Herman Melville

1819-1891. American novelist. Born in New York City, he was one of eight children whose father was a cultivated gentleman (he died when Herman was twelve). In 1837 he shipped as a cabin boy to Liverpool, and in 1841 sailed on a whaler to the South Seas. The latter trip provided the material for his first books-Typee (1846), Omoo (1847), Redburn (1849), White-Jacket (1850)-and his greatest work, Moby Dick (1851), one of the finest of all American novels. In 1849 he made a trip to England and in the following year moved to a farm in Massachusetts, where he established a firm friendship with his neighbor, Nathaniel Hawthorne,* to whom he was to dedicate Moby-Dick. Pierre was the tale of an intellectually troubled and overwrought young man. Billy Budd was one of his best tales, written shortly before his death, though not published until 1924. Melville's last years were spent in New York City where he died in poverty and obscurity. His rediscovery around 1920 by literary scholars brought him the acclaim which was his due as one of America's greatest authors. Like Hawthorne's, Melville's work is rich in allegory and symbol. His style has a graceful, lyrical beauty rarely matched in American literature. He ceaselessly sought some absolute in the world and the lives of men, but he never acknowledged the sovereignty of the Christian God.