Sunday, March 27, 2011


Harrison Hayford’s “Melville and Hawthorne: A Biographical and Critical Study” (1945) was one of the great Yale dissertations on Melville directed by Stanley T. Williams. For “Melville and Hawthorne” Hayford assembled all the known factual information about the two writers (including the most basic, a fresh list of their meetings), and in his investigations discovered unknown letters and other documents now so familiar that few people remember who found them. Hayford’s diffidence about being a non-combatant in World War II (because of tuberculosis) and Leon Howard’s bad advice kept him from publishing the dissertation in the elegant, unpretentious “Yale Studies in English” where Merrell R. Davis’s dissertation on Mardi found such an appropriate home. Few new documents emerged in the next decades besides some letters by Sophia Hawthorne published by Eleanor Thomas Metcalf in Herman Melville: Cycle and Epicycle (1953), so that Hayford’s dissertation could have been published any year up through the 1970s with only minimal updating. Withholding distinguished work from publication became habitual with Hayford; only in 2003 did Northwestern University Press publish posthumously his Melville’s Prisoners, a collection of essays and speeches authorized by his son Charles Hayford and seen into print by Alma MacDougall Reising, with a foreword by me.

In 1945 the last meeting between Melville and Hawthorne which Hayford could document was on 8 August 1851, the expedition to see the Shakers at Hancock Village, but he speculated (p. 244) about a final meeting:

Very likely, however, in the three months before Hawthorne moved away from Lenox there were further visits. At least one meeting seems probable, on November 7, when Melville may have presented Hawthorne a copy of Moby Dick, fresh from the press, while Hawthorne gave young Malcolm Melville a copy of The Wonder Book, also just printed.

(Properly, the title is A Wonder Book.) Here Hayford placed this footnote:

This episode is purely conjectural, and may be substantiated or disproved by the inscription in the presentation copy of Moby Dick now in the possession of Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach (see his Books and Bidders, pp. 26-27). In M [Houghton Library] there is a copy of the Wonder Book inscribed by Hawthorne, "Malcolm Melville / from Mr Hawthorne / Nov. 7th 1851." The Wonder Book was not published until November 15 (see Literary World, IX, 390, 413); hence this was an advance copy. My conjecture is that Melville at the same time presented Hawthorne an advance copy of Moby Dick, which was published, apparently, about the same day as The Wonder Book.[end of HH's fn]

The Rosenbach Moby-Dick turned out to be a copy the Hawthornes acquired to replace the earlier one they had presumably lost in their mid-1850s peregrinations.

More than four decades passed before I discovered fresh evidence about early November 1851 in the "Augusta Papers" acquired by the NYPL in 1983, and another decade before I transcribed and published some of that evidence in the first volume of my biography. There I explained that a meeting took place on 4 November 1851 at the home in Lenox of Charles and Elizabeth Sedgwick, he the clerk of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, she the mistress of the notable school which Helen had attended in 1835. As the time neared for Hawthorne to leave the little red cottage, Sedgwick, who had tried to bring Hawthorne together with the English novelist G. P. R. James (internationally famous as the "solitary horseman" novelist, then oddly living at Stockbridge), decided that the only thing to do was to throw a party midweek (on 4 November, a Tuesday), with only a couple of days' notice, so he could at least gather James, Hawthorne, and Melville at his hearth one time. This gathering was a farewell party for the Hawthornes.

The next day after the party, 5 November 1851, Maria Melville wrote a full account to her daughter Augusta, then visiting Allan in New York City:

On monday morning [3 November] immediately after breakfast we drove to town. At the post office was a note directed to Mrs Melville of course I opened it, it contained an invitation for me to come to tea on tuesday Eveg. wishing me to extend the invitation to Mr & Mrs Herman Melville & my daughters, or any friend or friends we might have with us, from Mrs Sedgwick as an inducement to come so far we were to meet the James' from Stockbridge & a few friends. Herman said he would take us at once and seem'd pleased. As we were to be there at seven or lose our tea, we started from home at half past five. It was very cold--muffs were brought down & Buffaloes we wraped ourselves up warm Helen & Herman in front, Kate & my self in the back seat with glasses drawn up. The moon soon began to shine forth fitfully, by & by a few flakes of snow fell. However we had a pleasant drive to Lenox Herman being in excellent spirits.

When we descended, after arranging our dress, we saw Mr Hawthorne, and all the Sedgwicks who were delighted to see us, the weather was so cold they thought we would not come. Miss Catherine Sedgwick came in soon after with Mrs Orville Dewey, soon after came Mr James Colt, & Mr Mearson [?] two Pittsfield lawyers they were attending Court at Lenox. A ring at the bell, a little noise and in a few minutes enter'd Mrs James & daughter and a Mrs Bills . . . . ¶Mrs James is agreeable, does not dress well, is thin, but badly form'd, her rich silk dress was not well made. . . . Mr James has purchase'd a farm near Stockbridge, his son is to manage it. The author is going to build upon this farm & locate himself permanently on the expiration of their present lease--which was taken for two years.
Mr & Mrs Sedgwick on the entrance of Mrs James both ask'd for her husband, she slowly & very quietly said, Mr James beg'd me to say that he had "commenced a new book to day," & could not break out on any account. Bessie Sedgwick says he snuffs to such a degree that his bosom is cover'd with the dust, and you can't help inhaling some of the particles when you sit beside him. Our disappointment was very great at not seeing the great novelist. Mr Hawthorne was induce'd to come to meet Herman--On asking for his wife he said they went out alternate, he took charge of the children when his wife went out[.] They could not both be spared together."

