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

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Overview


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.

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

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