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The Divine Magnet

Herman Melville’s Letters to Nathaniel Hawthorne

Herman Melville

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  • Paperback: 106 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.50" x 8.50"
  • ISBN: 978-0-9906917-5-4
  • Publication Date: 2016-03-15
  • Orison Books

Availability: In stock

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The Divine Magnet

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These letters are full of passion, humor, doubt, and spiritual yearning, and offer an intimate view of Melville's personality. Lyrical and effusive, they are literary works in themselves. This correspondence has been out of print for decades, and even when it was in print it appeared in scholarly volumes of Melville's complete correspondence, aimed at the academy. The Divine Magnet will provide the general literary public as well as the college classroom with a reliable and beautifully produced volume of Melville's letters to Hawthorne, along with supplemental material, highlighting the relationship between these luminaries of American letters.

Paul Harding (Foreword), Mark Niemeyer (Editor / Author of Introduction)

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"Here is Melville at his most inspired and numinous; every perfervid yet finely honed paragraph is a philosophy, recalling Shelley's essays. [...] Niemeyer's probing and nuanced introduction dissects the controversies over Melville's feelings toward Hawthorne and situates the letters and the other works within this unresolved context. [...] Niemeyer's volume provides an invaluable reminder of Melville's philosophical fecundity, seeded by Hawthorne's inspiring and enigmatic influence." -- David Greven, Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies

"The 10 letters collected in this volume, all written between 1851 and 1852, chronicle, albeit one-sidedly, one of the most consequential relationships in American letters. Herman Melville had met Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1850 and recognized him instantly as a literary soulmate. Melville's letters (Hawthorne's have been lost) show a rapport and intimacy that go beyond simple mutual respect. Anticipating a visit by his correspondent—who at the time lived only six miles away in Massachussetts's Berkshire Mountains—he chortles, "We will have mulled wine with wisdom, & buttered toast with story-telling & crack jokes & bottles from morning till night." Having just read The House of the Seven Gables, published in 1851, he insightfully lauds Hawthorne's skill at rendering "the tragicalness of human thought in its own unbiassed, native, and profounder workings." Melville, then at work on "my Whale"—Moby-Dick, which he would dedicate to Hawthorne—is also uncommonly frank, in a letter from May 1851, about the literary renown that eludes him: "I have come to regard this matter of Fame as the most transparent of all vanities." The appendices, which include Melville's review of Hawthorne's story collection Mosses from an Old Manse and two poems by Melville thought to be about Hawthorne, enhance this portrait of friendship between two literary titans." —Publishers Weekly Reviewed on: 03/21/2016

"[Orison Books’] new edition of Melville’s letters to Nathaniel Hawthorne provides a timely service to literature. Packaged for a broader audience of readers, writers, and lovers of books, this slim volume of ten letters and accompanying pieces invites a new generation to go in quest of Melville’s fiction and poetry while sending an older generation back for more. [. . .] The Divine Magnet is lovingly and elegantly put together, short enough to be read in several sittings and expansive enough to occasion revisits again and again.” —Sean Ford, Pleiades Book Review

Herman Melville