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Introduction To The Edition Of 1892



OF the trinity of American authors whose births made the year
1819 a notable one in our literary history,--Lowell, Whitman, and
Melville,--it is interesting to observe that the two latter were
both descended, on the fathers' and mothers' sides respectively,
from have families of British New England and Dutch New York
extraction. Whitman and Van Velsor, Melville and Gansevoort,
were the several combinations which produced these men; and it is
easy to trace in the life and character of each author the
qualities derived from his joint ancestry. Here, however, the
resemblance ceases, for Whitman's forebears, while worthy country
people of good descent, were not prominent in public or private
life. Melville, on the other hand, was of distinctly patrician
birth, his paternal and maternal grandfathers having been leading
characters in the Revolutionary War; their descendants still
maintaining a dignified social position.

Allan Melville, great-grandfather of Herman Melville, removed
from Scotland to America in 1748, and established himself as a
merchant in Boston. His son, Major Thomas Melville, was a leader
in the famous 'Boston Tea Party' of 1773 and afterwards became an
officer in the Continental Army. He is reported to have been a
Conservative in all matters except his opposition to unjust
taxation, and he wore the old-fashioned cocked hat and
knee-breeches until his death, in 1832, thus becoming the
original of Doctor Holmes's poem,'The Last Leaf'. Major
Melville's son Allan, the father of Herman, was an importing
merchant,--first in Boston, and later in New York. He was a man
of much culture, and was an extensive traveller for his time. He
married Maria Gansevoort, daughter of General Peter Gansevoort,
best known as 'the hero of Fort Stanwix.' This fort was situated
on the present site of Rome, N.Y.; and there Gansevoort, with a
small body of men, held in check reinforcements on their way to
join Burgoyne, until the disastrous ending of the latter's
campaign of 1777 was insured. The Gansevoorts, it should be said,
were at that time and subsequently residents of Albany, N.Y.

Herman Melville was born in New York on August 1, 1819, and
received his early education in that city. There he imbibed his
first love of adventure, listening, as he says in 'Redburn,'
while his father 'of winter evenings, by the well-remembered
sea-coal fire in old Greenwich Street, used to tell my brother
and me of the monstrous waves at sea, mountain high, of the masts
bending like twigs, and all about Havre and Liverpool.' The
death of his father in reduced circumstances necessitated the
removal of his mother and the family of eight brothers and
sisters to the village of Lansingburg, on the Hudson River.
There Herman remained until 1835, when he attended the Albany
Classical School for some months. Dr. Charles E. West, the
well-known Brooklyn educator, was then in charge of the school,
and remembers the lad's deftness in English composition, and his
struggles with mathematics.

The following year was passed at Pittsfield, Mass., where he
engaged in work on his uncle's farm, long known as the 'Van
Schaack place.' This uncle was Thomas Melville, president of the
Berkshire Agricultural Society, and a successful gentleman

Herman's roving disposition, and a desire to support himself
independently of family assistance, soon led him to ship as cabin
boy in a New York vessel bound for Liverpool. He made the
voyage, visited London, and returned in the same ship. 'Redburn:
His First Voyage,' published in 1849, is partly founded on the
experiences of this trip, which was undertaken with the full
consent of his relatives, and which seems to have satisfied his
nautical ambition for a time. As told in the book, Melville met
with more than the usual hardships of a sailor-boy's first
venture. It does not seem difficult in 'Redburn' to separate the
author's actual experiences from those invented by him, this
being the case in some of his other writings.

A good part of the succeeding three years, from 1837 to 1840, was
occupied with school-teaching. While so engaged at Greenbush,
now East Albany, N.Y., he received the munificent salary of 'six
dollars a quarter and board.' He taught for one term at
Pittsfield, Mass., 'boarding around' with the families of his
pupils, in true American fashion, and easily suppressing, on one
memorable occasion, the efforts of his larger scholars to
inaugurate a rebellion by physical force.

