|A descendant of a member of the Boston Tea Party, Melville was born in New York. His father went bankrupt and died when the boy was 12, leaving seven children and a penniless wife. Herman quit school at 15 and went to sea for the first time at the age of 18 (an adventure he described in his novel REDBURN). Two years later, after a school-teaching interlude, he sailed to the South Seas on a whaler--the basis for his great whaling novel, MOBY-DICK. He stayed in the South Seas for over three years, gaining the background he would later use in his many novels about the sea. Then he returned to the States to write. His first novel, TYPEE, was published in 1846, and that and his next four books made him famous and sought-after in the literary world. Married in 1847, in the summer of 1850 he bought an 18th-century farmhouse in the Massachusetts Berkshires, where he and Nathaniel Hawthorne became close friends. The friendship, however, lasted only two years, and ended for unknown reasons. (Hawthorne's wife Sophia pronounced Melville, "A man with true, warm heart, and a soul and an intellect--with life to his fingerprints; earnest,sincere, and reverent; very tender and modest." Hawthorne himself called him "a person of very gentlemanly instincts in every respect, save that he is a little heterodox in the matter of clean linen.") MOBY-DICK, dedicated to Hawthorne, was published in 1851. Partly because MOBY-DICK was not well received, partly from his own inclination, Melville stopped writing fiction in 1857, after the publication of THE CONFIDENCE MAN--except for the masterly novella, BILLY BUDD, which he finished shortly before his death. In his entire career, Melville earned a total of about $10,000 from his books; his novel PIERRE earned him only $157 in total royalties. He spent the last 19 years of his life in New York City as an obscure customs inspector. He died at home, 104 East 26th Street, of heart failure, at the age of 72.