The fact that Melville was in such good spirits may mean that he had not heard of Hawthorne's plans to leave Lenox. Whether he knew or not, he must have been playing out in his mind a scene he would enact any week now--an exultant ride or drive over to the little red cottage with a presentation copy of Moby-Dick. And Melville was the attraction for Hawthorne, not James.

Whatever else Melville and Hawthorne talked about on this occasion, they must have expressed frustration that their new books had not arrived. [Notice that I say “must have”: these were real human beings who had to act much the way normal men act.] Each man knew that the other was awaiting a new book, and each also had a long-cherished surprise for the other in his book. [Do I KNOW that each had a surprise, that they had not blabbed to each other? Well, I know the reticence of the men, and the pleasure of delayed gratification.] Hawthorne had dated his preface to The Snow-Image three days earlier, but a different work, A Wonder Book, was due to be published any day. Months earlier, he had written into a late chapter a tribute to his friend's struggle to shape out "the gigantic conception of his 'White Whale,' while the gigantic shape of Greylock looms upon him from his study-window." (This was the first time the title of the book, in any form (The White Whale, The Whale, Moby-Dick) had been mentioned in any other book.) Any day, also, Melville was expecting copies of his book, now retitled Moby-Dick. James's absence, as well as Sophia's, meant that it was easier for the two men to confer a little over Hawthorne's plans and Melville's responses to them. Melville had a seriously sick wife (left at home) and a new book on the brain and probably partly on the page, but before the evening was out he must have [another reasonable “must have”] conveyed his sense that they had to say goodbye properly, not in a moment's public chat at someone else's tea party. Hawthorne would have told him how much he wanted to get the new book--to Malcolm, he might have said (knowing that it could take a while before someone found the reference to the White Whale in it). Melville would have confessed to Hawthorne how frustrated he would feel if his book came out just too late for him to carry a presentation copy to Hawthorne. Both the men could talk openly about their eagerness to see their books without mentioning the compliment buried deep inside the one and blazoned on the dedication page of the other.

A day or two later Hawthorne received his first copies of A Wonder Book and inscribed one, on 7 November, to Malcolm, knowing that before long the father would see the pre-publication compliment. Hayford in 1945 had visualized a scene, not located in a town or house, in which Hawthorne presented the volume in person, but almost surely Hawthorne would not have made his way to Pittsfield. More likely, according to his frugal habit, he found someone to carry it to Pittsfield. (Hayford's own characteristic behavior may have been modeled on Hawthorne's, for he discovered that in the modern world a powerful man who does not drive a car will be picked up and driven places by others--even on trips of hundreds of miles.) According to Hayford's speculation, on the same day, 7 November, Hawthorne would have entrusted a copy of A Wonder Book to Melville and Melville would have given him in exchange a copy of Moby-Dick. When I focused on the timetable in the late 1980s that did not seem likely to me. My years of review hunting had shown that the Albany Evening Journal and the Boston Daily Evening Transcript each had a copy on 12 November and the Boston Courier and the Troy Daily Whig noticed the book on 13 November, the Troy Budget on 14 November. I knew when books were first available, and suspected also that the Harpers would not have been much concerned with getting advance copies of Moby-Dick to Melville, though they would willingly pass sheets to the Literary World at Allan's behest. If Allan and the Harpers were alert, Melville should have received copies on or a couple of days before the official publication date of 14 November (a Friday). The arrival of the whaling book a week or so after Hawthorne inscribed a copy of his book for Malcolm, was, after all, providential: if copies had been delayed a week longer Melville would not have been able to hand a presentation copy to the man to whom he had dedicated it in token of admiration of his genius.

Here the information might have stood, at least until selected newspaper databases became available in the 21st century, had I not spent 24 and 25 June 1987 in the Boston Public Library hunched over microfilm readers scanning Lowell and Lawrence newspapers for reviews of Moby-Dick and other Melville books and information about Melville's brother-in-law, John Hoadley. Something else struck me--in the Lowell Weekly Journal and Courier for 19 December 1851 an article on the Hawthorne cottage outside Lenox, reprinted from a longer article in the Windsor, Vermont, Journal. (By 2010 this Lowell paper was available on a database.) The author, no name or pen name given, newly moved from Vermont to Lenox, was acting as a special correspondent to his hometown newspaper, since the natural scenery and the local celebrities (dead like Jonathan Edwards as well as living) were of general interest, even in Vermont. As partially reprinted in the Lowell paper, the author seemed not to know that he was describing a cottage that not only looked deserted but was deserted:

A correspondent of the Windsor, Vt., Journal, at Lenox, writes that in a spot of unrivalled loveliness on the Northern shore of the Mountain Mirror stands a small, uninviting, insignificant, red house, with green window blinds, and one single pine tree before it. One might pass it at almost any time of the day, and think it vacant; the doors would all be shut, the blinds all closed, and the single pine tree would look as sullen as if it were conscious of its loneliness. There would be no path to the gate, and no knocker on the door, and one would immediately conclude that the red house of the two gables was shut against the resort of men--and he would not be far from right, for there lives Nathaniel Hawthorne.
According to Hawthorne's journal, his departure date was 21 November: "We left Lenox, Friday morning, November 21st (I think) 1851, in a storm of snow and sleet; took the cars at Pittsfield, and arrived at West Newton that evening." This meant, I assumed, that the letter-writer may have observed the cottage later in November or even in December, not knowing that the author was no longer in residence. Nevertheless, the cottage could not have changed much in a week or two, so the description was still applicable to what Hawthorne had known.

