Correspondent Colorings: Melville in the Marketplace

By Sheila Post-Lauria | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
Creative Reliance: Periodical Practices in the Magazine Fiction

Melville SUBMITTED seven tales, roughly half of his entire short fiction output, to one of the most politically conservative and sentimental monthlies of the decade, Harper's Magazine. Although periodicals such as Putnam's and even Holden's Dollar Magazine provided the author with more heterogeneous environments, and Putnam's paid him the same high rate per page (five dollars), Melville continued to submit to Harper's.1 The particular type of social critique found in tales such as "The Fiddler," "Jimmy Rose," "Cock-a-Doodle-Doo!" and "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids," all published in Harper's, has been considered covert autobiographical reflections about "going under."2 Yet these reflections are not limited to and defined by a personal strategy of the author. Often treated as allegories of Melville's despair over lost fame and "failure," the themes of social alienation and obscurity in Melville's Harper's stories form part of a larger tradition in Harper's fiction.3 In fact, Melville's reserve illustrates a conscious use -- and even endorsement -- of magazine conventions. The author's stylistic techniques in the seven tales published in Harper's are directly linked to the editorial policies and magazine practices of the popular sentimental monthly.

The deliberateness of Melville's practices and his keen awareness of the contrasting magazine styles becomes clear in the distinct fiction

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