THE LIZ LIBRARY PRESENTS:
This child was born in 1819 in New York City to a family of genteel New England ancestry. He was the third of eight children. When he was 7, he had scarlet fever, which impaired his eyesight.
His mother was said to have been a social climber and spendthrift. His father, ostensibly a merchant and importer, borrowed himself into bankruptcy, and then died when the boy was 12. Because of these events, he was forced to leave school, and start drifting through a variety of odd jobs to support himself, including as a clerk at his eldest brother's hat store, as a farmhand, and even as a surveyor on the Erie Canal, which was then being built. But he was at loose ends. He felt somewhat rejected and neglected by his mother, who seemed to prefer other of her children to him. He did not really like what he was doing. He had always wanted to go to college and become a "great orator", but there was no money.
Without clear direction, when he was 18, he took a job as a cabin boy on a ship that crossed the Atlantic to Great Britain. When he returned, he worked for a few years as a school teacher, and started writing. But he was still dissatisfied. He signed on as a member of the crew on a ship embarking on a three-to-four year voyage in the South Pacific. What he saw and experienced during this period of time began shaping his views of people, politics, and religion.
Over a period of time when other young men his age were in college, he was obtaining an education of a different kind. He became very much a skeptic and free thinker, questioning the injustices he saw perpetrated by so-called good Christians, such as colonization and slavery.
He later wrote about the choice to become a sailer on that long voyage:
"Some years ago-nevermind how long precisely -- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world."
He developed a devotion to writing and literature, often using his unusual experiences as the setting for his stories.
When he was 28, he married and settled down with his wife on a farm in Massachusetts, not far from the home of a friend he would later make, another writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne. He and his wife had four children, and for a number of years, they farmed and he wrote books. Later, however, he fell out of popularity as an author, in large part because of the themes in his works, which even included male bonding, with homoerotic undertones. Still later, his marriage went on the rocks, and his eldest son accidentally shot himself.
In his last book, written when he was an old man and nearly blind, published posthumously, he returned to the themes of sailing and the sea to contemplate justice, law, and human values.
Some of his quotes are:
"There is no dignity in wickedness,
whether in purple or rags;
"Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges."
"Talk not to me of blasphemy, man. I'd strike the sun if it insulted me."
Call him Ishmael, if you like. He is now recognized as one of the greatest American authors, and you might even have read one of his books, such as Moby Dick.
Herman Melville, a boy from
a "fatherless home."
* The term "fatherless" is used in this series as it is in current research and policy rhetoric by the U.S. federal government, DHHS and the National Fatherhood Initiative, most U.S. states in connection with child custody law and policy, and various family values and fatherhood interest policy and lobbying groups.
"...Just add Dad, the magic ingredient. It's hard to know where wishful thinking becomes deliberate deception. But this argument, advanced by the fathers' rights movement, is like saying that, since Mercedes Benz owners make more money than people who drive Hyundais, you will become wealthy if you buy a Mercedes..." Mike Peterson
LIZNOTES TABLE OF CONTENTS | RESEARCH ROOMS | THE READING ROOM
COLLECTIONS | WOMAN SUFFRAGE TIMELINE | THE LIZ LIBRARY ENTRANCE
Except as otherwise
noted, all contents in this collection are
copyright 2007-2012 the liz library. All rights reserved.
This site is hosted
and maintained by argate.net
Send queries to: lawyer-at-argate.net