern-Newberry edition, which featured a more conventional textual apparatus and in which Hayford and Parker were joined by a third editor, G. Thomas Tanselle. The NN text was used in the Arion Press edition (1979) and later in the Penguin edition (1992), with introduction by Andrew Delbanco and notes by Tom Quirk, and the Penguin eBook (2009), with additional eNotes and essays by Mary K. Bercaw Edwards. This is the gold standard of texts, with an exhaustive Textual Record; the NN edition aims to establish a text—a “critical edition”—as close to the author’s intention as surviving evidence permits, but also to give the reader all the information on that text. As might be expected with a work as important as Moby-Dick, there are those who disagree with the NN editorial policies. In 2007, John Bryant and Haskell Springer published the Longman Critical Edition, which indicates the differences between the first American and first English editions with the use of gray type. The editors discuss any extensive difference in a “Revision Narrative” that appears on the same page. Therefore, the differences are visually obvious to the reader during the act of reading. One might wonder if, after 160 years, it is still possible to create a new edition of Moby-Dick. The answer is a resounding yes. In 2009, librarian Matt Kish began a project during which every day he selected a phrase, theme, or quotation from each page of the Signet Classics edition of Moby-Dick and translated it into a piece of art that he then posted on his blog. It took him 543 days to illustrate the 552 pages. As Kish writes: “At first, I had identified with Ishmael, feeling like a passenger, a silent observer, on a doomed journey that I had no real control over. But as I started working through the second half of the book, I began to identify more and more with Ahab, obsessed with the idea of the White Whale and the task of finally finishing the art and slaying the monster. I worked harder and harder each day. I lost sleep.” Published as Moby-Dick in Pictures in 2011, the result is visually stunning and evocative. ____________________________________________________________ Mary K. Bercaw Edwards is a Melville scholar, author of Cannibal Old Me: Spoken Sources in Melville’s Early Works (2009) and Melville’s Sources (1987), and editor of Wilson Heflin’s Herman Melville’s Whaling Years (2004). An Associate Professor of English and on the Maritime Studies faculty at the University of Connecticut, Dr. Bercaw Edwards works aboard the Charles W. Morgan, only remaining whaleship, berthed at Mystic Seaport, and has accrued 58,000 miles at sea under sail.
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By Kenneth Roman
HE WASN’T A BIKER HIMSELF. It was a matter of PRINCIPLE for James Thurber’s book jacket illustration for Morris Ernst’s The Best Is Yet… (1945).
Morris Ernst. IT WAS GOOD FOR NANTUCKET. An inventive lawyer, he had a knack for getting things done. If the law said the state would fund roads for wheeled vehicles, he would point out that it did not say HOW MANY wheels.
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F R E E S P E E C H A N D B I K E PAT H S That led to funding for the Milestone Road bike path, which he when they came to Nantucket in the 1920s. One day in 1927, he looked inspired and promoted. It was the first leg of Nantucket’s beloved across the harbor at Monomoy, which had been cleared years earlier and still growing web of island bike paths. “Nantucket doesn’t need for sheep- and cattle-raising and was still sparsely populated with only more roads,” he observed. a few houses, and mused, “That would be a good place to have a On another matter of principle, government censorship of books, house.” All his friends in town thought it was crazy, remembers his he became famous to generations of literature lovers when he granddaughter Debbie (who still lives on island), “because of all the successfully argued before the U.S. District Court to get James Joyce’s mosquitoes, and it took the northeast storms on the nose.” Even Anne Ulysses, the groundbreaking novel of the twentieth century, admitted Congdon, who owned the 600-foot vacant waterfront lot he wanted, into this country. Until he won that case in 1933, Victorian-era tried to warn him. He couldn’t stop winter storms, but he could