Israel Potter: His Fifty Year of Exile, Volume Eight, Scholarly Edition

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Unique among Melville's works, Israel Potter was the author's only historical novel, presuming to offer the life history of Revolutionary War figure Israel Potter—based on Potter's own obscure narrative Life and Remarkable Adventures of Israel R. Potter—and featuring characters such as Benjamin Franklin and Ethan Allen. In offering the manuscript to his publisher, Melville assured him, "I engage that the story shall contain nothing of any sort to shock the fastidious. There will be very little reflective writing in it; nothing weighty. It is adventure." This came as a relief, for his previous novel, Pierre, had shocked readers and brought down universal castigation.

This edition is an Approved Text of the Center for Editions of American Authors (Modern Language Association of America).

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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: 9780810105522
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1982
  • Series: Melville, #8
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 401
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.60 (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.

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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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