I fancy that it was the reading of Richard Henry Dana's 'Two
Years Before the Mast' which revived the spirit of adventure in
Melville's breast. That book was published in 1840, and was at
once talked of everywhere. Melville must have read it at the
time, mindful of his own experience as a sailor. At any rate, he
once more signed a ship's articles, and on January 1, 1841,
sailed from New Bedford harbour in the whaler Acushnet, bound for
the Pacific Ocean and the sperm fishery. He has left very little
direct information as to the events of this eighteen months'
cruise, although his whaling romance, 'Moby Dick; or, the Whale,'
probably gives many pictures of life on board the Acushnet. In
the present volume he confines himself to a general account of
the captain's bad treatment of the crew, and of his
non-fulfilment of agreements. Under these considerations,
Melville decided to abandon the vessel on reaching the Marquesas
Islands; and the narrative of 'Typee' begins at this point.
However, he always recognised the immense influence the voyage
had had upon his career, and in regard to its results has said in
'Moby Dick,'--

'If I shall ever deserve any real repute in that small but high
hushed world which I might not be unreasonably ambitious of; if
hereafter I shall do anything that on the whole a man might
rather have done than to have left undone . . . .then here I
prospectively ascribe all the honour and the glory to whaling;
for a whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.'

The record, then, of Melville's escape from the Dolly, otherwise
the Acushnet, the sojourn of his companion Toby and himself in
the Typee Valley on the island of Nukuheva, Toby's mysterious
disappearance, and Melville's own escape, is fully given in the
succeeding pages; and rash indeed would he be who would enter
into a descriptive contest with these inimitable pictures of
aboriginal life in the 'Happy Valley.' So great an interest has
always centred in the character of Toby, whose actual existence
has been questioned, that I am glad to be able to declare him an
authentic personage, by name Richard T. Greene. He was enabled
to discover himself again to Mr. Melville through the publication
of the present volume, and their acquaintance was renewed,
lasting for quite a long period. I have seen his portrait,--a
rare old daguerrotype,--and some of his letters to our author.
One of his children was named for the latter, but Mr. Melville
lost trace of him in recent years.

With the author's rescue from what Dr. T. M. Coan has styled his
'anxious paradise,' 'Typee' ends, and its sequel, 'Omoo,' begins.
Here, again, it seems wisest to leave the remaining adventures in
the South Seas to the reader's own discovery, simply stating
that, after a sojourn at the Society Islands, Melville shipped
for Honolulu. There he remained for four months, employed as a
clerk. He joined the crew of the American frigate United States,
which reached Boston, stopping on the way at one of the Peruvian
ports, in October of 1844. Once more was a narrative of his
experiences to be preserved in 'White Jacket; or, the World in a
Man-of-War.' Thus, of Melville's four most important books,
three, 'Typee,' 'Omoo,' and 'White-Jacket,' are directly auto
biographical, and 'Moby Dick' is partially so; while the less
important 'Redburn' is between the two classes in this respect.
Melville's other prose works, as will be shown, were, with some
exceptions, unsuccessful efforts at creative romance.

Whether our author entered on his whaling adventures in the South
Seas with a determination to make them available for literary
purposes, may never be certainly known. There was no such
elaborate announcement or advance preparation as in some later
cases. I am inclined to believe that the literary prospect was
an after-thought, and that this insured a freshness and
enthusiasm of style not otherwise to be attained. Returning to
his mother's home at Lansingburg, Melville soon began the writing
of 'Typee,' which was completed by the autumn of 1845. Shortly
after this his older brother, Gansevoort Melville, sailed for
England as secretary of legation to Ambassador McLane, and the
manuscript was intrusted to Gansevoort for submission to John
Murray. Its immediate acceptance and publication followed in
1846. 'Typee' was dedicated to Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw of
Massachusetts, an old friendship between the author's family and
that of Justice Shaw having been renewed about this time. Mr.
Melville became engaged to Miss Elizabeth Shaw, the only daughter
of the Chief Justice, and their marriage followed on August 4,
1847, in Boston.

The wanderings of our nautical Othello were thus brought to a
conclusion. Mr. and Mrs. Melville resided in New York City until
1850, when they purchased a farmhouse at Pittsfield, their farm
adjoining that formerly owned by Mr. Melville's uncle, which had
been inherited by the latter's son. The new place was named
'Arrow Head,' from the numerous Indian antiquities found in the
neighbourhood. The house was so situated as to command an
uninterrupted view of Greylock Mountain and the adjacent hills.
Here Melville remained for thirteen years, occupied with his
writing, and managing his farm. An article in Putnam's Monthly
entitled 'I and My Chimney,' another called 'October Mountain,'
and the introduction to the 'Piazza Tales,' present faithful
pictures of Arrow Head and its surroundings. In a letter to
Nathaniel Hawthorne, given in 'Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife,'
his daily life is set forth. The letter is dated June 1, 1851.

