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 LetterThe House of the Seven GablesMoby-DickThe 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.



8 comments:

  1. There certainly was a confluence of memorable writing at that time, Tim. Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, for instance, may not be considered the finest of American novels. But its influence was profound.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Margot, you're right about UTC. The backlash by some southern writers and their pro slavery novels in response to Stowe was pathetic.

      Delete
  2. R.T.--no surprises, I fear. Moby Dick, Scarlet Letter, Walden.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fred, there must have been something in the water there and then.

      Delete
  3. Dred: Harriet Beecher Stowe; granted it wasn't published til '56, but it's purportedly head and shoulders better than Uncle Tom"s Cabin... i haven't read it though, i just read some reviews... if i had a copy i'd read it...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mudpuddle, it should be public domain downloadable at Gutenberg or elsewhere. I haven't heard of it, so this new dog learned something new. Arf!

      Delete
    2. Link:
      http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/55012

      Delete