When Herman Melville died at the age of 72 in his home in New York City, more people knew him as a retired customs inspector than as a great writer. It had been so long since he’d published anything popular that the few people who remembered his name thought he was dead already. Yet his disappearance from the public’s memory was in some ways by choice. Melville knew what kind of books readers wanted to buy. He was just tired of writing them, and couldn’t quite convince people to read the new fiction he wanted to write. Melville started out as a chronicler of popular tales based on his own experiences as a sailor. But starting with Moby-Dick in 1851, his stories, novels, and poems took an experimental turn, pondering questions of existence and philosophy, toying with traditional ideas of plot and narrative. Though he’s now recognized as a master of fiction, readers then found him just weird. Melville was truly a man ahead of his time.
Herman Melville said what he thought and wrote what he wanted, even when it was unpopular. He chose honest obscurity over sell-out fame. And eventually it paid off, even though Melville wasn’t around to see it.
Moby Dick was written by Herman Melville. It was published in 1851.