Tough review

Joseph C. Hart wrote a bestselling book of the 19th century, Miriam Coffin or The Whale-Fisherman (1835).  It was based, apparently, on real life Nantucket smuggler, war profiteer, and sharp-eyed businesswoman Kezia Coffin (ht Nathaniel Philbrick’s Away Off Shore: Nantucket Island And Its People, 1602-1890).

At the end of the novel, Miriam is instructed by her husband to literally go back to the kitchen where she belongs.

Hart also wrote a book called The Romance of Yachting, which Wikipedia describes “as a narrative of his travels to places that give him occasion for musings on a variety of topics.”

Herman Melville, who was apparently influenced by Miriam Coffin, did not care for this one.  Says Wiki:

Herman Melville scathingly described Hart’s book in his review as “an abortion” which “deserves to be burnt in a fire of asafetida, & by the hand that wrote it.”

Asafoetida is an interesting plant.  Wiki tells us it’s used as an antiflatulent in the Jammu region of India.

Jammu.

I’m guessing it also burns pretty hot?  There’s also this mysterious claim on the asafoetida wiki page:

Penrod, an 11-year-old boy in a 1929 Booth Tarkington story set in the midwestern United States, suffers intensely for being forced to wear a bag of asafoetida on his neck and encounters a girl in the same condition.

You remember Penrod of course:



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