85 Facts About Herman Melville


Herman Melville was born in New York City, the third child of a prosperous merchant whose death in 1832 left the family in dire financial straits.


Herman Melville took to sea in 1839 as a common sailor on a merchant ship and then on the whaler Acushnet, but he jumped ship in the Marquesas Islands.


Herman Melville's growing literary ambition showed in Moby-Dick, which took nearly a year and a half to write, but it did not find an audience, and critics scorned his psychological novel Pierre: or, The Ambiguities.


From 1853 to 1856, Herman Melville published short fiction in magazines, including "Benito Cereno" and "Bartleby, the Scrivener".


Herman Melville moved to New York in 1863, eventually taking a position as a United States customs inspector.


From that point, Herman Melville focused his creative powers on poetry.


Herman Melville was born in New York City on August 1,1819, to Allan Melvill and Maria Melvill.


Herman Melville was the third of eight children in a family of Scottish and Dutch descent.


Herman Melville's schooling began when he was five and was interrupted at age 12 by the death of his father.


In 1829, both Gansevoort and Herman Melville were transferred to Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School, and Herman Melville enrolled in the English Department on September 28.


Emotionally unstable and behind on paying the rent for the house on Broadway, Herman Melville's father tried to recover by moving his family to Albany, New York, in 1830 and going into the fur business.


Herman Melville attended the Albany Academy from October 1830 to October 1831, where he took the standard preparatory course, studying reading and spelling; penmanship; arithmetic; English grammar; geography; natural history; universal, Greek, Roman and English history; classical biography; and Jewish antiquities.


In early August 1831, Herman Melville marched in the Albany city government procession of the year's "finest scholars" and was presented with a copy of The London Carcanet, a collection of poems and prose, inscribed to him as "first best in ciphering books".


The ubiquitous classical references in Herman Melville's published writings suggest that his study of ancient history, biography, and literature during his school days left a lasting impression on both his thought and his art, as did his almost encyclopedic knowledge of both the Old and the New Testaments.


Herman Melville died on January 28,1832, two months before reaching fifty.


Herman Melville did his job well at the bank; although he was only 14 in 1834, the bank considered him competent enough to be sent to Schenectady, New York, on an errand.


In 1835, while still working in the store, Herman Melville enrolled in Albany Classical School, perhaps using Maria's part of the proceeds from the sale of the estate of his maternal grandmother in March 1835.


Herman Melville participated in debating societies, in an apparent effort to make up as much as he could for his missed years of schooling.


In early 1834 Gansevoort had become a member of Albany's Young Men's Association for Mutual Improvement, and in January 1835 Herman Melville joined him there.


Gansevoort began studying law in New York City while Herman Melville managed the farm before getting a teaching position at Sikes District School near Lenox, Massachusetts.


Herman Melville taught about 30 students of various ages, including some his own age.


Nothing is known about what Herman Melville did or where he went for several months after he finished teaching at Sikes.


Just weeks after this failure, Herman Melville's first known published essay appeared.


On May 31,1839, Gansevoort, then living in New York City, wrote that he was sure Herman Melville could get a job on a whaler or merchant vessel.


Herman Melville arrived back in New York October 1,1839 and resumed teaching, now at Greenbush, New York, but left after one term because he had not been paid.


Herman Melville measured slightly less than 360 tons and had two decks and three masts, but no quarter galleries.


When he signed the crew list the next day, Herman Melville was advanced $84.


Herman Melville slept with some twenty others in the forecastle; Captain Valentine Pease, the mates, and the skilled men slept aft.


Herman Melville then spent a month as beachcomber and island rover, eventually crossing over to Moorea.


Herman Melville drew on these experiences for Omoo, the sequel to Typee.


Herman Melville completed Typee, his first book, in the summer of 1845 while living in Troy, New York.


In 1847, Herman Melville tried unsuccessfully to find a "government job" in Washington.


Herman Melville wanted to be married in church, but they had a private wedding ceremony at home to avoid possible crowds hoping to see the celebrity.


Biographer Robertson-Lorant regards the work as a deliberate attempt for popular appeal: "Herman Melville modeled each episode almost systematically on every genre that was popular with some group of antebellum readers," combining elements of "the picaresque novel, the travelogue, the nautical adventure, the sentimental novel, the sensational French romance, the gothic thriller, temperance tracts, urban reform literature, and the English pastoral".


The earliest surviving mention of Moby-Dick is from a May 1,1850, letter in which Herman Melville told fellow sea author Richard Henry Dana Jr.


On one picnic outing organized by Duyckinck, Hawthorne and Herman Melville sought shelter from the rain together and had a deep, private conversation.


Herman Melville had been given a copy of Hawthorne's short story collection Mosses from an Old Manse, though he had not yet read it.


Herman Melville wrote that these stories revealed a dark side to Hawthorne, "shrouded in blackness, ten times black".


In September 1850, Herman Melville borrowed three thousand dollars from his father-in-law Lemuel Shaw to buy a 160-acre farm in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.


Herman Melville called his new home Arrowhead because of the arrowheads that were dug up around the property during planting season.


That winter, Herman Melville paid Hawthorne an unexpected visit, only to discover he was working and "not in the mood for company".


