MELVILLE, Herman. Autograph letter signed ("H. Melville") to Henry Stephens Salt in London; 104 East 26th St., New York, 25 February 1890. 2 pages, 8vo, in dark brown ink on rectos of integral leaves, his direction to Salt on the verso of the first leaf, with the stamped and postmarked envelope addressed by Melville; in fine condition.
Melville writes, toward the end of his life, to an English admirer and supporter, thanking him for a copy of his recently published The Life of James Thomson (London 1889) and responding negatively to the proposal to reprint Typee, Melville's first book. At this time Salt, a biographer and critic, was involved in preparing the Camelot Series (for the Walter Scott publishing firm in London) and hoped to include Typee, his favorite Melville novel. "I have read it [The Life of James Thomson] with the greatest interest, and can sincerely say that I feel under obligations to you as the author of so excellent a biography of a very remarkable poet and man [Melville thought very highly of Thomson's The City of Dreadful Night, calling it the 'modern Book of Job']."
"Concerning 'Typee.' -- As I engaged to do [after receiving the proposal from Salt], I wrote to Mr. [John] Murray [the noted English publisher of his first two books, Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847)]. The information contained in the reply is such, and the manner of conveying it is such, that I consider myself bound, by consideration both of right and courtesy, not to sanction any English issue of the book -- (during my lifetime) other than that of the original purchaser and publisher. -- Were matters otherwise, I should be glad to accede to your proposition, especially as it would put me into such good company as that embraced in the Camelot Series [with authors such as Hazlitt, Landor, Thoreau, Whitman, and Emerson, et al]..." Melville died in 1891, John Murray a year later. In 1893 the Murray firm issued reprints of both Typee and Omoo, each with the same preface by Salt. Correspondence, ed. L. Horth, pp. 522-523; the original of Melville's other letter to Salt (12 January 1890, Horth, pp. 521-522) is unlocated. Melville letters are rare.
Provenance: H. Bradley Martin (sale, Sotheby's New York, Part VI, 30 January 1990, lot 2174).