Melville's very negative review of The Romance of Yachting

A page from The Life and Works of Herman Melville

In the autumn of 1848 Evert Duyckinck, co-editor of The Literary World, sent his friend Melville a copy of Joseph C. Hart's The Romance of Yachting: Voyage the First with a request for a review. Melville returned the book in November with the following comments, some of which eventually appeared in a Literary World review of Hart's book written by Duyckinck or a third party:

"What the deuce does it mean? -- Here's a book positively turned wrong side out, the title page on the cover, an index to the whole in more ways than one. -- I open at the beginning, & find myself in the middle of the Blue Laws of Dr. O'Callaghan. Then proceeding, find several extracts from the Log Book of Noah's Ark -- Still further, take a hand at three or four bull fights, & then I'm set down to a digest of all the commentators on Shakspeare, who, according 'to our author' was a dunce & a blackguard -- Vide passim.

"Finally the books -- so far as this copy goes -- wind up with a dissertation on Duff Gordon Sherry & St Anthony's Nose, North River. --

"You have been horribly imposed upon, My Dear Sir. The book is no book, but a compact bundle of wrapping paper. And as for Mr Hart, pen & ink, should instantly be taken away from that unfortunate man, upon the same principle that pistols are withdrawn from the wight bent on suicide.

"-- Prayers should be offered up for him among the congregations. and Thanksgiving Day postponed until long after his 'book' is published. What great national sin have we committed to deserve this infliction?

"--Seriously, Mr Duyckincke, on my bended knees & with tears in my eyes, deliver me from writing ought upon this crucifying Romance of Yachting

"-- What has Mr Hart done that I should publicly devour him? -- I bear that hapless man, no malice. Why then smite him?

"-- And as for glossing over his book with a few commonplaces, -- that I can not do. -- The book deserves to be burnt in a fire of asafetida, & by the hand that wrote it.

"Seriously again, & on my conscience, the book is an abortion, the mere trunk of a book, minus head arm or leg. -- Take it back, I beseech, & get some one to cart it back to the author"

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