The Divine Magnet: Herman Melville's Letters to Nathaniel Hawthorne

Edited by Mark Niemeyer. Orison (Ingram, dist.), $18 trade paper (106p) ISBN 978-0-9906917-5-4
The 10 letters collected in this volume, all written between 1851 and 1852, chronicle, albeit one-sidedly, one of the most consequential relationships in American letters. Herman Melville had met Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1850 and recognized him instantly as a literary soulmate. Melville's letters (Hawthorne's have been lost) show a rapport and intimacy that go beyond simple mutual respect. Anticipating a visit by his correspondent—who at the time lived only six miles away in Massachussetts's Berkshire Mountains—he chortles, "We will have mulled wine with wisdom, & buttered toast with story-telling & crack jokes & bottles from morning till night." Having just read The House of the Seven Gables, published in 1851, he insightfully lauds Hawthorne's skill at rendering "the tragicalness of human thought in its own unbiassed, native, and profounder workings." Melville, then at work on "my Whale"—Moby-Dick, which he would dedicate to Hawthorne—is also uncommonly frank, in a letter from May 1851, about the literary renown that eludes him: "I have come to regard this matter of Fame as the most transparent of all vanities." The appendices, which include Melville's review of Hawthorne's story collection Mosses from an Old Manse and two poems by Melville thought to be about Hawthorne, enhance this portrait of friendship between two literary titans. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/21/2016
Open Ebook - 90 pages - 978-0-9906917-6-1
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