A brilliant, but neglected, writer in his time, Herman Melville (1819 – 1891) is today considered one of the greatest American masters of symbolism in the nineteenth century. He was born in New York City, the third of eight children of Allan and Maria Melvill (the e in his name was added later). Because of business failures, his family moved to Albany, New York. As a young man, however, Melville went to sea, where he gained the firsthand knowledge that appears in many of his stories. In 1849, he wrote his first novel, Typee, which was based on his experiences among cannibals; through it, he achieved some success and moved to Massachusetts, where his neighbor was Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the two became friends.
Melville's best works, though, were largely ignored during his lifetime. In 1851, he completed his masterpiece, Moby Dick, but the public and contemporary critics felt that it was a second-rate book.Billy Budd , which is highly popular today, was not even published until 1924.
When he died at 72 after a lengthy illness, he was not viewed as a leading American author. In the twentieth century, though, a revival of his works occurred, and today, he is widely read.