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Hawthorne at Salem

Hawthorne in Salem

Melville

Introduction to Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne

Material prepared by:
John W. Stuart, Ph.D., Department of English 
Manchester-Essex Regional High School, Manchester, MA

 

Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861
Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861(courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
 

 

Melville's "Hawthorne and His Mosses" and Moby Dick

Hawthorne is widely credited with having contributed to Melville's inspiration for transforming the early drafts of the sea adventure The Whale into the massive, eloquent, insightful masterpiece of a novel that is Moby-Dick. The novel's dedication to Hawthorne is one indication of the senior author's role as mentor. Certainly Melville's accolades for his colleague in the review "Hawthorne and His Mosses" leave no doubt about his admiration for Hawthorne's literary talents and his fascination with the New Englander's enigma. The parallels which Melville's review cites between Hawthorne and Shakespeare, and implicitly between himself and Shakespeare, also testify to the genius of the observed writer as well as the observing one. With all these points well-established, a case can further be made that within Moby-Dick at least one oblique reference serves to reiterate them. It is in Captain Ahab's Shakespearean-like "soliloquy" to the whale's head that the conjoined terms "venerable," "mosses," "secret," and "deepest" suggest a second purpose in the speech as another tribute from Melville to Hawthorne.

Melville, Hawthorne, and The Blithedale Romance

Melville's influence upon Hawthorne did not manifest itself in a book dedication or review, but internal evidence in The Blithedale Romance agrees with other sources that the older author, Hawthorne, also valued the younger one highly. Appearing in 1852, one year after Moby-DickThe Blithedale Romance follows Melville's powerful example of Ishamel's first person narration with that of another young male character who also embarks upon an adventure-- Hawthorne's Miles Coverdale. Just as Ishmael's experience on a whaler reflects Melville's, Coverdale's Blithedale (meaning Happy Valley) similarly recalls Hawthorne's time at Brook Farm. In fact, some of Coverdale's narration comes almost verbatim from Hawthorne's Brook Farm journal. As Coverdale serves to some extent as a "cover" for his creator, the other major male character in Blithedale, Hollingsworth, shares a number of remarkable similarities with Herman Melville; and the relationship between the two characters provides a rich source of speculation about the nature of the relationship between Hawthorne and Melville.

Literary Works Related to Melville and Hawthorne

Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861
Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861(courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
 

 

 

  • Excerpts from Melville's Moby-Dick, first the dedication of the novel to Hawthorne, then a passage from the seventieth chapter "The Sphynx" in which Captain Ahab's soliloquy-like address to a whale's head exhibits language clues that permit a second interpretation of the passage as further tribute to Hawthorne. The term "mosses" alludes to Melville's review "Hawthorne and His Mosses" for Hawthorne's collection of stories Mosses from an Old Manse; the Shakespearean form of soliloquy echoes Melville's connection of Hawthorne and Shakespeare in that review; the references to "The Sphynx" and "the secret thing that is in thee" parallel Melville's repeated observations of Hawthorne's possessing a "secret," the knowledge of which would shed light upon his works; and the words of praise "venerable", "mighty", and "deepest" in this context suggest that Moby Dick's author intended his masterpiece as an offerering to his beloved Hawthorne more than is generally recognized:

     

  • Excerpt from Hawthorne's "The Old Manse" in Mosses from an Old Manse in which the term "mosses" is clarified in reference to the qualities of the mosses on the walls of the house, the significance of the term lying not only in its use in the title of the collection of short stories but also Melville's use of it in his review of that work and elsewhere.

     

  • In the following excerpts from Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance, the Hawthorne-like character, poet and narrator Miles Coverdale, and the Melville-like character, passionate monomaniac Hollingsworth suggest Melville's influence on the novel. The first person narrator, a young man who joins a major enterprise with mostly adventure-seeking motives, certainly calls to mind narrator Ishmael in Melville's Moby-Dick. The dark and brawny Hollingsworth, bearing a physical resemblance to Melville, cares for Coverdale and seeks his partnership, moreover, in an intensity that seems to parallel Melville's evident affection for and desire for intimacy with Hawthorne. The sharp, mysterious break in the relationships between the two authors and the fictional pair constitute yet another likeness.
  • Excerpts from A Tanglewood Tale by Juliane Glantz and Stephen Glantz copyright 2001 (courtesy of Juliane and Stephen Glantz)

    The play dramatizes the developing friendship of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville during the 1850-1851 period when both authors resided in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. In spite of their strong attraction to each other, they become estranged by fundamental differences. Puritan-in-spite-of himself, Hawthorne is pressed too far when worldly former whaler Melville becomes explicit about shipboard liaisons with fellow sailors. Though the play suggests Hawthorne is curious about same sex relations, the reserved New Englander flees Melville and the Berkshires rather than pursue the subject.