'Since you have been here I have been building some shanties of
houses (connected with the old one), and likewise some shanties
of chapters and essays. I have been ploughing and sowing and
raising and printing and praying, and now begin to come out upon
a less bristling time, and to enjoy the calm prospect of things
from a fair piazza at the north of the old farmhouse here. Not
entirely yet, though, am I without something to be urgent with.
The 'Whale' is only half through the press; for, wearied with the
long delays of the printers, and disgusted with the heat and dust
of the Babylonish brick-kiln of New York, I came back to the
country to feel the grass, and end the book reclining on it, if I

Mr. Hawthorne, who was then living in the red cottage at Lenox,
had a week at Arrow Head with his daughter Una the previous
spring. It is recorded that the friends 'spent most of the time
in the barn, bathing in the early spring sunshine, which streamed
through the open doors, and talking philosophy.' According to
Mr. J. E. A. Smith's volume on the Berkshire Hills, these
gentlemen, both reserved in nature, though near neighbours and
often in the same company, were inclined to be shy of each other,
partly, perhaps, through the knowledge that Melville had written
a very appreciative review of 'Mosses from an Old Manse' for the
New York Literary World, edited by their mutual friends, the
Duyckincks. 'But one day,' writes Mr. Smith, 'it chanced that
when they were out on a picnic excursion, the two were compelled
by a thundershower to take shelter in a narrow recess of the
rocks of Monument Mountain. Two hours of this enforced
intercourse settled the matter. They learned so much of each
other's character, . . . that the most intimate friendship for
the future was inevitable.' A passage in Hawthorne's 'Wonder
Book' is noteworthy as describing the number of literary
neighbours in Berkshire:--

'For my part, I wish I had Pegasus here at this moment,' said the
student. 'I would mount him forthwith, and gallop about the
country within a circumference of a few miles, making literary
calls on my brother authors. Dr. Dewey would be within ray
reach, at the foot of the Taconic. In Stockbridge, yonder, is
Mr. James [G. P. R. James], conspicuous to all the world on his
mountain-pile of history and romance. Longfellow, I believe, is
not yet at the Oxbow, else the winged horse would neigh at him.
But here in Lenox I should find our most truthful novelist [Miss
Sedgwick], who has made the scenery and life of Berkshire all her
own. On the hither side of Pittsfield sits Herman Melville,
shaping out the gigantic conception of his 'White Whale,' while
the gigantic shadow of Greylock looms upon him from his study
window. Another bound of my flying steed would bring me to the
door of Holmes, whom I mention last, because Pegasus would
certainly unseat me the next minute, and claim the poet as his

While at Pittsfield, Mr. Melville was induced to enter the
lecture field. From 1857 to 1860 he filled many engagements in
the lyceums, chiefly speaking of his adventures in the South
Seas. He lectured in cities as widely apart as Montreal,
Chicago, Baltimore, and San Francisco, sailing to the last-named
place in 1860, by way of Cape Horn, on the Meteor, commanded, by
his younger brother, Captain Thomas Melville, afterward governor
of the 'Sailor's Snug Harbor' at Staten Island, N.Y. Besides his
voyage to San Francisco, he had, in 1849 and 1856, visited
England, the Continent, and the Holy Land, partly to superintend
the publication of English editions of his works, and partly for

A pronounced feature of Melville's character was his
unwillingness to speak of himself, his adventures, or his
writings in conversation. He was, however, able to overcome this
reluctance on the lecture platform. Our author's tendency to
philosophical discussion is strikingly set forth in a letter from
Dr. Titus Munson Coan to the latter's mother, written while a
student at Williams College over thirty years ago, and
fortunately preserved by her. Dr. Coan enjoyed the friendship
and confidence of Mr. Melville during most of his residence in
New York. The letter reads:--

