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Herman Melville

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Herman Melville was born in August 1, 1819, in New York City, the son of a merchant. Only twelve when his father died bankrupt, young Herman tried work as a bank clerk, as a cabin-boy on a trip to Liverpool, and as an elementary schoolteacher, before shipping in January 1841 on the whaler Acushnet, bound for the Pacific. Deserting ship the following year in the Marquesas, he made his way to Tahiti and Honolulu, returning as ordinary seaman on the frigate United States to Boston, where he was discharged in October 1844. Books based on these adventures won him immediate success. By 1850 he was married, had acquired a farm near Pittsfield, Massachussetts (where he was the impetuous friend and neighbor of Nathaniel Hawthorne), and was hard at work on his masterpiece Moby-Dick.

Literary success soon faded; his complexity increasingly alienated readers. After a visit to the Holy Land in January 1857, he turned from writing prose fiction to poetry. In 1863, during the Civil War, he moved back to New York City, where from 1866-1885 he was a deputy inspector in the Custom House, and where, in 1891, he died. A draft of a final prose work, Billy Budd, Sailor, was left unfinished and uncollated, packed tidily away by his widow, where it remained until its rediscovery and publication in 1924.

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Herman Melville was born in August 1, 1819, in New York City, the son of a merchant. Only twelve when his father died bankrupt, young Herman tried work as a bank clerk, as a cabin-boy on a trip to Liverpool, and as an elementary schoolteacher, before shipping in January 1841 on the whaler Acushnet, bound for the Pacific. Deserting ship the following year in the Marquesas, he made his way to Tahiti and Honolulu, returning as ordinary seaman on the frigate United States to Boston, where he was discharged in October 1844. Books based on these adventures won him immediate success. By 1850 he was married, had acquired a farm near Pittsfield, Massachussetts (where he was the impetuous friend and neighbor of Nathaniel Hawthorne), and was hard at work on his masterpiece Moby-Dick.

Literary success soon faded; his complexity increasingly alienated readers. After a visit to the Holy Land in January 1857, he turned from writing prose fiction to poetry. In 1863, during the Civil War, he moved back to New York City, where from 1866-1885 he was a deputy inspector in the Custom House, and where, in 1891, he died. A draft of a final prose work, Billy Budd, Sailor, was left unfinished and uncollated, packed tidily away by his widow, where it remained until its rediscovery and publication in 1924.

Books by thisAuthor
  • Bartleby, the Scrivener

    Bartleby, the Scrivener
    A Story of Wall Street
    This anthology is a thorough introduction to classic literature for those who have not yet experienced these literary masterworks. For those who have known and loved these works in the past, this is an invitation to reunite with old friends in a fresh new format. From Shakespeare's finesse to Oscar Wilde's wit, this unique collection brings together works as diverse and influential as The Pilgrim's Progress and Othello. As an anthology that invites readers to immerse themselves in the masterpieces of the literary giants, it is must-have addition to any library.

    Moby Dick

    Moby Dick
    "It's true. It's all true for Moby-Dick. He's a killer, he's a fury, he's an angel of hell. Why if the white whale could talk he'd talk like Ahab." Nantucket. 1851. Center of a whaling industry that transformed blubber into the oils and candles that lit the world. It’s there that a schoolmaster called Ishmael arrives to ship on a whale-boat. He enrolls under Ahab, Captain of the Pequod – a man bent on destroying the white whale that lost him his leg. Certain the destruction of his nemesis will slake his thirst; Ahab’s single-minded pursuit of Moby-Dick consumes Ishmael, the crew and the Pequod itself. The spirit and atmosphere of Herman Melville's masterpiece – romantic, ambiguous, characterful and rich with allegory – is captured in this wonderful stage adaptation.

    Moby- Dick

    Moby- Dick
    Killing a sixty-ton sperm whale that could destroy a boat with a flick of its massive tail was no easy task. Whalemen of the early nineteenth century were not just hunters, they were also explorers—sailing on the uncharted sea in search of some of the largest creatures on earth. The most famous whale of all? Moby Dick. Here are Ishmael, Queequeq, Ahab, and of course, Moby Dick, rendered anew in a dynamic comic book adaptation of one of the greatest American novels ever written. The book also includes information about Herman Melville, facts about whales, and the history of the whaling industry. With all the flare and blaze of Melville’s original story, Moby Dick is sure to intrigue a new generation of readers with this fast-paced and electric portrayal of the famous battle between man and beast.

