CR Episode 184: Moby Dick, Part X

Moby Dick: The Honor and Glory of Whaling, by Rockwell Kent
Moby Dick: The Honor and Glory of Whaling, by Rockwell Kent

Download Link: Released on 17 July 2023

The panel discusses chapters 82–90, with attention given to humour as a potential coping mechanism for Ishmael, before considering again the evidence for his identity, given his familiarity with significant legal works including Bracton and Blackstone.


  1. Hi Dr. C. and Dr. K.,

    A few thoughts on the chapters . . .

    The Honour and Glory of Whaling

    The Age of the Dragons is a 2011 sci-fi movie based on Moby Dick starring Danny Glover as Ahab who searches for a white dragon that scorched him. When I first heard about the movie, it seemed ridiculous. However, having read this chapter again, it is Ishmael who makes the equivalence between whales and dragons. I haven’t seen the movie, but I would very much love a Substack essay about how much of the book it gets right!

    The Fountain

    One of my favorite lines from Moby Dick ends with – “that all this should be, and yet, that down to this blessed minute (fifteen and a quarter minutes past one o’clock P.M. of this sixteenth day of December, A.D. 1850), it should still remain a problem, whether these spoutings are, after all, really water, or nothing but vapor-this is surely a noteworthy thing.” By being personally addressed by the author to “Call me Ishmael” and by him sharing this very specific information, I feel a connection to Ishmael as a real person. I think this chapter is also another peek into post-Pequod Ishmael. I imagine that he only became obsessed with whales after seeing them in the wild and that this experience inspires him to see if he also has a vaporous spout when pondering heavy thoughts in his “thin shingled attic” in August.

    But does Ishmael write this chapter in 1850 or 1851? The first British edition used 1850, whereas the first American edition used 1851. Since Moby Dick was printed in late 1851, Ishmael could only be writing this chapter in December 1851 if he is a time traveler. It is interesting that some current editions favor the sci-fi 1851 date (e.g. the beautifully illustrated Rockwell Kent and Raymond Bishop editions) whereas others use 1850 (e.g. the Arion Press edition). It is curious that Melville would have written this line which connects the reader to Ishmael, but would then negate the realness of the moment by selecting an impossible date. Any ideas why he would do this? Presumably the publishers that use 1851 think this was Melville’s intent. [For interested listeners, there is information about the many versions of Moby Dick at the Herman Melville Electronic Library site.]

    Queequeg’s mark – revisited. The differences in how versions of the book show Queequeg’s mark – i.e. the Rockwell Kent drawing or various cross like symbols – also remind readers that there is not a single universally agreed upon text. Today is World Emoji Day and I recently learned that the Moby Dick has been “translated” into emojis as “EmojiDick” (text available on-line). Although it loses almost everything in translation, I am sure Ishmael would have used emojis. What could express the sinking of the Pequod better than a few frowny faces?! And – is not Queequeg’s mark an emoji (Japanese meaning a “picture character”)? Should Melville be credited with being an early adopter of emojis into English literature?

    Also – looking forward to more Star Trek content with Captain James and Captain Jean Luc!

    O< O< O<


  2. Bravo, gentlemen! To me, you are the “Click and Clack” of literature. I finished reading Moby Dick about a month ago (to be honest, I was listening to the audiobook, wonderfully read by Jonathan Epstein). I have since been enjoying your podcast and re-listening to the book while I explore the TV/movie interpretations. Keep up the good work.

  3. About “The Fountain” chapter 85 where Ishmael gives the time, day, and year of his composing it… As Susan points out, the American edition has Ishmael writing in December 1851, an impossible year since the book was already in print by the middle of November. Around that time “The Fountain” was reprinted from the 1st American edition in several different New York periodicals. Newspaper and magazine versions of “The Fountain” tried to fix Ishmael’s faulty date by changing the MONTH from December to October. For example, the Troy NY Daily Whig of November 15, 1851 has Ishmael writing precisely at “fifteen and a quarter minutes past one o’clock P. M. of this sixteenth day of October, A. D. 1851.” Images of newspaper versions here:

    October instead of December. I can’t help wondering who made this particular revision to Melville’s text. A clever editor, or the author himself?

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