* Watersgreen House Classic Editions' Herman Melville Collection places Melville's early novels in the canon of gay literature.
* "Jack Chase, the educated, manly friend in White Jacket, was an actual shipmate never to be forgotten. ... Chase stayed in the heart, forever cherished, the only unwavering, beyond the family, friendship of Melville's life. In White Jacket he is addressed: 'Wherever you may now be rolling over the blue billows, dear Jack! take my best love along with you, and God bless you, wherever you go!' The same sense of the beloved lost wanderer will forty years later illuminate the dedication to Billy Budd: 'To Jack Chase, Englishman/Wherever that great heart may now be/Here on Earth or harbored in Paradise'." --Elizabeth Hardwick, "Melville in Love," The New York Review of Books, 2000.
* "What startled me most about White-Jacket, though, is how contemporary his descriptions of sea life sound. Many of the Neversink crewmen will be instantly familiar to anyone who's served in modern U.S. Navy surface ships, the passage of time and advances in technology notwithstanding. ... The contemporary feel to Melville's storytelling speaks volumes about why navies are the tradition-bound services they are. White-Jacket makes a great read, both for old salts indulging their nostalgia and for landlubbers who want to catch sight of life on the raging foam." --James R. Holmes, The Diplomat, 2013.
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About the Author
At seventeen, he became a merchant seaman, sailing first to Liverpool, where the sexual activity at the docks at first shocked him but then opened up a new world for him, for he was attracted to men. At age twenty-one, he sailed to the South Pacific. Four novels came from this experience: Typee, Omoo, Mardi, and White Jacket. Another early novel, Redburn, is set primarily aboard ship. Philosophically, the strength of his early novels is his disdain for the white man trying to force civilization onto a people who were blissfully happy without it. He particularly objected to the indoctrination of religion. All of the books contain an undeniable homoeroticism.
Melville moved to the countryside to write Moby Dick. The novel is an adventure story and a tale of revenge, but it is also an audacious experiment. The reaction from critics was so harsh that from the publication of Moby Dick in 1851 until about 1938, Melville was not afforded much respect among scholars.
In 1852, Melville published Pierre, which is autobiographical in its anatomy of the despair Melville was feeling at the rejection of Moby Dick. Pierre was scandalous for its day, almost as if Melville were thumbing his nose at society. Melville was now only thirty-two but considered a failed writer. His next story was refused for publication, so he retired and lived in relative obscurity for the remainder of his days. When he died, however, he left Billy Budd, which some critics think the equal of Moby Dick.
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