I came across the above url and find it very interesting as an overview of the Novel, the history and various types and styles of novel.
A highschool internet acquaintance asked me for help on some Hawthorne "Scarlet Letter" questions due tomorrow. I didn't really feel like tackeling it initially, but felt sorry for the student, whom I have helped in the past. I read the Scarlet Letter 40 years ago, in high school.
But, as I got into it, with the google.com search engine (which allowed me to answer all the questions), plus I downloaed the entire text of the Scarlet Letter from the Guggenheim project,.... well, I got curious about what makes someone like Hawthorne or Melville labor to write a work so heavily laden with symbolism and psychodynamics. To my surprise, I discovered that Hawthorne and Melville were neighbors and friends, and Melville dedicated Moby Dick to Hawthorne, his mentor.
I do know that "The Tales of Gengi" by Lady Murasaki, written 1000 years ago, is considered the first novel. But I began to wonder historically which novel is considered the first to use symbolism, or deep psychodynamics, as opposed to simply being a good story told in a straight forward fashion.
I even found an elaborate essay about Hawthorne and Melville and bi-sexuality. I think the link is below.
Any, here are a few more interesting things I picked up along the way, including a timeline, some biographical facts, and excerpts from Melville's letters to Hawthorne:
1850 Melville publishes White-Jacket. He purchases “Arrowhead,” a
farm outside Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and forms a friendship with
his neighbor Nathaniel Hawthorne.
On an outing in the Berkshire Mountains, Melville made a major
literary contact. He met and formed a close relationship with his
neighbor and mentor, Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose work he had
reviewed in an essay for Literary World. Their friendship, as recorded
in Melville’s letters, provided Melville with a sounding board and
bulwark throughout his literary career. As a token of his warm
feelings, he dedicated Moby-Dick (1851), his fourth and most
challenging novel, to Hawthorne.
Melville attempted to support not only his own family but also his
mother and sisters, who moved in with the Melvilles ostensibly to
teach Lizzie how to keep house. In a letter to Hawthorne, Melville
complains, “Dollars damn me.” He owed Harper’s for advances on his
work. The financial strain, plus immobilizing attacks of rheumatism in
his back, failing eyesight, sciatica, and the psychological stress of
writing Moby-Dick, led to a nervous breakdown in 1856. The
experience with Mardi had proved prophetic. Moby-Dick , now
considered his major work and a milestone in American literature,
suffered severe critical disfavor. He followed with Pierre (1852), Israel
Potter (1855), The Piazza Tales (1856), and The Confidence Man
(1857), but never regained the readership he had enjoyed with his
first four novels.
Shunned by readers as uncouth, formless, irrelevant, verbose, and
emotional, Moby-Dick was the nadir of his career. Alarmed by the
author’s physical and emotional collapse, his family summoned Dr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes to attend him. They borrowed money from
Lizzie’s father to send Melville on a recuperative trek to Europe, North
Africa, and the Middle East; however, his health remained tenuous.
Melville mellowed in his later years. A relative’s legacy to Lizzie
enabled him to retire. He took pleasure in his grandchildren, daily
contact with the sea, and occasional visits to the Berkshires. When
the New York Authors Club invited him to join, he declined. He
became more reclusive as he composed his final manuscript, Billy
Budd, a short novel about arbitrary justice, which he completed five
months before his death. It was dedicated to John J. “Jack” Chase,
fellow sailor, lover of poetry, and father figure. Melville died of a heart
attack on September 28, 1891, without reestablishing himself in the
literary community. He was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the north
Bronx; his obituary occupied only three lines in the New York Post.
Billy Budd, the unfinished text which some critics classify as
containing his most incisive characterization, remained unpublished
until 1924. This novel, along with his journals and letters, a few
magazine sketches, and Raymond M. Weaver’s biography, revived
interest in Melville’s writings. Melville’s manuscripts are currently
housed in the Harvard collection.
March 16..Boston, Mass.: Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter
published by Ticknor, Reed and Fields
1850 Aug. 5...Stockbridge, Mass.: Nathaniel Hawthorne meets
Herman Melville at a picnic England: Charles Dickens publishes David
Hawthorne encapsulating their conversation [of August 1, 1851] by
writing in his journal: “Melville and I had a talk about time and
eternity, things of this world and of the next, and books, and
publishers, and all possible and impossible matters, that lasted pretty
deep into the night . . . .”
Hawthorne was determined to become a writer. He found
encouragement at Bowdoin College in Maine and graduated in 1825
with a class that included the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and
Franklin Pierce, who would be elected president of the United States
in the early 1850s. After graduation Hawthorne returned to his
mother’s house in Salem, where for the next twelve years he read
New England history as well as writers such as John Milton, William
Shakespeare, and John Bunyan.
After their marriage in the summer of 1842, Hawthorne and his wife
moved to the Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts, where their
neighbors included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau,
Amos Bronson Alcott, and other writers and thinkers who contributed
to the lively literary environment of that small town. Although
Hawthorne was on friendly terms with these men, his skepticism
concerning human nature prevented him from sharing either their
optimism or their faith in radical reform of individuals or society.
We incline to think that the Problem of the Universe is like the
Freemason's mighty secret, so terrible to all children. It turns out, at
last, to consist in a triangle, a mallet, and an apron, -- nothing more!
We incline to think that God cannot explain His own secrets, and that
He would like a little information upon certain points Himself. We
mortals astonish Him as much as He us. But it is this Being of the
matter; there lies the knot with which we choke ourselves. As soon as
you say Me, a God, a Nature, so soon you jump off from your stool and
hang from the beam. Yes, that word is the hangman. Take God out of
the dictionary, and you would have Him in the street.