As literary friendships go, I’ve always been fascinated by the homoerotic overtones of the correspondence between Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Actually, as far as I know, only Melville’s letters survive. But they are some singularly passionate epistles. Here’s an excerpt from Melville’s response to Hawthorne’s praise of Moby-Dick:
Whence come you, Hawthorne? By what right do you drink from my flagon of life? And when I put it to my lips — lo, they are yours and not mine. I feel that the Godhead is broken up like the bread at the Supper, and that we are the pieces. Hence this infinite fraternity of feeling. Now, sympathizing with the paper, my angel turns over another page. you did not care a penny for the book. But, now and then as you read, you understood the pervading thought that impelled the book — and that you praised. Was it not so? You were archangel enough to despise the imperfect body, and embrace the soul. Once you hugged the ugly Socrates because you saw the flame in the mouth, and heard the rushing of the demon, — the familiar, — and recognized the sound; for you have heard it in your own solitudes.