Draggerman's Haul: The Autobiography of a Fisherman
Ellery's prominence as a subject worthy of The New Yorker, one of nation's best known arbiters of cultural authority, suggested that a fuller narrative might be of interest to the reading public. Three years later, his autobiography, Draggerman's Haul, was brought out by Viking Press, where Ellery was in good company: Viking published such literary stars as John Steinbeck, James Joyce, Graham Greene, Saul Bellow and Jack Kerouac.
The Book of the Month Club newsletter for July, 1950, featured F. Marion Crawford's memoir as governess of Britain's princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, with Draggerman's Haul and other recommended titles given capsule reviews. Ellery's was by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, author and Club selector. She found a lot to like, but a more unlikely juxtaposition in a single newsletter -- famous London royals and a folksy New England fisherman -- can scarcely be imagined.
Nor could there be a greater irony than that Viking editor Robert Ballou, known for his Viking Portable Library Bible and authoritative books on religious topics, found himself working with someone who didn't go to church because he didn't like sermons - but did like "gloomy hymns."
Below: A letter from "Bob" in the Thompson-Krepcio Collection.
Reviews of Haul were favorable and Ellery became something of a literary celebrity. Soon after the book came out, in May of 1950, The Bookshop, a New London cultural fixture run by Stanley and Eleanor Hunnewell, hosted a book signing at the Meridian Street store.
Thirty years later Eleanor Hunnewell wrote Ellery to say she had enjoyed "the enclosed article in The Day" and added, "The first autograph party we gave in the BookShop...was for your Draggerman's Haul. I just re-read it this week."
Below: Two newspaper reviews from the Thompson-Krepcio Collection. (Dates and publications unknown)
Draggerman's "Haul," "Loot" and "Folly"
Like his brother Bernard, the student zoologist we met earlier, Joseph Gordon was a devotee of Ellery's writings and paintings. In the mid-1970s, when Ellery was busily typing his reminiscences for a sequel to Draggerman's Haul and Come Aboard the Draggers, he and Joseph kicked around the idea of a "salty" three-act musical version of the books. Like the planned book, the musical was to be called Draggerman's Loot. Synopses of scenes were assembled, endless revisions made, until it evolved into a four-act show called Draggerman's Folly: "a dramatic comedy with music."
Not surprisingly, Draggerman's Folly never reached the stage. Despite the amusing intentions of the creators, it would have demanded the clear eye of a ruthless editor to reduce the abundance of lively material to manageble length.
Draggerman's Loot as proposed in book form is discussed in a later chapter of this exhibition.
Bernard Gordon, marine scientist, college professor and bookseller, also wore the hat of a publisher. To bring Ellery's book to new generations of readers he took it upon himself to bring out a new edition under his Book & Tackle Shop imprint. Ellery had assigned the copyright to Gordon, and the new edition was published in 1981, thirty-one years after the Viking edition, and reprinted in 1994.
Gordon published a memoir of Ellery in The Log of Mystic Seaport (Fall/Winter, 1989-90) and provided a Foreword to the 2007 Flat Hammock Press edition of Draggerman's Haul.
The third edition of Draggerman's Haul was brought out in 2007 by Mystic's Flat Hammock Press, with a Foreword by Bernard Gordon and a 90-page Afterword by Stephen Jones, then a professor of maritime studies at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point, Groton.
This "expanded" edition also included four chapters from Ellery's other book, Come Aboard the Draggers: "Rum Row" and "Salvaged Crop" (about the Prohibition years), "Rescue," (about rescuing people off Watch Hill, Rhode Island), and "Shipmates" (about some of the crew members who sailed with him over 35 years.)
The cover photograph, likely taken aboard the Eleanor in the 1950s, shows Ellery in the background by the cabin. The net has been hauled up just before dumping the catch on deck.