Israel Potter

His Fifty Years of Exile

Introduction by Robert S. Levine
The authoritative edition of Melville's only historical novel

Based on the life of an actual soldier who claimed to have fought at Bunker Hill, Israel Potter is unique among Herman Melville's books: a novel in the guise of a biography. In telling the story of Israel Potter's fall from Revolutionary War hero to peddler on the streets of London, where he obtained a livelihood by crying "Old Chairs to Mend," Melville alternated between invented scenes and historical episodes, granting cameos to such famous men of the era as Benjamin Franklin (Potter may have been his secret courier) and John Paul Jones, and providing a portrait of the American Revolution as the rollicking adventure and violent series of events that it really was.

This edition of Israel Potter, which reproduces the definitive text, includes selections from Potter's autobiography, Life and Remarkable Adventures of Israel R. Potter, the basis for Melville's novel.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
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. View titles by Herman Melville

About

The authoritative edition of Melville's only historical novel

Based on the life of an actual soldier who claimed to have fought at Bunker Hill, Israel Potter is unique among Herman Melville's books: a novel in the guise of a biography. In telling the story of Israel Potter's fall from Revolutionary War hero to peddler on the streets of London, where he obtained a livelihood by crying "Old Chairs to Mend," Melville alternated between invented scenes and historical episodes, granting cameos to such famous men of the era as Benjamin Franklin (Potter may have been his secret courier) and John Paul Jones, and providing a portrait of the American Revolution as the rollicking adventure and violent series of events that it really was.

This edition of Israel Potter, which reproduces the definitive text, includes selections from Potter's autobiography, Life and Remarkable Adventures of Israel R. Potter, the basis for Melville's novel.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Author

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. View titles by Herman Melville

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