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Moby-Dick; or, The Whale
Moby-Dick FE title page.jpg
Title page, first American edition of Moby-Dick
Author Herman Melville
Country United States
Language English
Genre Adventure fiction, Epic, Sea story
Publisher Richard Bentley (Britain)
Harper & Brothers (U.S.)
Publication date
October 18, 1851 (Britain)
November 14, 1851 (U.S.)
Pages 927 (British first edition, 3 vols.)
635 (U.S. first edition)

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (1851), the sixth book by American writer Herman Melville, is a sea story of Captain Ahab's voyage in vengeful pursuit of a white whale, Moby Dick. Published in London in October and in New York the following month, the book was a commercial failure, out of print at the time of the author's death in 1891, but its reputation rose during the twentieth century. D.H. Lawrence called it "the greatest book of the sea ever written."[1] Today it is considered one of the Great American Novels and a leading work of American Romanticism and the opening words, "Call me Ishmael," form one of the most recognizable opening lines in Western literature.

The product of a year and a half of writing, the book draws on Melville's own whaling voyages, and his reading in whaling and literary sources. Ishmael narrates the voyage of the whaleship Pequod, whose captain, Ahab, is tragically consumed by one purpose: revenge on Moby Dick, a ferocious, enigmatic white whale which on a previous voyage destroyed Ahab's ship and severed his leg at the knee. The detailed and realistic descriptions of whale hunting and the process of extracting whale oil, as well as life aboard ship among a culturally diverse crew, are mixed with exploration of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of God.

In addition to narrative prose, Melville uses a wide range of styles and literary devices ranging from songs, poetry and catalogs to Shakespearean stage directions, soliloquies, and asides.


Voyage of the Pequod (illustrated by Everett Henry).

Ishmael, the narrator travels from Manhattan Island to New Bedford, where he has to share a bed with the tattooed Polynesian prince Queequeg, a harpooner whose father was king of the island of Rokovoko. The next morning Ishmael attends Father Mapple's sermon on Jonah. Ishmael and Queequeg head for Nantucket where Ishmael negotiates with Bildad and Peleg the owners of the whaler Pequod, and signs up for the voyage, while Queequeg stays and conducts a ramadan. Peleg describes Ahab, the captain, to him: "'He's a grand, ungodly, god-like man'" who nevertheless "'has his humanities'" (Ch. 16, "The Ship"). Queequeg is hired the following morning. On the way back a man named Elijah warns them of a dire fate should they join Ahab. While provisions for a voyage of 3 to 4 years are brought aboard on Christmas morning, 4 or 5 shadowy figures board ship. On a cold Christmas Day, the Pequod leaves the harbor.

Chapters now discuss cetology and describe the crew-members. The chief mate is 30-year old Starbuck, a Nantucket Quaker with a realist mentality and Queequeg for his harpooneer; second mate is Stubb, from Cape Cod, happy-go-lucky and cheerful, with Tashtego for his harpooneer; the third mate is Flask, from Martha's Vineyard, short, stout, with Daggo for his harpooneer. Tashtego is a proud, pure-blooded Indian from Gay Head, Martha's Vineyard, and Daggoo a gigantic Negro from Africa, now a resident of Nantucket.

Some time after sailing, Ahab finally appears on the quarter-deck. One of his legs is missing from the knee down and has been replaced by a prosthesis fashioned from a sperm whale's jawbone. Ishmael takes his turn at the mast-head looking for whales, but soon wanders off into meditation. One morning Ahab calls all hands on deck and announces he is out for revenge on a white whale which took his leg. The first man who sights this Moby Dick gets a gold coin which Ahab hammers to the mast. Starbuck objects that he has gone aboard not for vengeance but for profit. Ahab explains that, like all things, the evil whale wears a disguise: '"All visible objects, man, are but pasteboard masks"' and Ahab is determined to '"strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside, except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall"' (Ch. 36, "The Quarter-Deck").

Ishmael's curiosity is aroused by the report of the seemingly consciously malicious whale and its demonic whiteness. He feels that Ahab's purpose exercises a mysterious spell: 'Ahab's quenchless feud seemed mine' (Ch. 41, "Moby Dick"). Instead of rounding Cape Horn, Ahab heads for the equatorial Pacific Ocean via southern Africa. One afternoon Ishmael and Queequeg are weaving a mat - its warp seemed necessity, his hand free will, and Queequeg's sword chance, 'all interweavingly working together' (Ch. 47, "The Mat-Maker"). Then Tashtego sights a sperm whale, and immediately the five dusky phantoms appear on the deck, tiger-yellow as if they were Aborigines from the Manillas. It turns out that Ahab has brought his own boat crew, and their leader, Fedallah the Parsee, is harpooneer of Ahab in his whaleboat. The pursuit is unsuccessful and at dawn the Pequod picks up all the seamen in their boats. Not long afterward, southeast of the Cape of Good Hope, the ship encounters another ship, the Goney. Its captain tries to answer Ahab's inquiry about Moby Dick, but the trumpet through which he speaks falls into the sea.

Moby Dick

Then still later, the ship embarks upon a gam with the Town-Ho, the only true gam on the voyage because crews are exchanged, with both captains on one ship and the chief mates on the other. The ship had a curious experience when mate Radney insulted the fierce Steelkilt, who in turn broke his officer's jaw, which lead to a half-hearted mutiny. After Radney flogged Steelkilt, the latter wanted to murder Radney, but then Moby Dick appeared. Radney, who chased it, was chewed to bits. Soon afterward Steelkilt escaped to Tahiti.

Chapters discuss pictures of whales, brit, squid, and--after four boats lowered in vain because Daggoo took a squid for the white whale--whale-lines. The next day, now in the Indian Ocean, Stubb captures a sperm whale, and that night Fleece, the Pequod's black cook, prepares him a rare whale steak. While Stubb enjoys his meal, sharks feast on the whale's carcass, which lies in the water attached to the ship. Fleece then delivers his sermon to the sharks. The next day the whale is prepared, beheaded, and barrels of oil are tried out. Standing at the head of the whale, Ahab begs it to speak of the depths of the sea. Soon after this first success, the Pequod meets the Jerobeam, which not only lost its chief mate to Moby Dick, but is now plagued by an epidemic. As Ahab tries to deliver a letter addressed for the deceased mate, Gabriel, a Shaker prophet, shouts dire warnings to him.

Because of the sharks, cutting into the whale--which still lies in the water--is a dangerous business. Queequeg gets on top of the carcass, tied to Ishmael's belt by a monkey-rope as if they were Siamese twins. Then Stubb and Flask manage to kill a right whale. When its head is fastened unto a yardarm with the sperm whale's head on the opposite side of it, Ishmael compares the two heads in a philosophical way: he interprets the right whale as Lockean, stoic, and the sperm whale as Kantean, platonic. Tashtego cuts into the head of the sperm-whale and retrieves buckets of whale oil out of it. Then, as the hole deepens, he falls into the head, and the head falls out of the yardarm into the sea. Queequeg dives after him and delivers his mate with his sword.

