Monday, February 29, 2016

What Rubio will hear handsome men say to him as long as he lives--WHAT SMALL HANDS YOU HAVE!

For half a century, it may be, Marco Rubio will have tall handsome Anglo men, tall handsome black men, tall handsome Asian men, and tall handsome Latino men meet him for the first time and say in surprise, "I did not realize how small your hands are."

When you are a potty-mouth as Rubio has become, you will always be known as a potty-mouth. Were he to become President and start to sign a document exporting 12 million Hispanics, someone in the room would comment about his small hands and the whole Oval Office would have to suppress giggles.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sanders--sooner or later, the triumph of vanity over principle--Hillary's emails

You know when John Kasich has gotten just a little too full of himself when he attacks Planned Parenthood. You know when Bernie Sanders has gotten just a little too full of himself when, skunked in South Carolina, he decides that Hillary Clinton's emails are a very serious matter.

If you win a primary where every voter is white or looks white, it may be hard to think of yourself as less than godlike, I suppose, and even if you don't win but place unexpectedly high it's still hard to think of yourself as less than godlike.


Childers in "The Dulcibella" on shifts in mood, self-analysis--Ishmael and Carruthers

'If you'll go out I shall be able to get out too,' I added. He seemed miserable at this ghost of an altercation, but I pushed past, mounted the ladder, and in the expiring moonlight unstrapped that accursed portmanteau and, brimming over with irritation, groped among its contents, sorting some into the skylight with the same feeling that nothing mattered much now, and it was best to be done with it; repacking the rest with guilty stealth ere Davies should discover their character, and strapping up the whole again. Then I sat down upon my white elephant and shivered, for the chill of autumn was in the air. It suddenly struck me that if it had been raining things might have been worse still. The notion made me look round. The little cove was still as glass; stars above and stars below; a few white cottages glimmering at one point on the shore; in the west the lights of Flensburg; to the east the fiord broadening into unknown gloom. From Davies toiling below there were muffled sounds of wrenching, pushing, and hammering, punctuated occasionally by a heavy splash as something shot up from the hatchway and fell into the water.
How it came about I do not know. Whether it was something pathetic in the look I had last seen on his face--a look which I associated for no reason whatever with his bandaged hand; whether it was one of those instants of clear vision in which our separate selves are seen divided, the baser from the better, and I saw my silly egotism in contrast with a simple generous nature; whether it was an impalpable air of mystery which pervaded the whole enterprise and refused to be dissipated by its most mortifying and vulgarizing incidents--a mystery dimly connected with my companion's obvious consciousness of having misled me into joining him; whether it was only the stars and the cool air rousing atrophied instincts of youth and spirits; probably, indeed, it was all these influences, cemented into strength by a ruthless sense of humour which whispered that I was in danger of making a mere commonplace fool of myself in spite of all my laboured calculations; but whatever it was, in a flash my mood changed. The crown of martyrdom disappeared, the wounded vanity healed; that precious fund of fictitious resignation drained away, but left no void. There was left a fashionable and dishevelled young man sitting in the dew and in the dark on a ridiculous portmanteau which dwarfed the yacht that was to carry it; a youth acutely sensible of ignorance in a strange and strenuous atmosphere; still feeling sore and victimized; but withal sanely ashamed and sanely resolved to enjoy himself. I anticipate; for though the change was radical its full growth was slow. But in any case it was here and now that it took its birth.

Missing Brian Higgins

Reposted after a message from Sid Scharwz, who remembered us both. Updated only about the slightly shabby California house, recently in the news.