'I have made my first literary pilgrimage, a call upon Herman
Melville,the renowned author of 'Typee,' etc. He lives in a
spacious farmhouse about two miles from Pittsfield, a weary walk
through the dust. But it as well repaid. I introduced myself as
a Hawaiian-American, and soon found myself in full tide of talk,
or rather of monologue. But he would not repeat the experiences
of which I had been reading with rapture in his books. In vain I
sought to hear of Typee and those paradise islands, but he
preferred to pour forth his philosophy and his theories of life.
The shade of Aristotle arose like a cold mist between myself and
Fayaway. We have quite enough of deep philosophy at Williams
College, and I confess I was disappointed in this trend of the
talk. But what a talk it was! Melville is transformed from a
Marquesan to a gypsy student, the gypsy element still remaining
strong within him. And this contradiction gives him the air of
one who has suffered from opposition, both literary and social.
With his liberal views, he is apparently considered by the good
people of Pittsfield as little better than a cannibal or a
'beach-comber.' His attitude seemed to me something like that of
Ishmael; but perhaps I judged hastily. I managed to draw him out
very freely on everything but the Marquesas Islands, and when I
left him he was in full tide of discourse on all things sacred
and profane. But he seems to put away the objective side of his
life, and to shut himself up in this cold north as a cloistered

I have been told by Dr. Coan that his father, the Rev. Titus
Coan, of the Hawaiian Islands, personally visited the Marquesas
group, found the Typee Valley, and verified in all respects the
statements made in 'Typee.' It is known that Mr. Melville from
early manhood indulged deeply in philosophical studies, and his
fondness for discussing such matters is pointed out by Hawthorne
also, in the 'English Note Books.' This habit increased as he
advanced in years, if possible.

The chief event of the residence in Pittsfield was the completion
and publication of 'Moby Dick; or, the Whale,' in 1851. How many
young men have been drawn to sea by this book is a question of
interest. Meeting with Mr. Charles Henry Webb ('John Paul') the
day after Mr. Melville's death, I asked him if he were not
familiar with that author's writings. He replied that 'Moby
Dick' was responsible for his three years of life before the mast
when a lad, and added that while 'gamming' on board another
vessel he had once fallen in with a member of the boat's crew
which rescued Melville from his friendly imprisonment among the

While at Pittsfield, besides his own family, Mr. Melville's
mother and sisters resided with him. As his four children grew
up he found it necessary to obtain for them better facilities for
study than the village school afforded; and so, several years
after, the household was broken up, and he removed with his wife
and children to the New York house that was afterwards his home.
This house belonged to his brother Allan, and was exchanged for
the estate at Pittsfield. In December, 1866, he was appointed by
Mr. H. A. Smyth, a former travelling companion in Europe, a
district officer in the New York Custom House. He held the
position until 1886, preferring it to in-door clerical work, and
then resigned, the duties becoming too arduous for his failing

In addition to his philosophical studies, Mr. Melville was much
interested in all matters relating to the fine arts, and devoted
most of his leisure hours to the two subjects. A notable
collection of etchings and engravings from the old masters was
gradually made by him, those from Claude's paintings being a
specialty. After he retired from the Custom House, his tall,
stalwart figure could be seen almost daily tramping through the
Fort George district or Central Park, his roving inclination
leading him to obtain as much out-door life as possible. His
evenings were spent at home with his books, his pictures, and his
family, and usually with them alone; for, in spite of the
melodramatic declarations of various English gentlemen,
Melville's seclusion in his latter years, and in fact throughout
his life, was a matter of personal choice. More and more, as he
grew older, he avoided every action on his part, and on the part
of his family, that might tend to keep his name and writings
before the public. A few friends felt at liberty to visit the
recluse, and were kindly welcomed, but he himself sought no one.
His favorite companions were his grandchildren, with whom he
delighted to pass his time, and his devoted wife, who was a
constant assistant and adviser in his literary work, chiefly done
at this period for his own amusement. To her he addressed his
last little poem, the touching 'Return of the Sire de Nesle.'
Various efforts were made by the New York literary colony to draw
him from his retirement, but without success. It has been
suggested that he might have accepted a magazine editorship, but
this is doubtful, as he could not bear business details or
routine work of any sort. His brother Allan was a New York
lawyer, and until his death, in 1872, managed Melville's affairs
with ability, particularly the literary accounts.

During these later years he took great pleasure in a friendly
correspondence with Mr. W. Clark Russell. Mr. Russell had taken
many occasions to mention Melville's sea-tales, his interest in
them, and his indebtedness to them. The latter felt impelled to
write Mr. Russell in regard to one of his newly published novels,
and received in answer the following letter:
July 21, 1886.

