Monday, September 29, 2014

 

Melville & Hawthorne

"What I feel most moved to write, that is banned,it will not pay. Yet, altogether, write the other way I cannot. So the product is a final hash, and all my books are botches." -Herman Melville's June 1851 letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne.

"Melville, as he always does, began to reason of Providence and futurity, and of everything that lies beyond human ken, and informed me that he had 'pretty much made up his mind to be annihilated'; but still he does not seem to rest in that anticipation; and, I think, will never rest until he gets hold of a definite belief. It is strange how he persistsand has persisted ever since I knew him, and probably long beforein wondering to-and-fro over these deserts, as dismal and monotonous as the sand hills amid which we were sitting. He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other. If he were a religious man, he would be one of the most truly religious and reverential; he has a very high and noble nature, and better worth immortality than most of us." -Nathaniel Hawthorne's notebook entry of November 20 1856.

Notes: Moby-Dick was first published on October 18, 1851. The book was a relative financial failure during Melville's lifetime. The two quotes above appear in Nathaniel Philbrick's Why Read Moby- Dick? (Viking, 2011) pp. 59, 125.

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