Some time after this event the Pequod meets the Jungfrau from Bremen, with Derick De Deer for its captain. Both ships compete for whales they sight simultaneously, with the Pequod winning the contest. The three harpooneers dart their harpoons, and Flask delivers the final, mortal strike with a lance. Then the carcass with Queequeg in it sinks, and Queequeg barely manages to escape. Ishmael now essays on the honor and glory of whaling, how to dart lances in a harpooned whale, and the spouts and tails of whales. Meanwhile the Pequod reaches Sunda Strait. Ahab wants to pass through it on his way to the Philippines and the Japanese coast. An armada of whales passe through the strait as well.

Some weeks after this the Pequod meets the French whaler Bouton de Rose, with a crew ignorant enough that they don't know about the ambergris in the head of the diseased whale in their possession. Stubb talks them out of it, but Ahab orders him away. Days later a harpooned whale throws Pip, a little Negro boy from Alabama, out of his whale-boat. The whale must be cut loose, because the line has Pip so entangled in it. Furious, Stubb orders Pip to stick in the whaleboat, but Pip jumps again later, and is then left alone in the immense sea for awhile and has apparently gone insane when picked up.

Cooled sperm oil congeals and must be squeezed back into liquid state; blubber is boiled in the try-pots on deck; the warm oil is decanted into casks, and then stowed in the ship. After the operation, the decks are scrubbed. The coin hammered to the mainmast shows three Andes summits, one with a flame, one with a tower, and one a crowing cock. Ahab stops to look at the doubloon and interprets the coin as signs of his firmness, volcanic energy, and victory; Starbuck takes the high peaks as evidence of the Trinity; Stubb focuses on the zodiacal arch over the mountains; and Flask sees nothing of any symbolic value at all. The Manxman mutters in front of the mast, and Pips declines the verb "look."


Suddenly the Pequod gams with the Samuel Enderby of London, captained by Boomer, a down-to-earth fellow who lost his right arm to Moby Dick. Nevertheless, he carries no ill will toward the whale, which he regards not as malicious but as awkward. Ahab puts an end to the gam by pushing aside the surgeon Dr. Jack Bunger and rushing back to his ship. The narrator now discusses the subjects of 1) whalers supply; 2) a glen in Tranque in the Arsacides islands full of carved whale bones, fossil whales, whale skeleton measurements; 3) the chance that the magnitude of the whal will diminish and that the leviathan might perish.

Just now it is made known that shortly before the Pequod sailed, Ahab fell and his ivory leg almost pierced his groin. Now leaving the Samuel Enderby, he again wrenches the ivory and orders the carpenter to fashion him another. Ahab watches near the vice bench, with Perth the blacksmith at his forge close by. When Ahab is back in his cabin, Starbuck informs him of oil leakage in the hold. Reluctantly, Ahab orders the harpooneers to inspect the casks. Queequeg, sweating all day below decks, develops a chill and soon is almost mortally feverish. The carpenter makes a coffin for Queequeg, who fears an ordinary burial at sea. Queequeg tries it for size, with Pip sobbing and beating his tambourine, standing by and calling himself a coward while he praises Queequeg for his gameness. Yet Queequeg suddenly rallies, briefly convalesces, and leaps up--back in good health. Henceforth he uses his coffin for a spare sea-chest, which is later caulked and pitched to replace the Pequod's lifebuoy.

The Pequod sails northeast toward Formosa and into the Pacific Ocean. Ahab with one nostril smells the musk from the Bashee isles and with the other the salt of the waters where Moby Dick swims. Carrying a bag of race-horse shoe-nail stubbs, Ahab goes to Perth, the blacksmith, with the plan that these be forged into rods for the shank of a special harpoon. In addition, Ahab comes up with his razors for Perth to melt and fashion into a harpoon barb, which Ahab tempers in the blood from the heathen Queequeg, Tashtego, and Daggoo. The Pequod now meets the Bachelor, a ship from Nantucket, heading home full of sperm oil. Every now and then the Pequod lowers for whales with success. On one of those nights in the whaleboat, Fedallah tells Ahab that neither hearse nor coffin can be his, that before he dies he must see two hearses--one not made by mortal hands and the other made of American wood--that Fedallah will precede his captain in death, and finally that only hemp can kill Ahab. Ahab laughs deliriously in response.

As the Pequod approaches the Equator, Ahab scolds his quadrant for telling him only where he is and not where he will be. He dashes it to the deck. That evening an impressive typhoon lashes the ship, leaving the crew in awe. Ahab delivers a speech on the spirit of fire. Starbuck wants to take down the main-topsail yard as the wind loosens it, but Ahab decides otherwise. He orders all things be lashed against the rising tempest. Stubb and Flask have a simpler outlook upon the storm. For a moment, Starbuck feels tempted to shoot the sleeping Ahab with a musket. Next morning it becomes apparent that the lightning somehow turned the compass. Ahab makes a new one out of a lance, a maul, and a sailmaker's needle. Some few hours later he orders the log be heaved, but the weathered line snaps.

The Pequod is now heading southeast toward the grounds where Moby Dick resides, when suddenly a man falls overboard from the mast. The life-buoy is thrown, but both sink. Now Queequeg proposes his superfluous coffin is used as a new life-buoy, ans Starbuck orders the carpenter takes care it is lidded and caulked. Next morning the ship meets the Rachel, commanded by Captain Gardener from Nantucket. Last afternoon, one of her whaleboats went after Moby Dick, who either sank it or threw it out of sight, and now the Rachel is seeking survivors, Among the missing is Gardiner's young son. Ahab has no mercy and refuses to join the Rachel for two days of searching. The Pequod is very near the White Whale now and will not stop to help. Twenty four hours a day Ahab now stands and walks the deck, while Fedallah shadows him. Suddenly a sea hawk manages to grab Ahab's slouched hat and flies off with it. Next the Pequod meets a ninth and last whaler, named the Delight, badly damaged and with five of her crew dead after Moby Dick attacked her. By way of warning, her captain shouts that the harpoon which can kill the white whale has yet to be forged, but Ahab flourishes his special lance and once more orders the ship forward.

Before the Pequod finally sights Moby Dick, Ahab experiences a moment of contemplation with Starbuck. Ahab speaks about his wife and child, calls himself a fool for spending forty years on whaling, and claims he can see his own child in Starbuck's eye. Starbuck seizes the opportunity and tries to persuade Ahab to return to Nantucket to meet both their families, but in reply Ahab crosses the deck and stands near Fedallah.

Next morning Ahab smells the sperm whale and suddenly sight the snow-hill hump of the white whale. He claims the doubloon for himself, and orders all boats except for Starbuck's to go after Moby Dick. The whale bites Ahab's boat in two, tosses the captain out of it, and scatters his crew, Fedallah included. On the second day of the chase, Ahab leaves Starbuck in charge of the Pequod. Moby Dick attacks the three boats that seek him, smashes the boats into splinters, and tangles their lines. Ahab is rescued from the sea, but his ivory leg and Fedallah are lost. Starbuck begs Ahab to desist, but Ahab vows to slay the white whale, even if he would have to dive through the globe itself in order to get his revenge.