MY DEAR Mr. MELVILLE, Your letter has given me a very great and
singular pleasure. Your delightful books carry the imagination
into a maritime period so remote that, often as you have been in
my mind, I could never satisfy myself that you were still amongst
the living. I am glad, indeed, to learn from Mr. Toft that you
are still hale and hearty, and I do most heartily wish you many
years yet of health and vigour.

Your books I have in the American edition. I have 'Typee,
'Omoo,' 'Redburn,' and that noble piece 'Moby Dick.' These are
all I have been able to obtain. There have been many editions of
your works in this country, particularly the lovely South Sea
sketches; but the editions are not equal to those of the American
publishers. Your reputation here is very great. It is hard to
meet a man whose opinion as a reader is worth leaving who does
not speak of your works in such terms as he might hesitate to
employ, with all his patriotism, toward many renowned English

Dana is, indeed, great. There is nothing in literature more
remarkable than the impression produced by Dana's portraiture of
the homely inner life of a little brig's forecastle.

I beg that you will accept my thanks for the kindly spirit in
which you have read my books. I wish it were in my power to
cross the Atlantic, for you assuredly would be the first whom it
would be my happiness to visit.

The condition of my right hand obliges me to dictate this to my
son; but painful as it is to me to hold a pen, I cannot suffer
this letter to reach the hands of a man of so admirable genitis
as Herman Melville without begging him to believe me to be, with
my own hand, his most respectful and hearty admirer,
W. Clark Russell.

It should be noted here that Melville's increased reputation in
England at the period of this letter was chiefly owing to a
series of articles on his work written by Mr. Russell. I am
sorry to say that few English papers made more than a passing
reference to Melville's death. The American press discussed his
life and work in numerous and lengthy reviews. At the same time,
there always has been a steady sale of his books in England, and
some of them never have been out of print in that country since
the publication of 'Typee.' One result of this friendship
between the two authors was the dedication of new volumes to each
other in highly complimentary terms--Mr. Melville's 'John Marr
and Other Sailors,' of which twenty-five copies only were
printed, on the one hand, and Mr. Russell's 'An Ocean Tragedy,'
on the other, of which many thousand have been printed, not to
mention unnumbered pirated copies.

Beside Hawthorne, Mr. Richard Henry Stoddard, of American
writers, specially knew and appreciated Herman Melville. Mr.
Stoddard was connected with the New York dock department at the
time of Mr. Melville's appointment to a custom-house position,
and they at once became acquainted. For a good many years,
during the period in which our author remained in seclusion, much
that appeared in print in America concerning Melville came from
the pen of Mr. Stoddard. Nevertheless, the sailor author's
presence in New York was well known to the literary guild. He
was invited to join in all new movements, but as often felt
obliged to excuse himself from doing so. The present writer
lived for some time within a short distance of his house, but
found no opportunity to meet him until it became necessary to
obtain his portrait for an anthology in course of publication.
The interview was brief, and the interviewer could not help
feeling although treated with pleasant courtesy, that more
important matters were in hand than the perpetuation of a
romancer's countenance to future generations; but a friendly
family acquaintance grew up from the incident, and will remain an
abiding memory.

Mr. Melville died at his home in New York City early on the
morning of September 28, 1891. His serious illness had lasted a
number of months, so that the end came as a release. True to his
ruling passion, philosophy had claimed him to the last, a set of
Schopenhauer's works receiving his attention when able to study;
but this was varied with readings in the 'Mermaid Series' of old
plays, in which he took much pleasure. His library, in addition
to numerous works on philosophy and the fine arts, was composed
of standard books of all classes, including, of course, a
proportion of nautical literature. Especially interesting are
fifteen or twenty first editions of Hawthorne's books inscribed
to Mr. and Mrs. Melville by the author and his wife.

The immediate acceptance of 'Typee' by John Murray was followed
by an arrangement with the London agent of an American publisher,
for its simultaneous publication in the United States. I
understand that Murray did not then publish fiction. At any
rate, the book was accepted by him on the assurance of Gansevoort
Melville that it contained nothing not actually experienced by
his brother. Murray brought it out early in 1846, in his
Colonial and Home Library, as 'A Narrative of a Four Months'
Residence among the Natives of a Valley of the Marquesas Islands;
or, a Peep at Polynesian Life,' or, more briefly, 'Melville's
Marquesas Islands.' It was issued in America with the author's
own title, 'Typee,' and in the outward shape of a work of
fiction. Mr. Melville found himself famous at once. Many
discussions were carried on as to the genuineness of the author's
name and the reality of the events portrayed, but English and
American critics alike recognised the book's importance as a
contribution to literature.

