an early review of Moby-Dick


Everet Duyckinck review of Moby-Dick – The Literary World 11-15-1851 (2)

Everet Duyckinck review of Moby-Dick – The Literary World 11-22-1851 (2)


Posted here (PDF files above):

Evert Duyckinck

review of Herman Melville

Moby Dick; Or, the Whale

The Literary World

November 15, 1851


Evert Duyckinck

review of Herman Melville

Moby Dick; Or, the Whale

Second Notice

The Literary World

November 22, 1851


Evert Duyckinck (1816-1878) was editor of The Literary World, a weekly review of books published in New York. He helped launch Herman Melville’s career and became a close friend.


– posted by Roger W. Smith

   September 2022

Herman Melville, “Hawthorne and His Mosses”


Melville, ‘Hawthorne and His Mosses’ – The Literary World 8-17-1850 (2)

Melville, ‘Hawthorne and His Mosses’ – The Literary World 8-24-1850 (2)


Posted here (PDF files above):

[Herman Melville]

“Hawthorne and His Mosses”

By a Virginian Spending July in Vermont.

The Literary World

August 17, 1850

[Herman Melville]

“Hawthorne and His Mosses”

By a Virginian Spending July in Vermont.

[Concluded from the last number.]

The Literary World

August 24, 1850


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   September 2022

A. Robert Lee, “Moby-Dick: The Tale and the Telling”


A. Robert Lee, ‘Moby-Dick; The Tale and the Telling’


Posted here (PDF file above):

A. Robert Lee. “Moby-Dick: The Tale and the Telling”


New Perspectives on Melville

edited by Faith Pullin

Edinburgh University Press, 1978

This is a brilliant essay which shows an appreciation for and provides insight into Melville’s genius while at the same time providing an analysis of what makes Moby-Dick a difficult book to categorize and to assess as part of the literary canon,


— posted by Roger W. Smith

  September 2022

Roger W. Smith, Несколько Слов о Проф. П. А. Сорокине (A Few Words About Prof. P. A. Sorokin)




Posted here (Word document above) is my article “A Few Words About Prof. P. A. Sorokin,” which I submitted to the Russian language journal (published in New York ) The New Review.

It was published in the current issue, in a Russian translation by the journal’s editor, Marina Adamovich.

The following are the details of the publication,. of both this article and correspondence between Sorokin and Tolstoy’s author Alexandra Tolstoy, which was also published with credit to me.

Roger Smith, Neskol’ko Slov o Prof. P. A. Sorokin (A Few Words about Prof. P. A. Sorokin), translated from the English by Marina Adamovich, The New Review No. 308 (September 2022), pp. 189-191

Perepiska Aleksandry Tolstoy i Pitirima Sorkina (Correspondence between Alexandra Tolstoy and Pitirim Sorkin), published by Roger W. Smith, The New Review No. 308 (September 2022), pp. 192-196


— Roger W. Smith

  September 2022

“Hawthorne, Melville, and the Sea”


Harrison Hayford, ‘Hawthorne, Melville, and the Sea’


At Salem, for company, he had “the sea-flushed shipmaster, just in port, with his vessel’s papers under his arm in a tarnished tin box,” the cheerful or sullen owner, the smart young clerk already sending adventures in his master’s ships, the outward bound sailor in quest of a protection, and captains of rusty little schooners bringing firewood from the British provinces. And here his colleagues were “ancient sea-captains, for the most part, who after being tost on every sea … had finally drifted into this quiet nook,” to sit out the lag-end of their lives. (quoting from Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Custom House,” The Scarlet Letter)

Posted here (PDF file above) is a fascinating article — containing hitherto unknown anecdotes and information about both writers  that was discovered by the author — by Melville scholar Harrison Hayford:

Hawthorne, Melville, and the Sea

By Harrison Hayford

The New England Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 4 (December 1946), pp. 435-452



A personal note.

Apropos the seafaring and merchant heritage of Nathaniel Hawthorne (his father was captain of a trading vessel out of Salem, Massachusetts), I am a direct descendant on my father’s side of Capt. Livermore Whittredge, Jr. (1739-1803) of the adjoining town of Beverly.