deal obscenity laws permitted the federal government to decide what with mosquitoes, so he bought the land and got the mosquito people could and could not read. It was a matter of principle for commissioner to dig a drainage ditch and let the water out of the Ernst: the right to free speech. swamp. The house he built at 64 eRnst wAs one of the most Monomoy Road was modeled on the significant public intellectuals in White Elephant and designed by its the 1920s and 1930s, and a architect, Edward Ludwig. It was a familiar presence on Nantucket, decision he would not regret: “Every with a home in Monomoy. He dollar I put into that house would was a force, full of ideas and have been lost in the stock market.” always working to make them It was followed by three smaller happen, remembers his friend cottages, for each of his children. “I Bob Mooney, then a rising local can visit you at any time,” he lawyer. “You ought to do announced to them. “You can come this. . . . ” was one of his favorite when invited.” Over time, he expressions. became one of three major The idea for a bike path came landowners in Monomoy Heights, from President Eisenhower’s along with James H. Gibbs and physician, Paul Dudley White. Frederick A. Russell. When he died White instructed his famous in 1976 at 87, the Inquirer and patient to get some exercise and Mirror wrote that “Nantucket has get back on the golf course after lost one of its best known and most his heart attack while in office in loyal longtime summer residents. 1955. Until that time, doctors For some fifty years Mr. Ernst has advised their patients to stay taken advantage of every quiet, often in wheelchairs, and opportunity to escape from the city rest. The energetic Dr. White to spend maybe only a weekend, generated publicity for exercise and maybe a couple of months, at his Morris and Margaret (Maggie) Ernst enjoying a sail. a healthy lifestyle by riding his bike home in Monomoy, where he could SCAN GIFT OF DEBBIE NICHOLSON, SC873-1 everywhere. Newspapers loved relax, indulge in his favorite pastime— running photos of the biking Massachusetts General Hospital sailing—and greet his friends at leisure.” cardiologist. A self-tAught sAiloR, he learned navigation from a book. His But when he vacationed on Nantucket for several summers, sailing started with a Crosby 12 or 14 catboat. “He used to hit all the White found no good, safe place to ride. Bob Mooney had been boats going in and out, learning to sail,” says his son Roger. The elected to the State House of Representatives, so he and Ernst started catboats were replaced by a Wianno 25 gaff-rigged schooner, which to work together with Dr. White. “Oh dear, is this biking again?” said he used to cruise to Maine, including visits with New Yorker writer E. White’s secretary when Mooney called for an appointment. “That’s B. White, Thomas Lamont of J. P. Morgan, and Connecticut Governor all he talks about.” The first bill Mooney proposed—in 1957—was for Chester Bowles. Sailing to Campobello to visit President Franklin the ’Sconset bike path, along Milestone Road, the first one funded by Roosevelt, he was accompanied by his wife, Margaret, a true the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Dr. White testified for the bill, Southern lady who wore a dress even on the sailboat, and had came to Nantucket for the opening, and cut the ribbon. Afterwards, become close friends with Eleanor Roosevelt. Ernst, “a flaming liberal,” in Mooney’s words, took White to the His fleet grew successively with a 39 ketch, a 35 cutter and, after airport. They talked biking, and he thanked the doctor for keeping Ike World War II, a 33 Hinckley. Along the way, he persuaded men working alive—and “keeping that Nixon [Eisenhower’s Vice President] out of on the ship channel to dredge a five-foot channel to his dock. Since he the White House.” couldn’t get into the Nantucket Yacht Club at that time (a nonobservant Ernst and his wife, Margaret, first stayed at the White Elephant Jew, he also represented the non-theistic Ethical Culture Society as its 18 | Historic Nantucket
