Title Page -- 1948

F. Barron Freeman, 1948

Title Page -- 1948

In 1948, F. Barron Freeman undertook a revision of sorts of Weaver's earlier work. Unlike Weaver, who was interested in producing a "reading" text, Freeman consciously tried to produce a more "scholarly" edition. While he attempted to produce "an exact edition of these manuscripts" and to "present the first accurate transcription, with all variant readings, of the manuscripts of Billy Budd," something "necessary for a full understanding of his significance," he actually ended up reproducing many of the same errors Weaver had made.

Hayford and Sealts provide a full commentary on Freeman's work pointing out that his mistakes grew from his dependence on Weaver's text largely as the basis for his own work. Still, this is not to undermine completely Freeman's work. For example, he recognized that Weaver had produced "a markedly inaccurate transcription of the novel."

The result of Freeman's work is a text that, by and large, mirrors that of Weaver. Below are selections of his "Preface" which present his own commentary on his work. Editorial commentary, when included, appears in brackets and in a different color.

The almost illegible manuscripts of Melville's last novel, Billy Budd, Foretopman , provide the only sustained example of his creative method in unproofed form. For the direct evidence which they give of how Melville wrote his novels, at the end of his life at least, they justify a complete transcription and analysis . . . [A]n exact edition of these manuscripts is necessary for a full understanding of his significance.(vii)

This book, therefore, is an attempt to present the first accurate transcription, with all variant readings, of the manuscripts of Billy Budd, the first publication of Melville's previously undiscovered short story, "Baby Budd, Sailor," out of which he wrote his last novel: the first extended analysis of the novel and short story, together with a biographical account of the neglected last years of his life-the years in which he wrote these works.(vii)

In my research on Billy Budd, I discovered the short story "Baby Budd, Sailor," embedded in the manuscripts of the novel, a discovery which was unexpected and gratifying. From the cut pinned or pasted pages of the manuscripts, from the smudged cancellations and confused pagination, a twelve-thousand-word short story appeared, buried in the thirty-six-thousand-word novel. The novel is an analytical presentation of the characters and problems concerned. The short story is an excellent example of Melville's ability to write a miniature tragedy.(vii)

A correct reading of the manuscripts showed that Melville's final prose and the last years of his life have been misunderstood. (viii)

Fortunately, the manuscripts of Melville's final short story and novel have been well preserved. Soon after Melville's death his wife, Elizabeth, sorted out [and changed and edited, though Freeman failed to recognize this] his many papers and, tying them into neat bundles, put them for safekeeping into a small trunk. (vii)

[T]he pressure of time made it impossible for Mr. Weaver to decipher accurately the crabbed penmanship and the confused pagination of the manuscripts, to uncover the hidden short story, or to record more than seven of the hundreds of variant readings. My transcription of the novel and short story is an effort to establish a definitive text, through the presentation of all variant readings.(viii)

The penciled notes at the beginning and end of the manuscripts [which Freeman assumed were all Herman Melville's notations] show that Melville began the tale of Billy Budd on or before November 16, 1888. He finished the revised version of the short story before March 2, 1889, when he began to expand it into the novel, the revision of which he completed on April 19, 1891. (ix)

I have, in excising and transcribing the short story, considered all additions or changes which Melville made in expanding the short story into the novel as parts of one long revision.(x)

Insertions: title page, dedication, and preface; the episodes of the Liverpool and of the Erie Canal sailor; the description of Captain Graveling, the drinking scene in which Billy's experiences with Red Whiskers are described, and the "portmanteau" episode; the Biblical references to Billy's flaw; the description of the Indomitable's scout duty; the chapter on Nelson; the analysis of the effects of the Nore and Spithead mutinies; the description of Captain Vere ashore, and of his aristocratic modesty; the entire second chapter on Vere's personality; the "Lawyers, Experts, Clergy" chapter; the recognition of the afterguardsman; chapters 17 and 18 of the novel, on evil and innocence; Billy's trust in Captain Vere; Vere's dilemma in its relation ship to the Nore mutiny; Billy under guard; a chaplain's position on a man-of-war; the death of Captain Vere; the "official" report of Claggart's death and Billy's hanging; Billy's fame and the poem about him; the Daniel Orme fragment.(x-xi)

Drastic expansions: the discussion of Billy's birth; the direct description of the Nore and Spithead mutinies; the first description of Claggart, the first discussion of his evil nature, and the "Pale ire, envy and despair" chapter; the conversation in the forechains; Claggart's talk with Captain Vere; the Surgeon's interview with Vere; the true nature of Billy's crime; the digression of the Surgeon and the Purser; and Billy's peaceful death.(xi)

Of the [insertions], the most important is the so-called "Daniel Orme" fragment. Melville's [Again, those of Elizabeth Melville, not necessarily Herman's] penciled note, "omitted of Billy Budd," shows that this fragment was once intended to be part of the, novel. (xi)

I have endeavored to transcribe the short story and novel with a minimum of scholarly data. The texts of both are complete transcriptions of Melville's manuscripts.(xi)

Melville's artistic aim is partially expressed in a sentence which he underlined in his copy of Hawthorne's short story, "Young Goodman Brown": "It shall be yours to penetrate, in every bosom, the deep mystery of sin." My purpose has been to present an accurate transcription and analysis of two of his most important works: "Baby Budd, Sailor," and Billy Budd, Foretopman.(xii)

After the 1948 publication of Freeman's edition, Elizabeth Treeman undertook a review of Billy Budd. In her research, she discovered a series of "mistakes." She documented over 500 of these in a 1953 pamphlet entitled Corrigenda. Although no "Treeman" edition was published independently, her changes were incorporated in Volume I of the 1956 edition of The American Tradition in Literature (New York: Norton) edited by Bradley, Beatty, and Long. As was the case with Weaver and Freeman before, the editors of this edition assume an air (misplaced perhaps) of confidence when commenting on their production.
Introductory Note to Billy Budd
Billy Budd is fundamentally significant for the interpretation of its enigmatic author and his masterpiece, Moby Dick. From the moment of its dedicatory note, the author's private personality is intricately incorporated with his creative energy and narrative insight. . . . The novel was published posthumously as Billy Budd: Foretopman in 1924, as a supplement to The Works of Herman Melville (1922-1924). This was not strictly edited, but all subsequent editions have been based on it. The text below is a new edition, representing a collation with the original manuscript in the Houghton Library of Harvard University by Miss Elizabeth Treeman, an assistant editor of Harvard University Press. The present editors recognize that Melville probably did not prepare the manuscript for printing. Where additional punctuation is absolutely necessary for clarity, it has been inserted in square brackets. A few interpolated words, and all words not entirely clear in the manuscript have also been placed in square brackets. A few important variant readings left standing in the manuscript are shown in footnotes. Melville's chapter divisions are different from those in the 1924 edition, and we have followed the manuscript in this matter also.(709)
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