  • Excerpt from The Scarlet Letter Chapter 14 and Excerpts from Chapters 11 and 13 of Herman Melville's Billy Budd, Sailor, (An Inside Narrative) (courtesy of http://books.mirror.org/melville/billybudd.txt)

    In this long passage from The Scarlet Letter, Roger Chillingworth not only admits to becoming the demon who has tormented Arthur Dimmesdale beyond reason, but recognizes as well that he has no power to pardon, that is, no power to alter the evil that has grown in him. For Chillingworth the evil is the same as fate, a darkness out of his control that he must, of necessity, act out. Melville's John Claggart, the villain of Herman Melville's Billy Budd, Sailor, is described in strikingly similar, if more elaborated, terms. Like Chillingworth, he cannot "annul the elemental evil in him" and so must act out his dark part.

  • Echoes of Hawthorne in Melville's Billy Budd: an essay by Dr. John W. Stuart, Department of English, Manchester-Essex Regional High School, Manchester, MA, prepared for the Hawthorne in Salem Website, November 2003

    Melville's novelette Billy Budd connects with Hawthorne in several respects: I.) an allusion to Hawthorne's short story "The Birthmark"; II.) tensions of same sex relationships that mirror situations in both the real lives and fictional narratives of Hawthorne and Melville; and III.) a preoccupation with the nature of evil, an ongoing subject of fascination for both authors.

  • Full Text of Preface to Mosses from an Old Manse

     

  • Full text of "Hawthorne and His Mosses" - Review of Mosses from an Old Manse by Herman Melville.

Original Documents Related to Melville and Hawthorne

Title Page of First Edition of <I>Moby-Dick</I>
Title Page of First Edition of Moby-Dick 
On display in "The Age of Moby-Dick" exhibit in the Maritime Section of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Journal of Melville's whaling ship <I>Acushnet</I> 1845-1847
Journal of Melville's whaling ship Acushnet 1845-1847 
On display in "The Age of Moby-Dick" exhibit, Maritime Section, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA. (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Entry of 11 July 1842 in journal of the ship <I>Potomac</I>
Entry of 11 July 1842 in journal of the ship Potomac
Entry is regarding Acushnet deserters in the Marquesas [which would have included Melville], courtesy of Peter Black, in "The Age of Moby-Dick" exhibit, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA. (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Cover of Hawthorne's <I/>Mosses From An Old Manse</I>
Cover of Hawthorne's Mosses From An Old Manse
"Salem Edition," published in 1893 by Houghton, Mifflin and Company, The Riverside Press, Cambridge.  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
<I>Mosses From an Old Manse</I>
Mosses From an Old Manse
This elaborately illustrated title page graces the 1893 or 1894 Henry Altemus edition of Mosses From an Old Manse.

Images Related to Melville and Hawthorne


Melville
Books & Illustrations
Works of Art
Objects
Theatrical Productions
Lenox & Mount Greylock
Arrowhead

Melville

Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861
Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861
 (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)

Books & Illustrations

Title Page of First Edition of <I>Moby-Dick</I>
Title Page of First Edition of Moby-Dick 
On display in "The Age of Moby-Dick" exhibit in the Maritime Section of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Journal of Melville's whaling ship <I>Acushnet</I> 1845-1847
Journal of Melville's whaling ship Acushnet 1845-1847 
On display in "The Age of Moby-Dick" exhibit, Maritime Section, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA. (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Entry of 11 July 1842 in journal of the ship <I>Potomac</I>
Entry of 11 July 1842 in journal of the ship Potomac
Entry is regarding Acushnet deserters in the Marquesas [which would have included Melville], courtesy of Peter Black, in "The Age of Moby-Dick" exhibit, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA. (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Whale Chart
Whale Chart
Whale Chart, 1851, prepared by Lieutenant Matthew Fontaine Maury, based upon reports by whalers in all the world's seas. 

