Melville's "Hawthorne and His Mosses" and Moby Dick
Hawthorne is widely credited with having contributed to Melville's inspiration
for transforming the early drafts of the sea adventure The Whale into the
massive, eloquent, insightful masterpiece of a novel that is Moby-Dick.
The novel's dedication to Hawthorne is one indication of the senior author's role
as mentor. Certainly Melville's accolades for his colleague in the review "Hawthorne
and His Mosses" leave no doubt about his admiration for Hawthorne's literary talents
and his fascination with the New Englander's enigma. The parallels which Melville's
review cites between Hawthorne and Shakespeare, and implicitly between himself
and Shakespeare, also testify to the genius of the observed writer as well as
the observing one. With all these points well-established, a case can further
be made that within Moby-Dick at least one oblique reference serves to
reiterate them. It is in Captain Ahab's Shakespearean-like "soliloquy" to the
whale's head that the conjoined terms "venerable," "mosses," "secret," and "deepest"
suggest a second purpose in the speech as another tribute from Melville to Hawthorne.
Melville, Hawthorne, and The Blithedale Romance
Melville's influence upon Hawthorne did not manifest itself in a book dedication
or review, but internal evidence in The Blithedale Romance agrees with
other sources that the older author, Hawthorne, also valued the younger one highly.
Appearing in 1852, one year after Moby-Dick, The Blithedale Romance
follows Melville's powerful example of Ishamel's first person narration with that
of another young male character who also embarks upon an adventure-- Hawthorne's
Miles Coverdale. Just as Ishmael's experience on a whaler reflects Melville's,
Coverdale's Blithedale (meaning Happy
Valley) similarly recalls Hawthorne's time at Brook Farm. In fact, some of
Coverdale's narration comes almost verbatim from Hawthorne's Brook
Farm journal. As Coverdale serves to some extent as a "cover" for his creator,
the other major male character in Blithedale, Hollingsworth, shares a number
of remarkable similarities with Herman Melville; and the relationship between
the two characters provides a rich source of speculation about the nature of the
relationship between Hawthorne and Melville.