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  • Published: 15 December 2016
  • ISBN: 9781612195858
  • Imprint: Melville House
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 128
  • RRP: $22.99

Billy Budd, Sailor



Herman Melville’s final masterpiece, found unpublished on his desk at his death.

Billy Budd, Sailor would emerge, after its publication in 1924, as one of Melville’s best-loved books—and one of his most open, with its discussion of homosexualty.

In it, Melville returns to the sea to tell the story of Billy, a cheerful, hard working, and handsome young sailor, conscripted to work against his will on another ship, where he soon finds himself persecuted by Claggart, the paranoid master-at-arms. As things escalate beyond the naive Billy’s control, tragedy looms on the horizon like Melville’s great white whale, and the story become Melville’s final, sublime plunge into the classic tussle between civilization and chaos, between oppression and freedom, as well as the book in which he discusses homosexuality most openly.

One of the major works of American literature.

Series Overview: Too short to be a novel, too long to be a short story, the novella is generally unrecognized by academics and publishers but beloved and practiced by literature’s greatest writers. The Art of the Novella Series celebrates this renegade art form and its practitioners. The series has been recognized for its “excellence in design” by AIGA.

  • Published: 15 December 2016
  • ISBN: 9781612195858
  • Imprint: Melville House
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 128
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

Herman Melville

Herman Melville was born on August 1, 1819, in New York City, the son of a merchant. Only twelve when his father died bankrupt, young Herman tried work as a bank clerk, as a cabin-boy on a trip to Liverpool, and as an elementary schoolteacher, before shipping in January 1841 on the whaler Acushnet, bound for the Pacific. Deserting ship the following year in the Marquesas, he made his way to Tahiti and Honolulu, returning as ordinary seaman on the frigate United States to Boston, where he was discharged in October 1844. Books based on these adventures won him immediate success. By 1850 he was married, had acquired a farm near Pittsfield, Massachussetts (where he was the impetuous friend and neighbor of Nathaniel Hawthorne), and was hard at work on his masterpiece Moby-Dick.

Literary success soon faded; his complexity increasingly alienated readers. After a visit to the Holy Land in January 1857, he turned from writing prose fiction to poetry. In 1863, during the Civil War, he moved back to New York City, where from 1866-1885 he was a deputy inspector in the Custom House, and where, in 1891, he died. A draft of a final prose work, Billy Budd, Sailor, was left unfinished and uncollated, packed tidily away by his widow, where it remained until its rediscovery and publication in 1924.

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