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Melville's marginalia.


Brief Chronology of James Clarence Mangan

1803: May 1st. Born on Fishamble Street, Dublin. Oldest son of a schoolteacher turned grocer. His mother had inherited a grocery store. His baptismal name is James. "Clarence" is his later addition. 1810: Enters school in Saul's Court. Is taught some Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish by Father Graham. 1812: [Percy Bysshe Shelley speaks at a meeting 28 February at Fishamble Street and publishes an Address to the Irish People. He and Harriet distribute the pamphlets in Dublin. The Address is advertised with a summary in The Dublin Evening Post, 25, 29, February and again March 3rd.] 1818: Father is bankrupt. Becomes family breadwinner. Is sent to work as a scrivener at Kenrick's, a lawyer's office. 1818-1826: Writes rhyming puzzles for Jones Diary, Grant's Almanack and the New Ladies Almanack. Poems begin appearing in almanacs under various pseudonyms: "Peter Puff," "M.E.," "P.V. McGuffin," "Vacuus," "Terrae Filius," "Clarence," etc. 1825: Kenrick's closes. Employed as a scrivener for Franks and Leland. 1826: By this time is addicted to opium and or alcohol. 1829: [Catholic Emancipation Act.] 1831: Member of the Comet Club fighting the levying of tithes for Protestant clergy; many of them are absentees. 1832-33: Contributor to The Comet, the Club's reform newspaper, until its closure by Crown prosecution. Teaches Catherine Hayes German until her death. Writes "Elegaic Verses on Death of a Beloved Friend." 1834-49: Contributes translations of German poetry to the Dublin University Magazine, also "translations" from Arabic, Turkish, and Persian. Contributes translations and philosophical poems to the Dublin Penny Journal begun by George Petrie and Caesar Otway in 183 1838: Becomes a copier for Irish Ordnance Survey; serves as a copyist and transcriber of documents under George Petrie, John O'Donovan, and Eugene O'Curry, scholar-antiquarians responsible for establishing English forms for Gaelic place names for the first Irish Six-Inch-Survey Map. The director, Thomas Larcom, extends the survey to include Irish folklore, nomenclature, and architecture. Project discontinued in 1841. 1841: Produces two unsigned papers on "German Ghosts and Ghost Seers." Starts to disappear from society and return after long absences. 1842: First issue of The Nation, the organ of the Young Ireland Movement, founded by Charles Gavan Duffy, Thomas Davis, and John Blake Dillon; includes Mangan poems although his work for the magazine isn't overtly political or nationalistic. 1843: Death of James Mangan, James Clarence's father. 1844: Asst. cataloguer at Trinity College Library. Composes or translates "The Karamariian Exile" and other Ottoman poetry. 1845: Anthologia Germanica--only volume of work published in his life-time. Duffy finances the project. 1845-1849: The Potato Famine in Ireland. 1846: Death of Catherine Smith (Mangan's Mother). 1846-49: "Dark Rosaleen," "A Vision of Connaught in the Thirteenth Century," and "The Warning Voice," appear in The Nation. 1848: United Irishman founded. John Mitchel, its editor, is transported for sedition. Abortive rising of a section of the Young Ireland Movement. Mangan's association with the group leads to his dismissal from Trinity College Library. 1849: Writes "Fragment of an Unfinished Autobiography" for his friend and confessor Father C.P. Meehen. Father Meehen, a nationalist, contributes to The Nation under the pen name "Clericus." A quotation from Philip Massinger opens "Fragments of an Unfinished Autobiography": ". . . A heavy shadow lay/ On that boy's spirit: he was not of his fathers." 1849: Dies, probably from starvation, in Dublin. 1853: At sunrise on November 8, 1853, there appears, suddenly as Manco Capac at the lake Titicaca, a figure, pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn, in Putnam's Monthly Magazine in New York City. It is Bartleby.


But I have swam through libraries.

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale.

After the critical and public failure of Moby-Dick and then Pierre in 1851-53 Herman Melville became increasingly isolated from his peers. His fife was reading and writing. His friends were the philosophers, poets, dramatists, novelists, historians, biographers, critics, journalists, writers of guide books, tracts, narratives, memoirs, and letters, whose works he read. Melville read with a pencil in his hand. Marks he made in the margins of his books are often a conversation with the dead.

