Typee

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While at Pittsfield, Mr. Melville was induced to enter the lecture field. From 1857 to 1860 he filled many engagements in the lyceums, chiefly speaking of his adventures in the South Seas. He lectured in cities as widely apart as Montreal, Chicago, Baltimore, and San Francisco, sailing to the last-named place in 1860, by way of Cape Horn, on the Meteor, commanded, by his younger brother, Captain Thomas Melville, afterward governor of the 'Sailor's Snug Harbor' at Staten Island, N.Y. Besides his voyage to San Francisco, he had, in 1849 and 1856, visited England, the Continent, and the Holy Land, partly to superintend the publication of English editions of his works, and partly for recreation.

A pronounced feature of Melville's character was his unwillingness to speak of himself, his adventures, or his writings in conversation. He was, however, able to overcome this reluctance on the lecture platform. Our author's tendency to philosophical discussion is strikingly set forth in a letter from Dr. Titus Munson Coan to the latter's mother, written while a student at Williams College over thirty years ago, and fortunately preserved by her. Dr. Coan enjoyed the friendship and confidence of Mr. Melville during most of his residence in New York. The letter reads:--

'I have made my first literary pilgrimage, a call upon Herman Melville, the renowned author of 'Typee,' etc. He lives in a spacious farmhouse about two miles from Pittsfield, a weary walk through the dust. But it as well repaid. I introduced myself as a Hawaiian-American, and soon found myself in full tide of talk, or rather of monologue. But he would not repeat the experiences of which I had been reading with rapture in his books. In vain I sought to hear of Typee and those paradise islands, but he preferred to pour forth his philosophy and his theories of life. The shade of Aristotle arose like a cold mist between myself and Fayaway. We have quite enough of deep philosophy at Williams College, and I confess I was disappointed in this trend of the talk. But what a talk it was! Melville is transformed from a Marquesan to a gypsy student, the gypsy element still remaining strong within him. And this contradiction gives him the air of one who has suffered from opposition, both literary and social. With his liberal views, he is apparently considered by the good people of Pittsfield as little better than a cannibal or a 'beach-comber.' His attitude seemed to me something like that of Ishmael; but perhaps I judged hastily. I managed to draw him out very freely on everything but the Marquesas Islands, and when I left him he was in full tide of discourse on all things sacred and profane. But he seems to put away the objective side of his life, and to shut himself up in this cold north as a cloistered thinker.'

I have been told by Dr. Coan that his father, the Rev. Titus Coan, of the Hawaiian Islands, personally visited the Marquesas group, found the Typee Valley, and verified in all respects the statements made in 'Typee.' It is known that Mr. Melville from early manhood indulged deeply in philosophical studies, and his fondness for discussing such matters is pointed out by Hawthorne also, in the 'English Note Books.' This habit increased as he advanced in years, if possible.

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