Works of Art

\"Cachalot Fishery \"1824
"Cachalot Fishery "1824
Lithograph of sperm whaling "Cachalot Fishery 1824," that is described extensively in Moby-Dick and singled out in Moby-Dick as "by far the finest, though in some details not the most correct, presentation of whales and whaling scenes to be anywhere found."  (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
\"Attacking the Right Whale\" by Ambroise Louis Garneray
"Attacking the Right Whale" by Ambroise Louis Garneray
Oil painting with ship by French artist Ambroise Louis Garneray [whom Melville praises in Moby-Dick]"Attacking the Right Whale," ca. 1835, source for Currier and Ives prints and others (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Unidentified picture of White-whale (Great-Headed Cachalot), ca. 1870
Unidentified picture of White-whale (Great-Headed Cachalot), ca. 1870 
This picture of a White-whale may be a reference to Moby-Dick (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
\"Uses of the Sperm Whale,\" 1844
"Uses of the Sperm Whale," 1844
Lithograph with images of the uses surrounding a depiction of a whale hunt 
\"Uses of the Baleen Whale,\" 1844
"Uses of the Baleen Whale," 1844
Lithograph that includes images of umbrella ribs and corset stays surrounding a depiction of Eskimos eating whale meat 
Embroidered ship portrait or \"woolie\"
Embroidered ship portrait or "woolie" 
Embroidered ship portrait or "woolie" from the mid-19th century. 
Pastoral Canvas-work Picture, 1735-1750
Pastoral Canvas-work Picture, 1735-1750
Mid-18th century Pastoral Canvas-work picture by Sarah Ropes of Salem, depicting birds, ladies, and livestock. 
Pastoral Canvas-work Picture, 1750-1780
Pastoral Canvas-work Picture, 1750-1780
Mid-18th century Pastoral Canvas-work picture by unidentified Salem or Boston artist, depicting lady, gentleman, and flower. 
Pastoral Canvas-work Picture, ca. 1765
Pastoral Canvas-work Picture, ca. 1765
Pastoral Canvas work picture of ca. 1765 by Sarah Chamberlain, depicting lady, dog, and birds. 
1822 Sampler
1822 Sampler
1822 Sampler by Sarah Prescott of Westford (Forge Village), Massachusetts, depicting trees and grapevines and a floral vine border surrounding an acrostic verse for "virtue." 
1788 Sampler
1788 Sampler
1788 Sampler by Sally Rust of Salem, depicting lady, gentleman, sheep, and landscape. 
1778 Sampler
1778 Sampler
1778 Sampler by Nabby Mason Peele, depicting, in characteristic work of Essex County, Massachusetts, lady, gentleman, sheep, and such phrasing as "Beneath the slaughtered lamb inscribed." 
Contemplation by the Shore
Contemplation by the Shore
Oil on wood fireboard: "Contemplation by the Shore, 1790," with romanticized New England shore, grazing sheep, a fisherman, ships, and a lady with a dog. 

Objects

Sperm whale jaw
Sperm whale jaw 
On display in maritime section of Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Model of Try-works
Model of Try-works
Model of Try-works, the brick ovens used on whaling ships for reducing blubber. Model built by Salem brick mason Anthony Della Monica ca. 1936. 
Ambergris
Ambergris
Sample of ambergris, the waxy substance from some sperm whales' intestines used as a fixative for perfume and also as medicine and flavoring, sometimes more valuable than whale oil. 
Shipboard lamp
Shipboard lamp
Shipboard lamp used on early 19th century New Bedford whaler. The lamp is on a swinging stand in order to remain level at sea. 
Crude and Refined Sperm Whale Oil
Crude and Refined Sperm Whale Oil
Two clear glass containers of "Crude and Refined Sperm Whale Oil," specimens from a New Bedford producer in 1909. The unrefined oil has crystalized wax near the surface; the refined was used for lubrication and in lamps. 
Umbrella with Baleen Ribs
Umbrella with Baleen Ribs
A late 19th century umbrella with baleen ribs from a baleen whale. 
French corset, ca. 1893
French corset, ca. 1893
Late 19th century French corset with strips of baleen or "whalebone" sewn into its hourglass frame.  
Scrimshawed whale's teeth
Scrimshawed whale's teeth
Mid-19th century matching pair of scrimshawed whale's teeth depicting ships. 
Embroidered sailor's pants
Embroidered sailor's pants 
Sailor's pants embroidered by Rhode Island sailor on voyage from New England to the South Pacific, designs perhaps based upon South Pacific people's tattoo patterns. 
1771 Salem Weathercock
1771 Salem Weathercock
1771 Salem Weathercock of gilded copper with glass eyes, a symbol of vigilance but also of betrayal of Christ. 

