Cover image for Melville & his circle : the last years
Melville & his circle : the last years
Dillingham, William B.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Athens : University of Georgia Press, [1996]

Physical Description:
xiii, 213 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS2386 .D55 1996 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



This text focuses upon a period usually associated with the waning of Melville's literary powers. It aims to show that his personal isolation was a conscious intellectual decision, and that he was actually intensifying his thoughts on art and creativity to a greater degree than ever before.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

With the exception of Billy Budd, which went unpublished in his lifetime, all of Herman Melville's best-known work dates from the early part of his career. However, even as disillusionment with publishers and a general withdrawal from society marked Melville's later years, he never ceased writing. Dillingham's study of the later Melville argues that the author found sufficient companionship in reading the works of like-minded souls as he contemplated both the beauty of art and the sacrifices necessary to create it. According to Dillingham, "Melville's Circle" ranges from Buddhist philosophy to the pessimism of Schopenhauer, from the Human Comedy of Balzac to the poetry of Matthew Arnold. Through study of Melville's personal copies of these works, Dillingham adroitly shows the connections between these authors and Melville's own later verse and prose. Dillingham is far less persuasive, however, in his occasional misguided attempts to posit a direct correlation between what the aging Melville read and what he wrote: Melville's later themes and motifs can mostly already be found in his earlier work, and there's no reason to think he had to look elsewhere to rediscover them. But Dillingham does present a surprisingly intimate portrait of the way a neglected writer nurtured his own inner life through the world of literature. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Dillingham (Melville's Later Novels, Univ. of Georgia, 1986) hastens to explain that by "circle" he means not the flesh-and-blood companions of Melville's last 14 years (he was, in fact, increasingly reclusive). Rather, he means the writers (Matthew Arnold, Balzac, James Thomson, Schopenhauer, and commentators on Buddhism and Pessimism) whose works not only reveal Melville's evolving frame of mind but also provide grist for his own growing curiosity about the nature of art and the creative process. From 1877 to his death in 1891, Melville was far from inactive. Although he had been discarded by his former audience and was turning increasingly inward, he was still writing, as the posthumously published Billy Budd indicates. The works (mostly later poems) that Dillingham discusses are not among Melville's best, but his book helps clarify a cloudy part of Melville's life and art. Recommended for libraries with extensive Melville holdings.‘Charles Crawford Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, Mo. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.