The Confidence-Man: Volume Ten, Scholarly Edition

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Overview

Long considered Melville's strangest novel, The Confidence-Man is a comic allegory aimed at the optimism and materialism of mid-nineteenth century America. A shape-shifting Confidence-Man approaches passengers on a Mississippi River steamboat and, winning over his not-quite-innocent victims with his charms, urges each to trust in the cosmos, in nature, and even in human nature—with predictable results. In Melville's time the book was such a failure he abandoned fiction writing for twenty years; only in the twentieth century did critics celebrate its technical virtuosity, wit, comprehensive social vision, and wry skepticism.

This scholarly edition includes a Historical Note offering a detailed account of the novel's composition, publication, reception, and subsequent critical history. In addition the editors present the twenty-six surviving manuscript leaves and scraps with full transcriptions and analytical commentary.

This scholarly edition aims to present a text as close to the author's intention as surviving evidence permits. Based on collations of both editions publishing during Melville's lifetime, it incorporates 138 emendations made by the present editors. It is an Approved Text of the Center for Editions of American Authors (Modern Language Association of America).

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810103245
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/1984
  • Series: Melville , #10
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 518
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Herman Melville (1819-91) was an American novelist, short-story writer, and essayist. His novels include Moby-Dick, Typee, and Omoo, all published in authoritative editions by Northwestern University Press.

Biography

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.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Date of Birth:
      August 1, 1819
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      September 28, 1891
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      Attended the Albany Academy in Albany, New York, until age 15

Table of Contents

1. A mute goes aboard a boat on the Mississippi
2. Showing that many men have many minds
3. In which a variety of characters appear
4. Renewal of old acquaintance
5. The man with the weed makes it an even question whetehr he be a great sage or a great simpleton
6. At the outset of which certain passengers prove deaf to the call of charity
7. A gentleman with gold sleeve-buttons
8. A charitable lady
9. Two bussiness men transact a little business
10. In th ecabin
11. Only a page or so
12. The story of the unfortunate man, from which may be gathered whether or no he has been justly so entitled
13. The man with the traveling-cap evinces much humanity, and in a way which would seem to show him to be one of the most logical of optimists
14. Worth the consideration of those to whom it may prove worth considering
15. An old miser, upon suitable representations, is prevailed upon to venture an investment
16. A sick man, after some impatience, is induced to become a patient
17. Toward the end of which the Herb-Doctor proves himself a forgiver of injuries
18. Inquest into the true character of the Herb-Doctor
19. A soldier of fortune
20. Reappearance of one who may be remembered
21. A hard case
22. In the polite spirit of the Tusculan disputations
23. In which the powerful effect of natural scenery is evinced in the case of the Missourian, who, in view of the region round about Cairo, has a return of his chilly fit
24. A philanthropist undertakes to convert a misanthrope, but does not get beyond confuting him
25. The Cosmopolitan makes an acquaintance
26. Containing the metaphysics of Indian-hating, according to the views of one evidently not as prepossessed as Rousseau in favor of savages
27. Some account of a man of questionable morality, but who, nevertheless, would seem entitled to the esteem of that eminent English moralist who said he liked a good hater
28. Moot points touching the late Colonel John Moredock
29. The boon companiions
30. Opening with a poetical eulogy of the Press, and continuing with talk inspired by the same
31. A metamorphosis more surprising than any in Ovid
32. Showing that the age of magic and magicians is not yet over
33. Which may pass for whatever it may prove to be worth
34. In which the Cosmopolitan tells the story of the gentleman-madman
35. In which the Cosmopolitan strikingly evinces the artlessness of his nature
36. In which the Cosmopolitan is accosted by a mystic, whereupon ensues pretty much such talk as might be expected
37. The mystical master introduces the practical disciple
38. The disciple unbends, and consents to act a social part
39. The hypothetical friends
40. In which the story of China Aster is, at second-hand, told by one who, while not disapproving the moral, disclaims the spirit of the style
41. Ending with a rupture of the hypothesis
42. Upon the heel of hte last scene, the Cosmopolitan enters the barber's shop, a benediction on his lips
43. Very charming
44. In which the last three words of the last chapter are made the text of the discourse, which will be sure of receiving more or less attention from those readers who do not skip it
45. The Cosmopolitan increases in seriousness

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