…the immense concentration of self in the midst of such a heartless immensity, my god! who can tell it!
New York is an old city, and indeed looks it along many of these water-front streets1 where Herman Melville was born and spent his first fifteen years, this New York waterfront from which he first embarked at eighteen, and where later, from ages forty-seven, to sixty-six, he worked as a deputy inspector of customs. But New York is also the city most expert and ruthless in destroying its past, in eliminating every possible vestige of its past.
So to speak of Melville’s New York before we come to Melville the New Yorker: it is easier to find Achilles and Hector at Troy and Agamemnon at Mycenae than it is to find traces of Herman Melville in his native city. Of course there is still a Pearl Street, where he was born, and even a 104 East 26th Street, where he lived from 1863 to his death in 1891. There is and always will be the Battery, where Moby-Dick begins, as there is Gansevoort Street, jutting into the cobble-stones under the crushing West Side Highway. 470 West Street was where our inspector had his office, from which he regularly departed to inspect cargoes at piers all the way up to Harlem. Gansevoort Street was named after Melville’s grandfather, a hero of the Revolutionary War, and when Melville went into a hotel barroom on Gansevoort Street to buy a cigar, what misanthropic pleasure it gave our specialist in misanthropy to report to his mother that inquiring passers-by did not know what Gansevoort referred to.
Wall Street, where Bartleby preferred not to do any more copying, is and of course always will be with us. The Tombs, in whose courtyard Bartleby finally gave up the struggle, is not the horribly jammed Tombs where young men now hang themselves every year, but it is just as grisly and gloomy as the one in which poor Bartleby ceased being an inconvenience to various members of the New York Bar. Central Park, where Melville happily walked with his granddaughter Eleanor Metcalf, still looks pretty much as it once did, is still Frederick Law Olmsted’s romantic masterpiece with its stone fountains and stone draperies so dear to American Victorian taste, but it is no place to walk at certain hours without a harpoon. Grace Church, that gothic monument to Manhattan’s historically Episcopalian upper crust, still stands down on Broadway, but it is so surrounded by low coffee shops and cheap record stores that one has to know Melville’s satiric sketch “The Two Temples” to remember that it was consecrated to the very rich and well-born, and provoked Melville to portray himself being thrown out and then arrested for daring to enter it.
To a New Yorker with a feeling for local history, Melville’s New York does not really exist. Whitman’s New York has not altogether vanished, for Brooklyn is still behind the times, and Whitman’s lower-middle-class Brooklyn can still be seen on Fulton Street, where he worked as an editor and himself put Leaves of Grass to press, and on Myrtle Avenue where he went around with his father building houses. Even the New York that Henry James was born into, on the site of the NYU cafeteria, still exists, as does Union Square and Rutgers Square, already warm little immigrant countries, as James called them, where he played as a boy and went to school. The great staircase of the Metropolitan Museum of Art James lived long enough to describe in the story “Julia Bride,” and lower Fifth Avenue, though the old Rhinelander houses just off Washington Square are gone, is still recognizably the country James wrote about in fictions spanning New York from Washington Square, 1880, to “The Jolly Corner,” 1909, that haunting story about an old New Yorker confronting the specter of the hideous clubman he might have been if he had remained in New York.
But Melville’s New York has for the most part vanished from New York, exactly as has Edith Wharton’s New York. And this may be because these two represent, as James does not and Whitman certainly not, the old, partly Dutch aristocracy of Manhattan. Melville’s New York vanished a long time ago, even when the old Melville retired into it—it vanished as a physical landscape, as a caste, and even as a particular mercantile tradition in a city whose only aristocrats have been merchants. If Melville’s father, who was in the business of importing fine French dry goods from France, had not failed, Herman Melville might never have gone to sea, and like his Gansevoort and Melville cousins and uncles, he might have become one of those lawyers and bibliophiles and Columbia trustees, solid fellows like George Templeton Strong and the Roosevelts.
This New York aristocracy of merchants and lawyers, largely Anglican and Whig, still proud of the king’s crown in the blue Columbia flag, those for whom Columbia was to be their Yale and their Harvard, was supplanted by the finance capital and corporation types who took over New York well within Melville’s lifetime. It is interesting how little Melville wrote about social change in his native city, and how rare is even a minor sketch like “Jimmy Rose,” about a bon vivant turned bankrupt. The student of New York can learn more from Whitman and James and Edith Wharton, to say nothing of non-New Yorkers who were fascinated by the city, like Howells, Stephen Crane, and Dreiser, than he can from Melville.
