REVISION NARRATIVE: Postcript // If Moby-Dick is to work as a narrative, readers must sympathize with its working-class characters and understand, even admire, the particular world of work in which they live. In the preceding Chapter 24, Ishmael adopts the role of an “advocate” (lawyer) arguing, as if in court, for the dignity of whalers and whaling. In Chapter 25, titled “Postscript,” Melville extends the argument, with British readers in mind. (Melville may have added this four-paragraph chapter as an afterthought late in the composition process.) But Ishmael’s flippancies toward monarchy—in one instance, he compares the royal head of state to a “head of salad”—doomed the little chapter; it was cut entirely from the British edition. Because of this removal, the British edition's chapter numbers going forward varied by one from the American version. For instance, the following chapter, "Knights and Squires" (numbered Ch. 26 in the American edition), appears in the British as "Chapter 25," and so on. To view this discrepancy, click the thumbnails in the right margin.
In behalf of the dignity of whaling, I would fain advance naught but substantiated facts. But after embattling his facts, an advocate who should wholly suppress a not unreasonable surmise, which might tell eloquently upon his cause—such an advocate, would he not be blameworthy?
It is well known that at the coronation of kings and queens, even modern ones, a certain curious process of seasoning them for their functions is gone through. There is a saltcellar of state, so called, and there may be a caster of state. How they use the salt, precisely—who knows? Certain I am, however, that a king’s head is solemnly oiled at his coronation, even as a head of salad. Can it be, though, that they anoint it with a view of making its interior run well, as they anoint machinery? Much might be ruminated here, concerning the essential dignity of this regal process, because in common life we esteem but meanly and contemptibly a fellow who anoints his hair, and palpably smells of that anointing. In truth, a mature man who uses hair-oil, unless medicinally, that man has probably got a quoggy spot in him somewhere. As a general rule, he can’t amount to much in his totality.
saltcellar of state: container for table salt at state banquets.
quoggy: boggy, swampy.
But the only thing to be considered here, is this—what kind of oil is used at coronations? Certainly it cannot be olive oil, nor macassar oil, nor castor oil, nor bear’s oil, nor train oil, nor cod-liver oil. What then can it possibly be, but sperm oil in its unmanufactured, unpolluted state, the sweetest of all oils?
macassar, castor, bear’s, train, cod-liver oil: macassar is a trademarked hairdressing made from mixed vegetable ingredients; castor oil, from the castor bean, is often used as a laxative; bear’s oil or grease was thought to treat men’s hair loss; train oil (cf. old German trahan for “tear” as in teardrop) is extracted from the right whale and other marine mammals and used to fuel lamps and make soap; and cod-liver oil is a health supplement.
Think of that, ye loyal Britons! we whalemen supply your kings and queens with coronation stuff!