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Melville family in Lansingburgh 1838-1847

Herman Melville in Lansingburgh 1838-1840, 1844-1847 (aged 18-21, 25-28)

1837-1838 – Bryant, John. “Gansevoort Revises Augusta: An Introduction.” Melville Electronic Library. https://mel.hofstra.edu/augusta-comp-intro.html

May 1, 1838 – Herman Melville’s mother moved from Albany to Lansingburgh with much of the family

Parker, Hershel. “The Unemployable Herman Melville; ‘Nothing else to do’ but Sign on a Whaleship.” Historic Nantucket 62(2). Winter 2012. 4-10. https://nha.org/research/publications/historic-nantucket/the-melville-issue/

November 12, 1838 – Herman Melville began studies at the Lansingburgh Academy

“THE LANSINGBURGH ACADEMY. Now Celebrating Its Hundredth Year.”
Troy Daily Times. June 24, 1896: 3 cols 1-3. [Scanned by Fultonhistory.com]

1838-1839 – several love poems signed “H” appear in Democratic Press, and Lansingburgh Advertiser newspaper

Broderick, Warren F. “Melville’s First Five Poems?” Melville Society Extracts (92). March 1993. 13-16. http://people.hofstra.edu/John_L_Bryant/Melville_Extracts/Volume%2092/extracts092_mar93_pg13.html

Norsworthy, Scott. “‘Pity’s Tear,’ not by Melville.” Melvilliana: the world and writings of Herman Melville. January 6, 2012. http://melvilliana.blogspot.com/2012/01/pitys-tear-not-by-melville.html

The poem “To Miss M— A—” was previously printed as “I Shall Remember.” Ladies Companion. December 1835. 55. https://books.google.com/books?id=Iq0RAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA1-PA55&lpg=RA1-PA55




Names. Residence. […]
Hiram Hawkins ………… [Lansingburgh] […]
Herman Melville, ………… [Lansingburgh]
Catalogue of the Trustees, Teachers and Students of Lansingburgh Academy, 1839. Troy, NY: N. Tuttle, 1839. 5-6.

May 4, 1839 – “Fragments from a Writing Desk, No. 1.Democratic Press, and Lansingburgh Advertiser

Clipping of “Fragments from a Writing Desk, No. 1.” Democratic Press, and Lansingburgh Advertiser. May 4, 1839. “By Herman Melville” believed to have been written on the clipping by Herman Melville’s wife.

May 8, 1839 – Advocate and Watervliet Advertiser [West Troy, NY] reprints “Fragments from a Writing Desk, No. 1.”

May 18, 1839 – “Fragments from a Writing Desk, No. 2.” Democratic Press, and Lansingburgh Advertiser

Clipping of “Fragments from a Writing Desk, No. 2.” Democratic Press, and Lansingburgh Advertiser. May 18, 1839. “By Herman Melville” believed to have been written on the clipping by Herman Melville’s wife.

June 5, 1839 – Herman Melville left New York Harbor for Liverpool, England on the St. Lawrence

September 1839 – Herman Melville returns to New York from Liverpool on the St. Lawrence

Fall-Winter 1839 – taught at Greenbush and Schodack Academy

November 16, 1839 – “The Death Craft.” Democratic Press, and Lansingburgh Advertiser

Broderick, Warren F. “‘Their Snowy Whiteness Dazzled My Eyes’: ‘The Death Craft’—Melville’s First Maritime Story.” Hudson River Valley Review 3(1). March 1986. 91-106. http://www.hudsonrivervalley.org/review/pdfs/hvrr_3pt1_broderick.pdf

May 1840 – taught at School District #7 schoolhouse in Brunswick [within land that had been part of Stone Arabia]

“Herman Melville and two Rensselaer County schools.” https://www.renstrust.org/images/portfolios/EarlySchools%20-%20Rural%20and%20Urban.pdf [1838-1840 in Lansingburgh]

Sketch by Douglas Bucher approximating the 1840s appearance of the School District #7 schoolhouse on Gypsy Lane in the Town of Brunswick

To get to the school, Melville probably would have walked east on North Street (114th Street), north on Gurley Avenue, then east on Farrell Avenue. Gurley Avenue is present but unnamed on the 1843 map below; the western segment of Farrell Road (west of Oakwood Avenue) appears on it as “Brunswick Road,” a stretch of road that is now a more winding one renamed Stoneledge Drive. Gypsy Lane intersects Farrell Road a bit east of the border of the 1843 map.

June 1840 – Herman Melville visited his uncle in Galena, Illinois

December 1840 – Onion, Rebecca. “Whaling Ship Crew List Shows Melville Embarking on a Journey That Inspired Moby-Dick.” Slate. October 27, 2014. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2014/10/27/history_of_herman_melville_crew_list_for_the_whaler_acushnet.html

January 1841 – Herman Melville left for sea on the Acushnet

July 9, 1842 – Melville jumped ship in the Marquesas Islands at the island of Nuku Hiva (131 sq. miles), staying in the Taipivai (Typee) valley. Nuku Hiva is about the size of East Greenbush (24 sq. mi.), Troy (11 sq. mi.), Brunswick (44 sq. mi.), and Schaghticoke (52 sq. mi.) combined. A “Monument de Herman Melville” by artist Kahee Taupotini on Nuku Hiva: http://www.wendykaveney.com/-/wendykaveney//gallery.asp?LID=&photoID=8588429&cat=120780

August 9, 1842 – signed onto the Lucy Ann

September 29, 1842 – held in custody in Tahiti

October 1842 – escaped from custody

November 1842 – signed onto the Charles and Henry

May 1843 – Herman Melville discharged in Lahaina, Hawaiian Islands

While in Hawaii, Melville is known to have worked as a pin-setter at a bowling alley. Hawaii had a number of them:

We have been at some pains in obtaining the following list of the stores, public buildings, trades, professions, etc. of the town. There are doubtless some errors, but it will serve to give an idea of the present condition of the town. We have not included many native mechanics, who are more or less employed among foreigners and their own countrymen. […]
Bowling alleys, 7
“Improvements and Changes In and About Honolulu.” The Polynesian. October 17, 1840: 2 col 4.

