The two authors met for the first time in Stockbridge on August 5, 1850, 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, 1846); 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." This would be the first of a series of visits, supplemented by written correspondence, that would continue until the gradual cooling off of the friendship late in 1852.
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." Hawthorne's influence, in fact, is credited as the prime... [continues]
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