Melville, in Istanbul, Thought of Brooklyn Heights

Literary blogger Patrick Kurp, in Anecdotal Evidence, quotes Herman Melville from a journal entry written while visiting Istanbul in December of 1856, collected and published in Melville’s Journals (edited by Howard C. Horsford with Lynn Horth, 1989):

Went towards the cemeteries of Pera [“across” in Greek]. Great resort of summer evenings. Bank of the Bosphorous—like the Brooklyn heights. From one point a superb view of Sea of Marmora & Prince Isles & Scutari.

As the photo above shows, the view of the Bosphorous from Istanbul is similar to the view from the Heights in that one looks down at a narrow body of water, well traveled by ships and smaller craft, and at a city across the water. Like the East River, the Bosphorous is a strait connecting two larger bodies of water: in the case of the East River, New York Harbor, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean, and Long Island Sound; in that of the Bosphorous, the Golden Horn, an arm of the Black Sea, and the Sea of Marmara. While there are no turreted castles in Brooklyn Heights, Melville was no doubt viewing from a different vantage point. A point of similarity that did not exist in Melville’s time is the presence of a large suspension bridge.

Melville’s visit to Istanbul occurred during an extended tour he took in 1856-57, perhaps to assuage the disappointment he felt over the indifferent reception given Moby-Dick on its publication five years earlier.

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  • nabeguy

    Wow. Do you think we can get the BHA to change to Promenade to look like that?

  • Claude Scales

    Perhaps, if we can get the dreaded Brooklyn Bridge Park condos to be built as turreted castles with battlements.

  • Jeremy

    As a Brooklyn Heights native, and a current resident of Istanbul I figured I should chime in: I AGREE! Although Melville’s sense of geography makes absolutely no sense, there are parts of Istanbul that really remind me of Brooklyn heights. Specifically, there is a small park in the Bohemian Cihangir neighborhood called “Sanatkarlar Parkı” that really reminds me of the promenade. I recently took a picture of it which you can see here:

  • Claude Scales

    Thanks, Jeremy. Great photos.

  • nabeguy

    Claude, I suspect that the BBP condos will only include ivory towers.

  • Claude Scales

    In the late 1950s there was a popular ballad, sung by Gale Storm, the chorus of which was “Come down, come down from your ivory tower”. At first, I misheard it as “Idlewild Tower”, and thought it was a love song to an air traffic controller.