Monday, November 14, 2011

THIS DAY IN HISTORY: November 14, 1851: Moby-Dick published

 November 14, 1851: Moby-Dick published

On this day in 1851, Moby-Dick, a novel by Herman Melville about the voyage of the whaling ship Pequod, is published by Harper & Brothers in New York. Moby-Dick is now considered a great classic of American literature and contains one of the most famous opening lines in fiction: "Call me Ishmael." Initially, though, the book about Captain Ahab and his quest for a giant white whale was a flop.

Herman Melville was born in New York City in 1819 and as a young man spent time in the merchant marines, the U.S. Navy and on a whaling ship in the South Seas. In 1846, he published his first novel, Typee, a romantic adventure based on his experiences in Polynesia. The book was a success and a sequel, Omoo, was published in 1847. Three more novels followed, with mixed critical and commercial results. Melville's sixth book, Moby-Dick, was first published in October 1851 in London, in three volumes titled The Whale, and then in the U.S. a month later. Melville had promised his publisher an adventure story similar to his popular earlier works, but instead, Moby-Dick was a tragic epic, influenced in part by Melville's friend and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, neighbor, Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose novels include The Scarlet Letter.

After Moby-Dick's disappointing reception, Melville continued to produce novels, short stories (Bartleby) and poetry, but writing wasn't paying the bills so in 1865 he returned to New York to work as a customs inspector, a job he held for 20 years.

Melville died in 1891, largely forgotten by the literary world. By the 1920s, scholars had rediscovered his work, particularly Moby-Dick, which would eventually become a staple of high school reading lists across the United States. Billy Budd, Melville's final novel, was published in 1924, 33 years after his death.

American Revolution
1776 : Benjamin Franklin takes sides

2006 : Last day for Texas' celebrated drive-in Pig Stands

Civil War
1862 : Lincoln approves Burnside's plan to capture Richmond

Cold War
1951 : United States gives military and economic aid to communist Yugoslavia

1986 : Ivan Boesky confesses to illegal stock trading activity

1985 : Volcano erupts in Colombia and buries nearby towns

General Interest
1969 : Apollo 12 lifts off
1982 : Walesa released from jail

1941 : Cary Grant stars in Hitchcock's Suspicion

1851 : Moby-Dick is published

1900 : American classical composer Aaron Copland is born in Brooklyn, New Yor

Old West
1882 : Franklin Leslie kills Billy "The Kid" Claiborne

1959 : Kennedy publishes article on television and American politics

1970 : Plane crash devastates Marshall University

Vietnam War
1965 : Major battle erupts in the Ia Drang Valley
1967 : Marine general killed in Vietnam
1972 : Nixon promises Thieu that U.S. will continue to support South Vietnam

World War I
1914 : Ottoman Empire declares a holy war

World War II
1940 : Germans bomb Coventry

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