Moby Dick

On the third day of the chase, at noon Moby Dick is first sighted, but now sharks appear as well. Nevertheless, Ahab lowers his boat for a final time. Fedallah, entangled in the fouled lines, is thus lashed to the back of the whale, and so the whale turns out to be the hearse Fedallah promised prophetically. And so the Parsee goes before his master. Possessed by all the fallen angels, Ahab to the socket plants his special harpoon in the whale's flank. Moby Dick smites the whaleboat and knocks two oarsmen to its side, where they cling, and a third man free and clear. The boat splits and ships water. The whale now attacks the Pequod and fatally damages the starboard bow. At this point Ahab realizes that the ship is the hearse made of American wood from Feadallah's prophesy. The whale returns to Ahab, who stabs at him again. The harpoon line loops around Ahab's neck, and as the stricken whale swims away the captain is bowstrung out of sight. Immediately after that the Pequod sinks. Only the third man, Ishmael, survives. Queequeg’s coffin emerges to the surface, the sole element that thus does not sink with the ship. For an entire day Ishmael floats on it, and then the Rachel, still looking for its lost seamen, rescues him.

Some years after the adventure Ishmael tells his story, and now changes roles, becoming the narrator instead of a character. He defends whaling to the point of ascribing all his future achievements to the trade: "I prospectively ascribe all the honor and the glory to whaling; for a whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard" (Ch. 24, "The Advocate"). Ishmael approaches his task as narrator as deliberately unfinished: 'God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught - nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!' (Ch. 32, "Cetology"). Ishmael tells the story by way of attempt at clarification: 'But how can I hope to explain myself here; and yet, in some dim, random way, explain myself I must, else all these chapters might be naught' (Ch. 42, "The Whiteness of the Whale"). Story-telling is less of a priority: 'So far as what there may be of a narrative in this book' (Ch. 45, "The Affidavit").

Autobiographical elements[edit]

Moby-Dick is based on Melville's actual experience on a whaler. On December 30, 1840, he signed on as a green hand for the maiden voyage of the Acushnet, planned to last for 52 months. Its owner, Melvin O. Bradford resembled Bildad, who signed on Ishmael, in that he was a Quaker: on several instances when he signed documents, he erased the word "swear" and replaced it with "affirm".[2] Its captain was Valentine Pease, Jr., who was 43 years old at the start of the voyage.[3] Although 26 men signed up as crew members, two did not show up for the ship's departure and were replaced by one new crew member. Five of the crew were foreigners, four of them Portuguese. The Scottish carpenter was one of the two who did not show for the ship's departure. There were three black men in the crew, two seaman and the cook. Fleece, the cook of the Pequod, was also black, and therefore probably modeled on this Philadelphia-born William Maiden, who was 38 years old when he signed for the Acushnet.[4]

Only eleven of the 26 original crew members completed the voyage. The others either deserted or were regularly discharged.[5] The First Officer, Frederic Raymond, left the ship after a "fight" with the captain.[6] A first mate, actually called Edward C. Starbuck, was on an earlier voyage with Captain Pease, in the early 1830s, and was discharged at Tahiti under mysterious circumstances.[7] The second mate on the Acushnet' was John Hall, English-born but a naturalized American.[8] He is identified as Stubb in an annotation in the book's copy of crew member Henry Hubbard, who, like Melville, had joined the voyage as a green hand. Hubbard also identified the model for Pip: John Backus, a little black man added to the crew during the voyage.[9] Hubbard's annotation appears in the chapter "The Castaway" and reveals that Pip's falling into the water was authentic; Hubbard was with him in the same boat when the incident occurred.

Ahab seems to have no model in real life, but his death seems to be based on an actual event. On May 18, 1843, Melville was aboard The Star, which sailed for Honolulu. Aboard were two sailors from the Nantucket who could have told him that they had seen their second mate "taken out of a whaleboat by a foul line and drowned".[10] The model for the Whaleman's Chapel of chapter 7 is the Seamen's Bethel on Johnny Cake Hill. There Melville heard the chaplain, the 63 year old Reverend Enoch Mudge, who is at least in part the model for Father Mapple. Even the topic of Jonah and the Whale may be authentic, for Mudge was a contributor to Sailor's Magazine, which printed in December 1840 the ninth of a series of sermons on Jonah.[11]


Compared to Melville's earlier work, Moby-Dick is "at once a natural outgrowth of its writer's themes and materials and a quantum leap in achievement."[12] Despite its length and its apparent wanderings, Moby-Dick is "a remarkably tight fiction."[13]

The novel is structured around the two consciousnesses of Ahab and Ishmael, with Ahab as a force of linearity and Ishmael a force of digression.[14] While both have an angry sense of being orphaned, they try to come to terms with this hole in their beings in different ways: Ahab with violence, Ishmael with meditation. And while the plot in Moby-Dick may be driven by Ahab's anger, Ishmael's desire to get a hold of the "ungraspable" accounts for the novel's lyricism.[15]

One of the most distinctive features of the book is the variety of genres that appear. Bezanson mentions sermons, dreams, travel account, autobiography, Elizabethan plays, epic poetry.[16] Some scholars have tried to identify a single genre underlying the whole. Charles Olson saw the Elizabethan play as a likely model, but the experiment of establishing acts only revealed that the chapters resist inclusive arrangements.[17] F.O. Matthiessen joined Olson's enterprise, only to admit that some two hundred central pages delay the forward movement of the drama.[18] Northrop Frye found the book to be the best illustration of the "romance-anatomy," but Bezanson cautions us not to forget that the book's "deepest anxieties" stem not from whales but from the Bible and Shakespeare. Newton Arvin tried to link the book to the heroic poem or epic, but found that the book escapes epic form.[18] In the words of scholars John Bryant and Haskell S. Springer, "Moby-Dick is a classic because it defies classification."[19] It is both drama and meditation, a tragedy and a comedy, a stage play and prose poem. Essay, myth, and encyclopedia.[20]

One level of the book is its documentary guise, emphasized by the presence of explanatory footnotes by Ishmael--"a Nabokovian touch."[21] Besides the books on whaling, Melville's experiences in the Pacific constitute the documentary validation.[22]


As the story of Ishmael, it is a "narrative of education."[23]

Chief among the thematic content are Melville's epistemological views. The American edition has Ahab "discover no sign" (Ch, 133) of the whale when he is staring in the deep. In fact, Moby Dick is then swimming up at him. In the British edition, Melville changed the word "discover" to "perceive." And with good reason, for "discovery" means finding what is already there, but "perceiving," or better still, perception is "a matter of shaping what exists by the way in which we see it."[24] The point is not that Ahab would discover the whale as an object, but that he would perceive it as a symbol of his making.[24] This theme pervades the whole book, perhaps never so emphatically as in "The Doubloon" (Ch. 99), where each crewmember perceives the coin in a way shaped by his own personality.

