Each note is followed by the page number to which it refers, and which in turn is linked directly to the text.
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[1.1] 1. a first of April: April Fool's, or
All Fools' Day.
[1.2] 1. Manco Capac at the lake Titicaca: Manco Capac founded the Incan empire and was supposed to have been sent by his father, the sun.
[1.3] 1. Fidèle: From the Latin, fides, "faith." The irony of this name will be apparent, but it may also allude to "Fidele" in Shakespeare's Cymbeline, to "Fidelia" in Wycherly's The Plain Dealer, to Beethoven's Fidelio--all of which are names of characters in disguise. It may also suggest the connotations of legitimacy of such a phrase as "bona fide" (in good faith).
[1.4] 2.theatre-bill: With the first of many texts in the novel, the 'audience' is given the first of many hints at how to read.
[1.5] 2. certain chevaliers: The phrase chevalier d'industrie denotes a swindler.
[1.6] 2. Meason ... Murrel ... the brothers Harpe: Samuel Meason was an outlaw to whom James Hall referred in his Sketches of History, Life, and Manners in the West (see appendix, and chps. 25-27). John Murrell was a bloodthirsty and tricky bandit who came to lead a group reportedly of a thousand men called Murrell's Mystic Clan. The Harpes were described by Hall as particularly violent and malign. The younger Harpe eventually beheaded Meason after joining Meason's gang.
[1.7] 3. Charity thinketh no evil: All of the inscriptions on the slate come from I Corinthians 13.
[1.8] 4. Shield-like bearing his slate: Possibly a reference to the "breastplate of righteousness" of Ephesians 6:14.
[2.1] 7. Casper Hauser: A foundling (1812?-
who appeared in Nuremberg in 1828 and whose origin was unknown. Cf. the
references to Peter the Wild Boy (ch. 21) and Hairy Orson (ch. 26).
[2.2] 7. spirit-rapper: Edwin Fussell states that Orestes Brownson's The Spirit-Rapper ("a caustic anatomy of mid-nineteenth-century American religion and philosophy") may have been a source for The Confidence- Man.
[2.3] 7. daylight Endymion: Endymion, after making love to Selene (Diana), is in some sources said to have been made to sleep eternally.
[2.4] 7. Jacob dreaming at Luz: Genesis 28: 11- 15. Jacob's ladder connects heaven and earth.
[2.5] 8. the great ship canal of Ving-King- Ching: China's Grand or Imperial Canal. "Ving-King-Ching" is Melville's, and not the Chinese, term.
[2.6] 8. secret drawers in an escritoire: By likening the Fidele to a writing desk, Melville emphasizes the textual nature of its passengers, whose stories and indeed identities will need to be scrutinized, analyzed, interpreted.
[2.7] 10. Dives and Lazarus: Luke 16: 19-31 contains the parable of the rich man and the poor man. Cf. later references in Chps. 9, 15, 19.
[2.8] 10. Anacharsis Cloots congress: Baron Jean Baptiste de Cloots (1755- 1794) was a Prussian and "World-Citizen" who, in support of the French Revolution, led a diverse delegation of the "human race" to the French National Assembly. Carlyle mentions him in The French Revolution, and Melville employs his name in both Moby Dick and Billy Budd.
[3.1] 16. The will of man is by his reason
swayed: A Midsummer Night's Dream, II, ii, 115. Lysander
speaks this ironic line this after his vision has been distorted by Puck's love-
[3.2] 17.-18. dar is aboard here ... will speak for me: An apparent list of the manifestations of the Confidence Man, although there seem to be more in the list than there are confidence men. Perhaps also a hint of the connection between authorial con-man and the characters who "speak" for him. Cf. Melville's comments on Shakespeare in "Hawthorne and His Mosses": "through the mouths of the dark characters of Hamlet, Timon, Lear, and Iago, he craftily says, or sometimes insinuates the things, which we feel so terrifically true...." See the later treatment of Shakespeare in Chapter 30. Note also the later references to ventriloquism between Winsome and Egbert, and the suggestions of it with the layered telling of "Indian-Hating." (For a related treatment, see also A. Robert Lee, "Voices Off, On and Without: Ventriloquy in The Confidence- Man" Herman Melville: Reassessments.)
[3.3] 18. Methodist minister ... by birth: H. Bruce Franklin notes that one of Murrell's favorite disguises was as a Methodist minister, and that the Harpe brothers' last disguise was as a pair of Methodist ministers. Murrell was also a tall Tennessean.
[3.4] 19.as charitable a construction: "Construction" is the term usually applied to an interpretation of the Constitution. An interesting point, in regard to the black man 'widout massa,' especially since a chief argument of abolitionists was that the Constitution itself implied the ending of slavery. The Dred Scott case, which began in 1847 but did not end until the Supreme Court gave its decision in 1857, would then be considered an example of an uncharitable construction.
[3.5] 19. betrays a fool with a kiss: Probably an allusion to the betrayal of Christ by Judas.
[3.6] 21. this ship of fools: Cf. The Narrenshiff (1494), by Sebastian Brandt, describes different types of fools, then has them shipped away to the Land of Fools. It was popular enough to be translated into a number of languages. Alexander Barclay's The Ship of Fools (1509) was its English version.
[3.7] 22. Timon: From Shakespeare's Timon of Athens, about a man who turns misanthrope after his friends prove friends only so long as he has wealth. See also note to Chapter 24.
[3.8] 23. Jeremy Diddler: The protagonist of James Kennedy's Raising the Wind (1803)--the likely source from which the name came to denote swindling or cheating. Cf. Poe, "Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences" (1843). Jeremy Diddler is referred to later, in Chapter 24.
[4.1] 26. a long weed on his hat: Helen
Trimpi argues that this manifestation of the Confidence Man represents
William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878).
[4.2] 28. about Werter's Charlotte: An allusion to Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, and probably to Thackeray's parodic "Sorrows of Werther," which ends
Charlotte, having seen his body
Borne before her on a shutter,
Like a well-conducted person,
went on cutting bread and butter.
[4.3] 29. potter's clay, as the good book
says: Isaiah 64:8.
[4.4] 31. you are a mason: Cf. the note in Chapter 9, p.74, on Good-Enough Morgan.
[4.5] 33. from the stock's descent ... no second fate: Henry F. Pommer demonstrates in Milton and Melville that this is an echo of Satan's argument in Paradise Lost:
...From this descent
Celestial virtues rising, will appear
More glorious and more dread than from no fall,
And trust themselves to fear no second fate.
[5.1] 38. a black and shameful period lies
before me: As previous editors have noted, this more suggests the tone of
Tacitus than corresponds to any specific passage.
[5.2] 39. there is a subtle man ... deceived: A mixture of verses from Chapter 19 of Ecclesiasticus (the apocryphal book of Jesus, the Son of Sirach).
[5.3] 40. its wickedness--that is, its ugliness: Elizabeth Foster notes the reference here to Shaftesbury's Characteristics, in which "morality, like art," is seen as "a matter of taste."
[5.4] 40. Auburn and Greenwood: Cemeteries in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Brooklyn, New York. Foster sees this as linking the man in mourning "with the "Graveyard School" of Poets, "and with eighteenth-century sentimental melancholy in general."
[5.5] 40. Akenside--his 'Pleasures of Imagination': "The Pleasures of Imagination" (1744), a blank verse poem, argues a benign universe well-ordered with Beauty, Truth, Wisdom, and Good.
[5.6] 41. confidence is the New Astrea: Astrea, daughter of Zeus and Themis, and goddess of justice, departed to the heavens because of the wickedness she saw on earth.
[6.1] 43. among the Seminoles: The
widows and orphans would have
been from the Seminole War of 1835-1842. Hershel Parker argues that
"Melville's joke" here "depends upon Cotton Mather's standard equation of
Indians with Devils," so that "the Devil canvasses Christians for the support of
widows and orphans of devils." Because Melville's own view is more
complicated than this easy correlation (as Foster notes in her Introduction),
this is probably at some level a commentary on the people who would make
Indians not only "widows and orphans" but devils as well. If the "joke" is as
Parker says, it is played not only on specific victims, but on the social context
which enables it to be played--on its very presence as a joke.
[6.2] 47. Benedicts: Men who have recently married.
[6.3] 47. with apparent satisfaction hobbled away: Like Apollyon in Hawthorne's "The Celestial Railroad" (1846).
[6.4] 47. even were truth on his tongue ... offensive as falsehood: The man in gray's reaction to this, the first of the stories- within-the story, anticipates the reactions to the stories that will follow. The Confidence-Man, always himself aware of the equivocality of narrative, will in his various guises serve as a useful literary critic throughout the book. For his critiques of others' stories, see the notes to Chapters 13, 19, 28, 41. See also the note to Chapter 35, in which the cosmopolitan explains his own tale.
