Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile / Edition 1

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Melville's eighth book was begun as a simple rewrite of an obscure little narrative entitled Life and Remarkable Adventures of Israel R. Potter, in which Israel tells the story of his sad fall from Revolutionary hero to London peddler. Following its opening chapter Melville's novel retells that tale, with close adherence to the language and events of the Life, and then, shaking free of the original narrative, alternately moves between invented episodes and historical sources unrelated to the Life. Israel Potter is unique among Melville's books. It is the only one to be offered in the guise of literal biography, the tale presuming to offer an accurate life history of the man Israel Potter who did in fact fight at Bunker Hill. It is also Melville's only historical novel: it presents famous men of the American Revolution - Benjamin Franklin, John Paul Jones, Ethan Allen, and others - in situations that are a matter of historical record.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Published in 1855, Melville's fictional biography is his only historical novel. It tells the story of Israel Potter, a Revolutionary War hero and Bunker Hill survivor who ultimately ends up on the streets of London. Melville mixes fact with fiction and real characters (Ben Franklin) with invented ones.

—Michael Rogers
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823213238
  • Publisher: Fordham University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1991
  • Edition description: 2
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 497
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Herman Melville (1819–91) found early success with stories inspired by his adventures in the South Seas. His fortunes declined with the 1851 publication of Moby-Dick, now recognized as a masterpiece but scorned by Melville's contemporaries. The author was obliged to work as a New York City customs inspector and died in obscurity, three decades before the critical reassessment of his work.

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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

Chapter 1. The Birthplace of Israel

Chapter 2. The Youthful Adventures of Israel

Chapter 3. Israel Goes to the Wars; and Reaching Bunker Hill in Time to Be of Service There, Soon After Is Forced to Extend His Travels across the Sea into the Enemy's Land

Chapter 4. Further Wanderings of the Refugee, with Some Account of a Good Knight of Brentford Who Befriended Him

Chapter 5. Israel in the Lion's Den

Chapter 6. Israel Makes the Acquaintance of Certain Secret Friends of America, One of Them Being the Famous Author of the "Diversions of Purley." These Dispatch Him on a Sly Errand across the Channel

Chapter 7. After a Curious Adventure upon the Pont Neuf, Israel Enters the Presence of the Renowned Sage, Dr. Franklin, Whom He Finds Right Learnedly and Multifariously Employed

Chapter 8. Which Has Something to Say about Dr. Franklin and the Latin Quarter

Chapter 9. Israel Is Initiated into the Mysteries of Lodging-houses in the Latin Quarter

Chapter 10. Another Adventurer Appears upon the Scene\

Chapter 11. Paul Jones in a Reverie

Chapter 12. Recrossing the Channel, Israel Returns to the Squire's Abode—His Adventures There

Chapter 13. His Escape from the House, with Various Adventures Following

Chapter 14. In Which Israel Is Sailor under Two Flags, and in Three Ships, and All in One Night

Chapter 15. They Sail as Far as the Crag of Ailsa

Chapter 16. They Look in at Carrickfergus, and Descend on White-haven

Chapter 17. They Call at the Earl of Selkirk's; and Afterwards Fight the Ship-of-war Drake

Chapter 18. The Expedition That Sailed from Groix

Chapter 19. They Fight the Serapis

Chapter 20. The Shuttle

Chapter 21. Samson among the Philistines

Chapter 22. Something Further of Ethan Allen; with Israel's Flight Towards the Wilderness

Chapter 23. Israel in Egypt

Chapter 24. In the City of Dis

Chapter 25. Forty-five Years

Chapter 26. Requiescat in Pace

Editorial Appendix. 
Historical Note by Walter E. Bezanson
Textual Record by the editors
Related Document by R. D. Madison

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