While it may be rare for a mid-nineteenth century American book to feature black characters in a non-slavery context, slavery is frequently mentioned. The theme of race is primarily carried by Pip, the diminutive black cabin boy.[25] When Pip has almost drowned, Ahab, genuinely touched by Pip's suffering, questions him gently, Pip "can only parrot the language of an advertisement for the return of a fugitive slave: 'Pip! Reward for Pip!'"[26]

All races are represented among the crewmembers of the Pequod. Ishmael and Queequeg's sensual friendship initiates a kind of racial harmony that is shattered when the crew's dancing erupts into racial conflict in "Midnight, Forecastle" (Ch. 40).[14] Fifty chapters later, Pip suffers mental disintegration after some incidents where he is reminded that as a slave he would be worth less money than a whale. Commodified and brutalized, "Pip becomes the ship's conscience."[27]


Most of all, the book is language, or, as Bryant and Springer sum up: "nautical, biblical, Homeric, Shakespearean, Miltonic, cetological, alliterative, fanciful, colloquial, archaic, and unceasingly allusive."[20] The last two words are the most significant, for they describe the most Melvillean of the characteristics of Melville's prose. Yet Bryant and Springer mention another one: "Most amazing are the paragraph-long sentences that defy the gravity of normal syntax, and yet stay grammatical and alive."[20]


Melville's sources[edit]

In addition to his own experience on the whaling ship Acushnet, two actual events served as the genesis for Melville's tale. One was the sinking of the Nantucket ship Essex in 1820, after it was rammed by a large sperm whale 2,000 miles (3,200 km) from the western coast of South America.[28] First mate Owen Chase, one of eight survivors, recorded the events in his 1821 Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex.

The other event was the alleged killing in the late 1830s of the albino sperm whale Mocha Dick, in the waters off the Chilean island of Mocha. Mocha Dick was rumored to have twenty or so harpoons in his back from other whalers, and appeared to attack ships with premeditated ferocity. One of his battles with a whaler served as subject for an article by explorer Jeremiah N. Reynolds in the May 1839 issue of The Knickerbocker or New-York Monthly Magazine.[29] Melville was familiar with the article, which described:

This renowned monster, who had come off victorious in a hundred fights with his pursuers, was an old bull whale, of prodigious size and strength. From the effect of age, or more probably from a freak of nature... a singular consequence had resulted – he was white as wool![29]

Significantly, Reynolds writes a first-person narration that serves as a frame for the story of a whaling captain he meets. The captain resembles Ahab and suggests a similar symbolism and single-minded motivation in hunting this whale, in that when his crew first encounters Mocha Dick and cowers from him, the captain rallies them:

As he drew near, with his long curved back looming occasionally above the surface of the billows, we perceived that it was white as the surf around him; and the men stared aghast at each other, as they uttered, in a suppressed tone, the terrible name of MOCHA DICK!

"Mocha Dick or the d----l [devil],' said I, 'this boat never sheers off from any thing that wears the shape of a whale."[29]

Mocha Dick had over 100 encounters with whalers in the decades between 1810 and the 1830s. He was described as being gigantic and covered in barnacles. Although he was the most famous, Mocha Dick was not the only white whale in the sea, nor the only whale to attack hunters.[30]

While an accidental collision with a sperm whale at night accounted for sinking of the Union in 1807,[31] it was not until August 1851 that the whaler Ann Alexander, while hunting in the Pacific off the Galapagos Islands, became the second vessel since the Essex to be attacked, holed and sunk by a whale. Melville remarked:

Ye Gods! What a commentator is this Ann Alexander whale. What he has to say is short & pithy & very much to the point. I wonder if my evil art has raised this monster.[32]

While Melville had already drawn on his different sailing experiences in his previous novels, such as Mardi, he had never focused specifically on whaling. The eighteen months he spent as an ordinary seaman aboard the whaler Acushnet in 1841–42, and one incident in particular, now served as inspiration. It was during a mid-ocean "gam" (rendezvous at sea between ships) that he met Chase's son William, who lent him his father's book. Melville later wrote:

I questioned him concerning his father's adventure; . . . he went to his chest & handed me a complete copy . . . of the Narrative [of the Essex catastrophe]. This was the first printed account of it I had ever seen. The reading of this wondrous story on the landless sea, and so close to the very latitude of the shipwreck, had a surprising effect upon me.[33]

The book was out of print, and rare.[34] Knowing that Melville was looking for it, his father-in-law, Lemuel Shaw, managed to find a copy and buy it for him. When Melville received it, he fell to it almost immediately, heavily annotating it.[35]

Herman Melville

Moby-Dick contains large sections—most of them narrated by Ishmael—that seemingly have nothing to do with the plot but describe aspects of the whaling business. Although there had been a successful earlier novel about Nantucket whalers, Miriam Coffin or The Whale-Fisherman (1835) by Joseph C. Hart,[36] which is credited with influencing elements of Melville's work, most accounts of whaling tended to be sensational tales of bloody mutiny, and Melville believed that no book up to that time had portrayed the whaling industry in as fascinating or immediate a way as he had experienced it. Early Romantics also proposed that fiction was the exemplary way to describe and record history, so Melville wanted to craft something educational and definitive.


Scholars agree that "the origins of Ahab's hunt lie deep in Melville's reading of 1849-50."[37] Melville's four "quite wonderful" letters from November 1848 to April 1849 to Evert A. Duyckinck are evidence of the "immense leap of his ambitions" since the writing of Mardi.[38] The second letter, dated February 24, 1849, dates the beginning of the development of the Shakespearean style of Moby-Dick: Melville, just having acquired a Shakespeare edition, describes his discovery of Shakespeare "as if he had never heard of him before."[38]

It is an edition in glorious great type, every letter whereof is a soldier, & the top of every "t" like a musket barrel. Dolt & ass that I am I have lived more than 29 years, & until a few days ago, never made close acquaintance with the divine William. Ah, he's full of sermons-on-the-mount, and gentle, aye, almost as Jesus. I take such men to be inspired. I fancy that this moment Shakespeare in heaven ranks with Gabriel Raphael and Michael. And if another Messiah ever comes twill be in Shakespeare's person. --I am mad to think how minute a cause has prevented me hitherto from reading Shakespeare. But until now, every copy that was come-atable to me, happened to be in a vile small print unendurable to my eyes which are tender as young sparrows. But chancing to fall in with this glorious edition. I now exult over it, page after page.[39]

Less than two weeks later, on March 3, Melville wrote again on Shakespeare, already with a hint of self-projection[a] when he described the superior writing circumstances Shakespeare would have experienced in present-day America as opposed to Elizabethan England.

I would to God Shakspeare had lived later, & promenaded in Broadway. Not that I might have had the pleasure of leaving my card for him at the Astor, or made merry with him over a bowl of the fine Duyckinck punch; but that the muzzle which all men wore on their souls in the Elizabethan day, might not have intercepted Shakspere's full articulations. For I hold it a verity, that even Shakspeare, was not a frank man to the uttermost. And, indeed, who in this intolerant Universe is, or can be? But the Declaration of Independence makes a difference.[40]

The earliest surviving mention of the composition of the then unnamed work[38][41] is the final paragraph of the letter Melville wrote to Richard Henry Dana, Jr. on May 1, 1850:

About the "whaling voyage"--I am half way in the work, & am very glad that your suggestion so jumps with mine. It will be a strange sort of book, tho', I fear; blubber is blubber you know; tho' you may get oil out of it, the poetry runs as hard as sap from a frozen maple tree;--& to cook the thing up, one must needs throw in a little fancy, which from the nature of the thing, must be ungainly as the gambols of the whales themselves. Yet I mean to give the truth of the thing, spite of this.[42]

