Contemporary Reviews

The following lists, in chronological order, reviews of The Confidence-Man from American and English periodicals, April 1857 to February 1858.

1 April 1857: Putnam's Monthly
Fitz-James O'Brien, "Our Authors and Authorship. Melville and Curtis":
Mr. Melville was not only a young man, but a young American, and a young American educated according to the standard of our day and country. He had all the metaphysical tendencies which belong so eminency to the American's mind--the love of antic and extravagant speculation, the fearlessness of intellectual consequences, and the passion for intellectual legislation, which distinguish the cleverest of our people. It was inevitable that he should have stamped himself pretty clearly on his book [Typee], and his book was all the more interesting that he had so stamped himself upon it. . . . Had not Mr. Melville been impelled to a good deal of sharp, sensible writing in "Omoo," by his wrath against the missionaries, it is clear, we think, that he would have plunged headlong into the vasty void of the obscure, the oracular, and the incomprehensible . . .

. . . dull of perception, and still more dull of instinct must the critic be who does not recognize in every page of Mr. Melville's writings, however vague and obscure, and fantastic, the breathing spirit of a man of genius, and of a passionate and earnest man of genius. It is precisely because we are always sure that Mr. Melville does mean something, and something intrinsically manly and noble, too, that we quarrel with him for hiding his light under such an impervious bushel . . .

The sum and substance of our fault-finding with Herman Melville is this. He has indulged himself in a trick of metaphysical and morbid meditations until he has perverted his fine mind from its healthy productive tendencies. A singularly truthful person--as all his sympathies show him to be--he has succeeded in vitiating both his thought and his style into an appearance of the wildest affectation and untruth. . . .

The two latest published books of our author differ considerably from their predecessors, in the degree in which they exhibit the characteristics of the classes of writing to which they respectively belong. "Israel Potter" is a comparatively reasonable narrative . . .

The "Confidence Man," on the contrary, belongs to the metaphysical and Rabelaistical class of Mr. Melville's works, and yet Mr. Melville, in this book, is more reasonable, and more respectful of probabilities . . . than he usually is when he wraps his prophetic mantle about him . . .

. . . We desire him to give up metaphysics and take to nature and the study of mankind. We rejoice, therefore, to know that he is, at this moment, traveling in the Old World, where, we hope, he will enjoy himself heartily, look about him wisely, and come home ready to give us pictures of life and reality.

2 April 1857: Albany Evening Journal
HERMAN MELVILLE'S new book, "The Confidence Man, His Masquerade," is published this week by Dix, Edwards & Co., and may be had here of Sprague & Co. It is like his other recent works, a story in which the incidents and characters are chosen with a view to convey a theoretic moral, not a vivid, graphic delineation based upon real life, like "Typee" and "Omoo." MR. MELVILLE is so much more successful in simple narrative than in apologue, that we cannot but regret that he should devote his time and genius to the latter rather than the former. His reputation, however, would ensure the sale of the book, even if its merits were much less than they are.

3 April 1857: Boston Evening Transcript
Dix, Edwards & Co., of New York, have just published a new work from the pen of Herman Melville, entitled "The Confidence Man: His Masquerade." The volume will be warmly welcomed by the admirers of Omoo, Typee, the Piazza Tales, etc. Mr. Melville's writings have a peculiar character, and he has become so widely known, that any work from his pen is sure to fine a host of readers. We commend this book as a unique affair.

4 April 1857: Philadelphia North American and United States Gazette
A sketchy affair, like other tales by the same author. Sly humor peeps out occasionally, though buried under quite too many words, and you read on and on, expecting something more than you ever find, to be choked off at the end of the book like the audience of a Turkish story teller, without getting the end of the story.

5 April 1857: New York Dispatch
When we meet with a book written by Herman Melville, the fascinations of "Omoo" and "Typee" recur to us, and we take up the work with as much confidence in its worth, as we should feel in the possession of a checque drawn by a well-known capitalist. So much greater is the disappointment, therefore, when we find the book does not come up to our mark. Mr. Melville cannot write badly, it is true, but he appears to have adopted a quaint, unnatural style, of late, which has little of the sparkling vigor and freshness of his early works. In fact we close this book--finding nothing concluded, and wondering what on earth the author has been driving at. It has all the faults of style peculiar to "Mardi," without the romance which attaches itself to that strange book. The Confidence Man goes on board a Mississippi steamboat and assumes such a variety of disguises, with an astonishing rapidity, that no person could assume without detection, and gets into the confidence of his fellow passengers in such a manner as would tend to show that the passengers of a Missisissppi steamboat are the most gullible people in the world, and the most ready to part with their money. A deaf mute; a deformed negro; a Herb Doctor; a Secretary of a coal-mining company; a Collector for an Indian Charity, and a sort of crazy cosmopolitan philanthropist, are among the disguises he assumes; though why he appears in the character of a deaf and dumb man, we are unable to divine, unless to prepare the expected dupes for his extortions, and to extort them to charity, by means of moral sentences written on a slate and held up to view; and what is intended by the rigmarole of the cosmopolitan, we find it impossible to surmise, being left quite in the dark, with the simple information that "something further may follow of this masquerade." In the last number of Putnam's Magazine, there is an article on authors, in which the genius of Melville is duly acknowledged, and his faults frankly spoken of. We noticed the article on the receipt of the Magazine. If he has not read it, Mr. Melville should read, and try to profit by it. It is not right--it is trespassing too much upon the patience and forebearance of the public, when a writer possessing Herman Melville's talent, publishes such puerilities as the Confidence Man. The book will sell, of course, because Melville wrote it; but this exceedingly talented author must beware or he will tire out the patience of his readers.

6 April 1857: Exeter [N.H.] News-Letter, and Rockingham Advertiser
The large class of readers with whom this popular and prolific author is a favorite, will be glad to welcome another of his pleasant stories, written in his own peculiarly graphic style.

6 April 1857: Salem Register
The scene of this new production by Melville is a Mississippi steamer, and the incidents are the interviews of various passengers, the theme being the confidence or the lack of it in ordinary life. Melville has a dashing, off hand way of telling a story which is quite taking with many people, but his later productions have not the charm which made Omoo and Typee popular with so great a portion of the reading community.

The Confidence Man, like Melville's other recent works, is, says the Albany Journal, a story in which the incidents and characters are chosen with a view to convey a theoretic moral, not a vivid, graphic delineation based upon real life, like Typee and Omoo. Mr. Melville is so much more successful in simple narrative than in apologue, that we can not but regret that he should devote his time and genius to the latter rather than the former. His reputation, however, would ensure the sale of the book, even if its merits were much less than they are.

8 April 1857: Boston Advertiser
The scene of these sketches is laid on board a western steamboat, and they are made up of conversations held between the "Confidence Man" and various passengers of all sorts and conditions, from most of whom he succeeds in drawing their money with rather more facility than is quite natural. The grand morale of the book appears to be that the world is full of knaves and fools, and that a man who ventures to believe what is told him, necessarily belongs to the latter class.