August 1843 – Melville signed onto the United States Navy ship United States

Melville home lot on River Street (now First Avenue), detail of Village of Lansingburgh and part of the Town of Lansingburgh cropped from “A Map of the Confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers with the villages and islands.” (1843)

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN.—The seamen’s chaplain has received letters, overland, for the following persons, viz: […] If Mr. Herman Melville, formerly officer on board Am. W. S. Acushnet, is in this part of the world, and will call upon the seamen’s chaplain, he may find several letters directed to his address.
The Friend, of Temperance and Seamen [Honolulu]. September 4, 1844: 84 col 2.

October 1844 – discharged in Boston, Massachusetts; Melville returned to Lansingburgh

1844-1845 – Herman Melville writes his first novel Typee in Lansingburgh.

April 1845 – Herman Melville submitted Typee to Harper Brothers for publication, rejected

July 1845 – Gansevoort Melville set sail to England with Typee manuscript

December 1845 – publication rights to Typee sold

February 26, 1846 – Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life first published

March 16, 1846 – Herman Melville scheduled to lecture
YOUNG MEN'S ASSOCIATION.—THE Course of Lectures before this Institution, will continue as follows: [...] Tuesday, March 16—Herman Melville, Esq. of Lansingburgh.
Schenectady Cabinet: or, Freedom’s Sentinel. January 26, 1847: 3 col 5.

March-May 1846 – excerpts from Typee appear in several newspapers, including:

New York Morning News. March 21, 1846

“A Flotilla of Marquesan Mermaids.” Buffalo Commercial Advertiser. March 25, 1846: 2.

Albany Evening Journal. March 27, 1846: 2 col 8.

“Passages from ‘Typee.'” Ottawa Free Trader. April 17, 1846: 1 cols 1-4. [from N.Y. News]

“Passages from ‘Typee.'” Wisconsin Democrat [Green Bay, WI]. April 18, 1846: 1 cols 3-4.[from the New York Morning News]

“A Flotilla of Marquesan Mermaids.” Hinds County Gazette [Raymond, MI]. April 24, 1846: 3 col 2.

“A Flotilla of Marquesan Mermaids.” Indiana State Sentinel. May 7, 1846: 1 col 5.

TYPEE, OR A PEEP AT POLYNESIAN LIFE, is the title of an interesting book from the pen of HERMAN MELVILLE, recently of our city. It is brought out simultaneously in London and New-York. In the former, by the eminent publisher, JOHN MURRAY, and in this country, by the house of WILEY & PUTNAM. We have run over it cursorily, and it seems to us that the author has given tot he public a decidedly interesting book—embodying valuable information and amusing narrative. He was taken prisoner by a tribe of Indians, in one of the South Sea Islands, and there detained four months, until he made his escape. The Typee tribe had the reputation of savage and fierce Cannibals. But his sojourn there (involuntary as it was) seems to have been far from unpleasant, for he was treated with the utmost kindness. His descriptions of their peculiar deism, their almost dream-like way of passing life—their voluptuous climate, their wars, their peculiar polygamy, and the remarkable beauty of the natives, add much useful information to the History of the Polynesian Isles.
There is also a tinge of romance throughout, which gives it the charm of a beautiful novel, for some of the events are “passing strange.”
This is Mr. MELVILLE’S first book, but we trust it may not be his last, as he has shown his countrymen that he has stores of observation and information combined with a piquant style, which we trust will give him confidence and renewed energies for the future, while it may render his book a favorite with the public. We have favorable notices of the work in London papers, to which we shall hereafter allude.
It can be obtained at all the book-stores in the city.
Albany Argus. March 26, 1846: 2 col 3.

HERMAN MELVILLE’S BOOK.—Typee, or a residence in the Marquesas, the new book by HERMAN MELVILLE, is having a deservedly great run. It is a book by HERMAN MELVILLE, is having a deservedly great run. It is a book of unusual interest, both in the incidents and in the style. There seems to be an impression in some quarters, that the events are too strange to be true, and the book has been designated as a beautiful fiction. The author desires to state to the public, that TYPEE is a true narrative of events which actually occurred to him. Although there may be moving incidents and hairbreadth escapes, it is scarcely more strange than such as happen to those who make their home on the deep. Yet it is to be acknowledged that Mr. MELVILLE’s description of life in the South Seas is more novel and romantic than has appeared in any book of travels, in many years. We extract briefly from a notice in the London Critic, which expresses the general current of the London Press:

“This is a most entertaining and refreshing book. * * * * The picture he has drawn of Polynesian life and scenery, is incomparably the most vivid and forcible that has ever been laid before the public. * * * * * The writer of this narrative, though filling at the time of the post of a common sailor, is certainly no common man. His style is clear, lively and pointed. His management of the descriptive is skilful. The philosophical reflections and sentiments scattered through the book, are the productions of a man of letters.”

Albany Argus. April 21, 1846: 2 col 4.