This is so because Melville’s works are all an allegory of his own life. Unlike Edith Wharton, he was not concerned with the elimination from New York of his class. You never find in Melville the kind of exact description of social institutions that you find in A Backward Glance and The Age of Innocence. The part New York played in Melville’s life was essentially destructive and his expression of it was entirely self-centered. His father went bankrupt, broke down when Melville was thirteen, and, as if in signal of his excessive scruples in a city already savagely competitive, Allan Melville died. The family broke up; Maria Gansevoort Melville wrote to Lemuel Shaw, one day to be Melville’s father-in-law, that her husband’s parents and relatives had “deserted” her children. The loans advanced to Allan Melville during his lifetime by his father were charged against the estate.
So with nothing to live on and nothing to look forward to, Herman went to work. In 1835 he was a clerk in Albany, in 1837 a teacher in a district school; when almost twenty, in 1839, he shipped as a cabin boy to Liverpool. Thus began his real life, the voyages that made him an author, a subject from which the physical life of New York, the actual society, is so clearly missing that you may look in vain, in any of his works, for essential features of the New York of his times.
Where in Melville’s works, for example, would you learn that the economic crisis that killed his father was one of a whole series of economic epidemics, so to speak, that constantly threatened the stability of old New York? No one reading even the minor Melville works set in New York, like Pierre,” “Bartleby the Scrivener,” “Jimmy Rose,” “The Two Temples,” would even learn what New York looked like in the 1830s and 1840s—would know about the many great fires that regularly devastated downtown New York and even drove the wholesale dry goods trade out of the old burned-out district on Pearl Street, from Coenties Slip to Peck Slip. It is not from Melville that you would learn about the extraordinary increase in population during his boyhood, the effect from 1825 of the newly opened Erie Canal, the new look of the city with its gas lampposts after 1830, the Dutch realism of the shop signs, the buildings that were always collapsing because of their dishonest contractors, the porters with their metal numbers hung around their necks, the water carriers, the pigs always in the street to dispose of garbage.
But we all know that Melville is not a realist—not even about the sea, Joseph Conrad disgustedly thought. Yet despite the fact that New York is not really in Melville’s works, as it is in Specimen Days, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” A Small Boy and Others, Washington Square, Maggie, Sister Carrie, Melville is very much a New Yorker. New York was, even before the Civil War, and continues to be the prime American city, the most American of cities, the most urban manifestation of American history. New York is the very essence of the human unsettlement that made America, the restlessness that most characterizes it, the powerfulness radiating out from the greatest harbor, the central stock exchange, the great media center, the banks and corporation centers.
The lesson of American history in our time is the limitations of our power, but the drive of American history in the nineteenth century was made possible by the almost utopian expectations of American power—naïve, global in its scope, destructive. And on no other major American writer did these shattering, disruptive, all too deeply impressive characteristics so forcibly mark themselves as on the Melville who felt himself pushed out of New York, but who in Redburn obsessively described the degradation of the slums, and in Israel Potter London as the city of Dis—the Melville who in Pierre describes his absurd hero depositing everything in a police station on his arrival in New York, writing his futile book in a tenement overrun with every shady “apostle” and bohemian, then committing murder, and finally killing himself in a New York jail cell.
Melville the New Yorker is Melville the young sailor in Redburn, enthusiastically cheering on the Irish immigrants being loaded in the steerage ships for New York harbor. He is the New Yorker in his suggestion of the immensity and unfriendliness of the city in Pierre, for a cardinal point about New York is that, until our day, it was easier to write a memorable novel about Chicago than about New York—New York having been for more than a century an imperial center with most of its people in outlying provinces, which, as Mailer said of Brooklyn, are not the center of anything. Melville is never more a New Yorker than when he is celebrating New York’s incomparable marriage with the sea on the first page of Moby-Dick. Yet, in one of his greatest poems, “The House-Top,” he describes himself standing on the roof of his house on East 26th Street listening to the sounds of arson and riot below—the terrible draft riot when the mob went mad, the Colored Orphan Asylum was burned down, and recently arrived Irish immigrants lynched Negroes and hanged them from street lamps all over the midcity, and fought both police and army in the most violent insurrection ever seen in any modern American city.
