Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 1: No 1) >> Simms on Melville in the Southern Quarterly Review >> Page 37

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Reviews/Essays | 1849-10 - 1852-10
Transcription the English navy. And though the captain of an English armed
ship is authorized to inflict, at his own discretion, more than a dozen
lashes. (I think three dozen.) yet it is to he doubted whether, upon
the whole, there is as much flogging at present in the English navy
as in the American. The chivalric Virginian, John Randolph, of
Roanoke, declared, in his place in Congress, that on board the Ame-
rican man-of-war that carried him out Embassador to Russia, he had
witnessed more flogging than had taken place on his own plantation,
of five hundred African slaves, in ten years. Certain it is, from
what I have personally seen, that the English officers, as a general
thing, seem to be less disliked by their crews than the American
officers by theirs. The reason probably is, that many of them, from
their station in life, have been more accustomed to social command ;
hence, quarter-deck authority sits more naturally on them. A coarse,
vulgar man, who happens to rise to high naval rank by the exhibi-
tion of talents not incompatible with vulgarity, invariably- proves a
tyrant to his crew. It is a thing that American man-of-war's-men
have often observed, that the lieutenants from the Southern States,
the descendants of the old Virginians, are much lass severe, and
much more gentle and gentlemanly in command, than the Northern
officers, as a class."
It is somewhat strange that a writer who can think so shrewdly
and observe so well should still be so infatuated with his own local
prejudices, as to forget subsequently what he has just said, aid
reflect upon the Southern slaveholder, as one necessarily more tyran-
nical than any other class of pemons. At page 447 the tells us that
a manly freedom of carriage on board a man-of-war is as offensive
to most sea officers " as an erect, lofty-minded African would be to
some slave-driving planter." He forgets wholly his own social
reflection, above quoted, in order to give a most unjust and wanton
fling at time South, in compliance with time stereotyped prejudices of
his own region.
But our space for extracts and comments, alike, is limited. By
these samples, the reader will judge of the objects of' the book be-
fore us, and of the manner of the writer. Tt is a history, and an
argument, and not a story. Its sketches are only illustrative of the
history, and designed to enliven it. The narrative is pleasant, cheer-
ful, seldom sparkling or brilliant ; but the author shows himself,
everywhere, a shrewd, sensible, well-informed man, thoughtful and
practical. His discussion of the abuses in the navy deserves the
equal consideration of government and people.

SQR, 17 (July 1850), 514-520.

Melville's Moby Dick. Harper & Brothers. In all those portions
of this volume which relate directly to the whale, his appearance in
the oceans which the inhabits ; his habits, powers and peculiarities ;
his pursuit and capture ; the interest of the reader will be kept alive,
and his attention fully rewarded. We should judge, from what is
before us, that Mr. Melville has as much personal knowledge of the
whale as any man living, and is better able, than any man living, to
display this knowledge in print. In all time scenes where the whale is
the performer or the sufferer, the delineation and action are highly
vivid and exciting. In all other respects. the book is sad stuff:, dull