Capt. Livermore was a wealthy merchant. An inventory of his estate of was taken May 26, 1804 and sworn to July 3, 1804. It consisted of substantial real estate including land at the water’s edge (a wharf) and a farm situated in the part of Beverly called Montserrat containing about 115 acres. The total value of his real estate was $12,300. His personal estate was worth $18,915.68. This means that the total value of his estate was over $31,000, a remarkable sum for the times.

From his inventory (including schooners; shipping appurtenances such as riggings, and large quantities of various items such as fish, molasses, coffee, and salt that would be obtained in trade) and the fact that his real estate included a wharf, it is evident that Capt. Livermore, Jr. was involved in mercantile commerce.

He was a well read man, as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s father was. Capt. Livermore’s library included a large Bible and several other books, among them: Matthew Henry, An exposition of the Old and New Testament; Job Orton, Six discourses on Family Worship; Edward Wells, An historical geography of the New Testament and John Willison, Sacramental Meditations and Advices.

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   September 2022

He felt the horizons of his world expanding beyond all expectation.


The following passage is from a marvelous biography of Keats by my former professor Aileen Ward: John Keats: The Making of a Poet.

The air was still electric with adventure when, one evening later in October, [Charles Cowden] Clarke invited [Keats] up to Warner Street to share a discovery. A friend of [Leigh] Hunt’s had loaned him a 1616 folio of George Chapman’s translation of Homer, a treasure in the days when much Elizabethan literature had not been reprinted and was hard to come by. Both Keats and Clarke knew Homer only through Pope’s translation, which tailored the long, swinging hexameters of the Greek to the neat proportions of the balanced couplet. As they searched Chapman for some of the great passages–Helen’s conversation with Priam on the walls of Troy, the descriptions of the shield of Diomed, the chariot of Neptune–they found a free-striding verse that matched Homer’s own, and a hard masculine strength of phrase that made Pope’s elegant abstractions seem thin and bloodless. Where Pope had described the ship­wrecked Ulysses as he staggered up on the Phaeacian shore, streamng with salt water:

his knees no more
perform’d their office, or his weight upheld:
His swoln heart heav’d, his bloated body swell’d:
From mouth to nose the briny torrent ran,
And lost in lassitude lay all the man,
Deprived of voice, of motion, and of breath,
The soul scarce waking in the arms of death, …

Chapman showed him

both knees falt’ring, both
His strong hands hanging down, and all with froth
His cheeks and nostrils flowing, voice and breath
Spent to all use, and down he sank to death.
The sea had soak’ d his heart through. . . .

As Clarke recalled, Keats shouted with delight at this last line. This was what it was to lead a band of heroes against Troy and voyage homeward through long years of misadventure and lie half drowned on a lonely beach; this was what Homer had been saying all along–or so he thought; this was poetry of a kind that had not been written in England for two hundred years.

All night they turned the pages of the great calf-bound book together. When Keats tore himself away at last it was almost six. He walked home through the empty streets under the fading planets, with the lines of a sonnet beating in his head. The storm of that night’s excitement ·had stirred up the very depths of his mind; things he had seen and felt and read in the last few months and six or eight years ago were washing up together on the shores of his consciousness. The sea which he had stared at from the cliffs of Margate, the stars he had watched and the moon

lifting her silver rim
Above a cloud, and with a gradual swim
Coming into the blue with all her light, . …

the Mediterranean islands and the new vistas of poetry which he had glimpsed that evening with Clarke: all these were jostling in his mind with phrases from Shakespeare and Wordsworth and recollections more distant still–passages from Bonnycastle and Robertson describing Herschel’s discovery of the planet Uranus and Balboa’s discovery of the Pacific and Cortez’s first view of Mexico City, which recalled a painting by Titian which Severn may have pointed out to him that summer. When he reached Dean Street at dawn he took a piece of paper, marked lines down the right-hand margin to guide him in his rhymes, and wrote out the poem that had been taking shape in his head. When it was done, he made a copy and sent it off by messenger to Clarke, who found it on his breakfast table when he came down that morning:

