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About the book
  • Published: 1 December 2003
  • ISBN: 9780375758027
  • Imprint: Random House USA
  • Format: Paperback
  • RRP: $24.99

The Confidence-Man


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Melville's exceptionally entertaining and simultaneously perplexing allegorical satire of antebellum American life. Introduced and with notes by John Bryant.

In THE CONFIDENCE-MAN, writes John Bryant in his Introduction, “Melville found a way to render our tragic sense of self and society through the comic strategies of the confidence game. He puts the reader in the game to play its parts and to contemplate the inconsistencies of its knaves and fools.” Set on a Mississippi steamer on April Fool’s Day and populated by a series of shape-shifting con men, THE CONFIDENCE-MAN is a challenging metaphysical and ethical exploration of antebellum American society. Set from the first American edition of 1857, this Modern Library paperback includes an Appendix with Bryant’s innovative “fluid text” analysis of early manuscript fragments from Melville’s novel.

  • Pub date: 1 December 2003
  • ISBN: 9780375758027
  • Imprint: Random House USA
  • Format: Paperback
  • RRP: $24.99

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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Praise for The Confidence-Man

“‘The great transcendental satire.’ Carl van Vechten”


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