Synopses & Reviews
Melville's eighth book was begun as a simple rewrite of an obscure little narrative entitled Life and Remarkable Adventures of Israel R. Potter, in which Israel tells the story of his sad fall from Revolutionary hero to London peddler. Following its opening chapter Melville's novel retells that tale, with close adherence to the language and events of the Life, and then, shaking free of the original narrative, alternately moves between invented episodes and historical sources unrelated to the Life. Israel Potter is unique among Melville's books. It is the only one to be offered in the guise of literal biography, the tale presuming to offer an accurate life history of the man Israel Potter who did in fact fight at Bunker Hill. It is also Melville's only historical novel: it presents famous men of the American Revolution - Benjamin Franklin, John Paul Jones, Ethan Allen, and others - in situations that are a matter of historical record.
Unique among Melville's works, Israel Potter
was the author's only historical novel, presuming to offer the life history of Revolutionary War figure Israel Potter--based on Potter's own obscure narrative Life and Remarkable Adventures of Israel R. Potter
--and featuring characters such as Benjamin Franklin and Ethan Allen. In offering the manuscript to his publisher, Melville assured him, "I engage that the story shall contain nothing of any sort to shock the fastidious. There will be very little reflective writing in it; nothing weighty. It is adventure." This came as a relief, for his previous novel, Pierre,
had shocked readers and brought down universal castigation.
This edition is an Approved Text of the Center for Editions of American Authors (Modern Language Association of America).
Unique among Melville's works, Israel Potter was the author's only historical novel, presuming to offer the life history of Revolutionary War figure Israel Potter--based on Potter's own obscure narrative Life and Remarkable Adventures of Israel R. Potter--and featuring characters such as Benjamin Franklin and Ethan Allen.
About the Author
Herman Melville (August 1, 1819 – September 28, 1891) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick. His first three books gained much contemporary attention (the first, Typee, becoming a bestseller), and after a fast-blooming literary success in the late 1840s, his popularity declined precipitously in the mid-1850s and never recovered during his lifetime. When he died in 1891, he was almost completely forgotten. It was not until the "Melville Revival" in the early 20th century that his work won recognition, especially Moby-Dick, which was hailed as one of the literary masterpieces of both American and world literature. He was the first writer to have his works collected and published by the Library of America.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. The Birthplace of Israel
Chapter 2. The Youthful Adventures of Israel
Chapter 3. Israel Goes to the Wars; and Reaching Bunker Hill in Time to Be of Service There, Soon After Is Forced to Extend His Travels across the Sea into the Enemy's Land
Chapter 4. Further Wanderings of the Refugee, with Some Account of a Good Knight of Brentford Who Befriended Him
Chapter 5. Israel in the Lion's Den
Chapter 6. Israel Makes the Acquaintance of Certain Secret Friends of America, One of Them Being the Famous Author of the "Diversions of Purley." These Dispatch Him on a Sly Errand across the Channel
Chapter 7. After a Curious Adventure upon the Pont Neuf, Israel Enters the Presence of the Renowned Sage, Dr. Franklin, Whom He Finds Right Learnedly and Multifariously Employed
Chapter 8. Which Has Something to Say about Dr. Franklin and the Latin Quarter
Chapter 9. Israel Is Initiated into the Mysteries of Lodging-houses in the Latin Quarter
Chapter 10. Another Adventurer Appears upon the Scene\
Chapter 11. Paul Jones in a Reverie
Chapter 12. Recrossing the Channel, Israel Returns to the Squire's Abode—His Adventures There
Chapter 13. His Escape from the House, with Various Adventures Following
Chapter 14. In Which Israel Is Sailor under Two Flags, and in Three Ships, and All in One Night
Chapter 15. They Sail as Far as the Crag of Ailsa
Chapter 16. They Look in at Carrickfergus, and Descend on White-haven
Chapter 17. They Call at the Earl of Selkirk's; and Afterwards Fight the Ship-of-war Drake
Chapter 18. The Expedition That Sailed from Groix
Chapter 19. They Fight the Serapis
Chapter 20. The Shuttle
Chapter 21. Samson among the Philistines
Chapter 22. Something Further of Ethan Allen; with Israel's Flight Towards the Wilderness
Chapter 23. Israel in Egypt
Chapter 24. In the City of Dis
Chapter 25. Forty-five Years
Chapter 26. Requiescat in Pace
Historical Note by Walter E. Bezanson
Textual Record by the editors
Related Document by R. D. Madison