[6.5] 49. Caffre Or Kafir, the Arabic term for infidel. William Ramsey notes the "twin caffres" exhibited by P.T. Barnum in 1846. Both Black Guinea and the boy peddler are compared to caffres, and thus they are perhaps Melville's own "twins." The phrase "nails on a Caffre" may be punning with "nails" and with the similar sounding coffin.
[7.1] 55. like the Hebrew governor: A
reference to Pontius Pilate's ambiguous 'innocence' (Matthew 27: 24).
[7.2] 55. a kind of Wilberforce: William Wilberforce (1759-1833), an English philanthropist, led the movement to abolish the slave trade.
[7.3] 56. scarcely for a righteous man ... even dare to die: Romans 5:7.
[7.4] 58. notion of Socrates that the soul is a harmony: See Plato's Republic, Phaedo, and Protagoras.
[7.5] 58. World's Fair in London: The London Great Exhibition was held in the Crystal Palace in 1851. Stephen Matterson notes that "P.T. Barnum's 1851 April Fool's trick involved sending people on fool's errands. One victim was invited to the World's Fair in London." See Barnum's Life of P.T. Barnum Written by Himself.
[7.6] 59. Protean easy-chair: Foster notes that a number of reclining chairs were shown at the London Exhibition. Proteus was a Greek god of the sea, an elusive shape-changer.
[7.7] 61. Fourier: Francois Marie Charles Fourier (1772-1837), a French utopian whose ideas of communal "phalanxes" influenced Brook Farm.
[7.8] 61. for what creature but a madman ... must return upon himself: A variation on the theme of Matthew 7:12: "So whatever you would wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets." The man in gray here slyly transforms an ideal of Christian charity into a point of expedience.
[7.9] 63. Archimedean money-power ... brought to bear: A reference Archimedes's discovery of the lever, with which, he was supposed to have claimed, he would "move the world" (Franklin).
[7.10] 64. Abraham reviling the angel: Genesis 17:16, 17. When told that his ninety-year old wife would give birth to a son, Abraham laughed at God.
[7.11] 64. I have confidence to remove ... mountains: I Corinthians 13:2. "... and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."
[7.12] 64. the millennial promise: Revelation 20:1-6. "Then I saw an angel ... and he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be loosed for a little while."
[7.13] 65. gestures that were a Pentacost: Acts 2: 1-11 describes how the Holy Ghost gives to the apostles the gift of tongues.
[8.1] 69. as the apostle said ... in all things: II Corinthians 7:16.
[9.1] 73. Spurious Jeremiahs: The Old
Testament Prophet Jeremiah denounced his society's sin and corruption and
warned of impending doom because of it. In Chapter 24 the cosmopolitan
says, "I have heard of Jeremy the prophet."
[9.2] 73. sham Heraclituses: Heraclitus (c. 540- 475 B.C.) held that everything was in a state of flux.
[9.3] 73. sham Lazaruses: The beggar of the parable of Luke 16. See notes in Chapter 2, 15, and 19.
[9.4] 74. his Good-Enough-Morgan: William Morgan disappeared in 1826 after he had planned to publish a book exposing the secrets of the Freemasons, and when a corpse was found in the Niagra River, it was thought to be him. Whether or not this body was indeed Morgan became a matter of political controversy, during which the statement was attributed to anti-Masonic Thurlow Weed, that it was a "good-enough Morgan until after the election."
[9.5] 74. a musty old Seneca: Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c. 3 B.C.--65 A.D.), a Stoic philosopher, rhetorician, tutor of Nero, and tragic poet. His plays dealt with the subject matter of Greek tragedy but were much more rhetorical and bloody in detail. Seneca was forced to commit suicide after he was accused of being involved in a conspiracy. He is mentioned again in Chapter 37.
[9.6] 76. experience ... the only teacher: In the "Story of China Aster" in Chapter 40, Orchis will declare that "experience, the only true knowledge, teaches me that for everyone, good luck is in store." And if one needs any help in evaluating such a statement, the narrator warns in Chapter 14, "no man's experience can be coextensive with what is." Experience is an important site for what Gustaaf Van Cromphout states is central to the book: Melville's "profound engagement with epistemological questions" ("The Confidence-Man: Melville and the Problem of Others.")
[9.7] 76. the maxim of Lord Bacon: Francis Bacon (1561-1626) wrote in his dedication of the 1625 edition of The Essays, Counsels, Civil and Morall, that his "essays ... come home, to men's business and bosoms." Bacon is also referred to in Chapters 24 and (again, like Seneca) 37.
[9.8] 76. New Jerusalem: New Jerusalem is described in Revelation 21-22 as the "holy city ... coming down from heaven," where "God himself will be with" humankind. This also suggests a common swindle of Melville's day, which was, as Foster notes, "speculation in land- development projects and sale of non-existent sites."
[9.9] 77. lignum-vitae: Literally, wood of life. Revelation 22:2 refers to a "tree of life" whose leaves "were for the healing of the nations."
[9.10] 77. read my title clear: From a hymn by Isaac Watts:
When I can read my title clear
To mansions in the skies,
I'll bid farewell to every fear,
And wipe my weeping eyes.
[9.11] 77. Ariamius: The principle of evil in Zoroastrianism, against which the principle of light (Ormazd) struggles.
[10.1] 78. ODE ON THE INTIMATIONS OF DISTRUST: A play on Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" (1807). See the note in Chapter 22, when Melville will subvert a phrase from the lines Wordsworth used as an epigraph to the "Ode"--"the child is father of the man."
[11.1] 87. Nature ... had meal and bran:
From Cymbeline, IV, ii, 27: "Cowards father cowards and base things
sire base./ Nature hath meal and bran, contempt and grace." As Franklin
points out, the merchant here, by taking the line out of a context fraught with
disguise and double-meaning, exhibits the "problems of finding Shakespeare's
meanings in the words of his characters." Chapter 30 will
deal with this at length, pointing to a larger exploration of narrative voice and
[11.2] 88. Zimmerman or Torquemada: Johann Georg, Ritter von Zimmermann (1728-1795) wrote On Solitude, in praise of solitude. He is also referred to in Chapter 24. Tomas de Torquemada (1420-1498), an inquisitor general, lead the Spanish Inquisition. Apparently, Melville's original inscription for the novel was "Dedicated to victims of Auto-da-Fe." Cf. the note to Chapter 45, on auto- da-fe.
[11.3] 88. as the good merchant ... not to any other effect: Compare this introduction to that of the "Story of China Aster" (see note to Chapter 39) Whereas Egbert will claim that an "original story-teller" had "tyrannized" over and thus controlled his stylistic preferences, here the narrator (in a sense the "original story-teller" himself) shows himself in the act of a kind of narrative tyranny, shaping the "words" (and style) back to what he interprets as the meaning of the story's content. It is a reminder, in yet another ventriloquial sense, of the voice always lurking behind the fictional voice.
[12.1] 89. saying of Thracea: Thrasea
Peatus, Publius Clodius (d. A.D. 66), Roman senator and Stoic, denounced the
vices of Nero and so, like Seneca, was forced to commit suicide. Franklin
locates the quote in Pliny, book VIII, Epistle 22.
[12.2] 89. Goneril: From Shakespeare's King Lear, Goneril is one of Lear's scheming and wicked daughters. Egbert S. Oliver argued that Goneril was based on the actress Fanny Kemble Butler ("Melville's Goneril and Fanny Kemble," New England Quarterly, XVIII , 489-500).
[13.1] 95. a grave American savan: Foster
suggests that this might refer to John Quincy Adams, who met Sir Humphrey
Davy (1778-1829) on June 8, 1815. Davy was an English chemist, poet, and
[13.2] 97. one should not be hasty in judging: Again, the Confidence Man calls to the attention of the reader (here, dramatized by the merchant), the necessity for an interpretation beyond simple acceptance of 'facts.' Since it was a confidence man who first told this story, his point--if not his full argument--is well taken. See note to Chapter 6, p. 47. See also notes to Chapters 19 and 28.
[13.3] 99. secure Malakoff of confidence ... open ground of reason: The Russian fortress of Malakov at Sebastopol was considered impregnable until the French overtook it in 1855 during the Crimean War. The description of "reason" as an "open ground" anticipates both the encounter with the miser in Chapter 15 as well as the quasi-platonic dialogue of Chapter 22. Both "confidence" and "reason" are suggested here as modes of discourse.
[14.1] 103. WORTH THE
CONSIDERATION: This is the first of three such chapters of narrative
interpolation (the others are Chapters 33 and 44), each one concerning itself with some matter of stylistic
or literary-theoretical concern. By so evoking narrative issues, the narrator
here is both reminding the reader of the necessity of interpretation, and
then playing with the interpretive possibilities.
[14.2] 104. expect to run and read: Habakkuk 2:2: "And the Lord ... said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it."