Bezanson identifies "sexual excitement" in all the ten letters Herman Melville wrote to the older man.


In early December 1852, Herman Melville visited the Hawthornes in Concord and discussed the idea of the "Agatha" story he had talked of with Hawthorne.


We were somewhat startled at the remark, but still more at learning, a few days after, that Herman Melville was really supposed to be deranged, and that his friends were taking measures to place him under treatment.


On May 22,1853, Melville's third child and first daughter Elizabeth was born, and on or about that day Herman finished work on the Agatha story, Isle of the Cross.


From November 1853 to 1856, Herman Melville published fourteen tales and sketches in Putnam's and Harper's magazines.


The collection, titled The Piazza Tales, was named after a new introductory story Herman Melville wrote for it, "The Piazza".


From October 11,1856, to May 20,1857, Herman Melville made a six-month Grand Tour of Europe and the Mediterranean.


Herman Melville embarked upon three lecture tours and spoke at lyceums, chiefly on Roman statuary and sightseeing in Rome.


On May 30,1860, Herman Melville boarded the clipper Meteor for California, with his brother Thomas at the helm.


In 1864, Herman Melville visited the Virginia battlefields of the American Civil War.


In 1866, Herman Melville became a customs inspector for New York City.


Herman Melville held the post for 19 years and had a reputation for honesty in a notoriously corrupt institution.


In May 1867, Lizzie's brother Sam, who shared his family's fear for Herman Melville's sanity, tried to arrange for her to leave Herman Melville.


Herman Melville spent years on what Milder called "his autumnal masterpiece" Clarel: A Poem and a Pilgrimage, an 18,000-line epic poem inspired by his 1856 trip to the Holy Land.


Herman Melville retired on December 31,1885, after several of his wife's relatives further supported the couple with supplementary legacies and inheritances.


In 1889, Herman Melville became a member of the New York Society Library.


Herman Melville had a modest revival of popularity in England when readers rediscovered his novels.


Herman Melville published two collections of poems inspired by his early experiences at sea, with prose head notes.


Herman Melville was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City.


Herman Melville left a volume of poetry, Weeds and Wildings, and a sketch, "Daniel Orme", unpublished at the time of his death.


Herman Melville's wife found pages for an unfinished novella, titled Billy Budd.


Herman Melville had revised and rearranged the manuscript in several stages, leaving the pages in disarray.


The pages were stored in a family breadbox until 1919 when Herman Melville's granddaughter gave them to Raymond Weaver.


Herman Melville's writing style shows both consistencies and enormous changes throughout the years.


Herman Melville's development "had been abnormally postponed, and when it came, it came with a rush and a force that had the menace of quick exhaustion in it".


Such compact organization bears the risk of fragmentation when applied to a lengthy work such as Mardi, but with Redburn and White Jacket, Herman Melville turned the short chapter into a concentrated narrative.


Newton Arvin points out that only superficially the books after Mardi seem as if Herman Melville's writing went back to the vein of his first two books.


Over time Herman Melville's paragraphs became shorter as his sentences grew longer, until he arrived at the "one-sentence paragraphing characteristic of his later prose".


Unlike Henry James, who was an innovator of sentence ordering to render the subtlest nuances in thought, Herman Melville made few such innovations.


Herman Melville's domain is the mainstream of English prose, with its rhythm and simplicity influenced by the King James Bible.


Direct quotation from any of the sources is slight; only one sixth of his Biblical allusions can be qualified as such because Herman Melville adapts Biblical usage to his own narrated textual requirements of clarifying his plot.


Herman Melville sustains the apocalyptic tone of anxiety and foreboding for a whole chapter of Mardi.


In 1849, Herman Melville acquired an edition of Shakespeare's works printed in a font large enough for his tired eyes, which led to a deeper study of Shakespeare that greatly influenced the style of his next book, Moby-Dick.


Matthiessen found that the language of Shakespeare far surpasses other influences upon the book, in that it inspired Herman Melville to discover his own full strength.


Herman Melville's diction depended upon no source, and his prose is not based on anybody else's verse but on an awareness of "speech rhythm".


Herman Melville's mastering of Shakespeare, Matthiessen finds, supplied him with verbal resources that enabled him to create dramatic language through three essential techniques.


Third, Herman Melville employed the device of making one part of speech act as another, for example, 'earthquake' as an adjective, or turning an adjective into a noun, as in "placeless".


Herman Melville's travelogues based on voyages to the South Seas and stories based on his time in the merchant marine and navy led to some initial success, but his popularity declined dramatically afterwards.


Herman Melville was viewed as a minor figure in American literature in the later years of his life and during the years immediately after his death.


Herman Melville did not publish poetry until his late thirties, with Battle-Pieces, and did not receive recognition as a poet until well into the 20th century.


In 1945, The Herman Melville Society was founded, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the study of Herman Melville's life and works.


The first volume of the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of The Writings of Herman Melville was published in 1968 and the last in the fall of 2017.


Herman Melville has been useful in the field of law and literature.


In 1985, the New York City Herman Melville Society gathered at 104 East 26th Street to dedicate the intersection of Park Avenue South and 26th Street as Herman Melville Square.