Herman Melville (August 1, 1819 - September 28, 1891) was an American writer of novels, short stories and poetry. His contributions to the Western canon are the whaling novel Moby-Dick (1851); the short work Bartleby, the Scrivener (1853) about a clerk in a Wall Street office; the slave ship narrative Benito Cereno (1855); and Billy Budd, Sailor, left unfinished at his death and published in 1924.
The Melville family had been well off, but after his father met business reversals, the young Melville took to sea. On his first voyage he jumped ship in the Marquesas islands, where he lived for a time. His first book, an account of that time, Typee, became a bestseller and Melville became known as the "man who lived among the cannibals." After literary success in the late 1840s, the public indifference to Moby Dick (1851) put an end to his career as a popular author. During his later decades, Melville worked at the New York Customs House and published volumes of poetry which are now esteemed but not read in his lifetime.
When he died in 1891, Melville was almost completely forgotten. It was not until the "Melville Revival" in the early 20th century that his work won recognition, especially Moby-Dick, which was hailed as one of the literary masterpieces of both American and world literature. He was the first writer to have his works collected and published by the Library of America.