Pierre: or, The Ambiguities

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Penguin, Jan 1, 1996 - Fiction - 416 pages
3 Reviews
'Ambiguities indeed! One long brain-muddling, soul-bewildering ambiguity (to borrow Mr. Melville's style), like Melchisedeck, without beginning or end-a labyrinth without a clue - an Irish bog without so much as a Jack o'the'lantern to guide the wanderer's footsteps - the dream of a distempered stomach, disordered by a hasty supper on half-cooked pork chops." So judged the New York Herald when Pierre was first published in 1852, with most contemporary reviewers joining in the general condemnation: 'a dead failure,' 'this crazy rigmarole,' and "a literary mare's nest." Latter-day critics have recognized in the story of Melville's idealistic young hero a corrosive satire of the sentimental-Gothic novel, and a revolutionary foray into modernist literary techniques.

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From the Trade Paperback edition.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - GaryPatella - LibraryThing

Melville decided to write a parody on the literature of his day. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work. Pierre, the protagonist, makes very ludicrous decisions and arrives at extremely ridiculous ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - libraryhermit - LibraryThing

Prose style like no other author (that I have heard of yet Of course, there are a host of nineteenth-century American authors whom I have not read yet, so I am certain that there would be some of them ... Read full review

Selected pages


Suggestions for Further Reading
A Note on the Text and Acknowledgments
Pierre Just Emerging from His Teens
Love Delight and Alarm
The Presentiment and the Verification
Misgivings and Preparations
The Journey and the Pamphlet
The Cousins
First Night of Their Arrival in the City
Young America in Literature
Pierre as a Juvenile Author Reconsidered
The Church of the Apostles
Charlie Millthorpe
Pierre Immaturely Attempts a Mature Work Tidings from the Meadows Plinlimmon

Isabel and the First Part of the Story of Isabel
Intermediate between Pierres Two Interviews with Isabel at the Farmhouse
The Second Interview and the Second Part of the Story of Isabel Their Immediate Impulsive Effect upon Pierre
More Light and the Gloom of That Light More Gloom and the Light of That Gloom
The Unprecedented Final Resolution of Pierre
He Crosses the Rubicon
Isabel Mrs Glendinning the Portrait and Lucy
They Depart the Meadows
The FlowerCurtain Lifted from before a Tropical Author with Some Remarks on the Transcendental FleshBrush Philosophy
A Letter for Pierre Isabel Arrival of Lucys Easel and Trunks at the Apostles
Lucy at the Apostles
Lucy Isabel and Pierre Pierre at His Book Enceladus
A Walk a Foreign Portrait a Sail And the End
Explanatory Notes

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About the author (1996)

Herman Melville was born in August 1, 1819, in New York City, the son of a merchant. Only twelve when his father died bankrupt, young Herman tried work as a bank clerk, as a cabin-boy on a trip to Liverpool, and as an elementary schoolteacher, before shipping in January 1841 on the whaler Acushnet, bound for the Pacific. Deserting ship the following year in the Marquesas, he made his way to Tahiti and Honolulu, returning as ordinary seaman on the frigate United States to Boston, where he was discharged in October 1844. Books based on these adventures won him immediate success. By 1850 he was married, had acquired a farm near Pittsfield, Massachussetts (where he was the impetuous friend and neighbor of Nathaniel Hawthorne), and was hard at work on his masterpiece Moby-Dick.

Literary success soon faded; his complexity increasingly alienated readers. After a visit to the Holy Land in January 1857, he turned from writing prose fiction to poetry. In 1863, during the Civil War, he moved back to New York City, where from 1866-1885 he was a deputy inspector in the Custom House, and where, in 1891, he died. A draft of a final prose work, Billy Budd, Sailor, was left unfinished and uncollated, packed tidily away by his widow, where it remained until its rediscovery and publication in 1924.

William C. Spengemann is the Hale Professor in Arts and Sciences and Professor of English Emeritus at Dartmouth College. He edited the Penguin Classics edition of Nineteenth-Century American Poetry.

William C. Spengemann is the Hale Professor in Arts and Sciences and Professor of English Emeritus at Dartmouth College. He edited the Penguin Classics edition of Nineteenth-Century American Poetry.

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