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Billy Budd, Sailor (Foretopman) An Introduction. "... a semi-final draft" In all, the manuscript of Billy Budd presents a unique set of problems. Not.

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Presentation on theme: "Billy Budd, Sailor (Foretopman) An Introduction. "... a semi-final draft" In all, the manuscript of Billy Budd presents a unique set of problems. Not."— Presentation transcript:

1 Billy Budd, Sailor (Foretopman) An Introduction

2 "... a semi-final draft" In all, the manuscript of Billy Budd presents a unique set of problems. Not only do editors disagree on how to organize the text, they often disagree on what actually comprises "the text." Each editor -- with differing levels of success -- has sought to make the novel as accessible as possible. Still, the often contradictory results has forced Billy Budd in to a more or less perpetual state of flux.

3 Raymond Weaver, 1924 & 1928 Over three decades after Melville's death, the first edition of Billy Budd was published in London as part of a series entitled The Standard Edition of Melville's Complete Works. The following is Raymond Weaver's introductory statement from that 1924 Constable Edition in full. The very language Weaver chooses suggests a sureness of which he could hardly have been certain. Only the second paragraph contains a hint at the reservation with which Weaver produced this version of the novel. In a move meant surely to serve as a disclaimer, he attempts to substantiate his editorial adjustments as merely "slight adjustments in the interest of interest of grammar or style." In fact, Weaver's changes were more substantial than he would have the reader believe. As Hayford and Sealts note in their thorough examination of the manuscript nearly four decades later, Weaver's misreadings range from those that are indeed 'slight' to others of much greater significance.Hayford and Sealts

4 Raymond Weaver (cont.) INTRODUCTORY NOTE BILLY BUDD, the title-piece of this volume, is a novel finished by Melville five months before his death in 1891, and never before published. 'Daniel Orme ' is a sketch 'omitted from Billy Budd.' The fourth piece-'The Two Temples'-was on May 12, I854, refused by Publisher's Monthly Magazine out of a fear of offending the religious sensibilities of the congregation of Grace Church, New York. This volume concludes with eight sketches surviving in manuscript, written, in all probability, after Melville's retirement in 1886, at the age of sixty-seven, from his post as Inspector of Customs in New York City. Except for his letters, journals, and the juvenile 'Fragments from a Writing Desk,' this closes the count of Melville as a writer of prose. The rest of the volume comprises all Melville's contributions to magazines that he acknowledged but never reprinted. The text of matter hitherto unpublished has, so far as possible, been printed verbatim from Melville's manuscript. Here and there, however, owing to the heavily corrected condition of many of the papers, slight adjustments in the interests of grammar or of style have been made in Melville's wording.

5 F. Barron Freeman, 1948 In 1948, F. Barron Freeman undertook a revision of sorts of Weaver's earlier work. Unlike Weaver, who was interested in producing a "reading" text, Freeman consciously tried to produce a more "scholarly" edition. While he attempted to produce "an exact edition of these manuscripts" and to "present the first accurate transcription, with all variant readings, of the manuscripts of Billy Budd," something "necessary for a full understanding of his significance," he actually ended up reproducing many of the same errors Weaver had made. Hayford and Sealts provide a full commentary on Freeman's work pointing out that his mistakes grew from his dependence on Weaver's text largely as the basis for his own work. Still, this is not to undermine completely Freeman's work. For example, he recognized that Weaver had produced "a markedly inaccurate transcription of the novel."Hayford and Sealts The result of Freeman's work is a text that, by and large, mirrors that of Weaver. Below are selections of his "Preface" which present his own commentary on his work. Editorial commentary, when included, appears in brackets and in a different color.

6 F. Barron Freeman (cont.) Preface The almost illegible manuscripts of Melville's last novel, Billy Budd, Foretopman, provide the only sustained example of his creative method in unproofed form. For the direct evidence which they give of how Melville wrote his novels, at the end of his life at least, they justify a complete transcription and analysis... [A]n exact edition of these manuscripts is necessary for a full understanding of his significance.(vii) This book, therefore, is an attempt to present the first accurate transcription, with all variant readings, of the manuscripts of Billy Budd, the first publication of Melville's previously undiscovered short story, "Baby Budd, Sailor," out of which he wrote his last novel: the first extended analysis of the novel and short story, together with a biographical account of the neglected last years of his life-the years in which he wrote these works.(vii) In my research on Billy Budd, I discovered the short story "Baby Budd, Sailor," embedded in the manuscripts of the novel, a discovery which was unexpected and gratifying. From the cut pinned or pasted pages of the manuscripts, from the smudged cancellations and confused pagination, a twelve-thousand-word short story appeared, buried in the thirty-six-thousand-word novel. The novel is an analytical presentation of the characters and problems concerned. The short story is an excellent example of Melville's ability to write a miniature tragedy.(vii) A correct reading of the manuscripts showed that Melville's final prose and the last years of his life have been misunderstood. (viii)

