"[Melville] arrives at his climactic statement as he finds the right
words to characterize the effect upon him of Mosses from an Old Manse.
'To what infinite height of loving wonder and admiration I shall have thoroughly
incorporated their whole stuff into my being, -- that I cannot tell.' And the
next sentence makes Hawthorne the seedman, the penetrator: 'Hawthorne has dropped
germinous seeds into my soul' and 'expands and deepens down, the more I contemplate
him; and further and further, shoots his strong New England roots into the hot
soil in my Southern soul.'
'Hawthorne and His Mosses' is scarcely literary criticism in the
ordinary sense. It is a love letter and a confession. Artistically it
records an epiphany of an artist whose search of thirty-one years
culminated in an erotic-aesthetic union:" (314).
Miller subsequently reinforces his contentions through references to
Melville's correspondence with Hawthorne, in particular his letter of 17
"[Hawthorne] had not shared Melville's exposure to the freewheeling licentiousness
and uninhibited rites of both sexes in the South Seas or to the homosexual
practices aboard ships on long, dreary, womanless voyages. Nor was he capable
of the phallicism freely exhibited in wildly comic scenes in Moby-Dick.
But he was not a naif either. There was little that was subtle about Melville's
suggestiveness. In denying "licentious inclination," he confirmed its presence.
When Melville proposed that Hawthorne, evidently in the role of Alcibiades,
hug "this ugly Socrates," meaning himself, he evoked Greek love, while at
the same time indicating that consummation had not taken place. Melville was
probably aware that the relationship was about to end and that he was to reexperience
rejection after the seeming fulfillment of his life's longings, but the finale
had to be phrased with all the brilliance he proved himself master of in Moby-Dick.
This was the last of perhaps the most extraordinary love letters in
American literature, comparable in art , feeling, and despair to the
love poetry of the century, Whitman's "Calamus."
Before sailing to England in 1853, Hawthorne "burned great heaps of old
letters and other papers," including hundreds of Sophia's maiden
letters" written during their long courtship. "What a trustful guardian
of secret matters fire is!" he wrote. "What should we do without Fire
and Death?" The world was not to read Sophia's outpouring of love and
idolatry, but, by accident or design, Hawthorne spared the letters of
Melville. He never knew that presumably in anger and desolation Melville
had destroyed his letters, only to re-create from painful but loving
memories the unforgettable experience of his life" (356).