Theatrical Productions

\"A Tanglewood Tale,\" a play about the relationship between Hawthorne and Melville inthe Berkshires by Juliane and Stephen Glantz
"A Tanglewood Tale," a play about the relationship between Hawthorne and Melville inthe Berkshires by Juliane and Stephen Glantz
Publicity photo of Dan McCleary as Herman Melville, seated, and James Goodwin Rice as Nathaniel Hawthorne, standing, in Shakespeare and Company's 2001 production of "A Tanglewood Tale." (courtesy of Shakespeare and Company)
\"A Tanglewood Tale,\" a play about the relationship between Hawthorne and Melville in the Berkshires by Juliane and Stephen Glantz
"A Tanglewood Tale," a play about the relationship between Hawthorne and Melville in the Berkshires by Juliane and Stephen Glantz
Publicity photo of Dan McCleary as Herman Melville and James Goodwin Rice as Nathaniel Hawthorne, both standing, in Shakespeare and Company's 2001 production of "A Tanglewood Tale."  (courtesy of Shakespeare and Company)
\"A Tanglewood Tale,\" a play about the relationship between Hawthorne and Melville in the Berkshires by Juliane and Stephen Glantz
"A Tanglewood Tale," a play about the relationship between Hawthorne and Melville in the Berkshires by Juliane and Stephen Glantz
Publicity photo of Dan McCleary as Herman Melville and James Goodwin Rice as Nathaniel Hawthorne as they celebrate the publication of "Moby-Dick" at the Curtis Hotel, Lenox, in Shakespeare and Company's 2001 production of "A Tanglewood Tale." (courtesy of Shakespeare and Company)
\"A Tanglewood Tale,\" a play about the relationship between Hawthorne and Melville in the Berkshires by Juliane and Stephen Glantz
"A Tanglewood Tale," a play about the relationship between Hawthorne and Melville in the Berkshires by Juliane and Stephen Glantz
Close-up publicity photo of James Goodwin Rice as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Dan McCleary as Herman Melville in Shakespeare and Company's 2001 production of "A Tanglewood Tale." (courtesy of Shakespeare and Company)
\"A Tanglewood Tale,\" a play about the relationship between Hawthorne and Melville in the Berkshires by Juliane and Stephen Glantz
"A Tanglewood Tale," a play about the relationship between Hawthorne and Melville in the Berkshires by Juliane and Stephen Glantz
Long-shot of publicity photo of James Goodwin Rice as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Dan McCleary as Herman Melville in Shakespeare and Company's 2001 production of "A Tanglewood Tale." (courtesy of Shakespeare and Company)

Lenox & Mount Greylock

Tanglewood Plaque Commemorating House Where Hawthorne Lived While in the Berkshires
Tanglewood Plaque Commemorating House Where Hawthorne Lived While in the Berkshires
Tanglewood plaque commemorating the house where Hawthorne lived from the spring of 1850 to the autumn of 1851 while in the Berkshires. It is here that he wrote The House of the Seven Gables and The Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys and where his daughter, Rose, was born. The house was destroyed by fire in June, 1890. (courtesy of Halldor F. Utne)
Tanglewood Plaque Commemorating House Where Hawthorne Lived While in the Berkshires
Tanglewood Plaque Commemorating House Where Hawthorne Lived While in the Berkshires
Tanglewood plaque commemorating the house where Hawthorne lived from the spring of 1850 to the autumn of 1851 while in the Berkshires. It is here that he wrote The House of the Seven Gables and The Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys and where his daughter, Rose, was born. The house was destroyed by fire in June, 1890. (courtesy of Halldor F. Utne)
The rebuilt version of \"The Little Red House\" at Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts
The rebuilt version of "The Little Red House" at Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts
Hawthorne began his self-imposed exile from Salem in the spring of 1850 when he and his family moved to the original "Little Red House" in Lenox, MA, which burned down in 1890. He and his family lived there until Nov. 21, 1851. (photography by Rich Murphy)
The rebuilt version of \"The Little Red House\" at Tanglewood in Lenox Massachusetts
The rebuilt version of "The Little Red House" at Tanglewood in Lenox Massachusetts
Hawthorne began his self-imposed exile from Salem in the spring of 1850 when he and his family moved to the original "Little Red House" in Lenox, MA, which burned down in 1890. He and his family lived there until Nov. 21, 1851. (photography by Rich Murphy)
The Rebuilt Version of \"The Little Red House\" at Tanglewood in Lenox, MA
The Rebuilt Version of "The Little Red House" at Tanglewood in Lenox, MA
Hawthorne began his self-imposed exile from Salem in the spring of 1850 when he and his family moved to the original "Little Red House" in Lenox, MA, which burned down in 1890. He and his family lived there until Nov. 21, 1851. (courtesy of Halldor F. Utne)
The rebuilt version of the Little Red House at Tanglewood in Lenox, MA
The rebuilt version of the Little Red House at Tanglewood in Lenox, MA
Hawthorne began his self-imposed exile from Salem in the spring of 1850 when he and his family moved to the original "Little Red House" in Lenox, MA, which burned down in 1890. He and his family lived there until Nov. 21, 1851. (courtesy of Halldor F. Utne)
The rebuilt version of \"The Little Red House\" at Tanglewood in Lenox, MA
The rebuilt version of "The Little Red House" at Tanglewood in Lenox, MA
Hawthorne began his self-imposed exile from Salem in the spring of 1850 when he and his family moved to the original "Little Red House" in Lenox, MA, which burned down in 1890. He and his family lived there until Nov. 21, 1851. (courtesy of Halldor F. Utne)
Mount Greylock, outside North Adams, MA
Mount Greylock, outside North Adams, MA
This 3,491 foot peak is the highest point in Massachusetts. Melville could see it through his study window at Arrowhead, and the mountain reminded him of a whale. (photography by Rich Murphy)
Mount Greylock, outside North Adams, MA
Mount Greylock, outside North Adams, MA
This 3,491 foot peak is the highest point in Massachusetts. Melville could see it through his study window at Arrowhead, and the mountain reminded him of a whale. (photography by Rich Murphy)
Mount Greylock, outside North Adams, MA
Mount Greylock, outside North Adams, MA
This 3,491 foot peak is the highest point in Massachusetts. Melville could see it through his study window at Arrowhead, and the mountain reminded him of a whale. (photography by Rich Murphy)
Mount Greylock, outside North Adams, MA
Mount Greylock, outside North Adams, MA
This 3,491 foot peak is the highest point in Massachusetts. Melville could see it through his study window at Arrowhead, and the mountain reminded him of a whale. (photography by Rich Murphy)

