What a shame that Mr. Brodhead came to Duke based on the notion that he was a great scholar.
“Revenge is mine,” saith the Lord.” Those are good words by which to live. But I doubt that the Lord would classify rebutting a falsehood and rebuking the telling of the falsehood as solely for the Lord to do. It’s healthy for both the body and the soul of the rebutter/rebuker and the one rebutted and rebuked deserves it.
Professor Emeritus Hershel Parker, America’s premier Melville expert, deftly took former Yale dean and current Duke president Richard Brodhead to task for a baseless criticism of the second volume of his Melville biography (the first earned Professor Parker Pulitzer Prize finalist status) that simultaneously reflected Mr. Brodhead’s presumption, ignorance and meanness masked by the illusion of scholarship and wit.
On November 29, 2007, Professor Parker, writing of himself in the third person, puckishly announced in a post on the LieStoppers message board:
"Well, Merry Christmas to Richard Brodhead. I have my first copies of MELVILLE: THE MAKING OF THE POET (Northwestern, 2008). It contains a couple of pages of extremely polite but devastating comments on Brodhead's inexplicable claim that Hershel Parker made up the book Melville finished in 1860 but could not get published, POEMS. Since 1922 everyone had known about Melville's instructions for its publication in his absence and its subsequent rejection by at least two publishers. In his determination to trash Parker's biography, Brodhead said that POEMS was merely a surmise of Parker's and that it was in a black hole that only Parker had the instruments to detect. Well, Melville's 12-point memo to his brother Allan on the publication of his verses had been in print since 1922, had been widely quoted, and had been reprinted in full in LETTERS (1960) and CORRESPONDENCE (1993), not to mention described in detail in Parker's biography. Every Melville scholar knew about it and even every Melville critic I had heard of, until Brodhead started a movement that other arrogant, ignorant and possibly malicious people followed.
"Brodhead knew that what marked Parker's work from the publications of all recent Melville critics was years of archival research and extreme accuracy, so he hit where Parker could be hurt worst, and succeeded in inflicting great damage. Andrew Delbanco echoed Brodhead, and Elizabeth Schultz echoed them both, doing really horrible damage to Parker's reputation. (Without a word of apology, Delbanco in a 2005 book referred to the existence of POEMS.)
"The mills of the gods grind slowly, but sometimes they finish grinding their superfine powder at opportune times. In October 2006 I focused on the lacrosse case, very late, and saw that Brodhead was trashing the reputations and lives of the three players just as he had trashed me (what do you do when the Dean of Yale College lies about you and older scholars in the New York TIMES?). Well, it was time to stop suffering in silence. I started writing about him and what he had done to prevent people from seeing the full trajectory of Melville's literary career when he implied that I made up POEMS (and also THE ISLE OF THE CROSS, the lost 1853 book).
"I was lucky enough--really extremely lucky--to get this article accepted by NINETEENTH-CENTURY LITERATURE in January 2007. Then a few days later Northwestern wanted PUBLISHED POEMS in the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of THE WRITINGS OF HERMAN MELVILLE. It was not ready, so I asked if they wanted the 'Historical Note,' which was about ready, and booklength. Send it, they said. I did, 10 minutes later, by email attachment. 5 minutes later they replied, 'We'll put it on the Fall list.' So I cut the NCL article in half and made it into the Introduction, retaining just enough of the exposé of Brodhead to do him good. And NCL amazingly got the article into the June 2007 issue, out in late July, before Nifong's night in jail and UPI [Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case] and RHB's [Mr. Brodhead's]excuse for an apology. Timely, timely.
"10 months after that January e-mailing flurry, MELVILLE: THE MAKING OF THE POET is out. Miracle book. And a gorgeous little book, according to my wife, who has never raved so about the appearance of a book of mine, even three with covers by Sendak. I 'pre-ordered' some copies from Amazon just now so I can know how long it takes to get copies in hand. And I emailed the Duke Bookstores suggesting that they might try to get some copies before Christmas. Any other bookstores in Durham that should stock it? Hot Brodhead item!--Burness will have to have a few copies, surely.
"(It's not a reading of Melville's poetry. It's about how much poetry he knew and when he knew it and how seriously he studied criticism of poetry by the best people, such as the Scottish reviewers, and how seriously he studied works on aesthetics in defining for himself an aesthetic credo. He knew British poetry better than anyone I have ever met except possibly Christopher Ricks. And maybe Helen Vendler.)
"It would be awfully nice for Richard Brodhead to have a copy in his Presidential Xmas Stocking. Trustee Steel lied in December 2003 when he declared that Richard Brodhead was a first-rate scholar. Not first-rate. Not a scholar at all. And definitely not a gentleman in his New York TIMES review of the second volume of Parker's biography.”
Set forth below is the first part of the introduction to Professor Parker’s latest book, evidence that setting the record straight and writing well in the process is an delightful part of the "living well is the best revenge" strategy.
"Melville's Lost Books and the Trajectory of His Career as Poet
"In the twenty-first century, after many (but far from all) old gaps in basic knowledge about Melville's life have been filled and after many often-repeated errors have long been corrected, misconceptions are still carelessly repeated from Raymond Weaver's 1921 biography or from other obdurate sources of errors. Misconceptions about Pierre, in particular, and about the whole period from late 1851 up through Melville’s finishing his first book of poetry in 1860, have persisted in the face of strong evidence made public for years, or even for many decades. The two most pernicious misconceptions about Melville are that he repudiated fiction writing after Pierre and that he did not start writing poetry in the late 1850s (and have a book of poems ready for publication in 1860). Critics who labor under these intertwined misconceptions have distorted the whole trajectory of Melville’s career, in particular his career as a poet.