[14.3] 104. butterfly ... the caterpillar is into which it changes: Franklin corrects the biological error of the first edition by exchanging the into into from. The Northwestern- Newberry edition switches butterfly and caterpillar. The "doctrine of analogies" of Chapter 22 will employ this same process (the butterfly-caterpillar metamorphosis) as a metaphor for natural human change. Many read the correspondence as further proof that the narrator himself is a form of the Confidence Man.
[14.4] 104. Experience is the only guide here ... to rest upon it: This is the narrator's most explicit warning on the subject, but it is not the only one in the book (see note to Ch. 33). In a number of places throughout this book, Melville explores the limits of experience as a mode of knowing. The sophomore of Chapter 9 declares "Experience, sir, ... is the only true teacher," while Orchis from the China Aster story in Chapter 40 remarks, "experience [is] the only true knowledge" (see notes to Chs. 9 and 40). The first character is a dupe while the second is a hypocrite; neither one could be considered authoritive.
[14.5] 104. duck-billed beaver: Franklin notes that the platypus had been widely considered by scientists to be a hoax, and that Barnum displayed it as "the connecting link between the seal and the duck."
[14.6] 106. fearfully and wonderfully made: Psalms 139:14 reads "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
[15.1] 108. UPON SUITABLE
REPRESENTATIONS ... AN INVESTMENT: Edgar Dryden points out
that "the reader of The Confidence-Man can hardly be at ease when
the narrator's discussion of the problems of 'representing' characters is
followed by a chapter" of this title (Melville's Thematics of Form,
[15.2] 109. Philadelphian regularity: As Franklin notes, "the streets of Philadelphia were noted for their regularity."
[15.3] 110. Procrustean beds: Procrustes was a robber of Greek legend who would strap his victims onto an iron bed, and, to make them fit it, either stretch or chop away at their limbs. Franklin suggests the contrast with the "Protean easy-chair" of Chapter 7.
[15.4] 110. Orpheus in his gay descent to Tartarus: At the death of his wife Eurydice, Orpheus descended into the underworld to either join her or bring her back to the world of the living. His music and his devotion opened the way to her.
[15.5] 110. Dives: In Luke 16:19-31, the rich man Dives cries out in hell for Lazarus to come give him water. Cf. the note on the Fidele's list of passengers, including Dives and Lazarus.
[15.6] 111. Cant, gammon ... devils!: The miser here uses the terminology of thieves (cant) in claiming that the Confidence Man is trying to deceive him with nonsense (gammon). Bubble, fetch and gouge all have similar meanings, which are to cheat, steal, and swindle.
[15.7] 113. confidence in me were great gain: Hershel Parker compares this line with I Timothy 6:6: "But godliness with contentment is great gain."
[15.8] 114. I confide ... my distrust: Cf. Mark 9:24: "...the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."
[15.9] 114. ten hoarded eagles: An eagle was a gold coin worth ten dollars.
[16.1] 116. a seventy-four: A seventy-
four gun warship.
[16.2] 116. the daedal boat: "Daedal" here refers to something skillfully fashioned. It comes from the Daedalus of Greek myth who devised the labyrinth in Crete. He also fabricated the waxen wings with which his son Icarus flew too near the sun and fell to his death.
[16.3] 116. surtout: An overcoat. Helen Trimpi argues that the herb-doctor is based on the senator and abolitionist Charles Sumner (1811-74).
[16.4] 117. good Samaritans erring: Luke 10:30-37. The good Samaritan is also referred to in Chapter 39--see note.
[16.5] 117. I am mute: Stephen Matterson points out that this "lends support to the argument that the deaf mute of Ch. 1 is the first appearance of the Confidence Man."
[16.6] 118. Calvin Edson: The "living skeleton" displayed at P.T. Barnum's American Museum. Also referred to in Chapter 23, p. 201.
[16.7] 119. Pharoah's vain sorcerers: Exodus 7-9 describes how the Egyptian sorcerers could do nothing to stop the plagues sent by God.
[16.8] 119. Solomon the wise ... hyssop on the wall: I Kings 4:33.
[16.9] 120. Medea gathered the enchanted herbs: See The Merchant of Venice, V, i, 12-14.
[16.10] 120. well-meaning Preisnitz: Vincent Preissnitz (1799-1851), a Silesian hydrotherapist who wrote a book on the subject. Franklin cites Nature in Disease (see below): "Preissnitz ... died of premature disease ... in the midst of his own water- cure."
[16.11] 121. strength by confidence: Isaiah 30:15 reads, "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength."
[16.12] 123. a book entitled 'Nature in Disease': Jacob Bigelow, M.D. (1787-1879) gave this title to a collection of his essays. Matterson notes that Bigelow also founded Auburn cemetery (see note from Chapter 5).
[16.13] 126. truth will out: Merchant of Venice, II, ii, 73.
[16.14] 126. prove all the vials ... true: Thessalonians 5:21: "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."
[16.15] 127. This is no mortal work ... by power divine: From Dryden's translation of Virgil's Aeneid. Dryden puts "hands" instead of "power."
[17.1] 130. haunted Cocke Lane in
London: In 1762, the supposed ghost of No. 33 Cocke Lane was
investigated and revealed to be a hoax by a committee which included Samuel
[17.2] 130. a little Cassandra: The daughter of Priam, Cassandra could foretell the future but was fated to have her prophecies disbelieved.
[17.3] 131. Hey diddle, diddle: This bit of nursery rhyme was also used by Poe in "Diddling Considered as one of the Exact Sciences" (1843).
[17.4] 133. the scales ... fell from their eyes: Cf. Acts 9:18, with the description of Saul's conversion: "And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized."
[18.1] 137. Asmodeus: A "demon in
Le Diable Boiteux by Alain Rene Le Sage (1668-1747), who lifts the
roofs off houses to show his benefactor what is passing within" (Foster).
Parker notes that Asmodeus is the name of the demon in the apocryphal Book
[18.2] 137. as Hamlet says ... curiously: In the graveyard scene of Hamlet (V, i, 227), Horatio says, "Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so."
[18.3] 142. one of those Jesuit emissaries: Both Parker and Franklin in their editions refer to sources contemporary to Melville which demonstrate the often rapid paranoia of Jesuits and "popery" in general. As Parker points out, here "Melville is satirizing the current paranoia of the ultra-American Know-Nothings."
[19.1] 143. Molino del Rey? Resaca de la
Palma?: Two battles of the Mexican War. Molino del Rey was taken by
U.S. forces on September 8, 1847, and troops under Gen. Zachary Taylor
captured Resaca de la Palma on May 9, 1846, four days before Congress
declared war. The war ended in February 1848.
[19.2] 143. Tombs!: The New York City Halls of Justice, used mostly as a prison. In "Bartleby, the Scrivener," this is where the innocent but implacable Bartleby ends up.
[19.3] 144. you are Lazarus ... the other Lazarus: In John 11-12 is the story of Lazarus of Bethany, with his death and resurrection by Christ. The other Lazarus is the beggar of Luke 16:19-31, to whom Chapters 2 and 9 refer.
[19.4] 145. the noble cripple, Epictetus: Stoic philosopher (c. 60-140) who was born into slavery and lamed through it.
[19.5] 146. I still correspond ... Mrs. Fry: Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845) was an English Quaker philanthropist known for her work toward prison reform.
[19.6] 146. pavior: A street-paver.
[19.7] 150. I cannot believe it: Yet another skeptical reaction to a story, comparable to those of Chapters 13, 28, 41--and see especially, the note to Chapter 6, p.47. This chapter suggestively evokes considerations of audience similar to those that come up in Chapter 14, and more, in Chapter 33. Interestingly, the herb-doctor will go on to draw implicitly the same distinction between factuality and truth that Ch. 14 had. The point here is that the communicative ends justify the narrative or rhetorical means--in a sense, not far from a Machiavellian narrative ethos. It also suggests the proverb cited by the boy of Chapter 45, "look a lie and find the truth."
[19.8] 150. Buena Vista ... General Scott ... Contreras: Buena Vista and Contreras were two other battles of the Mexican War, the second of which was led by Gen. Winfield Scott (1788- 1866), whose command over U.S. forces followed Zachary Taylor's.
[19.9] 150. Charity never faileth: The final inscription held up by the deaf mute in Chapter 1.
[19.10] 153. those who are loved are chastened: Hebrews 12:16: "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth...." Also see Revelation 3:19, Proverbs 13:24.
[20.1] 161. Mammoth Cave: A group of
consumptives moved into the giant cave in Kentucky in 1843, under the
impression that its constant temperature would prove salutary. It didn't
[20.2] 163. not quarters ... sweated: Pistareens were Spanish coins worth the lesser side of about twenty cents. Clipped and sweated coins were those from which some of the precious metal had been removed.
