Excerpts from A Tanglewood Tale by Juliane Glantz and Stephen Glantz
All page numbers refer to the unpublished playscript. All bracketed notes are added to clarify contexts.
[The play dramatizes the developing friendship of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville during the 1850-1851 period when both authors resided in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. In spite of their strong attraction to each other, they become estranged by fundamental differences. Puritan-in-spite-of himself, Hawthorne is pressed too far when worldly former whaler Melville becomes explicit about shipboard liaisons with fellow sailors. Though the play suggests Hawthorne is curious about same sex relations, the reserved New Englander flees Melville and the Berkshires rather than pursue the subject.]
From Act I, Scene Three, p. 14:
[To wife Lizzie, at Melville House, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, describing Hawthorne.] He has gone where I hope to go. Footstep by footstep. No other American writer has had the courage, no the genius to use the novel to tell American stories in an American way. [Referring to their meeting at Monument Mountain.] We stood under a rock in the rain. He in his black cape and wide-brimmed black hat, his face in the wind. I could see in his sharp New England features my Ahab, before the whale took his leg and made him bitter. He sees, Lizzie. He sees without prejudice into our deepest hearts. How can I leave such a presence to go back to nattering Manhattan?
From Act I, Scene Six, pp. 32-33:
[The two authors converse at Hawthorne House, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, where the neighboring Melville has dropped in with brandy that has somewhat loosened Hawthorneís tongue.] We live in two worlds. And we are pulled back and forth, from one to the other. In the one, we are but shadows, the thinnest substance of a dream . . . Forgive me, Iím just babbling.
No, no. Go on.
Itís not important.
Finish the thought please.
We are nothing, until the heart is touched and we are the inheritors of eternity.
And the other world?
We struggle. We fail. We love. We eat. We shit. We make fools of ourselves trying not to look foolish. We hurt the ones we try most to protect. And finally, at the end, try not to succumb to our own bitterness.
(Hawthorne canít look at Melville now. He
finishes his drink and pours another.)
I think in so many ways, Mr. Hawthorne, you and I are similar beasts.
From Act II, Scene Three, pp. 69-70:
[Responding to his wifeís jealous insinuations about his paying more attention to Melville than her.] You know I struggle to understand human nature. Melville understands this about me. And he responds. Itís a struggle we share. One can get lost in the struggle. It is true that Charles Newcomb and Ellery Channing were eccentric boys, but they and I shared so much. And itís not so uncommon for young writers to seek out older mentors. Thereís nothing so pathetic, so adrift, so almost idiotic as a young writer trying to seek his way! Why must I feel shame for that which is most natural?
From Act II, Scene Eight, p. 86:
[To Hawthorne, following the occasion at the Curtis Hotel ballroomwhich Melville had arranged for the two authors alone to celebrate the publication of Moby-Dick.] Well, Iím drunk enough to say anything and forget I ever said it . . . So here we are . . . When sailing the seas, Hawthorne, many men look to each other for the things only women on shore can provide. And a common understanding among sailors is that as soon as the ship reaches dry land, all is forgotten. You and all the others know this about sailors. But you are all afraid to ask. You are curious about me, Hawthorne, are you not? Yet you ask not. Where is the reason and logic to that?
From Act II, Scene Eight, p. 91:
[To Melville after reacting to his frank sexuality by striking him.] . . . I am robbing you if I am to be your confidante, for I must push away all the thoughts that you need me to store deep in my bones. I cannot satisfy you. Please. Leave me. Know that you are always a dear friend to me, Melville, but you must leave me.
From Act II, Scene Nine, p. 94
[In the last scene of the play, Melville ironically recites his passionate final letter to Hawthorne, which has been carefully preserved, while he destroys his letters from Hawthorne. Melvilleís concluding words, included below, are from his "Monody," a poem that is thought to express his deep personal loss when learning of Hawthorneís death in 1864.] To have known him, To have loved him after loneness long; And then to be estranged in life, And neither in the wrong; And now heís left to set his seal Ė Ease me, a little ease, my song! By wintry hills his hermit-mound the sheeted snow-drifts drape, And houseless there the snow-bird flits beneath the fir-treesí crape: Glazed now with ice the cloistral vine that hid the shyest grape.