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A short, wiry man, with alert eyes behind his wire-rimmed lawyer), he became a founding member of the short-lived Nantucket glasses, on Nantucket he dressed as casually as possible—usually in Boat Club, quartered on the third floor of the Granary on Old South a tee shirt and Bermuda shorts. Seeing him in town one morning, Wharf. Bob Mooney mentioned that he was getting married that afternoon Leisure is a relative concept. A Wharf Rat, he also held court on the at St. Mary’s Church and invited Ernst. “Do I have to get dressed up?” Main Street bench. He played golf (not well, but felt he should do it) at he asked. Mooney describes him as “peppy, always talking.” Tupancy Links. He taught himself carpentry, and built a playhouse for The Ernst home was disciplined. He took a cold shower every his grandchildren; in the winter, he lent his tools to his caretaker, morning. There was a dictionary and an atlas on the breakfast table. Leroy True, to use at the Coffin School’s manual-training courses. He The children had to make something in his workshop every summer played the piano and the cello, skills he practiced at Williams College. (“you have to earn your rights”). Houseguests were given projects as And he wRote—a book every other summer, authoring or well; everybody had to sign up on a pad posted on the swinging door coauthoring twenty-one volumes of essays and personal memoirs. to the kitchen. There’s a photo of his client, Edna Ferber, cutting the From America’s Primer in 1931 to Privacy, or The Right to Be Let Alone grass. in 1962, interspersed with commentaries (The Censor Marches On and Over the course of a sixty-six-year legal career, Ernst championed The First Freedom) and memoirs (The Best Is Yet and UNTITLED: The every major social movement of the time: labor rights, civil rights, free Diary of my 72nd Year). He had close personal relationships speech, birth control—causes not all with public figures. Justice Louis popular on conservative Nantucket. A Brandeis, New York Governor Herbert dedicated New Deal Democrat, he Lehman, Vice President Henry Wallace, became a close friend of Cora Stevens, Boss Hague of Jersey City, New York’s head of the local Republican Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, and Committee. “They found common Presidents Harry Truman and Franklin ground in what’s good for America,” Roosevelt. In 1933, FDR stayed explains his son Roger. overnight in Nantucket Harbor on his he ARgued (And won) more schooner Amberjack II. Ernst’s law firm controversial cases in New York and in represented Edna Ferber, E. B. White, Federal courts than any other lawyer Groucho Marx, Al Capp, Charles of his era. A friend described him as “a Addams, Grandma Moses, Heywood defender of really unpopular causes Broun, Margaret Bourke White, Russell that are really unpopular.” He Crouse, and George S. Kaufman. He demonstrated early support of gay and knew them all, and got many of them lesbian rights by inviting his to Nantucket. Robert Benchley was a psychiatrist friend Fran Arkin to client and friend. Nantucket, with her female partner. Ernst compared his two favorite The case that elevated Ernst to the islands, Manhattan and Nantucket, national scene was United States v. One Dr. Paul Dudley White and Robert Mooney celebrate the claiming it was the summer on Nantucket Book Called Ulysses, argued in the U. S. opening of the ‘Sconset Bike Path, August 13, 1958. that enabled him to survive another winter District Court in New York. The publisher BILL HADDON PHOTO in Manhattan. In New York, he was a bon vivant, going to the theater and dining with clients and friends at “21”, Sardi’s, and the Algonquin (home of the Round Table). He decided to bring singer Marian Anderson to lunch at the Algonquin and told the proprietor, Frank Case, he wanted his usual table—up front. “You’re going to scare off a lot of people,” said Case, “she’s black.” “Never mind,” replied Ernst, “we’ll do it.” Anderson became the first black woman to be served at the Algonquin. Born in Uniontown, Alabama in 1888, he grew up in New York; his Czech father and German mother moved the family there when he was two years old. After graduating from Williams College, he made a living in the shirt business and as a furniture salesman, until he discovered he could go to the New York Law School at night. Upon graduating, he cofounded the firm of Greenbaum, Wolff & Ernst with two classmates (they never had more than an oral agreement) and spent the rest of his career there.