Melville, in a letter to Hawthorne, speaks of himself as having
no development at all until his twenty-fifth year, the time of
his return from the Pacific; but surely the process of
development must have been well advanced to permit of so virile
and artistic a creation as 'Typee.' While the narrative does not
always run smoothly, yet the style for the most part is graceful
and alluring, so that we pass from one scene of Pacific
enchantment to another quite oblivious of the vast amount of
descriptive detail which is being poured out upon us. It is the
varying fortune of the hero which engrosses our attention. We
follow his adventures with breathless interest, or luxuriate with
him in the leafy bowers of the 'Happy Valley,' surrounded by
joyous children of nature. When all is ended, we then for the
first time realise that we know these people and their ways as if
we too had dwelt among them.

I do not believe that 'Typee' will ever lose its position as a
classic of American Literature. The pioneer in South Sea
romance- -for the mechanical descriptions of earlier voyagers are
not worthy of comparison--this book has as yet met with no
superior, even in French literature; nor has it met with a rival
in any other language than the French. The character of
'Fayaway,' and, no less, William S. Mayo's 'Kaloolah,' the
enchanting dreams of many a youthful heart, will retain their
charm; and this in spite of endless variations by modern
explorers in the same domain. A faint type of both characters
may be found in the Surinam Yarico of Captain John Gabriel
Stedman, whose 'Narrative of a Five Years' Expedition' appeared
in 1796.

'Typee,' as written, contained passages reflecting with
considerable severity on the methods pursued by missionaries in
the South Seas. The manuscript was printed in a complete form in
England, and created much discussion on this account, Melville
being accused of bitterness; but he asserted his lack of
prejudice. The passages referred to were omitted in the first
and all subsequent American editions. They have been restored in
the present issue, which is complete save for a few paragraphs
excluded by written direction of the author. I have, with the
consent of his family, changed the long and cumbersome sub-title
of the book, calling it a 'Real-Romance of the South Seas,' as
best expressing its nature.

The success of his first volume encouraged Melville to proceed in
his work, and 'Omoo,' the sequel to 'Typee,' appeared in England
and America in l847. Here we leave, for the most part, the
dreamy pictures of island life, and find ourselves sharing the
extremely realistic discomforts of a Sydney whaler in the early
forties. The rebellious crew's experiences in the Society Islands
are quite as realistic as events on board ship and very
entertaining, while the whimsical character, Dr. Long Ghost, next
to Captain Ahab in 'Moby Dick,' is Melville's most striking
delineation. The errors of the South Sea missions are pointed
out with even more force than in 'Typee,' and it is a fact that
both these books have ever since been of the greatest value to
outgoing missionaries on account of the exact information
contained in them with respect to the islanders.

Melville's power in describing and investing with romance scenes
and incidents witnessed and participated in by himself, and his
frequent failure of success as an inventor of characters and
situations, were early pointed out by his critics. More recently
Mr. Henry S. Salt has drawn the same distinction very carefully
in an excellent article contributed to the Scottish Art Review.
In a prefatory note to 'Mardi' (1849), Melville declares that, as
his former books have been received as romance instead of
reality, he will now try his hand at pure fiction. 'Mardi' may
be called a splendid failure. It must have been soon after the
completion of 'Omoo' that Melville began to study the writings of
Sir Thomas Browne. Heretofore our author's style was rough in
places, but marvellously simple and direct. 'Mardi' is burdened
with an over-rich diction, which Melville never entirely outgrew.
The scene of this romance, which opens well, is laid in the South
Seas, but everything soon becomes overdrawn and fantastical, and
the thread of the story loses itself in a mystical allegory.

'Redburn,' already mentioned, succeeded 'Mardi' in the same year,
and was a partial return to the author's earlier style. In
'White-Jacket; or, the World in a Man-of-War' (1850), Melville
almost regained it. This book has no equal as a picture of life
aboard a sailing man-of-war, the lights and shadows of naval
existence being well contrasted.

