Herman Melville was born in 1819 in New York. He worked at various jobs, including shipping on the whalerAchshnet and a stint in the US Navy before settling in Massachusetts and starting to write. His first two novels,Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847), were fictionalized accounts of his travels and were his most popular works during his lifetime. After marrying in 1847, Melville wrote a series of populist novels for money. With Moby-Dick (1851) he changed course - partly under the influence of Nathaniel Hawthorne - but the novel's complexity lost him readers. After publishing two more novels Melville took a job as a customs inspector in New York City harbour and turned to writing poetry. He died in 1891. An unfinished novel, Billy Budd, Sailor, was published in 1924.
Much of the impact of Melville's book on any fierce new convert is implicit in that sense of time travel. Sometimes I read it and I feel like I'm going backward, fast. It reads like something that was written before books were invented, yet it is utterly modern -- Philip Hoare * The New Yorker * Melville has himself become part of the literary canon. A fixture. -- Ian McGuire * Independent * Moby-Dick is, for me, the supreme American novel, the source and the inspiration of everything that follows in the American literary canon -- Robert McCrum, `The 100 best novels' * Guardian *