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Excerpts from Melville's "Hawthorne and His Mosses"

Excerpts from Melville's "Hawthorne and His Mosses" in which the term "mosses" is emphasized, reverence for Hawthorne and his enigma abounds, and parallels with Shakespeare are drawn

. . . It is curious, how a man may travel along a country road, and yet miss the grandest, or sweetest of prospects, by reason of an intervening hedge, so like all other hedges, as in no way to hint of the wide landscape beyond. So has it been with me concerning the enchanting landscape in the soul of this Hawthorne, this most excellent Man of Mosses. His "Old Manse" has been written now four years, but I never read it till a day or two since. I had seen it in the book-stores - heard of it often - even had it recommended to me by a tasteful friend, as a rare, quiet book, perhaps too deserving of popularity to be popular. But there are so many books called "excellent," and so much unpopular merit, that amid the thick stir of other things, the hint of my tasteful friend was disregarded; and for four years the Mosses on the Old Manse never refreshed me with their perennial green.

. . . Stretched on that new mown clover, the hill-side breeze blowing over me through the wide barn door, and soothed by the hum of bees in the meadows around, how magically stole over me this Mossy Man!

. . . For no less ripe than ruddy are the apples of the thoughts and fancies in this sweet Man of Mosses.

. . . The great beauty of such a mind is but the product of its strength.

. . . Now it is that blackness in Hawthorne, of which I have spoken, that so fixes and fascinates me. But . . . this blackness it is that furnishes the infinite obscure of his background, -- that background, against which Shakespeare plays his grandest conceits, the things that have made for Shakespeare his loftiest, but most circumscribed renown, as the profoundest of thinkers. . . . But it is those deep far-away things in him; those occasional flashings-forth of the intuitive Truth in him; those short, quick probings at the very axis of reality: -- these are the things that make Shakespeare, Shakespeare.

. . . But . . . - if few men have time, or patience, or palate, for the spiritual truth as it is in that great genius; -- it is then, no matter of surprise that in a contemporaneous age, Nathaniel Hawthorne is a man, as yet, almost utterly mistaken among men.

. . . Now, I do not say that Nathaniel of Salem is a greater than William of Avon, or as great. But the difference between the two men is by no means immeasurable. Not a very great deal more, and Nathaniel were verily William.

. . . To be frank (though, perhaps, rather foolish), notwithstanding what I wrote yesterday of these Mosses, I had not then culled them all; but had, nevertheless, been sufficiently sensible of the subtle essence, in them, as to write as I did. To what infinite height of loving wonder and admiration I may yet be borne, when by repeatedly banquetting on these Mosses, I shall have thoroughly incorporated their whole stuff into my being, -- that , I can not tell. But already I feel that this Hawthorne has dropped germinous seeds into my soul. He expands and deepens down, the more I contemplate him; and further, and further, shoots his strong New Egnland roots into the hot soil of my southern soul.

. . . The truth seems to be, that like many other geniuses, this Man of Mosses takes great delight in hoodwinking the world, -- at least, with respect to himself.





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