Less than two months later, in a letter of June 27, Melville reported to Richard Bentley, his English publisher:

My Dear Sir,--In the latter part of the coming autumn I shall have ready a new work; and I write you now to propose its publication in England.The book is a romance of adventure, founded upon certain wild legends in the Southern Sperm Whale Fisheries, and illustrated by the author's own personal experience, of two years & more, as a harpooneer.[43]

The Dana letter quoted above has led scholars to argue that Melville started out writing another kind of book than it became, but the language of the letter contains many ambiguities. The usual assumption, Bezanson argues, "is that Dana's 'suggestion' would obviously be that Melville do for whaling what he had done for life on a man-of-war in White-Jacket."[38] But J. Ross Browne had already accomplished that, said Melville in his 1847 review. In addition, Dana had experienced how incomparable Melville was in dramatic story telling when he met him in Boston, so perhaps "his 'suggestion' was that Melville do a book that captured that gift."[38] And the long sentence in the middle of the above quotation simply acknowledges that Melville is struggling with the problem, not of choosing between fact and fancy but of how to interrelate them. The most positive statements are that it will be a strange sort of a book and that Melville means to give the truth of the thing, but what thing exactly is not clear.[38]

Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family had moved to a small red farmhouse near Lenox, Massachusetts, at the end of March 1850.[44] He became friends with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. and Melville beginning on August 5, 1850, when the authors met at a picnic hosted by a mutual friend.[45] Melville had just read Hawthorne's short story collection Mosses from an Old Manse, and his unsigned review of the collection, titled "Hawthorne and His Mosses", was printed in the The Literary World on August 17 and 24.[46] The essay is "so deeply related to Melville's imaginative and intellectual world while writing Moby-Dick," Bezanson finds, "as to be everybody's prime piece of contextual reading; it could be printed almost as a preface, as relevant to Moby-Dick as Whitman's Preface would be to his 1855 Leaves of Grass."[38] Hawthorne is compared to Shakespeare and Dante, and it is "impossible to miss Melville's self-projection" in the repeats of the word "genius, the more than twenty-five references to Shakespeare, and in the insistence that "Shakespeare's unapproachability" is nonsense for an American.[38] It is unknown whether Melville first conceived of the book as just another personal story, or as a more ambitious project in the vein of Mardi.[47] He may either have found a plot before writing, or discovered his plot as the writing process was underway. Considering his elaborate use of sources, "it is safe to say that Melville's reading in them...helped him shape his whaling narrative, including its plot."[48]

The most intense work on the book was done during the winter of 1850–1851, when Melville had changed the noise of New York City for a farm in Pittsfield. During these months, he wrote several letters to Hawthorne which show that "Melville's moods are cyclical, from letter to letter (and even within one letter)." A letter from June 1851 summarizes Melville's career in three sentences: "What I feel most moved to write, that is banned,--it will not pay. Yet, altogether, write the other way I cannot. So the product is a final hash, and all my books are botches."[49] This is still the same stubbornness of the Melville who stood by Mardi and talked about his other, more commercial books with contempt. The letter contains a revealing passage of how Melville experienced his development from his 25th year: "Three weeks have scarcely passed, at any time between then and now, that I have not unfolded within myself. But I feel that I am now come to the inmost leaf of the bulb, and that shortly the flower must fall to the mould."[50] Bezanson's analysis of the evidence implies the conclusion that Melville's imagination unfolded in a way that he did not anticipate in the spring of 1850, an unfolding that led his book to evolve and expand along the lines of its original conception rather than departing from it.

The book would be finished a year later than announced (the author's role of harpooner was not accurate either[38]), giving room for scholars to develop a theory about the work's course of completion which holds that Melville's original conception was a straight narrative of a whaling voyage, only changed into the book it became after he met Hawthorne.[51][52] The theory has been harpooned in two ways by Bezanson: he disagrees with both the underlying assumption about Melville's intellectual development before 1850 and the way scholars have been evaluating the evidence. "The implication here," Bezanson argues, "is that Melville was not ready for the kind of book Moby-Dick became, that he despaired of picking up where he had left off with Mardi, that the critics, or financial need, or self-doubt, or a combination of these for six months had him tied down. But the profile that emerges from reading the documents, beginning with the almost rudely bold letter he wrote to John Murray on 25 March 1848, a virtual declaration of literary independence, takes quite another shape."[38] Melville's letters of this period show him denouncing his last two straight narratives, Redburn and White-Jacket, as two books written just for the money, and he firmly stood by Mardi as the kind of book he believed in. His language is already "richly steeped in seventeenth century mannerisms," which are characteristic of the style of Moby-Dick.

Publication history[edit]

Melville first proposed the English publication, in his letter from June 27, 1850 to Richard Bentley. Usually, Tanselle explains, "proof sheets of the American edition were sent to the English publisher and...American publication was held up until after the work had been set in type and published in England. Given the uncertain legal status of the English copyright for an American work, this procedure was generally regarded as providing the strongest claims for such a copyright".[53] Eventually the new book was finished almost a year later than Melville had announced, and the lack of income from the delayed book forced him to borrow money, as the Harpers had denied him an advance.[b]

Probably to save time in advance of finding an American publisher, Melville arranged for the typesetting and plating of his book: the Harper publishing contract signed on September 12 mentions "the stereotype plates now in the possession of R. Craighead."[54] Robert Craighead, who had printed Typee before, had a shop in New York. There would be less delay in publishing once an agreement was reached, plus proceedings for the English publication could move forward.[55]

In June he found himself in New York, in a "third-story room, and work and slave on my 'Whale' while it is driving through the press", as he wrote to Hawthorne.[56] By the end of the month he was back in Pittsfield, now writing to Hawthorne that "'The Whale' is only half through the press; for, wearied with the long delay of printers" Melville came back to the grass to "end the book reclining on it, if I may."[56] Three weeks later, the typsesetting was almost done, as he announced in a letter to Bentley from July 20: "I am now passing thro' the press, the closing sheets of my new work."[56] Melville was simultaneously working on his manuscript and proofreading what had been set. After the returning of his corrected proof the type would be plated, so that the text of earlier parts of the book was already fixed when he was revising the later parts, and Melville must have "felt restricted in the kinds of revisions that were feasible."[57] Tanselle suggests that the following quotation from Melville's next book, Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852) reflects the experience of finishing Moby-Dick.

At length, domestic matters—rent and bread—had come to such a pass with him, that whether or no, the first pages must go to the printer; and thus was added still another tribulation; because the printed pages now dictated to the following manuscript, and said to all subsequent thoughts and inventions of Pierre--Thus and thus; so and so; else an ill match. Therefore, was his book already limited, bound over, and committed to imperfection, even before it had come to any confirmed form or conclusion at all. Oh, who shall reveal the horrors of poverty in authorship that is high?[58]

On July 3, 1851, Bentley wrote to Melville, offering him ₤150 and "half profits", which offer Melville accepted in a letter dated July 20, after which Bentley drew up a contract on August 13. The term half profits meant the author "was to receive half the profits that remained after deducting all the expenses of production and advertising".[59] Melville signed and returned the contract in early September, and then went to New York to hand the proof sheets, this set made from the finished plates, over to his brother Allan, who sent them to London on September 10.