We give the following extracts from Herman Melville’s work upon Polynesian Life. The reason why it is not necessary to send the Bible to the South, is, they are already enslaved.
The foreign business is more profitable! Girls where are your Sewing Societies! Your foreign “keepers of the poor” need horse-covers!—True American.
[Extract from Typee follows, beginning with “Look at Honolulu, the metropolis of the Sandwich Islands!” and ending with “Twice every Sabbath, towards the close of the exercises may be seen a score or two of little wagons ranged along the railing in front of the edifice, with two squalid native footmen in the livery of nakedness standing by each, and waiting for the dismissal of the congregation to draw their superiors home.”]
Anti-Slavery Bugle [Salem, OH]. May 22, 1846: 1 cols 2-3

The Steamer Hibernia brings the painful intelligence of the death of GANSEVORT MELVILLE, of this village, Secretary of Legation to the court of St. James. His remains are no on their way to this country on board a packetship that left Liverpool on the 20th of May last. We shall publish a more extended obituary notice next week.

Lansingburgh Democrat. June 6, 1846: 2 col 1.


The intelligence of the death of Mr. MELVILLE, proves alas, to be too well founded! He expired at his lodgings in London, on the 12th of May. His complaint was an enlargement of the heart brought on by excessive application and confinement necessarily devolved upon him in consequence of the continued illness of Mr. McLANE. He was attended during his sickness by several of the most eminent physicians in London: and all that skill and assiduous attention and the kindness of devoted friends,—not the least devoted of whom to the extent of his physical strength was Mr. McLANE—was done to avert a fatal termination. But in vain. He died in the full possession of his faculties and with resignation to the inevitable stroke, coming as it did under circumstances peculiarly trying to all the faculties and sympathies of our nature.
Mr. MELVILLE was well known and deservedly esteemed here. He was a nephew of highly respected townsmen, Judge GANSEVOORT. To his family to sisters and brothers to whom he was tenderly attached and especially to his widowed mother, not less than to his friends he was endeared by high and noble qualities. At the period of his departure on the mission which has proved the fulfilment of his mission in the world, he was a resident of the city of N York, engaged in the practice of the law, associated with a younger and talented brother. […]
[From the N. Y. Herald.]

DEATH OF GASEVOORT [sic] MELVILLE, ESQ.—We regret to record the death of Gansevoort Melville, the Secretary of the American Legation in London. Mr. Mellville [sic] was thought a great deal of by his family and his friends in this city, where he was well known and much esteemed. He was a young man of great promise and remarkable genius. He possessed high oratorical powers. During the campaign that resulted in the election of Mr. Polk, he travelled hundreds of miles over the country, delivering speeches to the people. He was a young man of elevated sentiment, fine education, and will be deeply regretted by all who knew him. He has left two brothers who are now in this city, one of whom, Herman Melville, is the author of an extraordinary book called “Typee,” giving an account of his adventures in the South Seas, and almost equal in interest to the celebrated Robinson Crusoe.
Lansingburgh Democrat. June 13, 1846: 2 cols 2-3.

Miss Melville, Sister of the late Ganesvoort [sic] Melville, returned home in the steamer Great Western.
Rochester Daily Democrat. June 19, 1846: 2 col 5.

FUNERAL OF THE LATE GANSEVOORT MELVILLE.—The funeral of GANSEVOORT MELVILLE, deceased, late Secretary of Legation in London, we are requested to state, will take place to-morrow afternoon, (Sunday,) at 5 o’clock, from the residence of PETER GANSEVOORT, No. 115 Washington-street, Albany.

Lansingburgh Democrat. June 27, 1846: 2 col 2.

How strangely things turn up!

One of the most curious and entertaining books published last season was a work entitled “Typee, a residence in the Marquesas.” We read it with great interest, but the impression it left on the mind was that the incidents and mode of life it described were too extraordinary, and too much at variance with what is known of savage life, to be true, and that like the fabled Atlantis or the travels of Gaudentio di Lucea, though without their philosophical pretension, it was the offspring of a lively inventive fancy, rather than a veritable narrative of facts. This impression, we believe, was very general. The readers of Typee therefore can imagine, and will share, our surprise, at hearing that here, in Buffalo, is a credible witness to the truth of some of the most extraordinary incidents narrated in the book. Toby, the companion of Mr. MELVILLE in the flight from the whale ship, and whom in his book he supposes to be dead, is now living in this city, following the business of a house and sign painter. His father is a respectable farmer in the town of Darien, Genesee Co. We received from Toby this morning the subjoined communication. His verbal statements correspond in all essential particulars with those made by Mr. MELVILLE respecting their joint adventures, and from the assurances we have received in regard to Toby’s character, we have no reason to doubt his word. His turning up here is a strange verification of a very strange and, as has hitherto been deemed, an almost incredible book
To the Editor of the Buffalo Com. Adv.:
In the New York Evangelist I chanced to see a notice of a new publication in two parts, called “Typee, a residence in the Marquesas,” by HERMAN MELVILLE. In the book he speaks of his comrade in misfortune, “Toby,” who left him so mysteriously, and whom h supposed had been killed by the Happar natives. The Evangelist speaks rather disparagingly of the book as being too romantic to be true, and as being too severe on the missionaries. But to my object: I am the true and veritable “Toby,” yet living, and I am happy to testify to the entire accuracy of the work so long as I was with MELVILLE, who makes me figure so largely in it. I have not heard of MELVILLE or “Tommo,” since I left him on the Island, and likewise supposed him to be dead; and not knowing where a letter would find him, and being anxious to know where he is, and to tell him my “yarn” and compare “log” books, I have concluded to ask you to insert this notice, and inform him of my yet being alive, and to ask you to request New York, Albany and Boston papers to publish this notice, so that it may reach him. My true name is RICHARD GREEN, and I have the scar on my head which I received from the Happar spear and which came near killing me. I left MELVILLE and fell in with an Irishman, who had resided on the Island for some time, and who assisted me in returning to ship, and who faithfully promised me to go and bring MELVILLE to our ship next day, which he never did, his only object being money. I have him five dollars to get me on board, but could not return to MELVILLE. I sailed to New Zealand and thence home; and I request MELVILLE to send me his address if this should chance to meet his eye. Mortarkee was the word I used when I heard of his being alive. “TOBY.”
Buffalo Commercial Advertiser. July 1, 1846: 2.
Troy Daily Whig. July 4, 1846: 2 col 1.


