In August of 1850, Melville, who lived in nearby Pittsfield and was working on “Moby Dick,” was invited to meet Hawthorne, who lived in Lenox and had just published “The Scarlet Letter.” The two had a picnic on the mountain, where they discussed the future of American literature. Joining them was author and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes. To prepare for the outing, Holmes emptied the tools of his trade from his doctor’s bag and replaced them with ice and a bottle of champagne.
After hiking up the mountain and downing the bottle at the peak, “they got themselves happy enough, and Melville decided to climb out on a dangerous cliff to demonstrate how they unfurl sails on a whaling ship,” said Gordon Hyatt. . . .
Melville — who was unharmed by his escapade — was so inspired by the meeting that he spent another year working on “Moby Dick,” which was already two-thirds finished. Melville dedicated the book to Hawthorne.