Melville had had these proofs in his possession for over a month, and could devote all his time to carefully correct and revise them as extensively as he saw fit, because the book would have to be set anew anyway. At this time he had not yet settled with an American publisher, so "there was not the usual urgency about getting the sheets abroad so that English publication could precede American."[60] He had every reason to correct them carefully, if the following passage from Pierre is an accurate description of his correction of the summer in New York.

As every evening, after his day's writing was done, the proofs of the beginning of his work came home for correction. Isabel would read them to him. They were replete with errors; but preoccupied by the thronging, and undiluted, pure imaginings of things, he became impatient of such minute, gnat-like torments; he randomly corrected the worst, and let the rest go; jeering with himself at the rich harvest thus furnished to the entomological critics.[61]

The text of the already plated American edition would be expensive to change, so that the English reading would be the revised one in case of differences between the two editions. The English edition differs from the American in over 700 wordings, in addition to thousands of instances of punctuation and spelling. The most obvious revision is the addition in Chapter 87, "The Grand Armada", of a footnote on the word "gally", which is no part of the American edition.

Bentley received the proof sheets, with Melville's corrections and revisions marked on them, on September 24,[c] Bentley received the proof sheets with Melville's corrections and revisions marked on them, and published it less than four weeks later.

Last-minute change of title[edit]

After Melville had given the proof sheets for Bentley to his brother Allan, he continued to make alterations, even a very important one: he changed the title. Probably late in September, Allan sent Bentley two pages of proof accompanied by a letter of which only an undated draft survives:

Since sending proofs of my brothers new work by the Asia on the 10th he has determined upon a new title & dedication—Enclosed you have proof of both—It is thought here that the new title will be a better selling title—It is to be hoped that this letter may reach New Burlington Street before it is too late to adopt these new pages.

Moby-Dick is a legitimate title for the book, being the name given to a particular whale who if I may so express myself is the hero of the volume.[62]

Changing the title was no problem for the American edition, since the running heads throughout the book only showed the titles of the chapters, and the title page itself could only be printed after a publisher was found, whose name would also appear on the title page. The October issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine printed chapter 54, "The Town-Ho's Story", with a footnote saying: "From The Whale. The title of a new work by Mr. Melville, in the press of Harper and Brothers, and now publishing in London by Mr. Bentley."[62] Evidently copy for the issue was still alterable on September 14, since the death of James Fenimore Cooper was announced. The only one surviving leaf of proof, "a 'trial' page bearing the title 'The Whale' and the Harper imprint,"[63] and this shows that some point after the publishing agreement the original title still stood.

The English edition was in three volumes, each having a title page, and each having the title printed on the first page of the text as well. Changing the title pages was possible, but printing of the text may already have begun or even been finished when Allan's letter arrived. When it did arrive, no sooner than in early October, Bentley had already announced The Whale in both the Athenaem and the Spectator of October 4 and 11.[64] Probably to accommodate Melville, Bentley inserted a half-title page in the first volume only, which reads "The Whale; or, Moby Dick."[63]

On October 18, the English edition, The Whale, was published; the London Morning Herald for October 20 printed the earliest known review. Only 500 copies were printed: the figure for both Mardi and White-Jacket had been 1,000 and that for Redburn 750. Bentley's experience in the slow sales of Melville's previous books had convinced him that a smaller number was more realistic.[65]

On November 14, the American edition, Moby-Dick, was published, and the same day reviewed in both the Albany Argus and the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer. On November 19, Washington received the copy deposited for copyright purposes. The first printing of 2,915 copies was almost the same as the first of Mardi, but the first printing of Melville's other three Harper books had been a thousand copies more.[66]

American vs. English edition: revisions and censorship[edit]

At numerous points the editions differ from each other, the title being only the most obvious difference. The English multi-volume edition necessitated a change in the dedication to Hawthorne: "this book is" was adjusted to "these volumes are."[67] Excluding the preliminaries and extract, the three volumes of the English edition came to 927 pages[68] and the single American volume to 635 pages.[69] The table of contents in the English edition generally follows the actual chapter titles in the American edition, and therefore must have been drawn from the proof sheets, probably by a clerk of Bentley's. Nineteen titles in the American table of contents differ from the titles above the chapters themselves. This list was probably drawn up by Melville himself: the titles of chapters describing encounters of the Pequod with other ships had—apparently to stress the parallelisms between these chapters—been standardized to "The Pequod meets the...", with the exception of the already published 'The Town-Ho's Story'.[70] For no apparent reason, the "Etymology" and "Extracts" had been moved to the back of the edition, probably reflecting Bentley's own judgment "that they were somehow inappropriate for the opening pages of a novel."[71] An epigraph from Paradise Lost, included in the second of the two quotations from that work in the American edition, appears on the title page of each of the three English volumes.[d]

The final difference concerning the material not already plated is the presence of the "Epilogue," which accounts Ishmael's miraculous survival, in the American edition, and its absence in the English. Obviously the epilogue was not an afterthought too late for inclusion in the English edition, for it is referred to in "The Castaway": "in the sequel of the narrative, it will then be seen what like abandonment befell myself."[72] Why the "Epilogue" is missing, is unknown. Expurgation seems an unlikely explanation, as there seems to be nothing objectionable in it. Most likely it was somehow lost while the preliminaries were moved to the back. In case it should have been misplaced in Bentley's office, it would not be so easy for anyone to recognize what book it was part of as it had no page number or running title, as the other pages did.[73] The only paragraph it consists of does not refer to whaling nor does it feature the name Ishmael, though Ahab's name is mentioned once.

British reviewers read a book with a first-person narrator who apparently did not survive to tell the tale.[74] The reviewer of the Spectator objected that "nothing should be introduced into a novel which it is physically impossible for the writer to have known: thus, he must not describe the conversation of miners in a pit if they all perish."[75]" Two papers, the Dublin University Magazine and the Literary Gazette, asked "how does it happen that the author is alive to tell the story?" respectively how the writer, "who appears to have been drowned with the rest, communicated his notes for publication to Mr. Bentley is not explained."[75]

The largest of Melville's revisions is the addition to the English edition of a 139-word footnote on the word "gally." The edition also contains six short phrases and some sixty single words lacking in the American edition.[76] In addition to this, there are about thirty-five changes that produce genuine improvements, as opposed to mere corrections: "Melville may not have made every one of the changes in this category, but it seems certain that he was responsible for the great majority of them."[77] The most convincing example appears near the end of chapter 135, where Tashtego, in the mast of the sinking Pequod his head already under water, hammers a bird to the mast and then freezes in his "death-grasp." The insertion of an "r", missing in the American edition, restores the opposition with the "ungraspable phantom of life" in the opening chapter, "Loomings."

Bentley placed the proof sheets in the hands of one or more revisers to purge the book of any material that might give offense. These expurgations fall into four categories, ranked according to the apparent priorities of the censor:

  1. Sacrilegious passages, more than 1200 words. For example in chapter 28, "Ahab," Ahab stands with "a crucifixion" in his face" and this was revised to "an apparently eternal anguish."[78]
  2. Sexual matters, including the sex life of whales and even Ishmael's worried anticipation of the nature of Queequeg's underwear.[79]
  3. Remarks "belittling royalty or implying a criticism of the British." This meant the exclusion of the complete chapter 25, a "Postscript" on the use of sperm oil at coronations.[80] "Think of that, ye loyal Britons!" the chapter ends, "we whalemen supply your kings and queens with coronation stuff!"
  4. Perceived grammatical or stylistic anomalies were treated with "a highly conservative interpretation of rules of 'correctness'."[81] A large number of the variants in wording here make so little difference that it is hard to see why they were made.

