Cedars of Lebanon: Herman Melville in Jerusalem
One hundred years ago Herman Melville made a trip to Europe and the Levant which took him through Scotland, Liverpool (where he renewed his acquantaince with Hawthorne), Gibraltar, Algiers, Malta, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, and England again. The high point of this journey would seem to have been the eighteen days Melville spent in the Holy Land, mainly in and around Jerusalem (January 6-24, 1857).
His pilgrimage, for it was that, came at a turning point in Melville’s career. He was only thirty-seven then, but he had long been troubled by the fear that his inspiration was failing, and he had written to Hawthorne: “I feel that I am now come to the inmost leaf of the bulb, and that shortly the flower must fall to the mould.” His health had begun deteriorating also, and in 1853 he had driven himself to the verge of a nervous breakdown by overwork. His trip, begun in October 1856, was on the urgent advice of his doctor.
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