In addition to the following advertisement of the verity, as well as the interest, of Mr. MELVILLE’s charming book, a letter from a highly respectable citizen of Buffalo, has been placed in our hands, vouching for the identity of “Toby,” and inquiring where he may find or address his companion in adventure.
[“How strangely things turn up!” item from Buffalo Commercial Advertiser followed.]
Daily Albany Argus. July 4, 1846: 2 col 6.

☞ Mr. MELVILLE, the Author of “Typee,” who was in town on Saturday, says that he has no doubt but that the Buffalo Sign Painter is his veritable Ship-Mate and Companion “Toby.” If this be so, it furnishes a strong exemplification of the seeming contradiction that “Truth is stranger than Fiction.”
Albany Evening Journal. July 6, 1846: 2 col 7.

We have a note from the author of “Typee,” saying that the “Toby” of the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, is all that he claims to be; and that this admits of no mistake. Mr. MELVILLE says that he can readily account for what may seem to be inexplicable in “Toby’s” statement, viz: the five dollars paid the Irishman for assisting him on board the ship: and he adds, “I have written to my old comrade, and expect soon to hear from him and see him.”

Albany Argus. July 7, 1846: 2 col 4.

Typee.—In our notice of this work we expressed very serious doubts as to its authenticity. The question whether or not it contains a veritable account of the travels and adventures of the author in the Marquesas, has met with some discussion and difference of opinion. In England, so far as we can judge from the criticisms of the press, the general opinion seems to be favorable to its accuracy. In this country, its strange narratives have not received such ready and general credence. We feel bound to say, however, that no doubt is entertained of its truth by many persons whose intimacy with the author, and general acquaintance with the subject, peculiarly fit them to form an intelligent opinion on this disputed point.—Singularly enough, some collatoral evidence in support of Mr. Melville’s fidelity to the truth, is afforded in the appearance of his companion who disappeared so mysteriously during his sojourn in Typee. We copy from the Albany Argus.
[“A Veritable Witness” and “How strangely things turn up!” followed]
Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer. July 9, 1846: 2 col 4.

TYPEE; A Residence in the Marquesas.—Mr. MELVILLE, we are informed, is about to bring out another edition of his most interesting work. It will be improved under the author’s revisal, by the omission of some portions of it not connected with the narrative; and will contain some interesting additions. Among these, will be a sequel, consisting of the facts in relation to “Toby,” and a correct narrative of the incidents connected with his escape. Mr. Melville, since the recent publications, has had an interview with his companion in adventure.
Of the general interest which this work has excited, it is not necessary to speak. If any thing, it has been read with greater avidity, and more enthusiastic commendation, in Englamd than in this country. A very large edition, published by Mr. Murray, the eminent London publisher, was soon exhausted. It has, we believe, already undergone translations in the languages of the Continent; and has beem or is about to be, dramatised.
Albany Argus. August 4, 1846: 2 col 3.
Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer. August 5, 1846: 2 col 5. [reprinting Albany Argus without second paragraph.]

“A New Edition of Typee.” Albany Evening Journal. August 4, 1846: 2 col 5. [discussed in Norsworthy, Scott. “Selling Typee, Revised Edition.” Melvilliana: the world and writings of Herman Melville. June 18, 2018. https://melvilliana.blogspot.com/2018/06/selling-typee-revised-edition.html]

August 31, 1846 – Herman Melville engaged to Elizabeth Knapp Shaw

October 1846-April 1847; Melville was referenced at least twice in the Yankee Doodle humor magazine by name, and the Typee people (if not necessarily the novel) referenced as well. A number of anonymous pieces in it from 1847 have been attributed to him.

From the “New York Daily Ism.”

“The funny functions of society must be discharged, and it is manifestly more in accordance with the laws of social harmony that certain persons should be set aside to discharge them. We hail with delight the formation of the Yankee Doodle Phalanx, though we regret the assumption of a name so narrow in its indications. Yankee Doodle seems to have very little to do with anything beyond this little spot of earth called America, whereas it should be published as much for the benefit of our brothers the Hottentots, and the inhabitants of Typee, as for our own; the Ism does them as much good as it does anybody. Why is it not printed in the Phonographic character? it would more subserve the interests of universal harmony.

We absolve the responsible Editor of the Bluster and Blunder from the charge of having to do with this paper; he has not sufficient capacity for putting two ideas together to have written a paragraph of it.”

“Opinions of the Press.” Yankee Doodle 1(?). November [?], 1846. 52. [Online scan of this magazine issue is missing the title page with the issue number and date, but it is early in Volume 1 from 1846, probably November, possibly issue number 5 or 6.]

[…] to bid some missionary God-speed to the Indies, or Boraampoolet [Borrampalem, India?] or Typee […]

“Arrival of Mrs. Yankee Doodle at Tammany Hall!” Yankee Doodle 1(?). November [?], 1846. 59. [Online scan of this magazine issue is missing the title page with the issue number and date, but it seems to be in Volume 1 from 1846, probably November, possibly issue number 5 or 6.]