8 April 1857: Portland Daily Advertiser
We prefer the earlier works of Melville, when he gave us fascinating and simply- drawn stories, without the obtrusion of personal theories. But as he has advanced, he has become more fantastic, odd and obscure. Still it is impossible for him to wholly conceal his vigor and ease as a narrator, or his richness of fancy and invention. The present work, so neatly printed by its enterprising publishers, will be found more attractive than some of its predecessors. With some of its author's later oddities, it combines many of the sterling qualities of Omoo and Typee, and will, we are confident, meet with a wide and hearty acceptance by the reading public.

8 April 1857: New York Sun
To while away dreary hours, take up any of MELVILLE'S works--you cannot go astray. He is a writer who never suffers his readers to get the blues or go to sleep. The Confidence Man is the last, but by no means the worst of his efforts.

10 April 1857: Boston Evening Transcript
One of the indigenous characters who has figured long in our journals, courts, and cities, is "the Confidence Man;" his doings form one of the staples of villainy, and an element in the romance of roguery. Countless are the dodges attributed to this ubiquitous personage, and his adventures would equal those of Jonathan Wild. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that the subject caught the fancy of Herman Melville--an author who deals equally well in the material description and the metaphysical insight of human life. He has added by his "Confidence Man" to the number of original subjects--an achievement for the modern raconteur, who has to glean in a field so often harvested. The plan and treatment are alike Melvillish; and the story more popularly eliminated [delineated?] than is usual with the author. "The Confidence Man-- His Masquerade"--is a taking title. Dix, Edwards & Co. have brought it out in their best style.-- Knick.

11 April 1857: The Athenaeum
The Confidence Man is a morality enacted by masqued players. The credulous and the sceptical appear upon the stage in various quaint costumes, and discourse sententiously on the art of human life, as developed by those who believe and those who suspect. We leave the inference to be traced by Mr. Melville's readers,---some of whom, possibly, may wait for the promised sequel to the book before deciding as to the lucidity or opaqueness of the author's final meaning. There is a stage, with a set of elaborate scenery, but there is strictly no drama, the incidents being those of a masquerade, while the theatre is a steampalace on the Mississippi. Here 'the Confidence Man' encounters his antagonists and disciples,---and their dialogues occupy the chief part of the volume. Mr. Melville is lavish in aphorism, epigram, and metaphor. When he is not didactic, he is luxuriously picturesque; and, although his style is one, from its peculiarities, difficult to manage, he has now obtained a mastery over it, and pours his colours over the narration with discretion as well as prodigality. All his interlocutors have studied the lore of old philosophy: they have all their wise sayings, of satire or speculation, to enrich the colloquy; so that, while the mighty riverboat, Fidèle, steams up the Mississippi, between low, vine-entangled banks, flat as tow-paths, a voyage of twelve hundred, 'from apple to orange, from clime to clime,' we grow so familiar with the passengers that they seem at last to form a little world of persons mutually interested, generally eccentric, but in no case dull. Mr. Melville has a strange fashion of inaugurating his moral miracle-play,---the synopsis of which, in the Table of Contents, is like a reflection of 'The Ancient Mariner,' interspersed with some touches vaguely derived from the dialecticians of the eighteenth century. One sentence, leading into the first chapter, immediately fixes the attention:--
"At sunrise on a first of April, there appeared, suddenly as Manco Capac at the lake Titicaca, a man in cream-colours, at the water-side, in the city of St. Louis

This is a mute. The other passengers are fantastically attired, or rather, by an adroit use of language, common things are suggested under uncommon aspects. The cosmopolitan himself is an oracle of confidence; and, finally, bargains with a barber whose motto has been "No trust," to indemnify him against any loss that may ensue from the obliteration of that motto for a certain term, during which the barber shall not only shave mankind for ready money, but grant credit. The agreement signed.---
"'Very good,' said the barber . . . 'I will see you again.' " [Ch. 43, paras. 35-55]

Such is the spirit of the book. These are the masquerades among whom moves the cosmopolitan philanthropist, honeying their hearts with words of benignity and social faith.---

"Natives of all sorts, and foreigners . . .grinning negroes, and Sioux chiefs solemn as high-priests." [Ch. 2, para. 28]

A "limping, gimlet-eyed, sour-faced" discharged customhouse officer,--- a crippled Nigritian beggar,---a blue-eyed episcopalian,---a prime and palmy gentleman with gold sleeve-buttons,---a young Byronic student,---a plump and pleasant lady,---a rich man,---a business man,---"a man with a travelling-cap,"-- -a soldier of fortune,---a man with no memory, come under the influence of the philanthropist's experimental doctrine, with varying results, and much cordial philosophy is extracted from their talk, fragrant with poetry or bitter with cynicism. The "Confidence-Man" confides even in wine that has a truthful tinge. "He who could mistrust poison in this wine would mistrust consumption in Hebe's cheek." And then is pronounced the eulogy of the Press,---not that which rolls, and groans, and rattles by night in printing-offices, but that which gushes with bright juice on the Rhine, in Madeira and Mitylene, on the Douro and the Moselle, golden or pale tinted, or red as roses in the bud. Passing this, we select one example of Mr. Melville's picture-making.---

"In the middle of the gentleman's cabin . . . the rays died dimly away in the furthest nook of the place." [Ch. 45, para. 1]

Full of thought, conceit, and fancy, of affectation and originality, this book is not unexceptionally meritorious, but it is invariably graphic, fresh, and entertaining.

11 April 1857: Leader
In this book, also, philosophy is brought out of its cloisters into the living world; but the issue raised is more simple:--whether men are to be trusted or suspected? Mr. Melville has a manner wholly different from that of the anonymous writer who has produced "The Metaphysicians." He is less scholastic, and more sentimental; his style is not so severe; on the contrary, festoons of exuberant fancy decorate the discussion of abstract problems; the controversialists pause ever and anon while a vivid, natural Mississippi landscape is rapidly painted before the mind; the narrative is almost rhythmic, the talk is cordial, bright American touches are scattered over the perspective--the great steamboat deck, the river coasts, the groups belonging to various gradations of New-World life. In his Pacific stories Mr. Melville wrote as with an Indian pencil, steeping the entire relation in colours almost too brilliant for reality; his books were all stars, twinkles, flashes, vistas of green and crimson, diamond and crystal; he has now tempered himself, and studied the effect of neutral tints. He has also added satire to his repertory, and, as he uses it scrupulously, he uses it well. His fault is a disposition to discourse upon too large a scale, and to keep his typical characters too long in one attitude upon the stage. Lest we should seem to imply that the masquerade is dramatic in form, it is as well to describe its construction. It is a strangely diversified narration of events taking place during the voyage of a Mississippi river boat, a cosmopolitan philanthropist, the apostle of a doctrine, being the centre and inspiration of the whole. The charm of the book is owing to its originality and to its constant flow of descriptions, character-stretching and dialogue, deeply toned and skillfully contrasted.

