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Author photo. Etching of Joseph O. Eaton's portrait of Herman Melville Published c. 1944, painting created before 1891

Etching of Joseph O. Eaton's portrait of Herman Melville Published c. 1944, painting created before 1891

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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 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)
— biography from Moby Dick
… (more)
Moby Dick 30,832 copies, 477 reviews
Billy Budd, Sailor 2,338 copies, 41 reviews
Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life 1,960 copies, 37 reviews
Billy Budd and Other Stories (Penguin Classics) (Author) 1,790 copies, 13 reviews
Moby-Dick [Norton Critical Edition] 1,142 copies, 8 reviews
The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade 1,099 copies, 13 reviews
Billy Budd and Other Tales (Author) 880 copies, 9 reviews
Bartleby / Benito Cereno 840 copies, 10 reviews
Pierre; or, The Ambiguities 676 copies, 4 reviews
Benito Cereno 595 copies, 21 reviews
Melville: Typee, Omoo, Mardi 574 copies, 5 reviews
White-Jacket 561 copies, 5 reviews
Graphic Classics: Moby Dick 487 copies, 13 reviews
Omoo 435 copies, 8 reviews
Billy Budd / Benito Cereno (Author) 226 copies, 3 reviews
Mardi and a voyage thither 214 copies, 4 reviews
The Piazza Tales 176 copies, 4 reviews
Selected Poems of Herman Melville 160 copies, 3 reviews
The Shorter Novels of Herman Melville (Author) 157 copies, 1 review
The Portable Melville 140 copies, 1 review
Four Short Novels 134 copies, 2 reviews
The Maldive Shark 98 copies, 5 reviews
The Enchanted Isles 97 copies, 1 review
Moby Dick 68 copies
Moby Dick, Billy Budd 62 copies, 2 reviews
Moby Dick 56 copies, 4 reviews
Moby Dick (Source Author) 47 copies, 5 reviews
I And My Chimney 42 copies, 1 review
Marvel Illustrated: Moby Dick (Original from) 37 copies
Moby Dick [Penguin Readers] 37 copies, 8 reviews
Billy Budd [Macmillan Readers] 24 copies, 9 reviews
Moby Dick (Now Age Books) 16 copies, 1 review
Three Stories 15 copies
Short Stories 12 copies
Moby Dick 8 copies
Viajar 6 copies, 1 review
The Bell-Tower 5 copies, 1 review
Typee & Omoo 4 copies
Five tales 3 copies
Racconti 3 copies
První plavba 2 copies
TAIPII 2 copies
The Fiddler 2 copies
Moby Dick 1 copy
La veranda 1 copy
Oszust 1 copy
MOBY DICK 1 copy
Contos 1 copy
Annales 1 copy
(all) 1 copy
"Shiloh" 1 copy
Four novels 1 copy, 1 review
John Marr 1 copy
A bord 1 copy
The Oxford Book of American Short Stories (Contributor) 674 copies, 2 reviews
Great American Short Stories (Contributor) 430 copies, 2 reviews
A Pocket Book of Modern Verse (Contributor, some editions) 404 copies, 1 review
American Gothic Tales (Contributor) 403 copies, 5 reviews
Fifty Great American Short Stories (Contributor) 380 copies, 3 reviews
Six Great Modern Short Novels (Contributor) 257 copies, 2 reviews
Writing New York: A Literary Anthology (Contributor) 254 copies, 4 reviews
The World's Greatest Short Stories (Contributor) 220 copies
The Penguin Book of American Short Stories (Contributor) 169 copies, 1 review
Short Novels of the Masters (Contributor) 141 copies, 1 review
Black Water 2: More Tales of the Fantastic (Contributor) 141 copies, 3 reviews
American Religious Poems: An Anthology (Contributor) 138 copies, 1 review
Life in the Iron Mills [Bedford Cultural Editions] (Contributor) 124 copies, 2 reviews
A Comprehensive Anthology of American Poetry (Contributor) 121 copies, 2 reviews
The Big Book of Classic Fantasy (Contributor) 117 copies, 3 reviews
Stories of the Sea (Contributor) 108 copies, 1 review
The Frankenstein Omnibus (Contributor) 94 copies, 2 reviews
American Fantastic Tales: Boxed Set (Contributor) 88 copies, 2 reviews
Poets of the Civil War (Contributor) 83 copies, 1 review
American Short Stories (Contributor, some editions) 80 copies
A Treasury of Civil War Stories (Contributor) 59 copies
Seven Short Novel Masterpieces (Contributor) 56 copies
In Dreams Awake (Contributor) 39 copies
The Oxford Book of Sea Stories (Contributor) 38 copies, 1 review
The Book of the Sea (Contributor) 35 copies
Mysterious Sea Stories (Contributor) 27 copies
The Best Crime Stories Ever Told (Contributor) 25 copies, 1 review
Best South Sea Stories (Contributor) 25 copies
American short novels (Contributor) 25 copies
Beau Travail [1999 film] (Original story) 24 copies
Short Stories of the Sea (Contributor) 23 copies
Eight Short Novels (Contributor) 22 copies
The Penguin book of the ocean (Contributor) 20 copies
The Best Sea Stories (Contributor) 19 copies
A Treasury of Sea Stories (Contributor) 17 copies
World's Great Tales of the Sea (Contributor) 15 copies
Four great American novels (Contributor) 15 copies
Moby Dick [2011 TV mini series] (Original book) 14 copies
Billy Budd [1962 film] (Original book) 13 copies, 1 review
Melville (Contributor) 12 copies
We, Robots (Contributor) 11 copies
Pola X 6 copies
Come Not, Lucifer! A Romantic Anthology (Contributor) 6 copies, 1 review
The Wide Sea (Contributor) 5 copies
Vijf Amerikaanse novellen (Contributor) 5 copies
Representative American Short Stories (Contributor) 5 copies, 1 review
Valas (Alkuteoksen kirjoittaja) 4 copies
Famous Stories of Five Centuries (Contributor) 3 copies
Twelve short novels (Contributor) 3 copies
Tyve mesterfortællinger (Author, some editions) 3 copies, 1 review
Historier fra de syv have (Author, some editions) 2 copies, 1 review
Famous American Stories (Contributor, some editions) 1 copy, 1 review
Stories of the South Seas (Contributor) 1 copy
The Undying Past (Contributor) 1 copy

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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.
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Legacy Library: Herman Melville

Herman Melville has a Legacy Library. Legacy libraries are the personal libraries of famous readers, entered by LibraryThing members from the Legacy Libraries group.

» Herman Melville's legacy profile.

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