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    Re: Moby Dick Tales
    From: Don Seltzer
    Date: 2019 Jan 12, 11:41 -0500
    On Fri, Jan 11, 2019 at 6:17 PM Frank Reed <NoReply_FrankReed@fer3.com> wrote:
    >
    >  Literacy in New England c.1850 was above 95%, possibly even above 98%, and that covers marginalized groups, too, including women. Newspapers were everywhere. Books were widely available. Charles Dickens was famously treated like a rock star on his tour of America in 1842. Letters written by people of all social classes are abundant in primary source document archives.


    On this topic, a foretop man in the Consitution wrote the following chapter in his book Life in a Man-of-War in 1839, about the time that Melville was whaling in the Pacific.

    Literary Tars

    READER don't spoil your pretty countenance with a sneer nor turn up your nose with disgust at the title of this sketch. Methinks I hear you with a pish exclaim Literary Tars quotha upon my word the Belles Lettres are becoming fearfully defiled when the wild reckless sailor ruffles the leaves with his clumsy and tar besmeared fingers. But the bard of Avon says in the above motto that there are water rats as well as land rats, why then should it be considered a strange or unaccountable coincidence if we had our book worms on the forecastle of a tight Yankee frigate as well as in the boudoir or the drawing room. The march of mind is abroad and making rapid strides in both the hemispheres why then should it not on its journey take a sly peep amongst the worthies of a man of war why should not the wanderer on the mighty deep as well as the sojourner on terra firma hail with  feelings of delight the appearance of a sheet filled with the soul thrilling poetry of the inestimable Moore or the quaint racy prose of the inimitable Dickens. When sailing on the boundless Ocean for weeks and weeks together each day bringing forth the same dull unvaried round of employment the same tiresome monotony still pervading the scene what can be a greater resource to help to dispel the foul fiend ennui than the interesting or amusing volume it is at a time like this the unsophisticated tar pores over with pleasurable feelings the pages of history or imbibes with heated imagination the melting pathos of some of our beautiful modern poets. Who will say then that some of the inmates of a vessel of war do not thirst after literature. To illustrate the fact just glance your eye along our ships decks when lying in port under the break of the poop you may observe a group of mizen topmen eagerly listening to some more talented shipmate who with voice and effect worthy the subject is reading aloud passages from one of the splendid and romantic poems of the celebrated Byron. In the larboard gangway a crowd are assembled distorting their risible muscles at the trying though ludicrous scenes in Marryatt's Jacob Faithful or Midshipman Easy Again on the starboard side amongst the main topmen a little coterie are gathered together wrapped in profound silence every ear intent with open mouth swallowing some of Cooper's thrilling descriptions of nautical life or digesting the eccentricities of Scott's liquor loving Peter Peebles or the original and trite remarks of Boz's inimitable Sam Weller and even the hard old salts on the forecastle with the bronze of every climate upon their furrowed cheeks are huddled together around the trunk hearing with enthusiastic imagination and eyes beaming with delight some lettered sheet anchor man describe the glorious exploits and brilliant achievements of Columbia's ships in the last war. Whilst we lay in New York three or four hundred volumes were purchased comprising the whole of the Family Library the works of Scott Marryatt Cooper Irving Bulwer &c and when the circumstance was made known throughout the ship the greater part of our jolly tars came forward with avidity and subscribed their mites towards repaying the purchase money and felt pleased to think that they had now in their possession...

    The complete book can be found online for free.

    Don Seltzer
       
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