In view of the part that the Commander of the Indomitable plays in scenes shortly to follow, it may be well to fill out that sketch of him outlined in the previous chapter.
Aside from his qualities as a sea-officer Captain Vere was an exceptional character. Unlike no few of England's renowned sailors, long and arduous service with signal devotion to it, had not resulted in absorbing and salting the entire man. He had a marked leaning toward everything intellectual. He loved books, never going to sea without a newly replenished library, compact but of the best. The isolated leisure, in some cases so wearisome, falling at intervals to commanders even during a war-cruise, never was tedious to Captain Vere. With nothing of that literary taste which less heeds the thing conveyed than the vehicle, his bias was toward those books to which every serious mind of superior order occupying any active post of authority in the world, naturally inclines: books treating of actual men and events no matter of what era—history, biography and unconventional writers like Montaigne, who, free from cant &and convention, honestly and in the spirit of common sense philosophize upon realities.
In this line of reading he found confirmation of his own more reserved thoughts—confirmation which he had vainly sought in social converse, so that as touching most fundamental topics, there had got to be established in him some positive convictions, which he forefelt would abide in him essentially unmodified so long as his intelligent part remained unimpaired. In view of the troubled period in which his lot was cast, this was well for him. His settled convictions were as a dyke against those as invading] (remnant as in MS)invadinginvading] HM's uncompleted revision text at this site is "as invading." MEL deletes the remnant "as." waters of novel opinion social (no serial comma in MS)social,social,] HM had originally written "social and political" but deleted "and" and inserted "and otherwise" after "political." MEL adds the necessary serial comma after "social" but, in keeping with HM's practice elsewhere, does not add a final serial comma after "political." political and otherwise, which carried away as in a torrent no few minds in those days, minds by nature not inferior to his own. While other members of that aristocracy to which by birth he belonged were incensed at the innovatersinnovators mainly because their theories were inimical to the privileged classes, Captain Vere disinterestedly disinterestedly (doubled in MS)disinterestedlydisinterestedly] HM originally inscribed "intellectually" and revised, in pencil, to "disinterestedly" twice, above and below the baseline. opposed them not alone because they seemedseemed] Drafting in pencil on a slip of paper clipped to the main leaf, HM inscribed the present tense "seem." MEL emends to "seemed" in keeping with the past tense. to him insusceptible of embodiment in lasting institutions, but at war with the peace of the world and the true welfare of mankind.
With minds less stored than his &and less earnest, some officers of his rank, with whom at times he would necessarily consort, found him lacking in the companionable quality, a dry and bookish gentleman, as they deemed. Upon any chance withdrawal from their company one would be apt to say to another, something like this: "Vere is a noble fellow, Starry Vere. Spite the gazzettesgazettesgazettes] In manuscript, HM doubles the "z" in his spelling of "gazette," but the OED registers no instances of this spelling, and MEL emends to "gazettes.", Sir Horatio meaning him who beca Lord Nels (without parentheses in MS)(meaning him who became Lord Nelson)(meaning him who became Lord Nelson)] In an abbreviated pencil insertion, Melville inscribed "meaning him who bec Lord Nels" without parentheses to set the commentary off from the dialogue. MEL expands the abbreviations and adds the parentheses, in keeping with HM's practice elsewhere. is at bottom scarsescarse] Meaning "scarcely," HM's spelling is a registered variant in OED, and MEL retains it, as does NN (but Hayford and Sealts regularized it). a better seaman or fighter. But between you and me now do'ntdon't you think there is a queer streak of the pedantic running thro'through him? Yes, like the King's yarn in a coil of navy-rope? (no quote in MS)navy-rope?"
Some apparent ground there was for Thisthis sort of confidential criticism; since not only did the Captain's discourse never fall into the jocosely familiar, but in illustrating of any point touching the stirring personages and events of the time he would be as apt to cite some historic character or incident of antiquity as that he would citeas that he would cite] HM inscribed these and surrounding words in pencil and in rough draft. HS repairs the faulty parallelism by emending to "as he would be to cite," and NN emends it to "as he would to cite." MEL does not emend. from the moderns. He seemed unmindful of the circumstance that to his bluff company such remote allusions however pertinent they might really be were altogether alien to men whose reading was mainly confined to the journals. But considerateness in such matters is not easy to natures constituted like Captain Vere's. Their honesty prescribes to them directness, sometimes far-reaching like that of a migratory fowl that in its flight never heeds when it crosses a frontier.