Herman Melville and Atlantic Relations

During troubled times over Hawaii, Oregon and the West Indies, Melville maintained a sympathetic attitude to Britain - not least to the Chartists, writes Charlotte Lindgren.

Englishmen and Americans frequently react ambivalently toward one another because they are at once so alike and so different. Sharing a common language and culture, their ideologies became separated in the latter part of the eighteenth century, not so much by revolution as by individual circumstances of space.

While the enclosure of land, industrial growth, and an expanding population were urbanizing England, America, already a melting pot of nationalities, had a vast hinterland of unlimited opportunity for those adventurous enough to move westward.

When Herman Melville was born in 1819, the whole western world was undergoing tumultuous changes. Virtually ignored during most of his own century, Melville was to write prophetically, warning that without superior leaders, the freedom of the individual so cherished by Americans could lead to demagoguery, alienation, and deracination.

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