    Typee

    Typee
    A Peep at Polynesian Life
    At one time the most popular of Melville's works, Typee was known as a travelogue that idealized and romanticized a mysterious South Sea island for readers in the ruthless, industrial, "civilized" world of the nineteenth century. But Melville's story of Tommo, the Yankee sailor who enters the flawed Pacific paradise of Nuku Hiva, is also a fast-moving adventure tale, an autobiographical account of the author's own Polynesian stay, an examination of the nature of good and evil, and a frank exploration of sensuality and exotic ritual. This edition of Typee, which reproduces the definitive text and the complete, never-before-published manuscript reading text, includes invaluable explanatory commentary by John Bryant.

  • The Confidence-Man

    The Confidence-Man
    “In The Confidence-Man,” writes John Bryant in his Introduction, “Melville found a way to render our tragic sense of self and society through the comic strategies of the confidence game. He puts the reader in the game to play its parts and to contemplate the inconsistencies of its knaves and fools.” Set on a Mississippi steamer on April Fool’s Day and populated by a series of shape-shifting con men, The Confidence-Man is a challenging metaphysical and ethical exploration of antebellum American society. Set from the first American edition of 1857, this Modern Library paperback includes an Appendix with Bryant’s innovative “fluid text” analysis of early manuscript fragments from Melville’s novel. From the Trade Paperback edition.

    The Piazza Tales

    The Piazza Tales
    A fantastic read for any scholar or student interested in philosophy, epistemology, or ontology.

    Omoo

    Omoo
    A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas
    Melville’s continuing adventures in the South Seas—now for the first time in Penguin Classics Following the commercial and critical success of Typee, Herman Melville continued his series of South Sea adventure-romances with Omoo. Named after the Polynesian term for a rover, or someone who roams from island to island, Omoo chronicles the tumultuous events aboard a South Sea whaling vessel and is based on Melville’s personal experiences as a crew member on a ship sailing the Pacific. From recruiting among the natives for sailors to handling deserters and even mutiny, Melville gives a first-person account of life as a sailor during the nineteenth century filled with colorful characters and vivid descriptions of the far-flung locales of Polynesia.

    Billy Budd, Sailor

    Billy Budd, Sailor
    A handsome young sailor is unjustly accused of plotting mutiny in this timeless tale of the sea. This Enriched Classic Edition includes: A concise introduction that gives readers important background information A chronology of the author's life and work A timeline of significant events that provides the book's historical context An outline of key themes and plot points to help readers form their own interpretations Detailed explanatory notes Critical analysis, including contemporary and modern perspectives on the work Discussion questions to promote lively classroom and book group interaction A list of recommended related books and films to broaden the reader's experience Enriched Classics offer readers affordable editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and insightful commentary. The scholarship provided in Enriched Classics enables readers to appreciate, understand, and enjoy the world's finest books to their full potential.

  • Israel Potter

    Israel Potter
    His Fifty Years of Exile
    The authoritative edition of Melville's only historical novel Based on the life of an actual soldier who claimed to have fought at Bunker Hill, Israel Potter is unique among Herman Melville's books: a novel in the guise of a biography. In telling the story of Israel Potter's fall from Revolutionary War hero to peddler on the streets of London, where he obtained a livelihood by crying "Old Chairs to Mend," Melville alternated between invented scenes and historical episodes, granting cameos to such famous men of the era as Benjamin Franklin (Potter may have been his secret courier) and John Paul Jones, and providing a portrait of the American Revolution as the rollicking adventure and violent series of events that it really was. This edition of Israel Potter, which reproduces the definitive text, includes selections from Potter's autobiography, Life and Remarkable Adventures of Israel R. Potter, the basis for Melville's novel.