was so doubtful of the case’s success that its president, Bennett Cerf, required Ernst to take a share of the book’s royalties in lieu of his usual legal fees. First published in France, the novel could not be brought into the U. S. because it was judged to be obscene. Random House, with Ernst as its counsel, arranged a test case to challenge the implicit ban, and imported the French edition so it could be seized by the U. S. Customs Service. There was no trial as such; both parties stipulated the facts. The U. S. District Attorney asserted the work contained sexual stimulation (notably in Molly Bloom’s soliloquy in the last chapter), was blasphemous in its treatment of the Catholic Church, and surfaced coarse thoughts usually repressed. Attorney Ernst argued that the book should be considered in its entirety as a work of “artistic integrity and moral seriousness” and not just on selected passages, that it was not obscene in that it did not promote lust, and that it was protected by the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. Judge John M. Woolsey’s trial court opinion, said to be the most Spring 2012 | 19
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F R E E S P E E C H A N D B I K E PAT H S widely distributed judicial opinion in history, is reproduced in all Harry Truman appointed him to the Civil Rights Commission; New Random House printings of the novel. Judge Woolsey determined that York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia employed him as a labor arbitrator; portraying the coarse inner thoughts of the characters was necessary he was in President Roosevelt’s office almost every week, and to show how their minds operated, and presented a “true picture” of became FDR’s personal representative on overseas missions during lower-middle-class life, drawn by a “great artist in words” who has World War II. devised “a new literary method of the observation and description of To make a point, he sent Roosevelt two packages through the mankind.” On the issue of obscenity, he wrote: “Whilst in many places mail—same price, same weight, one containing the Bible and the the effect of Ulysses on the reader undoubtedly is somewhat emetic, other just junk. “Why did you send these?” asked the President. nowhere does it tend to be an aphrodisiac.” His ruling was affirmed by “Because if you open them, you’ll realize they’re quite different. But the U. S. Court of Appeals. they cost the same, and they shouldn’t. Good literature ought to be the decision to Admit the book into the country came the same cheaper or, put it the other way around, junk mail ought to be more week in 1933 as the repeal of Prohibition. Ernst saw a parallel. In his expensive.” “Go see the Postmaster General, and fix it,” said Roosevelt. foreword to the first legally published edition in the U. S., he wrote, With James Farley, he wrote the bill to provide book-rate postage, a “Joyce’s masterpiece, for the circulation of which people have been nice benefit for his several publisher clients. branded criminals in the past, Bike paths weren’t his only may now freely enter this cause on Nantucket. He was country. . . . We may now freely instrumental in reorganizing imbibe of the contents of the boat line. At that time, the bottles and forthright books.” Nantucket ferry first went to His defense of Ulysses Martha’s Vineyard and New redefined American legal Bedford, tying up the boat for interpretation of the First half a day before coming to Amendment, and made the Nantucket. Ernst worked with broader case for literary the Town Crier, then the freedom. second paper on the island, to Ernst took on censorship in promote a “citizen’s crusade” many areas, including lack of to get a more direct route. reproductive rights for A populAR speAKeR at the women. Working with Winter Club, the Rotary, and Margaret Sanger in the early other organizations, he was days of the birth-control known for his humorous and movement, he set up a test interesting talks, and was case by shipping generally available as “the contraceptives to Connecticut fogbound speaker,” if the (where they were illegal), and invited speaker couldn’t make it The Ernst compound in Monomoy, 1950s. SCAN GIFT OF DEBBIE NICHOLSON, SC873-3 arranging to have the recipient to the event—a tradition followed arrested on arrival of the packages from the post office. He took that by his diplomat son Roger, who still summers in one of the three case to the Supreme Court, helping cement the legality of birth surviving Ernst cottages. control. From birth control to death with dignity, he represented the Roger believes the trait that helped his father make friends in “right-to-die” Hemlock Society, and helped them get started. both places —often on opposite sides of issues—was his ability to He helped found the predecessor organization to the American bring people together through informal diplomacy. He sought to Civil Liberties Union, working closely with its first president, Roger find the common ground of a solution rather than litigation of right Baldwin (for whom his son Roger is named). A strong supporter of J. and wrong. