Herman Melville wrote White-Jacket; or, The World in a Man-of-War during two months of intense work in the summer of 1849. He drew upon his memories of naval life, having spent fourteen months as an ordinary seaman aboard a frigate as it sailed the Pacific and made the homeward voyage around Cape Horn.
Already that same summer Melville had written Redburn, and he regarded the books as "two jobs, which I have done for money--being forced to it, as other men are to sawing wood." The reviewers were not as hard on White-Jacket as Melville himself was. The English liked its praise of British seamen. The Americans were more interested in Melville's attack on naval abuses, particularly flogging, and his advocacy of humanitarian causes. Soon Melville was acclaimed the best sea writer of the day.
Part autobiography, part epic fiction, White-Jacket remains a brilliantly imaginative social novel by one of the great writers of the sea. This text of the novel is an Approved Text of the Center for Editions of American Authors (Modern Language Association of America).
HERMAN MELVILLE (1819–1891) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick. His first three books gained much contemporary attention (the first, Typee, becoming a bestseller), and after a fast-blooming literary success in the late 1840s, his popularity declined precipitously in the mid-1850s and never recovered during his lifetime. When he died in 1891, he was almost completely forgotten. 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. He was the first writer to have his works collected and published by the Library of America.
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