Herman Melville: A Biography, Volume 2

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JHU Press, Aug 19, 2005 - Literary Criticism - 1056 pages

The first volume of Hershel Parker's definitive biography of Herman Melville—a finalist for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize—closed on a mid-November day in 1851. In the dining room of the Little Red Inn in Lenox, Massachusetts, Melville had just presented an inscribed copy of his new novel, Moby-Dick, to his intimate friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne, the man to whom the work was dedicated. "Take it all in all," Parker concluded, "this was the happiest day of Melville's life."

Herman Melville: A Biography, Volume 2, 1851-1891 chronicles Melville's life in rich detail, from this ecstatic moment to his death, in obscurity, forty years later. Parker describes the malignity of reviewers and sheer bad luck that doomed Moby-Dick to failure (and its author to prolonged indebtedness), the savage reviews he received for his next book Pierre, and his inability to have the novel The Isle of the Cross—now lost—published at all. Melville turned to magazine fiction, writing the now-classic "Bartleby" and "Benito Cereno," and produced a final novel, The Confidence Man, a mordant satire of American optimism. Over his last three decades, while working as a customs inspector in Manhattan, Melville painstakingly remade himself as a poet, crafting the centennial epic Clarel, in which he sorted out his complex feelings for Hawthorne, and the masterful story "Billy Budd," originally written as a prose headnote to an unfinished poem.

Through prodigious archival research into hundreds of family letters and diary entries, newly discovered newspaper articles, and marginalia from books that Melville owned, Parker vividly recreates the last four decades of Melville's life, episode after episode unknown to previous biographers. The concluding volume of Herman Melville: A Biography confirms Hershel Parker's position as the world's leading Melville scholar, demonstrating his unrivaled biographical, literary, and historical imagination and providing a rich new portrait of a great—and profoundly American—artist.

 

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HERMAN MELVILLE: A Biography, Vol. I, 1819-1851

User Review  - Kirkus

This leviathan of a biography—the first half of a two-volume set—meticulously charts the early life and career of an erratic literary genius. Melville was born in 1819, a scion of new American ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - lucienspringer - LibraryThing

Hershel Parker's credentials as a Melville scholar are unimpeachable--he's co-edited the authoritative Northwestern-Newberry edition of the complete works and seems to have eaten, slept, and breathed ... Read full review

Contents

Crowned and Blindsided NovemberDecember 1851
1
Mad Christmas December 1851
29
The Kraken Version of Pierre NovemberDecember 1851
51
Melville Crosses the Rubicon January 1852
68
Richard Bentley The Whale and Pierre JanuaryMay 1852
88
Fools Paradise and the Furies Unleashed JuneSeptember 1852
109
The Isle of the Cross September 1852June 1853
134
The Magazinist Idealist Turned WouldBe Stoic July 1853January 1854
160
Displacements JanuaryJune 1863
521
Wartime Second Honeymoon and Manhattan SummerFall 1863
540
The War Poets Scout toward Aldie 1864
554
Two Years of War and Dubious Peace 18651866
581
BattlePieces Poet Poems Reviewers 1866
602
The Deputy Inspector amid Domestic Maelstroms 1867
622
A Snug Harbor for the Melvilles Late 18671868
647
The Man Who Had Known Hawthorne 1869
667

The Shift Away from Herman and Arrowhead JanuaryMarch 1854
186
Tortoises and Israel Potter 1854
203
Benito Cereno Early 1855
231
The Confidence Mans Masquerade Melville as National Satirist June 1855January 1856
251
Foreclosing on Friendship Confession and Shame FebruaryOctober 1856
271
Liverpool and the Levant Late 1856February 1857
291
Rome to Liverpool and Home FebruaryApril 1857
317
Statues in Rome May 1857February 1858
345
The South Seas March 1858Spring 1859
370
The Poet and the Last Lecture Travel Summer 1859Early 1860
398
An Epic Poet on the Meteor MayOctober 1860
424
The Dream of Florence a State Funeral and War November 1860December 1861
450
A Humble Quest for an Aesthetic Credo JanuaryApril 1862
478
Farewell to Arrowhead and the Overthrow of Jehu AprilDecember 1862
502
West Street and Jerusalem 1870
684
The Last Mustering of the Clan and The Wilderness 1871
706
Death Death and Flight to a Snug Harbor 1872
728
A Family in Disarray and Mar Saba 1873
748
The New Generation and Bethlehem 18741875
767
Clarel Melvilles Centennial Epic 1876
784
Old Fogy and Imaginary Companions 18771879
809
The Shadow at the Feasts 18801885
839
Fragments in a Writing Desk 18861891
872
In and Out of the House of the Tragic Poet 18861891
899
GENEALOGICAL CHARTS
919
DOCUMENTATION
925
INDEX
963
Copyright

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About the author (2005)

Hershel Parker is the author of Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons and Reading "Billy Budd"; co-editor, with Harrison Hayford, of the landmark 1967 Norton Critical Edition of Moby-Dick, wholly revised in 2001; and Associate General Editor of the Northwestern-Newberry edition of The Writings of Herman Melville. He lives in Morro Bay, California.

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