11 April 1857: Literary Gazette
We notice this book at length for much the same reason as Dr. Livingston describes his travels in Monomotapa, holding that its perusal has constituted a feat which few will attempt, and fewer still accomplish. Those who, remembering the nature of the author's former performances, take it up in the expectation of encountering a wild and stirring fiction, will be tolerably sure to lay it down ere long with an uncomfortable sensation of dizziness in the head, and yet some such introduction under false presences seems to afford it its only chance of being taken up at all. For who will meddle with a book professing to inculcate philosophical truths through the medium of nonsensical people talking nonsense--the best definition of its scope and character that a somewhat prolonged consideration has enabled us to suggest. A novel it is not, unless a novel means forty five conversations held on board a steamer, conducted by personages who might pass for the errata of creation, and so far resembling the Dialogues of Plato as to be undoubted Greek to ordinary men. Looking at the substance of these colloquies, they cannot be pronounced altogether valueless; looking only at the form, they might well be esteemed the compositions of a March hare with a literary turn of mind. It is not till a lengthened perusal--a perusal more lengthened than many readers will be willing to accord--has familiarized us with the quaintness of the style, and until long domestication with the incomprehensible interlocutors has infected us with something of their own eccentricity, that our faculties, like the eyes of prisoners accustomed to the dark, become sufficiently acute to discern the golden grains which the author has made it his business to hide away from us. It is due to Mr. Melville to say, that he is by no means unconscious of his own absurdities, which, in one of his comparatively lucid intervals, he attempts to justify and defend:--

"But ere be given the rather grave story of Charlemont, a reply must in civility be made to a certain voice which methinks I hear, that in view of past chapters, and more particularly the last, where certain antics appear, exclaims: How unreal all this is! Who did ever dress or act like your cosmopolitan? And who, it might be resumed, did ever dress or act like harlequin? . . .

"If, then, something is to be pardoned to well-meant endeavour, surely a little is to be allowed to that writer who, in all his scenes, does but seek to minister to what, as he understands it, is the implied wish of the more indulgent lovers of entertainment, before whom harlequin can never appear in a coat too particoloured, or cut capers too fantastic."

This is ingenious, but it begs the question. We do, as Mr. Melville says, desire to see nature "unfettered, exhilarated," in fiction [but] we do not want to see her "transformed." We are glad to see the novelist create imaginary scenes and persons, nay, even characters whose type is not to be found in nature. But we demand that, in so doing, he should observe certain ill-defined but sufficiently understood rules of probability. His fictitious creatures must be such as Nature might herself have made, supposing their being to have entered into her design. We must have fitness of organs, symmetry of proportions, no impossibilities, no monstrosities. As to harlequin, we think it very possible indeed that his coat may be too parti-coloured, and his capers too fantastic, and conceive, moreover, that Mr. Melville's present production supplies an unanswerable proof of the truth of both positions. We should be sorry, in saying this, to be confounded with the cold unimaginative critics, who could see nothing but extravagance in some of our author's earlier fictions--in the first volume of 'Mardi,' that archipelago of lovely descriptions is led in glittering reaches of vivid nautical narrative--the conception of 'The Whale,' ghostly and grand as the great grey sweep of the ridged and rolling sea. But these wild beauties were introduced to us with a congruity of outward accompaniment lacking here. The isles of 'Mardi' were in Polynesia, not off the United States. Captain Ahab did not chase Moby Dick in a Mississippi steamboat. If the language was extraordinary, the speakers were extraordinary too. If we had extravaganzas like the following outpouring on the subject of port wine, at least they were not put into the mouths of Yankee cabin passengers:--

"A shade passed over the cosmopolitan. After a few minutes' down-cast musing, he lifted his eyes and said: 'I have long thought, my dear Charlie, that the spirit in which wine is regarded by too many in these days is one of the most painful examples of want of confidence. . . .

But if wine be false, while men are true, whither shall fly convivial geniality? To think of sincerely genial souls drinking each other's health at unawares in perfidious and murderous drugs!'"

The best of it is, that this belauded beverage is all the time what one of the speakers afterwards calls "elixir of logwood."

This is not much better than Tilburina in white satin, yet such passages form the staple of the book. It is, of course, very possible that there may be method in all this madness, and that the author may have a plan, which must needs be a very deep one indeed. Certainly we can obtain no inkling of it. It may be that he has chosen to act the part of a mediaeval jester, conveying weighty truths under a semblance antic and ludicrous; if so, we can only recommend him for the future not to jingle his bells so loud. There is no catching the accents of wisdom amid all this clattering exuberance of folly. Those who wish to teach should not begin by assuming a mask so grotesque as to keep listeners on the laugh, or frighten them away. Whether Mr. Melville really does mean to teach anything is, we are aware, a matter of considerable uncertainty. To describe his book, one had need to be a H"llen-Breughel; to understand its purport, one should be something of a Sphinx. It may be a bona fide eulogy on the blessedness of reposing "confidence"--but we are not at all confident of this. Perhaps it is a hoax on the public--an emulation of Barnum. Perhaps the mild man in mourning, who goes about requesting everybody to put confidence in him, is an emblem of Mr. Melville himself, imploring toleration for three hundred and fifty-three pages of rambling, on the speculation of there being something to the purpose in the three hundred and fifty-fourth; which, by the way, there is not, unless the oracular announcement that "something further may follow of this masquerade," is to be regarded in that light. We are not denying that this tangled web of obscurity is shot with many a gleam of shrewd and subtle thought--that this caldron, so thick and slab with nonsense, often bursts into the bright, brief bubbles of fancy and wit. The greater the pity to see these good things so thrown away. The following scene, in the first chapter, for example, seems to us sufficiently graphic to raise expectations very indifferently justified by the sequel--

"Pausing at this spot, the stranger so far succeeded in threading his way, as at last to plant himself just beside the placard, when, producing a small slate and tracing some words upon it, he held it up before him on a level with the placard, so that they who read the one might read the other. . . .

"Meanwhile, he with the slate continued moving slowly up and down, not without causing some stares to change into jeers, and some jeers into pushes, and some pushes into punches: when suddenly, in one of his turns, he was hailed from behind by two porters carrying a large trunk, but as the summons, though loud, was without effect, they accidentally or otherwise swung their burden against him, needy overthrowing him; when, by a quick start, a peculiar inarticulate moan, and a pathetic telegraphing of his fingers, he involuntarily betrayed that he was not only dumb but also deaf."

