Today in History: Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick is published in the United States

November 14th, 2013

Today, Herman Melville’s now classic American novel Moby-Dick was published in 1851 to poor reviews. While Melville was praised for his early works Typee and Omoo, Moby-Dick encountered scathing reviews upon first publication. The critical disdain for the novel contributed to Melville’s slide into obscurity, with his work being remembered only during the “Melville Revival” of the 20th century.

Born on August 1, 1819 in New York City, Melville spent time working with the merchant marines and on a whaling ship. Melville’s adventures in the South Seas inspired his 1846 novel Typee, which was a critical and commercial success and led to a sequel, Omoo. The next three books that Melville published were not as successful, and when he published Moby-Dick in 1851 Melville’s fame was slipping. Unlike his previous adventure novels, Moby-Dick was a tragic epic, and critics gave harsh reviews of the unusual novel. After the backlash received from his later works, Melville struggled to remain financially stable, and died relatively unknown on September 28, 1891.

During the 1920s, a “Melville Revival” took place with critics reconsidering the legacy of Melville’s works.

Check out the Herman Melville resources we have available on our site, including his short story “Bartleby, the Scrivener” and its accompanying lesson plan

Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

Tags: , ,