Ohio History Journal

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Early in 1858 Herman Melville passed through Ohio on a

lecture tour. The hastily written notices of his address which ap-

peared in the newspapers of Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Chillicothe

add a few details to our sketchy knowledge of his career as a

lecturer and show how the author of Moby Dick impressed the

people of what was then called "the West."

The average Ohioan of that day was not greatly interested

in Roman statuary, the subject of Melville's lecture. As a Cleve-

land critic remarked:

The fact that we Western people, have not got sufficiently beyond the

influence of the prevailing practicality of pioneer society, and are there-

fore, to a great extent destitute of that cultivation of nature and taste

necessary to a fine and general appreciation of Art will undoubtedly account

for the fact that the hall was not crowded to its utmost capacity, as it

should have been by the announcement of the subject "Roman Statuary"

in connection with the name of Melville.1

Such a subject did not lend itself to warm and passionate

treatment, and Melville's delivery seems to have lacked force.

Mr. Melville has a musical voice, and a very correct delivery, but a

subdued tone and general want of animation prevents his being a popular

lecturer. The same essay, read by him in a parlour as from the pages of

a book, would give far greater satisfaction than it conveyed last evening

when delivered under the guise of a popular lecture. We repeat our

axiom--good writers do not make good lecturers.2

Cincinnati papers in their comments on Melville's manner

made the same point. The Gazette said that his delivery was "too

quiet, commonplace, and unobtrusive for a popular audience."3

Another Cincinnati journal thought Melville

rather an attractive person, though not what anybody would describe good

looking. He is a well built, muscular, gentleman, with a frame capable of

1 Cleveland Morning Leader, January 12, 1858.

2 Cleveland Daily Herald, January 12, 1858.

3 Cincinnati Gazette, February 8, 1858.