MELVILLE'S 1850 REVIEW of Nathaniel Hawthorne Mosses from an Old Manse provides a starting point from which to gauge the relation between individual creativity and cultural practice. Though frequently remembered for celebrating Hawthorne's "blackness of darkness," Melville presents a bivalent formulation of genius:
Whereas great geniuses are parts of the times, they themselves are the times, and possess a correspondent coloring.1
This formulation suggests a cultural indebtedness usually overlooked in studies that emphasize Melville's "classic," asocial status.
But can we assume a correspondent coloring between Melville's own progressiveness and that of his contemporaries? Certainly other "classic" writers shared Melville's views on artistry. Poe and Hawthorne too described genius as a mixture of cultural forms and personal insights: Hawthorne referred to genius as "the newspaper of a century," while Poe asserted that originality "is carefully patiently, and understandingly to combine."2
This book explores the relation between Herman Melville and the mid-nineteenth-century literary marketplace. American authors such as Melville who attempted both to profit from and to serve as prophets of the literary word faced the challenge of combining personal visions with the complexities of literary production at midcentury: the attempt to cater simultaneously to British and American tastes, to write for divergent readerships in America, to negotiate the critical
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Publication information: Book title: Correspondent Colorings:Melville in the Marketplace. Contributors: Sheila Post-Lauria - Author. Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press. Place of publication: Amherst . Publication year: 1996. Page number: xi.
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