Cooper pleases and has pleased, and is to this day read and admired by thousands; but speaking from a sailor's point of view I really have no words to express the delight with which I quit his novels for the narratives of his countrymen, Dana and Herman Melville.

Whoever has read the writings of Melville must I think feel disposed to consider Moby Dick as his finest work. It is indeed all about the sea, whilst Typee and Omoo, are chiefly famous for their lovely descriptions of the South Sea Islands, and of the wild and curious inhabitants of those coral strands; but though the action of the story is altogether on shipboard the narrative is not in the least degree nautical in the sense that Cooper's and Marryat's novels are....

...Moby Dick is not a sea-story -- one could not read it as such -- it is a medley of noble impassioned thoughts born of the deep, pervaded by a grotesque human interest, owing to the contrast it suggests between the rough realities of the cabin and the forecastle, and the phantasms of men conversing in rich poetry, and strangely moving and acting in that dim weather-worn Nantucket whaler. There is a chapter where the sailors are represented as gathered together on the forecastle; and what is made to pass among them, and the sayings which are put into their mouths, might truly be thought to have come down to us from some giant mind of the Shakspearean era. As we read, we do not need to be told that seamen don't talk as those men do; probabilities are not thought of in this story. It is like a drawing by William Blake, if you please; or, better yet, it is of the "Ancient Mariner" pattern, madly fantastic in places, full of extraordinary thoughts, yet gloriously coherent -- the work of a hand which, if the desire for such a thing had ever been, would have given a sailor's distinctness to the portrait of the solemn and strange Miltonic fancy of a ship built in the eclipse and rigged with curses dark. In Typee, and Omoo, and Redburn, he takes other ground, and writes -- always with the finest fancy -- in a straight-headed way. I am concerned with him only as a seafarer. In Redburn he tells a sailor's yarn, and the dream-like figures of the crew of the Pequod make place for Liverpool and Yankee seamen, who chew tobacco and use bad language. His account of the sufferings of the emigrants in this book leaves a deep impression upon the mind. His accuracy is unimpeachable here, for the horrors he relates were as well known thirty and forty years ago as those of the middle passages were in times earlier still. In Omoo, again, he gives us a good deal of the sea, and presumably relates his own experiences on board a whaler....

He ... charms the nautical reader with the faithfulness of his portraiture, and the humour and the poetry he puts into it. There is some remarkable character-drawing in this book: notably John Jermin, the mate of the Little Jule, and Doctor Long Ghost, the nickname given by the sailors to a man who shipped as a physician, and was rated as a gentleman and lived in the cabin, until both the captain and he falling drunk, he drove home his views on politics by knocking the skipper down, after which he went to live forward. He is as quaint, striking, and original a personage as may be found in English fiction, and we find him in the dingy and leaky forecastle of the Little Jule, where he is surrounded by coarse and worn whalemen in Scotch caps and ragged clothes quoting Virgil, talking of Hobbes, "besides repeating poetry by the canto, especially 'Hudibras.'" Yet his portrait does not match that of John Jermin, the mate, whom, in spite of his love of rum and homely method of reasoning with a man by means of a handspike, one gets to heartily like and to follow about with laughter as, intoxicated, he chases the sun all over the deck at noon with an old quadrant at his eye, or tumbles into the forecastle after a seaman who has enraged him by contemptuous remarks. Both Melville and Dana, who deal with the Merchant Service, show us in their books how trifling has been the change in the inner life of the sea during the forty or fifty years since they wrote about it. The merchant sailor of 1884 has still the same complaint to make that was made by his predecessor in 1840 and during many a long year before.... It is well indeed when men who have suffered the experiences and preserved the knowledge of sailors write books about the sea, that they should include all harsh facts which may help to teach the world what the mariner's life is. Dana and Melville have written thus, and whatever they say is stamped with genius and truth. The ocean is the theatre of more interests than boys would care to follow. We laugh with Marryat; we read Cooper for his "plots;" we find much that is dashing and flattering to our patriotism in the "Tom Bowlings," and "Will Watches," and "Tough Yarns," and "Topsail Sheet-blocks;" in the sprawling and fighting and drinking school of sea yarns; but when we turn to Dana and Melville, we find that the real life of the sea is not to be found between yellow covers adorned with catching cuts; that all the romance does not lie in cocked-hats and epaulets, but that by far the largest proportion of the sentiment, the pathos of the deep, the bitterness and suffering of the sailor's life, must be sought in the gloomy forecastle of the humble coaster, in the deckhouses of the deep-laden cargo-steamer, in the crew's dwelling-place on board the big ship trading to Australia and India and China. It is because only two or three writers have kept their eye steadfastly on this walk of the marine calling, and it is because all the rest who have written about the sea have represented the sailor as a jolly, drinking, dancing, skylarking fellow, that the shore-going public have come to get the wildest, absurdest notion of Jack's real character and professional life. For one who reads Dana and Melville, thousands read Marryat and Michael Scott, and Chamier, and Cupples, and Neale....

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