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Confidence Man: His Masquerade

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Herman Melville's The Confindence-Man: His Masquerade was the tenth, last, and most perplexing book of his decade as a professional man of letters. After it he gave up his ambitious effort to write works that would be both popular and profound and turned to poetry. The book was published on April 1--the very day of its title character's April Fools' Day masquerade on a Mississippi River Steamboat.
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The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade

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Overview

Herman Melville's The Confindence-Man: His Masquerade was the tenth, last, and most perplexing book of his decade as a professional man of letters. After it he gave up his ambitious effort to write works that would be both popular and profound and turned to poetry. The book was published on April 1--the very day of its title character's April Fools' Day masquerade on a Mississippi River Steamboat.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810103252
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1984
  • Series: Melville Series , #10
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 518
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. His first two books gained much attention, though they were not bestsellers, and his popularity declined precipitously only a few years later. By the time of his death he had been almost completely forgotten, but his longest novel, Moby-Dick -- largely considered a failure during his lifetime, and most responsible for Melville's fall from favor with the reading public -- was rediscovered in the 20th century as one of the chief literary masterpieces of both American and world literature.

Dalkey Archive 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 whether 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 business men transact a little business.

10. In the cabin.

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. Towards 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 evidenced in the case of the Missourian, who, in view of the region roundabout 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 so 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 companions.

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 secondhand 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 the 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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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2003

    The Unreliable Narrator

    This is one of the most metaphysically profound books I've ever read. In it, Melville consistently challenges his reader's belief in the truth of his own narrative. He does this by presenting a protagonist so variable as to defy definition. He may, or may not, be the devil as the blurb here indicate. I suspect the real Confidence Man is the author himself. The question that the narrative constantly raises is, can this narrative be trusted? Maybe, Maybe not.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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