Black and white image of American writer Herman Melville.

Herman Melville

(1819 - 1891)

After writing two successful adventure novels, Typee and Omoo, based on his experiences as a sailor, Herman Melville published the more allegorical Mardi in 1849; it did not sell well. The critics deemed the book incomprehensible, and he turned to reading Shakespeare with “eyes which are as tender as young sparrows.” In 1850 he became friends with Nathaniel Hawthorne, to whom he dedicated Moby Dick, published the following year. When Melville died at the age of seventy-two in 1891, one obituary noted that “even his own generation has long thought him dead.”

All Writing

Voices In Time

1842 | Marquesas Islands

Civilized Crimes

Herman Melville visits a place free of money.More

A whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.

—Herman Melville, 1851

Voices In Time

1851 | New Bedford, MA

Work Spouse

Ishmael meets Queequeg.More

Voices In Time

1857 | Mississippi River

Sales Pitch

Herman Melville sees an unremembered visage.More

From hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.

—Herman Melville, 1851

Voices In Time

c. 1843 | Atlantic Ocean

Inside the Whale

Herman Melville measures the skull of a whale.More

I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas and land on barbarous coasts.

—Herman Melville, 1853


“Pompeii like any other town,” Herman Melville wrote in his journal during an 1867 visit. “Same old humanity. All the same whether one be dead or alive. Pompeii comfortable sermon. Like Pompeii better than Paris.”

Voices In Time

1851 | South Seas

The Savage Sea

“Noah’s flood is not yet subsided.”More

A whale ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.

—Herman Melville, 1851

Voices In Time

1849 | Tahiti

Surf’s Up

Herman Melville catches a wave.More

Toil is man’s allotment; toil of brain, or toil of hands, or a grief that’s more than either, the grief and sin of idleness.

—Herman Melville, 1849

For, say they, when cruising in an empty ship, if you can get nothing better out of the world, get a good dinner out of it, at least.

—Herman Melville, 1851

Voices In Time

c. 1840 | New Bedford

Strange Bedfellows

Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian. More

Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.

—Herman Melville, 1851


“A seaman in the coach told the story of an old sperm whale, which he called a white whale, which was known for many years by the whalemen as Old Tom, and who rushed upon the boats which attacked him, and crushed the boats to small chips in his jaws, the men generally escaping by jumping overboard and being picked up,” recorded Ralph Waldo Emerson in his journal on February 19, 1834, adding that the whale “was finally taken somewhere off Payta Head by the Winslow or the Essex.” It was the wreck of the Essex in 1820 from which Herman Melville drew inspiration for Moby Dick.

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