[21.1] 164. spencer: A waist-length
[21.2] 164. bear's skin: Coarse, shaggy wool
[21.3] 164. a Missouri Bachelor: Pitch, appearing here, has been suggested by some as based on James Fenimore Cooper. Helen Trimpi argues that he represents Thomas Hart Benton (1782- 1858), a strong advocate of Westward expansion.
[21.4] 165. good Queen Bess: "A popular name for Queen Elizabeth I. In underworld cant, a Bess or a Queen Elizabeth was a small instrument used to force open doors or pick locks" (Franklin).
[21.5] 165. Peter the Wild Boy: A boy about 12 years of age who was found in the woods near Hamelin in 1724, he knew no language and was apparently wild. He was important as a test case for the theory of innate ideas. His story is also similar to that of Casper Hauser (see the note for Chapter 2, p.7).
[21.6] 167. after many days: Cf. Ecclesiastes 11:1: "Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days."
[21.7] 167. Siamese twins: Chang and Eng were born in Siam in 1811 and displayed by P.T. Barnum.
[21.8] 172. the dungeoned Italian we read of: Foster suggests that this might refer to the Abbe Faria in Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo.
[21.9] 175. Cape Girardeau: In Missouri, about 140 miles down river from St. Louis.
[22.1] 176. IN THE POLITE SPIRIT OF
THE TUSCULAN DISPUTATIONS: The mostly-dialogic philosophical
explorations of Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.) are on the whole friendly
and "polite." This last term is of course the tip-off to the irony of the title; as
Franklin points out, this chapter is more than anything "in the dialectic
Socratic spirit of the Meno, one of Plato's most dramatic dialogues."
One may indeed follow a "Socratic method" through the PIO man's style of
argument. He conceals his own position as he draws out that of Pitch, forcing
Pitch to put into words his conceptions and so, make them vulnerable,
adaptable for the PIO man's own ends. More explicitly than any other, with
its Socratic form and combative disputant in Pitch, this chapter dramatizes a
"hazardous skirmish(es) on the open ground of reason" (see note to Chapter 13, p. 99). The irony will then be how
"reason" indeed proves itself an "open ground"--something quite rhetorical
and metaphoric (drastically so, here), a method of understanding that will not
even approximate epistemological certainty.
[22.2] 176. Philosophical Intelligence Office: "Intelligence office" was a term for an employment agency. Melville had written about Hawthorne's story "The Intelligence Office" in "Hawthorne and His Mosses."
[22.3] 176. baker-kneed: Knock-kneed.
[22.4] 178. Alton: In Illinois, north of St. Louis.
[22.5] 178. I'm a Mede and a Persian: "Daniel 6:8: 'the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not'" (Matterson).
[22.6] 178.-79. Accommodate? ... ever be accommodated: Cf. Henry IV, Part Two, III, ii, in which Bardolph and Shallow play on "accommodate." More importantly, in later chapters the term will continue to crop up, always in a different sense. Pitch is able to hold his own only as long as he can do what he does here, and maintain an awareness of the inherent equivocality of language.
[22.7] 179. patient continuance in well- doing: Romans 2:7: "To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life...."
[22.8] 180. Praise-God-Barebones: Praisegod Barebone or Barbon (c.1596-1679), a leather merchant and Anabaptist preacher, was a member of Cromwell's "Little Parliament" of 1653.
[22.9] 180. what Horace and others of the ancients say of slaves: The writings of Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65-8 B.C.) contain numerous references to untrustworthy slaves. Foster cites examples from the Satires, Epodes, and Epistles.
[22.10] 182. a perfect Chesterfield: Philip Dormer Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773), wrote a series of letters to his son emphasizing refined manners. The letters were published after Chesterfield's death.
[22.11] 184. the child is father of the man: From Wordsworth's "My Heart Leaps Up." Its closing lines provide the epigraph to "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," to which Melville provides an ironic reference in Chapter 10 (see note). The epigraph follows:
The Child is Father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
[23.1] 201. THE POWERFUL EFFECT OF
NATURAL SCENERY: An ironic twist to the Romantic idea of the
sublime, as nature here inspires not a sense of awe and grandeur, but
reinvigorated suspicion and a "chilly fit."
[23.2] 201. Cairo: Located at the southern tip of Illinois, where the Ohio meets the Mississippi. As suggested by the above note, Cairo was infamous for its unhealthful, disease-ridden environment. As H. Bruce Franklin points out, it is significant that the mid- point of the novel should occur at the twilight moment between light and dark, and at the point where the Fidele passes beyond the last Northern free-state and into the fully slave-owning South. Also as Franklin notes, the multiple forms of the Confidence Man will now give way to the one Cosmopolitan.
[23.3] 201. Yellow-Jack: Yellow fever.
[23.4] 201. his hand ... had not lost its cunning: Psalms 137:5: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning."
[23.5] 201. Calvin Edson: Referred to earlier in Chapter 16, p.118--see note.
[23.6] 201. Apemantus' dog: The cynical Apemantus is Timon's only companion in Shakespeare's Timon of Athens. "Dog" here is a pun with the "cynic" that Apemantus is.
[23.7] 202. Crossbones: a symbol of death.
[23.8] 202. Philosophy, knowledge, experience ... Suspicion, the warder: Henry F. Pommer (Milton and Melville, p.64) argues that these lines refer to Satan's disguise and plan to reach Eden in Paradise Lost, III, 686-689:
[23.9] 203. Talleyrand ... Machiavelli ...
Rosicrucian: Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord (1754-1838), a
highly-accomplished French diplomat. Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527),
Florentine statesman whose writings condone means of guile and deceit when
justified by the political ends. The Rosicrucians are a secret society devoted
to esoteric knowledge.
[23.10] 203. beast that windeth his way on his belly: An allusion to the serpent in the garden of Eden, who, after the fall, was condemned to go in this way.
[24.1] 204. our Fair: Probably a
reference to Vanity Fair of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and to
Hawthorne's "The Celestial Railroad" (see John Shroeder, "Sources and
Symbols for Melville's The Confidence-Man," PMLA, LXVI
[24.2] 205. Signor Marzetti in the African pantomime: In Jocko, Joseph Marzetti played the ape of the title.
[24.3] 206. fortiter in re ... suaviter in modo: Latin, "strongly in deed, gently in manner."
[24.4] 207. the Lunar mountains: In East Africa. The Mountains of the Moon were considered legendary in the 19th century.
[24.5] 207. London-Dock-Vault conoisseur: The London dock-vaults held wines from around the world.
[24.6] 208. hide his light under the bushel: From the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5:14-15: "Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick...."
[24.7] 208. a blot upon the scene: Franklin cites Charles Lamb's essay "All Fool's Day" (1821): "Beshrew the man who on such a day as this, the general festival, should affect to stand aloof."
[24.8] 209. Goshen: The fertile area in Egypt spared the plagues of Exodus 7-9.
[24.9] 209. shoats: Young pigs.
[24.10] 209. jug of Santa Cruz: Rum from the West Indian island of Santa Cruz.
[24.11] 211. Zimmermann: Referred to earlier in chapter 11--see note. A megrim can refer to a migraine, to a spell of dizziness, or to a whim.
[24.12] 211. Hume's on Suicide: The Essay on Suicide (1783) by philosopher David Hume (1711-1776), makes a case for the justifiability of suicide.
[24.13] 211. Bacon's on Knowledge: Foster cites a passage from Bacon's The Advancement of Learning (1650): "We will begin therefore with this precept, according to the ancient opinion, that the sinews of wisdom are slowness of belief and distrust."
[24.14] 211. Rabelais's pro-wine Koran: Gargantua and Pantagruel by Rabelais (1494?-1553) describes a quest for oracle of the Holy Bottle, which leads to the injunction, "Drink." An early review referred to The Confidence-Man as "a Rabelaisian piece of patchwork" (See Appendix--Reviews).
[24.15] 211. we talk and keep on talking: Cf. Pitch's accusation in Chapter 22, p.194: "You are a talking man--what I call a wordy man. You talk, talk."
[24.16] 212. Jeremy Diddler: Referred to earlier, in Chapter 3--see note.
[24.17] 212. Jeremy the Prophet: Referred to earlier, in Chapter 9--see note.
[24.18] 212. Jeremy Taylor: English theologian and bishop (1613-67).
[24.19] 215. Primrose Hill: North of Regents Park, London, Primrose Hill was associated with duels and with the well- known murder of Sir Edmond Godfrey in 1678.
[24.20] 215. the Piazza: An arcade partly bordering Covent Garden market, in London.
[24.21] 215. Diogenes: A cynic philosopher (c.412-323 B.C.), said to have lived in a tub in the market place. He too referred to himself as "citizen of the world."
[24.22] 215. Lord Timon: Timon lived in a cave in the woods. See note to Chapter 3.
