Herman Melville

"If at my death, my executors, or more properly my creditors, find any
precious MSS. in my desk, then here I propectively ascribe all the honor and
glory to whaling; for a whaleship was my Yale College and my
24). Throughout history American authors have written countless essays and
songs, poems and plays, novels and short stories which have led to the great
accomplishment of Amercian Literature. However since it emerged from its
colonial beginnings more than 300 years ago certain authors have contributed
more than others, one of which is Herman Melville. Herman Melville ranks
among Americas most prominent authors and in modern times has been regarded
as one of the great authors in American Literature. Melville was the first
to treat
the South Seas in fiction; "Typee' (1846), and Omoo' (1847) which gave
fascinating images of this exotic region. These two books and the three that

succeed them then prepared Melville to write his time honored classic Moby
(1851). Which is regarded by some as the greatest contribution of American
letters to world literature. Melville lead a interesting life and as a
accumulated a wealth of personal experiences at sea to write about.
Herman Melville was born in New York City on August 1 ,1819 ,the third
of eight children. His father was a merchant from New England and his mother

came from an old and prominent Dutch family. In 1832 when Herman was 14 his
father passed away leaving his mother and eight children in a heap of debt.
Herman grew up he held many distinct problems, from resentment and grief for
debts and death of his father to the matter of supporting such a large
Melville finished school at age 15 and was young, inexperienced and poor. To

escape his problems at home and get some adventure he decided to go to sea.
1837 at the age of 18 Melville embarked as a ships-boy on a merchant ship
for Liverpool, England. In 1841 Melville returned to New York but decided he

could not forget the sea. In 1841 and at the age of 22 Melville took a berth
as an
ordinary seaman aboard the whaler Acushnet. The ship left Fair Haven, Mass.
a long whaling voyage around the Cape Horn and into the South Pacific. It is
this voyage that Melville had most of his early adventures.
Melville soon discovered that the seafaring life was harsh and oppresive,
and after 18 months he jumped ship with his friend Toby in the Marquesas
and soon fell prey as a captive to the "cannibalistic" Typee tribe. However
natives turned out to be gentle and charming hosts. Melville described his
experiences with these people in Typee After being rescued from the Typees,
Melville took part in a mutiny and was arrested in Tahiti. After being
Melville and his friends began to rome the beautiful and unspoiled islands of

Tahiti which Melville documented in his book Omoo. Shortly thereafter he
departed the island on another whaler which brought him to Honolulu.
departed from Honolulu to become a sailor in the United States Navy, he
the U.S.S United States and after a fourteen month voyage was discharged in
Boston in October of 1844. He recounted his long voyage from Honolulu around

the capr to Boston in his novel White-Jacket. After all this high adventure
in so
few years, Melville was ready to depart from his younger years and enter into

adulthood. Melville himself states that during his younger years, he was in
constant search of himself and adventure, "until I was twenty-five, I had no
development at all. From my twenty-fifth year I date my life. Three weeks
scarcely passed, at any time between then and now, that I have not unfolded
myself." Herman Melville's early life was marked by the death of his father
his family problems. The adventures that Melville departed on to when he was

young provided much of the raw material for his inspiring novels such as Moby

Dick, Billy Budd and the Piazza Tales. The majority and almost all of the
Melville used in his books was gathered during his years at sea.
Consequently, in
almost all of his books his adventures at sea and the sea fearing companions
met are incorporated into the characters and story line about which he writes
becomes particularly visible upon reading