Reviewers of Hershel Parker's Herman Melville: A Biography, 1851–1891 in the New York Times and other influential papers expressed disbelief that The Isle of the Cross and Poems (1860) had ever existed. In fact, Melville scholars had known much about The Isle of the Cross (but not the name) for decades and since 1922 had known almost everything about Poems. Like these reviewers, many other modern critics no longer perform archival research themselves and fail to acknowledge decades of basic documentary work done on Melville. It is as if critics believe nothing new could have been discovered after 1921, the year of Raymond Weaver's biography of Melville. The consequence of this ignorance, manifest in much literary criticism, is a pernicious distortion of the trajectory of Melville's whole literary career.

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