Picture of author.

Herman Melville (1819–1891)

Author of Moby Dick

662+ Works 67,711 Members 1,037 Reviews 255 Favorited

About the Author

Herman Melville (August 1, 1819 - September 28, 1891) was born into a seemingly secure, prosperous world, a descendant of prominent Dutch and English families long established in New York State. That security vanished when first, the family business failed, and then, two years later, in young show more Melville's thirteenth year, his father died. Without enough money to gain the formal education that professions required, Melville was thrown on his own resources and in 1841 sailed off on a whaling ship bound for the South Seas. His experiences at sea during the next four years were to form in part the basis of his best fiction. Melville's first two books, Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847), were partly romance and partly autobiographical travel books set in the South Seas. Both were popular successes, particularly Typee, which included a stay among cannibals and a romance with a South Sea maiden. During the next several years, Melville published three more romances that drew upon his experiences at sea: Redburn (1849) and White-Jacket (1850), both fairly realistic accounts of the sailor's life and depicting the loss of innocence of central characters; and Mardi (1849), which, like the other two books, began as a romance of adventure but turned into an allegorical critique of contemporary American civilization. Moby Dick (1851) also began as an adventure story, based on Melville's experiences aboard the whaling ship. However, in the writing of it inspired in part by conversations with his friend and neighbor Hawthorne and partly by his own irrepressible imagination and reading of Shakespeare and other Renaissance dramatists Melville turned the book into something so strange that, when it appeared in print, many of his readers and critics were dumbfounded, even outraged. By the mid-1850s, Melville's literary reputation was all but destroyed, and he was obliged to live the rest of his life taking whatever jobs he could find and borrowing money from relatives, who fortunately were always in a position to help him. He continued to write, however, and published some marvelous short fiction pieces Benito Cereno" (1855) and "Bartleby, the Scrivener" (1853) are the best. He also published several volumes of poetry, the most important of which was Battle Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866), poems of occasionally great power that were written in response to the moral challenge of the Civil War. His posthumously published work, Billy Budd (1924), on which he worked up until the time of his death, became Melville's last significant literary work, a brilliant short novel that movingly describes a young sailor's imprisonment and death. Melville's reputation, however, rests most solidly on his great epic romance, Moby Dick. It is a difficult as well as a brilliant book, and many critics have offered interpretations of its complicated ambiguous symbolism. Darrel Abel briefly summed up Moby Dick as "the story of an attempt to search the unsearchable ways of God," although the book has historical, political, and moral implications as well. Melville died at his home in New York City early on the morning of September 28, 1891, at age 72. The doctor listed "cardiac dilation" on the death certificate. He was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York, along with his wife, Elizabeth Shaw Melville. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Etching of Joseph O. Eaton's portrait of Herman Melville Published c. 1944, painting created before 1891