[24.23] 216. an Ishmael: Ishmael was a wandering outcast, banished by his father, Abraham. See Genesis 16-17, 21:6-21, 25:8-18. Perhaps needless to say, Ishmael is the narrator's name in Moby Dick.
217. deuced analytical: This had
indeed been Pitch's strong point, and it was this same point that the PIO man's
tricky "logic" was able to exploit.
[25.2] 218. ungracious critics: Throughout the book, for all his talk of charity, the Confidence-Man shows himself to be a challenging--and so, "ungracious"--critic. His reaction to the story of Col. Moredock will be no different. The ironic point here is that the cosmopolitan is just such a one who would be able to identify the "fictitious" nature of the present interlocutor.
[25.3] 219. eye like Lochiel's: Sir Ewen Cameron Lochiel (1629-1719), Scottish leader who was described in Macaulay's History of England as the "Ulysses of the Highlands," and as one who "made vigorous war on the wolves."
[25.4] 219. hated Indians like snakes: Matterson cites Melville's 1849 review of Francis Parkman's California and Oregon Trail: "It is too often the case, that civilized beings sojourning among savages soon come to regard them with disdain and contempt. But though in many cases this feeling is almost natural, it is not defensible; and it is wholly wrong."
[25.5] 219. Pocahontas ... Araucanians: The cosmopolitan has countered the idea of a general(izing) Indian-hating with his own generalization of Indian "heroic and manly virtues." But any such sweeping statement of what the "Indian" is, he implicitly undercuts with a mixed list of examples of the Native American reaction to European settlers. Pocahontas (d. 1617) rescued Captain John Smith, and was later converted to Christianity and married to John Rolfe. Massasoit (d. 1661), sachem of the Wampanoag tribe, initiated a treaty with Plymouth Plantation in 1621. Massasoit's son Philip (d. 1676) led the Wampanoag against the New England settlers in the bitter and bloody "King Philip's War" (1675-76). Tecumseh (1768-1813) was a Shawnee chief who tried to effect a confederacy of tribes east of the Mississippi--an attempt that met failure with the defeat at Tippecanoe in 1811. He was killed in the War of 1812, leading his forces on the British side. Red- Jacket (c. 1756-1830) was a Seneca chief who, while generally non- combative, consistently argued for the rights of indigenous tribes. James Logan (c. 1725-80) had a white father and Indian mother and lived peacefully with the whites until some of his family were murdered by settlers. In response, he waged war on the settlers and sided with the British in the Revolutionary War. The Five Nations were an Iroquois league made up of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca tribes. They sided with the British both in the French and Indian Wars, and in the American Revolution. The Araucanians were a tribe in Chile who defended themselves in the fifteenth century against the Incas, then later against the Spanish.
[25.6] 220. a white stone: Memorial for a significant occurrence. See Genesis 28:11-15, Revelation 2:17.
[25.7] 221. James Hall, the judge: An Illinois circuit judge (1793-1868), and writer of fiction and essays on the American West. Volume II, Chapter 6 of his Sketches of History, Life, and Manners, in the West (1835) provide the basis for the following two chapters on Indian-hating.
[25.8] 222. a style so methodic ... an invisible amanuensis: Here the stranger (Charlie Noble) dramatizes the central issue brought by the introductions to each of the internal stories in this book-- the relation of content to style. His attempt is to deny any personal influence or agency, better to frame the tale as a kind of "historical" of "factual" account. At the same time, with Hall's supposed "word for word" narration coming out of the stranger's mouth, we are presented with yet another case of ventriloquism, as well as of authorial "tyranny." See also the notes to Chapter 11, p.88; to Chapter 39, p.323.
[26.1] 224. ROUSSEAU: Jean-Jacques
Rousseau (1712-78) considered the Noble Savage to be a model of humankind
uncorrupted by civilization.
[26.2] 226. Hairy Orson: From the French romance of the fifteenth century, Valentin et Orson. Orson is carried of by a bear and grows up a wild man; his twin brother Valentine is raised as a courtier. Like Casper Hauser and Peter, Orson is another "wild boy."
[26.3] 226. the Emperor Julian: Julian the Apostate (331-363), the Roman emperor from 361-63, endured all the hardships he forced his soldiers to endure.
[26.4] 226. Peace Congress: Four international Peace Congresses were held between 1848 and 1851, part of multi-national movement for world peace. Foster notes a resolution of the London Peace Congress (1851), "'which condemned the aggression of civilized nations on barbarian peoples.'"
[26.5] 227. the Newgate Calendar or the Annals of Europe: Newgate was London's main prison; The Newgate Calendar, or Malefactor's Bloody Register, described sensational accounts of notorious crimes and criminals. The Annals of Europe, published annually from 1739-1744, chronicled the significant events of the year.
[26.6] 227. As the twig is bent the tree's inclined: From Alexander Pope's Moral Essays (1732), Epistle I, 150: "Tis education forms the common mind, / Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclined."
[26.7] 228. Moyamensing: The prison for Philadelphia County.
[26.8] 228. treaty-breaker like an Austrian: In 1848 a revolution led the Austrian government to make a number of promises to its people. A year later the force of the revolution diminished and the promises were broken.
[26.9] 228. now a Palmer: Dr. William Palmer (1824-1856) was hanged for having poisoned, among others, his wife, brother, and friend.
[26.10] 228. judicial murderer and Jeffries ... bloody death: George Jeffreys (1648-89), the notoriously harsh and unjust Lord Chancellor of England, presided over the "Bloody Assizes" of 1685, after Monmouth's Rebellion, sentencing over three hundred people to be hanged.
[26.11] 228. Manitou, his god: For some Native American tribes, there were two Manitous, one a spirit of good, one of evil.
[26.12] 230. the Bloody Ground, Kentucky: In his Sketches, "Hall had claimed that the Indian name applied to the territory meant 'dark and bloody ground' (Vol. I, p.234)" (Matterson).
[26.13] 230. Mocmohoc: Probably "Mock Mohawk"--a hint that the stranger's narrative is not everything it pretends to be.
[26.14] 230. Caesar Borgia: Cesare Borgia (1476-1507), Duke of Valentinois and Romagna, son of Pope Alexander VI, whose treachery and ruthlessness were praised by Machiavelli in The Prince.
[26.15] 233. not that the backwoodsman ... expression for his meaning: A reminder of the layered expressions here and in narrative in general; this tends to emphasize the rhetorical quality of the quasi-historical account, thereby undermining its pretensions to 'facticity.'
[26.16] 233. an intenser Hannibal, he makes a vow: Hannibal (247-183 B.C.), a Carthaginian general, swore at the age of nine always to be an enemy to the Roman people.
[26.17] 234. gone to his long home: Ecclesiastes 12:5: "man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets."
[26.18] 235. calenture: Delirium in which sailors mistake the ocean for a field, and often drown because of it.
[26.19] 236. calumet: Indian peace-pipe. Note that Mocmohoc offers to "smoke the pipe" with the settlers he will later kill.
[27.1] 237. ENGLISH MORALIST ...
GOOD HATER: Hester Lynch Piozzi gives the anecdote about Samuel
Johnson: "'Dear Bathurst (said he to me one day) was a man to my very heart's
content: he hated a fool, and he hated a rogue, and he hated a whig; he
was a very good hater.'" (Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson,
L.L.D.  )
[27.2] 238. a new Arcadia: A pastoral ideal, the site of another Golden Age.
[27.3] 238. the rock of the Grand Tower: A rock 75-feet high, jutting out from the Missouri shore, between St. Louis and the Ohio River.
[27.4] 239. the voice calling through the garden: Genesis 3:8-10 describes the voice of God, calling to Adam and Eve after they have eaten the forbidden fruit.
[27.5] 240. when a murder: Following Hershel Parker's suggestion (1963), editions from Franklin's on have substituted "number" for "murder."
[27.6] 241. Hull's dubious surrender: Brig. Gen. William Hull (1753-1825) surrendered Detroit to the British in 1812, having offered no resistance. A court-martial acquitted him of charges of treason, but found him guilty of cowardice and neglect of duty. The sentence of death that resulted, however, was remanded by President Madison.
[27.7] 243. having given you, not my story, mind, or my thoughts, but another's: See note to Chapter 25, p. 222. How much readers might have been expected to know of Hall's original account is an interesting question, because the stranger's tale does deviate from it--especially when such murky questions as motive and culpability arise. As far as the morality of "Indian-hating" is concerned, to his credit Hall is much more of Melville's mind than the stranger here allows. Foster notes that the "judge's" picture of Indian-hating is not far from those described by Francis Parkman (see note 25.4).