Saturday, May 30, 2015
All I can say right now about Brian Higgins

          I wrote memorial tributes to the great Melvilleans Harrison Hayford and Walter E. Bezanson but I never thought I would write about Brian Higgins, younger than me, not older, my student at the University of Southern California in 1968 then my collaborator on many projects for four decades. Can I compose a third in the conventional memorial genre? No. No. I protect myself in this piece by starting with Henry James, whose late works were beloved by both Brian and me. Perhaps the best thing I ever wrote alone was an article on James’s prefaces to the New York edition. It did not make much of an impact, although a very famous novelist said it “ennobled” him. No one guessed that a particular section was autobiographical, based on my collaborations with Brian. In talking about it and Brian, I will sound more than a little vainglorious. But, then, one of the things Brian explained to me was, “They just don’t comprehend the level we are operating on, Hershel.”  That, of course, became one of the many catch-phrases we laughed about every time an occasion arose, year by year, for one of us to recall it.
          In that article on the prefaces the submerged autobiography is the paragraph about James’s memories of the places where he wrote his novels and stories, places where he had performed acts of heroism: “In writing the prefaces James remembered the details of what he had written years before far less clearly than he remembered the rooms in which he had labored over his fiction and the sounds outside those rooms and (less often?) the sights from the windows in those rooms. For monument to his high achievement James might have been content with his randomly sized books in their range of colors and their diverse stamping and lettering, the hodgepodge figuring for him what the slab of marble in the suburban cemetery figured for John Marcher. Instead, in his sixties he saw his writing rooms as his monument. The remembered rooms, the scenes of his labors and of his triumphs, he enumerated lovingly.” I listed a dozen or so of the rooms, starting with “‘the high, charming, shabby old room’ that looked out at the Piazza Santa Maria Novella” and ending with, in Bad-Hamburg, “‘a dampish, dusky, unsunned room,’ so dark that he could see his way to and from his inkstand ‘but by keeping the door to the court open.’” In writing the prefaces, I said, James “rejoiced in his sense of his own bravery in these rooms, where he had encountered more dangers than in the nocturnal marches down the London streets during which he conducted his investigative researches for The Princess Casamassima. Nostalgia is a secondary emotion in these memories: these rooms, for the duration of James’s own courageous occupancy, had been inhabited by the Muse herself, and now in his memory they were sacred places.” When I wrote the paragraph in the early 1990s I was thinking, already, of the rooms in which Brian and I had worked, where we had struggled with an array of aesthetic challenges.
          When I taught summer school at Northwestern in 1973 Brian came up from Chicago to work with me at night in the English department, where we could use typewriters to lay out about what was wrong with the Cowley reordering of Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. (Later Hayford loved hearing that the piece “was aborning in old University Hall.”) Two years earlier, I had extemporized for 50 minutes when I arrived at a USC class to find the students holding paperbacks of the nonsensical Cowley edition. More recently, Brian had proved his worth by meticulously locating in it small accidental losses along with big inadvertent ludicrousnesses. The article, published in August 1975, was in due course treated briskly in American Literary Scholarship as a “bibliographical” piece, not a critical article, when of course it was a worthy piece of criticism (however much we could have improved it in later years) and, more than that, a piece that in a rudimentary way engaged basic seldom-explored problems in literary aesthetics. Then an eminent purblind Eastern professor, now dead, denounced it at length in a collection of essays on the novel without reprinting it there. (Pursuing his monomaniacal feud across international borders, decades later he challenged me to come to his hotel room, strip at least to the waist, and settle the issues once for all. This invitation gave Brian and me cause for two decades’ worth of laughter.) It was the response to our Tender article that elicited from Brian the comment about the level on which we were working. We published a bit of our mid-1970s work on Stephen Crane’s Maggie in a Norton Critical Edition, but our long essay proved unpublishable in the United States because it exposed the editorial and aesthetic incompetence of the all-powerful bibliographer Fredson Bowers. Honest reviewing of the grand national editorial project simply ceased after every editor of a textual journal had seen our paper and bowed before Bowers’s threats of legal proceedings against anyone who published it. Starting then in the mid-1970s timid textual journals stifled any inquiry into the necessary relationship between editorial principles and what cognitive psychologists were learning about the creative process. Our inability to publish this study damaged our careers and our psyches and taught us bitter lessons about doing original work and challenging authority. Brian and I wrote other articles and edited significant collections, never giving up hope of triumphing over the censorship of the monograph-length study of Maggie. How did we survive and flourish, until that article was published--not in the United States but in the Antipodes, in the 1990s? Might as well ask how we survived so many “Higgins breakfasts” as long as we did! Or how we survived the century’s coldest day yet in Chicago then later worked through the century’s real coldest day, again, toting a dead car battery and a living bundle of typescripts inch by icy inch past the Moody Bible Institute. Decade by decade we got better together as readers, teaching ourselves, and had more private fun, as when we satirizing ourselves with pretentious terms like “Flawed Grandeur” and “Fair Augury” in titles. And we laughed. Now I will never have anyone to laugh with the way I laughed with Brian.
          One workroom followed another. Perhaps the most heroic site of all was a kitchen in Ladera Heights where for two weeks in July 1975 (a month before the Tender article was published) we read Pierre, talking through the functions of passages and recording our conclusions in typed notes, many of which ultimately informed the 2006 book. In those sessions Brian and I pushed ourselves day by day into the most rigorous literary analysis either of us had ever done, the result better than either of us could have done alone, for Brian’s great strength, nourished by John Plumb and other British tutors, was as a reader, and I had been transformed as a reader by five months in bed with a one-volume Shakespeare as I recovered from tuberculosis. There were many other work spaces, thought spaces, for the later articles, the collections we edited, and the much-interrupted, Pierre book which lured us like a Spirit-Spout. We wrote together in a slightly shabby 1930s Spanish house in Brentwood (late in 2015 sold for $4,800,000, flipped for $5,100,000, and then still more recently razed, trees, house, study, and all, a teardown); the marble Newberry Library Melville Room (the Melville books now dispersed and the room repurposed); Brian’s rental apartment in Chicago; a dark narrow unsunned row house in Wilmington, Delaware, on a cliff above the Brandywine; a motel room in New Bedford where Brian kept silent about the poisonous, insidiously flattering invitation he had just heard from a great Harvard psychologist; the third floor of a Victorian on the flats in Wilmington where we worked with both lapboards and, for the first time, a computer; the very last house in southeast Pennsylvania, where a few steps into the woods the man from Leicester got to stand in three American states at once; the Public Library in Troy, New York; the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts; and finally another Spanish house, in Morro Bay, California. For some of the sessions, photographs of Brian or me holding galleys (a textual stage now unknown to writers) or page proofs or posing with books convey something of the pleasures of working together, but nothing except our printed words, especially in the Pierre book, comes close to capturing the sense of exhilaration and joy that suffused us as we did our best thinking and writing. Taken all in all, our collaborations record for me a huge, powerfully moving part of both our working lives, and our work rooms are as sacred to me as James’s were to him. Now talking about the rooms in which Brian Higgins and I taught each other for almost half a century keeps me from acknowledging what his silence is going to mean and what I am going to do without the laughter.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Amazon Over-Protects the Senile--And Apologizes Gracefully

