Herman Melville was born in New York City on August 1, 1819. In 1832, his fathers bankruptcy and death left the Melville family virtually destitute; and at age fifteen Herman‚s formal schooling came to an end. However, he later developed into a prolific writer.
An eighteen-month voyage on the whaler Acushnet (1841-42) provided the factual basis for Melville‚s greatest novel Moby-Dick (1851). Similarly, Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847) were romantic narratives of life in the South Seas. However, in 1852, he published Pierre, a book that was to a large degree autobiographical and that was also a psychological study that anticipated much later literature.
After a tour of the Holy Land in 1856, he briefly visited Hawthorn, then U. S. consul in Liverpool. In 1866, Melville started work as an inspector in the Customs Service at New York, but continued to write.
His major work during this period was the long poem Clarel, inspired by his visit to the Holy Land.
Billy Budd was written in 1891, but was not published (1924) until after his death. Melville died in New York City on September 28, 1891.