Arrowhead

Arrowhead, Melville's house in Pittsfield, MA
Arrowhead, Melville's house in Pittsfield, MA
While living in the Berkshires, Hawthorne visited Melville at Arrowhead. (photography by David McClure)
Side view of Arrowhead, Melville's home in Pittsfield, MA
Side view of Arrowhead, Melville's home in Pittsfield, MA
While living in the Berkshires, Hawthorne visited Melville at Arrowhead. (photography by David McClure)

Critical Commentary Related to Melville and Hawthorne

 

Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861
Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861(courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
 

 

  • Excerpts from Melville, Herman. "Hawthorne and His Mosses". 1850. In these excerpts, Melville expresses his passionately reverential response to Hawthorne's collection of short stories  Mosses from an Old Manse. In the course of doing so, he repeatedly refers to the term mosses and compares the enigmatic Hawthorne to Shakespeare.

     

  • Excerpts from the lecture "Hawthorne and Melville", by David B. Kesterson , from the section: Literary Interaction and Influences: Melville's Reviews of Hawthorne's Works delivered in Salem, Massachusetts, September 23, 2000, at the Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

     

  • Excerpts from James R. Mellow's Nathaniel Hawthorne in His Times Hawthorne biographer James R. Mellow examines the internal evidence for the sexual tension between Coverdale and Hollingsworth in The Blithedale Romance as a possible parallel for elements in the personal relationship between Hawthorne and Melville.

     

  • Excerpts from Edwin Haviland Miller's Salem Is My Dwelling Place: A Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne Hawthorne biographer Edwin Haviland Miller examines imagery in Melville's review of Hawthorne's  Mosses from an Old Manse as indicative of sexual tension in the personal relationship between the two authors.

     

  • Excerpts from the lecture "The Meanings of Hawthorne's Women," by Smith College Professor Richard H. Millington, presented at the House of the Seven Gables Historic Site (Turner House), Salem, Massachusetts, 8 September 2000 Professor Millington's lecture "The Meanings of Hawthorne's Women" connects most clearly with the relationship between Hawthorne and Melville when he notes that "Melville's famous label-'Hawthorne: a Problem'-seems to belong with special force to this whole question of identification with women-of vicarious femininity or feminism in Hawthorne's work." While Millington necessarily leaves open many of the questions that can be raised about his topic, he persuasively shows that Hawthorne identified in many ways with women in his work whereas he lacked any corresponding advocacy for women in the real world. The following excerpts from Millington's lecture develop the concept of Hawthorne's "imaginary femininity."

     

  • Excerpt from Hawthorne: A Life by Brenda Wineapple In this passage from Wineapple's 2003 biography of Hawthorne, she discusses Melville's and Hawthorne's shared interest in the sea but also contrasts "the coxswain…come back to tell all, striding off the gangplank" with the writer who was a "dry-docked Custom House inspector (223). (courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf)

Multimedia Related to Melville and Hawthorne

Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861
Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861(courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
 
  • Audio excerpts from the lecture "The Meanings of Hawthorne's Women," by Smith College Professor Richard H. Millington, presented at the House of the Seven Gables Historic Site (Turner House), Salem, Massachusetts, 8 September 2000

     

    Professor Millington's lecture "The Meanings of Hawthorne's Women" connects most clearly with the relationship between Hawthorne and Melville when he notes that "Melville's famous label-'Hawthorne: a Problem'-seems to belong with special force to this whole question of identification with women-of vicarious femininity or feminism in Hawthorne's work." While Millington necessarily leaves open many of the questions that can be raised about his topic, he persuasively shows that Hawthorne identified in many ways with women in his work whereas he lacked any corresponding advocacy for women in the real world. The following excerpts from Millington's lecture develop the concept of Hawthorne's "imaginary femininity."

