College of Arts and Sciences

Department of English

ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance

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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