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. At the time of his death, Melville was no longer well known to the public, but the 1919 centennial of his birth was the starting point of a Melville revival. Moby-Dick eventually would 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. Early life and education Melville was born in New York City, on August 1, 1819, the third of eight children to Allan Melvill (1782–1832) and Maria (Gansevoort) Melvill (1791–1872), who were of Scottish and Dutch descent. His seven siblings, who played important roles in his career and 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 considerable time away from New York City, travelling regularly to Europe as a commission merchant and an importer of French dry goods.Both of Melville's grandfathers both played significant roles in the American Revolutionary War, and Melville later expressed satisfaction in his "double revolutionary descent". Major Thomas Melvill (1751–1832) participated in the Boston Tea Party, and Melville's maternal grandfather, General Peter Gansevoort (1749–1812), 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, Melville was baptized at home by a minister of the South Reformed Dutch Church. During the 1820s, Melville lived a privileged and opulent life in a household supported by three or more servants at a time. Every four years, the family moved to 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 left him in debt to both the Melvill and Gansevoort families for sum exceeding $20,000 (equivalent to $550,000 in 2022). But Melville biographer Newton Arvin writes that the relative happiness and comfort of Melville's early childhood depended less 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".Melville's education began when he was five. In 1824, around the time the Melvills moved to a newly built house at 33 Bleecker Street in Manhattan, Herman and his older brother Gansevoort attended New York Male High School. Two years later, 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 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—being a most amiable and innocent child, I cannot find it in my heart to coerc.... Discover the Herman Melville popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Herman Melville books.

Best Seller Herman Melville Books of 2024

  • 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 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

    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...

  • 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...

  • Billy Budd, Bartleby, and Other Stories synopsis, comments

    Billy Budd, Bartleby, and Other Stories

    Herman Melville & Peter M. Coviello

    A new, definitive edition of Herman Melville’s virtuosic short storiesAmerican classics wrought with scorching fury, grim humor, and profound beauty   Though bestknown for his...

  • 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...

  • 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...

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    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...

  • 7 best short stories by Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    7 best short stories by Herman Melville

    Herman Melville & August Nemo

    Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. His first two books gained much attention, though they were not bestsellers, and his popularity de...

  • Study Guide to Billy Budd by Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    Study Guide to Billy Budd by Herman Melville

    Intelligent Education

    A comprehensive study guide offering indepth explanation, essay, and test prep for Herman Melville's Billy Budd, his final novel.As a book of the twentiethcentury, Melville focused...

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    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...

  • 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...

  • Finding Margaret Fuller synopsis, comments

    Finding Margaret Fuller

    Allison Pataki

    An epic imagining of the life of Margaret FullerAmerica’s forgotten leading lady and the central figure of a movement that defined a nationfrom the New York Times bestselling autho...

  • 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...

  • Essential Novelists - Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    Essential Novelists - Herman Melville

    Herman Melville & August Nemo

    Welcome to the Essential Novelists book series, were we present to you the best works of remarkable authors. For this book, the literary critic August Nemo has chosen the two most ...

  • Energy synopsis, comments


    Richard Rhodes

    A “meticulously researched” (The New York Times Book Review) examination of energy transitions over time and an exploration of the current challenges presented by global warming, a...

  • 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...

  • 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 Daemon Knows synopsis, comments

    The Daemon Knows

    Harold Bloom


  • Billy Budd and Other Tales synopsis, comments

    Billy Budd and Other Tales

    Herman Melville, Julian Markels & Joyce Carol Oates

    A master of the american short story Included in this rich collection are: The Piazza, Bartleby the Scrivener, Benito Cereno, The LightningRod Man, The Encantadas, The BellTower, a...

  • Herman Melville synopsis, comments

    Herman Melville

    Leon Howard

    This title is part of UC Press's Voices Revived program, which commemorates University of California Press’s mission to seek out and cultivate the brightest minds and give them voi...

  • 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

    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...

  • 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

    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...

  • Whalefall synopsis, comments


    Daniel Kraus

    A USA TODAY BESTSELLER Named a Best Book of 2023 by Book Riot, Shelf Awareness, and NPR The Martian meets 127 Hours in this “powerfully humane” (Owen King, New York Times bestselli...

  • 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...