Smooth Sailing: Exploring Cornell & Diehl's Melville at Sea Series
Every generation has its literary titans who create works that speak deeply to their respective age in the language of the day. Within that milieu are voices whose words resonate through the ages, while the rest, though talented, are eventually relegated to obscurity outside academic circles. Even among the few who retain a following after their deaths, there are some who don't gain such attention in life. Whose work will last is impossible to know, as Herman Melville's story powerfully and tragically relates. Arguably the greatest novelist of his time, Melville endured scorn from many critics of his day, finding widespread recognition only after his death in 1891.
While Melville's course was far from smooth, the experience of reading his work is both thrilling and contemplative, not unlike a truly excellent bowl of tobacco. In honor of Melville's genius, Cornell & Diehl created the Melville at Sea series of pipe tobaccos, each a subtle and engaging mixture named after one of the giant's works. Billy Budd, and its Blonde companion, Redburn, and John Marr each offer a unique smoking experience, while calling to mind the unforgettable characters and stories of Melville's work.
Billy Budd and Billy Budd Blonde
Billy Budd, Sailor (An Inside Narrative) is a novella, or short novel, that Herman Melville left unfinished at the end of his life. The manuscript for Billy Budd was in a state of disarray when Melville died. His wife, Elizabeth, made the first attempts to organize it, which were completed by later editors. The narrative follows the titular Budd, a sailor forced into service on a military vessel, who finds conflict with another seaman, though most of the crew adores him. During a confrontation, Budd strikes the man, accidentally killing him, for which he is hanged as a mutineer despite all being convinced of his innocence of the charge. Upon its publication in 1924, it was hailed as a masterpiece by many, the equal of Moby Dick, and has long engaged readers and scholars with its complex and ultimately ambiguous themes.
C&D's Billy Budd mirrors the novella's complexity, comprising an eclectic mixture of Latakia, Virginias, Burley, and cigar leaf that harmonize to create a rich, full-bodied smoke sure to keep one's attention. Billy Budd is also offered in a lighter variation dubbed Billy Budd Blonde, which adds a dash of black Cavendish with a subtle, sweet top note, creating an easy-smoking blend that's perfect to accompany a good book.
While many readers are familiar with Herman Melville as a novelist, he also wrote several books of poetry. John Marr and Other Sailors was a volume that Melville published at his own expense, printing only 25 copies that were likely intended as gifts for family and friends during a period when the author had been largely forgotten in the literary world. The titular poem is a reflection on a sailor's time at sea, imagining the seamen in their occupation in a mode that might be called maritime pastoralism. Melville himself was employed as a sailor, and his fixation with the sea is a uniting motif in much of his work. One could imagine the speaker in the poem is Melville himself, remembering the comrades of his youthful adventures.
As a pipe blend, John Marr is the series' only proper aromatic, combining a base of Virginias with portions of Perique, Burley, Orientals, and Black Cavendish topped with flavors of bourbon and vanilla. This heady mixture captures the tone of the poem beautifully, calling to mind the better days of old, and the long-absent companions of youth.
Redburn: His First Voyage was Melville's fourth book to be published, and one of his few works to receive favorable reviews in its day. It takes a more humorous look at the rough life of Victorian sailors, following the titular Redburn, a young man from a well-off family, as he signs on for a voyage on a merchant ship from New York to Liverpool. Redburn learns the sailor's trade in hard, yet amusing experiences, and comes face to face with the brutal poverty of 19th century Liverpool. Melville notably despised Redburn, even as critics praised the novel, writing of it,"I, the author, know [it] to be trash, & wrote it to buy some tobacco with."
The novel's reception, and Melville's personal assessment of it, crystallize the unenviable situation in which he found himself. The author went on to say of his career, "what I feel most moved to write, that is banned—it will not pay ... yet, altogether, write the other way I cannot ... so the product is a final hash, and all my books are botches." While Melville was ashamed of Redburn, it has remained popular among aficionados of his work and highly esteemed among scholars and critics of later generations.
In C&D's Melville at Sea series, Redburn is the most robust and full-bodied of the line-up, as well as the only blend offered in crumble cake form. The mixture combines a selection of light and dark Burleys with Red and Bright Virginias and Dark-Fired Kentucky, which are then topped with subtle essences of rum and molasses, creating a robust, yet complex smoking experience perhaps best enjoyed in a hammock belowdecks.
Cornell & Diehl's Melville at Sea series is a unique line of tobaccos that incorporate the best of expert blending techniques and literary inspiration to provide smokers with experiences drawn from the pages of one the great masters of American letters that can stand on their own as great blends. Like Melville's works, these blends will continue to impress for years to come.
Portrait of Herman Melville by Artur Lopes
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