Chapters

101 The Decanter CHAPTER 101 THE DECANTER. Ere the English ship fades from sight, be it set down here, that she hailed from London, and was named after the late Samuel EnderbySamuel Enderby: This and the next two paragraphs refer to two different Samuel Enderbys. The “original” Samuel Enderby II (b. 1719) founded the whaling firm in 1775 and died in 1797; his son Samuel III (also called Junior, b. 1755) inherited the firm and died in 1829. According to Mansfield and Vincent (807), this passage about the Enderby accomplishments draws upon Thomas Beale’s Natural History of the Sperm Whale. See also "their mother only knows" below., merchant of that city, the original of the famous whaling house of Enderby & Sons; a house which in my poor whaleman’s opinion, comes not far behind the united royal housesunited royal houses: Ishmael imagines the combined stature of two overlapping royal families of England and France. The Tudor line ended with the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, but the Bourbons held power until Louis XVI was overthrown in 1792, and then sporadically in the nineteenth century. of the Tudors and Bourbons, in point of real historical interest. How long, prior to the year of our Lord 1775, this great whaling house was in existence, my numerous fish-documentsfish-documents: Ishmael’s facetious term for Melville's whaling sources. do not make plain; but in that year (1775) it fitted out the first English ships that ever regularly hunted the Sperm Whale; though for some score of years previous (ever since 1726) our valiant Coffins and Maceys of Nantucket and the Vineyard had in large fleets pursued that Leviathan, but only in the North and South Atlantic: not elsewhere. Be it distinctly recorded here, that the Nantucketers were the first among mankind to harpoon with civilized steel the great Sperm Whale; and that for half a century they were the only people of the whole globe who so harpooned him. In 1778, a fine ship, the Amelia, fitted out for the express purpose, and at the sole charge of the vigorous Enderbys, boldly rounded Cape Horn, and was the first among the nations to lower a whale-boat of any sort in the great South Sea. The voyage was a skilful and lucky one; and returning to her berth with her hold full of the precious sperm, the Amelia’s example was soon followed by other ships, English and American, and thus the vast Sperm Whale grounds of the Pacific were thrown open. But not content with this good deed, the indefatigable house again bestirred itself: Samuel and all his Sons—how many, their mother only knows—REVISION NARRATIVE: Samuel and all his Sons—how many, their mother only knows— // Mary Buxton Enderby, wife of whaling firm founder Samuel Enderby II, bore three sons—Charles, Samuel III (AKA Samuel, Jr.), and George—all of whom inherited the family business, Samuel Enderby & Sons, in 1829. Since these sons, and Samuel, Jr.’s son Charles, remained active until the company’s demise in 1854, Melville’s indelicate comment (a routine joke seemingly impugning the virtue of Mrs. Enderby) was expurgated, no doubt by an editor, probably to avoid offending the still-notable family. To compare American and British pages, click the thumbnails in the right margin.and under their immediate auspices, and partly, I think, at their expense, the British government was induced to send the sloop-of-war Rattler on a whaling voyage of discovery into the South Sea. Commanded by a naval Post-CaptainPost-Captain: commanding officer of a vessel who has the naval rank of captain., the Rattler made a rattling voyageRattler made a rattling voyage: Melville’s information is from Beale, who says nothing of the Rattler’s accomplishments; rather, it was the Amelia (mentioned above) that had made a "rattling" (remarkably good) voyage. Melville seems to have changed the ship's name for the sake of word-play. The Syren was also more successful than the Rattler (whose captain was another of Melville's whaling sources, James Colnett, whom Ishmael castigates in Ch. 55 for publishing one of the “monstrous pictures of whales”). of it, and did some service; how much does not appear. But this is not all. In 1819, the same house fitted out a discovery whale ship of their own, to go on a tasting cruisetasting cruise: This unusual phrase draws directly from Beale’s description of the British whaler Syrene’s “experimental voyage” to the Pacific, which is called an “experimental cruise” and, in Melville’s paraphrase of it, a “tasting cruise.” The NN editors take the word “tasting” to be a typo for "testing" and emend it in their edition to “testing cruise”; MEL makes no change but notes the problem here. to the remote waters of Japan. That ship—well called the “Syren”—made a noble experimental cruise; and it was thus that the great Japanese Whaling GroundJapanese Whaling Ground: The historically famous “Japan Ground,” where only sperm whales were hunted, is generally located southeast of the Japanese islands. In the 1840s, up to one hundred vessels per year fished the area. See Wilson Heflin, Herman Melville's Whaling Years. first became generally known. The Syren in this famous voyage was commanded by a Captain Coffin, a Nantucketer. All honor to the Enderbies, therefore, whose house, I think, exists to the present day; though doubtless the original Samuel must long ago have slipped his cableslipped his cable: departed; but here, died. for the great South Sea of the other world. The ship named after him was worthy of the honor, being a very fast sailer and a noble craft every way. I boarded her once at midnight somewhere off the Patagonian coast, and drank good flipflip: heated, sweetened mixture of beer and liquor. down in the forecastle. It was a fine gam we had, and they were all trumpstrumps: “first-rate guys.”