7 Freeman (cont.) Fortunately, the manuscripts of Melville's final short story and novel have been well preserved. Soon after Melville's death his wife, Elizabeth, sorted out [and changed and edited, though Freeman failed to recognize this] his many papers and, tying them into neat bundles, put them for safekeeping into a small trunk. (vii) [T]he pressure of time made it impossible for Mr. Weaver to decipher accurately the crabbed penmanship and the confused pagination of the manuscripts, to uncover the hidden short story, or to record more than seven of the hundreds of variant readings. My transcription of the novel and short story is an effort to establish a definitive text, through the presentation of all variant readings.(viii) The penciled notes at the beginning and end of the manuscripts [which Freeman assumed were all Herman Melville's notations] show that Melville began the tale of Billy Budd on or before November 16, 1888. He finished the revised version of the short story before March 2, 1889, when he began to expand it into the novel, the revision of which he completed on April 19, 1891. (ix) I have, in excising and transcribing the short story, considered all additions or changes which Melville made in expanding the short story into the novel as parts of one long revision.(x)

8 Hayford and Sealts, 1962 The 1962 work of Harrison Hayford and Merton Sealts, Jr., on Billy Budd has come largely to be accepted as the standard against which later editors of the work must measure. The significance of their work lies not merely in their close reading of the manuscript itself, but rather in the care they took in collecting the significant work done on the text since its initial 1924 publication. Included are several selections from the introductory material to that 1962 material. The selections are not meant to be exhaustive; rather, they merely introduce some of the central tenets which guided Hayford and Sealts as they prepared the reading text of the novel. Although the material has been cut down in order to capture the central claims, tnothing has been added or changed without noting it. Any external comments, when included, appear in a separate font color.

9 Hayford and Sealts (cont.) GROWTH OF THE MANUSCRIPT The manuscript of Billy Budd as Melville left it at his death in 1891 may be most accurately described as a semi-final draft, not a final fair copy ready for publication. After his death Mrs. Melville, indeed, called the story "unfinished." She had used exactly the same word in December of 1885 when reporting Melville's retirement from his nineteen years of employment, as a customs inspector: "He has a great deal [of] unfinished work at his desk which will give him occupation." The "unfinished work" of 1885 may have included the short poem of three or four leaves on which he was working early in 1886, the poem that ultimately became the ballad "Billy in the Darbies" with which the novel concludes. The novel itself developed out of a brief prose headnote setting the scene and introducing the speaker of this poem.... [Our study] has established the fact that more than once, believing his work to be essentially complete, he undertook to put his manuscript into fair-copy form, but each time he was led into further revision and elaboration; what still further changes he might have made had he lived to continue work on the manuscript are of course conjectural. (1)

10 Hayford and Sealts (cont.) Thus, in the period of over five years between his retirement from the Custom House and his death, Melville had carried the work through a series of developments intricate in detail but clear in their general lines of growth. In three main phases he had introduced in turn the three main characters: first Billy, then Claggart, and finally Vere. As the focus of his attention shifted from one to another of these three principals, the plot and thematic emphasis of the expanding novel underwent consequent modifications within each main phase. Just where the emphasis finally lay in the not altogether finished story as he left it is, in essence, the issue that has engaged and divided the critics of Billy Budd.(3)

11 Hayford and Sealts (cont.) On Weaver’s Work… But other, unintentional departures that Weaver made from the manuscript were less excusable. He committed many plain errors. Through oversight, it appears, he added or dropped words by the dozen, and he misread perfectly legible ones by the score. Most of these mistakes even a cursory collation of his transcription with the original mantiscript should have revealed and corrected. The signs are plain enough that his text was prepared hurriedly.(15) The major crippling weakness from which Weaver's text suffered, however, was a prior editorial lapse: he had not studied the manuscript sufficiently.(15)

12 Hayford and Sealts (cont.) On Freeman’s Work All three of the major errors arose primarily because Freeman failed to recognize the handwriting of Mrs. Melville, which appears at various points in Billy Budd and other late manuscripts of her husband; like Weaver, Freeman mistook all the handwriting for Melville's own (see Freeman, pp. 66-67)... [and] followed Weaver in accepting and printing the discarded leaves as the "Preface."(18)Freeman

13 Hayford and Sealts (cont.) A second major error in Freeman's (as in Weaver's) text was the inclusion of two more superseded leaves, headed "Lawyers, Experts, Clergy." This error arose in the same way, from another of Mrs. Melville's notations.... Again Freeman followed Weaver in mistaking her notation for Melville's own. Weaver placed the two leaves about where they had originally stood, though this meant interrupting Melville's later leaf-number sequence and ignoring another, and correct, notation by Mrs. Melville. Freeman adhered to Weaver's placing but, honoring the chapter division and title which Weaver had ignored, printed the leaves as Ch. 19. in his edition.