It will be seen that Mr. Melville can still write powerfully when it pleases him. Even when most wayward, he yet gives evidence of much latent genius, which, however, like latent heat, is of little use either to him or to us. We should wish to meet him again in his legitimate department, as the prose-poet of the ocean; if, however, he will persist in indoctrinating us with his views concerning the vrai, we trust he will at least condescend to pay, for the future, some slight attention to the vraisemblable. He has ruined this book, as he did 'Pierre,' by a strained effort after excessive originality. When will he discover that--

"Standing on the head makes not
Either for ease or dignity?"

11 April 1857: The Spectator [London]
The precise design of Mr. Herman Melville in The Confidence Man, his Masquerade, is not very clear. Satire on many American smartnesses, and on the gullibility of mankind which enables those smartnesses to succeed, is indeed an evident object of the author. He stops short of any continuous pungent effect; because his plan is not distinctly felt, and the framework is very inartistical; also because the execution is upon the whole flat, at least to an English reader, who does not appreciate what appear to be local allusions.

A Mississippi steam-boat is the scene of the piece; and the passengers are the actors, or rather the talkers. There is a misanthropist, looking like a dismissed official soured against the government and humanity, whose pleasure it is to regard the dark side of things and to infuse distrust into the compassionate mind. There is the President and Transfer Agent of the "Black Rapids Coal Company," who does a little business on board, by dint of some secret accomplices and his own pleasant plausibility and affected reluctance. A herb-doctor is a prominent person, who gets rid of his medicine by immutable patience and his dexterity in playing upon the fears and hopes of the sick. The "Confidence-Man" is the character most continually before the reader. He is collecting subscriptions for a "Widow and Orphan Asylum recently founded among the Seminoles," and he succeeds greatly in fleecing the passengers by his quiet impudence and his insinuating fluency; the persons who effectually resist being middle-aged or elderly well-to-do gentlemen, who cut short his advances: "You--pish! why will the captain suffer these begging fellows to come on board?" There are various other persons who bear a part in the discourses: one or two tell stories; and the author himself sometimes directly appears in a chapter of disquisition.

Besides the defective plan and the general flatness of execution, there seems too great a success on the part of the rogues, from the great gullibility of the gulls. If implicit reliance could be placed on the fiction as a genuine sketch of American society, it might be said that poverty there as elsewhere goes to the wall, and that the freedom of the constitution does not extend to social intercourse unless where the arms and physical strength of some border man compel the fears of the genteel to grudgingly overcome their reluctance for the time. This reliance we cannot give. The spirit of the satire seems drawn from the European writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with some of Mr. Melville's own Old World observations superadded. It sometimes becomes a question how much belongs to the New World, how much to the Old, and how much to exaggerated representation, impressing a received truth in the form of fiction. The power of wealth, connexion, and respectability, to overbear right, while poor and friendless innocence suffers, may be illustrated in the following story of a begging cripple, told to the herb-doctor; or it may instance the unscrupulous invention of vagrant impostors; but it can scarcely be taken as a true picture of justice towards the poor at New York.

"'Well, I was born in New York . . . and I hobbled off.'" [Ch. 19, paras. 27- 53]

11 April 1857: New York Times
The author of Typee has again come upon - us in one of his strange vagaries, and calls himself The Confidence Man. His publishers are DIX, EDWARDS & CO., who seem to have an affection for our young authors. MR. MELVILLE'S Confidence Man is almost as ambiguous an apparition as his Pierre, who was altogether an impossible and ununderstandable creature. But, in the t Confidence Man there is no attempt at a novel, or a romance, for MELVILLE has not the slightest qualifications for a novelist, and therefore he appears to much better advantage here than in his attempts at story books. The scene of the Confidence Man is on the Mississippi on board a steamboat, and the whole element of the work, though full of book learning, is as essentially Western and Indianesque as one of COOPER'S Leather-Stocking Tales. It is, in short, a Rabelaisian piece of patch- -work without any of the Rabelaisian indecency. And here it may be well to remark v that one of the distinguishing traits of the Young American literature is its perfect decency. You can read any of these books aloud to your grandmother or your daughter, which is more than can be done by d the majority of British books. Some of the local descriptions in the Confidence Man are as striking and picturesque as the best things in Typee, and the oddities of thought, felicities of expression, the wit, humor, and rollicking inspirations are as abundant and original as in any of the productions of this most remarkable writer. The volume has an end, but there is no conclusion to the book; the last chapter might have been the first, and the author in- timates that there is more of the same sort to come.

11 April 1857: Philadelphia Evening Bulletin
An eccentric, somewhat amusing and of course a rather more than somewhat indifferently digested novel. Like all of Melville's works, it contains material for suggesting thought to intelligent minds--and like all his works, too, its artistic or mechanical execution is wretched. Yet with all this it is curious, spirited, and well worth reading.

15 April 1857: Critic [London]
Herman Melville, hitherto known to us as one of the brightest and most poetical word-painters of places, here adventures into quite a new field, and treats us, under the form of a fiction, to an analytical inquiry into a few social shams.

The machinery of the story, or drama, as it may perhaps be more accurately called, is simple enough; it is in the filling-up that the skill and ability are apparent. The steamer Fidèle is churning its way over the waters of the Mississippi, from St. Louis to New Orleans, laden with its many-headed changing freight of human beings. Among these moves a philosopher, whose theory, or (to use an Americanism) notion, it is that there is not enough confidence in the world--not enough, that is to say, of the real sterling metals but, on the contrary, a great deal of paint and varnish and gilding, which looks so like it as to deceive the foolish and unwary. Accordingly he devotes his time during that voyage in sustaining a series of disguises under the cover of which he enacts a variety of scenes, and holds long disquisitions with various interlocutors, all which have for their object the impression of his principle, that confidence, and not distrust, is the foundation of happy human intercourse.

All this seems simple enough in the telling, and very likely to be prosy. Not at all. That prosiness is the last crime of which Herman Melville can be accused, will be admitted by all who are familiar with "Omoo," "Typee," "Mardi," "White Jacket," and "Moby Dick." On the contrary, there is a vividness and an intensity about his style which is almost painful for the constant strain upon the attention; and The Confidence Man is that of all his works which readers will find the hardest nut to crack.

We are not quite sure whether we have cracked it ourselves--whether there is not another meaning hidden in the depths of the subject other than that which lies near the surface. There is a dry vein of sarcastic humour running throughout which makes us suspect this. And besides, is there not a contradiction apparent in the principles of The Confidence Man himself, when he seeks to build his theory of Catholic charity upon a foundation of suspicion? Moreover, there are some parts of the story in which we feel half inclined to doubt whether this apostle of geniality is not, after all, an arch-imposter of the deepest dye; as for example, when he takes the twenty dollars from the miser upon a promise to treble them for him. Does the miser ever see the colour of his money again? Certainly the reader of the book never does. And then, under what strange and trying disguises does The Confidence Man offer his ministrations. Who would ever think of putting confidence in a vendor of nostrums, even though he should talk such excellent wisdom as this?