That was interesting enough, but the editor of the Weekly Journal and Courier tantalized me with what he acknowledged omitting: "The writer, after giving a brief description of Mr H's personal appearance, proceeds as follows . . . ." I needed that brief description of Hawthorne's personal appearance which (I knew) no Hawthorne scholar had ever seen. I could be the first to plunder it, for my biography, if I had the space. I determined to find the Windsor, Vermont, Journal, knowing that literary-minded people, like this writer, often took on the job of special correspondent, offering reports from the hinterlands to the metropolis or the metropolis to the hinterlands, or from one metropolis to another.

I had, in fact, an intense interest in special correspondents. If you had given me three years' pay in 1985, back after I finished Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons and before I clove to Jay Leyda, carrying on his Log, I would have devoted myself to a study of American special correspondents for American newspapers, including a few who wrote letters to or from European capitals. I knew that the greatest untouched or scarcely touched resource for politics, public construction works, economics, literary history, architectural history, theatrical history, musical history and much more of value lay in the disappearing files of American newspapers in the letters of special correspondents who distilled the day's or week's or month's news for people in other cities. In 1988, the next year after finding the quotation from the Windsor Journal, I found in the New Orleans Commercial Bulletin a big book's worth of weekly letters from the young lawyer Oakey Hall (later D.A. and mayor), an intimate of the Duyckinck circle, who casually sprinkled his pages with little gems about Melville. Who would have guessed that Melville wrote White-Jacket in "a score of sittings"? That was the gossip current among the New York literati at the time. Now, well into the new millennium, the digitizing of many American newspapers may make it easier for others to fulfill my dream of a library of books consisting of these contemporary letters, even if the great the majority of newspaper files already have been destroyed.

That dream now beckons me still, although impossible now, but in 1987 and the next years my time and travel funds already were not limitless. I was teaching full time, and I had hundreds of documents to transcribe into the ever expanding The Melville Log, starting with the "Augusta Papers." I added the Lowell item to the LOG on 11 August 1990. Every few months when I had to divide my files because the capacity of WordStar in my computer was so limited (27 pages, was it?), I conscientiously moved the note up to the top of a new file containing November and December 1851: "MUST FIND WINDSOR VT. JOURNAL."

I went to the Library of Congress where I was told that the Windsor, Vermont, Journal was not extant anywhere. Hoping still, I prevailed upon a student from New England to look in Vermont libraries, reimbursing him his expenses. My dairy for 24 April 1990: "Chris off to NH--called to leave message about that Windsor VT Journal paper on NH." Later, I asked Richard E. Winslow III, the Portsmouth librarian-naval historian, if he would put it on his hunting list, since he was beginning to specialize in hunting for Melville and Thoreau reviews in regional New England newspapers. In August 1992 Winslow found a file of the Journal. The Lowell paper had omitted a reference by the writer to his earlier description of the Mountain Mirror. Winslow knew to keep looking, and of course more was in the Windsor Journal than the article condensed in the Lowell paper. Comparatively few special correspondents, even the unpaid amateurs, contented themselves with one attempt to enlighten and amuse friends at home while establishing their own reputations as competent amateur writers.

The 12 December 1851 Windsor Journal article signed by "Maherbal" had indeed contained a physical description of Hawthorne omitted in the Lowell paper:

If, however, on a closer inspection you observed a wreath of smoke curling up from the chimney of the house of the two gables, and had curiosity enough to saunter around the precincts in hopes of seeing signs of life, until about four o'clock, you would finally hear the door creak, and there would stand before you a middling-sized, thick set man, with a large and vigorous, though not unpleasant face, and lying under a profusion of coarse black hair, a head of massive development. There would be nothing very striking in his countenance, except it were his dark and intelligent eye, arched by a very black eye-brow, yet you would gather from the tout ensemble of the expression that it betokened an intensely-working and thorough-going intellect.--Were it not that the countenance is relieved and heightened by the vigor and intensity of mental activity that beams through it, you would think there was something in it very heavy and sombre. If you ever had any hint that there was a vein of rancor and acrimony in his character, you would look in vain for any indications of it in his face, unless you commenced to imagine what expression that black eye, would take, and that heavy eye-brow, and that firmly drawn mouth, when he was belaboring the Custom House officials, or spurring his bitterness against some Puritan hypocrite. But while you were making these observations, your hero would raise his eyes from the ground long enough to give you one of those modest but expressive glances which mark the man of seclusion and reflection, and then with a kind of swinging gait which would assure you that he was not used to bustle among the crowds of business or fashion, would wend his way up to the village Post office.

This was valuable, but in the end I found I just could not work it into the space I was allotting the chapter of the biography.

There was a bigger surprise, for the Vermont paper had concluded with a paragraph on the Hawthornes' removal from the cottage: "Within a few days past Mr. Hawthorne has left our goodly village, to spend the winter in Newton. Strange that he should encamp so near Salem! Lenox was a great way off, but not far enough to dispel the lurid gleams that were reflected from 'Gallows Hill,' upon the House of the Seven Gables!" I would guess that this is a postscript, perhaps added to the letter when the writer learned belatedly that the cottage was now quite unoccupied.

