Herman Melville was born in 1819 in New York City. After his father's death he left school for a series of clerical jobs before going to sea as a young man of nineteen. At twenty-one he shipped aboard the whaler Acushnet and began a series of adventures in the South Seas that would last for three years and form the basis for his first two novels, Typee and Omoo. Although these two novels sold well and gained for Melville a measure of fame, nineteenth-century readers were puzzled by the experiments with form that he began with his third novel, Mardi, and continued brilliantly in his masterpiece, Moby-Dick. During his later years spent working as a customs inspector on the New York docks, Melville published only poems, compiled in a collection entitled Battle-Pieces, and died in 1891 with Billy Budd, Sailor, now considered a classic, still unpublished.
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