The herb-doctor took ... neither has the other. [Ch. 16, pares 20-34]

Better still is his reasoning with the grim cynic whom experience had brought to the sweeping conclusion that "all boys are rascals." This time the Confidence Man is the agent for the Domestic Servant Agency Office.

You deny that a youth ... a St. Augustine for an ostler." [Ch. 22, pares. 86-104, condensed]

The contingency of having a St. Augustine for an ostler may be rather remote, but there is something in this which those Pharisees who frown mercilessly upon the follies of youth may profit by. Taking another aspect of this book, who does not perceive a touch of the finest humour in the application of the touchstone whereby the Confidence Man proves the hollowness of his genial friend "the Mississippi Operator."

"How shall I express . . . Cadmus glided into the snake." [Ch. 30, para. 79--Ch. 32, para. 1]

Our readers will by this time perceive that this is not a common book.

17 April 1857: New York Day Book
We remember the quaint, curious story of "Typee," and how puzzled and interested we were over its pages. We do not think Mr. Melville has greatly improved, or else we have lost an interest in his rather queer way of telling a story. The present one, however, is a clever delineation of western characteristics, and will please many readers. Without being really a great or philosophical novelist, Mr. M. gives us pleasant delineations of nature, and a considerable insight into the springs of human action.

18 April 1857: London Examiner
Mr. Herman Melville, a clever American author, whose Marquesas Island story no reader can have forgotten, has published a fanciful work which he calls a "Masquerade," entitled the Confidence Man, consisting not so much of a single narrative as of a connected series of dialogues, quaintly playing upon the character of that confidence of man in man which is or ought to be the basis of all dealing. It is not altogether what it ought to be, hints Mr. Melville by his satire. We are only ready with a blind trust in the man who has raised mists of self-interest before our eyes. We have not much confidence in any man who wants to borrow money with his honour as security.

19 April 1857: New York Atlas
We do not think this book will add anything to the reputation of the author of "Typee." It is truly a masquerade--on board a Mississippi steamboat, with a curious jumble of characters and odd scenes. Here and there are passages, and whole pages, even, worthy of Melville, when he seems to wake from his drowsiness, and be himself; but as regards the general character of the book, we should say it was a remarkably lazy one. We do not wish to infer that the book is not worth attention; but we are sorry that the author has expended so much labor to so little purpose, when we have a right to expect from him better things. It looks too much like a job of book making, instead of a work of love stimulated by the best faculties of the intellect.

20 April 1857: Troy [NY] Budget
It is an unfortunate thing, sometimes, to do too well at the start. The tune pitched too high, labors all the way through. A brilliant first appearance, not seldom prefaces a fail- ure or a partial success. Herman Melville has never given the world the peer of "Typee." He has written readable works, attractive works, objectionable works,--works that would suffice for an ordinary reputation, but nothing has added to the fame that he won by his first venture. "The Confidence Man" is not an exception. It has many points of interest, is readable, sketchy and in many places original.--It will be sought after and read, but it must of necessity be tried by too high a standard. It is not a novel. It wants the connection, the regular plot and great part of the machinery that is found in the regular novel. The main character is only made the central object of various sketches, that are pleasant, humorous or pathetic, but might just as well have appeared anywhere else as in their immediate connection. The Confidence-Man is a peripatetic philosopher who accomplishes his purposes by most singular means, and raises wrath or a laugh with about equal facility.

22 April 1857: Worcester [MA] Palladium
There is a great deal of material in the work; material which deserves better setting than the author has given it. Even the most partial of Mr. Melville's friends must allow that the book is not wholly worthy of him. It has a careless and rambling style which would seem to have been easier for the author to write than his readers to peruse. There are bright flashes in it; scintillations of poetic light, and much common sense well expressed, but the book as a whole is somewhat heavy. Still, there are minds with which it will chord; and, as it pictures nineteenth century notions it will command attention. "The Confidence Man" is a character common enough to be easily recognized in Mr Melville's portraiture. We see him every day, and often in the same light as does our author.

23 April 1857: Burlington Sentinel
A new volume by the author of "Typee," "Omo" [sic] and the "Piazza Tale," [sic] promises something out of the way of hackneyed literature. The present book of Mr. Melville is a recital of an imaginary voyage on the Mississippi, one of the greatest inland thoroughfares in the world, and the reader is introduced to all sorts of characters, is treated to all sorts of scenes, and to witness all sorts of incident, and if the reader is not pleased it is not for the want of variety. It is quaint in its style, exhibiting no small degree of literary search, or out of the way learning, and is interspersed with many shrewd exposures of human folly. But taken as a whole, it is inferior to former works of the same author which have fell under our notice. It is intended as a satire upon American character and society, and while some of it is sharp and pungent, there are portions of it dull; yet as a whole it exhibits powers, if put to earnest endeavor, that can produce a really excellent book.

24 April 1857: Newburyport [MA] Herald
Mr Melville is a writer of no ordinary talent. His former works were read with an interest that sharpened the appetite for almost anything his pen might indite. Though the "Confidence Man" is a book exhibiting close observations of human nature and a judicious and careful estimate of human virtues and frailties, we cannot accord to it the interest possessed by his less pretentious stories. It differs materially in manner from his other books, and lacks in geniality. Its philosophy is of a character that perhaps calls for too much exertion to fully enjoy, and the agents used in presenting it are of a class that seem to forbid an acquaintance.--However, many would regard the book more favorably, and undoubtedly award to it high praise.

25 April 1857: Burlington Free Press
The story of the chap who managed to diddle many out of their property lamenting their want of confidence in him till they were willing to prove its reality by trusting him with a watch, a gold pencil case or a five dollar bill, never to be seen again by their owners, has furnished the hint on which the volume is made up. In a jingle of traveller's incidents and stories, the confidence man and his dupes are presented under a great variety of masks. The reader finds himself amused with some of the presentations, but as a whole he will be apt to think there is rather too much of it. The world is not made up of cheats and their victims. The book will not add to the reputation of the author of "Omoo" and "Typee." For sale at Nichol's.

