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CAT 20. Stephen Alonzo Schoff & James Duthie after William H. Bartlett. Bethlehem. New York: D. & J. Sadlier & Co., c. 1850s. Melville Memorial Room, Berkshire Athenaeum.

The editors of the NN edition of Clarel were highly appreciative of the degree to which the illustrations in Melville’s copy of Bartlett’s Walks in the City and Environs of Jerusalem enriched the depiction of those environs throughout the poem. Among the engraved illustrations from Walks that they reproduced are The Pool of Siloam, The Garden of Gethsemane, and The Mount of Olives (from the Walls of Jerusalem) (NN C 744, 733). They did not reproduce this striking view of Bethlehem, engraved in New York (which was not included in the original London edition of Walks). In later London editions of Walks, Bartlett provided a detailed description of the image itself, in which a group of Arabs “slowly passed along the stony track” with its “flock of sheep and goats.” Prominent among them, “seated upon a camel, was a dark-eyed woman and her child—her head and breast protected from the sun by a white wrapper, and the rest of her person invested in the broad folds of a blue robe.” Before her is “a young man . . . conducting the camel.” Bartlett’s word picture also calls attention to many other details in the engraved image. The city is seen “at that moment when the last light of the sun rested upon the bold ridge which is covered with its small group of flat-roofed dwellings, massive walls, and heavy buttresses that enclose the fortress-like convent and church of the nativity; and the terraces of fig, and olive trees, and vines, into which the hillside is fashioned. Already sunk in shadow at its foot were the corn-fields, in which imagination pictures Ruth gleaning among the reapers of Boaz—while the long line of the Moab Mountains, the land of her people, seen beyond the Dead Sea, glowed in deep roseate hues” (Bartlett, 2d. ed., 205-6).

The edition of Walks that Melville acquired in 1870 was a revised London edition from the 1860s (Sealts no. 50). Both the words and the engravings in this edition would have been available to him when composing Clarel in the early 1870s. I have not yet been able to establish when he acquired the New York print of Bartlett’s Bethlehem, but it is possible that it was on hand as he composed the poem (especially since each corner has a pinprick indicating it may have been mounted for viewing).[1] When Melville said “Good bye” to Mar Saba in his 1857 journal, he traveled immediately “over lofty hills” to Bethlehem (NN J 84). So do the pilgrims in Clarel. They see the city in words that resonate with both the words of Bartlett’s Walks and the engraving of his Bethlehem:

                          Below, serene
In oliveyards and vineyards fair,
They view a theater pale green
Of terraces, which stair by stair
Rise toward most venerable walls
On summits twin, and one squared heap
Of buttressed masonry based deep
Adown the crag on lasting pedestals. (NN C 4.6. 17-24)

James Duthie and Stephen Alonzo Schoff both worked in New York in the 1850s. Duthie is best known for his illustrations in an 1860 edition of James Fenimore Cooper’s works, Schoff for his folio plate of Caius Marius amidst the Ruins of Carthage after the painting by J. Vanderlyn, to which Melville alludes in “Bartleby, the Scrivener” (NN PTO 27-28; Kelley 121-22, 292n13). D. & J. Sadlier was a New York publisher specializing in religious subjects. The New York Public Library owns a copy of Duthie and Schoff’s engraving of Bartlett’s Bethlehem, attributed to Schoff only, that was published by Samuel Walker, Boston, n.d. (no. 52 in its Print Room card catalog). The library also holds engravings by Schoff of other subjects certain to have been of interest to Melville. In addition to Vanderlyn’s Marius, these include engravings after paintings by Elihu Vedder and John Martin in addition to portraits of Emerson, Goethe, and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s father.

[1] The pinpricks were presumably made by Melville himself, since his inheritors have been highly respectful of the condition in which his prints came down to them.