Typee: (Re)Making the Best-Seller
PERHAPS THE MOST extraordinary aspect of the success of Melville's first book as a literary work and as a cultural artifact is how closely Typee reflects transatlantic literary trends and styles. The changes Melville made to Typee, which resulted in different editions -- approximating essentially different texts -- closely parallel the interests of his changing audiences. Indeed, it is somewhat misleading to refer to Melville's first work in the singular, a point recently raised by John Bryant.1
From the beginning of his publication negotiations, Melville indicated in several letters to John Murray, the English publisher of Typee, his willingness to cater to the interests of the reading public. Typee, he asserted, is a "bona-vide [sic] narrative . . . calculated for popular reading or for none at all."2Melville's language here implies that the author directly marketed his book to appeal to the interests of the targeted audiences, whose expectations -- stylistic, formal, even ideological -- appear to have shaped the various editions of Typee.
The Typee manuscript, expanded from one surviving leaf to roughly three chapters (due to the discovery in 1986 of the famous trunk, which contained family correspondence and the manuscript leafs corresponding to chapters 12 through 14 of the English edition of Typee), identifies the author's first intended audience. Melville referred to this group as the "fireside people" whom he directly addressed in the preface to the first English and American editions. In addition to the links between his work and the conventions of the genre of travels enjoyed by general readers, Melville displays in the Typee manuscript an understanding of and a debt to the conventions