Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jay Parini on Herman Melville - Telegraph

The improbable friendship and subsequent falling out of Melville and Hawthorne:
Melville was working on Moby-Dick, his masterpiece, at this time, and Hawthorne pushed him to go beyond anything he had done before. As ever, Melville needed money, and desperately hoped that his rip-roaring story of the pursuit of a massive and dangerous white whale would attract readers.

Hawthorne, the allegorist par excellence, saw that Melville had before him more than a sea story. Here was a metaphysical quest, with man pitted against nature. Without Hawthorne’s conversations through the winter and spring of 1851, Melville may not have realised fully what he had on the desk before him.
People like to suggest that Melville had romantic feelings that Hawthorne did not return. But honestly people go their separate ways for far pettier reasons than that. Maybe Melville was just annoying.