Went to Baths of Caracalla--Wonderful. Massive. Ruins form, as it

were, natural bridges of thousands of arches. There are glades, &

thickets among the ruins--high up.--Thought of Shelley. Truly, he

got his inspiration here. Corresponds with his drama & mind. Still

majestic, & desolate grandure.--After much trouble & sore travel

without a guide managed to get to the Protestant Burial Ground &

pyramid of Cestius under walls. Read Keats' epitaph. Separated

from the adjacent ground by trench.--Shelley in other ground. Plain

stone.--(Went from Caracalla to Shelley's grave by natural process)

Thence to Cenci Palace.

Melvine's Journal Friday February 27th, 1857.

During the spring of 1991 I was teaching Billy Budd for a graduate seminar in Philadelphia. One day while searching through Melville criticism at the Temple University Library I noticed two maroon dictionary-size volumes, lying haphazardly, out of reach, almost out of sight on the topmost shelf. That's how I found Melville's Marginalia or Melville's Marginalia found me. I built a cottage for Susan and myself and made a gateway in the form of a Gothic Arch, by setting up a whale's jaw bones.

Hawthorne's Twice Told Tales,

Melville's Moby-Dick "Extracts," and

Melville's Marginalia.

Walker Cowen, using Merton Sealt's check-list (Harvard Library Bulletin 1948-1950) as a guide, collected and transcribed every page from every known volume of Herman Melville's library that Melville had marked or annotated. Only the pages Melville marked in each book are included so there is little forward trajectory to whatever novel, narrative or poem. Each marked passage is a literal transcription from the particular edition Melville used. Because Cowan used each original's type-set fine lengths, prose often looks like poetry. Texts in the Marginalia are alphabetically arranged by an author's name so authors and writers meet by letter. Cowen submitted this synthesis of attraction and withdrawal to "The Department of English in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the subject of English, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, June, 1965." Scholarly investigators have consulted and are still consulting Melville's marginal notations. The notations and annotations have been marshalled to support one critical reading or another. Walker Cowen's approach is loving. His informative and detailed introduction shows us why this author's marks seem to indicate agreement with what he was reading; when Melville disagreed he argued in the margin.

Some marginal notes in Melville's books have been erased by someone. The erasures puzzle Cowen. Much of the erased material concerns Melville's feelings and reactions to women. Cowen does have opinions here. He says that since Melville spent a lifetime thinking about women, even though they seldom appear in his fiction, the misogynous nature of the nearly obliterated markings show the author was much too disturbed by this subject to write about it.

Still--before leaving the persistent problem of eradication in the marginal body of his subject matter Walker Cowen meditates on the provenance of the corruption.

Elizabeth Melville is probably the culprit.

She is the Perpetrator-With-Eraser.

"There is no question that she examined at least some of her husband's books and possessed the opportunity after his death to alter them if she wished. Her scrupulosity in signing her own annotations does not eliminate the possibility that she may have done some other editing. Indeed, it may be an effort to disguise her part in actions of that sort." Cowen is bound to admit some of the rubbing out seems to have been done hastily by a person unfamiliar with Melville's methods of annotation. "If the books were erased by later hands it appears more likely to have been Melville's daughters, Elizabeth and Frances, than Mrs. Osborne and Mrs. Metcalf who have generously made Melville's library available to scholars."

Margins speak of fringes of consciousness or marginal associations.

What is the shadow reflex of art I am in the margins of doubt.

In 1987, as if to emphasize the difference between dissertations and books or between graduate students and professors, the title page of Melville's Marginalia reads: "Harvard Dissertations in American and English Literature, Edited by Stephen Orgel, Stanford University, A Garland Series": Walker Cowen's name and the name of his work follow on page two.

The extracts in Melville's Marginalia were collected, transcribed, and collated by a dedicated sub-sub-graduate student in a time before librarians, scholars, and authors relied on computers or xerox machines. Perhaps his leviathan-dissertation exhausted him. The copyright page of the Garland edition fists Melville's dates, 1819-1891 and the dates of Cowan, 1934-1987.

Mrs. Wilson Walker Cowen holds the copyright to his recently resurrected body of work.

Stephen Orgel's edited re-print is currently out of print.

Walker Cowen was a borrower whose commentator I am. Sometimes I wonder if Mrs. Wilson Walker Cowen is Walker's widow or his mother.

