Riding the Crest of Literary Fame
Ellery subscribed to a clipping service which provided him with newspaper reviews and announcements, mostly from cities and towns on the eastern seaboard where readers would be familiar with the fishing industry. But at least one reviewer was from the Midwest, and the Thompson-Krepcio Collection includes this letter from Kansas:
"I have just finished reading your book...and want to tell you how very much I enjoyed it...Your people, being real, are permitted to remain real in your clothing of words and no one is ever merely a character in a story. I have found pleasure in meeting them all....I belong to a group called the Preview Associates to which The Viking Press sends advance copies for review. [I chose yours] because, though I was born here in the middle of this country of ours, I love everything connected with the sea or ships." ---George Saip, Belleville, Kansas, May 14, 1950
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A clipping from an unidentified newspaper relates that Daniel Merriman, director of the Bingham Oceanographic Laboratory at Yale, was one of those who encouraged "Cap'n Ellery" to take up writing:
"Impressed by the Yankee skipper's way of expressing himself, [Merriman] persuaded him that his stories needed little polishing by professional writers and that he might very well have the makings of an author."
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An unsigned review in an unidentified New London paper said that the writing style of this "seagoing philosopher" reflected "the mood of the author, taking him from lilting, exuberant youth to pensive, sometimes brooding manhood."
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Retail Bookseller, a publication for the book trade, wrote that "with breezy informality, Captain Thompson tells of his own life, recalls anecdotes and salty fisherman humor and exciting adventures at sea."
The Durham Herald (North Carolina) wrote that Draggerman "is one of the most original autobiographies that has been produced in many years," while the Philadelphia Forum emphasized its humor in Elleryesque terms: "...a salty, eminently satisfying and chuckle-filled autobiography of a Connecticut fishing captain warranted to tickle the fins of seadog and landlubber alike."
A Note about the Thompson-Krepcio Collection: The trove of documents preserved since Ellery's death by Marion Krepcio is, for the most part, material accumulated by Ellery after he went "onto the beach," as he was fond of saying, putting the arduous fishing life behind him. The casual disarray in which Ellery's visitors found his typescripts and other papers may explain why many items are undated, stained or incomplete, but one is grateful that most of it was rescued for posterity.
From Ellery's Library: Another Skipper from Stonington
Theda Kenyon's fictional account of the seafaring career of Richard Fanning Loper (1800-1880) was given to Ellery by a friend who knew him as a "New London" skipper even though most of his fishing career was based at the Stonington docks. Her inscription probably refers to Ellery's multi-faceted career:
"To the Skipper from New London and Mystic, etc.....dear Ellery...the only Skipper who survived to write about it, and paint it, and talk it. Thanks for your friendship, Natalie"
Ellery would have appreciated Loper's maritime adventures: to sea in 1810 as a 10-year old stowaway aboard a whaler; sailing coastal trading schooners; second mate with Capt. Nathaniel Palmer off Antarctica in 1820 (the first Americans to see that coastline); finally a successful shipbuilder and designer whose New York Yacht Club schooner Magic successfully defended the America's Cup in 1870.