Synopses & Reviews
If Melville had never written Moby Dick, his place in world literature would be assured by his short tales. "Billy Budd, Sailor," his last work, is the masterpiece in which he delivers the final summation in his "quarrel with God." It is a brilliant study of the tragic clash between social authority and individual freedom, human justice and abstract good. Melville also explores this theme in "Bartelby the Scrivener," his famous story about a Wall Street law clerk who takes passive resistance to a comic—and ultimately disastrous—extreme; and in "Benito Cereno," his dazzling account of oppression and rebellion on a nineteenth-century slave ship. Completing this collection of great tales are the eerie "The Encantados," the beautiful, romantic "The Piazza," and Melville's chilling science fiction parable, "The Bell-Tower."
About the Author
Herman Melville was born in New York City in 1819. When his father died, he was forced to leave school and find work. After passing through some minor clerical jobs, the eighteen-year-old young man shipped out to sea, first on a short cargo trip, then, at twenty-one, on a three-year South Sea whaling venture. From the experiences accumulated on this voyage would come the material for his early books, Typee
(1846) and Omoo
(1847), as well as for such masterpieces as Moby-Dick
(1852), The Piazza Tales
(1856) and Billy Budd, Sailor
Though the first two novels—popular romantic adventures—sold well, Melville's more serious writing failed to attract a large audience, perhaps because it attacked the current philosophy of transcendentalism and its espoused "self-reliance." (As he made clear in the savagely comic The Confidence Man, 1857), Melville thought very little of Emersonian philosophy. He spent his later years working as a customs inspector on the New York docks, writing only poems comprising Battle-Pieces (1866). He died in 1891, leaving BILLY BUDD, Sailor, unpublished.
Table of Contents
Billy Budd, sailor -- The piazza -- Bartleby -- Benito Cereno -- The encantadas -- The bell-tower.