I need multiple spare copies of the 1967 and 2001 Norton Critical Editions of MOBY-DICK in preparing the 3rd edition. Last night Amazon slapped my hand (lightly) and refused to let me make a sucker of myself by ordering 2 copies of the same book from different vendors. I emailed Amazon last night and this morning received a personal apology and a gift of $5. Now, it was annoying to realize that Amazon knows everything about me, including the age which indicates possible episodes of senility, but you know, it's like having a parent pull your hand out of the fire. Paternalism isn't bad, not this sort. And with the five dollars . . . .

Thursday, February 25, 2016

"Bring your guns to class"--Topic to be Ignored in Debate Tonight: Texas "Trigger Warnings"

We did not expect my Texas (the state where I first appeared on a census) to agree to warn timid students (with a trigger warning) before bringing up an idea or a challenge of any sort, but I would hope that the university system would now DEMAND that students who bring their guns to class give the professor a heads up before firing at her or him (a new Texas style trigger warning).

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Just learned you can tell Google News you are not particularly interested in Blake Shelton

What a relief!
But why have my Carly Firoina alerts dried up?
Why have I not heard from Jeb!Boy all day?

2016:"Trigger Warnings" Demanded by Sheltered Students. 2017: "Trigger Warnings" Come Too Late for Dying Texas Professors

Guns on Campus

A PowerPoint Slide Advises Professors to Alter Teaching to Pacify Armed Students

By Rio Fernandes
The Faculty Senate president at the University of Houston advised professors to "drop certain topics from your curriculum" after a campus-carry law takes effect in Texas.

Global Warming--NO BEACH

This is 200 feet or more into the dunes.

Herman Melville, Erskine Childers, and Motives

My nose, recently become bulbous, is now truncated at the Grindstone of Norton Critical Edition 3 of MOBY-DICK, but every day I put the NCE aside for a few moments and reread Childers's "The Letter" and reread the wonderful passage on the Gay Pursuit of a Perilous Quest. Right now I can't think of anyone who does peculiar ironic self-analyzing motivation as well as HM and EC. How Childers would have loved "Loomings"! I know very little about his life except his brave end. But he lets me laugh out loud a few minutes every day.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A TEARDOWN--$83,500 in 1968, $5,100,000 in 2015--627 Moreno Avenue--A Dirt Lot Now

Very strange feelings this week. For three decades when I thought of my study I visualized a TV writer working there, continuing a writer's California life. I wished him well, and now see the house, much extended, with a pool on the west (26th Street) side, and yet another family owning the house. No--not another family owning the house. I learn instead that the owner who paid $5,100,000 razed it, house and study and every tree. $5,100,000 for a teardown.
I loved my study. Here are a few pictures.
Part of the strange feelings, of course, are about addiction--and in this case addiction of an almost inconceivable magnitude. In the mid-80s the heroin addiction was acknowledged, so I was always a little edgy in thinking about the LA house, but I wanted them to be happy, and I wanted David Milch to appreciate the study. I want them to survive and thrive again.

