Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile / Edition 1

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Overview

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 (August 1, 1819 - September 28, 1891) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick. His first three books gained much contemporary attention (the first, Typee, becoming a bestseller), and after a fast-blooming literary success in the late 1840s, his popularity declined precipitously in the mid-1850s and never recovered during his lifetime. When he died in 1891, he was almost completely forgotten. It was not until the "Melville Revival" in the early 20th century that his work won recognition, especially Moby-Dick, which was hailed as one of the literary masterpieces of both American and world literature. He was the first writer to have his works collected and published by the Library of America.

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

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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