Tag Archives: Herman Melville

Melville on Mt. Greylock

Melville in Love, The Secret Life of Melville and the Muse of Moby-Dick

 by Michael Shelden  (2016)





Did you know that Herman Melville, author of Moby-Dick (the finest sea-faring novel ever written), climbed Mt. Greylock? In 1851 Melville climbed Mt. Greylock on the trail called Bellows Pipe. This ‘excursion to Greylock’ was by wagon and horses, and on foot. What is most amazing is that he made the climb with his secret lover Mrs. Sarah Moorewood. Sarah was a “wild beauty” who rode a colt named Black Quake. She had a salacious reputation that would make men tremble in her presence.  And Herman Melville fell into her lusty charms.

The excursion to Greylock included a party of ten—family (no spouses) and friends—complete with brandy cherries, champagne, rum, port wine and gallons of enthusiasm. Before sunset they reached the hazy blue, white, and green mountaintop, viewed the watery atmosphere, “the air cool and pungent with the smell of balsam.” After dining by firelight, and under the stars, Herman and Sarah found themselves a private escape and made love for the first time on Greylock’s summit. A night that was “too merry for sleep” as Sarah wrote in her essay some time later.

“They did what would have come naturally to two people in love, taking advantage of the late hour and the darkness to enjoy a passionate bond that had been growing for more than a year.”

I’ve been reading a thrilling biography of Herman Melville, Melville in Love, The Secret Life of Melville and the Muse of Moby-Dick by Michael Sheldon. Of course the scandal in the story is that both Melville and Moorewood were wed to others at the time. Sheldon writes of Melville’s muse, the woman and the mountain. Melville grew obsessed with Sarah, a dark and mysterious beauty just as Ahab grew obsessed with his ghostly white whale. The pursuit, the chase, the desires drove his creativity and his sexuality in a parallel race. This book is a stunning narrative prose that reads like a novel. Impossible to put down, Melville in Love deserves a place on your book shelf right next to Moby-Dick.


“Arrowhead” Farmhouse in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

In writing my own mystery Greylock, which takes place on Mt. Greylock and also deals with whales, I studied about Melville (and other creative artists like Hawthorne and Thoreau who climbed Mt. Greylock) and his years at “Arrowhead,” his farm at the foot of Mt. Greylock, where he wrote Moby-Dick in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He could view Mt. Greylock from his desk by the window, viewing the great slopes in the northern sky every day, writing and writing and writing his masterpiece. But none of the biographies I read pointed to an illicit affair by the author with the sexy and flirtatious Sarah Moorewood who lived nearby in Pittsfield. She was his neighbor, for heaven’s sake.




During the 1850s, Moby-Dick was a commercial disappointment, negative reviews, selling only 3000 copies and earning him just $500. But Melville was truly inspired as he put pen to paper. Melville’s deep and passionate love of Sarah Moorehead with her grace and beauty and intelligence became his muse to write his epic sea drama of the obsessed and mad Ahab in pursuit of his wicked whale. In fact, after Moby-Dick was completed, Melville wrote a scathing love story, Pierre, which reflected his love affair with Sarah.  However, that one proved to be a failure as well.

Biographer Michael Sheldon brings the reader through Melville’s private adventures with rich descriptions; quite fast-paced, this biography is vivid with the emotional life and mindset of Melville. You won’t be disappointed or bored. Not a single page gets tedious.

Herman Melville Website.















If you are looking for a delicious summer read where history, literature, and nature are provocative elements, Melville in Love is a mesmerizing portrait of two lovers in a heart-breaking story.


“A scandalous surprise… Shelden carefully and convincingly presents his evidence regarding Morewood’s influence and how she inspired Melville to a greatness recognized by few of his peers… This well-paced, enjoyable read is a must for Melville fans.” — Library Journal

“Riveting in its incandescent sense of discovery, intimacy, and velocity, Shelden’s bound-to-be-controversial anatomy of a clandestine love transforms our perception of Melville and introduces “one of the great unsung figures in literary history.” — Booklist, Starred Review

Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts



Michael Sheldon is author of 6 biographies,

including the Pulitzer Prize finalist Orwell: The Authorized Biography.



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GREYLOCK – The Grandeur and the Gloom: Book Cover Reveal


Herman Melville lived in a farmhouse at the foot of Mount Greylock in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The author observed the mountain every day through his chamber window. One winter’s day he visualized the hump of a sperm whale on Greylock’s hillocks and hills, “a grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air.” He wrote most of Moby Dick at his farmhouse, named Arrowhead.

Greylock is a mountain with a sea of forests, crests, and slopes—greens and blues quietly cruising out. Thoughts might float here, might sail out to the wilderness, might find safe harbor, or sink into the darkest valley.



In GREYLOCK, darkness pervades Alexei Georg, a classical pianist who cannot live without music. This darkness attaches to Alexei. From Boston, it tracks him to the White Sea of Russia where the beluga whales sing at the bottom of the sea. It follows him to the summit of Mount Greylock.

GREYLOCK‘s book cover design is by award-winning Gina Casey (GinaCaseyDesign.com). This designer truly captured the story elements of secret truths, lies, and betrayals buried inside an all powerful lurking darkness.  Thunder clouds bear down upon Greylock’s peak. Only through Alexei’s journey upon the brooding mass of Mount Greylock, can he confront his own dark reality and discover the true source of his music.  Casey’s design emphasizes the grandeur and the gloom of the mountain—the rise and fall of the grey tones swaying and dipping, flowing like a symphony in itself.

This image of Mount Greylock is adapted from a photograph by William Tague (copyright permission from the Irene L. Tague Family Trust).  William Tague was a photographer for the Berkshire Eagle (Eagle Eye) from the 1950s to 1990. His book of photography Bill Tague’s Berkshires can be found on Amazon.com. Mr. Tague’s original photograph is an intriguing play of energy and form, a memorable portrait of a stunning mountain possessing beauty and mystery.

Do you see the waves and swells, lifting and drifting at the forefront? Melville may have envisioned Greylock as a roiling white-capped mountain with a great white whale sailing its terrain. Alexei Georg says he sees the mountain  “… rolling like a series of hunchbacks with secret clefts. Makes one wonder what secrets are buried here.”

October 15, 2015

… when the leaves fall.



  Murder. Music. And the Phantasm.

Four murders in Boston, an intoxicating romance, beautiful betrayals and lies, and the flickering phantasmagoria. Inside the supernatural realm beats sinister music. Just ask violinists Paganini or Tartini about their deals with the devil for their virtuosity.

Pianist Alexei Georg harbors a dark secret—he finds an old Russian sonata in a 19th-century sea chest. When Alexei plays this handsome music, a creature of darkness appears in the audience, in the aisle, and on the stage with him. This is no ghost. This faceless menacing presence follows Alexei from Boston’s music society to the White Sea in Russia, where Alexei seeks the songs of the beluga whales for a symphony. There, a Siberian shaman “sees” the trilling black entity clinging to Alexei’s soul. Hunted and desperate, Alexei goes to live on the summit of Mount Greylock, fleeing the suspicion of the Boston murders. But he cannot flee the unstoppable sonata he has delivered into this world. Alexei must find a way to halt the dark force within the music, or become prisoner to its phantasmagoric power in an ever-expanding abyss.

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