In 1850 while writing The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne's publisher introduced him to another writer who was in the midst of a novel. This was Herman Melville, the book Moby Dick. Hawthorne and Melville became good friends at once, for despite their dissimilar backgrounds, they had a great deal in common. Melville was a New Yorker, born in 1819, one of eight children of a merchant of distinguished lineage. His father, however, lost all his money and died when the boy was 12. Herman left school at 15, worked briefly as a bank clerk, and in 1837 went to sea. For 18 months, in 1841 and 1842, he was crewman on the whaler Acushnet. Then he jumped ship in the South Seas. For a time he lived among a tribe of cannibals in the Marquesas. Later he made his way to Tahiti where he idled away nearly a year.
After another year at sea he returned to America in the fall of 1844.
Although he had never before attempted serious writing, in 1846 he published Typee an account of his life in the Marquesas. The book was a great success, for Melville had visited a part of the world almost unknown to Americans, and his descriptions of his bizarre experiences suited the taste of a romantic age.
As he wrote Melville became conscious of deeper powers. In 1849 he began a systematic study of Shakespeare, pondering the bard's intuitive grasp of human nature. Like Hawthorne, Melville could not accept the prevailing optimism of his generation. Unlike his friend, he admired Emerson, seconding the Emersonian demand that Americans reject European ties and develop their own literature. 'Believe me,' he wrote, 'men not very much inferior to Shakespeare are this day being born on the banks of...