Friday, November 14, 2014

Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" was Published - November 14, 1851

This week (November 14 – 20) in English literary history – Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was published (November 14, 1851); Charles Dickens published the final chapters of A Tale of Two Cities in All the Year Round (November 15, 1859); Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News wins National Book Award (November 17, 1993); Poet Allen Tate was born (November 19, 1899); Henry James published his first novel Roderick Hudson (November 20, 1875). 

Highlighted story of the week - 

On November 14, 1851, Herman Melville published Moby Dick. The book was a failure, but years later was recognized as an American classic. Melville was born on August 1, 1819 in New York City. A childhood bout of scarlet fever left him with weakened eyes. At age 19, he became a cabin boy on a ship bound for Liverpool and he later sailed to the South Seas on a whaler, the Acushnet, which anchored in Polynesia. He took part in a mutiny, was thrown in jail in Tahiti, escaped, and wandered around the South Sea Islands from 1841 to 1844. In 1846, he published his first novel, Typee, based on his Polynesian adventures. His second book, Omoo (1847), also dealt with the South Seas. The two novels was a success, although his third, Mardi (1849), more experimental in nature, failed to catch on with the public. During this period, Melville bought a farm near Nathaniel Hawthorne's house in Massachusetts, and the two became close friends, although they later drifted apart. Melville wrote for journals and continued to publish novels. Moby Dick was coolly received, but his short stories were highly acclaimed. Putnam's Monthly published "Bartleby the Scrivener" in 1853 and "Benito Cereno" in 1855. In 1866, Melville won appointment as a customs inspector in New York, which brought him a stable income and he continued to write until his death on September 28, 1891. His last novel, Billy Budd, was not published until 1924. Melville was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York.  

Check back every Friday for a new edition of “This week in English literary history.” 

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the gold medal winning Literary Legends of the British Isles and the soon to be released America’s Literary Legends. Visit Michael’s website for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:

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