25 April 1857: London Illustrated Times
We can make nothing of this masquerade, which, indeed, savours very much of a mystification. We began the book at the beginning, and, after reading ten or twelve chapters, some of which contained scenes of admirable dramatic power, while others presented pages of the most vivid description, found, in spite of all this, that we had not yet obtained the slightest clue to the meaning (in case there should happen to be any) of the work before us. This novel, comedy, collection of dialogues, repertory of anecdotes, or whatever it is, opens (and opens brilliantly, too) on the deck of a Mississippi steamer. It appeared an excellent idea to lay the opening of a fiction (for the work is a fiction, at all events) on the deck of a Mississippi steamer. The advantage of selecting a steamer, and above all a Mississippi steamer, for such a purpose, is evident: you can have all your characters present in the vessel, and several of your scenes taking place in different parts of the vessel, if necessary, at the same time; by which means you exhibit a certain variety in your otherwise tedious uniformity. For an opening, the Mississippi steamer is excellent; and we had read at least eight chapters of the work, which opens so excellently, before we were at all struck with the desirability of going ashore. But after the tenth chapter, the steamer began to be rather too much for us; and with the twelfth we experienced symptoms of a feeling slightly resembling nausea. Besides this, we were really getting anxious to know whether there was a story to the book; and, if the contrary should be the case, whether the characters were intended--as seemed probable--not for actual living beings, but for philosophical abstractions, such as might be introduced with more propriety, or with less impropriety, floating about in the atmosphere of the planet Sirius, than on the deck and in the cabin of a Mississippi steamer, drinking, smoking, gambling, and talking about "confidence." Having turned to the last chapter, after the manner of the professed students of novels from the circulating library, we convinced ourselves that, if there was almost no beginning to the story, there was altogether no end to it. Indeed, if the negative of "all's well that ends well" be true, the "Confidence- man" is certainly a very bad book.

After reading the work forwards for twelve chapters and backwards for five, we attacked it in the middle, gnawing at it like Rabelais's dog at the bone, in the hope of extracting something from it at last. But the book is without form and void. We cannot continue the chaotic comparison and say, that "darkness is on the face thereof;" for, although a sad jumble, the book is nevertheless the jumble of a very clever man, and of one who proves himself to be such even in the jumble of which we are speaking.

As a last resource, we read the work from beginning to end, and the result was we liked it even less than before--for then we had at all events not suffered from it. Such a book might have been called "Imaginary Conversations," and the scene should be laid in Tartarus, Hades, Tophet, Purgatory, or at all events some place of which the manners, customs, and mode of speech are unknown to the living.

Perhaps, as we cannot make the reader acquainted with the whole plot or scheme of the work before us, he may expect us to tell him at least why it is called the "Confidence- Man." It is called the "Confidence-Man" because the principal character, type, spectre, or ombre-chinoise of the book, is always talking about confidence to the lesser character types, &c., with whom he is brought into contact. Sometimes the "Confidence- Man" succeeds in begging or borrowing money from his collocutors; at other times he ignominiously fails. But it is not always very evident why he fails, nor in the other cases is it an atom clearer why he succeeds. For the rest, no one can say whence the "Confidence- Man" comes, nor whither he is going.

The principal characters in the book are--
1. The "Confidence Man" himself, whom, if we mistake not, is a melancholy individual attired in mourning, who distributes "Odes on Confidence" about the steamer, and talks on his favourite subject and with his favourite motive to everyone on board; but we dare not affirm positively that the "Confidence-Man" is identified with the man in mouming, and with the one who distributes "Odes on Confidence," or indeed with either--the character generally being deficient in substance and indistinct in outline.
2. A lame black man (we are sure there is a lame black man).
3. A misanthropic, unconfidential white man with a wooden leg, who denies with ferocity that the lame black man is lame.
4. A student who reads Tacitus, and takes shares in a coal company.
5. The President and Transfer Agent of the Rapids Coal Company, who declares his determination to transact no business aboard the steamer, and who transacts it accordingly.
6. A realist barber--who is moreover real--indeed almost the only real human being in the book, if we except, perhaps, the lame black man (for we still maintain he was lame in spite of the assertions of the white man with the wooden leg).

The description of the barber opening his shop on the deck of the steamer, hoisting his pole, and putting forth his label bearing the inscription "No trust!" is one of the best in the volume; and the scene in which he declines the suggestion of the "Confidence-Man" to the effect that he should shave on credit, one of the best scenes.

We should also mention an interesting conversation over a bottle of wine, in which one man receiving earnest assurances of friendship from another, ventures on the strength of it to apply for a loan, which is refused with insult--not a very novel situation, but in this case well written up to, and altogether excellently treated. Some of the stories introduced in the course of the work are interesting enough (that of Colonel John Murdock, the Indian-hater, for instance), and all are well told. The anecdotes, too, are highly amusing, especially the one narrated by the misanthrope regarding the "confidence-husband," as Mr. Melville might call him. A certain Frenchman from New Orleans being at the theatre, was so charmed with the character of a faithful wife, that he determined forthwith to get married. Accordingly, he married a beautiful girl from Tennessee, "who had at first attracted his attention by her liberal mould, and who was subsequently recommended to him, through her kin, for her equally liberal education and disposition. Though large, the praise proved not too much; for ere long rumour more than corroborated it--whispering that the lady was liberal to a fault. But though various circumstances, which by most persons would have been deemed all but conclusive, were duly recited to the old Frenchman by his friends, yet such was his confidence that not a syllable would he credit, till, chancing one night to return unexpectedly from a journey, upon entering his apart- ment, a stranger burst from the alcove. "Begar!" cried he; "now I begin to suspect."

In conclusion, the "Confidence-Man" contains a mass of anecdotes, stories, scenes, and sketches undigested, and, in our opinion, indigestible. The more voracious reader may, of course, find them acceptable; but we confess that we have not "stomach for them all." We said that the book belonged to no particular class, but we are almost justified in affirming that its genre is the génre ennuyeux. The author in his last line promises "something more of this masquerade." All we can say, in reply to the brilliant author of "Omoo" and "Typee" is, "the less the merrier."

30 April 1857: New York Churchman
This is the latest of Mr. Melville's works, and appeared originally, we believe, in the pages of Putnam's Monthly. It is marked by the characteristic--we might say, defect-- of the author's later works--a disposition to metaphysical speculation, for which the subject affords him a wide scope.

9 May 1857: London John Bull and Britannica
For the scene of a masquerade a Mississippi steamer on its trip from St. Louis to New Orleans is not ill-chosen; and Mr. Herman Melville makes an excellent master of the ceremonies, rushing hither and thither among the motley crowd, with no ostensible object saving that of making himself agreeable to everybody, and turning everybody to account for his own jaunty purpose. As for a thread of a story to tie together the pen-and-ink sketches of American life with which the volume is crowded, he that should look for it, would assuredly look in vain. Yet there is a vein of philosophy that runs through the whole; and the conflict between the feeling of trust, enjoined by every nobler sentiment and higher principle, and the feeling of distrust engendered by the experience of life, of which every human breast is, however unconsciously, the perpetual battle-field, has not often been so forcibly as well as amusingly illustrated as it is in the incoherent ramblings of "the confidence-man."

