Saturday, August 5, 2017
Hawthorne, Melville, five years, and my bucket list
First there is this from The Writer's Almanac:
On this day in 1850, Herman Melville (books by this author) and Nathaniel Hawthorne (books by this author) met at a picnic with friends at Monument Mountain near Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Two days later, Melville visited Hawthorne at his little red farmhouse in Lenox. Hawthorne gave him two bottles of champagne and they took a walk to the lake. That same day, Hawthorne wrote to a friend, "I met Melville, the other day, and liked him so much that I have asked him to spend a few days with me before leaving these parts." For a year and a half, the two friends lived six miles apart during the most productive time in their writing lives. Their five greatest books - The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables, Moby-Dick, The Blithedale Romance, and Pierre - were either being written or published. In fact, The Blithedale Romance and Pierre were written at the same time, and The Scarlet Letter and Moby-Dick were published only a year apart. In the fall of 1851, Melville dedicated Moby-Dick to Hawthorne.
And there is this personal postscript:
A famous literary critic (whose name I cannot remember, and whose words I now paraphrase) said the years 1850 through 1855 were the most important in American literature (i.e., the great books that matter most were written in that brief half decade). Who am I to argue with such a wise observation?
I will, however, make a simple challenge to myself: I'm adding Hawthorne, Melville, and that half decade to my bucket list for reading. I wonder when (if) I will ever get around to that list. I better hurry.
Now, though, I leave you with a challenge: tell me about your favorite(s) from the most amazing half decade in American literature, 1850-1855.