"Through the character of Hunilla, in the eighth of his sketches, Melville at last managed to get his admiration for a strong patient widow into print." (Leon Howard 210)Howard went on to wonder if "Melville had hoped to let the Hunilla story carry the narrative burden of his book." That question in 1951 appeared "impossible to determine," but it is remarkable that Howard even ventured to raise the conjecture that Hunilla, like Agatha, might once have been envisioned as the heroine of a book-length work.
This of course was decades before Hershel Parker's momentous find in the NYPL Augusta Papers of two 1853 references to "Isle of the Cross" in letters from Herman Melville's cousin Priscilla to his sister Augusta.
Below, the start of a bibliography of published criticism linking the Agatha and Hunilla stories...
Agatha and Hunilla
Bickley, R. Bruce, Jr. The Method of Melville's Short Fiction. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1975. See 18; and 115-116.
Dillingham, William B. Melville's Short Fiction, 1853-1856. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1977.
Ekner, Reidar. "The Encantadas and Benito Cereno: On Sources and Imagination in Melville." Moderna Språk 60.3 (1966): 258-273.
"Like all else in 'The Encantadas,' the story of Agatha—warmly humane and basically optimistic in outlook—was metamorphosed in the crucible of Melville’s suffering into dark and barren tragedy." (101)
Hayford, Harrison. "The Significance of Melville's 'Agatha' Letters." ELH 13.4 (December 1946): 299-310. In a footnote, Hayford makes the connection to Hunilla:
“It is possible that Agatha would have belonged not with Billy Budd but rather with Bartleby and Hunilla, creations of the following year…” (304 fn 13)Howard, Leon. Herman Melville: A Biography. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1951. 210.
Hoyle, Norman E. "Melville as a Magazinist." Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Duke University, 1960. See pp. 107-108 for prescient discussion of Agatha and Hunilla.
Lacy, Patricia. "The Agatha Theme in Melville's Stories." The University of Texas Studies in English 35 (1956): 96-105.
Lee, A. Robert. "Voices Off and On: Melville's Piazza and Other Stories." In The Nineteenth-Century American Short Story. London and Totowa, N.J.: Barnes and Noble, 1986. 76-102; see 89.
López Liquete, Maria Felisa. "When Silence Speaks: The Chola Widow" In Melville and Women, ed. Elizabeth Schultz and Haskell Springer. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2006. 213-228.
"The Harpers also supposedly rejected 'The Agatha Story,' which relates directly to Sketch Eighth, as well as 'The Tortoise Hunters,' which relates to 'The Encantadas.'" (227 fn8)Ra'ad, Basem L. "'The Encantadas' and 'The Isle of the Cross': Melvillean Dubieties, 1853-54. American Literature 63 (June 1991): 316-323.
Robertson-Lorant, Laurie. Melville: A Biography. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996. 338.
This sketch ["Norfolk Isle and the Chola Widow"] seems to incorporate both the Agatha story and "The Isle of the Cross." (338)Sattelmeyer, Robert, and James Barbour. "The Sources and Genesis of Melville's 'Norfolk Isle and the Chola Widow.'" American Literature 50 (November 1978): 398-417. Sattelmeyer and Barbour introduce and discuss newspaper accounts from late 1853 concerning a "Female Robinson Crusoe"; as hinted here, Sattelmeyer and Barbour do not mention an even earlier report of the same "Female Crusoe" (before she was "found" again in 1853), originally published in the Boston Atlas and reprinted in Littell's Living Age 12 (March 27, 1847): 594-595. The 1847 and 1853 stories are different reports, I now realize, about the same woman on the same island of Saint or San Nicholas--elusive with no wish to leave the island in 1847, but lately discovered and "rescued" in 1853. More on all that later, hopefully. Update: For the earlier newspaper account, see this Melvilliana exclusive, 1847 report of A Female Crusoe. Also the post on early sources for Melville's Chola Widow sketch for more thoughts on the Sattelmeyer and Barbour article.
Sealts, Merton M., Jr. "Historical Note" in Melville's THE PIAZZA TALES and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860. Ed. Harrison Hayford, Alma A. MacDougall, and G. Thomas Tanselle. Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library, 1987. Sealts observes
"echoes of the 'patience, & endurance, & resignedness' Melville associated with Agatha in much of the fiction he was to write over the next three years" including "above all, Hunilla...." (483)Security in tortoises. (New entry). http://melvilliana.blogspot.com/2013/02/security-in-tortoises.html
Smith, Herbert F. "Melville's Master in Chancery and His Recalcitrant Clerk." American Quarterly 17 (Winter 1965): 734-741.
Watson, Charles N., Jr. “Melville’s Agatha and Hunilla: A Literary Reincarnation.” English Language Notes 6 (December 1968): 114-118.