|Nice day outside the office|
Am also slowly lushing through Moby Dick. I find it a guilty pleasure in that I feel a vulture, feeding off the entrails of a troubled soul. From a review of a Melville biography:
Early biographies touched on the question of madness but did so lightly, noting, for instance, that at one point Melville’s family had him examined by a doctor on psychological grounds. Biographers also tiptoed around the children: Melville’s oldest son committed suicide at 18, his next son died a drifter, one daughter was a spinster, and the last daughter reportedly did not want to hear her father’s name, regarding him as a beast.
In the late 1970’s, a religious scholar named Walter Kring discovered two letters concerning Melville’s marriage. The letters, written by Melville’s wife Elizabeth and her brother, Sam Shaw, were addressed to a leading New York pastor, H.W. Bellows, in 1867, when Melville was 47.
Shaw’s letter was shocking. It rejected a plan by Bellows to end the marriage by having relatives appear to abduct Lizzie to Boston.I find a kind of witchcraft in words, in the artistry of word play. I want to fall at the feet of the author without seeing the Author. It's said that Melville was surely manic-depressive and the preponderance of evidence suggests he was physically violent towards his wife. The hero on the page had feet of clay. The enjoyment I feel reading his prose makes me feel that I have somehow profited from his torture, since it's unlikely he would've produced such gold without the furnace of despair. Do you get the genius without the angst? Sometimes? (Mozart?)
Shaw wrote, “I think that the safest course is to let her real position become apparent from the first, namely that of a wife, who, being convinced that her husband is insane, acts as if she were so convinced and applies for aid and assistance to her friends and acts with them. I think she would have done this long ago were it not for imaginary and groundless apprehensions of the censures of the world upon her conduct …. ”
But perhaps that's the way of earthly life - we work for living, which means someone profits from our sweat equity, however small in comparison. And, of course, Jesus was the ultimate exemplar of a giving profit to us in his suffering and death.