New York during Melville’s debut as an author was not the virtually exclusive publishing center it has become in our time. But it had the Duyckinck brothers at the Literary World, the leading weekly literary review; it had Lewis Gaylord Clark at the Knicker-bocker Magazine; it already had Harper and Brothers, and Putnam’s Magazine; it had Poe and William Gilmore Simms trying literally to scratch out a living. Perry Miller claimed in The Raven and the Whale2 that Melville the romantic literary nationalist was in some part created by New York as part of its jealous struggle against the then far more important literary center that was represented by Boston and Concord.
Miller’s argument was that “Melville was one of a particular generation of New Yorkers” who were taken in by inflated literary doctrines, by the fact that New York really had no literary standing and no cohesive point of view as Concord had in transcendentalism. The ruling editors, whether useful bibliophiles like Evert Duyckinck or shallow fashion-starters like Lewis Clark, were conservative, uncreative, bookish gentlemen who seized on literary nationalism as New York’s possible response to the greatness of Emerson. This “metropolitan nationalism,” as Miller calls it, drummed up the virtues of the ridiculous Cornelius Mathews, who wrote grotesque continental epics like Behemoth: A Legend of the Mound-Builders that were derided even in New York. New York’s own literary blood was very thin, and the frigidly correct, gentlemanly view of letters was propounded by the diarist George Templeton Strong, one of the great New York men of affairs, who wrote in 1848, “Literature pursued as an end, for its own sake, not for the truths of which it may be made the vehicle, is a worthless affair.”
Miller was understandably patronizing about New York as a Victorian center of creativity. But “Young America,” the literary wing of the Democratic party in New York, so influenced Melville that “in the heart of the city,” Miller wrote, “Melville took the side of Typee against the city, and demonstrated the naturalness of Young America by luxuriating in the sensations of Broadway.” According to Miller, White-Jacket is obsessed with the problem of the city, as witness Chapter 19, “I am sick of these terra firma toils and cares.” Miller saw the metropolitan civil war between New York and Boston manifested even in Israel Potter. The problem: “How to create a romance for democratic America, original and independent of anything English, without centering it upon figures so gigantic that they invalidate the democratic doctrine and therefore are neglected.”
Miller summed up his argument by noting the irony of Melville’s career, for us as for him. “His America consisted almost entirely of the city of New York…. The failure of so great an artist as Herman Melville was not alone his private failure…. He was one of a particular generation of New Yorkers…. The elegancies of the Knickerbocker circle were purchased…at the constant risk of disaster.” In Miller’s view, then, New York influenced Melville wholly by way of the literary ideas then dominant in New York. By this token Whitman, who asserted these ideas in the preface to Leaves of Grass and as a Democratic party stalwart, should have been identical with Melville.
Perry Miller was something very rare, a true literary historian, a man who could actually read Cornelius Mathews to the bitter end, who could go through every issue of the Literary World and keep up with such nonentities even for their own time as Lewis Gaylord Clark, Dr. John Wakefield Francis, etc. We must be grateful to Miller for having the patience, yea, the stamina, to put together the immediate literary background of New York magazines and literary opinion that helped to set in motion a writer who did begin as a kind of Trader Horn figure writing best sellers out of his sometimes improbable travels.
But the trouble with even real literary history is that it tries to define the individual genius by way of the ideas, the group, the intellectual setting. Miller’s view of the New York literary scene, distinctly offhand because of the mediocrity of everyone he is writing about except Melville—and because of Melville—does not come remotely near the mystery of Melville, who only gradually, and when he was in his late twenties and already a well-known writer, discovered the subtleties of mind, spirit, and the cosmos itself that led him to the grandeurs of Moby-Dick, to the prophetic drama within Benito Cereno, the black humor of “Bartleby,” the astounding Joycean stream of consciousness within the journal he kept in Egypt and Palestine, the Olympian sense of tragedy behind his Civil War poems, Battle Pieces—to say nothing of the cold-blooded gallows humor that was already in Redburn, White-Jacket, Moby-Dick, and that found its most detached and representative expression, very rightly in the twentieth century, in the posthumous defiance of Billy Budd.