With 'Moby Dick; or, the Whale' (1851), Melville reached the
topmost notch of his fame. The book represents, to a certain
extent, the conflict between the author's earlier and later
methods of composition, but the gigantic conception of the 'White
Whale,' as Hawthorne expressed it, permeates the whole work, and
lifts it bodily into the highest domain of romance. 'Moby Dick'
contains an immense amount of information concerning the habits
of the whale and the methods of its capture, but this is
characteristically introduced in a way not to interfere with the
narrative. The chapter entitled 'Stubb Kills a Whale' ranks with
the choicest examples of descriptive literature.

'Moby Dick' appeared, and Melville enjoyed to the full the
enhanced reputation it brought him. He did not, however, take
warning from 'Mardi,' but allowed himself to plunge more deeply
into the sea of philosophy and fantasy.

'Pierre; or, the Ambiguities' (1852) was published, and there
ensued a long series of hostile criticisms, ending with a severe,
though impartial, article by Fitz-James O'Brien in Putnam's
Monthly. About the same time the whole stock of the author's
books was destroyed by fire, keeping them out of print at a
critical moment; and public interest, which until then had been
on the increase, gradually began to diminish.

After this Mr. Melville contributed several short stories to
Putnam's Monthly and Harper's Magazine. Those in the former
periodical were collected in a volume as Piazza Tales (1856); and
of these 'Benito Cereno' and 'The Bell Tower' are equal to his
best previous efforts.

'Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile' (1855), first printed
as a serial in Putnam's, is an historical romance of the American
Revolution, based on the hero's own account of his adventures, as
given in a little volume picked up by Mr. Melville at a
book-stall. The story is well told, but the book is hardly
worthy of the author of 'Typee.' 'The Confidence Man' (1857),
his last serious effort in prose fiction, does not seem to
require criticism.

Mr. Melville's pen had rested for nearly ten years, when it was
again taken up to celebrate the events of the Civil War. 'Battle
Pieces and Aspects of the War' appeared in 1866. Most of these
poems originated, according to the author, in an impulse imparted
by the fall of Richmond; but they have as subjects all the chief
incidents of the struggle. The best of them are "The Stone
Fleet,' 'In the Prison Pen,' 'The College Colonel,' 'The March to
the Sea,' 'Running the Batteries,' and 'Sheridan at Cedar Creek.'
Some of these had a wide circulation in the press, and were
preserved in various anthologies. 'Clarel, a Poem and Pilgrimage
in the Holy Land' (1876), is a long mystical poem requiring, as
some one has said, a dictionary, a cyclopaedia, and a copy of the
Bible for its elucidation. in the two privately printed volumes,
the arrangement of which occupied Mr. Melville during his last
illness, there are several fine lyrics. The titles of these
books are, 'John Marr and Other Sailors' (1888), and 'Timoleon'

There is no question that Mr. Melville's absorption in
philosophical studies was quite as responsible as the failure of
his later books for his cessation from literary productiveness.
That he sometimes realised the situation will be seen by a
passage in 'Moby Dick':--

'Didn't I tell you so?' said Flask. 'Yes, you'll soon see this
right whale's head hoisted up opposite that parmacetti's.'

'In good time Flask's saying proved true. As before, the Pequod
steeply leaned over towards the sperm whale's head, now, by the
counterpoise of both heads, she regained her own keel, though
sorely strained, you may well believe. So, when on one side you
hoist in Locke's head, you go over that way; but now, on the
other side, hoist in Kant's and you come back again; but in very
poor plight. Thus, some minds forever keep trimming boat. Oh,
ye foolish! throw all these thunderheads overboard, and then you
will float right and light.'

Mr. Melville would have been more than mortal if he had been
indifferent to his loss of popularity. Yet he seemed contented
to preserve an entirely independent attitude, and to trust to the
verdict of the future. The smallest amount of activity would
have kept him before the public; but his reserve would not permit
this. That reinstatement of his reputation cannot be doubted.

In the editing of this reissue of 'Melville's Works,' I have been
much indebted to the scholarly aid of Dr. Titus Munson Coan,
whose familiarity with the languages of the Pacific has enabled
me to harmonise the spelling of foreign words in 'Typee' and
'Omoo,' though without changing the phonetic method of printing
adopted by Mr. Melville. Dr. Coan has also been most helpful
with suggestions in other directions. Finally, the delicate
fancy of La Fargehas supplemented the immortal pen-portrait of
the Typee maiden with a speaking impersonation of her beauty.

New York, June, 1892.


Herman Melville