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Herman Melville In 1850 while writing The House of the Seven Gables Hawthornes publisher introduced him to another writer who was in the midst of a novel This was Herman Melville the book Moby Dick Hawthorne and Melville became good friends at once for despite their dissimilar backgrounds they had a great deal in common Melville was a New Yorker born in 1819 one of eight children of a merchant of distinguished lineage His father however lost all his money and died when the boy was 12 Herman left school at 15 worked briefly as a bank clerk and in 1837 went to sea For 18 months in 1841 and 1842 he was crewman on the whaler Acushnet Then he jumped ship in the South Seas For a time he lived among a tribe of cannibals in the Marquesas Later he made his way to Tahiti where he idled away nearly a year After another year at sea he returned to America in the fall of 1844 Although he had never before attempted serious writing in 1846 he published Typee an account of his life in the Marquesas The book was a great success for Melville had visited a part of the world almost unknown to Americans and his descriptions of his bizarre experiences suited the taste of a romantic age As he wrote Melville became conscious of deeper powers In 1849 he began a systematic study of Shakespeare pondering the bards intuitive grasp of human nature Like Hawthorne Melville could not accept the prevailing optimism of his generation Unlike his friend he admired Emerson seconding the Emersonian demand that Americans reject European ties and develop their own literature Believe me he wrote men not very much inferior to Shakespeare are this day being born on the banks of the Ohio Yet he considered Emersons vague talk about striving
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