Posts tagged Herman Melville

The ‘Scottishness’ of Herman Melville

Was Herman Melville Scottish? Well, possibly, but not sufficiently to qualify for Scotland i.e. his grandfather was American – very American, since he was a leading participant in the Boston Tea Party.
“On his father’s side he is of Scottish extraction, and is descended in the fourth degree from Thomas Melville, minister of Scoonie parish, Leven, Fife…” (could there be a connection here with RLS?)
Thomas Melville’s seventh child Alan Melville (b. 7 Dec 1727) went to America in 1748. He died in Boston, Mass on 2nd January 1760, leaving a son, Thomas Melville, the author’s grandfather. Thomas Melvill[e] (1751-1832) visited his relatives in Scotland in 1772, and was presented with the freedom of [?] Leven. The author’s father, Alan Melvill[e], married a Dutchwoman, and may also have visited Scotland. HM travelled to Scotland in 1856, visiting Abbotsford, Perth and Stirling (a serious omission from my ┬áLiterary Landmarks of Stirling and Clackmannan). He inquired about Scoonie, but could not find out much about it. In any case he had damaged the bridge of his nose and was not inclined to look anyone up because he looked like a prize-fighter. Melville’s father died young (when HM was 12), so he had a ‘Dutch’ upbringing, although his grandfather was appointed his guardian.
The Melvilles of Raith were the relatives visited by Thomas Melville. It is through this family that HM is sometimes connected with the court of Mary, Queen of Scots.

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