Herman Melville belongs to the group of artists whose works grew in importance and stature after his death. Born in 1819, he published Moby-Dick; or The Whale in 1851, the year before Harriet Beecher Stowe was to publish Uncle Tom's Cabin and the year after Nathanial Hawthorne published The Scarlet Letter.
Melville grew up hearing tales of whaling and adventures at sea. In 1839, at the age of 20, he took to the seas himself, starting off as a cabin boy on the merchant ship St. Lawrence. January of 1841 found him aboard the whaling ship Acushent. After a string of adventures, some of them rather misbegotten, he left the sea and settled into his mother's house in the fall of 1844, determined to write about his adventures.
His first manuscript, for the novel Typee was turned down in America, partly because the publishers had difficulty believing the tales were true. The book was published in England in February 1846 and launched his career and ambitions. Things progressed well for ; he published more works and on an upswing in his career he married Elizabeth Shaw, the daughter of the Chief Justice of Massachusetts. Melville burnished his portfolio, quickly turning out Omoo in 1847, Mardi in 1849, then Redburn in 1849, and White-Jacket in 1850.
Then Moby-Dick. The novel was not well recieved. It was disliked by critics and only sold 3,000 copies during his lifetime.turned to a higher amibtion, the writing of
Unlike his contemporaries, Melville's career faded after the publication of Moby Dick and he was considered a failure when he passed away in 1891; the local paper where he died referred to him as a "long forgotten" author. His work was widely recognized after his death and Melville has taken his place amongst the literary giants.