Friday, October 06, 2006

Call me Ishmael ...

On Friday, I visited Arrowhead, the Pittsfield, Mass., home of Herman Melville, one of my favorite authors.
Melville lived at Arrowhead from 1850-63. In the second-floor study, he wrote the novels "Pierre" and "Israel Potter" and several shorter works, including "Bartleby, the Scrivener," that were published in the collection called "The Piazza Tales."
At Arrowhead, he also wrote a little fish tale titled "Moby-Dick."

Arrowhead, built 1780

Detail of the piazza, or porch, that Melville ordered built after he bought the house. The views from the piazza of Mt. Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts, inspired him, and he loved to spend long hours sitting in his rocking chair, taking in the scenery. It was for this piazza that he named a collection of his shorter works.

Mt. Greylock from the piazza

Mt. Greylock from the window of Melville's second-floor study, the room in which he wrote "Moby-Dick." It is said that the shape of the distant mountain reminded Melville of a menacing whale and served as inspiration while he composed his masterpiece. The book was blasted by the critics, and Melville's career was ruined. It was only in the mid-1920s that scholars began to reassess this arguably greatest of American novels and accord it its due place in our literature.
By then, Melville had been dead more than 30 years.

View from the grounds

Melville's barn. Inside, he and close friend and neighbor Nathaniel Hawthorne would chat for hours on end, uninterrupted by Melville's bustling household of children and extended family.

Other scenes along the road ...

Barn, Canaan, Columbia County, N.Y.

Field down the street from my sister's house, Chatham, Columbia County, N.Y.


Matt Kohai said...

Gorgeous pictures. Looks like you had nearly as much fun as Beth, Lynn and I did at the orchard this weekend. Nice weather sure is helping...

LBseahag said...

This was a treat! I did a biography on him sophomore year in HS! Sure could've used these photos! I think its sad they got his name wrong in his obituary...

I loved the fall colors, its gorgeous! Can't wait to see what your next adventure is!!!

Michael said...

Hi MK,
Thanks! Yes, the weather really did help!

Hi LB,
Thank you! Yes, I think it was the obituary writer for The New York Times who wrote that he thought Melville had died years before. Very sad, indeed. My next trip is a visit to Melville's grave in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

LBseahag said...

Thats awesome, when are you going?
I bet that mishap in the times bugged you, since you are an editor, right?

Michael said...

My brother-in-law and I are planning to go to Melville's grave in a few weeks. It's a fairly short trip from my home.
The typo in Melville's obit didn't bother me as much as the short shrift paid to his legacy by the obituary writer.
But what goes around comes around. Does anybody remember the obit writer's name?

Michael said...

Oooops -- Melville is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, and it wasn't The New York Times that misspelled his name in an obituary. It was another paper.