[…] The buildings in which they meet are, I am told, each furnished with a compact little book-case like Harper’s School Library, containing Cœlebs [Coelebs In Search of a Wife and Coelebs Married by Hannah More] and others of Thomas Moore’s writings, pious selections from Mrs. [Lydia Huntley] Sigourney’s works, the sacred poems of Mr. [Nathaniel Parker] Willis, and the latest missionary reports from our brethren who are laboring in the Marquesas and Society Islands. […]

“Letters from Mrs. Yankee Doodle to Her Kinsfolk. No. II.” Yankee Doodle 1(?). December [?], 1846. 72. [Online scan of this magazine issue is missing the title page with the issue number and date, but it is early in Volume 1 from 1846, probably December, possibly issue number 7 or 8.]

ca. 1847 – portrait of Herman Melville painted by Lansingburgh artist Asa Twitchell

March 6, 1847 – Review of Etchings of a Whaling Cruise, by J. Ross Browne. Literary World., http://melvilliana.blogspot.com/2014/09/melvilles-review-of-etchings-of-whaling.html

March 30, 1847 – Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas first published (in UK)


“Omoo.” Yankee Doodle 2(1). April 10, 1847. 2.

10 April 1847 (a day of book buying in preparation for the composition of his third book Mardi, published in 1849)


Books purchased on April 10, 1847, according to Melvilles Marginalia, included:

• Burton, Robert. Melancholy; as it Proceeds from the Disposition and Habit, the Passion of Love, and the Influence of Religion. Drawn Chiefly from the Celebrated Work Intitled, Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy; and in which the Kinds, Causes, Consequences and Cures of this English Malady “are traced from within Its inmost centre to its outmost skin.” London: T., 1801.

• Jacobs, Thomas Jefferson. Scenes, Incidents, and Adventures in the Pacific Ocean; or The Islands of the Australasian Seas, during the Cruise of the Clipper Margaret Oakley, under Capt. Benj. Morrell NY: Harper, 1844.

• Turnbull, John. A Voyage Round the World, in the Years 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803, and 1804: in which the Author visited Madeira, the Brazils, Cape of Good Hope, the English Settlements of Botany Bay and Norfolk Island; and the Principal Islands in the Pacific Ocean. With a Continuation of Their History to the Present Period. 2nd Ed. London: Maxwell, 1813.

• Webster, Noah. An American Dictionary of the English Language. NY: Harper, 1846 or later edition.

May 1, 1847 – Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas first published (in US)


YANKEE DOODLE has the pleasure of announcing the receipt of the following papers from the distinguished persons whose names they bear. He regrets that he cannot promise to lay them before his readers, as they were merely submitted to him for his judgment upon their merits. The writers express their perfect consciousness that they could not choose so good a medium for the diffusion of their sentiments as YANKEE DOODLE’S own columns, and are deterred from so doing, only because they fear that it might be supposed that they intended some jest or satire, when the fact is that they are perfectly serious.

Omboog, or three months residence in the Moon. HERMAN MELVILLE

Yankee Doodle 2(31). May 8, 1847. 44.

“Thoughts on Mediocrity.” Such was the commencement of a critique we intend to write on Omoo!

Yankee Doodle 2(46). June 12, 1847. 99.

“Thoughts on Mediocrity” would seem to come from:

“Thoughts on Mediocrity by ‘The Doctor.'” The Knickerbocker 29(3). March 1847. 250-253. https://books.google.com/books?id=3MQGAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA250

The above piece in The Knickerbocker was popular enough to have received more than a few reprints, e.g.:

The Universalist Union 12(19). March 20, 1847. 303-304.

Connecticut Courant [Hartford, CT]. March 20, 1847: 45 cols 1-3.

Western Literary Messenger 8(8). March 27, 1847. 120-121.

Vermont Mercury [Woodstock, VT]. May 14, 1847: 1 cols 1-2.

Vermont Union Whig [Rutland, VT]. July 1, 1847: 1 cols 1-2.

Voice of Freedom [Brandon, VT]. July 01, 1847: 1 cols 1-2.

Farmer’s Cabinet [Amherst, NH]. May 3, 1855: 1 cols 1-2.

Independent Democrat [Concord, NH]. September 6, 1855: 1 cols 4-5.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle. October 26, 1855: 1 cols 1-2.

April 1847-March 1848 – excerpts from Omoo appear in several newspapers, including:

“A Dinner Party at Imeeo.” The Guardian [London, UK] April 10, 1847: 3 col 6.

“A Dinner Party in Imeeo.” National Era [Washington, DC]. July 8, 1847: 1 col 5.

“A Dinner Party at Imeeo.” Arkansas Banner [Little Rock, AR]. August 23, 1847: 1 cols 4-5.

“A Dinner Party in Imeeo.” Racine Advocate [WI]. March 1, 1848: 1 cols 2-4.

July-September 1847 – short anonymous humor pieces for Yankee Doodle magazine attributed to Herman Melville, not signed by him

Text—”One wishy-washy, everlasting flood!”