Series

Works by Herman Melville

Moby Dick (2014) 35,547 copies
Billy Budd, Sailor (1924) 2,631 copies
Billy Budd and Other Stories (1924) 2,011 copies
Billy Budd and Other Tales (1961) 959 copies
Bartleby / Benito Cereno (1853) 943 copies
Pierre; or, The Ambiguities (1852) 746 copies
Benito Cereno (1855) 686 copies
Melville: Typee, Omoo, Mardi (1982) 626 copies
White-Jacket (1850) 620 copies
Graphic Classics: Moby Dick (2002) 540 copies
Omoo (1847) 505 copies
Four Great American Classics (1969) 328 copies
Billy Budd / Benito Cereno (1855) — Author — 266 copies
The Complete Shorter Fiction (1997) 242 copies
Mardi and a voyage thither (1849) 238 copies
Selected Tales and Poems (1950) 225 copies
The Piazza Tales (1856) 201 copies
The Shorter Novels of Herman Melville (1928) — Author — 168 copies
The Portable Melville (1952) 154 copies
The Maldive Shark (1600) 150 copies
Four Short Novels (1959) 144 copies
Moby-Dick or, The Whale (2006) 142 copies
Moby Dick, Volume 2 (1851) 122 copies
The Enchanted Isles (1854) 111 copies
Billy Budd & Typee (1958) 100 copies
Moby Dick, Volume 1 (1851) 98 copies
Moby Dick, Billy Budd (1984) 78 copies
100 Eternal Masterpieces of Literature - volume 2 (2020) — Contributor — 71 copies
Moby Dick (1998) 66 copies
Moby Dick (Graphic Novel) (2014) — Source Author — 65 copies
100 Eternal Masterpieces of Literature - volume 1 (2017) — Contributor — 58 copies
Works of Herman Melville (1987) 51 copies
I And My Chimney (1984) 49 copies
Best of Herman Melville (1984) 42 copies
Moby Dick [Penguin Readers] (2006) 40 copies
On the Slain Collegians (1971) 27 copies
John Marr and Other Poems (1888) 26 copies
Cuentos completos (1900) 26 copies
21 Essential American Short Stories (2011) — Contributor — 25 copies
Moby Dick (Now Age Books) (1973) 19 copies
Three American Poets (2003) 18 copies
Three Stories (1967) 16 copies
The Lightning-Rod Man (1982) 16 copies
Short Stories (1996) 13 copies
The Piazza [short story] (2009) 12 copies
Selected poems (1995) 12 copies
Moby Dick [adapted - Saddleback Illustrated Classics] (1999) — Original Author — 12 copies
Herman Melville: voyages (1970) 12 copies
Opere scelte vol. 1 (1990) 11 copies
The Bell-Tower (2019) 9 copies
Opere scelte vol. 2 (1990) 8 copies
Moby Dick (1984) 8 copies
Journal Up the Straits (1935) 8 copies
Diario italiano (2011) 6 copies
Poems of Herman Melville (1976) 6 copies
Redburn, Vareuse-Blanche : Oeuvres, II (2004) — Author — 6 copies
Viajar (2011) 6 copies
MOBY DICK (2004) 5 copies
Hawthorne and His Mosses (2014) 5 copies
Bartleby le scribe (1853) — Author — 4 copies
Obras Completas I (2005) 4 copies
Typee & Omoo (2014) 4 copies
Moby Dick (1992) 4 copies
Œuvres, tome 1 (1997) 4 copies
The Fiddler (2013) 3 copies
Chowder (American Roots) (2014) 3 copies
Preferiría no hacerlo (2009) 3 copies
Moby Dick (2000) 3 copies
Moby Dick (abridged) (1969) 3 copies
Bartleby / Billy Budd (2014) 3 copies
Moby Dick (1987) 3 copies
Moby Dick (1991) 3 copies
Racconti (1853) 3 copies
Moby Dick: CD ROM (2008) 3 copies
Typee / Omoo / Weißjacke (1991) 3 copies
Les encantades (2022) 2 copies
Five tales (2000) 2 copies
Moby Dick 2 copies
JAQUETA BRANCA (2017) 2 copies
Moby Dick (1980) 2 copies
La veranda (2016) 2 copies
El jugador 2 copies
The Piazza Tales (2001) 2 copies
Short Fiction 2 copies
Nowele i opowiadania (2020) 2 copies
Moby Dick = Moby Dick (2018) 2 copies
Moby Dick. Oscar Junior (2019) 2 copies
Cuentos de la Veranda (1997) 2 copies
Veranda Oykuleri (2014) 2 copies
Vareuse-Blanche (2020) 2 copies
Moby Dick 2 copies
John Marr (1922) 2 copies
První plavba (1849) 2 copies
Moby Dick Libro secondo (1993) 2 copies
Obras completas . III (2005) 2 copies
Emoji Dick; Or, 🐳 (2010) 2 copies
Modydick 2 copies
El timador (1976) 1 copy
Moby Dick (2 Vols) (1929) 1 copy
Billy Budd 1 copy
Poésies (2022) 1 copy
Bartleby 1 copy
Ca Voi Trang 1 copy
Moby Dick, dio 1 (2004) 1 copy
PACHUCHE BET 1 copy
Moby Dick'1 1 copy
Moby Dick 1 copy
MOBY DICK 2 1 copy
Art 1 copy
(all) 1 copy
MOby Dick, dio 2 (2004) 1 copy
MOBY DICK 1 1 copy
The 'Gees 1 copy
Jimmy Rose 1 copy
Oszust 1 copy
Moby Dick Filet (2015) 1 copy
Pezzi di mare: poesie (2011) 1 copy
Moby Dick 1 copy
TYPPE 1 copy
Il violinista (2012) 1 copy
Annales 1 copy
Cetologia 1 copy
Le Campanile 1 copy
Short novels 1 copy
Timoleon etc. (1891) 1 copy
Four novels 1 copy
The Tragedy of Mind (1945) 1 copy
A bord (2004) 1 copy
Contos 1 copy
"Shiloh" 1 copy
Opere scelte (1991) 1 copy
Moby Dick (Abridged) (1962) 1 copy
Oszust (2019) 1 copy
Recontar - Moby Dick (2009) 1 copy
Bartleby up Platt (2017) 1 copy
Fives Tales 1 copy
Bartleby, el passant (1988) 1 copy
Toplu Öyküler (2019) 1 copy
Obras completas (2005) 1 copy
Moby Dick (1991) 1 copy
Moby Dick vagy (2012) 1 copy
Hôtel de la baleine (2015) 1 copy
Moby Dick, 2 tomos (1989) 1 copy
GK - Moby Dick (2015) 1 copy
Obras 1 copy
Derniers poèmes (2010) 1 copy
Redburn Illustrated (2020) 1 copy

