`                    Born in 1819 into a once-prominent New York family.
               After his father's  death, Melville attempted to support his family by
             workin various jobs, from banking to  teaching school. However, it
             was his adventures as a seaman in 1845 that made
             Melville  write. On one of voyages, he was captured and
             held for many months by the Typees; when he
             returned, friends encouraged Melville to
             write the escapade down. Typee: A Peep at
             Polynesian Life became his first literary success; the
             continuation of his adventures appeared in his second
             book, Omoo.

                In 1847, he married Elizabeth Shaw and
             moved first to New York and then the Berkshires.
             There he lived near the reclusive writer Nathaniel
             Hawthorne, who was to become a close friend and
             confidant.  In 1851, he completed his masterpiece, Moby-Dick, or the
             Whale. Considered by modern scholars to be one of
             the great American novels, the book was dismissed by
             Melville's contemporaries and he made little money
             from the effort.

             During the 1850s, Melville supported his family by
             farming and writing stories for magazines. He later
             traveled to Europe, where he saw his friend
             Hawthorne for the last time. During that visit in 1856,
             Melville knew that his novel-writing career
             was done.  In 1857, after returning to New York still
             unnoticed by the literary public, he stopped writing
             fiction. He became a customs inspector, a job he held
             for twenty years. And he began to write poetry.

             The Civil War made a deep impression on Melville and
             became the principal subject of his verse. With so
             many family members participating in various aspects
             of the war, Melville found himself intimately connected
             to events, and also sought out conflict for himself. He
             observed the Senate debating secession during a visit
             to Washington D.C. in 1861, and made a remarkable
             trip to the front with his brother in 1864. Melville's
             first published book of poems was Battle-Pieces and
             Aspects of the War (1866), a meditation.To bad  Melville's
             remains relatively unheard of  as a poet.

             Herman Melville died of a heart attack on September
             28, 1891, at the age of 72.During the week of his death, The New York Times
             wrote: "There has died and been buried in this city´┐Ża
             man who is so little known, even by name, to the
             generation now in the vigor of life that only one
             newspaper contained an obituary account of him, and
             this was but of three or four lines." It wasn't until the
             1920s that the literary public began to recognize
             Melville as one of America's greatest writers.