Firstly, “Introduction or Exordium.” My hearers! allow me to introduce you to Dow Jr. of the Sunday Mercury; Dow Jr.! my hearers! Happy to make you acquainted!
Secondly, “the Division of the Subject.” The subject is divided into two parts. First—”wishy”; Second—”washy.” The “everlasting flood” will not be considered, as it is a consequence of the “wishy-washy!”
Thirdly, “Narration or Explication.”
There was a man—his name was Dow—
Who wrote a sermon rather clever!
‘Twas liked! but vot’s the consekwences now?
He’s going to write the like for ever!
Fourthly, “The Reasoning or Arguments.” A Sandwich Island lad who had been converted by the Missionaries of the A. B. O. C. O. F. M.—(the remainder of the alphabet is omitted, what is given means American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions,)—well! one day when this lad wrote a letter to his patrons, he ended each properly explained, opinional sentence, with the phrase “That idea’s done!” A Sandwich Islander knows but little, but he does know when an idea is used up. But a Manhattan Islander doesn’t know it—at least Dow Jr. doesn’t—therefore it is clear that a native of Owhyhee, (or Hawaii, as it is now-a-days spelt—fonography probably,) is a more clever man than the Manhattanese.
Fifthly, The Pathetic part.
Dow’s congregation always calmly sleeps,
The tedious sermons of their preacher under,
But after all, ’tis not a theme for wonder,
For, if a man such chronic pother keeps,
It is not strange that folks get used to thunder!
Sixthly, The Conclusion. Hence we conclude, with Hudribras, that when
“The pulpit-drum ecclesiastic
Is beat with fist, instead of a stick”—
this, although the public may be a sheep, there will be a time, when even sheepskin is worn out, and can’t bear “rapping on the head” any longer.
Yankee Doodle 2(40). July 10, 1847. 131.

“Authentic Anecdotes of ‘Old Zack.’: Anecdote, No. I and Anecdote, No. II.” Yankee Doodle 2(42). July 24, 1846. 152.



I have observed, for several nights past, a strange light in the south western quarter of the sky, inclining to the south. I find it laid down in none of the astronomical charts in my possession nor am I able to fix it in any constellation or group. I recollect observing a similar appearance and pointing it out to Professor MITCHELL of the Cincinnati Observatory on his visit to this city last winter. he could make nothing of it. Perhaps you, who have the range of the sideral, as well as the terrestrial sphere, will be able to help me. Yours respectfully,

Prof. of Astronomy and Celestial Trigonometery,

Columbia College, N. Y.


We have received communications of a similar tenor to the foregoing from several other quarters: among them, one from a distinguished scientific gentleman at Staten Island, who dwells upon the fluctuating and uncertain character of this light, “which,” to use his own expressive language, “seems to be all up one moment and all down the next.” A letter has, also, just come to hand from a farmer, living at Hackensack, New Jersey, who describes a similar light, as flooding the neighborhood where he lives, shining, he says, from the direction of New York city, and bewildering, with its sudden and dazzling glare, the cattle in the fields. He speaks of having lost a fine heifer, engulphed in a morass, by attempting to follow its will-o’-the-wisp shiftings; also of the narrow escape of a neighbor’s son, at Sekokus, who lost his foothold on a bridge, gaping at it. These communications all close with a request that YANKEE DOODLE will enlighten them as to the character of this new planet. In answer, YANKEE DOODLE suggests, it must be THE BARNUM which shines, at about S. S. E. from the City Hall, just over the American Museum. It is unquestionably a most potential planet, and has presided over the birth of a great many wonderful and curious creatures. It was under this star, we think, that Mrs. JOYCE HEATH attained her 104th birth-day and came to be the nurse of General WASHINGTON. This was the natal star also, we believe, of the FeeJee Mermaid. It ruled for a time the destinies of General TOM THUMB, and now culminates powerfully, according to popular belief, in the direction of the Chinese Junk. Its place was first fixed by a Mr. BARNUM, an enterprising citizen of this city, and it appropriately bears his name.

We have observed that every Monday evening, during the session of the City Council, it wheels about, as by some magical influence, and blazes in at the southern window of the Hall, with great power.

We have learned from a subordinate in the Mayor’s office, just arrived, that this course of proceeding on the part of THE BARNUM saves the city about five shillings weekly in candles, and that the City Aldermen regard Mr. BARNUM as a great public benefactor.

Yankee Doodle 2(42). July 24, 1847. 153.

One of its Assistant Editors “Reflects Credit” on the Courier and Enquirer.

YANKEE DOODLE makes no profession of superior morality, but he will at all times endeavor to respect the decencies of life and preserve the proprieties of language. A writer, whose initials (G. W. P.) [George Washington Peck] make him known as one of the assistant editors of the Courier & Enquirer [Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer] newspaper, takes Mr. HERMAN MELVILLE to task, in the last number of the American Review in high parsonical style, for the freedom of his “Omoo.” Mr. P. is not entitled to the throwing of the first stone, and if he had made up his mind to lynch “Omoo,” he should have selected cleaner shot than the following to pelt it with. Are we reading a miscellaneous magazine, for the study and the drawing room, or have we come upon a stray leaf in physiology, bound in among the pages of the “American Review, a Whig Journal,” by mistake?

“It is nothing new to hear conceited men boast of their perfect irresistibleness with the sex. ‘Oh, it is the easiest thing in the world,’ we remember, one of these gentry used to say, a la Mantalini; ‘a woman is naturally cunning, now only you keep cool and you’ll soon see through her; a man must look out for himself, a woman for herself,‘ &c. This very person, as we happened to know, through a confidential medical friend, could no more, at that very time, when his conversation was in this lofty strain, have wronged a woman, than Charteris could have committed the crime for which he was hung. Since then, and confirmed by various other experience, we have always doubted when we hear a man, especially on a short acquaintance, and most especially in a book that goes to the public, pluming himself on his virility—letting it be no secret that he is a ‘very devil among the women.’ Once, at a refectory in —, we were supping with a friend, when, the tables being full, there came a little, long-necked, falling-shouldered, pumpkin-faced young man, and took the end of ours. We exchanged a few words, and presently he dashed, without previous preparation, into a full confession of what he styled his ‘peculiar weakness,’ in which, if we were to believe him, he let out enough to show that he might have out-bidden the Satyrs, in Spenser, for the favors of Helena. Our friend, who has command of visage, drew him on till he could not help smiling at his own lies. We made inquiry, and learned afterwards that he was a sheriff’s clerk, or some such sort of thing, and that his name was Joseph.”

