Herman Melville

A picture of the author Herman Melville

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 Melville; 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 Melville turned to a higher amibtion, the writing of Moby-Dick. The novel was not well recieved. It was disliked by critics and only sold 3,000 copies during his lifetime.

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.

Melville dedicated Moby Dick to Nathaniel Hawthorne writing: "In token of my admiration for his genius, this book is inscribed to Nathaniel Hawthorne."

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Short Stories


A Meditation
An Uninscribed Monument
A Requiem
Aurora Borealis
A Utilitarian View Of The Monitor's Fight
Ball's Bluff
Bridegroom Dick 1876
Commemorative Of A Naval Victory
Epilogue (Clarel)
Far Off-Shore
"Formerly A Slave"
From The Conflict Of Convictions
Herba Santa
In The Prison Pen
Jack Roy
John Marr And Other Sailors
Lines Traced Under An Image Of Amor Threatening
Lone Founts
Malvern Hill
Off Cape Colonna
Old Counsel
On The Grave Of A Young Cavalry Officer Killed In The Valley Of Virginia
On The Photograph Of A Corps Commander
On The Slain At Chickamauga
On The Slain Collegians
Pipe Song
Rebel Color-Bearers At Shiloh
Sheridan At Cedar Creek
Song Of Yoomy
Stonewall Jackson
Supplement (Timoleon)
The Aeolian Harp
The Apparition
The Bench Of Boors
The Berg
The College Colonel
The Enthusiast
The Enviable Isles
The Figure-Head
The Fortitude Of The North
The Good Craft Snow Bird
The Haglets
The House-Top
The Land Of Love
The Maldive Shark
The Man-Of-War Hawk
The March Into Virginia
The Martyr
The Mound By The Lake
The New Zealot To The Sun
The Night March
The Portent
The Ravaged Villa
The Released Rebel Prisoner
The Stone Fleet
The Swamp Angel
The Temeraire
The Tuft Of Kelp
Tom Deadlight
To Ned
To The Master Of The Meteor
We Fish


It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.