The Sorrows of Young Werewolf (eyeteeth) wrote,
The Sorrows of Young Werewolf

The shyest grape

Recently I started reading Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables, just to get an idea of what Melville saw in him -- or, more truthfully, half to get an idea of what Melville saw in him and half because it's funny to think that you can discover from a novel what made one person fall in love with another -- because you don't call someone "shyest grape" unless you are in love with him, and you certainly don't write him letters containing phrases like "your heart beat in my ribs and mine in yours, and both in God's." Melville often wrote about eating in order to write about love, and his letters to Hawthorne are so full of food, they're hard to read on an empty stomach. "My peace and my supper are my reward, my dear Hawthorne," he says, and "I would sit down and dine with you and all the gods in old Rome's Pantheon," and "I feel that the Godhead is broken up like the bread at the Supper, and that we are the pieces." And that's all in a single letter. No wonder Hawthorne backed off -- Melville wanted to eat him! And not just as a metaphor for sex, though maybe that too. Melville wanted to be Hawthorne, he wanted them to be a single entity.

My copy of The House of the Seven Gables turns out to be cheap and poorly bound, so that each page falls out as I turn it. substitute, who does not like Hawthorne very much, calls this a built-in metaphor included with the price of the book. I don't judge Hawthorne so harshly -- after all, who doesn't like "Rappaccini's Daughter," despite the sexism? -- but I still want to go back in time and tell Melville that he could do better, even if it was Hawthorne who told him to put all that stuff about God into Moby-Dick, which otherwise would have been just a hell of a lot of stuff about whaling. Also that next time, he should write less creepy love letters.
Tags: books, herman melville, nathaniel hawthorne
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