This is a long letter, but you are not bound to answer it. Possibly, if you do answer it, and direct it to Herman Melville, you will missend it--for the very fingers that now guide this pen are not precisely the same that just took it up and put it on this paper. Lord, when shall we be done changing? Ah! Its a long stage, and no inn in sight and might coming and the body cold. But with you for a passenger, I am content and can be happy. I shall leave the world, I feel, with more satisfaction for having come to know you. Knowing you persuades me more than the Bible of our immortality.

Herman Melville to Nathaniel Hawthorne,

November 1851.

Names who are strangers out of bounds of the bound margin: I thought one way to write about a loved author would be to follow what trails he follows through words of others: and what if these penciled single double and triple scorings arrows short phrases angry outbursts crosses cryptic ciphers sudden enthusiasms mysterious erasures have come to find you too, here again, now.

Round about the margin or edge of anything in a way that is close to the limit. A narrow margin. Slightly.

If water is margined-imagined by the tender grass.

Marginal. Belonging to the brink or margent.

The brink or brim of anything from telepathy to poetry.

A marginal growth of willow and water flag.

A feather, on the edge of a bird's wing.

August 1992. Young America in Literature

I began to write Melville's Marginalia by pulling a phrase, sometimes just a word or a name, at random from Cowen's alphabetically arranged Melville's Marginalia and letting that lead me by free association to each separate poem in the series.

Poetry is thought transference.

Free association isn't free.

Finally I spent a week in Cambridge at the Houghton Library examining some of the real books. I saw his large-print volumes of Shakespeare (Melville liked Cymbeline nearly as well as Lear). I saw The New Testament with Psalms, Mosses from an Old Manse, Twice-told Tales, Shelley Memorials, The Poetical Works of Andrew Marvell with a Memoir of the Author, ("Starry Vere" written on the back fly leaf,) Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Idea, and Counsels and Maxims, Emerson's Essays. Second Series, (furious marginal contradictions in "The Poet"), the heavily marked copies of Matthew Arnold's Essays in Criticism, Culture and Anarchy, and New Poems.

If there are things Melville went looking for in books so too there were things I looked for in Melville's looking.

Why was I drawn to Mangan?

Only that I remembered the song called "Roisin Dubh" from childhood and my great-aunt's garden one summer years ago beside Killiney Bay near Dublin.

Many people have noted Melville's readings of eminent men: Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Marvell, Balzac, Byron, Goethe, Emerson, Hawthorne, Schopenhauer, as well as histories and narratives--Southey's Life of Nelson, Moore's Life of Byron, Beale's Natural History of the Sperm Whale, Chase's Narrative of the Essex, but Mangan?

While Herman Melville's literary reputation was being raised from near oblivion to preeminence during the 1920s James Clarence Mangan's critical rating was travelling the other way.

In 1992, with the exception of David Lloyd's illuminating: Nationalism and Minor Literature: James Clarence Mangan and the Emergence of Cultural Nationalism (University of California Press 1987), the man with the name so remarkably like margin, has been all but forgotten by serious literary criticism.

What is a parenthesis?

On a January morning, in the hushed privacy of the Anglo-European-American Houghton Library, I opened Poems by James Clarence Mangan, with Biographical Introduction by John Mitchel, (New York: Haverty, 1859). I saw the pencilled trace of Herman Melville's passage through John Mitchel's Introduction and knew by shock of poetry telepathy the real James Clarence Mangan is the progenitor of fictional Bartleby.

The problem was chronology.

Melville wrote "Bartleby, The Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street" during the summer of 1853. Quite an Original

Melville's copy of Poems by James Clarence Mangan is secondhand.

A newspaper clipping about the poet is pasted to the inside cover under the first owner's name. J.G. Hefferman 1st Nov '59. Hefferman's name has been fined out.

When Melville wrote his own name and Feb. 15,1862, N.Y. on the front fly-leaf he was forty-five. On the title page under Mangan's name he has worked out the poet's dates in parenthesis in pencil.

(Died about 1848
 Born 1803)

I had spent the previous day looking over the many scrawled boxes, heavy lines, arrows, checks, and bursts of agreement or disagreement in the margins of Matthew Arnold's Essays In Criticism: this heavily scored paragraph from Mitchel's Introduction; "James Clarence Mangan: His Life, Poetry, and Death," was a marked contradiction.