All this was valuable and interesting, but Maherbal had tardily written another report which was dated 10 January 1852 and printed in the Windsor Journal on 16 January 1852: "G. P. R. JAMES--HERMAN MELVILLE." Here was news indeed:

HERMAN MELVILLE, another distingué [like James] in the literature of fiction, is a resident of Pittsfield. Although he has been for some time favorably known to a certain class of readers as a novelist, he is yet comparatively a young man--not above thirty-five years of age. The Melville family have long been known in Pittsfield as ranking among the upright and respectable members of society, though by no means of the so-called highest class. Herman Melville himself is a son-in-law of the celebrated Chief Justice Shaw of Boston. As may be gathered from the fact that Melville dedicated his book lately published to Nathaniel Hawthorne, "in admiration of his genius," the two distinguished writers of fiction are personal friends--not however familiar, intimate friends by any means--for if the complaints on the part of the Pittsfield people with regard to the exclusiveness of the one, and the representations of Maherbal in the Journal concerning the social character of the other, are to be taken as conclusive in the matter, they seem to be alike strangers to any thing like familiarity of social intercourse. Not very long ago, the author of the "Scarlet Letter" and the author of "Typee," having, in some unaccountable way, gotten a mutual desire to see one another, as if neither had a home to which he could invite the other, made arrangements in a very formal manner to dine together at a hotel in this village. What a solemn time they must have had, those mighty conjurors in the domain of the imagination, all alone in the dining-room of a hotel! In the small talk of the flippant beaux and light-headed belles of Berkshire, the solemn attempt of two of the greatest characters of which the county could boast, towards an acquaintance, was made a subject of infinite merriment.

Winslow's packet containing Maherbal's letters was in my mail on 29 August 1992.

My hands still shaking as I held the photocopies, I went to the computer and deleted the note I had copied and recopied from one expanding file to the next several times a year: "MUST FIND WINDSOR VT. JOURNAL." Jay Leyda was four and a half years dead but I told him--the only dead scholar I talked to. On 7 July 1988, five months after his death, I had hallucinated him in New Orleans, a city of ghosts for me from the early 1950s. As I stood before the slanted newspaper rack pulling out plum after plum of Oakey Hall's intimate revelations about Melville, there on my right Jay had been standing in his faded blue raincoat, but he did not stay long. Yards of brittle Scotch tape (the destructive kind) had been slathered, years earlier, to the pages of the Commercial Bulletin and no matter how cautiously I turned the pages the dried tape fell off onto the floor, not taking the high-rag-content paper with it. Members of the Tulane staff were intent on their holiday, wheeling carts of alcohol by to fete the throng of visiting rare book and manuscript librarians, so they ignored me as I shifted my feet for two days in what sounded more and more like a fast breeding nest of rattlesnakes. That was 1988, the only time I hallucinated.

On that 29 August 1992 I telephoned Hayford. We had been on the phone already, my diary shows, talking about Cornelius Mathews's audacious toast about "bloomers":

At 2 pm mail & all hell broke loose. Winslow had found not only the Windsor VT NH article I wanted but also one on HM--abt his dining with Hawthorne at a Hotel--the day he gave him a copy of ¬MD--Jesus my mind is wild. Harry had called. Called him bk—

Hayford, who in 1945 had listed Melville's known meetings with Hawthorne, now listened to me read to him Maherbal's account. It was obvious to him, as to me, what the occasion was, although he had not yet read my account of the previous (4 November) meeting. The discovery was the good goddess's bonus, above and beyond anything any of us could have imagined. It was time for celebration. "Wanted a drink," I jotted down honestly, six years after dropping Jay Leyda off after his last research trip: then, weighing the odds of my having the strength to finish both the LOG and a biography, I had decided anything that took away from my alertness had to go, at least until three volumes of The New Melville Log were published, so I had stopped drinking anything alcoholic, although I did not for a moment envision keeping that resolve for a quarter century or more, awaiting the publication of the LOG.) Now, in 1992, I celebrated by talking to Hayford. Then I telephoned Maurice Sendak and read the whole account of the meeting to him, relying on him as a man with a well-documented visual imagination, and went back to work.

The discovery sent our minds in several directions, one toward self-reproach. At least Harry had imagined a meeting in which Melville handed Hawthorne Moby-Dick, and sensible people like the bookdealer and collector William Reese had mused about the high monetary and emotional value of the copy inscribed to Hawthorne. As Reese said to the Grolier Club (published in its Gazette in 1993), "one can always contemplate something really big--the actual dedication copy to Hawthorne of Moby-Dick." Unquestioning inmates of the Ivory Towers, the great lot of us academics never once thought that what you do when you dedicate a book to a friend who lives nearby is take him a copy and watch his face when he reads the dedication and your inscription.

What is wrong with academics in general? Well, we are good at erecting ramparts against thought. If we acknowledge the value of documents at all, we fixate on documents we are familiar with and think we understand. The long-known letter Melville wrote to Hawthorne on 17 November (that date seems certain enough) has proved such a rampart. It is so passionately confessional, so ecstatic, that we fixated on it almost to the exclusion of what we can infer about Hawthorne's letter that prompted it. We know from Melville's reply that, unwontedly reckless in his emotional and intellectual response to the power of the book that gave the dedication its true significance, Hawthorne had offered in his letter to review Moby-Dick, repayment in kind for Melville's momentous essay on Mosses from an Old Manse.

We can also make other reasonable inferences about the content of Hawthorne's letter, especially if you know that a dramatic meeting with Melville preceded Hawthorne's reading the book. We fixated on that letter apart from its place in all that is known of the nature of the conversations Melville and Hawthorne had enjoyed since August 1850 and their surviving comments about each other, and the surviving material evidence in journals, books, and letters. We should have recognized that Hawthorne had been eagerly awaiting the appearance of his friend's book, the book he had hailed in his own Wonder Book.

