Israel Potter

Trade Paper – $21.00

ISBN 978-0-8101-1591-0
Publication Date
January 1998
Page Count
235 pages
Trim Size
5 1/2 x 8 1/2

Israel Potter

His Fifty Years of Exile, Volume Eight
Herman Melville

Unique among Melville's works, Israel Potter was the author's only historical novel, presuming to offer the life history of Revolutionary War figure Israel Potter and featuring characters such as Benjamin Franklin and Ethan Allen. In offering the manuscript to his publisher, George P. Putnam, Melville assured him, "I engage that the story shall contain nothing of any sort to shock the fastidious. There will be very little reflective writing in it; nothing weighty. It is adventure." This came as a relief, for his previous novel, Pierre, had shocked and bewildered both critics and the public and brought down universal castigation.

Melville originally attempted to rewrite an obscure narrative entitled Life and Remarkable Adventures of Israel R. Potter, in which Potter tells of his sad fall from Revolutionary hero to London peddler. At first the novel follows the narrative, before veering off into invented episodes and historical sources unrelated to the Life. In the end Israel Potter won praise for its masculine style, Yankee wit, and alleged patriotism.

This edition is an Approved Text of the Center for Editions of American Authors (Modern Language Association of America).

About the Author

Herman Melville (August 1, 1819 – September 28, 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.