Herman Melville's marriage to Elizabeth Shaw began at this door in Boston one day in August 1847 when he was only 28. It was not a happy marriage, and neither husband nor wife wanted to leave behind much evidence of their intimate life together. Only one letter from Herman to Lizzie, as she was commonly known, has survived, and it tells us little of significance.
Their backgrounds were very different. Melville had a hard life as a young man struggling to help his family after his father died, and later as a seafaring man traveling over much of the globe on whaling ships and an American warship. Lizzie grew up on the finest street in the most refined city in America as the only daughter of the most powerful judge in Massachusetts. She rarely had a care in her life until she left home to live with a writer with no steady job and an imagination as wild and fiery as any in literary history.
Her father's old house at 49 Mt. Vernon Street has changed hands many times in the last century and a half, and has recently undergone a massive renovation. But the long street running from the State House down to the river is still the most elegant and the most expensive in Boston. I was able to take only a few peeks inside during the construction, but for some detailed views of the renovation, see the amazing article by one of the contractors, Longleaf Lumber.