Thirty years ago I began my obsession with Melville, suitably at a time of private crisis, holocaust, and war. For thirty years I have never doubted why Melville has become so important to our century rather than to his own, which abandoned him, to use a phrase from Thoreau, like a stranded vessel. For Melville stands for the triumph of expression over the most cutting sense of disaster, negation, and even the most ferociously unfavorable view of human existence known to us in so-called classical American literature. Melville represents the triumph of a prisoner over his cell, of a desperado over his own desperate philosophy. There is in Melville the peculiar bitterness of a man who has lost everything except the will to survive—and who is acidulous and clamorous about the value of survival in a way that reminds us more of Rimbaud and Beckett than of the stoic acceptances of Conrad and Hardy. Melville’s protagonist and hero is thematically the deserter, the shipwrecked sailor, the castaway, the tramp, the hermit, the loneliest man in creation, the mad prophet, the mad sea captain, the mad author, the criminal, the solitary—and most centrally, the would-be suicide who does not escape his fate by first becoming a murderer.
To think of Conrad is to think of a maritime world to which he is bound in every possible way, as Hardy is bound to the ancient Wessex countryside. To think of Melville is to think of a landlocked sailor, a metaphysician of the vast emptiness concealed by the pyramid: “appallingly vacant and vast is the soul of a man.” But he did have his roots, and much more besides, in this “Babylonish brick-kiln,” this most glittering and desperate of international cities, the modern city par excellence. So to think of Melville against his native New York is to think of someone for whom the heartless immensities of the ocean had been first reflected in the heartless immensities of New York—a city that chewed up his father’s business and destroyed the man himself as surely as it was to chew up its own English and Dutch traditions, turn the real sexton of Grace Church, Mr. Brown, into the social arbiter of the period, and leave General Gansevoort’s grandson to work at the foot of Gansevoort Street—in the midst of that army of New York strangers who knew not Gansevoort, or Melville bitterly smiling to himself.
Given his favorite images of life as loss, wreckage, nature’s comedy, the “hollowness” of the God who holds us in his hand, the hopeless chase for the beloved, and the incestuous killing of what fascinates us most, Melville fastened on the city of New York in his favorite literary exercise of projecting thought upon a landscape so that the landscape becomes nothing but the image of a favorite idea—like the Liverpool of Redburn and the London of Israel Potter, the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos, the desert, the dead sea, a Mississippi steamer, Wall Street on Sunday.
Melville could not have done this if his native city had been Boston, for Boston was too small and like-minded. But Melville can describe Pierre coming to New York in the dead of night and immediately getting into a scrap first with the driver, then with the policeman, then with some characters in the police station, all because he seems to be not quite the serene and aristocratic gentleman they had taken him for, but in fact an aggressive lunatic. He describes himself being chased to the top of Grace Church and kept out of it by a “beadle-faced man.” In “Bartleby” as in Pierre we get the typical Melville image of a man in New York looking out of a window only to confront a stone wall; or working behind a screen.
In Melville’s letters we see the metropolitan literary scene of that time as only an impecunious, desperate, and enraged man of genius could see it when he lived as a hack. “Dollars damn me. If I wrote the Gospels in this century I should die in the gutter.” He was a man soon to lose all his books in the Harper’s fire, as he had already lost everything, to use another of his favorite images, by falling from the celebrity of Typee to the ludicrousness of Mardi and the metaphysical rant, as it seemed, of Moby-Dick. Typically, when the worst street riot and insurrection in American history took place in July, 1863, to protest the draft, Melville was on his roof top, to say with some satisfaction about the ethnics of his time,
fitfully from far off breaks a mixed surf
Of muffled sound, the Atheist roar of riot….
The Town is taken by its rats—ship-rats
And rats of the wharves.
How Melville the New Yorker would have grimly rejoiced in the fact that at his death the literary weekly in New York did not know his name. Or that Edith Wharton reported in her autobiography that she “never heard Melville’s name mentioned.” But she knew that he was “a cousin of the Van Rensselaers, and qualified by birth to figure in the best society.” It was in this sense, her sense, that he was a New Yorker—i.e., a patrician dispossessed of his country. But unlike Edith Wharton, Melville had the distinct double fate of losing his New York and then enduring it (and all other cities) as a man at the bottom.
