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Hawthorne and Melville

Excerpts from Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance

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.

From Chapter Three "A Knot of Dreamers," Coverdale quotes Zenobia's deeply felt reference to Hollingsworth: ". . . he moved me more deeply than I think myself capable of being moved, except by the stroke of a true, strong heart against my own."

From Chapter Four "The Supper-Table," Coverdale describes Hollingsworth's "dark complexion, his abundant beard, and the rude strength with which his features seemed to have been hammered out of iron, rather than chiselled or moulded from any finer or softer material." He adds that in Hollingsworth's "gentler moods, there was a tenderness in his voice, eyes, mouth, in his gesture, and in every indescribable manifestation, which few men could resist, and no woman."

From Chapter Six "Coverdale's Sick-Chamber," Coverdale notes that "there was something of the woman moulded into the great, stalwart frame of Hollingsworth; nor was he ashamed of it, as men often are of what is best in them, nor seemed ever to know that there was such a soft place in his heart. . . . I besought Hollingsworth to let nobody else enter the room, but continually to make me sensible of his own presence by a grasp of the hand, a word, -- a prayer, if he thought good to utter it - and that then he should be the witness how courageously I would encounter the worst."

From Chapter Seven "The Convalescent," Coverdale laments that Hollingsworth's philanthropic efforts to establish an institution for the reform of criminals leaves him "nothing to spare for other great manifestations of love to man, nor scarcely for the nutriment of individual attachments, unless they could minister, in some way, to the terrible egotism which he mistook for an angel of God." Hollingsworth in turn demands to know, "But how can you be my life-long friend, except you strive with me towards the great object of my life?"

From Chapter Nine "Hollingsworth, Zenobia, Priscilla," Coverdale declares, "I loved Hollingsworth, as has already been enough expressed." He adds, "If she [Priscilla] thought him beautiful, it was no wonder. I often thought him so, with the expression of tender, human care, and gentlest sympathy . . . ." And in Hawthorne's most explicitly homoerotic allusion, Coverdale notes, "the footing, on which we all associated at Blithedale, was widely different from that of conventional society. While inclining us to the soft affections of the Golden Age, it seemed to authorize any individual, of either sex, to fall in love with any other, regardless of what would elsewhere be judged suitable and prudent."

From Chapter Twelve "Coverdale's Hermitage," the narrator says of himself, "after Hollingsworth failed me, there was no longer the man alive with whom I could think of sharing all."

From Chapter Fifteen "A Crisis," Hollingsworth delivers a passionate ultimatum to Coverdale: "Strike hands with me; and, from this moment, you shall never again feel the languor and vague wretchedness of an indolent and half-occupied man! There may be no more aimless beauty in your life; but, in its stead, there shall be strength, courage, immitigable will -- everything that a manly and generous nature could desire! We shall succeed! We shall have done our best for this miserable world; and happiness (which never comes but incidentally) will come to us unawares!" Coverdale reflects that "As I look back upon this scene, through the coldness and dimness of so many years, there is still a sensation as if Hollingsworth had caught hold my heart, and were pulling it towards him with an almost irresistable force." He adds, "Had I but touched his extended hand, Hollingsworth's magnetism would perhaps have penetrated me with his own conception of all these matters," but Coverdale resists and asks whether Zenobia and Priscilla have also been approached by Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth replies, "Why do you bring in the names of these women? . . . What have they to do with the proposal which I make you? I must have your answer! Will you devote yourself, and sacrifice all to this great end, and be my friend of friends, forever?" After Coverdale firmly says "No," there is little more communication between the two men; Coverdale, in fact, leaves Blithedale the next day for Boston.

From Chapter Twenty-six "Zenobia and Coverdale," Coverdale concludes the tale of Zenobia's hopeless love for Hollingsworth and enigmatically adds, "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."

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