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Friday, 10 June 2016



Herman Melville was born in New York City August 1, 1819 as the third child of a merchant in French dry goods.

Melville's formal education ended abruptly after his father died in 1832, leaving the family in financial straits. His first job was as a bank clerk in Albany in 1832, followed by a short stint as an English teacher in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Melville enlisted as a cabin boy on a merchant ship, the St Lawrence, in June 1839 and sailed from New York to Liverpool, returning the following October. Redburn: His First Voyage (1849) draws on his experiences of this journey.

In 1840 Melville signed aboard the whaler Acushnet for his first whaling voyage, but jumped ship in the Marquesas Islands, where he lived for a time with a tribe of cannibals. Melville's further adventures included working as a beachcomber in Tahiti.

Etching of Joseph O. Eaton's portrait of Herman Melville

In 1844, Melville returned to the US. His first book, Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life, was a semi autobiographical account of his travels in the South Seas, Published in 1846, it became such a best-seller that Melville worked up a sequel, Omoo (1847).


On November 20, 1820 an 80-ton sperm whale attacked the whaling ship Essex 2,000 miles from the western coast of South America. First mate Owen Chase, one of eight survivors, recorded the events in his 1821 Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex. Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby-Dick was in part inspired by this story.

Moby-Dick is an epic and tragic novel about the whaling industry At the story's center is Captain Ahab, who obsessively searches the seven seas to kill the white whale, Moby Dick that bit off his leg. The three days' fight with the whale ends in the death of Ahab and sinking of the ship.

Herman Melville's Moby-Dick was first published as The Whale by Richard Bentley of London in October 18, 1851.

Title page of the first edition of Moby-Dick, 1851
Moby-Dick is now considered by some as the greatest contribution of American letters to world literature. However, after a run of successful seafaring tales, this was the first flop for ex-cabin boy Herman Melville. He quit writing and spent his last two decades as a custom officer on the New York docks.

By the time of Herman Melville’s death on September 28, 1891, Moby-Dick had only sold 3,715 copies and earned him $556.37.

The centennial of Melville's birth in 1919 became the starting point of a revival of his work, as. critics discovered his major novels and stories, including Moby-Dick.

Atarbucks is named after the chief mate in Moby-Dick: Starbuck. Its original name was going to be Pequod after a whaling ship from the same classic book.


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