     

  • Excerpt from lecture, "Hawthorne and Melville" by David B. Kesterson, delivered in Salem, Massachusetts on September 23, 2000
      Here David Kesterson comments upon the fact that it was Hawthorne's fascination with and exploration of the idea of evil that so captivated the younger Herman Melville. In Melville's comments, Kesterson captures Melville's idea that no "deeply thinking mind" is ever completely free from a consideration of evil.

Websites Related to Melville and Hawthorne

 

Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861
Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861(courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
 

 

  • Herman Melville's Arrowhead  This site, run by the Berkshire County Historical Society, offers information about and pictures of Arrowhead, home of Herman Melville from 1850-1863. Melville was living at Arrowhead when he met Hawthorne in August of 1850 on a picnic on Monument Mountain, and Hawthorne visited Melville there. It was at Arrowhead, too, that Melville wrote his most famous work,  Moby-Dick. Arrowhead is now a museum owned and operated by the Berkshire County Historical Society, a non-profit corporation.
  • The Life and Works of Herman Melville 
     
  • Herman Melville (1819-1891) This site, with links to critical commentary on Melville, is maintained by Gonzaga University.

Learning Activities Related to Melville and Hawthorne

Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861
Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861(courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
 

1.) Students studying The Blithedale Romance can view these images of fabric pastorals from the Peabody-Essex Museum and respond to the questions that follow:

Questions related to these fabric pastorals:

a.) Make connections between the scenes depicted and the name "Blithedale" (meaning Happy Valley).
b.) List ways the pastorals contrast with the Blithedale revealed in the novel.
c.) Explain the extent to which the images and the novel demonstrate Romantic views of nature.

2.) Students studying Melville's Moby-Dick or another of his works and any Hawthorne work can view the image of actors portraying the two authors in A Tanglewood Tale as they celebrate the publication of Moby-Dick at the Curtis Hotel in Lenox in 1851 and respond to the following:

a.) Construct a dialogue between the authors that fits the occasion portrayed in the image, including reference to Melville's dedication of Moby-Dick to Hawthorne.
b.) Write comparisons and contrasts between the physical appearances of the two actors, and comment on the extent to which they match other sources on the authors' characteristic looks, attitudes, and/or mannerisms. 
c.) List as many observable items as possible that would differ between the present time and 1851, clarifying what would likely appear in a recent photograph of contemporary authors as they celebrate a publication.

3.) Students studying Moby-Dick can view images of Peabody-Essex Museum whaling artifacts listed below and locate specific passages in the novel where there are references or descriptions that connect with them.

 

4.) A Research Topic and Preliminary Writing Question on Ideas of Good and Evil

The following makes for a rich topic of investigation as a research project: Ideas of Good and Evil in Works by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. (Alternatively, the topic can be adapted to one of the two, rather than both authors.) If students can begin to explore this topic by reflecting upon works they already know by Hawthorne and Melville, then they have a solid head start. Two Hawthorne in Salem website articles that are also helpful in this context are “Christian Imagery in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter” in the Scholars’ Forum section of “Faith and Religion”/“Ideas of Good and Evil” and “Echoes of Hawthorne in Melville’s Billy Budd” in the Scholars’ Forum section of “Hawthorne and Melville”/”Literary Links.”

As a preliminary to research, students familiar with The Scarlet Letter and Billy Budd can write detailed paragraphs or brainstorming lists in response to the following question: What are some examples of ways that Hawthorne and Melville identify what they consider to be good, right, or virtuous and bad, wrong, or virtueless in their novels The Scarlet Letter and Billy Budd? The following paragraphs provide some responses to consider for this wide-ranging question:

Hawthorne begins the narrative portion of The Scarlet Letter by calling the dissenter Anne Hutchinson “saintly” and by ascribing a merciful tenderness to a wild rosebush that, according to legend, had grown in her footsteps. From this early point in the novel, therefore, and especially as it reinforces “The Custom House” introduction, the reader can see that Hawthorne values freedoms of speech and worship and those courageous enough to champion them in the face of intolerant regimes like those of the Massachusetts Puritans. The use of the rosebush, moreover, infuses Hawthorne’s prose with a typically Romantic reverence for nature. The evident implication is that “speculating” about religious questions, as Anne Hutchinson had and as Hester Prynne does, is natural and good; but exiling and silencing them is against nature and thoroughly wrong.

Other attributes admired by Hawthorne are Hester’s service to her community, her charitable actions, and her longsuffering attitude in atoning for her sin. Clearly he values unselfishness, kindness toward those in need, humility, and bravery.

Much of what Hawthorne admires can also be shown indirectly by identifying those things he faults. Among the admired are the following:

  • tolerance
  • compassion
  • romantic love
  • loyalty
  • industriousness
  • forgiveness
  • individualism
  • flexibility
  • acceptance of mystery and limits of human knowledge

All of these are to some extent violated in Hester’s world in The Scarlet Letter.