“I had learned to think much and bitterly before my time,” says Redburn, “all my young mounting dreams of glory had left me; and at that early age I was as unambitious as a man of sixty.” In Liverpool, twice thrown out of the reading room, misled by his father’s out-of-date guide book, he remembers to say, I cared for nobody, no not I, and nobody cared for me. “How naturally he is impelled to the basement of the old Church of St. Nicholas in Liverpool, a Dead-house where the bodies of the drowned are exposed until claimed by friends or buried at the public charge.” The typical Melville identification with the lower depths of grimy seaports. He describes the crowd in Chapel Street, gazing through the grim iron of the grating upon the faces of the drowned within:
And once, when the door was opened, I saw a sailor stretched out, stark and stiff, with the sleeve of his frock rolled up, and showing his name and date of birth tattooed upon his arm. It was a sight full of suggestions; he seemed his own head-stone.
No one else could have combined the slums of Liverpool with the New York literary market place. To Hawthorne he wrote: “In a week or so, I go to New York, to bury myself in a third-story room, and work & slave on my ‘Whale’ while it is driving thro’ the press. That is the only way I can work now—I am so pulled hither and thither by circumstances.” Then, later in the month, he reports to Hawthorne, “The Whale is only half through the press; for, wearied with the long delays of the printers, and disgusted with the heat & dust of the Babylonish brick-kiln of New York, I came back to the country to feel the grass, and end the book reclining on it, if I may.”
In Pierre, Chapter 22. we read:
The chamber was meager even to meanness. No carpet on the floor, no picture on the wall; nothing but a low, long, and very curious-looking single bedstead, that might possibly serve for an indigent bachelor’s pallet…[and] a wide board of the toughest live-oak, about six feet long, laid upon two upright empty flour-barrels, and loaded with a large bottle of ink, an unfastened bundle of quills, a pen-knife, a folder, and a still unbound ream of foolscap paper, significantly stamped, “Ruled: Blue.”
Now look around in that most miserable room, and at that most miserable of all the pursuits of a man, and say if here be the place, and this be the trade, that God intended him for. A rickety chair, two hollow barrels, a plank, paper, pens, and infernally black ink, four leprously dingy white walls, no carpet, a cup of water, and a dry biscuit or two…. Civilization. Philosophy, Ideal Virtue! behold your victim!
But of course the book that was being finished in that cell was Moby-Dick. I have reserved to the end, as befits a paper being read on the edge of New York harbor, the more positive and joyous side of Melville the New Yorker, describing, on a dreamy Sabbath afternoon, thousands of mortal men fixed right here in ocean reveries.
Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep…. Look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and seemingly bound for a dive. Strange! Nothing will content them but the extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder warehouses will not suffice. No. They must get just as nigh the water as they possibly can without falling in.
The opening paragraph of Moby-Dick does say that going to sea is a form of suicide, but it remains Melville’s one exuberant tribute to the great seaport that was his native city. It was the port of New York that pushed New York ahead of Boston and Baltimore, well within Melville’s lifetime, to become America’s first city. It was the port of New York, as Redburn wrote, watching the immigrants embark from Liverpool, that was the first destination for the almost fifty million immigrants who provide our proud image, as Americans, of the greatest and most purposeful human migration in history. In Redburn Melville wrote exultantly—
The other world beyond this, which was longed for by the devout before Columbus’ time, was found in the New; and the deep-sea lead, that first struck these soundings, brought up the soil of Earth’s Paradise. Not a Paradise then, or now; but to be made so, at God’s good pleasure, and in the fullness and mellowness of time. The seed is sown, and the harvest must come; and our children’s children, on the world’s jubilee morning, shall all go with their sickles to the reaping. Then shall the curse of Babel be revoked, a new Pentecost come, and the language they shall speak shall be the language of Britain.
And indeed the Battery, which now shows old Castle Garden as the fort it originally was in Melville’s youth, is still the one place where a New Yorker can unite two different and even opposed themes—Melville’s New York and Melville the New Yorker. Here we all unite, where nothing will content us but the extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder warehouses will not suffice. No, we must get just as nigh the water as we can without falling in.