We fixated on Melville's letter to the near-total exclusion of any questioning of how Hawthorne got his copy of Moby-Dick so soon. Except for Hayford's vague depiction, did anyone ever wonder in print how Hawthorne got his copy so soon, when there was no other copy in Lenox that we know of and the book was not in the Pittsfield bookstore until mid-December? We slap our heads the way I slapped mine when I realized that Melville himself had written the note announcing that he could be expected home from the Pacific at any moment. Every Melville scholar must feel chagrined at not having realized that, in order for Hawthorne to have had the copy of Moby-Dick so soon, Melville must have carried a copy to him. What fools we academics be! Melville liked to surprise people, the way he surprised his mother and sisters in 1844. He wanted to see Hawthorne's face as he first saw the dedication page. We ought to have known this sort of thing happened, even before we had the documentation of the meeting in the Lenox hotel. Shame on us for not thinking of writers as real people with normal needs. (With the aid of databases in 2010 I learned I should have used the 1851 name, the Wilson Hotel, earlier the Berkshire Coffee-House or the Red Inn, renamed the Curtis Hotel a few years later. Curtis in his later years talked as if he had been the owner of the hotel from the late 1840s, and in fact he was much on the scene because of his and his brother's livery stable and a stage route as well as a boarding house nearby.)

In August 1992 I had other things to do besides trying to do justice to the scene. I had just pushed into 1856 in my draft of the latter portion of my biography. I had started at the publication of Moby-Dick rather than Melville's birth because what I was adding to the Log made me question whether I would have the strength to write about the last four decades of Melville's life after exhausting myself on the first decades. Would I succumb to the heartache of the later decades, I worried, and leave the second half of the book unwritten (I was still thinking of it as one volume), as William Manchester would later leave his biography of Churchill uncompleted? Better to draft the second half first, so I did. When it became clear that the biography would have to be broken in two, and that (because I had found so many new episodes) each volume would be longer than the whole was originally envisioned, the question of where to break it became urgent. Volume One had to end on a high dramatic note. I don't remember all the talk back and forth, but I think it was John Wenke who said simply, "You don't have any choice. You have to end it in the hotel."

What I wrote about that meeting of Hawthorne and Melville proved as controversial as anything in the whole first volume. Philip Weiss in the New York Times Magazine for 15 December 1996 recalled my lecture at the 92nd Street Y: "The high point of the lecture would also be the high point of Parker's book: a largely imagined description of a sacred moment, a meeting that Parker discovered took place between Melville and Hawthorne in 1851."

The scene, as I will show, was not really “largely imagined,” but the words "largely imagined" had grim consequences such as this item from the Internet:

"Parker says that Hawthorne and Melville agreed to meet as soon as Melville published Moby-Dick. He says that Melville drove to Hawthorne's to invite him to a formal farewell dinner and/or publishing celebration at Curtis's hotel in Lenox. I don't know where he got this from since he quotes no sources nor have any other sources referred to this meeting. He also says that Lenoxites were curious about the two local recluses in the hotel. This seems to me to be pure fabrication on the part of Parker in order to present a more dramatic story. (Okay, so ten out of ten for style, but minus several million for credibility.) He concludes this volume of his biography with a description of their meeting. Where is he getting this from? He's clearly just making up details and is not at all reliable." This was 1999.
On the Internet since 1999 this slander: “I also think Hershel Parker sacrifices his biographical integrity by ending his book with a charming and fabricated story.”
“This is just one example of Parker speculating without offering any evidence to back up his opinions.”
Then came this annihilating early review, nominally of my second volume. In the Nation (20 May 2002) Brenda Wineapple ignored my second volume in order to characterize that final scene from the first volume as fantasized, even worse than "largely imagined":

"Parker's fine sleuthing turned up a newspaper article, printed in the 1852 Windsor, Vermont, Journal, that recounts Melville meeting Hawthorne for dinner at a hotel in Lenox, Massachusetts, conveniently situated between Pittsfield and the small house the Hawthornes were occupying on the border of what today is known as Tanglewood." Wineapple continued: "And on the basis of this gossip column" (but it was not a gossip column), "Parker speculates that the dinner took place circa November 14 and that as the two friends lingered, alone in the dining room, Melville handed Moby-Dick to Hawthorne. ('In no other way could Hawthorne have had a copy so soon,' Parker explains.)" She was building toward this demolition of my integrity as a biographer:

“As Hawthorne held Moby-Dick in his hand, ‘he could open the book in his nervous way (more nervous even than normally),’ writes Parker, ‘and get from his friend a guided tour of the organization of the thing now in print, and even sample a few paragraphs that caught his eye or that the author eagerly pointed out to him.’ He could indeed. Whether he did is another matter, though not for Parker, as secure in his fantasy as Edmund Morris is in his imaginary Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan. ‘Take it all in all,’ Parker concludes, ‘this was the happiest day of Melville's life.’”

Biographers talk about “rivals.” In Mark Bostridge’s LIVES FOR SALE, Frances Wilson describes the horror of discovering that she had not one but two rivals working on Harriette Wilson: “Our books would appear together, be reviewed together, be stocked on the shelves together.” At some point I learned that the woman sitting in the front row as I gave talks about my discoveries was writing a biography of her own, and I knew in the late 1990s that the ferocious reviewer of my first volume, Andrew Delbanco, was planning his own biography of Melville, but I had not heard anything about Wineapple except that she was planning a biography of Hawthorne. On reading this scathing comparison of me to Edmund Morris it was apparent to me that she regarded herself as a rival.

If I got a Pulitzer for the second volume instead of just being one of two finalists, as in 1997 (when the award went to a short easy-to-read misery memoir honestly marketed in Ireland and the UK and the rest of Ireland as fiction), would the Pulitzer committee be willing to consider her for a Pulitzer in only another year or two, when her biography was published? Two Pulitzers on the American friends Melville and Hawthorne in close proximity? Knocking me out of competition would clear the field for her biography of Hawthorne? This smart strategy is the one Andrew Delbanco seems also had been employing for years and employed devastatingly in 2002, when he said I could not be trusted because I had made up THE ISLE OF THE CROSS and POEMS (although both of them had weirdly become real in time for his 2005 book).

