Versions of "Hawthorne And His Mosses "

Young Melville

Background: Revising a Manifesto.

Melville’s review essay of Hawthorne’s Mosses from an Old Manse is now the most famous literary manifesto of the American nineteenth century, though it did not resurface until 1922 or gain much currency until Edmund Wilson’s inclusion of it in his 1943 anthology, The Shock of Recognition, which takes its title from Melville’s phrasing. “Mosses” argues for a uniquely American national literature (one awaiting recognition along the banks of the Ohio) as well as an enduring place for American genius in world literature. At the same time, it praises Hawthorne for an aesthetics of repose that compresses bright and dark visions.

As a literary document, the essay poses editorial and digital challenges. Because “Mosses” exists as a significantly revised fair-copy manuscript, only one published version in his lifetime, and several modern versions, editors have multiple options in what they choose to print. By giving access to all options, MEL’s proposed edition of “Hawthorne and His Mosses” will give readers a chance to investigate changes found in the different versions of Melville’s remarkable manifesto. Because modern editors differ on how to edit “Mosses,” Melville’s essay is also an example of how scholarly editions contribute to and extend a literary work as a fluid text.

Challenges in Editing “Mosses.”

Melville submitted a fair-copy manuscript of “Mosses,” inscribed in his wife Elizabeth Shaw Melville’s hand, to their friend Evert A. Duyckinck, for publication in his journal The Literary World (LW). The manuscript, located at NYPL, includes punctuation and corrections in Melville’s hand and 100 other revisions by both Melville and Duyckinck. The LW print version reproduces these manuscript revisions.

Arguing in their 1987 edition of the essay that Melville had no choice but to comply with Duyckinck’s changes and that the unrevised fair-copy text more closely represents Melville’s final intentions, the Northwestern-Newberry editors rejected the revised LW print version as their copy-text in favor of the underlying, unrevised fair-copy manuscript version Melville first submitted. To this base version, they added selected authorial and editorial changes, including some emendations of their own. Later on, in Hershel Parker’s separate edition of “Mosses,” included as back matter in his 2002 Norton Critical Edition of Moby-Dick, Parker changed at least one word in the text: he emended the word scared in Melville’s metaphor of Truth as being “forced to fly like a scared white doe in the woodlands,” changing it to sacred (523). In 2017, arguing that the LW print version represents a more “hemispheric” rather than singularly nationalistic perspective, Robert S. Levine adopted the LW version for his edition of the Norton Anthology of American Literature, in place of the NN manuscript version that had been used in previous editions. In their separate, variant texts, Parker and Levine have created further instantiations of Melville’s fluid text, as did Melville himself, Elizabeth Melville, Duyckinck, and the NN edition before them.

Work in Progress.

Valid arguments exist for adopting either the manuscript or print version, but rather than excluding one version for the other—as anthologizers have done—MEL’s edition of “Mosses” will follow a strategy of inclusion. We will use TextLab to transcribe the fair-copy manuscript and its revisions, create a diplomatic transcription and base version, and compose a set of manuscript revision narratives. We will collate the manuscript base version against the print version, highlight changes, and compose additional print revision narratives. Our fluid-text edition will encourage closer analysis of the fair-copy manuscript, revised manuscript, and the first Literary World print version of Melville’s manifesto. We will then compare these historical versions with Wilson’s, NN’s, Parker’s, and Levine’s anthologized versions. With this array of texts, readers will have new openings for their own interpretation of Melville’s “Hawthorne and his Mosses.”

  • Fair Copy Manuscript
  • Revised Manuscript
  • Literary World Version
  • NN Version
  • Norton Versions
    • 2002 Norton Critical Edition of Moby-Dick
    • 2017 Norton Anthology of American Literature