Herman Melville Popular Books

Herman Melville Biography & Facts

Herman Melville (born Melvill; August 1, 1819 – September 28, 1891) was an American novelist, short story writer, and poet of the American Renaissance period. Among his best-known works are Moby-Dick (1851); Typee (1846), a romanticized account of his experiences in Polynesia; and Billy Budd, Sailor, a posthumously published novella. Although his reputation was not high at the time of his death, the 1919 centennial of his birth was the starting point of a Melville revival, and Moby-Dick grew to be considered one of the great American novels. 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. He 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. Typee, his first book, and its sequel, Omoo (1847), were travel-adventures based on his encounters with the peoples of the islands. Their success gave him the financial security to marry Elizabeth Shaw, the daughter of the Boston jurist Lemuel Shaw. Mardi (1849), a romance-adventure and his first book not based on his own experience, was not well received. Redburn (1849) and White-Jacket (1850), both tales based on his experience as a well-born young man at sea, were given respectable reviews, but did not sell well enough to support his expanding family. Melville's growing literary ambition showed in Moby-Dick (1851), 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 (1852). From 1853 to 1856, Melville published short fiction in magazines, including "Benito Cereno" and "Bartleby, the Scrivener". In 1857, he traveled to England, toured the Near East, and published his last work of prose, The Confidence-Man (1857). He moved to New York in 1863, eventually taking a position as a United States customs inspector. From that point, Melville focused his creative powers on poetry. Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866) was his poetic reflection on the moral questions of the American Civil War. In 1867, his eldest child Malcolm died at home from a self-inflicted gunshot. Melville's metaphysical epic Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land was published in 1876. In 1886, his other son Stanwix died of apparent tuberculosis, and Melville retired. During his last years, he privately published two volumes of poetry, and left one volume unpublished. The novella Billy Budd was left unfinished at his death, but was published posthumously in 1924. Melville died from cardiovascular disease in 1891. Biography Family and early life Herman Melville was born in New York City on August 1, 1819, to Allan Melvill (1782–1832) and Maria (Gansevoort) Melvill (1791–1872). Herman was the third of eight children in a family of Scottish and Dutch descent. His siblings, who played important roles in his career as well as in his emotional life, were Gansevoort (1815–1846); Helen Maria (1817–1888); Augusta (1821–1876); Allan (1823–1872); Catherine (1825–1905); Frances Priscilla (1827–1885); and Thomas (1830–1884), who eventually became a governor of Sailors' Snug Harbor. Part of a well-established and colorful Boston family, Allan Melvill spent much time out of New York and in Europe as a commission merchant and an importer of French dry goods. Both of Melville's grandfathers were heroes of the Revolutionary War, and Melville found satisfaction in his "double revolutionary descent". Major Thomas Melvill (1751–1832) had taken part in the Boston Tea Party, and Melville's maternal grandfather, General Peter Gansevoort (1749–1812), was famous for having commanded the defense of Fort Stanwix in New York in 1777. At the turn of the 19th century, Major Melvill did not send his son Allan (Herman's father) to college, but instead sent him to France, where he spent two years in Paris and learned to speak French fluently. In 1814, Allan, who subscribed to his father's Unitarianism, married Maria Gansevoort, who was committed to her family's more strict and biblically oriented Dutch Reformed version of the Calvinist creed. The Gansevoorts' severe Protestantism ensured that Maria was well versed in the Bible, in English as well as in Dutch, the language that the Gansevoorts spoke at home.On August 19, almost three weeks after his birth, Herman Melville was baptized at home by a minister of the South Reformed Dutch Church. During the 1820s, Melville lived a privileged, opulent life in a household with three or more servants at a time. At four-year intervals, the family moved into more spacious and elegant quarters, finally settling on Broadway in 1828. Allan Melvill lived beyond his means, on large sums that he borrowed from his father and from his wife's widowed mother. Although his wife's opinion of his financial conduct is unknown, biographer Hershel Parker says that Maria "thought her mother's money was infinite and that she was entitled to much of her portion" while her children were young. How well the parents managed to hide the truth from their children is "impossible to know", according to biographer Andrew Delbanco.In 1830, the Gansevoorts ended their financial support of the Melvilles, at which point Allan's lack of financial responsibility had put him in debt to both the Melvill and Gansevoort families for a total of more than $20,000 (equivalent to $509,000 in 2021). But Melville biographer Newton Arvin writes that the relative happiness and comfort of Melville's early childhood depended not so much on Allan's wealth or on his profligate spending, as on the "exceptionally tender and affectionate spirit in all the family relationships, especially in the immediate circle". Arvin describes Allan as "a man of real sensibility and a particularly warm and loving father," while Maria was "warmly maternal, simple, robust, and affectionately devoted to her husband and her brood". Education and father's death Herman Melville's schooling began when he was five and was interrupted at age 12 by the death of his father. Around the time the Melvills moved to a newly built house at 33 Bleecker Street in Manhattan in 1824, Herman and his older brother Gansevoort were sent to the New York Male High School. In 1826, the year that Herman contracted scarlet fever, Allan Melvill described him as "very backwards in speech & somewhat slow in comprehension" at first, but his development increased its pace and Allan was surprised "that Herman proved the best Speaker in the introductory Department". In 1829, both Gansevoort and Herman were transferred to Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School, and Herman enrolled in the English Department on September 28. "Herman I think is making more progress than formerly," Allan wrote in May 1830 to Major Melvill, "and without being a bright Scholar, he maintains a respectable standing, and would proceed further, if he could only be induced to study more—be.... Discover the Herman Melville popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Herman Melville books.