Yankee Doodle 2(42). July 24, 1847. 160.

“Authentic Anecdotes of ‘Old Zack.’: Anecdote, No. III.” Yankee Doodle 2(43). July 31, 1847. 167.

An interior view of the American Museum, can only be obtained by the payment of twenty-five cents, BARNUM currency: but our artist, who has a wonderful facility in stereotyping, on wood, the comicalities of our public places of amusement, having paid the required sum, we present above an exact likeness of this celebrated storehouse of grotesqueries at a much less price; thus out-Barnuming BARNUM, by giving for a sixpence what the father of TOM THUMB would have charged a quarter for.
YANKEE DOODLE has come to one conclusion. If the whole world of animated nature—human or brute—at any time produces a monstrosity or a wonder, she has but one object in view—to benefit BARNUM. BARNUM, under the happy influence of a tallow candle in some corner or other of Yankee land, was born sole heir to all her lean men, fat women, dwarfs, two-headed cows, amphibious sea-maidens, large-eyed owls, small-eyed mice, rabbit-eating anacondas, bugs, monkies and mummies. His domain extends even to the forest, and he claims exclusive right to all wooden legs lost, as estrays on the field of battle, and, as a matter of course, to the boots in which they are encased. We give an interior view of the Barnum Property, embracing a life-sized exhibition of the great Santa-Anna Boot, which has been brought on—by the loops by two able-bodied young negroes—direct from the seat of war.
“View of the Barnum Property.” Yankee Doodle 2(43). July 31, 1847. 168.

“View of the Barnum Property.” Yankee Doodle 2(43). July 31, 1847. 168.

August 4, 1847 – Melville and Shaw married; family moves to New York City

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“Authentic Anecdotes of ‘Old Zack.’: ‘Gen. Taylor’s Personal Appearance,’ or Old Zach Physiologically and Otherwise Considered.” Yankee Doodle 2(44). August 7, 1847. 172.

“Authentic Anecdotes of ‘Old Zack.’: Anecdote IV.” Yankee Doodle 2(45). August 14, 1847. 188.

“Authentic Anecdotes of ‘Old Zack.’: Anecdote V and Anecdote VI.” Yankee Doodle 2(46). August 21, 1847. 199.

“Authentic Anecdotes of ‘Old Zack.’: Anecdote VII and Anecdote VIII.” Yankee Doodle 2(47). August 28, 1847. 202.

“Authentic Anecdotes of ‘Old Zack.’: Anecdote IX.” Yankee Doodle 2(49). September 11, 1847. 229.

The northern papers announce the marriage of Mr. Herman Melville, author of “Typee” and “Omoo,” to a daughter of Chief Justice Shaw, of Massachusetts. What will Fahoway say to this?
Arkansas Banner [Little Rock, AR]. September 13, 1847: 2 col 2.

$1,000 REWARD

We are happy to announce on behalf of the Postmaster General, that a reward of One thousand Dollars will be paid to any person who will procure him a private interview with the Sea-serpent, of Nahant notoriety.  Mr. JOHNSON is convinced that an economical arrangement can be made with the Serpent, for the transmission of the European Mails from Boston to Halifax.  He is the more anxious to effect this, from the universal satisfaction expressed at the advantageous conclusion of his negociation for the carriage of the mails between New York and Boston.  The personage known to fame and to the Commercial Advertiser, as “the man who carries the long hose at fires” is supposed to be acquainted with the whereabouts of the Serpent, and his friends will confer a favor on the Department by calling his attention to this notice.

N. B.—A smart jockey of about twenty stone weight, wanted to superintend this line.  One who can loan his employer between three and four thousand dollars without interest, to pay the balance of a Mr. VANDERBILT’S account, may hear of a permanent situation with a liberal salary.  It is suggested, as no passenger will be carried by this line, and consequently no danger can result from explosions, that those who have had practice as engineers of steamboats and rail trains, will find it useless to apply for this situation.

Yankee Doodle 2(49). September 11, 1847. 223. [Generally called “On the Sea Serpent” in books on Melville]


Troy Daily Whig. February 8, 1848: 3 col 5.

FOR SALE OR TO LET, a large and convenient house and lot, situate on River street, in the village of Lansingburgh. The house was for several years occupied by Mrs. Melville. The location is a desirable one, and if sold, the terms will be made reasonable to the purchaser. Inquire of J. F. Knickerbacker, at 21 First street, Troy, or of H. Knickerbacker, Lansingburgh.
Troy Daily Whig. February 8, 1848: 3 col 5.

☞ Our friend and late fellow townsman Herman Melville has just ready for the press a new work entitled “Redburn; his First Voyage: being the Sailor Boy’s Confessions and Reminiscences of the Son of a Gentleman.” It will appear simultaneously from the press of the Harpers, and Bently, in London.
Lansingburgh Democrat. August 9, 1849: 2 col 3. [“late” here in the sense of no longer resident]

Of the Library of School District Number One, Lansingburgh, N. Y. […]


Typee. […]

Mardi; A Voyage Thither. […]
Lansingburgh Gazette. October 19 1849: 2, 3.

Herman Melville’s sister Helen Melville Griggs (1817-1888) is known to have visited Lansingburgh in late 1850, and possibly other family members may have at other times.

Letter from H. R. HAWKINS.

