Confidence Man

Confidence Man

by Herman Melville
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Overview

Confidence Man by Herman Melville

Long considered Herman Melville's strangest novel, The Confidence-Man is a comic allegory aimed at the optimism and materialism of mid-nineteenth-century America. A mysterious shape-changing Confidence-Man approaches passengers on a Mississippi River steamboat and, winning over his not-quite-innocent victims with his charm, urges them to implicitly trust in the cosmos, in nature, and even in human nature -- with predictable results. A satiric and socially acute work that was to be a further step away from his sea novels, The Confidence-Man represented a departure for Melville. Yet it confused and angered reviewers who preferred to pigeonhole him as an adventure writer. Some have argued the book was a joke on the readers loyal to his sea stories, but if so, it backfired. Dismissed by critics as unreadable, and an undoubted financial failure, The Confidence-Man's cold reception undermined Melville's belief in his ability to make a living writing works that were both popular and profound, and he soon gave up fiction. It was not until the mid-twentieth century that critics rediscovered the book and praised its wit, stunningly modern technique, and wry view that life may be just a cosmic con game. This text of The Confidence-Man is an Approved Text of the Center for Editions of American Authors (Modern Language Association of America).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442938496
Publisher: ReadHowYouWant
Publication date: 07/13/2009
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 600 KB

About the Author

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.

Date of Birth:

August 1, 1819

Date of Death:

September 28, 1891

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Place of Death:

New York, New York

Education:

Attended the Albany Academy in Albany, New York, until age 15

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