Dr. Johnson ... I don't believe
it: Hesther Lynch Piozzi, Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson,
L.L.D.: "I once asked him if he believed the story of the destruction of
Lisbon by an earthquake when it first happened: 'Oh! not for six months,' said
he, 'at least. I did think that story too dreadful to be credited, and can
hardly yet persuade myself that it was true to the full extent we all of us have
heard.'" On All Saints' Day, 1 November 1755 the earthquake decimated
Lisbon, challenging 18th century optimists to make sense of it in theodic
terms. Their idea, that the disaster was part of God's grand design and thus a
good thing, was satirized by Voltaire in Poem on the Lisbon
Earthquake (1756) and in Candide (1759). Note here as well the
response by another "ungracious critic" qua Confidence Man--see note to Chapter 6, p. 47. In this case, much as it is with
the others, it is the "faith" of the Confidence Man that paradoxically and
ironically leads him to proclaim "incredulity." Here he uses (disingenuously)
Christian faith in benign Providence to point out that even supposed "facts"
cannot be trusted simply because the narrative frames them as such, that
"historical" factuality is still a product of rhetoric. Also see the notes to Chapter 13, p. 97; to Chapter 19, p.
[28.2] 248. Let us drink ... in Zansovine: From Leigh Hunt's "Bacchus in Tuscany" (1825). The lines read "And drink of the wine of the vine benign / That sparkles warm in Sansovine."
[29.1] 251. Charles Arnold Noble: A
"Charley Noble" was an enlisted sailor's term for the galley funnel. Franklin
cites Gersham Bradford's A Glossary of Sea Terms (New York, 1946):
"It is quite the custom to send each landsman to find Charley Noble, a hunt
which causes endless amusement for the older men."
[29.2] 252. Brinvilliarses: The Marquise de Brinvilliers (1630-76), who was executed for poisoning her father, sister, and two brothers. Melville's later poem, "The Marchioness of Brinvilliers" plays her outer "sweetness" against her murderous intent.
[29.3] 252. Hebe's cheek: Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth and spring, was the cupbearer to the Gods.
[29.4] 254. Rochefoucaultites: "Melville quotes one of the famous and generally cynical maxims of the Duke de la Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) in his 'Hawthorne and His Mosses' to the effect that '"we exalt the reputation of some, in order to depress that of others"'" (Foster).
[29.5] 255. nine good jokes ... Sodom: In Genesis 18:23-32, God promised not to destroy Sodom if Abraham could find ten righteous persons. Franklin suggests that this may refer to the number of manifestations of the Confidence Man. This same idea is developed by Richard Boyd Hauk, in "Nine Good Jokes: The Redemptive Humor of the Confidence Man and The Confidence-Man."
[29.6] 255. a man may smile ... and be a villain: Hamlet, I, v, 107-8. About his murderous uncle Claudius, Hamlet says: "Meet it is I set it down / That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain."
[29.7] 256. the voice of the people is the voice of truth: Cf. the Latin phrase, vox populi, vox Dei ("the voice of the people [is] the voice of God").
[29.8] 256. Aristotle ... Phalaris: Aristotle makes no such comment in his Politics. Phalaris was a tyrant of Acraga in Sicily in the sixth century B.C., about whom no such story is known. Franklin suggests that both anecdotes are "All Fools' jokes" by Melville, drawing from Swift's Battle of the Books (1704). Swift's work deals with a controversy over the legitimacy of what turned out to be the spurious Epistles of Phalaris. As Franklin suggests, this is a clue to and joke about the relations of author, text, and reader.
[29.9] 259. Jack Cade: Leader of a 1450 rebellion. he appears in Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part II.
[29.10] 259. Kosuth and Mazzini: Lajos Kossuth (1802-1894) led the unsuccessful 1848 revolution in Austria. Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872) led the Roman revolution of 1848, which was put down by French forces.
[29.11] 259. Paul: Paul's letter to the Corinthians supplies the inscriptions of the deaf-mute's slate. See note to Chapter 1.
[29.12] 260. parhelion: A "mock sun" of refracted sunlight.
[29.13] 260. Defender of the Faith: Title given to Henry VIII by Pope Leo X--before the split with Rome, of course.
[30.1] 261. Praise be unto the press:
Both a play on "press" and--as with the earlier Platonic dialogue of the
"Disputations," or the "history" of Judge Hall--another case of subverted
genre. Nathalia Wright, in Melville's Use of the Bible (153-157),
demonstrates how Melville models this paragraph after Biblical forms, and
uses Biblical language to foster a like tone. See Proverbs 23:29-32: "Who
hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who
hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long
over wine, those who go to try mixed wine. ..." As Melville shows, "poetry"
and poetic speech can serve any number of masters, even to opposite
[30.2] 261. not Faust's, but Noah's: Johann Faust or Fust (c. 1400-67), German printer, partner of Gutenberg, who still used Gutenberg's press after the partnership dissolved. The "red press of Noah" (a wine press) refers to Genesis 9:20-27, which tells of Noah drunk.
[30.3] 261. Madeira or Mitylene: Madeira is a Portuguese island whose most reputed export is its sherry. Mitylene, also known for its wine, is the capital of (and another name for) Lesbos, a Greek island in the Aegean.
[30.4] 262. Catawba vine: Catawba is a white wine named after the Catawba River of North and South Carolina. See Longfellow's poem "Catawba Wine."
[30.5] 262. guise of an apple ... ashes: The Apples of Sodom, or Dead Sea Fruit, were reputed to have an inviting appearance, but within be nothing but ashes.
[30.6] 265. advice of Polonius to Laertes: Hamlet, I, iii, 59-80, containing such gems as "neither a borrower, nor a lender be; / For loan oft loses both itself and friend"--an argument similar to that of Egbert, in Chapters 39-41.
[30.7] 266. conceited old Malvolios: Malvolio as a Puritan is often made the butt of jokes in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Also see All's Well That Ends Well (I, iii, 98) and The Winter's Tale (IV, ii, 45-6).
[30.8] 266. The friends thou hast ... steel: Hamlet, I, iii, 62-63.
[30.9] 267. sell all thou hast ... poor: Jesus's words in Matthew 19:21.
[30.10] 268.-69. This Shakespeare ... enlightening and mystifying: Cf. Melville's "Hawthorne and His Mosses" (1849): "Through the mouths of dark the characters of Hamlet, Timon, Lear, and Iago, he craftily says, or sometimes insinuates the things, which we feel to be so terrifically true, that it were all but madness for any good man, in his own proper character, to utter, or even hint of them. Tormented into desperation, Lear the frantic King tears off the mask, and speaks the sane madness of vital truth." This is another reference to the necessary subterfuge of the author, as Melville develops the role. The suggestion here is that much of the writer's role is to create an analogous fictional world (see Ch. 33), in order to allow the social roles and, in general, "facts" of this world, by analogy, to be torn away (or at least glimpsed beneath). The normlessness by which such an act results, however, is part of what makes "truth" such an ambiguous, "enlightening and mystifying" thing. The inherent ambiguity of "truth" communicated through fiction demands in turn what the Confidence Man as critic implicitly argues all along--the need for active, interpretative reading. For more on the idea of identity as fiction, see the later note to the "Social Part" that Egbert will engage in--a role that will end a few chapters later with Jaques's famous speech from As You Like It (note). Also, there are previous hints of related authorial ventriloquism in Chapter 3--with the characters who will "speak for" Black Guinea--and in many of the stories-within-the-story of this work. See the notes to Chapters 11, 25, 39.
[30.11] 269. Shakespeare has got to be a kind of deity: Again, "Hawthorne and His Mosses": "this absolute and unconditional adoration of Shakespeare has grown to be part of our Anglo- Saxon superstitions.... Nor must we forget, that, in his own life-time, Shakespeare was not Shakespeare, but only master William Shakespeare of the shrewd, thriving business firm of Condell, Shakespeare, & Co., proprietors of the Globe Theatre in London." Elsewhere in the essay, Melville writes, "this I feel, that the names of all great authors are fictitious ones" (a theme explored by Edgar Dryden, in Melville's Thematics of Form, Ch. 1 and throughout). The idea that the author himself assumes a role in developing his world of fictional roles is crucial to The Confidence-Man, especially in considering the points at which the narrator directly addresses his readers, in Chapters 14, 33, 44. Here, in considering Shakespeare as a "deity," one is accepting the identity that Shakespeare has refracted for himself through the profound truths of his characters. See the note to Ch. 44.
[30.12] 269. Autolycus: The tricky thief of The Winter's Tale.
[30.13] 269. what a fool ... simple gentleman: The Winter's Tale, IV, iv, 586-7.
[30.14] 270. a creature, a living creature ... in a flesh-and-blood one: As far as "truth" is concerned, there is no necessary primacy of external (or physical) over internal (or imaginative) reality. Certainly this is so in a novel in which appearance so often only conceals the 'reality' of the thing within. Only at one's risk can one ignore the possibility of this internal reality; by the same token, one should not ignore the words of a being independent only of physical existence.