These expurgations also meant that any corrections or revisions Melville may have marked upon these passages are now lost.



Melville was regarded as a very successful author after the acclaim received by his popular earlier works Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847). He considered Moby-Dick to be his magnum opus but was shocked and bewildered at the scathing reviews it received. Instead of bringing him the literary acclaim he sought, this masterwork started a slide toward literary obscurity in his lifetime. This was partially because the book was first published in England, and the American literary establishment took note of what the English critics said, especially when these critics were attached to the more prestigious journals. Many critics praised Moby-Dick for its unique style, interesting characters, and poetic language,[82] but others agreed with a critic associated with the highly regarded London Athenaeum, who described it as:

[A]n ill-compounded mixture of romance and matter-of-fact. The idea of a connected and collected story has obviously visited and abandoned its writer again and again in the course of composition. The style of his tale is in places disfigured by mad (rather than bad) English; and its catastrophe is hastily, weakly, and obscurely managed.[82]

One problem was that publisher Peter Bentley botched the English edition, most significantly in omitting the epilogue. For this reason, many of the critics faulted the book, what little they could grasp of it, on purely formal grounds, e.g., how the tale could have been told if no one survived to tell it. The generally bad reviews from across the ocean made American readers skittish about picking up the tome. Still, a handful of American critics saw much more in it than most of their U.S. and English colleagues. Hawthorne said of the book:

What a book Melville has written! It gives me an idea of much greater power than his preceding ones.[83]

Another problem was that by the time the book was published, whaling and maritime adventuring were no longer the main focus of the American public. The Gold Rush had shifted their interest to the West, and the lengthy novel, with its long factual passages dealing with the brutal technology of the whaling industry, seemed far less relevant to the author's American audience.[citation needed]

Later reception[edit]

Within a year after Melville's death, Moby-Dick, along with Typee, Omoo, and Mardi, was reprinted by Harper & Brothers, giving it a chance to be rediscovered. However, only New York's literary underground seemed to take much interest, just enough to keep Melville's name circulating for the next 25 years in the capital of American publishing. During this time, a few critics were willing to devote time, space, and a modicum of praise to Melville and his works, or at least those that could still be fairly easily obtained or remembered. Other works, especially the poetry, went largely forgotten.[84]

Then came World War I and its consequences, particularly the shaking or destruction of faith in so many aspects of Western civilization, all of which caused people concerned with culture and its potential redemptive value to experiment with new aesthetic techniques. The stage was set for Melville's legacy to find its place.

With the burgeoning of Modernist aesthetics (see Modernism and American modernism) and the war that tore everything apart still so fresh in memory, Moby-Dick began to seem increasingly relevant. Many of Melville's techniques echo those of Modernism: kaleidoscopic, hybrid in genre and tone, monumentally ambitious in trying to unite so many disparate elements and loose ends.

In 1917, American author Carl Van Doren became the first of this period to proselytize about Melville's value.[84]

In the 1920s, British literary critics began to take notice. In his idiosyncratic but landmark Studies in Classic American Literature, novelist, poet, and short story writer D. H. Lawrence directed Americans' attention to the great originality and value of many American authors, among them Melville. Perhaps most surprising is that Lawrence saw Moby-Dick as a work of the first order despite his using the original English edition.[84]

In his 1921 study, The American Novel, Carl Van Doren returned to Melville with much more depth. He called Moby-Dick a pinnacle of American Romanticism.[84]

The next great wave of Moby-Dick appraisal came with the publication of F. O. Matthiessen's American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman.[85] Published in 1941, the book proposed that Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Melville were the most prominent figures of a flowering of conflicted (and mostly pre-Civil War) literature important for its promulgation of democracy and the exploration of its possibilities, successes, and failures. Matthiessen's book came out shortly before the entry of the U.S. into World War II, critic Nick Selby argues that

... Moby-Dick was now read as a text that reflected the power struggles of a world concerned to uphold democracy, and of a country seeking an identity for itself within that world.[86]


The novel has been adapted a number of times in various media including the stage, radio, TV, comics and graphic novels and movies. The most famous of these was the John Huston film of 1956 produced from a screenplay by author Ray Bradbury. These plays have varied from a the stage version called Moby Dick! The Musical to a 2010 film adaptation of the same name.


  • Melville, H. The Whale. London: Richard Bentley, 1851 3 vols. (viii, 312; iv, 303; iv, 328 pp.) Published October 18, 1851.
  • Melville, H., Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1851. xxiii, 635 pages. Published probably on November 14, 1851.
  • Melville, H. Moby-Dick, or The Whale. Northwestern-Newberry Edition of the Writings of Herman Melville 6. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern U. Press, 1988. A critical text with appendices on the history and reception of the book. The text is in the public domain.
  • Moby-Dick (Norton Critical Editions), Edited by Hershel Parker and Harrison Hayford. New York: W.W. Norton, 2nd ed. 2002. ISBN 978-0-393-97283-2.
  • Moby-Dick: A Longman Critical Edition, Edited by John Bryant and Haskell Springer. New York: Longman, 2007 and 2009. ISBN 978-0-321-22800-0.


  1. ^ Unfolding in the essay "Hawthorne and his Mosses," see the quote from Bezanson below.
  2. ^ Melville already was indebted to them for almost $700, (Tanselle [1988], 660)
  3. ^ The next day he wrote about having received Melville's "packet yesterday from the Secretary of Legation." (Tanselle [1988], 680)
  4. ^ Melville's involvement with this arrangement is not clear: if it were a gesture of Bentley toward meeting Melville's wishes, as Tanselle (1988, 678) suggests, its selection put an emphasis on the quotation Melville may not have agreed with.