HONOLULU, OAHU, Sandwich Is. Dec. 10, 1849. […]
As for any description of these Islands, it would be useless to attempt it, as they have been so often described by more fluent pens, instance, Typee and Omoo. All that Melville ever told about the missionaries in this part of the world, you may take for gospel.
Speaking of Melville, I was conversing with a gentleman the other day about “Type and Omoo” [sic] when he stated that he was well acquainted with their author, and knew him at a time when he was setting up pins in a ball alley. I think no mention is made of such a circumstance in either of those works. […]
I am your affectionate son,
To Capt. E. Hawkins, Jr
Lansingburgh Gazette. October 19, 1850: 2 cols 5-6.

NAVAL.—The U. S. S. Falmouth, hence 21st Nov. arrived at Nukahiva, Marquesas Islands, on the 27th Dec., all well. She had a long passage, of 35 days, occasioned by continued head winds.
The Falmouth found in port at Nukahiva, a French war schooner, and the Hawaiian bark Don Quixote; the latter loading with hogs and provisions for San Francisco.
After remaining three days at the Marquesas, the Falmouth sailed on the 30th Dec. for Tahiti, whence we hear from her under date of Jan. 6th,, all well. We have received from an officer on board a sketch of her visit to the Marquesas, which we give below. U. S. S. FALMOUTH Tahiti, Jan. 6, 1851.
Editor of the Polynesian:
We sailed from Honolulu on the 21st, Nov. and after contending with head winds thirty-five days, arrived at Nukahiva on the 27th Dec., all well.
The only vessels in port were a French war schooner, and a Hawaiian bark, the Don Quixote, then loading with hogs and provisions for San Francisco. The harbor is a fine sheet of water, scooped, as it were, out of the rocks by the hand of man. It is eight or nine miles in circumference, without any shoals or obstructions; good deep anchorage throughout, and securely sheltered on three sides by rocky hills from five to fifteen hundred feet high, partially covered with stunted herbage, and in many places shooting up into naked rocks and cliffs.
At the head of the harbor, on an elevated rock, projecting into the water, the French have a fort and barracks; defended in front by a glacis and substantial granite breastwork, in rear by a slight wall perforated with embrasures for musketry; the strength, I understand, does not exceed fifty men. The officers are quartered in a large stone mansion, two stories high with an elevated basement, and a neat balcony around the upper story. The house of the Governor is a handsome modern stone building embosomed in trees and surrounded by a beautiful garden. The valley of Nukahiva is quite small, with a population, I was told, of about eight hundred, which I think is a high estimate.
Two French Catholic priests are stationed here pursuing their Missionary labors; they have from thirty to fifty converts and a school of forty pupils, many of whom can read, their plain frame dwelling is in the middle of a charming garden in which many of the fruits and flowers of the tropics are cultivated, and a number of flower and vegetable exotics; they have recently erected a neat little chapel in which they officiate regularly; their teachings, example and piety, must have a good effect in reclaiming the savages around them.
The Island which is three thousand eight hundred feet high in the centre, has no appearance of volcanic origin or coral formation, while its upright basaltic rocks lead to the opinion, that is must have been upheaved from the bottom of the great deep by some great convulsion of nature: its sides present a great number of valleys separated in many places by only a narrow, rocky mural ridge and are generally independent of each other. War is frequent among them, in the words of my informant, “It is hard to tell when the war begins or ends as it is always going on between some of the valleys.”
The warriors of the valley next to leeward, of Nukahiva about two miles distant, went to make war on a neighboring valley the day we left port. On hearing which the King, or Chief of Nukahiva immediately collected about fifty warriors and hastened to make war on, or plunder the defenceless valley, women and children, in the absence of its defenders. Such acts of treachery, and the desire of plunder occasioned by their indolence and necessities, make war perpetual among them.
Notwithstanding these savage wars, the priests go all over the island, depending alone on their sacred character for protection. One of them at the time of our arrival was absent on a mission to the valleys “Typee” and “Happer” (mentioned by Melville in his book “Typee”) distant only two or three miles, and returned before we left port. I inquired of him for Melville’s chiefs “Mehevi” and “Mow Mow,” but he did not know either by that name, the two chiefs of Typee Valley whom he has known for seven years are named “Howkaai” and “Ouamana.” “Fayaway” is not, he said, a common name for females on the Island, he had never met with any of that name. So I could not gain any information respecting the heroes or heroine of Mr. Melville’s “Typee.”
Capt. Petigru, commanding this ship, hearing that a Captain Fisher of the whale ship “Lyon” of New Bedford or Fairhaven had been maltreated at the Island of “Roua Poua” about twenty-five miles south from Nukahiva, determined to go there and investigate how far the rumor was founded in fact. One of the Catholic priests, Mr. John Frechou, who had frequently visited that island and has many converts, including the King, among its inhabitants, agreed to go along with us and lend us his aid as interpreter or otherwise. On Sunday morning we left Nukahiva, and about twelve o’clock came up with the north side of “Roua Poua.” […]
J. S. D.
The Polynesian [Honolulu, HI]. February 15, 1851: 1 cols 3-6.

Haraszti, Zoltán. “Melville Defends Typee.” More Books: The Bulletin of the Boston Public Library 22(6). June 1947. 203-208. https://archive.org/stream/morebooks1947bost#page/202/mode/2up/search/melville

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“Melville Trail.” Berkshire Historical Society. http://berkshirehistory.org/herman-melville-arrowhead/melville-trail/

“Herman Melville’s New Bedford” [walking tour]. National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/nebe/planyourvisit/upload/melville_nb.pdf

“Massachusetts Whale Trail” [“nearly 40 museums, attractions, whale watching excursions, historic sites, and tours dedicated to our special connection with these beloved creatures of the deep”]. Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. https://www.massvacation.com/whale-trail/

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