Serendipity: Waiting To Be Annihilated

American Writer Herman Melville (1819-1891)

On November 20, 1856, Nathaniel Hawthorne met with Herman Melville in England. In his English Notebooks, Hawthorne describes his friend as having “by way of baggage, the least little bit of a bundle, which, he told me, contained a night-shirt and a tooth-brush…. [H]e is a little heterodox in the matter of clean linen.” He goes on to describe their meeting:

He stayed with us from Tuesday till Thursday; and, on the intervening day, we took a pretty long walk together, and sat down in a hollow among the sand hills (sheltering ourselves from the high, cool wind) and smoked a cigar. Melville, as he always does, began to reason of Providence and futurity, and of everything that lies beyond human ken, and informed me that he had “pretty much made up his mind to be annihilated”; but still he does not seem to rest in that anticipation; and, I think, will never rest in that anticipation; and, I think, will never rest until he gets hold of a definite belief. It is strange how he persists—and has persisted ever since I knew him, and probably long before—in wandering to-and-fro over these deserts, as dismal and monotonous as the sand hills amid which we were sitting. He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other. If he were a religious man, he would be one of the most truly religious and reverential; he has a very high and noble nature, and better worth immortality than most of us.