—every soul on board. A short life to them, and a jolly death. And that fine gam I had—long, very long after old Ahab touched her planks with his ivory heel—it minds me of the noble, solid, Saxon hospitality of that ship; and may my parson forget me, and the devil remember me, if I ever lose sight of it. Flip? Did I say we had flip? Yes, and we flipped it at the rate of ten gallons the hour; and when the squall came (for it’s squally off there by Patagonia, and all hands—visitors and all—were called to reef topsails, we were so top-heavyreef topsails . . . top-heavy: A vessel with too many sails aloft for the weather conditions is top-heavy, a pun appropriate for the condition of the drunken sailors. that we had to swing each other aloft in bowlines; and we ignorantly furled the skirts of our jackets into the sails, so that we hung there, reefed fast in the howling gale, a warning example to all drunken tars. However, the masts did not go overboard; and by and bye we scrambled down, so sober, that we had to pass the flip again, though the savage salt spray bursting down the forecastle scuttle, rather too much diluted and pickled it to my taste. The beef was fine—tough, but with body in it. They said it was bull-beef; others, that it was dromedary beef; but I do not know, for certain, how that was. They had dumplings too; small, but substantial, symmetrically globular, and indestructible dumplings. I fancied that you could feel them, and roll them about in you after they were swallowed. If you stooped over too far forward, you risked their pitching out of you like billiard-balls. The bread—but that couldn’t be helped; besides, it was an anti-scorbuticanti-scorbutic: Something that prevents scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency. The crippling disease, caused by eating only preserved foods, is treated by adding citrus juice and fresh, leafy greens to the diet. The worms or weevils in the old, barreled bread would, humorously, not be a very effective anti-scorbutic, though they would indeed be “fresh fare.”; in short, the bread contained the only fresh fare they had. But the forecastle was not very light, and it was very easy to step over into a dark corner when you ate it. But all in all, taking her from truck to helm, considering the dimensions of the cook’s boilers, including his own live parchment boilerslive parchment boilers: that is, his big belly, covered by his skin.; fore and aft, I say, the Samuel Enderby was a jolly ship; of good fare and plenty; fine flip and strong; crack fellows all, and capitalcrack . . . capital: both mean excellent. from boot heels to hat-band. But why was it, think ye, that the Samuel Enderby, and some other English whalers I know of—not all though—were such famous, hospitable ships; that passed round the beef, and the bread, and the can, and the joke; and were not soon weary of eating, and drinking, and laughing? I will tell you. The abounding good cheer of these English whalers is matter for historical research. Nor have I been at all sparing of historical whale research, when it has seemed needed. The English were preceded in the whale fishery by the Hollanders, ZealandersZealanders: Zeeland, once a separate country, is a province of the Netherlands., and Danes; from whom they derived many terms still extant in the fishery; and what is yet more, their fat old fashions, touching plenty to eat and drink. For, as a general thing, the English merchant-ship scrimps her crew; but not so the English whaler. Hence, in the English, this thing of whaling good cheer is not normal and natural, but incidental and particular; and, therefore, must have some special origin, which is here pointed out, and will be still further elucidated. During my researches in the Leviathanic histories, I stumbled upon an ancient Dutch volumeancient Dutch volume: According to Mansfield and Vincent, the following passage parodies the pedantic William Scoresby's An Account of the Arctic Regions (807)., which, by the musty whaling smell of it, I knew must be about whalers. The title was, “Dan Coopman,” wherefore I concluded that this must be the invaluable memoirs of some Amsterdam cooper in the fishery, as every whale ship must carry its cooper. I was reinforced in this opinion by seeing that it was the production of one "Fitz SwackhammerFitz Swackhammer: The surname is impossible in Dutch but humorously descriptive of what a cooper does with his hammer..” But my friend Dr. SnodheadDr. Snodhead: According to Vincent, "Snodhead" is another mocking name for Scoresby (The Trying-Out of Moby-Dick, 345–46). See "ancient Dutch volume," above., a very learned man, professor of Low Dutch and High GermanLow Dutch and High German: Melville is playing with a common linguistic confusion. "Dutch" was and is a frequent English rendering for both “Deutsch” (meaning the German language) as well as "Dutch," the language of Holland. Plattdeutsch ("Low" German) is a dialect, while the standard German language is Hochdeutsch ("High" German). After his father's 1830 financial failure in Manhattan, Melville and family relocated to Albany, and Herman grew into young manhood among his mother Maria Gansevoort's relatives, all of Dutch descent, who spoke Dutch (or a local version of it called "lag duits") and attended sermons delivered in Dutch; see Bryant, Herman Melville: A Half Known Life, vol. 1, ch. 6. See also "Low Dutch," below. in the college of Santa Claus and St. Pott’s, to whom I handed the work for translation, giving him a box of sperm candles for his trouble—this same Dr. Snodhead, so soon as he spied the book, assured me that “Dan Coopman” did not mean “The Cooper,” but “The Merchant.” In short, this ancient and learned Low Dutch book treated of the commerce of Holland; and, among other subjects, contained a very interesting account of its whale fishery. And in this chapter it was, headed “Smeer,” or “Fat,” that I found a long detailed list of the outfits for the larders and cellars of 180 sail of Dutch whalemen180 sail of Dutch whalemen: A fleet of 180 Dutch whaling ships; here, "sail" is a nautical figure of speech for ship or ships.; from which list, as translated by Dr. Snodhead, I transcribe the following: 400,000 lbs. of beef. 60,000 lbs. FrieslandFriesland: Dutch agricultural province. pork. 150,000 lbs. of stock fishstock fish: dried fish.. 550,000 lbs. of biscuit. 72,000 lbs. of soft bread. 2,800 firkinsfirkins: small wooden kegs. of butter. 20,000 lbs. Texel & LeydenTexel & Leyden: Dutch island (pronounced tessel) and city. cheese. 144,000 lbs. cheese (probably an inferior article). 550 ankers of Genevaankers of Geneva: 10-gallon casks of gin.. 10,800 barrels of beer. Most statistical tables are parchingly dry in the reading; not so in the present case, however, where the reader is flooded with whole pipes, barrels, quarts, and gillspipes . . . and gills: 120-gallon barrels; a gill is half a cup. of good gin and good cheer. At the time, I devoted three days to the studious digesting of all this beer, beef, and bread, during which many profound thoughts were incidentally suggested to me, capable of a transcendental and Platonic application; and, furthermore, I compiled supplementary tables of my own, touching the probable quantity of stock-fish, &c., consumed by every Low DutchLow Dutch: Seemingly redundant here, since "low Dutch" means from the Netherlands (literally, lowlands), home of the Dutch; but it was common usage. Until the end of the nineteenth century “High Dutch” (from “Deutsch,” German for the German language and people) was an English term for Germans living in the higher elevations of Germany, while Germanic peoples of the low-lying seacoast, including Flanders and Holland, were distinguished as “Low Dutch.” See also "Low Dutch and High German," above. harpooneer in that ancient Greenland and Spitzbergen whale fisheryGreenland and Spitzbergen whale fishery: Beginning in the seventeenth century, several countries hunted Right and Bowhead whales in far northern waters between Europe and Greenland. Spitzbergen is a Norwegian island in the Arctic Ocean.. In the first place, the amount of butter, and Texel and Leyden cheese consumed, seems amazing. I impute it, though, to their naturally unctuous natures, being rendered still more unctuous by the nature of their vocation, and especially by their pursuing their game in those frigid Polar Seas, on the very coasts of that Esquimaux country where the convivial natives pledge each other in bumpers of train oil. The quantity of beer, too, is very large, 10,800 barrels. Now, as those polar fisheries could only be prosecuted in the short summer of that climate, so that the whole cruise of one of these Dutch whalemen, including the short voyage to and from the Spitzbergen sea, did not much exceed three months, say, and reckoning 30 men to each of their fleet of 180 sail, we have 5,400 Low Dutch seamen in all; therefore, I say, we have precisely two barrels of beer per man, for a twelve weeks’ allowance, exclusive of his fair proportion of that 550 ankers of gin. Now, whether these gin and beer harpooneers, so fuddled as one might fancy them to have been, were the right sort of men to stand up in a boat’s head, and take good aim at flying whales; this would seem somewhat improbable. Yet they did aim at them, and hit them too. But this was very far North, be it remembered, where beer agrees well with the constitution; upon the Equator, in our southern fishery, beer would be apt to make the harpooneer sleepy at the mast-head and boozy in his boat; and grievous loss might ensue to Nantucket and New Bedford. But no more; enough has been said to show that the old Dutch whalers of two or three centuries ago were high livers; and that the English whalers have not neglected so excellent an example. For, say they, when cruising in an empty ship, if you can get nothing better out of the world, get a good dinner out of it, at least. And this empties the decanter.