Here is Wineapple's own version of this scene, in her 2003 biography of Hawthorne:

“In the fall, they [the Hawthornes] sold much of their furniture at auction, including Hawthorne's mahogany writing desk, and gathered the remaining household goods, leaving behind their five cats and a sorrowful Melville. There was nothing to be done about Melville, of course; he had a family of his own. Early in November, Hawthorne met Melville for dinner at the Lenox hotel, and that night Melville presumably gave Hawthorne his inscribed copy of Moby-Dick, cooked, Melville hinted, partly at Hawthorne's fire. ‘I have written a wicked book,’ Melville was to tell him, ‘and feel spotless as a lamb.’ The letter (lost) that Hawthorne wrote in praise of Moby-Dick drove the younger author to rapture: ‘Your heart beat in my ribs and mine in yours, and both in God's,’ Melville surged with hopeful intimacy, demanding in the next breath, ‘Whence come you, Hawthorne? By what right you do drink from my flagon of life?’"

The cats had indeed been abandoned, according to Julian, and Melville could have been sorrowing, despite the exultant tone of his letter to Hawthorne. Whether he was sorrowful is another matter, though not for Wineapple, who (this is a terrible thing to say, but true) is as secure in her fantasy as Edmund Morris is in his imaginary Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan.

This is cheeky, vulgar writing about sacred days in the lives of two momentous men who deserve a full measure of respect.

Wineapple, said Dennis Donoghue in the Los Angeles Time Book Review, 28 September 2003, depicted Hawthorne as “a miserable, whining man, aloof, self-obsessed, determined to be unhappy. . . . Wineapple seems to have wearied of her subject and become exasperated with his debility.” Donoghue saves for the ending his unhappiness about Wineapple’s vulgarities of style:

Donoghue: I don’t think Wineapple is secure in her interpretation of Hawthorne. This may account for the strange mixture of styles in her writing. Much of the book is ordinary, decent standard English, as in the passages I’ve quoted. But a lot of it is in the style of romantic fiction. “The Eternal City huddled in January’s icy glare,” meaning that it was cold in Rome that January: “Head bent, the Reverend Bentley wears his broad-brimmed hat, he usually does, and raises his skirts as if to dodge temptation, passing whorehouses and warehouses hunkered near the water’s edge.” Nonsense: no evidence for any of this, except maybe the hat. “Perhaps he took her hand then, warm and small in her wintry glove.” Perhaps, perhaps not. “Age clasped his throat.” It what? “Liverpool loomed on the shore, warehouses standing like upended coffins in an overcast dawn.” Maybe: I doubt it. Hawthorne wrote romances, but that doesn’t justify his biographer in writing romantic sentences. And then, presumably to enrich the mixture, Wineapple uses demotic American, pretending that the past tense of “tread” is “tread,” not “trod,” and that “like” has wiped out “as” just as “that” has displaced “who” and “whom”: “like Hawthorne does,” “like Dickens or Balzac do,” and “the man that he kills.”

So much for Donoghue on Wineapple.

What Wineapple purveyed about me in the Nation was romantic fiction, indeed, and inaccurate as biography. In her review she describes the hotel as
"conveniently situated between Pittsfield and the small house the
Hawthornes were occupying on the border of what today is known as
Tanglewood." Had she walked the Berkshire terrain without realizing that the Wilson/Curtis Hotel is not equidistant or nearly equidistant from the little red cottage and from Arrowhead? The meeting I described was not in early November, and she errs in the footnotes when she cites me as authority for "Early in November." In my biography, I did reveal an early November meeting--the 4 November meeting at Charles and Elizabeth Sedgwick's in Lenox, but Wineapple ignores this new information.

Then, Wineapple mis-imagines the new meeting I discovered, taking it as nocturnal. In the Melvilles' usage, family dinner ended by 1:30 or so and the afternoon could be taken up with work for several hours. Gansevoort could haul skins to Schenectady after dinner and get back after dark. Redburn could have dinner ashore in Liverpool and resume work at 1:30. Under extreme pressure young Allan could be forced to work through the day and take dinner as late as 4 or even 5, although later in New York City the large household dined at 4. Dinner at a western Massachusetts hotel, as in North Adams, was noon or shortly afterwards. That was the case in the summer of 1851 is clear from the drivers' attempt to deliver the Morewood-Melville party to the North Adams hotel at dinner hour--for after the showdown with the cunning driver and the local constabulary and the trip back to Pittsfield, Mrs. Morewood proposed a fishing party for the afternoon, and planned a midnight supper. Midnight suppers at gala parties was not uncommon. Yes, on occasion Melville could go to Lenox at night, even in November, but he took Hawthorne to the hotel for dinner, presumably after the guests had dined, for he booked the dining room for himself. This would have been after any guests at the hotel had finished dinner, the midday meal, perhaps two in the afternoon.

Appallingly, all but unbelievably, Wineapple misquoted what Melville wrote Hawthorne three days or so later, his claiming to "feel spotless as the lamb." We are dependent upon Rose Hawthorne Lathrop's transcription, but this daughter of Hawthorne's knew a biblical reference when she saw one. Melville felt then, after reading Hawthorne's letter, anyone who knows the Bible or falteringly consults a biblical concordance would have recognized, as spotless as Jesus, the Lamb of God. Wineapple apparently visualized Melville as the Pittsfield farmer who milked his own cow and had been around exceptionally clean sheep, one who could say that he felt "spotless as a lamb."

Well, Melville HAD been around the Melvill farm when there were sheep, and nearby when sheep went astray, as in 1837:

PITTSFIELD November 16, 1837: A notice in the Sun, accompanied by a woodcut of a sheep, and dated November 8:
STRAYED From the subscriber on or about the first inst. sixteen sheep, consisting of thirteen EWES and three WETHERS marked by a crop of the left ear. Whoever shall return said Sheep, or give information where they may be found, shall be liberally rewarded.