The stained glass had the motto "Bending Every Effort." It was hinged, and concealed glassware. It was from a Heavener, OK church, as was the glass on the door.

Above, top, the women of Israel saying precisely the wrong thing about David to King Saul--

In the next picture see how wide the top board is--perfect for laying out papers. There were of course cubbies on both sides.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Jeb!Boy--Vanity, Vanity, Vanity. "Clap, Please."

They threw all that money at him and told him he was not the most stupid Bush.

They were wrong.

Who will be killed by the gun with his name on it? I foresee . . . .

The Donald and the Pope: Truump’s Praise of ‘Pig’s Blood’ Technique to Stop Terrorists

 It's almost as offensive as it would have been if the Pope had come here and secretly hugged a gay-hating pig.

All for MOBY-DICK--Superb Working Space for Today and Tomorrow--Voltaren on R Shoulder

So hard to work with 3 texts open to different pages!
Now a better stage.
Stage of marking footnotes for 3rd edition of the Norton Critical Edition of MOBY-DICK.
See little Bartleby stool--not the grand Bartleby chair on which I wrote FLAWED TEXTS AND VERBAL ICONS in 1983. See the shelf on piano-lid hinges. See one of the hanging lights and imagine the fabulous recessed ceiling lights from the great Cayucos Electric magician. See the mug of pencils sharpened in the top floor office electrically, not on Hayford's manual one which I took in 1963 (leaving him my fancy new one that grasped the pencil). See the hippo in ballet legging on the floor for feet. See the library snake holding open a 1967 NCE. See me wheeling in the revolving chair to cross to the computer to see just where the check mark goes within the text.  Good to move every few minutes.
Good to take break to get out camera.
See the Melville books being crowded out by ORNERY PEOPLE books. See for the last time, since the Melville collection is going South to Beaumont.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Pope Francis Suggests Donald Trump Is ‘Not Christian’ - The New York Times

And this from the man who secretly met with Kim Davis?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Judge not, lest ye be judged," Jesus is reported to have said.

Hard not to judge!

$5,100,000 Reasons I Can't Buy Back my 1970s Brentwood House

I wished them well, and they lived there 3 decades.
I loved the idea that a writer would have my fabulous study.
The news then of previous addiction was sobering, literally, for me.
The present consequences of another addiction are horrific, and we are not gloating.
They improved the house, and I hope some of the years there were happy.

Melville's Ishmael and Childers's Carruthers--Responding to this Gay Pursuit of a Perilous Quest

I'm working day and night on footnotes to MOBY-DICK for the 3rd Norton Critical Edition and responding, as always, to Ishmael's explanations of bodily states, psychological states, mental states. Childers is not Melville, but there's a kinship in their brooding about the riddles of their motivations.

