Melville is best known as the author of Moby Dick. He also penned
his debut book Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847). Following his death in New York City in 1891, he
came to be regarded as one of the great American writers. His last book,
Billy Budd, was published posthumously.
managed to put his pen to paper and engage his mind, despite the need to
hold down many jobs during the course of his life, though this gave him
depth of experience and wondering to dredge on.
was one of the greatest American writers and poets of the American Renaissance
period, starting out in life as a sailor, later serving as a crew man in various vessels. It was his experience at sea that shaped much of his future career as a novelist and writer.
The experience and adventure at sea formed the crux and gave a background for his
publishing debut in, ‘Typee’. His early success prompted him to write the novels, ‘Mardi’ and ‘Redburn’. He then came up with his masterpiece ‘Moby-Dick’. Although the novel failed commercially then, it is today considered as a work of sheer genius. Melville’s style was complex and baroque. His works are rich in vocabulary and have a strong sense of rhythm to them. Also, Melville in most of his works plays with imagery, creating allusion that extends to scripture, myth, philosophy, literature and the visual arts. His sheer genius can also be seen in his quotes that maps the emotional, physical and psychological existence of humans. He has written quotes on love, dignity, hope, democracy, success, failure, friendship, truth and so on.
Tragically, most of the recognition that Melville today is showered upon came in after his life.
"Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed."
Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860
"The sweetest joys of life grow in the very jaws of its perils."
Pierre or The Ambiguities: Works of Melville, p.71
"Life’s a voyage that’s homeward bound."
"No philosophers so thoroughly comprehend us as dogs and horses."
Redburn. His First Voyage, p.222
"Ignorance is the parent of fear." Moby-Dick,
"The Past is dead, and has no resurrection; but the Future is endowed with such a life, that it lives to us even in anticipation. The Past is, in many things, the foe of mankind; the Future is, in all things, our friend. In the Past is no hope; The Future is both hope and fruition. The Past is the text-book of tyrants; the Future is the Bible of the Free. Those who are solely governed by the Past stand like Lot's wife, crystallized in the act of looking backward, and forever incapable of looking before."
"Only the man who says no is free"
"It is not down in any map; true places never are."
"He who has never failed somewhere, that man can not be great. Failure is the true test of greatness."
"Whatever my fate, I'll go to it laughing."
"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men."
"I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts."
Moby Dick, p.12
"Meditation and water are wedded for ever."
"Truth is in things, and not in words."
"When among wild beasts, if they menace you, be a wild beast."
"The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails whereon my soul is grooved to run"
"Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges."
"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can."
"An utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward."
"I have no objection to any person's religion, be it what it may, so long as that person does not kill or insult any other person, because that other person don't believe it also. But when a man's religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive torment to him; and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to lodge in; then I think it high time to take that individual aside and argue the point with him."
'Moby Dick' (1851) ch. 17
"In this world of lies, Truth is forced to fly like a scared white doe in the woodlands; and only by cunning glimpses will she reveal herself, as in Shakespeare and other masters of the great Art of Telling the Truth, even though it be covertly, and by snatches."
"You know nothing till you know all; which is the reason we never know any thing."
"Nature is nobody's ally."
"A smile is the chosen vehicle of all ambiguities."
"For whatever is truly wondrous and fearful in man, never yet was put into words or books."
"They talk of the dignity of work. The dignity is in leisure."
"But it is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation."
"He says NO! in thunder; but the Devil himself cannot make him say yes."
"Give me a condor's quill! Give me Vesuvius crater for an inkstand!"
Melville's signature as an inscription on a book given to Mr & Mrs
house was lived in by Herman and Elizabeth
Melville, now a heritage site of some significance. Herman wrote Typee
and Omoo while living here.
many years, Arrowhead
was lived in by Herman and Elizabeth
Melville, now a heritage site of some significance. Arrowhead is
open on Saturdays only from October 19 through December 14, 10am - 2pm. Visit the home where Herman Melville and his family lived from 1850-1863. Melville wrote "Moby-Dick" here as well as many other notable novels and short stories.
Moby Dick (1851)
Israel Potter (1855)
The Confidence-Man (1857)
Billy Budd (1924)
Bartleby, the Scrivener
The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids
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