MELVILLE, Herman (1819-1891). Autograph letter signed ("Herman" and again "Hm") to Allan Melville, Liverpool, 10, 13, 14 [&15] November 1856.
Eight pages, bifolia, 200 x 122mm. (dampstains, wax seal remnant at top of final page). Red cloth chemise and slipcase. On his travels in England and Scotland, a visit with Nathaniel Hawthorne, a prospective visit with James Fenimore Cooper, his improving health and his plans to visit Constantinople, Egypt and Italy—one of the longest Melville letters extant. Herman reports to Allan that his Atlantic crossing was "upon the whole not disagreeable, though the passengers were not all of a desirable sort. There was I think, but one American beside myself. The rest were mostly Scotch with a sprinkling of English. Many others there were some six or seven 'convenience travellers,' a hard lot who did little but drink and gamble the whole way over." Arriving in Glasgow, he admired the "noble streets and interesting old cathedral." He moved on to Dumbarton Castle and Loch Lomond and finally to Edinburgh where he spent nearly a week and "was much pleased there." He recounts being hit in the face on the Greenock waterfront by a flying rope after a sailor lost control of it while lowering a boat: "a coil of the rope (new Manilla) flew up in my face with great violence, and for the moment, I thought my nose was ruined for life." Fortunately the wound healed, and he was spared permanent scars, but for a week he "presented the aspect of one who had been in a barroom fight." His travel continued to York aboard the irregularly scheduled "'Parliamentary,' trains, that is the cheapest ones." Back in Liverpool, with plans to visit with James Fenimore Cooper, then serving as the United States Consul there, Herman narrates his plans for his European tour. He would sail for "Constantinople from this port, touch at Gibraltar & Malta" then on to Alexandria, Cairo and then a steamer to Trieste and Venice, "and bring up at Rome for a considerable stay." He estimates that route during that time of year would save him money and satisfies himself with his thrift thus far. He also confirms that the trip had indeed improved his health as he had hoped; "My hip and back are better, & also my head. But I find that in walking I have pretty often to rest." Picking up his pen later in the week, he adds a note concerning an accident involving George Duyckinck, the son of Melville's friend, the New York publisher Evert Duyckinck, weighing the merits of a trip to London to see him but concluded that it was better not to go since Duyckinck was not allowed visitors at the hospital. The news that George was recovering and Melville's expectation that Duyckinck had closer friends already there convinced him his was the correct decision. On the evening of Friday the 14th, he announces he has decided to board the Persia which will sail early the next day. He adds the next morning that he had managed to see Hawthorne before he departed for the Mediterranean. Published in Horth (300-306) who notes that this letter forms a "crucial supplement" to Melville's journal for 1856-57 as the journal "contains no account of his voyage from New York to Glasgow, or of his travels between 26 October and 8 November." Provenance: collection of Agnes Morewood (Horth citation).