In “The Custom House,” Hawthorne shows shame for his family’s roles in the Puritan persecutions of Quakers and alleged witches. To the novel’s character, also a historical figure executed as a witch, Mistress Hibbins, he ascribes mental illness, thus suggesting that Puritans intentionally exterminated the infirm, as would nazis in the century succeeding Hawthorne’s. Certainly, intolerance and cruelty qualify as forms of evil in The Scarlet Letter.

The marketplace women who shout for Hester Prynne’s death exhibit a heartlessness that Hawthorne also condemns. It is clear that those women lust for the blood sport of a public execution much more than they care about any fellow female’s sins of the flesh. Scapegoating, therefore, is also an evil that the novel dramatizes; and in fact any example of objectifying human beings in order to treat them as subhuman for any purpose is clearly frowned upon by the author. Roger’s mind games with Arthur and the Boston brats’ harassment of Pearl are further examples.

The heart and the heartless are indeed key components of the novel. The chapter entitled “The Interior of a Heart,” for example, goes far to redeem Arthur Dimmesdale from his contemptible hypocrisy by showing the reader the weight of guilt the minister carries within; and, when it is clear that his and Hester’s passion derives from a love far deeper than could ever have existed between Hester and Roger, Arthur is all the more forgivable and pitiable, especially in contrast with tormenting, heartless Roger. With his hand frequently over his heart, it is fair to say that Arthur is worn down by acute heartache until a final burst of defiance leaves him stricken as if from heart failure. Loving his faith and the career he has built on it, he is torn mercilessly by the even stronger but forbidden passion he possesses for Hester Prynne.

As Hawthorne’s fiction exhibits exaltation of strong women, Melville’s possesses glorification of a group of free-spirited men -- sailors. He finds them generally far preferable to the kind of people who tend to be corrupted by too much time on land – those wicked landlubbers! He shares the widespread admiration for the fine physical specimens he terms “Handsome Sailors,” but such men are more than just comely. They are also skilled and graceful in their professions, and their good nature makes them approachable and well-liked by many. They do not seem to have axes to grind, nor do they resemble goon squad leaders who rise to prominence by means of belittling others. They are open and refreshing, more than just regular guys, in fact -- endearing ones. All of these attributes certainly belong to one Handsome Sailor –- the title character in Billy Budd.

Billy is not without defect – but then who is? Unfortunately, he is beyond ignorant – completely illiterate and painfully naïve. Melville is certainly not championing these qualities; his leading figure in Moby-Dick, for example, is the very bright, articulate, and observant Ishmael, certainly as sympathetic a character as Billy but definitely no dummy! It is Billy’s inability to articulate anything at all in moments of stress that ultimately serves as his tragic flaw and brings about his downfall.

Beyond defects and weaknesses, however, Billy Budd points to qualities and behaviors that the author clearly abhors and views as evil. Claggart provides examples of most of these: his gross misuse of authority to settle imagined scores rather than serve the good of the whole ship; his disregard for truth as he encourages his henchmen to frame Billy and tell their boss what they think he wants to hear without the interference of accuracy; and his malicious, wanton hatred of the fine and good qualities in the young man he secretly admires but perversely seeks to destroy. Thus Melville seems to say that those who abuse, lie, kill, and destroy are those who serve the devil.

Then there is Captain Vere – the really complicating factor in the story. On the surface, he is an affable, if remote fellow; but clearly Melville finds him to be the last person who should ever have been entrusted with naval leadership in wartime. The bad in Vere is essentially a rigidity of vision, whether from a fundamental meanness or stupidity Melville never says, but certainly Vere does not and evidently could not rise to levels of grace in the face of adversity. Instead, he resorts to what he understands as the letter of the law, even though he knows he employs it in the service of lies and against virtue. Billy may ask God to bless Captain Vere, but Melville makes clear that he, most of the rest of the crew, and probably the novel’s readers as well have other, much less favorable wishes in mind for the severely limited captain.

Following such preliminary writing on the topic of good and evil in Hawthorne’s and Melville’s works, students should be ready to formulate thesis statements. Based on the preceding paragraphs, for example, a thesis could be worded as follows: Hawthorne and Melville share Romantic views of good and evil in their fiction. Both men’s interest in nature and ways that civilization corrupts the natural could help develop such a theme. Whatever direction the student might take, however, s/he clearly benefits from background reading and writing thoughts about it in advance of documenting research ideas with specific citations from sources.

Lectures and Articles Related to Melville and Hawthorne

Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861
Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861(courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
 

Dr. Richard Millington, Smith College: "The Meanings of Hawthorne's Women," lecture delivered at The House of the Seven Gables Historic Site on September 8, 2000.

