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Excerpts from Melville's Moby-Dick

Excerpts from Melville's Moby-Dick

Excerpts from Melville's Moby-Dick, first the dedication of the novel to Hawthorne, then a passage from the seventieth chapter "The Sphynx" in which Captain Ahab's soliloquy-like address to a whale's head exhibits language clues that permit a second interpretation of the passage as further tribute to Hawthorne. The term "mosses" alludes to Melville's review "Hawthorne and His Mosses" for Hawthorne's collection of stories Mosses from an Old Manse; the Shakespearean form of soliloquy echoes Melville's connection of Hawthorne and Shakespeare in that review; the references to "The Sphynx" and "the secret thing that is in thee" parallel Melville's repeated observations of Hawthorne's possessing a "secret," the knowledge of which would shed light upon his works; and the words of praise venerable, mighty, and deepest in this context suggest that Moby Dick's author intended his masterpiece as an offerering to his beloved Hawthorne more than is generally recognized:

Dedication of Moby-Dick


IN TOKEN
OF MY ADMIRATION FOR HIS GENIUS,
THIS BOOK IS INSCRIBED
TO
NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE


 

Excerpts from Chapter lxx of Moby-Dick , "The Sphinx"

"Speak, thou vast and venerable head," muttered Ahab, "which, though ungarnished with a beard, yet here and there lookest hoary with mosses; speak, mighty head, and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers, thou hast dived the deepest. That head upon which the upper sun now gleams, has moved amid this world's foundations. . . ."

(courtesy of the e-text library of the University of Virginia)





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