14 May 1857: New York Independent
Herman Melville, author of "Typee," is the writer, and Dix, Edwards & Co. are the publishers, of a volume entitled "The Confidence Man: His Masquerade." We became acquainted with Mr. Melville some ten years ago, by means of the book "Typee,''--in which he represents himself, autobiographically, as one of the vilest of those runaway sailors who escape from work, and from the disagreeable things of civilization, and give themselves to the indulgences of a brutish life among the savage inhabitants of the islands in the Pacific. A worse book than that, in its moral tone and tendency, has rarely been published. We have desired, since then, no farther acquaintance with the author. Of this new work we have read enough to show us that though Mr. Herman Melville may have learned some decency since the time of his experiments in living on the Marquesas Islands, there is no prospect of any good to be got by reading farther.

16 May 1857: Springfield [MA] Republican
The Confidence Man: His Masquerade, gives title to a new work from the pen of Herman Melville--the oddest, most unique, and the most ingenious thing he has yet done. Under various disguises he introduces the same character who, in some form or other, is engaged evermore in cheating. The book is very interesting, and very well written, but it seems to us like the work of one not in love or sympathy with his kind. Under his masquerade, human nature--the author's nature--gets badly "cut up."

17 May 1857: London Era
A strange book, the object of which is difficult to detect, unless it be to prove this wicked world still more full of wickedness than even the most gloomy philosophers have supposed.

The scene is entirely laid on board a Mississippi steamer, where, amidst the crowds assembled on deck, appears a man who acts in such a manner that he is supposed to be deaf and dumb. Falling asleep, and being at last forgotten, the next person brought before our notice is a crippled Negro begging for alms. The deaf and dumb man had commenced teaching "confi- dence" as a principle, by writing on a slate, and holding up for public teaching the scriptural account of charity as found in St. Paul's Epistles, "Charity thinketh no evil," &c., &c., and on his disappearance the crippled Negro preaches on the same text, as it were, entreating "confidence" in his being a true man, and no impostor on the benevolent principles of a kind and Christian trust, his object, however, being to obtain money for himself. To him succeeds "a man with a weed," i.e. a crepe, who enters into discourse with many passengers, and on the same ground of "charity" and "confidence," obtains money for himself and certain institutions with which he is connected. And to the man with the weed succeed other characters, among whom we find an admirable quack doctor and herb seller, each and all professing to be engaged in some work of benevolence for the human race, which combines the practical benefit of putting money into the proposer's pocket.

It is evident, after a time, to the reader, that each and all of these characters from the mute who wrote "charity" on the slate, to the cosmopolitan whom we leave at the end leading to his bed the old man with his money belt, are the masquerades of one man--the "Confidence Man," in fact; the villain who, with the Scripture in his mouth, has mammon in his heart, and a fiendish principle of deceiving all men influencing his every word. In the course of the various scenes of the book one or two call him imposter, and scorn him, but as he turns up immediately after in a fresh character, no result follows these detections. What would Mr. Melville have us learn and believe from his book? That no one lives who acts up to Christian principle? that to profess to act from good feeling is a sign that we are acting solely with the base view of our own interest?

That such is often the case we fear there is no doubt. And that vice conceals itself most cleverly, under the guise of virtue, is but too true. But surely the reverse of this is not so uncommon as "The Confidence Man" might induce us to suppose.

The book is thoroughly original in its plot, and is written in that brilliant and masterly style which the author has already exhibited so well in "Omoo" and "Typee." The pictures, if dark in satire, are full of wit and cleverness, and the "Confidence Man" will become a cant phrase for an impostor who, under the garb of benevolence, is sucking his victim to his own advantage.

23 May 1857: Saturday Review [London]
There are some books which it is almost impossible to review seriously or in a very critical spirit. They occupy among books the same position as Autolycus, or Falstaff, or Flibbertigibbet do among men. Of course they are quite wrong--there are other people in the world besides those who cheat and those who are cheated--all pleasant folks are not rogues, and all good men are not dull and disagreeable. On the contrary, the truth is for the most part, we are thankful to say, the exact opposite of this, and therefore Mr. Melville's view of life, were it gravely intended, should no doubt be gravely condemned. But that he has no such intention we quote his own words to show. He says.--

There is another class, and with this class we side, who sit down to a work of amusement tolerably as they sit at a play, and with much the same expectations and feeling . . . . before whom harlequin can never appear in a coat too parti-colored, or cut capers too fantastic. [Ch. 33, pares. 3-4, condensed]

Whether this is a very high aim, is another question. All we can say is that it has been fully attained in the volume before us; and we lay our frowns aside, and give our- selves up to watch the eccentric transformations of the Confidence-Man, in much the same spirit as we listen to the first verse of the song of Autolycus.

The scene of this comedy is one of the large American steamers on the Mississippi--the time of its action, one day--and its hero a clever impostor, who, under the successive disguises of a deaf mute, a crippled negro, a disconsolate widower, a charitable collector, a transfer agent, a herb doctor, a servant of the "Philosophical Intelligence Office," and a cosmopolitan traveller, contrives to take in almost every one with whom he comes in contact, and to make a good deal of money by these transactions. The characters are all wonderfully well sustained and linked together; and the scene of his exploits gives unlimited scope for the introduction of as many others as Mr. Melville's satirical pencil likes to sketch, from the good simple country merchant to the wretched miser, or the wild Missourian who had been worried into misanthropy by the pranks of thirty-five boys--and no wonder, poor man, if they were all like the one whose portrait we subjoin.--

"I say, this thirtieth boy . . . all are rascals." [Ch. 22, paras. 35-37]

We likewise recommend to those readers who like tales of terror the story of Colonel John Moredock, the Indian hater. It opens up a dark page in American history, and throws some light on the feelings with which the backwoodsmen and red men mutually regard each other, and apparently with very good reason. Let those who are fond of borrowing money study the fate of the unlucky China Aster, and take warning by it. The portrait of the mystic philosopher, who "seemed a kind of cross between a Yankee pedler and a Tartar priest," is good in its way; and so is the practical commentary on his philosophy, contained in the following chapters, which attack severely, and with considerable power, the pretended philanthropical, but really hard and selfish optimist school, whose opinions seemed not long ago likely to gain many disciples.

There is one point on which we must speak a serious word to Mr. Melville before parting with him. He is too clever a man to be a profane one; and yet his occasionally irreverent use of Scriptural phrases in such a book as the one before us, gives a disagreeable impression. We hope he will not in future mar his wit and blunt the edge of his satire by such instances of bad taste. He has, doubtless, in the present case fallen into them inadvertently, for they are blemishes belonging generally to a far lower order of mind than his; and we trust that when the sequel of the masquerade of the Confidence-Man appears, as he gives us reason to hope that it soon will, we shall enjoy the pleasure of his society without this drawback.

Of the picture of American society which is here shown us, we cannot say much that is favourable. The money-getting spirit which appears to pervade every class of men in the States, almost like a monomania, is vividly portrayed in this satire; together with the want of trust and honour, and the innumerable "operations" or "dodges" which it is certain to engender. We wish that our own country was free from this vice, but some late commercial transactions prove us to be little, if at all, behind our Transatlantic cousins in this respect, and we gladly hail the assistance of so powerful a satirist as Mr. Melville in attacking the most dangerous and the most debasing tendency of the age.

