Happy Birthday Herman Melville
Born on this day in 1819, Herman Melville. He was an American writer best known for the novel Moby-Dick. His first three books gained much contemporary attention (the first, Typee, became a bestseller), but after a fast-blooming literary success in the late 1840s, his popularity declined precipitously in the mid-1850s and never recovered during his lifetime. He was not a wealthy author, making just over $10,000 in his entire lifetime.
When he died in 1891, he was almost completely forgotten. The doctors noted that it was cardiac dilation. It was not until the “Melville Revival” in the early 20th century that his work won recognition, especially Moby-Dick, which was hailed as one of the literary masterpieces of both American and world literature. In 1919, the unfinished manuscript for his novella Billy Budd was discovered by his first biographer, who published a version in 1924 which was acclaimed by notable British critics as another masterpiece of Melville’s. He was the first writer to have his works collected and published by the Library of America.
Melville has also enjoyed two additional honors posthumously. In 1985, the New York City Herman Melville Society gathered at 104 East 26th Street to dedicate the intersection of Park Avenue south and 26th Street. They named it Herman Melville Square. This is the street where Melvilled lived from 1863 to 1891 and where he wrote Billy Budd. In 2010 it was announced that a new species of extinct giant sperm whale, Livyatan melvillei was named in honor of him.