The apparent unacquaintance, also of Americans with these poems

may be readily accounted for, when we remember how completely

British law gives the law throughout the literary domain of that

semi-barbarous tongue in which I have the honor to indite. For this

Mangan was not only an Irishman,--not only an Irish papist,--not

only an Irish papist rebel;--but throughout his whole literary life of

twenty years, he never deigned to attorn to English criticism, never

published a line in any English periodical, or through any English

bookseller, never seemed to be aware that there was a British Public

to please. He was a rebel politically, and a rebel intellectually and

spiritually,--a rebel with his whole heart and soul against the British

spirit of the age. The consequence was sure, and not unexpected.

Hardly anybody in English knew the name of such a personal and

the only critique of his volumes called "German Anthology" which I

have ever met with, is a very short and contemptuous note in the

Foreign Quarterly, for October, 1845, wherein the austere critic

declares Mr. Mangan's method of rendering the German to be, "not

gilding refined gold, but plating it with copper; not painting the lily

white, but plastering it with red ochre."

Mangan already had American readers during the 1850s, though it would be hard for us to know it now. This summer in Henry J. Donaghy's "Selected Bibliography" to James Clarence Mangan (Idaho State University Press, 1974,) I found a reference to an article by Francis J. Thompson called "Mangan in America: 1850-1860," Dublin Magazine XXV (1950). Thompson only briefly touches on Melville but he does demonstrate persuasively that Mangan's reputation was legendary among writers in New York City during the decade leading up to the Civil War. Thompson cites a series of articles called "Some Irish Poets" by Carroll Leeds, published during 1851 in the United States Magazine and Literary Review. I managed to find the issues in the stacks of Sterling library. Ten years before Melville acquired his poems, nearly two years before he wrote his "Story of Wall Street," in September, 1851, Edgar Allan Poe was being compared to James Clarence Mangan and Thomas Davis in the pages of the United States Magazine and Literary Review.(1) In the October, 1851, issue, " Some Irish Poets" was entirely devoted to Mangan. There Melville would have read of the Irish poet's occupation as scrivener, the " feminine softness of his voice, " the political rebellion in his writing, and his death by starvation in the city of Dublin. Charles Carroll Leeds even supplied a bibliography.

By the time Melville acquired Mitchel's edition of Mangan's poems in 1862, he was already familiar with the poet's life and work. False fleeting perjured Clarence

Bartleby, China Aster, Frank, Beggar, Confidence Man, Imposter, Stephen Hero, Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom, are you the father or the son?

I have traced what books I can find by or about you in America. I hope to return to Ireland someday but will always be a foreigner with the illusions of a tourist. In Dublin I may discover the undated third edition of The Poets and Poetry of Ireland, or something else. So far I have only seen one tattered shambles of a copy in the sub-section of Sterling Library where damaged books go for rebinding. Pages of "Fragments From an Unfinished Biography" are so brittle pieces break off when I turn.

Did you see the young Shelley in Dublin? Some say you influenced Poe, others say it goes the other way. You are everywhere in Joyce's writing.

Your sister is there in "Araby."

Recent books about you or your work are thin as physical Bartleby. Except for Nationalism and Minor Literature. James Clarence Mangan and the Emergence of Irish Cultural Nationalism, but that's in a wider series called "The New Historicism. Studies in Cultural Poetics."

"Nationalism and Minor Literature is a |reorientation.'" To find the empty vast and wand'ring air "Giacomo Clarenzio Mangan"

All his poetry records injustice and tribulation, and the aspiration

of one who is moved to great deeds and rending cries when he sees in

his mind the hour of his grief. This is the theme of a large part of Irish

poetry, but no other poems are as full, as are those of Mangan, of

misfortune nobly suffered, of vastation of soul so irreparable. Naomi

wished to change her name to Mara, because she had known too well

how bitter is the existence of mortals, and is it not perhaps a profound

sense of sorrow and bitterness that explains in Mangan all the

names and titles that he gives himself, and the fury of translation in

which he tried to hide himself? For he did not find in himself the faith

of the solitary, or the faith that in the Middle Ages sent the spires in

the air like triumphant songs, and he waits his hour, the hour that

will end his sad days of pennance. Weaker than Leopardi, for he has

not the courage of his own despair, but forgets every ill and forgoes

all scorn when someone shows him a little kindness, he has, perhaps

for this reason, the memorial that he wished, a

[one page missing]

James Joyce, from "Giacomo Clarenzio Mangan," one of three public

lectures in Itahan at the Universita Popolare in Trieste. 1904. Editorial note

in brackets.

