Herman Melville

Program Information

Series: A Moment in Time
Duration: 00:04:01
Year Produced: 2010
Description:

After early acclaim as a young writer, Herman Melville, the author of the majestic novel Moby Dick, passed many years in relative obscurity.

A Moment in Time is a brief, exciting and compelling journey into the past. Created to excite and enlighten the public about the past, its relevance to the present and its impact on the future, A Moment In Time is a captivating historical narrative that is currently broadcast worldwide.

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Transcript

Lead: After early acclaim as a young writer, Herman Melville, the author of the majestic novel Moby Dick, passed many years in relative obscurity.

Tag: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The second son of eight children Melville was born into an old and prominent American family. One of his grandfathers, disguised as a Mohawk Indian, helped plan and execute a certain tea party of historical renown in Boston harbor prior to the American Revolution. Jerked into real life by the bankruptcy and death of his father, Melville shipped out as a sailor spending several years in various vessels, including time spent on a whaler in the Pacific.

Returning from his voyages in 1844, he had a memory well stocked with fascinating stories. Urged by his family and friends to record them, he produced, in a few short weeks, the novel "Typee," a semi-autobiographical description of his life among cannibalistic natives on a South Pacific island. The novel was an instant success and overnight it made Melville a celebrity. Crowds of admiring readers would literally mob him on the streets of Boston. When he married Elizabeth Shaw in 1847 the site of the wedding had to be moved at the last minute to prevent disruption by intrusive fans.

After his early novels, characterized by a licentious exuberance that made them appealing to a wide audience, Melville began in 1851 the novel that would establish him as a major literary figure. For months he labored with great intensity to produce Moby Dick. This novel, with its unrelenting journey into the depths of human darkness, was ill-suited for its age and received unenthusiastic reviews. It sold fairly well but soon slipped into obscurity, reemerging to be recognized as a masterpiece only in the 1920s, a more cynical and jaded era.

In the forty years following the publication of Moby Dick, Melville endured periodic bouts of depression and long creative dry spells. Despite this he produced nine additional novels including a literary retelling of the famous mutiny on the USS Somers titled "Billy Budd." Herman Melville died in 1891.

At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.

Virginia Standards

11th Grade SOLs » English » 11.4