  1. ^ Lawrence (1923), 168
  2. ^ Heflin (2004), 16
  3. ^ Heflin (2004), 18
  4. ^ Heflin (2004), 27
  5. ^ Heflin (2004), 29
  6. ^ Heflin (2004), 28
  7. ^ Heflin (2004), 19
  8. ^ Heflin (2004), 26
  9. ^ Heflin (2004), 252 note 26
  10. ^ Heflin (2004), 189
  11. ^ Heflin (2004), 41
  12. ^ Milder (1988), 434
  13. ^ Bryant and Springer (2007), ix-x
  14. ^ a b Bryant and Springer (2007), xvi
  15. ^ Bryant and Springer (2007), x
  16. ^ Bezanson (1986), 188
  17. ^ Bezanson (1986), 190
  18. ^ a b Bezanson (1986), 191
  19. ^ Bryant and Springer (2007), xiv
  20. ^ a b c Bryant and Springer (2007), xv
  21. ^ Bezanson (1986), 195
  22. ^ Bezanson (1986), 194
  23. ^ Milder (1988), 434
  24. ^ a b Bryant and Springer (2007), xxii
  25. ^ Delbanco (2005), 159
  26. ^ Delbanco (2005), 161
  27. ^ Bryant and Springer (2007), xvii
  28. ^ Faiella, Graham, Moby Dick and the whaling industry of the 19th century, New York : The Rosen Publishing Group, 2004. Cf. Chapter 3, "Moby Dick: The Inspiration".
  29. ^ a b c Reynolds, J.N., "Mocha Dick: or the White Whale of the Pacific: A Leaf from a Manuscript Journal," The Knickerbocker, or New-York Monthly Magazine. 13.5, May 1839, pp. 377–392.
  30. ^ Whipple, Addison Beecher Colvin (1954). Yankee whalers in the South Seas. Doubleday. ISBN 0-8048-1057-5. , 66–79
  31. ^ Report of the Commissioner By United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries, p115
  32. ^ Melville's Reflections, a page from The Life and Works of Herman Melville
  33. ^ Leyda, Jay. The Melville Log: A Documentary Life of Herman Melville, 1819–1891. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1951, 119.
  34. ^ Beaver, Harold. "On the Composition of Moby-Dick" (1972), 17, in Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, ed. Harold Beaver. New York: Penguin (1972; reprint 1986), 17. ISBN 0-14-043082-2.
  35. ^ Beaver, 17.
  36. ^ Mary K. Bercaw, "A Fine, Boisterous Something": Nantucket in Moby-Dick, Historic Nantucket, Vol. 39, No. 3 (Fall 1991); Philip Armstrong, What animals mean in the fiction of modernity, Routledge, 2008, p.132
  37. ^ Milder (1988), 434
  38. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Walter E. Bezanson, "Moby-Dick: Document, Drama, Dream", in John Bryant (ed.), A Companion to Melville Studies, Greenwoord Press, 1986, 176–180.
  39. ^ Melville (1993), 119
  40. ^ Melville (1993), 122
  41. ^ Melville (1993), 160
  42. ^ Melville (1993), 162
  43. ^ Melville (1993), 163
  44. ^ Miller, 274.
  45. ^ Cheever, Susan (2006). American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau; Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work. Detroit: Thorndike Press. Large print edition. ISBN 0-7862-9521-X)p. 174.
  46. ^ Miller, 312.
  47. ^ Bryant and Springer, 2007, viii.
  48. ^ Bryant and Springer, 2007, ix.
  49. ^ Melville (1993), 191
  50. ^ Melville (1993), 193
  51. ^ The development of the theory is described in Hayford (1988), 648–59
  52. ^ Cf. Bryant, Pp.65–90. Cf. especially the section on "Two Moby-Dicks: Legend and form". Quoting, pp.66–67, "Scholars have long speculated that Melville's friendship with Hawthorne, as well as his absorption of Shakespeare, triggered a significant reorientation of Moby-Dick. The view is that Melville began to write a narrative of whaling fact (like his naval documentary White-Jacket) to be completed by fall 1850. ... However, sometime after the August encounter with Hawthorne, Melville recast the book entirely to include the Shakespeareanized story of Ahab."
  53. ^ Tanselle (1988), 660
  54. ^ Cited by Tanselle (1988), 661
  55. ^ Tanselle (1988), 662
  56. ^ a b c Cited in Tanselle (1988), 663.
  57. ^ Tanselle (1988), 663
  58. ^ Cited in Tanselle (1988), 663–4
  59. ^ Tanselle (1988), 665.
  60. ^ Tanselle (1988), 667
  61. ^ Cited in Tanselle (1988), 664
  62. ^ a b Cited in Tanselle (1988), 671
  63. ^ a b Cited in Tanselle (1988), 672
  64. ^ Tanselle (1988), 673
  65. ^ Tanselle (1988), 683–4
  66. ^ Tanselle (1988), 686–7
  67. ^ Cited in Tanselle (1988), 673
  68. ^ Tanselle (1988), 685
  69. ^ Tanselle (1988), 687
  70. ^ Tanselle (1988), 675–676
  71. ^ Tanselle (1988), 678
  72. ^ Cited in Tanselle (1988), 679
  73. ^ Tanselle (1988), 678–9
  74. ^ Parker (1988), 702
  75. ^ a b Cited in Parker (1988), 708
  76. ^ Tanselle (1988), 772
  77. ^ Tanselle (1988), 789
  78. ^ Cited in Tanselle (1988), 681 (citation), 784.
  79. ^ Tanselle (1988), 682, 784–5.
  80. ^ Tanselle (1988), 682, 785.
  81. ^ Tanselle (1988), 682, 785–7.
  82. ^ a b "A page from The Life and Works of Herman Melville"
  83. ^ Miller, Edwin Haviland. Salem Is My Dwelling Place: A Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1991: 354. ISBN 0-87745-332-2.
  84. ^ a b c d "Chapter 3. Romances of Adventure. Section 2. Herman Melville. Van Doren, Carl. 1921. The American Novel". Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  85. ^ Selby, Nick, author and editor. Herman Melville's, Moby-Dick (Columbia Critical Guides series). New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. pp. 51–52. ISBN 0-231-11538-5.
  86. ^ Selby, 53.


  • Bezanson, Walter E. (1986). "Moby-Dick: Document, Drama, Dream", in John Bryant (ed.), A Companion to Melville Studies, Greenwoord Press.
  • Bryant, John and Haskell Springer. (2007). "Introduction," "Explanatory Notes" and "The Making of Moby-Dick". In John Bryant and Haskell Springer (eds), Herman Melville, Moby-Dick. A Longman Critical Edition. New York, Boston, etc.: Pearson Education.
  • Gale, Robert L. (1972). Plots and Characters in the Fiction and Narrative Poetry of Herman Melville. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: The MIT Press. Paperback Edition.
  • Hayford, Harrison. (1988). "Historical Note Section V," in Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. The Writings of Herman Melville Volume Six. Edited by Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle. Evanston and Chicago: The Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library, Evanston and Chicago.
  • Heflin, Wilson. (2004). Herman Melville's Whaling Years. Edited by Mary K. Bercaw Edwards and Thomas Farel Heffernan. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.
  • Lawrence, D.H. (1923). Studies in Classic American Literature. Reprinted London: Penguin Books. ISBN 9780140183771
  • Matthiessen, F.O. (1941). American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman. Tenth Printing, 1966, New York, London and Toronto: Oxford University Press.
  • Melville, Herman. (1993). Correspondence. The Writings of Herman Melville Volume Fourteen. Edited by Lynn Horth. Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library.
  • Milder, Robert. (1988). "Herman Melville." Emory Elliott (General Editor), Columbia Literary History of the United States. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-05812-8
  • Parker, Hershel. (1988). "Historical Note Section VII". In Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. The Writings of Herman Melville Volume Six. Edited by Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle. Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library.
  • Parker, Hershel, and Harrison Hayford (eds). (2001). Herman Melville, Moby-Dick. A Norton Critical Edition. Second Edition, New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393972832
  • Tanselle, G. Thomas. (1988). "Historical Note Section VI" and "Note on the Text". In Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. The Writings of Herman Melville Volume Six. Edited by Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker and G. Thomas Tanselle. Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library. ISBN 9780810102699

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