Before Modernism.

The eleventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911) says his fame has been deferred by the inequality and mass of work, much of it lying buried in inaccessible newspaper files under so many pseudonyms

Lamii's Apology for his Nonsense, (From the Ottoman.) The pale bright margins

In Sonnet XVII., seeing an eagle soaring over his head, he thinks how happy it is for the birds that they can pass from one country to another without being arrested on their way by a demand for "Three Giulii,"

In the next novel thought strikes him, and-- "The Three Half-Crowns."

The following poems are from part 2. of Melville's Marginalia. I think him to be natural deeply by those books In those places think him to be In those breaks and pauses Turned to the boats that landscape meets air I could only plan All other simulacra marked then ERASED Some green forest annotation failed have forgotten Between two negations horror of the world Could not leave the world The salary coyly said yes Drag handcuff along fence or you in it all tractable Awry pulled up by cinchstrap yes buckled to the capital green worth say yes English a certain mock hobo bravado mean scrip so solitary wroth Darkening noon changed he s untractable in darkness un manacled beside the capital he's waging political babble a context goes awry in novel He took out American money Question of a happy life any asylum in moderation Object is something erased is character the opposite An author-evacuated text triple-checked double-marked Ghost of one's own glory into the subjectless abject by distance or by stillness sleep gone steering row Title of an After-Thought he put a veil on his face Wearied human language take me so that I no longer am perpetually dispersed and appear not to know When I wander far off roughened and wrought human to the matter of fact Refuting and chastising Love a secret between two Certainty decreed to go They are always masked Morality I will not thought Along the glistening shore we tramp to leave their print Melville the source hunter hawking corollaries for coal foraging for fuel in copses What a semi-barbarous ballad Saw that the saw sawed thought Skipping oblivion for forfeit Wide universe no matter what that their thought may go out the margin s mile of welcome Shelleyan but may be Mary Traces upon the coming east above the clouds now a doodle meadow in pencil the bracket isn't closed Mary tried to mend "wrecht" One forever occupied stood on the path with whispered information that that person was Clarence Mangan a spectral creature on a ladder all his soul was in the book in his arms Roisin Dubh means Ireland On earth I guess I am bound by a definition of criticism The period 1840-42 was for Mangan one of drift of aimlessness of deterioration he lodged badly he ate badly his letters are usually short notes asking for money or acknowledging it they make doleful reading Mangan revelled in the expression of passionate sorrow he loved to loose himself In Ireland's past and future To go astray in the world to forget it There were then as I have said two Mangans one well known to the Muses the other to the Police the one soared through the empyrean and sought the stars the other too often lay in the gutters of Peter Street and Bride Street He had a haven in the Ordnance Survey Office where he was at peace among topographers and antiquaries --Byron's venetian episode how on the wild island enclosed like Phaeton in all-consuming flesh that melancholy exile stood where Byron stood The melancholia of Byron A passage between them in common in marginalia We track our own desire pursuit and Diana paradox as in old emblem books "vanitas vanitatum vanitas" Who could know better good evil evil good dualism Brute alternate heart whose child I won whose aspect wore in doubling combat with Night uncarnate Skittish the owl the nightingale only Soothe say a wild an unimagined song Now which nine ages I am far too copy Certain it is wild Who will be signal Narcissus you are free Come afterward compiler the impediment of words torn to pieces by memory No questions unanswered there is no contending Sheer off and avoid him voiceless reclusion veil Between ourself and the story so low almost a whisper Lyric for crossing over where he dreamed he was I put down my thoughts Vulturism trimmed for binding who will be interpreter Spoke of the hearts of the poor Light in which we were rushing Life is so the merchant either gains the shore both hands full of dollars or else one day waves wash him up on that sandbar so what and Massinger smiled and he said you know print settles it Out of view of the rushing light print is sentinel so sages say Dollars he said and hoped they'd have made a bed for him then he would car whatever goal a goal Obedience we are subjects Susan Scared millions and on he rushed (1.) For a comprehensive assessment of Melville's love-hate relationship with United States Magazine and Literary Review, see Michael Paulrogin's Subversive Geneology: The Politics and Art of Herman Melville, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983) 70-72, 150.
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Author:Howe, Susan
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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