Associated Works

The Oxford Book of American Short Stories (1992) — Contributor — 752 copies
Great American Short Stories: From Hawthorne to Hemingway (2004) — Contributor — 595 copies
Great American Short Stories (1957) — Contributor — 498 copies
American Gothic Tales (1996) — Contributor — 462 copies
A Pocket Book of Modern Verse (1954) — Contributor, some editions — 446 copies
Fifty Great American Short Stories (1965) — Contributor — 436 copies
Literature: The Human Experience (2006) — Contributor — 341 copies
75 Short Masterpieces: Stories from the World's Literature (1961) — Contributor — 298 copies
Writing New York: A Literary Anthology (1998) — Contributor — 281 copies
Six Great Modern Short Novels (1954) — Contributor — 275 copies
The World's Greatest Short Stories (2006) — Contributor — 272 copies
The Treasury of American Short Stories (1981) — Contributor — 269 copies
The Civil War: The First Year Told By Those Who Lived It (2011) — Contributor — 242 copies
The Penguin Book of American Short Stories (1969) — Contributor — 189 copies
The Civil War: The Second Year Told By Those Who Lived It (2012) — Contributor — 174 copies
Great Stories of the Sea & Ships (1940) — Contributor — 174 copies
The Big Book of Classic Fantasy (2019) — Contributor — 168 copies
American Religious Poems: An Anthology (2006) — Contributor — 163 copies
Short Novels of the Masters (1948) — Contributor — 156 copies
Black Water 2: More Tales of the Fantastic (1990) — Contributor — 152 copies
The Civil War: The Third Year Told by Those Who Lived It (2013) — Contributor — 144 copies
Life in the Iron Mills [Bedford Cultural Editions] (1997) — Contributor — 143 copies
The Faber Book of Beasts (1997) — Contributor — 141 copies
Stories of the Sea (2010) — Contributor — 139 copies
An Anthology of Famous American Stories (1953) — Contributor — 139 copies
A Comprehensive Anthology of American Poetry (1929) — Contributor — 129 copies
The Frankenstein Omnibus (1994) — Contributor — 103 copies
American Short Stories (1976) — Contributor, some editions — 95 copies
Poets of the Civil War (2005) — Contributor — 94 copies
American Fantastic Tales: Boxed Set (2009) — Contributor — 92 copies
A Treasury of Civil War Stories (1985) — Contributor — 77 copies
World's Great Adventure Stories (1929) — Contributor — 75 copies
Bedside Book of Famous American Stories (1936) — Contributor — 72 copies
200 Years of Great American Short Stories (1975) — Contributor — 69 copies
Seven Short Novel Masterpieces (1961) — Contributor — 60 copies
The Blithedale Romance [Norton Critical Edition, 2nd ed.] (2010) — Contributor — 56 copies
The Oxford Book of Sea Stories (1994) — Contributor — 50 copies
Horror Stories: Classic Tales from Hoffmann to Hodgson (2014) — Contributor — 45 copies
In Dreams Awake (1975) — Contributor — 42 copies
Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English, 1500-2001 (2014) — Contributor — 42 copies
Marvel Illustrated: Moby Dick (2008) — Contributor — 40 copies
Best Loved Short Stories of Nineteenth Century America (2003) — Contributor — 39 copies
American Gothic Short Stories (2019) — Contributor — 37 copies
The Book of the Sea (1954) — Contributor — 36 copies
The Best Crime Stories Ever Told (2012) — Contributor — 35 copies
Beau Travail [1999 film] (1999) — Original story — 34 copies
American short novels (1960) — Contributor — 30 copies
Mysterious Sea Stories (1985) — Contributor — 30 copies
Heavy Weather: Tempestuous Tales of Stranger Climes (2021) — Contributor — 30 copies
Best South Sea Stories (1964) — Contributor — 29 copies