23 May 1857: Newark Advertiser
Melville, certainly a man of great talent, manages to write the most unreadable of books. The one before us is a manifest improvement upon the last: for a certain class of persons, those who read police reports, will relish this record of trickery and deceit. It seems as if Melville was afraid to write as well as he can, or else he has the dyspepsia. Nothing else can account for such vagaries.

June 1857: Mrs. Stephens' Illustrated New Monthly [New York]
Mr. Herman Melville has also issued a new book, through the publishing house of Dix, Edwards & Co. It is called The Confidence Man. It is the most singular of the many singular books of this author. Mr. Melville seems to be bent upon obliterating his early successes. "Typee" and "Omoo" give us a right to expect something better than any of his later books have been. He appears now, to be merely trying how many eccentric things he can do. This is the more to be condemned, because in many important points he has sensibly advanced. His style has become more individualized--more striking, original, sinewy, compact; more reflective and philosophical. And yet, his recent books stand confessedly inferior to his earlier ones. As to The Confidence Man, we frankly acknowledge our inability to understand it. The scene is laid upon a Mississippi steamboat, on a voyage from St. Louis to New Orleans. In the course of the voyage The Confidence Man assumes innumerable disguises--with what object it is not clear--unless for the sake of dogmatizing, theorizing, philosophizing, and amplifying upon every known subject; all of which, philosophy, we admit to be sharp, comprehensive, suggestive, and abundantly entertaining. But the object of this masquerade? None appears. The book ends where it begins. You might, without sensible inconvenience, read it backwards. You are simply promised in the last line, that something further shall be heard of the hero; until which consummation, the riddle must continue to puzzle you unsolved.

19 June 1857: Berkshire County Eagle
"THE CONFIDENCE MAN"--by Herman Melville--is much praised in the English papers.-- One says of its picture of American society,--"The money-getting spirit which appears to pervade every class of men in the States, almost like a monomania, is vividly portrayed in this satire, together with the want of trust or honor, and the innumerable 'operations' or 'dodges' which it is certain to engender. We gladly hail the assistance of so powerful a satirist as Mr. Melville in attacking the most dangerous and debasing tendency of the age." We need not say to those who have read the book that as a picture of American society, it is slightly distorted.

July 1857: Westminster and Foreign Quarterly Review[London]
We are not among those who have had faith in Herman Melville's South Pacific travels so much as in his strength of imagination. The "Confidence-Man" shows him in a new character--that of satirist, and a very keen, somewhat bitter, observer. His hero, like Mr. Melville in his earlier works, asks confidence of everybody under different masks of mendicancy, and is, on the whole, pretty successful. The scene is on board an American steamboat--that epitome of the American world--and a variety of characters are hustled on the stage to bring out the Confidence-Man's peculiarities: it is, in fact, a puppet-show; and, much as Punch is bothered by the Beadle, and calmly gets the better of all his enemies, his wife in the bargain, the Confidence-Man succeeds in baffling the one-legged man, whose suspicions and snappish incredulity constantly waylay him, and in counting a series of victims. Money is of course the great test of confidence, or credit in its place. Money and credit follow the Confidence-Man through all his transformations--misers find it impossible to resist him. It required close knowledge of the world, and of the Yankee world, to write such a book and make the satire acute and telling, and the scenes not too improbable for the faith given to fiction. Perhaps the moral is the gullibility of the great Republic, when taken on its own tack. At all events, it is a wide enough moral to have numerous applications, and sends minor shafts to right and left. Several capital anecdotes are told, and well told; but we are conscious of a certain hardness in the book, from the absence of humour, where so much humanity is shuffled into close neighbourhood. And with the absence of humour, too, there is an absence of kindliness. The view of human nature is severe and sombre--at least, that is the impression left on our mind. It wants relief, and is written too much in the spirit of Timon; who, indeed, saw life as it is, but first wasted his money, and then shut his heart, so that for him there was nothing save naked rock, without moss and flower. A moneyless man and a heartless man are not good exponents of our state. Mr. Melville has delineated with passable correctness, but he has forgotten to infuse the colours that exist in nature. The fault may lie in the uniqueness of the construction. Spread over a larger canvas, and taking in more of the innumerable sides of humanity, the picture might have been as accurate, the satire as sharp, and the author would not have laid himself open to the charge of harshness. Few Americans write so powerfully as Mr. Melville, or in better English, and we shall look forward with pleasure to his promised continuation of the masquerade. The first part is a remarkable work, and will add to his reputation.

July 1857: New York Journal
The best criticism to be given this book is to say that Messrs. Dix, Edwards & Co. have shown taste in their choice of paper, size of page, and print, but some very friendly bias in printing such matter at all. We do not think it will ever get into the column the Independent has devoted to "Books worth buying." The scene is laid upon a Mississippi steamboat, on a voyage from St. Louis to New Orleans. As she proceeds the Confidence Man assumes innumerable shapes, such as a nigger begging alms who is unworthy, a railroad secretary who takes in somebody and is ditto, a clergyman ditto ditto, agents of several charitable societies ditto ditto, friends and borrowers ditto ditto; in short dogmatizing, theorizing, philosophising and amplifying upon every known subject are "piled up" for forty-five chapters in the most eccentric and incomprehensible manner. Slightly altering Virgil the author might say--

This is no common work; through every line
See art's effect, 'tis done by power o' mine.

and it is only by power of his that the use of this original pile of words in all its curious vagaries can be explained.

August 1857: Hunt's Merchants' Magazine [New York]
Those who have read and admired, and the number is neither "few nor small," the "Piazza Tales," "Omoo," "Typee," and the other productions of the popular and successful author of the present volume, will not forego the gratification of a story though somewhat different from the others, equal, if not surpassing in interest, either of his previous performances.

3 February 1858: Cincinnati Enquirer
Mr. Herman Melville has been well known for a dozen years past, both in this country and Europe, as the author of a number of tales, the most popular and best of which are stories of the sea, such as "Typee," "Omoo," and "Moby Dick." Of late years, Mr. M. has turned his attention to another species of composition more akin to the modern novel. "Pierre, or the Ambiguities," is an example of this; highly extravagant and unnatural, but original and interesting in its construction and characters. His last production, "The Confidence Man," is one of the dullest and most dismally monotonous books we remember to have read, and it has been our unavoidable misfortune to peruse, in the fulfillment of journalistic duty, a number of volumes through which nothing but a sense of obligation would have sustained us. "Typee," one of, if not the first of his works, is the best, and "The Confidence Man" the last, decidedly the worst. So Mr. M's authorship is toward the nadir rather than the zenith, and he has been progressing in the form of an inverted climax.


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