In today’s reading, Ishmael takes to “The Street,” wandering around New Bedford and marveling at the variety of people that he sees. The chapter paves the way for Ishmael’s later assertion in “The Advocate” that “the cosmopolite philosopher cannot, for his life, point out one single peaceful influence, which within the last sixty years has operated more potentially upon the whole broad world, taken in one aggregate, than the high and mighty business of whaling.” In the streets of New Bedford, he finds an unparalleled collection of people from around the world that easily outstrips London or New York:
In thoroughfares nigh the docks, any considerable seaport will frequently offer to view the queerest looking nondescripts from foreign parts. Even in Broadway and Chestnut streets, Mediterranean mariners will sometimes jostle the affrighted ladies. Regent street is not unknown to Lascars and Malays; and at Bombay, in the Apollo Green, live Yankees have often scared the natives. But New Bedford beats all Water street and Wapping. In these last-mentioned haunts you see only sailors; but in New Bedford, actual cannibals stand chatting at street corners; savages outright; many of whom yet carry on their bones unholy flesh. It makes a stranger stare.
The chapter is read by veteran New Yorker copy editor and blogger Mary Norris. The wonderful representation of Queequeg (2010) is by Timothy Woodman (45 1/2 x 12 1/2 x 5 in. , oil paint on aluminum) and is courtesy of the Albert Merola Gallery, Provincetown, MA, USA. Visit the site to see it in higher resolution.
[Cross-posted with Patell and Waterman’s History of New York]