This collection reveals the genius of one of America's greatest writers. "Bartleby the Scrivener" is a maddening, yet poignant story of a man "who prefers not to" obey his attorney-employer who goes to extraordinary lengths in his attempt to placate his recalcitrant clerk. "Billy Budd" relates the fate of an innocent young sailor impressed on a British man-of-war who, when charged with fomenting mutiny by the diabolical master-at-arms, strikes out with his fist and kills the man. But it is Captain Vere, as a consequence of trying Billy for his crime, who suffers the most excruciating punishment. Other fine Melville stories included are "The Apple Tree Table," "The Piazza," "My Chimney," and "The Happy Failure."
About Herman Melville
Herman Melville was born in New York City in 1819. When his father died, he was forced to leave school and find work. After passing through some minor clerical jobs, the eighteen-year-old young man shipped out to sea, first on a short cargo trip, then, at twenty-one, on a three-year South Sea whaling venture. From the experiences accumulated on this voyage would come the material for his early books, Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847), as well as for such masterpieces as Moby-Dick (1851), Pierre (1852), The Piazza Tales (1856) and Billy Budd, Sailor, and Other Stories (posthumous, 1924).
Though the first two novels—popular romantic adventures—sold well, Melville's more serious writing failed to attract a large audience, perhaps because it attacked the current philosophy of transcendentalism and its espoused "self-reliance." (As he made clear in the savagely comic The Confidence Man (1857), Melville thought very little of Emersonian philosophy. He spent his later years working as a customs inspector on the New York docks, writing only poems comprising Battle-Pieces (1866). He died in 1891, leaving Billy Budd, Sailor, and Other Stories unpublished.