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, Ernst led the drive to ban Communists “What kind of man is this?” his publisher asked rhetorically. “The from the ACLU, a move that baffled and angered many of his civil Daily Worker calls him ‘fascist’; right-wing senators insist he talks the libertarian friends. He argued that his anticommunism was an Communist line. His law office in New York City is said to be the only extension of his liberal values, especially the promotion of due one where the office boys consider a senior partner too radical. Morris process and a “marketplace for ideas” and information needed for a Ernst is often at the center of the controversy he so dearly loves. He free society. has unlimited zest—for people, for natural phenomena, for living. He As attorney for a number of labor unions, he went before the is a happy man.” _____________________________________________________________ Supreme Court in 1937 to uphold the constitutionality of the National Kenneth Roman, a thirty-two-year seasonal resident of Monomoy, is a former Labor Relations Act (the Wagner Act), establishing the right of media chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide and author of several books, including a employees to organize labor unions. biography of David Ogilvy. His counsel was sought at the top government levels. President 20 | Historic Nantucket
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BY ROBERT HELLMAN
Mystery Man: Identity Revealed The identity of a previously unidentified
Nantucket blacksmith is uncovered n my “Nantucket Whalecraft” article, which appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of Historic Nantucket, I discussed an account book kept in Nantucket by an unidentified blacksmith between mid-1821 and 6 April 1823. He then abruptly relocated to Providence, Rhode Island, resuming entries from that city on 1 May 1823, continuing to early September 1824, when the book is filled up and ends. While in Nantucket, this artisan made whaling tools for various vessels and individuals, did miscellaneous repair work, and shoed horses, as did most Nantucket blacksmiths. What I found most intriguing and fascinating was that he also sold many forms of what seemed to be strange and exotic ferrous metals to other whalecraft-making blacksmiths and to other tradespeople. Nowhere in the book could I find the keeper’s name. Serious attempts to identify this man in Nantucket, and contacts with librarians and historians in Providence, proved futile. I also gathered the names of the Providence blacksmiths in the 1824 Providence City Directory and tried, in vain, to find any with Nantucket connections. I dubbed my man “The Mystery Man.” In late February 2012, Mark Foster, of Somerville, Mass., spent several days on Nantucket doing research for the NHA at the Hadwen & Barney Oil & Candle Factory. He also visited our home and examined the account book. I gave him a printed summary of the Nantucket highlights, hoping that he would take a crack at solving this mystery. Mark is a most astute and resourceful Internet researcher. At 6 o’clock the next morning, he booted up his computer, opened a powerful genealogical Web site, and searched the word “iron” in the Nantucket Inquirer for the year 1822. Inquirer ad His search produced the ad at right, Sept 24, 1822. Now that he had a possible name, John Chase, Mark searched for other ads by that individual in the Inquirer and in that time frame. He came up with several ads now on file. John Chase certainly could have been the “Mystery Man,” but Mark was not absolutely sure until he found the clincher, submitted by Chase to the newspaper on April 1, 1823, five days
before the last Nantucket entry in the account book (not an April Fool’s Day prank). An early morning e-mail message I received from Mark bore the Subject line “Early Birthday Present.” Some of what was in that mailing is enclosed herein. John Chase was born on 29 July 1794, in Swansea, Mass. His surname was spelled Chace, which was the preferred spelling just about everywhere but on Nantucket. We don’t know when John moved to Nantucket, but in 1815 he married Deborah Pitts of this place. When his son, Elijah, was born in Nantucket in 1822, he was christened Elijah P. Chase, even though blacksmith John Chase apparently used that spelling only on Nantucket. When he appeared in the 1824 Providence City Directory he is listed as John Chace, which is probably why I couldn’t find a Nantucket connection for him. It is interesting that in the 31 January 1822 ad, Chase states that he has moved into blacksmith Nathaniel Atwood’s shop (one of his customers) “nearly opposite the Post Office.” Much of the Nantucket portion of the account book was most likely written at that location. Various early printed statements suggest that Chase’s shop was located on Main Street (then called State Street) and Candle Street. Nathaniel Atwood may have moved from that location to Old South Wharf, where we know his son, George, had a blacksmith shop in the 1840s. We don’t know whether Chase ever returned to Nantucket, but we think his account book did, as the first thirty-five or so pages are completely pasted over as a scrapbook, and most of the scraps appear to be ca. 1840s poetry clippings, probably from Nantucket newspapers. Although the poems were mostly, perhaps entirely, reprinted from many other newspapers, there are also marriage and death notices and ads from the 1830s and 40s that can definitely be tied to Nantucket. Some mention the Pitt family, John’s wife’s maiden name. Thank you, Mark, for an amazing piece of cyberspace detective work. ___________________________________________________________ Robert Hellman, a Nantucket resident and NHA museum interpreter, is a whaling historian and collector of antique whaling artifacts. He has catalogued the whaling tools in the NHA collection and written several articles for Historic Nantucket.