Yet I must confess that there is something more personal to Melville, his nineteen years as a customs inspector, that fascinates and bedevils me about Melville the New Yorker. Think about all those admirers from abroad, those bright prophetic Britishers, who came to New York to look for him, astonishing important mediocrities like E. C. Stedman, who could only report to Robert Buchanan, for whom Melville was a titan, that Melville was “dwelling somewhere in New York.” Melville never even had assurance of tenure in his job, which paid four dollars a day. He was so much in danger of losing that job that his brother-in-law, John Hoadley, wrote to the Secretary of Treasury,
…to ask you, if you can, to do or say anything in the proper quarter to secure him permanently, or at present, the undisturbed enjoyment of his modest, hard-earned salary, as deputy inspector of the Customs in the City of New York,—Herman Melville. Proud, shy, sensitively honorable—he had much to overcome, and has much to endure; but he strives earnestly to so perform his duties as to make the slightest censure, reprimand, or even reminder,—impossible from any superior. Surrounded by low venality, he puts it all quietly aside, quietly declining offers of money for special services—quietly returning money which has been thrust into his pockets behind his back, avoiding offence alike to the corrupting merchants and their clerks and runners, who think that all men can be bought, and to the corrupt swarms who shamelessly seek their price; quietly, steadfastly doing his duty, and happy in retaining his own self-respect.
It is this picture of Melville during the Gilded Age, the Brownstone Decades, the Iron Age that finally made New York the supreme capital that it is—of money, money-making, and the incomparable panorama of power, architectural and cultural, made possible by so much money—that fascinates me most in my own search for Melville the New Yorker. The failed novelist who turns to poetry privately published; the deputy inspector of customs stoically enduring the ignorance of the New York crowd at the foot of the street named after his grandfather; the altogether too proper, too nobly stoical resident of 104 East 26th Street, returning each evening to his oversized desk in his bedroom, to his picture of the Bay of Naples, to his walks on Sundays in Central Park and at the tip of Manhattan Island in what is now Fort Tryon Park. Home he is and taken his wages. You might think that his feelings were those expressed to Hawthorne in the triumph of finishing Moby-Dick: “Am I now not at peace? Is not my supper good?”
But in fact Melville was not at peace now, he was only retired and hiding out, as it were, in the midst of “those corrupt swarms who shamelessly seek their price.” Always so frantic that he kept his wife and family and particularly her family in a state of alarm—especially when he took to writing poetry. He had one son a suicide, though perhaps involuntarily so; the other died prematurely as a wanderer in the West, having failed at every occupation.
The old Melville is a fascinating New York figure, for he seems so close to us, here and now, as his younger selves, Ishmael and Redburn and Pierre, can never be. New York is so full of old people, retired people, secret people, that thinking of Melville working the piers all the way up to Harlem, quietly returning money that had been slipped into his pockets, writing poems not really to be read until our own time about Jacob wrestling with the angel, the age of the Antonines, the vestal virgin after the pleasure party—the landscape of Melville’s poetry is so often the ancient world—I think of what a wonderful town New York is for a solitary writer or artist, how easy it is to be ignored and left alone here—just as it is all too easy to die alone here.
And what was he writing when Elizabeth finally came into a few legacies, and he could retire, refusing to see even the few literary pilgrims and admirers who had tracked him down in New York? His strength was diminishing, he wrote, just as he was at last able to take on certain literary tasks he had left to the end. Not about New York’s money swarm, but about a mutiny in the British Navy during the fever of the French Revolution, about fright in the state, about a violent love-hate between men at sea, about a murder not without extenuation, and a hanging to which God and man could all assent, for there must be order above all, and Herman Melville was always aware of himself as a man who lacked order but believed in it. He was a natural conservative now, for no writer of his stature in America had paid so much for being the Promethean, God’s spy, the rebel and spiritual insurrectionist—above all, the wanderer hungrily plowing the seas of thought in the endlessness of his search for a fit conclusion to human experience; which it was the glory of his best work not to believe in. “Seeking a larger liberty,” he wrote in the anonymous epigraph to “The Bell-Tower,” “we but extend the empire of necessity.”
Still, the great thing about Melville at the end is that he had a part to play, a front to show the world. For he was still engaged in writing, and for Billy Budd he had found the perfect hide-out, a tolerable cell at last. He had taken his refuge in the eye of the hurricane, in the human ocean that is New York.
April 5, 1973