MELVILLE, Herman (1819-1891). Redburn: His First Voyage. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1850.

"An association copy linking two of the greatest figures in American literature" (Reese): Nathaniel Hawthorne's copy of the first American edition of Redburn; later in the library of his son, Julian. Inscribed on the front endpaper: “Nath. Hawthorne from the Publisher.” With Melville’s clipped signature on front pastedown as well as Julian's ownership inscription in several places. First published in 1849, Redburn is based on Melville’s experiences while on a cargo boat to Liverpool in June 1839.

The importance of the relationship between Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne cannot be overstated. In the late 1840s, the Melville family moved to Arrowhead, their farm in the Berkshires, and while traditionally a solitary figure, Melville was encouraged and inspired by Hawthorne, whom he visited in nearby Lenox. They met on 5 August 1850 at a picnic hosted by a mutual friend; Melville had just read Hawthorne's latest collection of stories, Mosses from an Old Manse, and would review the collection anonymously in Literary World several weeks later. Melville biographer Laurie Robertson-Lorant writes, "Hawthorne tended to be shy and defensive with new acquaintances, but he liked Melville 'uncommonly well,' and invited him to return for a longer visit." Melville likewise became "infatuated with Hawthorne's intellect, captivated by his artistry, and charmed by his elusive personality" (247, 267). Their friendship in this key period produced Melville's masterpiece, Moby Dick, which he dedicated to Hawthorne, "In Token of My Admiration for His Genius," and Hawthorne's great work of the same year, The House of the Seven Gables.

Julian Hawthorne, the author's son, as well as an author himself, would many years later publish Nathaniel Hawthorne and his Wife in 1884. In writing the book, he called on Melville, who in the 1880s was out-of-fashion and working in the Customs House. The younger Hawthorne would comment in print that Melville was "a melancholy and pale wraith of what he had been in his prime" and that it was "a sad interview." "I knew that he had once proposed to Hawthorne to join him in some literary work ... I spoke of this project to Melville but he made no intelligible response. His words were vague and indeterminate ... When I tried to revive memories in him of the red-cottage days —red-letter days too for him—he merely shook his head." (Leyda, p. 783). Melville's wife purchased a copy of Julian Hawthorne's book in 1885, but Melville made no recorded comments.

A remarkable association highlighting not only Melville's greatest creative period but also his fall to obscurity. BAL 13660.

Octavo. 18 pp. of ads at rear (foxing internally, name of Nathaniel Hawthorne blotted). Original purple cloth (faded, cloth rubbed with some loss to spine ends, corners showing, rear joint repaired). Custom box. Provenance: Nathaniel Hawthorne (publisher's presentation inscription) – Julian Hawthorne (ownership inscription in several places) – Stephen H. Wakeman, noted collector of 19th century American literature (bookplate, his sale, American Art Association, 28 and 29 April 1924, lot 410).

Exhibited: "A Herman Melville Collection ... on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his death, from the collection of William S. Reese," Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, 1991, no. 10.

Brought to you by

Related Articles

Sorry, we are unable to display this content. Please check your connection.

More from
The Herman Melville Collection of William S. Reese
Place your bid Condition report

A Christie's specialist may contact you to discuss this lot or to notify you if the condition changes prior to the sale.

I confirm that I have read this Important Notice regarding Condition Reports and agree to its terms. View Condition Report