Herman Melville, Margin Writer

The next prompt in Writing in the Margins is to consider the Magnificat, but mentally, I just can’t make the leap from stink bugs and the locust plague (the theme of my last post) to such a beautiful passage.  Fortunately, there are several examples in this chapter titled “Maginalia and Memos, Scholia and Scribbles” that capture my imagination.  I think maybe I’ll turn my attention to these.

Lisa Nichols Hickman shares the example of Herman Melville’s Bible and the marginal notations found in it.  Before I had children, I struggled through Moby Dick.  There was something unspoken in the text that resonated with me and propelled me forward through the pages—some searching quality.  And I completely and totally identify with the quotation from St. Evremond found in the back of Melville’s Bible:

Who well considers the Christian religion, would think that God meant to keep it in the dark from our understandings, and make it turn upon the motions of our heart.

Melville is a favorite example of mine for saying that everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike, should read the Bible.  Without prior knowledge of the Bible, one can’t even begin to make sense of the very first sentence of Moby Dick:  “Call me Ishmael.”  What inspired me to read Moby Dick in the first place was reading that it is probably the most important American novel, especially in terms of its influence on writers to come.  To be a fully literate reader of Western literature it helps to be Bible literate.

I added the quote from St. Everemond to one of the blank back pages of my Bible along with some quotes from Melville:


Here’s one more Melville quote I feel inspired to share:

To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.

I was thinking just about the same thing as I wrote about stink bugs.


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