          from Erskine Childers’s THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS

          That was a curious evening. Dusk soon fell, and the devil made a determined effort to unman me; first, with the scrambled tea which was the tardy substitute for an orderly lunch, then with the new and nauseous duty of filling the side-lights, which meant squatting in the fo'c'sle to inhale paraffin and dabble in lamp-black; lastly, with an all-round attack on my nerves as the night fell on our frail little vessel, pitching on her precarious way through driving mist. In a sense I think I went through the same sort of mental crisis as when I sat upon my portmanteau at Flensburg. The main issue was not seriously in question, for I had signed on in the Dulcibella for good or ill; but in doing so I had outrun myself, and still wanted an outlook, a mood suited to the enterprise, proof against petty discouragements. Not for the first time a sense of the ludicrous came to my assistance, as I saw myself fretting in London under my burden of self-imposed woes, nicely weighing that insidious invitation, and stepping finally into the snare with the dignity due to my importance; kidnapped as neatly as ever a peaceful clerk was kidnapped by a lawless press-gang, and, in the end, finding as the arch-conspirator a guileless and warm-hearted friend, who called me clever, lodged me in a cell, and blandly invited me to talk German to the purpose, as he was aiming at a little secret service on the high seas. Close in the train of Humour came Romance, veiling her face, but I knew it was the rustle of her robes that I heard in the foam beneath me; I knew that it was she who handed me the cup of sparkling wine and bade me drink and be merry. Strange to me though it was, I knew the taste when it touched my lips. It was not that bastard concoction I had tasted in the pseudo-Bohemias of Soho; it was not the showy but insipid beverage I should have drunk my fill of at Morven Lodge; it was the purest of her pure vintages, instilling the ancient inspiration which, under many guises, quickens thousands of better brains than mine, but whose essence is always the same; the gay pursuit of a perilous quest. Then and there I tried to clinch the matter and keep that mood. In the main I think I succeeded, though I had many lapses.
          For the present my veins tingled with the draught. The wind humming into the mainsail, the ghostly wave-crests riding up out of the void, whispered a low thrilling chorus in praise of adventure. Potent indeed must the spell have been, for, in reality, that first night sail teemed with terrors for me. It is true that it began well, for the haze dispersed, as Davies had prophesied, and Bulk Point Lighthouse guided us safely to the mouth of Kiel Fiord. It was during this stage that, crouching together aft, our pipe-bowls glowing sympathetically, we returned to the problem before us; for we had shot out on our quest with volcanic precipitation, leaving much to be discussed.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Birthday tomorrow Everett Parker

Everett Parker would have been 86 on 10 February 2016

The ACUSHNET--Perils of Whaling--December 1847

The Louisville Daily Courier 23 May 1848

PERILS OF WHALING.--Four Persons killed by a Whale.--A letter from Capt. Rogers, of ship Acushnet, of Fairhaven, states that on the 22d December, one of her boats was stove by a whale, and John Taber, third officer, Henry Johnson, boatsteerer, and John Pearce and John Lockett, seamen, were killed or drowned. The Acushnet had lost three boats, and had two others badly stove within a month.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Adventure Writing at its Best--Erskine Childers again

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Erskine Childers’s THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS continues to enthrall me. Here Carruthers has finally learned why Davies has lured him into what so-far has seemed a ridiculously unaccountable enterprise:

Close in the train of Humour came Romance, veiling her face, but I knew it was the rustle of her robes that I heard in the foam beneath me; I knew that it was she who handed me the cup of sparkling wine and bade me drink and be merry. Strange to me though it was, I knew the taste when it touched my lips. It was not that bastard concoction I had tasted in the pseudo-Bohemias of Soho; it was not the showy but insipid beverage I should have drunk my fill of at Movern Lodge; it was the purest of her pure vintages, instilling the ancient inspiration which, under many guises, quickens thousands of better brains than mine, but whose essence is always the same: The gay pursuit of a perilous quest.

 This will just be some initial notes on


          In my extreme old age I define my scholarly life, perhaps vaingloriously, as one in which I was for prolonged periods engaged in the pursuit of a perilous quest. It’s hard to use the term “gay pursuit” when you are damaging your health by transcribing old letters in the middle of the night, or trying to write prose between 2 and 5 morning after morning, while working fulltime. But then I remember 1957-1959 when, just recovering from tuberculosis, I worked as a telegrapher 8 at night till 4 in the morning in the Kansas City Southern Freight House in Port Arthur while going to school at Lamar State College of Technology in the day. In that enormous vacant space of the Freight House I read THE FAERIE QUEENE and 2 versions of THE PRELUDE not for a class but for myself. That was “gay pursuit of a perilous quest” to learn about British poetry. Perilous?  Sure, for who knew whether I could move from railroad to Texas high school? What jobs would there be? Would the state prevent me from being around children, “arrested” TB or not?

          For pure joy I remember 1962, when the New-York Public Library and other NYC and Massachusetts libraries opened their treasures to me. At the Berkshire Athenaeum that summer I sat for hours at a long table, all alone, then when school turned out I shared the tables with fifteen or twenty small children, so that I experienced the fabulous joy of reading century and century and a half old letters in the presence of bustling descendants of some of the Melville neighbors I was reading about.  I remember the day at the NYPL when I said, for ten minutes, to hell with trying to get through what I came up to see, I want to see what’s in the folder of undated letters from unidentified correspondents, and in minutes found an unknown Melville letter. Then there is another sort of rare joys, as when I became the first person in almost a century to read something very closely approximating what Stephen Crane meant THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE to be. Gay pursuit of a perilous quest for knowledge of what American writers really wrote! Just how perilous it was FLAWED TEXTS AND VERBAL ICONS demonstrates.

