Abstract

Abstract:

Despite its acknowledged importance in the evolution of nineteenth-century American literature, the historic friendship of Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne still bears re-examination for overlooked evidence of mutual literary influence, as found in the novels they wrote while living as near neighbors in the Berkshires in 1850–51. Hawthorne's influence on Moby-Dick, as attested by its dedication, is widely recognized, but Melville's influence on Hawthorne, as found in The House of the Seven Gables, has attracted less attention. The present essay provides a new evaluation of the interplay of authorial influences found in Moby-Dick and The House of the Seven Gables. I demonstrate that, whether by accident or design, both authors extensively drew on the biblical story of King Ahab in the First Book of Kings to structure their narratives around a theme of revenge, while they also used salient biographical details of the other author for elements of characterization. Melville's April 1851 letter to Hawthorne responding to a reading of the recently published House offers additional evidence of Melville's sense of literary and spiritual kinship with Hawthorne during this high point in both writers' careers.

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