88 Schools & Schoolmasters
SCHOOLS AND SCHOOLMASTERS.
The previous chapter gave account of an immense body or herd of Sperm Whales, and there was also then given the probable causeprobable cause: mutual protection against constant hunting. inducing those vast aggregations.
Now, though such great bodies are at times encountered, yet, as must have been seen, even at the present day, small detached bands are occasionally observed, embracing from twenty to fifty individuals each. Such bands are known as schools. They generally are of two sorts; those composed almost entirely of females, and those mustering none but young vigorous males, or bulls, as they are familiarly designated.
In cavalier attendance upon the school of females, you invariably see a male of full grown magnitude, but not old; who, upon any alarm, evinces his gallantry by falling in the rear and covering the flight of his ladies. In truth, this gentleman is a luxurious OttomanOttoman: Turk., swimming about over the watery world, surroundingly accompanied by all the solaces and endearments of the harem. The contrast between this Ottoman and his concubines is striking; because, while he is always of the largest leviathanic proportions, the ladies, even at full growth, are not more than one third of the bulk of an average-sized male. They are comparatively delicate, indeed; I dare say, not to exceed half a dozen yards round the waist. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied, that upon the whole they are hereditarily entitled to en bon pointen bon point: enbonpoint (French), plumpness..
It is very curious to watch this harem and its lord in their indolent ramblings. Like fashionables, they are for ever on the move in leisurely search of variety. You meet them on the Line in time for the full flower of the Equatorial feeding season, having just returned, perhaps, from spending the summer in the Northern seas, and so cheating summer of all unpleasant weariness and warmth. By the time they have lounged up and down the promenade of the Equator awhile, they start for the Oriental waters in anticipation of the cool season there, and so evade the other excessive temperature of the year.
When serenely advancing on one of these journeys, if any strange suspicious sights are seen, my lord whale keeps a wary eye on his interesting family. Should any unwarrantably pert young Leviathan coming that way, presume to draw confidentially close to one of the ladies, with what prodigious fury the BashawBashaw: also Pasha; honorific Turkish title, implying, for Western readers, a proud, overbearing man. assails him, and chases him away! High times, indeed, if unprincipled young rakes like him are to be permitted to invade the sanctity of domestic bliss; though do what the Bashaw will, he cannot keep the most notorious Lothario out of his bed; for, alas! all fish bed in common.REVISION NARRATIVE: Lotharios and Whales 1 // Lothario is the “haughty, gallant, gay [carefree]” male lover in Nicholas Rowe’s highly popular play The Fair Penitent (1703), and well before the nineteenth century, a “Lothario” had become any adventurous, usually heartless, “love-’em-and-leave-’em” libertine. Melville uses the word to describe young male whales challenging the dominance of any larger bull who, like an Ottoman or Turkish ruler (Bashaw or Pasha), is the protective, sexual master of a group of females, or harem. At the same time, he compares these encounters to the amorous courting of humans. Melville was on precarious ground, and knew it, because in writing Typee five years earlier, he, his brother Gansevoort, and his editors had in successive stages pared down (in manuscript and print) various sexual jokes that also compared Polynesian male and female groupings to Roman and Turkish practice. (See Bryant, Herman Melville: A Half Known Life, vol. 1, ch. 35 and vol. 2, ch. 103.) Wary of further censorings by the British, Melville may have censored himself in his depiction of the antics of the Lothario and Bashaw whales in three major and two minor revisions in this and the next paragraph. Here, Melville, rather than an editor, was probably responsible for revising the highlighted lines to “he cannot always frustrate the most notorious Lothario [. . .]; for, alas! all fish have very vague ideas of the connubial tie.” To compare American and British pages, click the thumbnails in the right margin. As ashore, the ladies often cause the most terrible duels among their rival admirers; just so with the whales, who sometimes come to deadly battle, and all for love. They fence with their long lower jaws, sometimes locking them together, and so striving for the supremacy like elks that warringly interweave their antlers. Not a few are captured having the deep scars of these encounters,—furrowed heads, broken teeth, scolloped fins; and in some instances, wrenched and dislocated mouths.