          In MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE, I see that I talk more than once about the joy that a biographical researcher in the archives (paper or virtual) can experience and that no one who writes a biography from other books can ever experience. Here is that final paragraph of the Preface:

          These Malay pirates of literary biography, springing up, weapons drawn, from the bottom of the ship in the treacherous fashion Melville describes in Mardi, will not succeed. As long as libraries preserve archives such as the Gansevoort-Lansing Collection of the New York Public Library or the Melville and Morewood papers at the Berkshire Athenaeum or the Melvill-Melville papers at Houghton Library, or the Shaw papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society, pilgrim researchers will come, even if only a dedicated few. There will always be a few literary detectives who devote months or years to the pursuit of documents in the confidence that at last they will sit at midnight in a little bare motel room in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and turn through a big shoebox full of what looks like only bills of lading until you spy a blue folded paper, clearly a letter, a letter with the signature “Really Thine, H. Melville”--a letter reassuring Melville’s wife’s young step-cousin Sam Savage: “Concerning the foot-ball part of the business, why, we are all foot-balls, more or less--& it is lucky that we are, on some accounts. It is important, however, that our balls be covered with a leather, good & tough, that will stand banging & all ‘the slings & arrows of outrageous fortune.’” Literary detectives will sit in dark rooms peering at their computer screens, doing their ultimately-advanced searches. They will imaginatively misspell (Mellvill, Mellville, Hermann, and more) when accurate spellings turn up nothing. They will try their equivalent of “froward” and “godless” on Google every few weeks for most of a decade, as Scott Norsworthy did until he discovered a source for some of Melville’s once-baffling notes in the back of his Shakespeare. They will boggle at a passage in a Melville text and find riches, as I did when I Googled “Napoleon” and “outline” and “tree” and discovered that Melville in The Confidence-Man was referring to a then-famous example of hidden art. There will always be a few frequenters of known archives, a few imaginative trackers of missing archives, a few librarians who recognize gaps in their institution’s papers and reach out their hands for lost treasures, and a few “divine amateurs” who believe that the facts matter and that they can identify some of them from their computers or in raids on distant libraries. And for literary biography, there will always be readers who want to know about the living man or woman whose deepest being infuses the books they love.

          In that paragraph the researcher in Spartansburg is Joyce Deveau Kennedy, who died weeks before MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY was published. I explained in the endnote: “In Spartanburg, South Carolina, Professor John B. Edmunds, Jr., acting for his mother, Helen Edmunds, entrusted Joyce Deveau Kennedy with a big shoebox full of papers. She was alone in a motel room late at night when she found Melville’s letter to Sam Savage. She immediately called her husband, Frederick Kennedy then, sleeping very little, she read and reread the letter many times, waiting for morning so she could spring her find on the owner. Scholars live for such moments. Email from JDK, 26 August 2011. Joyce had the supreme joy of calling her husband, Frederick J. Kennedy, around midnight, to say “Freddie! Guess what I’ve just found!” “What a happy memory,” FJK says. Normally, since they did research together, he would have been with her and have shared the joy of discovery.

          Lewis Mumford, Newton Arvin, Elizabeth Hardwick, Andrew Delbanco never experienced the joy that comes of discovery. Delbanco, picking through my quotations from Melville family letters, knew nothing of the joy of discovery, and of course knew nothing of the larger contexts from which I had made small selections to further particular arguments I was making in particular paragraphs. Biographers like Delbanco know nothing of the joy of reading many pages of documents in chronological order, many of which you have transcribed into the chronology and some of which you have dated or re-dated, for whenever an archival biographer reads through long known and new documents he will experience astonishing insights, often the insights which lead him to say, “I have to stop here and write it down—this is the new chapter in the story.” There’s another side: the archival biographer will sometimes make discovery after discovery that he all but wishes he had never known. One more twist to my knowledge of how cruelly the Harpers treated Melville! One more twist to what I knew about Melville’s indebtedness! One more twist to what I knew of his in-laws’ contempt for him! Or even one more newspaper juxtaposing an inquest to the death of Malcolm Melville with an account of the number of overflowing privies in the neighborhood. Yes, some things you wish Melville never had to experience or to see and that you never had to know about, particularly when you have to write an account of them. But the joy overwhelms the pain. You know these people because you have read their mail and listened to their plans and grief and their own joys, and you love them, even the unlovable ones such as covetous greedy kick-his-bed-partner Allan!

          I hope to think more about this topic and revise this post.