Short Stories of the Sea (1984) — Contributor — 27 copies
American short stories, 1820 to the present (1952) — Contributor — 26 copies
American gothic : An anthology 1787–1916 (1999) — Contributor — 26 copies
American Literature: The Makers and the Making (In Two Volumes) (1973) — Contributor, some editions — 25 copies
Trial and Error: An Oxford Anthology of Legal Stories (1998) — Contributor — 24 copies
Billy Budd [1962 film] (2007) — Original book — 23 copies
We, Robots (2010) — Contributor — 23 copies
Eight Short Novels (1967) — Contributor — 22 copies
The World of Law, Volume II : The Law as Literature (1960) — Contributor — 21 copies
The Best Sea Stories (1986) — Contributor — 21 copies
A Treasury of Sea Stories (1948) — Contributor — 20 copies
The Penguin Book of the Ocean (2010) — Contributor — 20 copies
World's Great Tales of the Sea (1944) — Contributor — 16 copies
The Saturday Evening Post Book of the Sea and Ships (1978) — Contributor — 16 copies
Moby Dick [2011 TV mini series] (2011) — Original book — 16 copies
Godey's Lady's Book, vol 42. January - June 1851 (1851) — Contributor — 15 copies
Four great American novels (1946) — Contributor — 15 copies
Disney Moby Dick, starring Donald Duck (2013) — Contributor — 15 copies
Law in Action: An Anthology of the Law in Literature (1947) — Contributor — 13 copies
Story to Anti-Story (1979) — Contributor — 13 copies
Melville (1958) — Contributor — 12 copies
Selected English short stories XIX & XX centuries (1914) — Contributor — 11 copies
Great Short Works of the American Renaissance (1967) — Contributor — 10 copies
Bartleby [2001 film] (2001) — Original story — 9 copies
Pola X (2001) 7 copies
Come Not, Lucifer! A Romantic Anthology (1945) — Contributor — 6 copies
Valas (2019) — Alkuteoksen kirjoittaja — 5 copies
Vijf Amerikaanse novellen (1985) — Contributor — 5 copies
Representative American Short Stories — Contributor — 5 copies
The Word Lives On: A Treasury of Spiritual Fiction (1951) — Contributor — 4 copies
Tyve mesterfortællinger — Contributor, some editions — 4 copies
The Wide Sea (1962) — Contributor — 4 copies
Famous Stories of Five Centuries (1934) — Contributor — 4 copies
Moby Dick [1930 film] (1930) — Orginal author — 3 copies
Die edlen Wilden (1989) — Contributor — 3 copies
Twelve short novels (1976) — Contributor — 3 copies
Enjoying Stories (1987) — Contributor — 2 copies
The Undying Past (1961) — Contributor — 2 copies
Historier fra de syv have — Author, some editions — 2 copies
Sehnsucht: "Südsee" : Gedichte und mehr — Contributor — 1 copy
Stories of the South Seas (1928) — Contributor — 1 copy
Moby Dick #717 (Dell Four Color) (1956) — Author — 1 copy
The Sea Beast [1926 film] — Original book — 1 copy
Introduction to Fiction (1974) — Contributor — 1 copy
Tiere - Handliche Bibliothek der Romantik (2019) — Contributor — 1 copy
Famous American Stories (1958) — Contributor, some editions — 1 copy

Tagged

19th century (1,593) 19th century literature (171) adventure (602) America (162) American (1,070) American fiction (238) American literature (2,423) anthology (967) classic (1,675) classic fiction (151) classic literature (290) classics (1,907) collection (159) Easton Press (157) ebook (244) English (154) fiction (7,713) hardcover (162) Herman Melville (230) history (217) Kindle (270) Library of America (487) literature (2,528) LOA (200) Melville (569) nautical (192) non-fiction (147) novel (1,463) own (229) poetry (968) read (411) sailing (175) sea (305) sea stories (157) short stories (1,527) to-read (2,389) unread (380) USA (362) whales (535) whaling (605)

Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Melville, Herman
Legal name
Melville, Herman
Other names
Melvill, Herman [birth name/original spelling]
Birthdate
1819-08-01
Date of death
1891-09-28
Burial location
Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York, USA
Gender
male
Nationality
USA
Birthplace
New York, New York, USA
Place of death
New York, New York, USA
Cause of death
cardiovascular disease
Places of residence
New York, New York, USA [1819-1830]
Albany, New York, USA [1830-1838]
Troy, New York, USA [1838]
merchantman St. Lawrence [1839]
whaling ship Acushnet [1841]
whaling ship Charles & Henry (show all 7)
Pittsfield, Massachusetts, USA
Education
New York Male School (1825)
Columbia Grammar School (1829-1830)
Albany Classical School (1835)
Albany Academy (1830-1831)
Albany Academy (1836-1837)
Lansingburgh Acadamy (1838)
Occupations
bank clerk (1832-1834)
sailor
harpooner, whaleship Charles & Henry
farm hand (1834-1835)
novelist
Customs inspector, New York, New York, USA (show all 10)
clerk (1832-1834)
bookkeeper (1935-1937)
teacher (1837)
teacher (1839-1840)
Relationships
Metcalf, Paul (great-grandson)
Hawthorne, Nathaniel (friend)
Dana, Richard Henry (friend)
Short biography
Herman Melville, American author, was born in New York City on the 1st of August 1819. He shipped as a cabin-boy at the age of eighteen, thus being enabled to make his first visit to England, and at twenty-two sailed for a long whaling cruise in the Pacific. After a year and a half he deserted his ship at the Marquesas Islands, on account of the cruelty of the captain; was captured by cannibals on the island of Nukahiva, and detained, without hardship, four months; was rescued by the crew of an Australian vessel, which he joined, and two years later reached New York. Thereafter, with the exception of a passenger voyage around the world in 1860, Melville remained in the United States, devoting himself to literature -- though for a considerable period (1866-1885) he held a post in the New York custom-house -- and being perhaps Hawthorne's most intimate friend among the literary men of America. His writings were numerous, but judged of varying merit by his contemporaries; his verse, patriotic and other was forgotten; and his works of fiction and of travel were deemed of irregular execution. Nevertheless, few authors have been enabled so freely to introduce romantic personal experiences into their books. He portrayed seafaring life and character with vigour and originality, and from a personal knowledge equal to that of Cooper, Marryat or Clark Russell. But these records of adventure were followed by other tales that his contemporaries found so turgid, eccentric, opinionative, and loosely written as to seem the work of another author. He died a failed author in New York on the 28th of September 1891. The 20th century's collective reassessment of his work is much more favorable, and he is now classed among the greatest American writers.

Members

Discussions

Price for Moby Dick in George Macy devotees (May 2023)
Moby Dick in Folio Society Devotees (February 2017)
The Great White Whale: Cynara and PurlPoet read Moby Dick in 75 Books Challenge for 2014 (August 2014)
Moby Dick in Writer-readers (April 2013)
To the Sea! in Le Salon Littéraire du Peuple pour le Peuple (January 2012)
***Group Read: Moby Dick (Spoiler Free) in 75 Books Challenge for 2010 (October 2010)
Moby Dick in Someone explain it to me... (July 2010)
Pierre: or, Bucolic Reading in Le Salon Littéraire du Peuple pour le Peuple (December 2009)

Reviews

Every summer I attempt a few more chapters; it's just very heavy going.
 
Flagged
Abcdarian | 544 other reviews | May 18, 2024 |
Well written and evocative account of life among Polynesian natives
½
 
Flagged
sfj2 | 38 other reviews | May 8, 2024 |
This amazing tome contains everything you didn't think you needed to know about the whaling industry, the whale anatomy, cetology ("the science of whales") and, of course, the extracting of whale spermaceti (not spermatozoa, though the hand squeezing might leave some wondering...)! What's not to love?
 
Flagged
TheBooksofWrath | 544 other reviews | Apr 18, 2024 |

Lists

100 (1)
Read (1)
Read (1)
Romans (1)
AP Lit (2)
1920s (1)
1850s (1)

Awards

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Statistics

Works
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Also by
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Members
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Popularity
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Rating
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Reviews
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ISBNs
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Languages
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Favorited
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