[30.15] 271. punk: Wood decayed to the point of dryness.
[30.16] 271. old age is ripeness ... ripe than raw: Or, as Edgar says in King Lear (V, ii, 11), "Ripeness is all."
[30.17] 272. Madness, to be mad with anything: Cf. Starbuck's words in Moby-Dick (Ch. 136): "Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous."
[30.18] 272. loan losing both itself and friend: See note for page 265, above.
[30.19] 273. Why, bless you, Frank: The slip-up is probably Melville's, and not the cosmopolitan's--unless it were meant to be some strange kind of playfulness. Later editions have switched "Charlie" for "Frank" here.
[30.20] 275. So don't be one-sided: In such an equivocal world, and with such equivocal company, this indeed would be a mistake. Noble's remark on p. 272, "I stick to what I said," had closely followed the repeated maxim of Pitch: "My name is Pitch; I stick to what I say." Each adheres to what seems a certainty, only to have the faith of certainty exploited by the Confidence Man.
[30.21] 275. free-and-easies: saloons, gatherings of somewhat ill repute.
[30.22] 275. Pizarro: Francisco Pizarro (c. 1471-1541), Spanish conquistador who overran the Incas. Having ransomed the Incan king Atahualpa for a huge amount of gold, Pizarro nevertheless murdered him.
[30.23] 276. Jack Ketch: A notorious executioner (d. 1686), whose name became that of the executioner in "Punch and Judy" puppet shows.
[30.24] 277. throwing stones ... Timon: Lucian's dialogue and Shakespeare's play, Timon shows his misanthropy in part by throwing stones at people.
[31.1] 281. A METAMORPHOSIS ... OVID: A reference to the Metamorphoses of the Roman poet Ovid (43 B.C.-18 A.D.).
[32.1] 282. Cadmus glided into the
snake: The Metamorphoses (IV, 563-603) tell of how Cadmus was
turned into a serpent because he had killed a dragon sacred to Mars.
[32.2] 282. ten half-eagles: Half-eagles were gold pieces, each worth five dollars. In Chapter 15, the miser had been conned out of "ten hoarded eagles."
[32.3] 283. full of fun as an egg of meat: Matterson notes the allusion to Romeo and Juliet, III, i, 24: "The head is as full of quarrels as an egg is full of meat".
[33.1] 286. It is with fiction ... one to which we feel the tie: In this second of three chapters of narrative interpolation, the narrator more explicitly declares the need to go beyond strictly mimetic representations, in attempting both to entertain and to reach "more reality, than real life itself." Again here is the distinction between true and "real" (or factual), and though "truth" here might not be as identifiable as "Hawthorne and His Mosses" had suggested, it nevertheless provides an important corrective to a too-empirical "credulity" in real-world experience. See note to Ch. 28, p. 245 for the cosmopolitan's warning against such credulity. For complications involving a too-ready reliance on "experience," see note to Ch. 14, and also to Chs. 9 and 40. The other two narrative interludes are Chs. 14 and 44. [33.2] 286. every one knows ... no easy thing: "An oblique comment on the critical reception of some of Melville's earlier books, especially Pierre (1852), the censure of which was anything but imaginary" Foster).
[34.1] 289. Charlemont was gazetted: That is, be listed officially in the newspapers as bankrupt.
[35.1] 292. if it seem strange to you ...
fiction as opposed to the fact: "Charlemont" is the only story to which the
Confidence Man is not himself the auditor (except for the man with the weed's
tale, which we do not hear until it is being told back to the Confidence Man in
the form of the transfer-agent). He has acted on the same principle set forward
by the narrator in Chapter 33, and presented a world to which Charlie would
"feel the tie." But because the cosmopolitan makes no claim of the story's
factuality, he provides Charlie no way to challenge its veracity and thus deny
its meaning and shrug off the "tie." As the cosmopolitan demonstrates, much
of the "truth" of fiction is in its experiential effect, and Charlie the
"Mississippi operator" is left confused and unsettled, forced into trusting a tale
it is impossible to disbelieve. For reactions to other interpolated stories, see
note to Chapter 6, p. 47.
[35.2] 293. elixir of logwood: Logwood can refer either to the wood from which a type of dye is extracted, or it can refer to the dye itself.
[36.1] 294. IN WHICH ... EXPECTED:
Foster argues that what seems to have been an earlier title for this and the
following two chapters--"A Practical Mystic"--bolsters the case that Winsome
here and Egbert later each represent different sides of one person, Ralph
Waldo Emerson. Egbert S. Oliver has argued that the mystic is indeed
Emerson, but that "the practical disciple" is modeled after Thoreau. Oliver's
view now has the most currency.
[36.2] 295. Pitti Palace: In Florence, renowned for its collection of statuary and paintings.
[36.3] 295. Schiller: Johann Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805), German dramatist and lyric poet, a primary influence on both German and English Romanticism.
[36.4] 297. Waltz of Death: The Danse Macabre was a trope that developed in the 14th and 15th centuries, expressing the idea that Death made no distinctions in whom it took. In it, Death would be depicted as dancing with a full range of representative social types.
[36.5] 297. who will pity ... serpent: Ecclesiasticus 12:13.
[36.6] 299. Hafiz: Shams ed-din Muhammad Hafiz, 14th century Persian philosopher and poet, some of whose works Emerson had translated from German. Emerson also wrote an essay entitled "Persian Poetry."
[36.7] 300. I seldom care to be consistent: Cf. Emerson's well-known line from "Self-Reliance" (1841): "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds...."
[36.8] 301. Proclus: Neo-Platonic philosopher (412-485), to whom Emerson was indebted and whom Melville had mocked in Mardi (Merton Sealts, Jr. "Melville's Neoplatonical Originals," Modern Language Notes, LXVII (1952), 80-86).
[36.9] 302. the stoic Arrian: Flavius Arrianus (95-175), Greek philosopher and historian who wrote on Epictetus (see note to Ch. 19).
[36.10] 303. The best way ... to get out of a labyrinth, is to retrace one's steps: A characterization of language and communication that rightly emphasizes the kinds of rhetorical tricks and convolutions of thought that mark the novel's dialectic of confidence.
[36.11] 303. a haggard, inspired-looking man: Probably a representation of Edgar Allan Poe (Harrison Hayford, "Poe in The Confidence-Man").
[37.1] 310. meekly standing like a
Raphael: Cf. Paradise Lost, VII: "To whom thus Raphael answer'd
heav'nly meek" (Henry F. Pommer, Milton and Melville, p. 72).
[37.2] 310. in golden accents old Memnon murmurs: Melville tells the story of Memnon in Pierre (1852), VII: "For Memnon was that dewy royal boy, son of Aurora, born King of Egypt, who, with enthusiastic rashness flinging himself on another's account into a rightful quarrel, fought hand to hand with his overmatch, and met his boyish and most dolorous death beneath the walls of Troy. His wailing subjects built a monument in Egypt to commemorate his untimely fate. Touched by the breath of the bereaved Aurora, every sunrise that statue gave forth a mournful broken sound, as of a harp-string suddenly sundered, being too harshly wound."
[37.3] 310. Seneca a usurer: See note to Chapter 9. Seneca's notorious usury is indicated by the story which Foster relates from Dio's Roman History, where "one reason for the uprising in Britain in 61 A.D. [is] 'the fact that Seneca, in the hope of receiving a good rate of interest, had lent to the islanders 40,000,000 sesterces that they did not want, and had afterwards called in this loan all at once and had resorted to severe measures in exacting it.'" Cf. the story of China Aster, in Chapter 40.
[37.4] 310. Bacon a courtier: Having been made Solicitor-General, Attorney-General, Privy Councillor, Keeper of the Seal, and Lord Chancellor, Bacon was later found guilty of bribery and had his offices taken away.
[37.5] 310. Swedenborg: Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was a Swedish philosopher and mystic who had previously been an engineer.
[37.6] 311. West India trade: Normally referring to sugar, rum, and slavery, here it may, as Franklin suggests, be a pun on the initials: w i t.
[38.1] 312. ACT A SOCIAL PART: Another suggestion by Melville of the inherent performativity of society. This chapter and the next couple of ones will develop an unnerving sense of intersubjective reality, seen in only the action of individuals upon and for others, while internal motives and feelings are abandoned largely as irrelevant. The meanings of one person to another become bound in how their roles intersect--as here, the cosmopolitan sounds the mystic's philosophy by how it is acted out.
[39.1] 316. my friend is above receiving
alms: The satirical possibilities of this chapter become clearer in light of
Thoreau's Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, and Emerson's
[39.2] 318. the sour mind of Solomon ... better than a brother: Proverbs 18:24: "there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." Proverbs 27:10: "Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not...."