But Melville felt as spotless as Jesus, not as bedraggled as these 13 ewes and three wethers or other besoiled sheep he had seen in New York or Massachusetts. Wineapple misquoted the text so as to desecrate the biblical meaning just as she trivialized the whole of the last encounter in the Berkshires of these two momentous men.

Was what I wrote so irresponsible in its misguided loftiness that she had to compare it to the notoriously fictionalized DUTCH by Edmund Morris?

Let's see how secure I was in my “fantasy.” What, factually, could I glean from the letter from Maherbal, what could I work into my last paragarphs? Well, a very great deal indeed!

1. The writer knew that Melville had dedicated Moby-Dick to Hawthorne and could accurately quote from the dedication.
2. Melville and Hawthorne met each other "not very long" before 10 January 1852, and therefore fairly soon before 21 November 1851, when Hawthorne left Lenox, as Maherbal knew.
3. The two men met in a Lenox hotel, for dinner.
4. Observers, possibly a good many, looked into the dining room where the men sat at a table alone together? At the least, some Lenoxites looked in and many Lenoxites learned of the meeting. In the biography I read Maherbal as indicating that some of the Lenoxites peeked in at the two writers. That, I see now, was pushing the evidence.
5. Any observers, like the rest of Berkshire County, had confirmed Maherbal in the belief that the writers were acquainted already but had not become intimate friends.
6. Pittsfield people had complained about Melville's exclusiveness.
7. Lenox people had complained about Hawthorne's exclusiveness.
8. Melville and Hawthorne both seemed to be "strangers to any thing like familiarity of social intercourse" with each other and presumably with other people.
9. Maherbal thought of Melville as the author of Typee and Hawthorne as the writer of The Scarlet Letter, which implies that he was thinking of the sensualist vs. the Puritan moralist--a comical pairing. Maherbal testified that Melville's name "often lingers now in terms of adulation upon many rosy lips," a fair indication of how he and many others saw Melville--what I long ago described as the nation's first sex symbol.
10. "Not very long ago," the two writers had "in some unaccountable way, gotten a mutual desire to see one another."
11. They should have met in either Melville's house or Hawthorne's house, he thought (not thinking of Hawthorne's lack of mobility and not knowing that the Little Red House was in disarray).
12. Instead, they violated local custom by making "arrangements in a very formal manner to dine together at a hotel in this village," thereby baffling if not outraging the conventional standards of those who learned what they had done.
13. Maherbal reflected in something like awe or disbelief at what had occurred in the local hotel: "What a solemn time they must have had, those mighty conjurors in the domain of the imagination, all alone in the dining-room of a hotel!"
14. Flippant young men and lightheaded young women of Lenox and indeed in all of Berkshire may have witnessed and certainly heard stories of this "solemn attempt of two of the greatest characters of which the county could boast, towards an acquaintance."
15. These Berkshire County beaux and belles made this meeting "a subject of infinite merriment."
16. The meeting was in a very public place. (There was in 1851 another hotel, the Ives Hotel, but the Berkshire Coffee-Shop, in 1851 the Wilson Hotel, later to be the Curtis Hotel, was the only famous hotel in Lenox; both Melville and Hawthorne had prior connections with the Wilson Hotel.
17. The meeting lasted a good long time, time enough for the men to get to know each other, time enough to justify making the formal arrangement for the use of the dining room. Two hours? Three hours?

In the light of all this factual detail, what had I invented or fantasized?

I made a conscious decision to treat the golden gift of this unknown meeting in a style appropriately heightened to describe Melville's giving an inscribed copy of Moby-Dick to Hawthorne and watching his face as he read the dedication. Can I prove the meeting did not take place at another time in the Fall? I can't prove it, but given what we know of their meeting on 4 November and Hawthorne's signing a book for Malcolm on the 7th and Melville's having to give Moby-Dick to Hawthorne in order for him to read it and write to him about it, I take it as pretty well proven. (You can imagine Harpers sending Hawthorne an advance copy of the book, but that is fantasy. Fields sent copies out to Hawthorne's friends, to be sure.) Melville had an urgent need to meet Hawthorne, did in fact meet him, and thereafter Hawthorne possessed a copy of Moby-Dick, and wrote Melville about it very soon thereafter, and from Maherbal we know of a private meeting in a public place which the Lenoxites found very strange.

In the final pages of the first volume of my biography I attempted to show how Lenox and Pittsfield felt about the two authors who had lived in their county but had not made themselves familiar guests in their churches and dinner tables. I needed to remind the reader that the jail where Uncle Thomas had been confined was cheek-by-jowl with the courthouse where Shaw presided--in a row with the Wilson Hotel. I needed to remind the reader of how resentful many in the Berkshires were that Hawthorne had proved so maddeningly reclusive and that Melville had almost never attended church with his sisters and mother and had rebuffed the ministerial advances. I wanted to recall Melville's youthful impression of the awe in which the Pittsfield men regarded the courtesies of Uncle Thomas and the rich man of the village, Edward Newton: "To the ensuing conversation, also, they listened with the look of steers astonished in the pasture at the camel of the menagerie passing by on the road." I wanted to play up, throughout the ending, the mingled admiration, irritation, frustration, and envy of the local inhabitants, playing that off against the easy intimacy and conspicuous distinction of the two men in the dining room, however they were dressed. These two men, I did not venture to say, were striking looking, Melville very handsome and Hawthorne grizzled now but displaying much of the facial gorgeousness that had marked the decades of his early maturity. They were, however people responded to their looks, genuine national and international celebrities, and well worth staring at or hearing about. I was happy to use a bit of Melville's markings, a decade later, of Hazlitt's railing about the narrowness and viciousness of country people and his enthusiastic seconding of Hazlitt's opinions.

