Moby-Dick, Chapters 51-54

Speaking of Town-Ho’s … (I ask you: what other blog can gracefully segue from Britney’s hoohoo to Moby-Dick?)

Chapters read: li. The Spirit-Spout, lii. The Albatross, liii. The Gam, liv. The Town-Ho’s Story

Page reached: 254 of 522 (48.66%)

Status Report: Okay, now Melville is just taunting me.

In my last report, I said that I might someday cobble together an abridged version of this book. It turns out that Melville has beat me to the punch. Chapter 54: The Town-Ho’s Story is essentially a short story about another ship’s encounter with Moby-Dick. While long by the standard of most other chapters (it is twenty pages in length), it is considerably briefer than the 522 page account of the Pequod, and the author’s subtext appears to be: “Look at me! I can write tight, concise prose! When I feel like it! Which is never!”

It’s also entirely self-contained. So if reading Moby-Dick in its entirely doesn’t appeal to you, but you are curious to know what the book is like, you could read this chapter over a glass of wine or two and come away feeling like you’ve done “the Melville thing.”

Words looked up:

  • Fuller: One who fulls cloth (full: To make a garment full, as by pleating or gathering). From the comments: “Your definition of full is the incorrect meaning in this case: in this context, fulling cloth is to clean and shrink cloth using heat and pressure.” INFORMED!
  • Finical: Finicky
  • Hove: Past tense and past participle of heave.
  • Serried: Pressed or crowded together, especially in rows: troops in serried ranks.
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4 comments.

  1. Although your definition of fuller is correct, your definition of full is the incorrect meaning in this case: in this context, fulling cloth is to clean and shrink cloth using heat and pressure.

  2. you crack me up!

  3. Fulling would best be described as a person who takes wool and creates fabric most commonly known as felt. Fulled wool is used, for example, in Navy Pea Coats.

  4. Heaving and Hove have an important nautical meaning; you can “heave-to” a short by setting some short sails (which sails one sets will vary from ship to ship, but generally the forwardmost sail (jib/genoa) is set and the mainsail reduced or moved out of the wind) which cause the boat to drastically reduce forward motion and increase random drift, essentially parking the ship. You heave-to in foul weather to trade movement for comfort– a ship that is (or has) hove-to is much more comfortable because it has stopped fighting strong seas. Frequently used if only on person on board is good at steering and that person needs a coffee and a pee-break. Can’t be done in a hurricane, really, but it takes the sting out of a 30kt gale or whatnot.

    In modern powerboat context, to heave-to means to stop your vessel, and a hove-to vessel is one that’s stopped by not anchored or moored– adrift perhaps but motor idling.

    But Heave and Hove are also frequently used to mean the usual– throw, shove, chuck, etc.