    Moby-Dick

    Moby-Dick
    From A to Z, the Penguin Drop Caps series collects 26 unique hardcovers—featuring cover art by Jessica Hische It all begins with a letter. Fall in love with Penguin Drop Caps, a new series of twenty-six collectible and hardcover editions, each with a type cover showcasing a gorgeously illustrated letter of the alphabet. In a design collaboration between Jessica Hische and Penguin Art Director Paul Buckley, the series features unique cover art by Hische, a superstar in the world of type design and illustration, whose work has appeared everywhere from Tiffany & Co. to Wes Anderson's recent film Moonrise Kingdom to Penguin's own bestsellers Committed and Rules of Civility. With exclusive designs that have never before appeared on Hische's hugely popular Daily Drop Cap blog, the Penguin Drop Caps series debuted with an 'A' for Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, a 'B' for Charlotte Brönte's Jane Eyre, and a 'C' for Willa Cather's My Ántonia. It continues with more perennial classics, perfect to give as elegant gifts or to showcase on your own shelves. M is for Melville, who wrote of his masterpiece, "It is the horrible texture of a fabric that should be woven of ships' cables and hawsers. A Polar wind blows through it, and birds of prey hover over it." In part, Moby-Dick is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself. But more than just a novel of adventure, more than an encyclopedia of whaling lore and legend, Moby-Dick is a haunting, mesmerizing, and important social commentary populated with several of the most unforgettable and enduring characters in literature. Written with wonderfully redemptive humor, Moby-Dick is a profound and timeless inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception.  

    Redburn

    Redburn
    Drawn from Melville’s own adolescent experience aboard a merchant ship, Redburn charts the coming-of-age of Wellingborough Redburn, a young innocent who embarks on a crossing to Liverpool together with a roguish crew. Once in Liverpool, Redburn encounters the squalid conditions of the city and meets Harry Bolton, a bereft and damaged soul, who takes him on a tour of London that includes a scene of rococo decadence unlike anything else in Melville’s fiction. In her Introduction, Elizabeth Hardwick writes, “Redburn is rich in masterful portraits—a gallery of wild colors, pretensions and falsehoods, fleeting associations of unexpected tenderness. . . . Redburn is not a document; it is a work of art by the unexpected genius of a sailor, Herman Melville.” This Modern Library Paperback Classic is set from the text of the first American edition of 1849.

    Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street

    Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street
    Herman Melville was an 18th century American novelist, poet, essayist and short story writer. He is best known for his works Moby Dick and Typee. During his lifetime he was considered a failure, but after his death his worth as a writer was recognized. Bartleby is a novella, which first appeared in Putnam's Magazine. The narrator is an elderly lawyer who helps his clients with mortgages, titles and bonds. The lawyer's office has two employees Nippers and Turkey. Turkey is a drunk and Nippers has indigestion. The office is able to function because Nippers indigestion is at a time when Turkey is sober and Turkey is hung over when Nippers is feeling better. Bartleby is hired in the hopes that his temperament will calm down the office. As the story progresses Melville brings a sense of the human condition as seen through the eyes of a lowly employee.

  • I and My Chimney

    I and My Chimney
    A short story from the Classic Shorts collection: The Happy Failure by Herman Melville

    Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War

    Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War
    Civil War Poems
    This reprint of an 1866 volume of poems by the author of Moby Dick and Billy Budd includes four essays showing why Melville's verse with its unconventional linking of literary form and political-military history remains misunderstood and neglected. Princeton University historian James M. McPherson's preface thoughtfully discusses the import of Melville's book as a Civil War document. The introduction sketches Melville's pre-war concern with slavery in Moby Dick (1851) and Benito Cereno (1856). The seventy-two deeply moving, austerely beautiful lyrical poems about the Civil War include works on the hanging of John Brown, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the battles at Donelson, Shiloh, and Gettysburg. Harvard University critic Helen Vendler's essay argues that Melville's innovative manner of transforming this epic matter of history into a new kind of lyric poem makes for arresting and wholly original poetry. For Boston University poet Rosanna Warren, the irregularity of Melville's verse forces readers to participate in the process of arriving at a dark knowledge of war. According to Richard Cox, the organization of Melville's poems conveys that the passions of the war will not cease and yet they seem to continue Abraham Lincoln's task of binding the nation's wounds. Paul Dowling reveals how the poet reshaped the war, distorting history to moderate wartime passions and to imitate Shakespeare's philosophical (but unpopular) dramas. Students and scholars of American literature and history, as well as Civil War enthusiasts, will welcome this outstanding new publication of a long-neglected volume of political poetry by one of America's classic novelists.