14 Hayford and Sealts (cont.) The third major error concerns the title of the work. No version has been given just the final title which its author gave it. Here again,the failure of its editors to recognize Mrs. Melville's hand in the manuscript is in large part to blame. For the title of the story two versions survive. One occurs in pencil draft on a slip attached to a separate leaf: "Billy Budd / Foretopman / What befell him / in the year of the / Great Mutiny / &c". The other occurs as a penciled addition at the top of the first leaf of the story proper: "Billy Budd / Sailor / (An inside narrative.)".... That the second of these was in fact Melville's final intention for the title is made clear by all genetic evidence.

15 Hayford and Sealts (cont.) In one further textual matter of another class -- that of editorial judgment -- we believe that Freeman erred in following Weaver. This concerns the name of Captain Vere's ship. Some twenty-five times throughout the manuscript the name Indomitable occurs, but in six instances, found in two widely separated chapters well along in the story, the name given is Bellipotent. Our analysis of the manuscript has revealed that Melville, at the late stage when he was composing his chapter (28 in this edition) on the engagement between Vere's seventy-four and the French line-of-battle ship, decided to change Indomitable to Bellipotent.

16 Setting of the narrative… 1797 The Napoleanic Wars A ship in the Royal British Navy (a microcosm of society?) How does the early narrative characterize the state and condition of the British Navy at this time???

17 The Era of Billy Budd A time of war & mutiny. It’s EXTREME!!! Impressment is commonplace…what effect does this have on the climate of a ship? Georgian Code (AKA The Bloody Code) – Often characterized as the most merciless approach to capital punishment in the history of civilized society… “barbaric and anachronistic” – 60 offenses were added to death penalty statutes – The function of the code was control through fear of consequence. By prescribing specific penalties for specific actions, it often left little room for interpretation for those who had to exact penalties. – E.G. “striking an officer of superior grade” Can law/order and justice co-exist?

18 Symbolic Boats.. Billy transitions from a merchant vessel to a naval vessel… The Rights of Man (alludes to tract by Thomas Paine, a champion of individual freedom) The Indomitable (cannot be defeated) or Bellipotent (powerful in war)… does it make a difference which is used ? Where authorial intention is concerned, WHY would Melville set his moral tale in such an EXTREME military environment as opposed to a civilian one?

19 Authorial Intention…. The traditional reading of this story is for the reader to determine if he/she admires or condemns Captain Vere for his decision to hang Billy. Essentially, this reduces to “should one shun private conscience in favor of institutional order?” However, there are alternative approaches…

20 Coming up with a reading for this text.. The first useful and necessary way to start to define an approach to the text is to draw conclusions about the plot structure. Activity #1: Make a case for what events signal the key plot elements of the narrative? – What events signify the rising action? – What event constitutes the climax (WHY)??? – What event(s) represent the resolution of the narrative (WHY)?

21 Mr. Wood’s plot synopsis… Rising Action: Billy taken from The Rights of Man Billy witnesses a lashing The soup incident / Billy on report (chapter 10) The mutinous/indecent proposal (14) Claggart’s attempts to pollute Billy’s reputation with fellow minor officers (17) The betrayal to Vere… a desperate play for Claggart? (18)

22 The Climax Chapter 19 The confrontation scene between Claggart and Billy as staged by Captain Vere, resulting in the blow that fells Claggart. Why??? “It is the divine judgment of Ananias! Look!” God has judged Claggart.

23 Climax cont. Vere draws a definitive, paradoxical conclusion at the scene of the fatal blow: “Struck dead by an angel of God! Yet the angel must hang!” Why this conclusion?

24 Climax cont. He has “struck” (and killed!) an officer of superior grade. The code prescribes the punishment clearly. Vere appears to instinctively draw this conclusion. Vere irrevocably judges Billy as an agent of the king’s law. Everything that follows is pro forma and subsequently resolution…

25 Resolution… The Drumhead Court scene (kangaroo court) The Vere verdict The (missing) interview between Vere & Billy The execution of Billy The death of Vere “Billy of the Darbies” (AKA the gospel of Billy)

26 Your reading…. Do you admire or condemn Vere for his conduct? Was he punished by the author? WHO is the real victim and/or villain of the narrative? WHAT ideas about human nature emerge from the text? Is the work didactic, morally speaking? Is the allegorical reading worth pursuing? Is there an overt commentary on capital punishment? Is the author disillusioned or at peace given the outcome of this work? (Yes…scholars have argued both!)

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