Raymond Weaver’s 1921 biography Herman Melville: Mariner and Mystic helped to start the Melville Revival of the 1920s that led to the author’s current preeminent standing among American writers. Weaver would go on to edit the first published version of Melville’s Billy Budd, which was discovered among the author’s papers in 1924.
Today’s Knickerbocker sighting comes from a letter that Weaver quotes. In August 1826, Melville, who had just turned seven, was sent by his parents to stay with his uncle, Peter Gansevoort. Allan Melvill wrote this letter to his brother-in-law:
I now consign to your especial care & patronage my beloved son Herman, an honest hearted double-rooted Knickerbocker of the true Albany stamp, who, I trust, will do equal honour in due time to ancestry, parentage & kindred. He is very backward in speech & somewhat slow in comprehension, but you will find him as far as he understands men and things both solid & profound & of a docile & amiable disposition. If agreeable, he will pass the vacation with his grandmother & yourself & I hope he may prove a pleasant auxiliary to the Family circle — I depend much on your kind attention to our dear Boy who will be truly grateful to the least favour — let him avoid green fruit & unseasonable exposure to the Sun & heat, and having taken such good care of Gansevoort last Summer I commit his Brother to the same hands with unreserved confidence & with love to our good mother and yourself in which Maria, Mary & the children most cordially join I remain very truly
Your Friend & Brother,
Allan added a postscript in pencil to the reverse of the letter:
Have the goodness to procure a pair of shoes for Herman, time being insufficient to have a pair made here.