    Bartleby the Scrivener

    Bartleby the Scrivener
    "I prefer not to," he respectfully and slowly said, and mildly disappeared. Academics hail it as the beginning of modernism, but to readers around the world—even those daunted by Moby-Dick—Bartleby the Scrivener is simply one of the most absorbing and moving novellas ever. Set in the mid-19th century on New York City’s Wall Street, it was also, perhaps, Herman Melville's most prescient story: what if a young man caught up in the rat race of commerce finally just said, "I would prefer not to"? The tale is one of the final works of fiction published by Melville before, slipping into despair over the continuing critical dismissal of his work after Moby-Dick, he abandoned publishing fiction. The work is presented here exactly as it was originally published in Putnam's magazine—to, sadly, critical disdain. The Art of The Novella Series Too short to be a novel, too long to be a short story, the novella is generally unrecognized by academics and publishers. Nonetheless, it is a form beloved and practiced by literature's greatest writers. In the Art Of The Novella series, Melville House celebrates this renegade art form and its practitioners with titles that are, in many instances, presented in book form for the first time.

    Billy Budd

    Billy Budd
    Tor Classics are affordably-priced editions designed to attract the young reader. Original dynamic cover art enthusiastically represents the excitement of each story. Appropriate "reader friendly" type sizes have been chosen for each title--offering clear, accurate, and readable text. All editions are complete and unabridged, and feature Introductions and Afterwords. This edition of Billy Budd includes a Foreword, Biographical Note, and Afterword by James Gunn. Aboard the warship Bellipotent, the young orphan Billy Budd was called the handsome sailor. Billy was tall, athletic, nobel looking; he was friendly, innocent, helpful and ever-cheerful. He was a fierce fighter and a loyal friend. All the men and officers liked him... All but one: Master-at-Arms Claggart. Envious, petty Claggart plotted to make Billy's life miserable. But when a fear of mutinies swept through the fleet, Claggart realized he could do more than just torment the Handsome Sailor...He could frame Billy Budd for treason...

  • Benito Cereno

    Benito Cereno
    "What has cast such a shadow upon you?" "The Negro." With its intense mix of mystery, adventure, and a surprise ending, Benito Cereno at first seems merely a provocative example from the genre Herman Melville created with his early best-selling novels of the sea. However, most Melville scholars consider it his most sophisticated work, and many, such as novelist Ralph Ellison, have hailed it as the most piercing look at slavery in all of American literature. Based on a real life incident—the character names remain unchanged—Benito Cereno tells what happens when an American merchant ship comes upon a mysterious Spanish ship where the nearly all-black crew and their white captain are starving and yet hostile to offers of help. Melville's most focused political work, it is rife with allusions (a ship named after Santo Domingo, site of the slave revolt led by Toussaint L'Ouverture), analogies (does the good-hearted yet obtuse American captain refer to the American character itself?), and mirroring images that deepen our reflections on human oppression and its resultant depravities. It is, in short, a multi-layered masterpiece that rewards repeated readings, and deepens our appreciation of Melville's genius. The Art of The Novella Series Too short to be a novel, too long to be a short story, the novella is generally unrecognized by academics and publishers. Nonetheless, it is a form beloved and practiced by literature's greatest writers. In the Art Of The Novella series, Melville House celebrates this renegade art form and its practitioners with titles that are, in many instances, presented in book form for the first time. From the Trade Paperback edition.

    The Happy Failure

    The Happy Failure
    Stories
    "Melville at his best invariably wrote from a sort of dream self, so that events which he relates as actual fact have indeed a far deeper reference to his own soul, his own inner life." - D.H. Lawrence. Here are ten stories that represent some of the best short work of American master Herman Melville, including "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street," "The Happy Failure," and "The Paradise of Bachelors and The Tartarus of Maids." Alongside THE HAPPY FAILURE, Harper Perennial will publish the short fiction of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Willa Cather, Stephen Crane, and Oscar Wilde to be packaged in a beautifully designed, boldly colorful boxset in the aim to attract contemporary fans of short fiction to these revered masters of the form. Also, in each of these selections will appear a story from one of the new collections being published in the "Summer of the Short Story." A story from Alex Burrett's forthcoming collection, MY GOAT ATE ITS OWN LEGS, will be printed at the back of this volume.

    Mardi and a Voyage Thither

    Mardi and a Voyage Thither
    Scholarly Edition

    Four Classic American Novels

    Four Classic American Novels
    The Scarlet Letter, Adventures of Huckleberry...
    An adulteress, a runaway boy, a terrified soldier, and a maltreated sailor-all the heroes of these must-read novels have become part of our American literary heritage.

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