Friday, July 15, 2011

Aristarchus of the South Seas

'ARISTARCHUS is charming: how full of knowledge, of sense, of sentiment. You get him with difficulty to your supper; and after having delighted everybody and himself for a few hours, he is obliged to return home; - he is finishing his treatis, to prove that unhappiness is the portion of man.'
-Richard Fulke Greville, Maxims, Characters, and Reflections

'Mr. Melville was probably quite as entertaining and somewhat less abstruse, when his communications were by word of mouth. Mrs. Hawthorne used to tell of one evening, when he came in, and presently began to relate the story of a fight which he had seen in the Pacific, between some savages, and the prodigies of valor one of them performed with a heavy club. The narrative was extremely graphic; and when Melville had gone, and Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne were talking over his visit, the latter said, "Where is that club which Mr. Melville was laying about him so?" Mr. Hawthorne thought he must have taken it with him; Mrs. Hawthorne thought he had put it in the corner; but it was not to be found. The next time Melville came, they asked him about it; whereupon it appeared that the club was still in the Pacific island, if it were anywhere."
-Julian Hawthorne, Nat. Hawthorne & his Wife, a Biography; Vol. 1

'Melville, as he always does, began to reason of Providence and futurity, and of everything that lies beyond human ken, and informed me that he had "pretty much made up his mind to be annihilated;" but still he does not seem to rest in that anticipation; and, I think, will never rest until he gets hold of a definite belief. It is strange how he persists - and has persisted ever since I knew him, and probably long before - in wandering to and fro over these deserts, as dismal and monotonous as the sand hills amid which we were sitting. He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other. If he were a religious man, he would be one of the most truly religious and reverential; he has a very high and noble nature, and better worth immortality than most of us."
-Hawthorne, Journal, Nov. 12 1856

'An agreeable day. Took a long walk by the sea. Sands & grass. Wild & desolate. A strong wind. Good talk."
-Melville, Journal, Nov. 12 1856

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