"Harrison Hayford in 1946 began the demonstration that Melville, far from renouncing fiction in 1851 or 1852, had begun a book in 1852 and perhaps had completed it in 1853. In The Letters of Herman Melville (1960) Merrell R. Davis and William H. Gilman showed that Melville had in fact completed that book in 1853 and had offered it to the Harpers. Merton M. Sealts, Jr., in 1987 reviewed the evidence in full, agreeing with Davis and Gilman and concluding that Melville had finished the book in May 1853 and taken it to the Harpers in June. Then in the same year I discovered the title of the lost book, The Isle of the Cross, and something very close to the date of completion, if not the actual date, May 22, as well as a more precise date for Melville's June trip to New York with the manuscript. My presentation of the evidence was published in 1990. In February 1990 Sealts summarized: 'Hershel Parker, working with Augusta Melville’s correspondence as recently added to the Gansevoort-Lansing Collection, New York Public Library, has established that this work was in fact "completed under the title of The Isle of the Cross"' (9). I put the evidence in a fuller context in volume two of Herman Melville: A Biography (2002).
"Without taking account of the work by Hayford and by Davis and Gilman, Nina Baym in 1979 published an updating of the Weaver theory about Melville's renouncing fiction. By her vigorous arguments and succinct title, 'Melville's Quarrel with Fiction,' Baym reinforced Weaver's effects on critics, including Richard Brodhead, Andrew Delbanco, and Elizabeth Schultz. These three prominent Melville critics in their 2002 reviews of my second volume deplored what Brodhead (in the New York Times for 23 June 2002) called 'Parker's surmises about works Melville never published that did not survive,' The Isle of the Cross and the 1860 Poems. Delbanco in the New Republic (September 2002) warned that the second volume, like the first, 'must be used with caution': 'Parker is amazingly certain of his own conclusions. . . . He is sure that immediately after completing Pierre, Melville wrote an unpublished novel.' Elizabeth Schultz in The Common Review (Winter 2002) declared that 'there is only tentative evidence' that The Isle of the Cross existed and was submitted to a publisher (45). None of these three critics engaged any of the evidence accumulated over the decades, beginning with Hayford in 1946.
"In his New York Times review Brodhead said this of Poems: 'Parker is also convinced that Melville prepared a volume of poems in 1860 that failed to be published. If this is so, a stretch that had seemed empty of literary strivings was instead a time of new effort and new failure--a black hole Parker alone has the instruments to detect.' Delbanco added that '[Parker] is sure that when Melville traveled by slow boat to San Francisco in 1860, he expected to find waiting for him a finished copy of a book of poems that he had entrusted in manuscript to his brother for transmission to his publishers before leaving the East. (Such a book was never published--and it is a surmise that Melville ever wrote it.) . . . . In short, Parker trusts his own intuition completely, and, presenting inferences as facts, he expects his readers to trust it, too" (34). Schultz regretted that Parker 'reads betrayal and despair into the disappearance of two manuscripts, which he contends Melville completed--a novel, putatively titled The Isle of the Cross, and his first collection of poems' (45).
"The misconception that Melville did not begin writing poetry (or ambitious poetry) in the late 1850s and did not have a volume of poetry ready for publication in 1860 seems to derive from reliance on Raymond Weaver's 1921 biography to the exclusion of all later scholarship. Weaver had not known about Poems (1860). His primary source of family information, Melville's granddaughter Eleanor Thomas Metcalf, apparently had not learned about it in time to tell him. The evidence had rested, unread, in the Duyckinck Collection in the New York Public Library until 1922, the year after Weaver’s biography appeared, when Meade Minnigerode published Some Personal Letters of Herman Melville and a Bibliography (New York: Brick Row). In the standard anthology Melville: Representative Selections (1938), Willard Thorp reprinted or summarized this evidence. Thereafter, the fact that Melville had completed a volume of poems in 1860 was familiar to Jay Leyda (who in The Melville Log  published additional evidence) and to all Melville scholars and even to many critics who had not worked with Melville documents themselves and who had not seen Minnigerode’s book. Melville's “Memoranda for Allan Concerning the publication of my verses,” twelve specific directions, has been quoted repeatedly as well as printed in Minnigerode, Thorp, the Letters, and the Northwestwern-Newberry edition of Melville's Correspondence. False statements made in conspicuous places have always bedeviled attempts to understand Melville, but the situation is infinitely compounded in the twenty-first century, for the reviews written by Brodhead, Delbanco, and Schultz in 2002 continue to mislead incalculable numbers of readers during their indefinite afterlife on the Internet. The eager new Melvillean who encounters these reviews on the Internet finds them unencumbered by any version of the patented Melvillean warning label, "No Trust." There is, of course, nothing putative about either title, The Isle of the Cross or Poems. The books are lost, but they existed.
"Ignorance about The Isle of the Cross and Poems has distorted the verifiable stages in Melville’s development as a writer. Melville did not renounce writing fiction in 1851 or 1852; he completed The Isle of the Cross in 1853 before beginning to write short stories. He did not renounce all writing even after composing his third lecture in 1859, for by that time he was already writing poetry, as he did until his death. . . ."
Game, set and match to Professor Parker, Mr. Brodhead.
What a shame that Mr. Brodhead came to Duke based on the notion that he was a great scholar.
Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.
Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.
The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.
Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.