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Some aspects of Herman Melville influencing Holgrave's character

Some aspects of Herman Melville influencing Holgrave's character

Many critics of The House of the Seven Gables have seen links between Hawthorne and his character Holgrave, but James Mellow in Nathaniel Hawthorne in His Times also sees some aspects of Herman Melville influencing Holgrave's character.
Ironically, Hawthorne borrowed something of Herman Melville's personal history when he came to the delineation of Holgrave, the symbol of the brash, new, up-and-coming young man of mid-nineteenth-century America. "In his crude wild and misty philosophy, and the practical experience that counteracted its tendencies; in his magnanimous zeal for man's welfare, and his recklessness of whatever the ages had established in man's behalf; in his faith, and in his infidelity, in what he had and in what he lacked," Holgrave might easily represent some aspects of Herman Melville. Holgrave's latest profession is that of daguerreotypist, making him "the artist," one of the familiars in Hawthorne's gallery of symbolic characters. But for Holgrave this is only the latest in a long line of desultory careers. In one of his sharpest touches, Hawthorne presents Holgrave as the heir of the new democracy, a representative figure "in a country where everything is free to the hand that can grasp it." Hawthorne is admiring and condescending. Holgrave has tried his hand at everything:
Though now but twenty-two years old (lacking some months, Which are years, in such a life), he had already been, first a country School-master; next, a salesman in a country-store; and either at the same time or afterwards, the political editor of a country newspaper. He had subsequently traveled New England and the middle states as a pedlar, in the employment of a Connecticut manufactory of Cologne water and other essences. In an episodical way, he had studied and practised dentistry, and with very flattering success, especially in many of the factory-towns along our inland streams. As a supernumerary official of some kind or other, aboard a packet-ship, he had visited Europe and found means, before his return to see Italy and part of France and Germany. At a later period he had spent some months in a community of Fourierists. Still more recently he had been a public lecturer on Mesmerism . . .
With Yankee economy, Hawthorne lifted much of this quixotic history from his own notebooks. Holgrave is the new breed that Hawthorne had encountered on his rural excursions. But the roles of a country schoolmaster, a clerk in a country store, and a lengthy service at sea, would comfortably fit the youthful career of Herman Melville (358). From Nathaniel Hawthorne in His Times, by James R. Mellow. Copyright (c) 1980 by James R. Mellow. Reprinted by permission of Georges Borchardt, Inc, for the Estate of James R. Mellow.



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