Redburn, His First Voyage: Being the Sailor Boy Confessions and Reminiscences of the Son-of-a-Gentleman in the Merchant Service

Redburn, His First Voyage: Being the Sailor Boy Confessions and Reminiscences of the Son-of-a-Gentleman in the Merchant Service

Redburn, His First Voyage: Being the Sailor Boy Confessions and Reminiscences of the Son-of-a-Gentleman in the Merchant Service

Redburn, His First Voyage: Being the Sailor Boy Confessions and Reminiscences of the Son-of-a-Gentleman in the Merchant Service

Excerpt

In point of chronological sequence, Herman Melville’s REDBURN follows close on the heels of MARDI, both works being published during the same year, 1849. But whereas MARDI describes an imaginary voyage to mythical lands whose government and culture allow the author ample room for brilliant satire on the actual civilization of his day, in REDBURN he confines himself strictly to portraying conditions as he actually found them on his own voyage to Liverpool some twelve years before the publication of this book; and while MARDI was the petulant, entirely fanciful reply to those of his critics who openly scoffed at Melville’s assertion that TYPEE and OMOO were to a large extent merely the accounts of his own ventures in the South Seas, REDBURN, in an unostentatious way, is a complete return to the autobiographical manner.

It was in 1837 that Melville, driven by the most urgent necessity, found himself face to face with the problem of making his own way in the world. In a mental attitude close to desperation, the eighteen-year-old youth cut himself away from family ties and, following the age-old fallacy that happiness and prosperity are waiting just over the horizon, secured a berth as ship’s boy in the forecastle of a Liverpool-bound packet.

To learn of the author’s harrowing life at sea on the eastbound voyage, of his many experiences while the ship was in dock at Liverpool, and of his progress towards prosperity when, at the end of four months, the ship finally docked again in New York—the reader need only have recourse to REDBURN. Never was there a book which so exudes the very atmosphere . . .

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