In order to continue www.thecolumbiastar.com, we will have to convert it to a subscription only website beginning March 1. We hate to do it, but if we remain free, this website will cease to exist. We truly appreciate your understanding, and as always, the print edition is available free in over 300 locations throughout the Greater Columbia Metropolitan Area. Thank you!

Mike Maddock, General Manager
2012-03-09 / Travel

The 5L (Liberty, Literature, Leaves, Lobster, and Love) Tour

Part 14: Herman Melville pondered here
By Warner M. Montgomery
WarnerM@ TheColumbiaStar.com


Arrowhead, Herman Melville’s home for 13 years. Arrowhead, Herman Melville’s home for 13 years. My wonderful wife led me through the words and homes of Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Norman Rockwell on our 5L Tour through New England. I sneaked in a few Revolutionary War battles sites just to even up the score; however, she was not finished with the Literati.

In Pittsfield, Massachusetts, we followed the Melville Trail, a self-guided tour of 12 sites that contain footsteps of Herman Melville. I insisted we first visit his home, Arrowhead, where legend says a mountain inspired his whale tale, Moby- Dick. At the Arrowhead Museum, I learned that Melville was a New York City boy, born 1819, but often visited his Boston Tea Party veteran grandfather in Boston. His father went bankrupt and died when Herman was 12. His clever mother was able to send him to a classical school but he left early and worked on the Erie Canal then as a cabin boy on an ocean- going ship. He returned to school, graduated, got a job teaching, then returned to sea in a whaling vessel that circled the world, only to desert ship in the South Pacific and fall in love with a beautiful “noble savage.”


Herman Melville, 1819-1891, author of Moby- Dick and Billy Budd. Herman Melville, 1819-1891, author of Moby- Dick and Billy Budd. His wanderlust soon got the best of him, and he took passage on another ship eventually returning to Boston. Melville married a judge’s daughter, had four children, and bought Arrowhead, a farm house, in 1850. For 13 years he wrote and farmed. He completed Moby- Dick and dedicated it to his friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne. The reviews were not good, but he kept writing until the money ran out then he set out on a lecture tour. During the Civil War, the Melvilles moved to New York City, and Herman wrote war poems then took a real job as a customs inspector.


Melville wrote at this desk in his upstairs room at Arrowhead. Melville wrote at this desk in his upstairs room at Arrowhead. Poor old Melville! His marriage soured, he turned to alcohol, went insane, lost his job, wrote Billy Budd, Sailor, and died at age 72 of a heart attack. Billy Budd was published 33 years later and made Melville posthumously famous.

In a previous life, I used Billy Budd as a text in a management seminar I taught at the Niagara Institute in Ontario. It demonstrates the internal conflicts a dedicated employee ( Billy) must make when dealing with a corrupt boss. What should you do? Forget it and keep working? Confront him? Tell his superior? Quit? The choice is always yours. Read the book to find out what Billy did.

Next week: The Road to Bennington



As Melville worked at his desk he looked out this window at the Berkshire Mountains. Hark! The mountains reminded him of the whales he has seen in the South Pacific. Behold! Moby- Dick. As Melville worked at his desk he looked out this window at the Berkshire Mountains. Hark! The mountains reminded him of the whales he has seen in the South Pacific. Behold! Moby- Dick.

Return to top