 

Professor

Millington reviews a number of scholarly studies of Hawthorne and the feminine elements of both the form and content of his writing. He notes that Hawthorne, a foe of conventional marketplace masculinity and apparent advocate for the relatively liberated alternative ways of living of his female characters, paradoxically endorsed stereotypical gender roles for women in his personal life. He also shows ways that Hawthorne presents himself as female in his writing, in some respects a standard Victorian approach but in other ways a gender-bending element with understandable appeal to the gay sensibility of Herman Melville.

The Millington lecture connects clearly with literary links between Hawthorne and Melville as seen in the male-as-female reference in the twenty-sixth chapter of Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance. There Hawthorne-like narrator Coverdale identifies himself with passionate female Zenobia in their love-hate relationships with Melville-like Hollingsworth: "It suits me not to explain what was the analogy that I saw, or imagined, between Zenobia's situation and mine; nor, I believe, will the reader detect this one secret, hidden beneath many a revelation which perhaps concerned me less." While no one would argue a perfectly one-to-one relationship between Hawthorne and Coverdale, it is significant that the author's male narrator in this case explicitly refers to his position with Hollingsworth in its resemblance to that of the female character Zenobia. Hawthorne's character thus makes the cross-gender identification that Millington shows Hawthorne himself made, and the novel's earlier suggestions of Coverdale's ambiguous sexuality are thus substantially reinforced. Just as Hawthorne, moreover, did not promote improved conditions for Victorian women, Coverdale takes no effective steps to aid the female character with whom he identifies and who is ultimately destroyed by her hopeless love. The blending of Coverdale and Zenobia in their relationships with Hollingsworth in The Blithedale Romance provides an instructive example of Millington's points about Hawthorne's use of females and femininity in his writing. Both the novel and the lecture suggest gender-related elements contributed to the qualities of Hawthorne's work that captivated Melville.

Dr. David B. Kesterson, University of North Texas, "Hawthorne and Melville," lecture presented at the Phillips Library, Salem, Massachusetts, 23 September 2000

 

Professor Kesterson examines the differences and similarities in Hawthorne's and Melville's backgrounds, the development of their 1850-1851 friendship in the Berkshires, and evidence for the lasting impact they had upon each other's works.

Dr. Leland S. Person, University of Cincinnati, "The Scarlet Reader: Newton Arvin on Hawthorne and Melville," paper delivered at Nathaniel Hawthorne Society Summer Meeting, Northampton, Massachusetts, June 21-23, 2002.

 

The expression "The Scarlet Reader" in the title of Leland Person's lecture alludes to Barry Werth's 2001 book 

The Scarlet Professor: Newton Arvin - A Literary Life Shattered by Scandal. Werth explores the life and work of Newton Arvin, admired literary scholar from Smith College; and Person focuses on Arvin's contribution to our understanding of Hawthorne and Melville. While numerous writers have investigated the sexual tension between Hawthorne and Melville, no one has done so with more personal identification than Arvin who, as partner of author Truman Capote for a time, clearly knew a thing or two about same sex relationships. As a victim of Cold War era homophobia, moreover, Arvin, as well as his scholarship, eventually came to be cruelly dismissed and discredited. In a more enlightened time, Person demonstrates that Arvin's voice remains vital, both for his literary insight and the unique perspective resulting from his sexuality and the persecution he suffered for it.

Dr. John W. Stuart, Manchester-Essex Regional High School, The Hawthorne-Melville Relationship, a paper presented at the Annual Convention of the National Council of Teachers of English, Indianapolis, IN, Friday, 19 November 2004.

Dr. John W. Stuart, Manchester-Essex Regional High School, Echoes of Hawthorne in Melville's Billy Budd: an essay prepared for the Hawthorne in Salem Website, November 2003

Melville's novelette Billy Budd connects with Hawthorne in several respects: I.) an allusion to Hawthorne's short story "The Birthmark"; II.) tensions of same sex relationships that mirror situations in both the real lives and fictional narratives of Hawthorne and Melville; and III.) a preoccupation with the nature of evil, an ongoing subject of fascination for both authors.

Dr. James Hewitson, "Mechanization and Nationalism in 'Chiefly about War Matters,'" a paper delivered at the Modern Language Association Conference in San Diego, CA, December 2003.

In this paper Dr. Hewitson explores elements in Hawthorne's "Chiefly About War Matters" that "can be understood as reiterating and expanding upon his earlier depictions of encroaching mechanization within American culture." In addition, Dr. Hewitson argues that “'War Matters' can be seen as anticipating later similar treatments of issues of mechanization and its potential for profound subjective and social realignments, such as Herman Melville’s Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War, Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in Kng Arthur’s Court and Henry Adams’ Education of Henry Adams.