Chapters

Chapter 3 Chapter 3 At the time of Billy Budd's arbitrary enlistment into the IndomitableSee note on Indomitable in Chapter 1. that ship was on her way to join the Mediterranean fleet. No long time elapsed before the junction was effected. As one of that fleet the seventy-four participated in its movements, tho'though at times on account of her superior sailing qualities, in the abscenceabsence of frigates, despatched on separate duty as a scout an at timesand at timesand at times] In revision, HM inscribed, in pencil in the left margin, "an at times," intending "and at times," but neglecting to add a "d" for his miswritten "and." MEL emends to "and at times." on less temporary service. But with all this the story has little concermentconcernment, restricted as it is, to the inner life of one particular ship and the career of an individual sailor. It was the summer of 1797. In the April of that year had occurred the commotion at Spithead followed in May by a second and yet more serious outbreak in the fleet at the Nore. The latter is known, and without exaggeration in the epithet, as the Great Mutiny. It was indeed a demonstration more menacing to England than the contemporary manifestoes and conquering and prosylitingprosylitingprosyliting] HM's version of the word "proselyting" is not a recorded variant in OED. However, an online search discloses its appearance in two books published in the late nineteenth century. MEL retains the idiosyncratic spelling, as does NN. armies of the French Directory. To the British Empire the Nore Mutiny was what a strike in thethe] Originally, HM wrote "the fire-brigade," then crossed out "the," adding "her" above the line. He then crossed out "her" but neglected to restore "the," leaving an uncompleted and oscillating revision. MEL emends to "the." fire-brigade would be to London threatened by general arson. In a crisis when [crossed out in MS]thethe] In a set of pencil revisions that HM eventually scissored off in creating the clip on which this remaining passage appears, HM had also crossed out "the" but neglected to restore it. MEL restores the word. kingdom might well have anticipated the famous signal that some years later published along the naval line of battle what it was that upon occasion England expected of Englishmen; that was the time when at the mast-heads of the three-deckers and seventy-fours moored in her own roadstead,—a fleet, the right arm of a Power then all but the sole free conservative one of the Old World, (no dash in MS)World—World—] In this heavily revised passage, HM uses a dash to introduce an appositive beginning with the words "—a fleet..." and ending with "of the Old World," (set off with a comma not a closing dash). MEL emends the asymmetric comma to a corresponding dash to signal the end of the apposition.the blue-jackets, to be numbered by thousands (no comma in MS)thousands,thousands,] MEL adds a comma to set off HM's infinitive phrase. ran up with huzzas the British colors with the union and cross wiped out; by that cancellation transmuting the flag of founded law and freedom defined, into the enemy's red meteor of unbridled and unbounded revolt. Reasonable discontent growing out of practical grievances in the fleet had been ignited into irrational combustion as by live cinders blown across the Channel from France in flames. The event converted into irony for a time those spirited strains of Dibdin—as a song-writer no mean auxiliary to the English Government at thatthat] Before HM transposed the phrase "at that European conjuncture" to its present position—click on thumbnail to view leaf—HM had deleted "that" and added "the" to give "at the European conjuncture." However, he also restored "that" without deleting "the," resulting in an uncompleted and oscillating revision. MEL emends to the restored "that," as do HS and NN. European conjuncture—strains celebrating, among other things, the patriotic devotion of the British tar, that is, to his country:—the patriotic devotion of the British tar, that is, to his country:—] Originally, HM wrote, in ink, "the devotion of the British tar to the throne that is, to the state, to his country:—" as an introduction to the passage from Dibdin that follows, supplying meaningful distinctions with throne, state, and country. (Click on thumbnail to view leaf image.) In several revision steps, first while still composing, HM used ink to delete "that is, to the state, to his country:—" and re-positioned (again in ink) the deleted colon / dash after "throne." In a later revision, in pencil, he then deleted "to the throne" (adding a comma after "tar"), inserted "patriotic" in front of "devotion," and apparently at the same time restored "that is, to the state, to his country" by adding penciled dashes beneath the ink deletion. But he then re-deleted "to the state" with swirling loops in pencil. The final reading is "the patriotic devotion of the British tar, that is, to his country:—" HS does not include HM's restoration, giving instead "the patriotic devotion of the British tar:—" NN follows suit but in a note makes explicit what HS implies: that the revision site is uncompleted because HM neglected to resolve the apparent redundancy in "patriotic" and "to his country." In this argument, it is assumed that a "patriot," by definition, is one loyal "to his country." But HM does not seem to have been a stickler for this strict construction of "patriot." For instance, in Moby-Dick, he has Father Mapple praise him who is "only a patriot to heaven" (Ch. 9). Moreover, given the original array of throne, state, and country as objects of devotion, MEL argues that HM may have intended a meaningful redundancy in "patriotic devotion ... to his country," as if to suggest that there are different kinds of patriotism. Accordingly, MEL does not emend here by removing this presumed unintended redundancy. "And as for my life, t'is the King's!" Such an episode in the Island's grand naval story her naval historians naturally abridge; one of them (James)In reviewing this leaf, HM instructed his wife ESM to identify the naval historian quoted at the end of this sentence by inserting in parentheses after "one of them" the name "(James)." Later, Melville inscribed "G.P.R" in front of the parenthesis, further identifying the writer as George Paine Rainsford James (1799-1860), the prolific English novelist and historian. In fact, scholars have long since determined that the quoted line is from The Naval History of Great Britain by William James (1780-1827). The HS and NN editions correct HM's error by adding "William" to the parenthetical "James"; however, MEL neither corrects nor retains Melville's error of fact. candidly acknowledging that fain would he pass it over did not "impartiality forbid fastidiousness." And yet his mention is less a narration than a reference, having to do hardly at all with details. Nor are these readily to be found in the libraries. Like some other events in every age befalling states everywhere including America the Great Mutiny was of such character that national pride along with views of policy would fain shade it off into the historical background. Such events can not be ignored, but there is a considerate way of historically treating them. If a well-constituted individual refrains from blazoning aught amiss or calamitous in his family; a nation in the like circumstance may without reproach be equally discreet. Though after parleyings between Government and the ring-leaders, and concessions by the former as to some glaring abuses, the first uprising—that at Spithead—with difficulty waswas] HM deleted "was" and left it unrestored. MEL restores the word to complete the sentence. put down, or matters for the time pacified; yet at the Nore the unforeseen renewal of insurrection on a yet larger scale, and emphasised in the conferences that ensued by demands deemed by the authorities not only inadmissible but aggressivlyaggressively insolent, indicated—if the Red Flag did not sufficiently do so,—what was the spirit animating the men. Final suppression, however, there was; but only made possible perhaps by the unswerving loyalty of the marine corps [not in MS]andand] While inserting "the unswerving loyalty of the marine corps," HM omitted the necessary conjunction "and," which MEL supplies. a voluntary resumption of loyalty among influential sections of the crews. To some extent the Nore Mutiny may be regarded as analagousanalogous to the distempering irruption of contageouscontagiouscontagious] HM altered his original "contagious" to "contageous." MEL restores the correct spelling. fever in a frame constitutionally sound, and which anon throws it off. At all events, of these thousands of mutineers were some of the tars who not so very long afterwards—whether wholly prompted thereto by patriotism, or pugnacious instinct, or by both,—helped to win a coronet for Nelson at the Nile, and the naval crown of crowns for him at Trafalgar. To the mutineers, those battles and especially Trafalgar were a plenary absolution; and a grand one; for all that goes to make up scenic naval display, heroic magnificence in arms, those battles especially Trafalgar stand unmatched in human annals.