College of Arts and Sciences

Department of English

ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance

Robert Milder

"'The Ugly Socrates': Melville, Hawthorne, and Homoeroticism"

The question of Melville's homoeroticism in his relationship to Hawthorne is deeply problematic--first, because of the chasm of culture, idiom, and ideology separating Melville's time from our own and lending a character of alienness and inscrutability to mid-nineteenth-century psychoerotic experience; and second, because Melville himself seems to have been genuinely uncertain about the nature and source of his feelings, both at the time and in retrospect.The model of Greek love found in Plato's Symposium only complicated matters so far as it could alternatively be used to sublimate, mask, license, or evade homoerotic feelings, or in some combination do all of these things at once.

The first and third sections of my essay explore the Melville-Hawthorne relationship from Melville's side, chiefly through Melville's letters to Hawthorne but also with reference to Clarel and "After the Pleasure Party." The long middle section is a psychobiographical reading of Pierre as (in F. O. Matthiessen's words) the site where we might expect to "find the most evident traces of the interaction of Hawthorne and Melville." The essay engages the homoerotic readings of Melville advanced by Newton Arvin and James Creech, but it takes issue with their separation of the intellectual and sexual themes of Pierre into a version of Freudian "manifest content" and "latent content." I am concerned rather with how Melville came to understand the profound but elusive intermingling of his intellectual life and his sexual/psychological life, particularly with how the departure of Hawthorne from the Berkshires in the fall of 1851 precipitated in Melville a psychic crisis that linked itself to feelings of abandonment consequent upon his father's death years earlier and that led him to reevaluate his emotional investment in Hawthorne and, indeed, the integrity of his life's work. The section makes extended use of Freud's "Mourning and Melancholia," John Bowlby's studies of parental loss, and Heinz Kohut's theory of narcissistic personality disorders; its chief allegiance, however, is to primary materials read closely and speculatively within an exploratory consideration of a subject (Melville's "homoeroticism") that can never be more than conjecturally resolved.

Thomas R. Mitchell

"In the Whale's Wake: Melville and The Blithedale Romance"

Whereas most of the attention given to the Hawthorne-Melville relationship has focused on the older author's influence on Melville, this essay examines Melville's complex and contradictory impact on Hawthorne's career. Immediately prior to Melville's entering into his life and publicly praising his work for its courageous exploration of "blackness," Hawthorne had been worrying over unsettling speculations by friends and family about his character that had been provoked by the darkness of The Scarlet Letter. Determined even more by Melville's praise to end these speculations and determined to write books that would sell, Hawthorne consciously tried to rid his work of "blackness" by forcing "sunshine" into it, writing in 1850-51 not only The House of the Seven Gables but also the highly successful children's volume A Wonder Book for Boys and Girls. These books did indeed pay better. But as 1851 progressed and he witnessed Melville's passionate enthusiasm over progress with Moby-Dick, Hawthorne, who had found writing Seven Gables painfully frustrating, was inspired to take a risk again and compose a controversial, darker novel, The Blithedale Romance. Embarking on the project after reading the completed Moby-Dick and after moving away from the Berkshires and out of Melville's life, Hawthorne paid tribute to Melville's influence by creating his own first-person narrative, by basing his story on publicly known autobiographical experience, and by confronting fictionally the troubling dimensions of his past relationships with Emerson, Fuller, and now Melville. Coverdale is not the weary, self-deprecating, frustrated writer of a bachelor that Hawthorne could have become had he not met Sophia, as some have suggested. He is the middle-aged writer who has met the young Melville and just read his Moby-Dick.

Brenda Wineapple

"Hawthorne and Melville; or, The Ambiguities"

This essay focuses on the literary aspects-what might be called the literary politics-of Melville's view of Hawthorne, deliberately avoiding the "snare" created by Melville's passionate writing and Hawthorne's missing responses, and instead examining the hidden motives behind Melville's veneration of Hawthorne, especially in his Mosses from an Old Manse review. Humility works here as "part of a protocol that frequently con-ceals unacknowledged aggression": Melville's anxiety of influence caused him to set Hawthorne up as a literary master so that he could join him on the lofty perch and displace him. When the argument turns to Hawthorne's side of the relationship, it emphasizes Hawthorne's early introduction to the sea and his mourning for his drowned, sea-faring father and characterizes Melville as an iconoclastic father figure whom Hawthorne both loved and feared. Melville's features are discovered not only in the Blithedale character of Hollingsworth but also in Holgrave's portrait in The House of the Seven Gables (before Phoebe reforms him). During the time of his friendship with Melville, the article suggests, Hawthorne may have envied the bigger book, Moby-Dick, he knew Melville was writing.

Afterword Robert K. Martin and Leland S. Person

"Missing Letters: Hawthorne, Melville, and Scholarly Desire"

As scholars attempt to understand the relationship between Hawthorne and Melville, especially during the sixteen months the two writers lived near one another in the Berkshires (August 1850-November 1851), Hawthorne's missing letters to Melville create a seductive blank space on which they can speculate. Melville's writing to and about Hawthorne does survive, and its frankly erotic language suggests the sexual dimensions of Melville's side of the relationship. The question of how Hawthorne responded to Melville and to such overtly erotic language remains a tantalizing mystery, but scholars have nonetheless ventured a variety of answers.

In this essay Robert Martin and Leland Person examine many of those answers (for example, those by Newton Arvin, Edwin Haviland Miller, James C. Wilson, Monica Mueller, Hershel Parker, and Laurie Robertson-Lorant) in order to show how the scholars' own desires and understanding of relationships between men influence their interpretation of the Hawthorne-Melville friendship. They also examine the three new contributions in this special issue of ESQ through the same lens, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each.

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