But supposing the invader of domestic bliss to betake himself away at the first rush of the harem’s lord, then is it very diverting to watch that lord. Gently he insinuates his vast bulk among them again and revels there awhile, still in tantalizing vicinity to young Lothario, like pious Solomon devoutly worshipping among his thousand concubinesSolomon devoutly worshipping among his thousand concubines: The biblical king had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, “and his wives turned away his heart” from God (1 Kings 11.3–4).. REVISION NARRATIVE: Lotharios and Whales 2 // As part of the Lothario revisions (see Revision Narrative, above), Melville or an editor may have deleted this withering and ironical (hence disrespectful) comparison to "pious" Solomon and his many concubines. Granting other whales to be in sight, the fishermen will seldom give chase to one of these Grand Turks; for these Grand Turks are too lavish of their strength, and hence their unctuousness is small. REVISION NARRATIVE: Lotharios and Whales 3 // The joke in this deleted clause is cleverly concealed; Melville may have decided to dispense with it, although an editor may have caught on and cut it as well. The joke—that a Grand Turk whale is not worth hunting because he uses up his “unctuousness” (oiliness) among the ladies of his harem—plays on the facetious assumption (introduced in Ch. 32) that spermaceti whale oil is actually semen. To compare American and British pages, click the thumbnails in the right margin. As for the sons and the daughters they beget, why, those sons and daughters must take care of themselves; at least, with only the maternal help. For like certain other omnivorous roving lovers that might be named, my Lord Whale has no taste for the nursery, however much for the bowerbower: woman’s bedroom.; and so, being a great traveller, he leaves his anonymous babies all over the world; every baby an exotic. In good time, nevertheless, as the ardor of youth declines; as years and dumps increase; as reflection lends her solemn pauses; in short, as a general lassitude overtakes the sated Turk; then a love of ease and virtue supplants the love for maidens; our Ottoman enters upon the impotent, REVISION NARRATIVE: Lotharios and Whales 4-5 // As part of the Lothario revisions, Melville or an editor might have made two single-word changes. "Impotent" is deleted entirely, and "amorous" is revised to "juvenile." To compare American and British pages, click the thumbnails in the right margin. repentant, admonitory stage of life, forswears, disbands the harem, and grown to an exemplary, sulky old soul, goes about all alone among the meridians and parallels saying his prayers, and warning each young Leviathan from his amorous errors.
Now, as the harem of whales is called by the fishermen a school, so is the lord and master of that school technically known as the schoolmaster. It is therefore not in strict character, however admirably satirical, that after going to school himself, he should then go abroad inculcating not what he learned there, but the folly of it. His title, schoolmaster, would very naturally seem derived from the name bestowed upon the harem itself, but some have surmised that the man who first thus entitled this sort of Ottoman whale, must have read the memoirs of Vidocqthe memoirs of Vidocq: In his 1828–29 ghost-written autobiography, Eugène François Vidocq (1775–1857), first a criminal and later chief of detectives in Paris, claims that disguised as a friar, he taught at a country school where he seduced his female students., and informed himself what sort of a country-schoolmaster that famous Frenchman was in his younger days, and what was the nature of those occult lessons he inculcated into some of his pupils.
The same secludedness and isolation to which the schoolmaster whale betakes himself in his advancing years, is true of all aged Sperm Whales. Almost universally, a lone whale—as a solitary Leviathan is called—proves an ancient one. Like venerable moss-bearded Daniel BooneDaniel Boone: The legendary American pioneer (1734–1820) whom James Fenimore Cooper called “the patriarch of Kentucky” moved farther west as the frontier advanced, and died in Missouri. A similar reference appears in The Confidence-Man., he will have no one near him but Nature herself; and her he takes to wife in the wilderness of waters, and the best of wives she is, though she keeps so many moody secrets.
The schools composing none but young and vigorous males, previously mentioned, offer a strong contrast to the harem schools. For while those female whales are characteristically timid, the young males, or forty-barrel-bulls, as they call them, are by far the most pugnacious of all Leviathans, and proverbially the most dangerous to encounter; excepting those wondrous greyheaded, grizzled whales, sometimes met, and these will fight you like grim fiends exasperated by a penal goutpenal gout: painful inflammation of the joints, typically affecting older men; in this case a punitive ailment caused by rich food, and drink..
The Forty-barrel-bull schoolsThe Forty-barrel-bull schools: This paragraph and the next closely follow the descriptions in Thomas Beale, The Natural History of the Sperm Whale; see Mansfield and Vincent (790–791). are larger than the harem schools. Like a mob of young collegians, they are full of fight, fun, and wickedness, tumbling round the world at such a reckless, rollicking rate, that no prudent underwriter would insure them any more than he would a riotous lad at Yale or Harvard. They soon relinquish this turbulence though, and when about three fourths grown, break up, and separately go about in quest of settlementssettlements: matrimony; settling down., that is, harems.
Another point of difference between the male and female schools is still more characteristic of the sexes. Say you strike a Forty-barrel-bull—poor devil! all his comrades quit him. But strike a member of the harem school, and her companions swim around her with every token of concern, sometimes lingering so near her and so long, as themselves to fall a prey.