No clap-trap announcements and sensation puffs

Debates about the precise contours of Herman Melville’s disgust with Emerson are far less illuminating — and entertaining — than Melville’s words themselves. (“I could readily see in Emerson, notwithstanding his merit, a gaping flaw. It was, the insinuation, that had he lived in those days when the world was made, he might have offered some valuable suggestions.”) I love it when the guy brings out the knives.

While searching online for a transcript of the letter to Evert Duyckinck in which this inaugural Emerson-dissing occurred, I happened upon an apparent excerpt from publication instructions Melville gave his brother, Allan.

Some Memoranda for Publishing Poems

1 — Don’t stand on terms much with the publisher — half-profits after expenses are paid will content me — not that I expect much “profits” — but that will be a fair nominal arrangement — They should also give me 1 doz. copies of the book —

2 — Don’t have the Harpers. — I should like the Appletons or Scribner — But Duyckinck’s advice will be good here.

3 — The sooner the thing is printed and published, the better — The “season” will make little or no difference, I fancy, in this case.

4 — After printing, don’t let the book hang back — but publish, & have done.

5 — For God’s sake don’t have By the author of “Typee” “Piddledee” &c on the title-page.

6 — Let the title-page be simply, Poems by Herman Melville.

7 — Don’t have any clap-trap announcements and “sensation” puffs — nor any extracts published previous to publication of book — Have a decent publisher, in short. . . .

— Of all human events, perhaps, the publication of a first volume of verse is the most insignificant; but though a matter of no moment to the world, it is still of some concern to the author, — as these Mem. show — Pray therefore, don’t laugh at my Mem. but give heed to them, and so oblige

Your brother Herman

Comments are closed.