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News Notes & Highlights Betsy Tyler Named to New Obed Macy Research Chair
Students examine the scrimshaw collection.
Nantucket High School Collaboration For the spring semester of 2012, the Nantucket Historical Association collaborated with the Nantucket High School to introduce island students to the process of studying and conducting real historical research. The high school offered Nantucket History as an elective this spring. Social studies teacher John McGuinness, who partnered with Jeremy Slavitz to develop and teach the course, is using it as an opportunity to introduce students to the broader fields of local history and museum studies through the lens of Nantucket’s rich history. McGuinness and Slavitz initiated a series of weekly classroom visits by the NHA’s Tony Dumitru, Sarah Parks, and Georgen Charnes to demonstrate to students what analyzing and exhibiting historic materials entails. The twenty-eight students also took field trips to the NHA’s Gosnold Center and the NHA Research Library for a firsthand view of collections management, archives maintenance, and conservation. For their individual final project, students will research a business address/location in Nantucket’s core downtown historic district. Using sources from the NHA Research Library, they will investigate the buildings and businesses that have occupied the addresses through the decades. This project will allow students to conduct their own historical research while adding to the understanding of the history of downtown Nantucket. Their work will be featured in the fall issue of Historic Nantucket. 22 | Historic Nantucket
The NHA takes great pleasure in announcing the establishment of the Obed Macy Research Chair, an endowed position named for island historian Obed Macy (1762–1844), whom Herman Melville called “the worthy Obed.” The position will lead to and develop a greatly expanded NHA Research Program, enhancing our efforts to advance and widely disseminate our rich historical collections and resources to ever-widening audiences. Island historian and NHA Research Fellow Betsy Tyler has been named for the inaugural Obed Macy Research Chair; she Betsy Tyler, NHA Obed began on April 2 and will be working four days a week out of Macy Research Chair the Research Library. A well-known and prolific author, Tyler has written thirty-five house and public-building histories for the Nantucket Preservation Trust and several recent NHA publications: The ’Sconset Actors Colony 1895–1925: Broadway Offshore; “Sometimes Think of me”: Notable Nantucket Women through the Centuries; Greater Light: A House History; and ’Sconset: A History. In addition to supporting all areas of the NHA with a firm research basis that lies at the heart of our mission to preserve and interpret Nantucket history, the Obed Macy Research Chair will organize and expand our corps of Research Fellows, volunteers, and visiting scholars; explore establishing an Oral History Program; and help plan future publications. The Obed Macy Research Chair grew out of our experience with the ’Sconset: 02564 exhibition and catalog and the subsequent work of the ’Sconset Historical Research Group led by ’Sconseter Paul Judy. Paul and Mary Ann Judy were instrumental in the efforts to establish the Obed Macy Chair. We are grateful to the Judys and to the many generous donors who have committed more than $800,000 toward the endowment of the position. We will continue to build on this substantial founding base, raising additional funds toward our ultimate goal of the $1.5 million that is needed to fund the Macy Chair as a fulltime position.
Whaling Museum Goes Green The NHA Whaling Museum, the Hadwen & Barney Oil & Candle Factory, the NHA administrative offices, and the Museum Shop have been fitted with LED light bulbs in an effort to conserve energy while maintaining light quality for exhibitions and programs. LED technology has been in existence for some time, but only recently has it reached the levels that museums require for display Maintenance and grounds assistant and exhibit purposes. An added advantage of Andrea Howard installing an LED light bulb. LED bulbs is that they emit little infrared and no ultraviolet light, which is critical for the protection of sensitive items on display. The NHA is working with National Grid, which offers an Energy Savings Program for small businesses.
