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MOBY DICK Book Club, Part 1: Melville's early years

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posted on Nov, 28 2016 @ 08:18 PM
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Greetings ATS! This will be the first of several installments leading up to a study of Moby Dick. I’m really excited to have you aboard!


First of all, I was amazed to discover that Melville wrote the epic Moby Dick at the young age of 31. Upon learning more about his life, I found that the novel was the result of a singular upbringing and a confluence of events without which the book would never have been possible.


For brevity’s sake, I will concentrate on only the most important aspects of Herman’s life, but I would highly recommend the biography written by Hershel Parker to anyone interested in all of the finer details. It is an excellent biography, and all of the following information was gathered from it-- “Herman Melville: A Biography. Vol 1”.


Melville was the third of eight children born to Allan Melvill (name was later changed to Melville) and Maria Gansevoort Melvill in 1819. He was the grandson of two American heroes-- his paternal grandfather, Major Thomas Melvill, was born in Boston in 1751 and educated at Princeton. He was an intimate friend of Samuel Adams, and in 1773, after being present at a passionate meeting at the Old South Church at Marlbourough, forced his way along with fellow Bostonians aboard the Indiamen and threw its contents into the Boston Harbor in a protest later known as the Boston Tea Party. He was 22 at the time. Herman's maternal grandfather, Peter Gansevoort Sr, later known as The Hero of Fort Stanwix, undertook and successfully held the defence of Fort Stanwix against an assault of British troops in 1777, which later proved to be one of the defining battles of the Revolutionary War. The family had many powerful political and military connections, as well as royal European (Scottish, Hungarian and Danish) blood.


Despite the prestige of Major Melvill, Herman’s father Allan proved to be prodigal and unsuccessful at business. He shamelessly borrowed money from both his own father and his wife’s estate, and while he provided Herman with a luxurious and comfortable first decade of life, was forced to flee debtors in Manhattan and take refuge in Albany when Herman was 11 years old. Within a few years, Herman’s easy life had taken a turn for the worse. Allan died, raving and feverish, when Herman was just 13 years old, leaving his widow and 8 children in poverty and debt. He had burned enough bridges that, upon his death, both Major Melvill (Herman’s grandfather) and Peter Gansevort (Herman’s maternal uncle) had shut the family coffers to the needy widow and her children. Herman and his remarkable brother Gansevoort (more on him later) were left with the burden of supporting their mother and siblings.


Herman tried his hand at a number of jobs in order to provide for the family. Due to the misfortunate circumstances of his family life, he never received proper schooling (although he had always been given access to excellent literature at home and through family/public libraries). Among the jobs Melville had were clerk, farmer and teacher. Interestingly enough, he was so unremarkable (or unpopular) as a teacher that none of his former students ever came forward with any anecdotes from this time, despite Melville later becoming a well-known author.


Next up: Herman goes to sea! Thanks for reading and I would love to hear from anyone who has questions or comments.

edit on 28-11-2016 by zosimov because: (no reason given)




posted on Nov, 28 2016 @ 08:29 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

Thanks so much. That's wonderful, I've been looking forward to you starting this. I'd like to sign on and I am looking forward to participating.

And thanks for the introduction to Melville's life. I had no idea.

I'll get up to speed and be back to contribute.


edit on 28-11-2016 by Dan00 because: Moby Dick Christmas! Whooda thought?



posted on Nov, 28 2016 @ 08:32 PM
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a reply to: Dan00

Oooh, I'm so glad my friend! Just wait for the next issue.. Melville really lived a thrilling life! Will post more soon and I definitely look forward to your insights. I don't plan on beginning the actual text until this weekend, at the earliest, so you have time to get a copy (if you don't already own one).


edit on 28-11-2016 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 28 2016 @ 08:37 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

No, I don't have a copy. I was forced to read it in high-school. I'm going to buckle-down and get the materials that you mentioned.

I'm really looking forward to this and I appreciate your focus more than you might think. This is precisely the sort of fun that I have been hankering for.

The question I am asking myself is, "What can we bring to this that ATS makes uniquely available to its users?".

