(1819 - 1891)
New York City, New York, United States
"There are certain queer times and
occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when
a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke,
though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than
suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own."
- Melville in Moby Dick
Herman Melville was born into financial
instability and a rough life. Upon the death of his father,
it was up to Melville to support his family through various
jobs such as banking and teaching school. In 1845, Melville
went on ocean adventures, which inspired him to start writing.
For example, on one voyage, he was captured and held for
several months by the Typees; when he returned unscathed,
friends encouraged Melville to write the escapade down.
Melville became friends with Hawthorne and they both heavily
influenced each other's work. Moby Dick is what modern
scholars consider a timeless masterpiece; however, when
it was published, it was not a financial success. He was
unable to support his family through his novels and his
talent went unnoticed. He discontinued writing fiction and
began experimenting with poetry. In his poetry, Melville
often used the motif of the Civil War as many of his family
members participated in the War. He died in 1891 quietly
as it was not until the 20s when literary criticism became
popular that Melville received the credit he deserves.
Battle-Pieces and Aspectsof the War: Civil War Poems
Clarel: A Poem and a Pilgrimage (1876)
John Marr and Other Sailors (1888)
Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life (1846)
White-Jacket; or, the World in a Man-of-War (1850)
Moby-Dick, or the Whale (1851)
Pierre, or The Ambiguities (1852)
Israel Potter (1855)
The Piazza Tales Israel Potter (1856)
The Confidence-Man (1857)
Billy Budd, Sailor (1924)
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Melville: http://www.melville.org/
"Melville, Herman" The Columbia Encyclopedia,
6th ed. New York: Columbia University Press, July 2001.