Much have I travell’d in the Realms of Gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many Western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That low brow’d Homer ruled as his Demesne;
Yet could I never judge what Men could mean,
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some Watcher of the Skies
When a new Planet swims into his Ken,
Or like stout Cortez, when with wond’ring eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his Men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise–
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

It is not hard to imagine Clarke’s amazement as he read the sonnet over. The poem was a miracle; not simply because of its mastery of form, or because Keats was only twenty when he wrote it, or because he wrote it in the space of an hour or two after a night without sleep. Rather because nothing in his earlier poetry gave any promise of this achievement: the gap between this poem and his summer work could be leaped only by genius. He had still to rework a phrase here and there before he was quite satisfied; he overlooked a false rhyme in the sixth line and a historical slip in the eleventh which went unnoticed till Tennyson pointed it out years later. But the unity of form and feeling that begins in the first line and swells in one crescendo of excitement to the final crashing silence was instantaneous and unimprovable. After the reverberation of that ending has died away, something new appears to our eyes. The sonnet, we realize, is not about Chapman, or Homer, or even Keats’s reading of Chapman’s translation. It is about something much larger, more universal, the rapture of discovery itself–of a new star in the vast heavens, of a sea where none was known before. Cortez standing on his peak is Keats himself on the cliff at Margate, staring at the sea and thinking “on what will be, and what has been”; the poem as a whole expresses his rising excitement of the previous weeks, from the moment Clarke promised to introduce him to Hunt. Saluted by Hunt and his friends, his eyes opened to new kingdoms of poetry, Keats felt the horizons of his world expanding beyond all expectation. It was the limitless possibilities of his own future that he saw spread out before him that morning, shining with the promise of El Dorado.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   August 2022

Edward Everett Hale review of Leaves of Grass (1856)


Edward Everett Hale review of Leaves of Grass – North American Review, January 1856


posted here (PDF file above):

review of Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

reviewed by Edward Everett Hale

North American Review

January 1856

An excellent early review. Edward Everett Hale got Whitman – verily – as few critics at that point in time did.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   August 2022

that which war and revolution unleash (Sorokin, 1922)


Please note this post on my Sorokin site.

that which war and revolution unleash (Sorokin, 1922)


— Roger W. Smith

   August 2022

addendum (his character)


Elaborating further on my latest post

his character

his character

Was my praise of my father fulsome? A Falstaff and all that.

Enumerating such things (as James Joyce did in the case of his own father), I would say that I got from my father:

– intelligence

– good nature towards all and sundry

– conscientiousness

– a sense of humor

Regarding personal flaws, mine and everyone else’s:

I don’t choose friends or intimate acquaintances (to the extent one chooses one’s spouse, significant others, and closest friends) based on a checklist.

If I see good in someone, humanity, sincerity, etc., that is enough for me. There may be egregious failings as well.

I greatly value the friendships I have formed with intellectuals and deep thinkers. I do not, however, look down per se on people less well read or educated than me. This is not just out of kindness of indulgence on my part. There are all sorts of wisdom and intelligence that one can profit from. And, character means a lot to me. Plus – as an afterthought – I have observed wit and insight in persons who don’t necessarily read a lot. This is something my father, who was entitled to pride himself on his education, was very capable of.

I have tended for most of my life to be very self-critical. I am more able now to live with myself when I do something “wrong” out of heedlessness or resulting from willful misbehavior. But I don’t just forgive myself or give myself a pass. I have not changed in that respect.

Regarding friends and acquaintances of mine who have been guilty of transgressions or have character flaws — or what seem to be misguided beliefs — I err far on the side of tolerance. And the same with those who have problems causing them to be castigated as deviant or abnormal.

I was greatly influenced by the Bible when I was young, how Jesus treated sinners: Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.


Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1-2).

And Walt Whitman:

This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger,
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous, I make appointments with all,
I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited,
The heavy-lipp’d slave is invited, the venerealee is invited;
There shall be no difference between them and the rest

— Watt Whitman, Song of Myself


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   July 2022