[39.3] 318. sublime master ... Essay on Friendship: Emerson writes in his "Friendship": "should not the society of my friend be to me poetic, pure, universal, and great as nature itself?"
[39.4] 320. good Samaritan: Luke 10:30-37. The Samaritan tended to the waylaid traveller and paid for his care at the inn.
[39.5] 322. the first-born of Egypt: Exodus 12:29.
[39.6] 323.-24. the original story-teller: Very likely a playful reference to Melville himself, or at least to the narrative voice of chapters 14, 33, 44. Compare this prefatory remark to the narrator's introduction to the story of the man with the weed, and to the stranger's remarks about Hall's "Indian-Hating" account (see notes to Chs. 11, p.88 and 22, p. 222). The "original" of this phrase becomes an especially loaded term, in light of the disquisition of the book's "story-teller" in Chapter 44, on the phrase "quite an original." See the note to Chapter 44, p. 374. For another reference to the ventriloquism of author and fictional 'voice' see the earlier note to Chapter 30, p. 268.
[40.1] 325. China Aster: The name
refers to a garden flower (a common one, compared to the "Orchis"). "Aster"
also suggests "star," an ironic play on the candle-maker's failure to flourish in
his trade of light-providing. Matterson writes in his edition that there was a
children's magazine entitled The China Aster.
[40.2] 325. Marietta: In Ohio, where the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers meet.
[40.3] 327. experience, the only true knowledge ... luck is in store: The bitter irony of this becomes obvious soon enough. The narrator has already warned against trusting too much in experience (see note to Ch. 14), and the sophomore has, with a similar statement, ironically underlined his own foolishness (see note to Ch. 9.
[40.4] 329. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar: The comforters of Job. Job 2:11-25:6.
[40.5] 338. Death himself on the pale horse: Revelation 6:8: "And I looked, and behold a pale horse; and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."
[40.6] 338. a church ... of Come-Outers: In general, a radical or reformer. More specifically, there was religious sect in New England around 1840 who chose to "come out" of established churches.
[41.1] 349. I cannot think so, Charlie ... nor
do I stand in his position: The cosmopolitan rejects the story on the basis
not of its unbelievability, but of its inapplicability. In another form himself a
proponent of the "doctrine of analogies," the Confidence Man here
undermines the analogical basis of the moral tale, which "China Aster" had
been. A moment earlier, with the charge of "inconsistency," the cosmopolitan
had demonstrated how Egbert's own tale has gotten out of his control by now
offering an interpretation that directly contradicts much of Egbert's original
premise. He had also point out the "ventriloquist" behind Egbert's words. For
more on the Confidence Man as literary critic, see note to
Chapter 6, p. 47.
[41.2] 350. All the world's a stage: As You Like It, II, vii, 139-142. A fitting conclusion to the "social part" each one has played, as well as a playful and potentially disturbing continuance of the book's exploration of 'reality' through the idea of communicative-- fictional, rhetorical, theatrical--constructs. Melville here again employs Shakespeare in continuing to develop the complicated relation between communication and epistemology. See the note on Shakespeare, in Chapter 30.
[42.1] 351. Souter John and Tam
O'Shanter: Friends in Robert Burns's poem "Tam O'Shanter" who get
drunk. Tam then has a vision of witches and warlocks and the Devil.
[42.2] 351. Somnus and Morpheus: Somnus was the Roman god of sleep. His son Morpheus was a god of dreams.
[42.3] 352. catch birds there with salt: Matterson notes that this is "a possible warning to the reader." He cites Ch. 7 of Swift's Tale of a Tub (1704): "...men catch knowledge, by throwing their wit at the posteriors of a book, as boys do sparrows with flinging salt on their tails." The implication is that one must beware in attempting to close out one's understanding of a text with a definitive interpretation--at least insofar as the interpretation relies on the conclusion and apparent resolution of the work.
[42.4] 352. the townsfolk called the angels: Genesis 19:5.
[42.5] 352. the devils who haunted the tombs: Matthew 8:28; Mark 5:2.
[42.6] 353. the spleen of Thersites ... the pluck of Agamemnon: Thersites, a boastful cynic of the Iliad, is killed by Achilles for mocking him. Agamemnon is the leader of the Greek forces at Troy. Shakespeare uses both figures in Troilus and Cressida.
[42.7] 359. sign that Timon traced: Probably a reference to an inscription found by the soldier in Timon of Athens, V, iii, 3-4: "Timon is dead, who hath outstrech'd his span. / Some beast rear'd this; here does not live a man."
[43.1] 360. I am Philanthropos, and love
mankind: Cf. Timon's words in Timon of Athens, IV, iii, 51: "I am
Misanthropos and hate mankind."
[43.2] 361. three kings of Cologne: At Cologne are supposed to be the remains of the three Magi who visited the Christ child.
[43.3] 363. you twist the moral: A further consideration of interpretive understanding; as "punsters" throughout this equivocal book have shown, the same apparent facts can be construed to have a multiplicity of meanings.
[43.4] 369. An enemy speaketh ... his many words: Ecclesiasticus 12:16, 13:11.
[44.1] 372. QUITE AN ORIGINAL:
Used to describe the "mysterious imposter" of Chapter 1, the reward notice for
whom is then referred to as like a "play-bill."
[44.2] 373. a revolving Drummond light: Captain Thomas Drummond (1797-1840) invented the lime-light, which came to be used in lighthouses.
[44.3] 374. which in Genesis attends to the beginning of things: The phrase "Let there be light" occurs at the beginning of Genesis, in the account of the beginning of the universe.
[44.4] 374. but one such original character ... invention: This has been taken to be a clue to the overall unity of the different manifestations of the Confidence Man. The "original story-teller" of Chapter 39 (see note for p. 323), as it suggests Melville--or, more specifically, the narrative persona--may then also be seen as the principle through which his confidence men become unified in the Confidence Man. Enough reference has been given to Shakespeare throughout the novel to again suggest Melville's thought of an invented author-persona such as "Shakespeare", and how this figure then ventriloquially "speaks through the mouths of the dark characters." As has been suggested in an earlier note (for Ch. 30, p. 269), the authorial identity is as much a creation of its characters as its characters are a creation of the author; all are bound in the telling, and none stand on their own. The "luck" of the author of an "original character" would then be such that the narrator becomes himself an "original story-teller."
[45.1] 375. a horned altar ... encircled by a
halo: Foster writes that the horned altar and the robed man with a halo are
respective symbols of the Old and New Testaments: "On Mount Sinai the
Lord gave Moses directions for making the altar, with 'the horns of it upon the
four corners thereof' (Exodus 27:2); other references to the horned altar of the
Old Testament are Exodus 29:12; Leviticus 8:15; 9:9; 16:18; 1 Kings 1:50,
51; 2:28; Psalms 118:27."
[45.2] 376. good Simeon ... departed in peace: Luke 3:25-35.
[45.3] 376.-77. as any bridegroom tripping to the bridal chamber: Christ is often referred to as bridegroom, and the "New Jerusalem" referred to in Chapter 9 is described in Revelation as the "Bride, the wife of the Lamb" (21:9).
[45.4] 378. not a half-four since: Since the cosmopolitan and the barber was at 11:45 p.m., this likely means that All Fools' Day has ended. Different critics have construed different meanings from this.
[45.5] 378. more to the same effect: From Ecclesiasticus 13:4-13.
[45.6] 378. he will make thee bear: After Foster, editors have amended "bear" to "bare." However, one prefers to think of it as a punning misquote, referring to the "hypocritical" "bears" of Chapter 9.
[45.7] 380. apocrypha ... Apocalypse: The first means "hidden," the second, "revealed." This entire chapter dramatizes the act of reading, and here is suggested that right at the heart of what one should be able to consider a truly authoritive text, is uncertainty and contradiction. Because the consequences take on spiritual and not simply material implications, the interpretive role may then be seen as having a good deal more "seriousness."
[45.8] 380. Take heed of thy friends: Ecclesiasticus 6:13.
[45.9] 382. painted flames ... Auto-da-Fe: In the Inquisition, victims of the auto-da-fe ("act of faith") were forced to wear clothing that depicted the torments of hell.
[45.10] 382. Murillo's wild beggar-boy's: The religious paintings of Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1618-1682) often used the poor as subjects.
[45.11] 386. Counterfeit Detector: There were a number of counterfeit detectors published in the U.S., but so too were there counterfeit counterfeit detectors. See Ted Weissbuch, "A Note on the Confidence Man's Counterfeit Detector," ESQ, 19 (1960): 16- 18.
[45.12] 392. a Committee of Safety: There were three Committees of Safety which served after the French Revolution. The second of these, under Robespierre, exerted the greatest power and caused the most terror.
[45.13] 392. Jehovah shall be thy confidence: Proverbs 3:26.
[45.14] 393. a brown stool: A chamber- pot.
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