Poor Herman Melville. If only he would have known the fame and critical acclaim that awaited him after his death—if only he would have been able to enjoy some of the fruits of the astounding success that Moby-Dick was later to achieve—perhaps his storm-tossed life would have been a bit more calm.
Born in New York City in 1819 to a woman whose grandfather was a Revolutionary War hero and to a man who, having been a fairly well-off businessman, would soon go bankrupt, Melville struggled all his life with financial issues. He pursued literary fame and fortune in much the same way that his now-famous antihero pursued the great white whale: strenuously, desperately, but ultimately futilely. It was only years after his life ended that Melville at last earned the recognition that he had so desperately craved and so rightfully merited—the recognition that he was one of the greatest writers ever birthed by the New World.