I Love All Men Who Dive: Herman Melville and Joseph Smith

“I love all men who dive,” wrote Herman Melville to a friend. “Any fish can swim near the surface, but it takes a great whale to go down stairs five miles or more; & if he don’t attain the bottom, why, all the lead in Galena can’t fashion the plummet that will. I’m not talking of Mr Emerson now—but of the whole corps of thought-divers, that have been diving & coming up again with blood-shot eyes since the world began.” Although Herman Melville probably never met Joseph Smith, he would have loved him as a “thought-diver.” Melville said in his review (1850) of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Mosses from an Old Manse (1846), “For genius, all over the world, stands hand in hand, and one shock of recognition runs the whole circle around.” Why might one want to consider Herman Melville and Joseph Smith together? This juxtaposition helps illuminate striking similarities as well as significant differences in the lives and responses to life of two of the nineteenth century’s most remarkable men.

Purchase this Issue