MELVILLE, Herman (1819-1891). Autograph letter signed ("H Melville") to George P. Putnam, Pittsfield, 16 May 1854.
One page (199 x 126mm). Red cloth chemise and slipcase An article rejected and a daguerreotype refused. Replying to two letters from Putnam's (12 & 13 May), the first a rejection of his story, "The Two Temples," by Putnam's for its "pungent satire"; the second, a letter of apology from George Putnam with a tactful request for a daguerreotype to use as a basis for an engraving for publication: “I have your note about the 'Two Temples." And in reply to a line from Mrs Briggs have written him concerning the Aside. — About the Daguerreotype, I don’t know a good artist in this rural neighborhood.— Ere long I will send down some other things, to which, I think, no objection will be made on the score of tender consciences of the public.” Published in Horth, pp. 261-262. "The Two Temples" would not appear in print until its inclusion in The Piazza Tales two years later, and an engraving of his portrait never appeared in the pages of Putnam's. Melville was suspicious of photography in its early years. He had refused a similar request from Evert Duyckinck, the editor of Holden's Dollar Magazine, in 1851, dismissing them as nothing more than "intensified vanity." Noting that "almost everybody is having his 'mug' engraved nowadays," to render it commonplace, "to see one's 'mug' in a magazine, is presumptive evidence that he's a nobody." For those reasons, Melville refused to be "oblivionated by a Daguerretype (what a devil of an unspellable word!)" (Ibid., 180). Provenance: Goodspeed's – Paul C. Richards, catalogue 68 (1970), no. 1 – Seven Gables Bookshop – William Stockhausen (his sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 19-20 November 1974, lot 345) – Seven Gables Bookshop – H. Bradley Martin (his sale, Sotheby's, New York, 30-31 January 1990, lot 2169). Exhibited: "A Herman Melville Collection... on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his death, from the collection of William S. Reese," Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, 1991, no. 21.