To flesh out the scene I conscientiously looked at reliable accounts of Hawthorne's characteristic mannerisms, which I knew less well than Melville's. His legs (longer than Melville's) would have been under the table, but what about his hands? Witnesses testified to his nervous gestures. Would Hawthorne then put the book down and not look at it again and proceed to talk about his plans for life in West Newton. That would not have been polite. The only polite thing to do is to look through the book a little, not neglecting your host, but getting a sense of what goes on in the book. What does Melville do when you are holding the book? Could he resist pointing out the compliment to Salem women? In ordinary human behavior they would have picked the book up many times and passed it back and forth. And they talked of their achievements and their plans, Melville, perhaps, of what he had already done on Pierre. Is this wild fantasy in the manner of Edmund Morris’s DUTCH?

This is my final paragraph in the 14 July 1995 printout Hayford read and marked:

There were onlookers aplenty, but no eavesdroppers to record their conversation. Decades later Melville wrote into the manuscript a closeted interview between Captain Vere and Billy Budd--an interview the secrets of which the narrator does not reveal. At some well chosen moment Melville took out the book they had been awaiting and handed his friend an autographed copy of Moby-Dick, the first presentation copy. How else would Hawthorne have had a copy so soon, one that he had read by the 15th or 16th? Here, in the dining room, Hawthorne for the first time saw the extraordinary dedication--the first time a book had ever been dedicated to him. Never demonstrative, he was profoundly moved. Alone with the author, he could open the book, get a guided tour of the organization of the thing in print, and even sample a few paragraphs that caught his eye or that the author particularly wanted him to see, perhaps some passages he had seen in March in Melville's study. Hawthorne could see enough, in that period of sampling, to be profoundly impressed by the genius of the author of this book queerly named for an enormous sperm whale, Moby-Dick. The flippant beaux and the light-headed belles were witnessing a sacred occasion in American literary life as the men lingered at the table, drinking, soothed into ineffable socialities, obscured at times from view by their tobacco smoke. They lingered long after the dining-room had emptied, each reverential toward the other's genius, each aware that when they met again, in West Newton, in Boston, or wherever their Fates might bring them together, they would not fall at once into these present terms of intimacy. Inevitably, Hawthorne, the one who was leaving, was looking forward, and Melville at moments was looking back at his decision to finish his book near this older writer, but at other moments he was living intensely in the present, a moment he might have been robbed of if the book had been delayed, the time when his friend held in his hand his farewell gift, the printed and bound book, a tangible token of Melville's admiration for his genius. Take it all in all, it was the happiest day of Melville's life.

In the book as printed in 1996 this paragraph became, by Hayford's direction, two long paragraphs and a very short final one, the two longer ones incorporating Hayford's suggestions for strengthening the prose. My last line was changed a little, not by Hayford's advice, to "Take it all in all, this was the happiest day of Melville's life." I indignantly rejected someone else's correction of "Take" to "Taken": I was an Okie who had worked to acquire a prose voice, and I was challenging and alluring the reader into complicity with me. Besides, "take him all in all" had been good enough for Hamlet.

“A real DIAMOND of a find,” Hayford wrote in his minute criticism on the printout of that scene, as he pushed for clearer visualizing of Hawthorne and Melville at the table. Hayford then filled the back of the last page of the printout, starting a third of the way down the left and raying out east, north, and south, here transcribed in order of inscription:

1:15 a.m. 17 July 95 Reader (HH) at end of book after the past 10 days’ day & night sessions. Surpassingly GOOD!—this whole last Chapter (A WOWZER—even & esp. to us old Shipmate Melvilleans)—THAR SHE BREACHES (to high heaven) etc etc
But do labor, up to the moment when you surrender the last page proofs, to polish the whole passage and this [final] ¶ to its full shining climactic peak.
Every word counts--as in a lyric poem, which this ¶ is (it breaks into SONG—a Song of jubilation & Praise)---(I’m carried away—as I’ve been all week in this HOUSE and the presence of the author of this stunningly magnificent biography.)

I print this here as a memorable record of the lifelong response to new details about Melville and Hawthorne by the man who had pioneered the recovery of documentary records of their acquaintance and had striven to capture the essential qualities of their relationship. I print it, also, as an illustration of how great lifelong scholarship, like Hayford’s work on Hawthorne and Melville, can become part of an ongoing collaboration of scholars, as when Hawthorne surprised both Hayford and me by coming back onstage so often in the first draft of the second volume of my biography, which Hayford read before reading the first volume. Herman Melville: A Biography, Hayford knew very well, would not have been written without his own “Melville and Hawthorne.”

The New York attacks on my integrity as a biography in 2002 were devastating to my health and peace of mind. I felt helpless against the onslaughts from Wineapple, Brodhead, and Delbanco. Together, and joined later by Elizabeth Schultz, the New York reviewers formed a united front for the Pulitzer committee to see. The 1997 committee had given the prize to an early fictional “misery memoir” and named me as one of the two finalists. The 2003 committee need not consider me at all, since after all my claims of doing fresh archival research the best New York reviewers had declared that I had written a fantasy biography.

I did not speak out about Brodhead, Delbanco, and Schultz until 2007. I am 75 now, carrying on with "severely damaged lung capacity" from long-arrested tuberculosis, shoring up these fragments from a writing desk. It is time that I speak out about Brenda Wineapple. How much, I challenge her or you, how much about the final scene in my first volume is fantasized? Did I deserve to have my biography compared to Edmund Morris’s DUTCH?

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