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Wine Festival 2012 NHA Wine Auction Dinner May 19
A New History of Prospect Hill Cemetery Tuck’t In: A Walking Tour of Historic Prospect Hill Cemetery, Nantucket, Massachusetts, written by Paula Lundy Levy for the Prospect Hill Cemetery Association, gleans the names on grave markers to present a history of the island through chronicles of the whaling captains and their wives, mariners, merchants, writers, artists, educators, Civil War veterans, and more. The stories emanate from diaries, personal letters, memoirs, newspaper accounts, and extensive historical investigation, much of it based on material and images from the collections of the Nantucket Historical Association. A colorful portrait of island is revealed by reading the stories originating in Nantucket’s incredible global shipping adventures during the golden years of whaling, through our Civil War history, and up to contemporary times. Tuck’t In is available at the Museum Shop or online at firstname.lastname@example.org and at other island bookstores. Founded in 1810, Prospect Hill Cemetery just celebrated its 200th anniversary. Proceeds from sale of the book will fund preservation, conservation, and restoration at the historic cemetery.
The 2012 Nantucket Wine Festival will be held on May 17–20, 2012. The NHA is proud to be the nonprofit beneficiary of the annual Wine Auction Dinner taking place on Saturday, May 19, at the White Elephant. The NHA Wine Auction Dinner is considered to be the signature event of the week-long Nantucket Wine Festival. We are pleased to announce that William Little will chair this 2012 Wine Festival painting by artist Kerry Hallam year’s dinner. Hosted by Veuve Clicquot Winemaker Cyril Brun, Numanthia Winemaker Manuel Louzada, and special guest Laurent Drouhin of Maison Joseph Drouhin, the Wine Auction Cuisine features delicacies by Executive Chef Bernard Guillas of the Marine Room in San Diego and Executive Chef Frederick Bisaillon of the White Elephant’s Brant Point Grill. For preferred seating, admission to a VIP reception, and a donation to the NHA, visit www.nha.org/specialevents and select either an Oenophile $800.00 ($550.00 is tax deductible) or Vigneron $450.00 ($200.00 is tax deductible) ticket.
John Shea and fellow actors perform against the backdrop of the Whaling Museum’s historic whaleboat.
“Moby-Dick Rehearsed” Returns to Whaling Museum In July 2011, The NHA and the Theatre Workshop Nantucket (TWN), presented the oneact play “Moby-Dick Rehearsed” written by Orson Welles in 1950. This play within a play is both a celebration of the theatrical realm itself and a testimony of the enduring legacy of Herman Melville’s masterpiece of American literature. After a successful sold-out run of three consecutive shows, the NHA and TWN are proud to bring this moving performance starring John Shea and an all-star Nantucket cast to the Whaling Museum once again for the 2012 season. Save the Dates: July 23, 24, 25, 2012—with a special reception with the cast on July 23 after the show. Spring 2012 | 23
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P.O. Box 1016, Nantucket, MA 02554-1016
Periodical POSTAGE PAID at Nantucket, MA and Additional Entry Offices
THE HERITAGE SOCIETY Planning today for the NHAâ€™s Tomorrow
he Nantucket Historical Association invites
Barbarain Hathaway, waysâ€”from building the myriad2010 association August Antiques Show Chair
you to become a member of the Heritage Society
permanent endowment to expanding the
and to join forward-looking members who have
artifact collections. New members are
included the NHA in their estate plans.
recognized at the Annual Meeting in July and
The Heritage Society recognizes individuals
presented with an ivory whale lapel pin carved
who have made gifts of artifacts, cash, or real
by scrimshander Nancy Chase, who is both a
estate to the NHA through their estate plans.
Heritage Society member and a past trustee of
Planned gifts take many forms and support the
For information, consult with your personal f inancial advisor and contact Joan Galon King, director of membership and development.
508 228 1894, ext. 120 24 | Historic Nantucket