It was a very hot afternoon.
The two authors met for the first time in Stockbridge on August 5,on a picnic excursion hosted by David Dudley Field.
Hawthorne was forty-six and was familiar with at least a portion of Melville's work, having favorably reviewed Typee in the Salem Advertiser March 25, ; Melville was thirty-one and had just written or was about to write an exceedingly warm and enthusiastic piece on Hawthorne's Mosses From an Old Manse, a copy of which had been given to him by an aunt a few weeks before.
Early in the course of the excursion, a sudden thunderstorm forced the party to take shelter, giving Melville and Hawthorne an opportunity to become better acquainted.
The two men took to each other at once, and as their conversation continued were delighted to discover a growing bond of mutual sympathy and comprehension. Two days later Hawthorne wrote to a friend "I liked Melville so much that I have asked him to spend a few days with me.
In the beginning the relationship was a great source of comfort and intellectual stimulation to Melville, who believed he had finally found the soul mate for whom he had been yearning.
As Sophia Hawthorne observed, "Mr. Melville, generally silent and uncommunicative, pours out the rich floods of his mind and experience to [Nathaniel Hawthorne], so sure of apprehension, so sure of a large and generous interpretation, and of the most delicate and fine judgment.
In August of Melville wrote to Hawthorne about the true story of a New England woman who had taken in and married a shipwrecked sailor only to be abandoned by him. Melville agreed, but it is uncertain now whether he ever actually did anything with the material; at any rate, no published version of the story by him has been discovered.
The "Agatha" correspondence marks nearly the end of the Melville - Hawthorne relationship, which had lasted only a little over two years.
The initial abundance of warmth and fellowship had faded for reasons which can only be conjectured. Melville may have come to feel that Hawthorne was not as profoundly sympathetic and responsive as he had at first seemed; for his part, Hawthorne was unsuccesful in using his long-established connections with Franklin Pierce to secure a government post for the impoverished Melville, a failure that left him "embarrassed and chagrined" and probably made him reluctant to pursue further encounters.
The two men met for the last time in November Melville has not been well, of late; Melville, as he always does, began to reason of Providence and futurity, and of everything that lies beyond human ken, and informed me that he had "pretty much made up his mind to be annihilated"; but still he does not seem to rest in that anticipation; and, I think, will never rest until he gets hold of a definite belief.
It is strange how he persists -- and has persisted ever since I knew him, and probably long before -- in wondering to-and-fro over these deserts, as dismal and monotonous as the sand hills amid which we were sitting.
He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other. If he were a religious man, he would be one of the most truly religious and reverential; he has a very high and noble nature, and better worth immortality than most of us.
He continued to read and annotate Hawthorne's works after the latter's death in Melville's copies of Hawthorne texts are preserved in Harvard's Houghton Library ; the reserved and finally unresponsive traveler Vine in Clarel is widely considered to have been based on Hawthorne; and the poem "Monody" from Timoleon is almost certainly about him.The murderer of beloved tejano queen, Selena Perez, has been found dead in her prison cell of what is believed to be natural causes.
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