This is going to be fun.

Thanks again!




posted on Nov, 28 2016 @ 08:38 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

You're really gunna make me dig out that book aren't you?



posted on Nov, 28 2016 @ 08:39 PM
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a reply to: Bluntone22

Get the shovel out friend!



posted on Nov, 28 2016 @ 08:40 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

Thanks for putting this together. I don't know much about Melville, but I love a good biography. Thanks again.



posted on Nov, 28 2016 @ 08:41 PM
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a reply to: Dan00

Yes, it really will be fun!

Any input or ideas are welcome. I can feel the creativity flowing again!



posted on Nov, 28 2016 @ 08:43 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope

So pleased to have you! Please join the crew
Your ideas on the text and its influences would be most welcome.



posted on Nov, 28 2016 @ 08:59 PM
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I have not read Melville in many years..

I will be following this thread with much anticipation!!!!

Great Job!!!!




posted on Nov, 28 2016 @ 09:02 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

Hello! I read Moby Dick some 20 years ago (poorly) and I would love to be able to be a part of this discussion. Thank you. I am indeed looking forward to this.




posted on Nov, 28 2016 @ 09:03 PM
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a reply to: semperfortis

Hey, thanks.. this is the kind of stuff I love to do.

Please pipe in whenever you want! I would love to hear your insights about Melville and/or his masterpiece.



posted on Nov, 28 2016 @ 09:04 PM
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a reply to: TheAlleghenyGentleman

Excellent. So glad to have you! Welcome to the crew.



posted on Nov, 28 2016 @ 09:24 PM
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a reply to: Dan00

Hey, just read the edit on your first post and thought you'd like to know that Ismael's ship the Pequod sets sail on Christmas Day


Interesting coincidence!



posted on Nov, 28 2016 @ 09:27 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

That is so beyond the yonders of coincidence that I think I might cry some.

I think I squealed a little.




posted on Nov, 29 2016 @ 10:33 AM
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A sincere thank you to all who stopped in to enrich this thread. I will continue with Part 2 presently, but thought to sum up the above info and put it into perspective according to Melville's character and later writing.

Much of Melville's depth and torment stems from the contrast between his earliest years and those of his youth. His first 11 years of life produced in him a love of fine furniture and art, historical artifacts which could be found in his own and his relatives' homes, classic old books, and familial pride. He revered his dashing, cosmopolitan (his father had spent elongated time in Europe, namely France and the UK), elegant father. Perhaps the hardest thing young Herman had to deal with was being the second, less remarkable son. (More on older brother later)

However, all this changed with his father's finally reaching the bottom of his financial barrel. His family fled the city of his childhood, sending the younger children with the furniture, mom, and older brother ahead, while he and his father hastily packed the odds and ends and furtively crept away on a midnight boat. He witnessed his father's spiral into madness and early death. Herman was forced to see that his father had wasted not only his own fortune but that of his wife and children as well. He realized what a huge failure his father had been in the business world (merchant). His tumoltuous and opposing sentiments regarding his father haunted him.

He was also exposed at a young age to the fickleness of family ties. Despite the fact that the Melville's had wealthy and established family connections (those I have already mentioned but also very wealthy cousins on mom's side) Maria Melville and her 8 children were abandoned by their relations and left to fend for themselves.

In a matter of two years, Herman went from a life of total comfort, surrounded by wealth and aristocratic relations; an integral part of a joyful lively family, to being fatherless, and knowing extreme poverty and want.

All this surely resulted in Melville developing a deeper, stormy character which we will see while reading Moby Dick.

Be prepared for the next thread regarding Herman's life at sea. It gets really interesting-- can't wait to see you there!
edit on 29-11-2016 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 29 2016 @ 07:10 PM
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Please follow the link to read Part 2 in this thread:

www.abovetopsecret.com...



posted on Dec, 4 2016 @ 09:32 PM
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Good evening all,

For those interested in joining our discussion tomorrow (Monday) night, please follow this link:

www.abovetopsecret.com...



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