Best Seller Herman Melville Books of 2023

  • Away Off Shore synopsis, comments

    Away Off Shore

    Nathaniel Philbrick

    A book about a tiny island with a huge history, from the New York Times bestselling author of Valiant Ambition and In the Hurricane's Eye.“For everyone who loves Nan...

  • The Whale synopsis, comments

    The Whale

    Philip Hoare

    "A love letter to the 'largest, loudest, oldest' mammal ever to have existed...exhilarating." People MagazineWinner of the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction,From his childhoo...

  • Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    Herman Melville

    Watson G. Branch

    This set comprises 40 volumes covering 19th and 20th century European and American authors. These volumes will be available as a complete set, mini boxed sets (by theme) or as ind...

  • Oroonoko synopsis, comments


    Aphra Behn & Janet Todd

    Aphra Behn, the poet, playwright, novelist and political satirist was the first truly professional woman writer in English. This selection, edited and introduced by Professor Janet...

  • Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    Herman Melville

    Robert Wernick

    More and more readers, and droves of scholars, are turning to the pages of Moby Dick and other masterpieces by Herman Melville for an excursion into the world of the great American...

  • Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    Herman Melville

    Raymond Weaver

    “If ever, my dear Hawthorne,” wrote Melville in the summer of 1851, “we shall sit down in Paradise in some little shady corner by ourselves; and if we shall by any means be able to...

  • Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    Herman Melville


    "Dive deep into the story of Herman Melville's life anywhere you go: on a plane, on a mountain, in a canoe, under a tree. Or grab a flashlight and read Shmoop under the covers. Shm...

  • The Complete Works of Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    The Complete Works of Herman Melville

    Herman Melville

    This carefully crafted ebook: "The Complete Works of Herman Melville" is formatted for your eReader with a functional and detailed table of contents: Novels: Typee Omoo Mar...

  • The Maximum Security Book Club synopsis, comments

    The Maximum Security Book Club

    Mikita Brottman

    A riveting account of the two years literary scholar Mikita Brottman spent reading literature with criminals in a maximumsecurity men’s prison outside Baltimore, and what she learn...

  • Moby-Dick synopsis, comments


    Herman Melville, Andrew Delbanco & Tom Quirk

    MobyDick is one of the great epics in all of literature. Captain Ahab's hunt for the white whale drives the narrative at a relentless pace, while Ishmael's meditations on whales an...

  • Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    Herman Melville

    Paolo Parisi Presicce

    L’autore del mitico Moby Dick sapeva più di quel che sapeva, e lo diceva in forma di racconto, come imparò affabulando durante i primi viaggi per nave. A volte taceva immobile, per...

  • Moby-Dick synopsis, comments


    Herman Melville

    Nominated as one of America’s bestloved novels by PBS’s The Great American ReadFirst published in 1851, Herman Melville’s masterpiece is, in Elizabeth Hardwick’s words, “the g...

  • Melville synopsis, comments


    Andrew Delbanco

    If Dickens was nineteenthcentury London personified, Herman Melville was the quintessential American. With a historian’s perspective and a critic’s insight, awardwinning author And...

  • The Complete Novels of Herman Melville - All 10 Novels in One Edition synopsis, comments

    The Complete Novels of Herman Melville - All 10 Novels in One Edition

    Herman Melville

    Musaicum Books presents to you this carefully created volume of "The Complete Novels of Herman Melville All 10 Novels in One Edition". This ebook has been designed and for...

  • Moby Dick synopsis, comments

    Moby Dick

    Herman Melville

    A PBS Great American Read Top 100 PickMelville’s classic tale of obsession and the sea, one of the most important and enduring masterworks of nineteenthcentury literature, Moby Dic...

  • In the Galapagos Islands with Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    In the Galapagos Islands with Herman Melville

    Lynn Michelsohn & Herman Melville

    Sail to the exotic Galapagos Islands with Herman Melville, author of "MobyDick." Let History and Legend, Fiction and Fact, Myth and Mystery swirl around you as you enter "The ...

  • Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    Herman Melville

    D. E. S. Maxwell

    In this fascinating and revealing book, first published in 1968, Maxwell examines the life and work of Herman Melville. By dividing extracts of Melville’s work in chronological ord...

  • Great Short Works of Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    Great Short Works of Herman Melville

    Herman Melville

    Early American writer Herman Melville is best known for his great American novel "Moby Dick." However, Melville was also a prolific and honest short story writer. His stori...

  • Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    Herman Melville

    Arno Heller

    Er ist der Schöpfer von ›MobyDick‹: Herman Melville zählt zu den herausragenden Schriftstellern Amerikas. Sein grandioser Roman vom mythischen Weißen Wal hat längst Kultstatus erla...

  • Melville in Love synopsis, comments

    Melville in Love

    Michael Shelden

    A new account of Herman Melville and the writing of MobyDick, written by a Pulitzer  Prize finalist in Biography and based on fresh archival research, which reveals that the a...

  • Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    Herman Melville

    John Bryant

    A comprehensive exploration of Melville's formative years, providing a new biographical foundation for today's generations of Melville readersHerman Melville: A Half Known Life, Vo...

  • The Empire of Necessity synopsis, comments

    The Empire of Necessity

    Greg Grandin

    From the acclaimed author of Fordlandia, the story of a remarkable slave rebellion that illuminates America's struggle with slavery and freedom during the Age of Revolution and bey...

  • Till I End My Song synopsis, comments

    Till I End My Song

    Harold Bloom

    “A colossus among critics. . . . His enthusiasm for literature is a joyous intoxicant.” New York TimesIn this charming anthology, esteemed literary critic Harold Bloom collects the...

  • Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    Herman Melville

    Katie McGettigan

    In this imaginative book, Katie McGettigan argues that Melville’s novels and poetry demonstrate a sustained engagement with the physical, social, and economic materiality of indust...

  • Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    Herman Melville

    Graham Thompson

    What I feel most moved to write, that is banned,it will not pay. Yet, altogether, write the other way I cannot. Herman Melville wrote these words as he struggled to survive as a fa...

  • Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    Herman Melville

    Raymond M. Weaver

    Raymond M. Weaver was an American professor and literary scholar best known for writing the first biography on the great author Herman Melville.  A table of contents is includ...

  • Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    Herman Melville

    Kevin J Hayes

    Herman Melville is hailed as one of the greatsif not the greatestof American literature. Born in New York in 1819, he first achieved recognition for his daring stylistic innovation...