Before 1850 Herman Melville was a fairly typical American male, in that he was rebellious and needed to earn money to live. He had left school early, and by the time he began work on Moby-Dick; or, The Whale he had been a bank clerk, shop assistant, school teacher and a merchant seaman. Melville was an American man of his age: neither he nor his countrymen had much time for indulgent meditation. While preparing for what would be his sixth book, targeted mainly to a male readership, he became increasingly interested in European philosophy, diverting what might have been a financially successful novel into a dark literary masterpiece that pleased few contemporary readers. It has been comprehensively argued elsewhere that the works of Melville demonstrate his interest in German philosophy. The first signs of this interest can be detected in his novel Mardi, but it was the transatlantic journey he took in 1849 that provides the surest way to explain Melville's turn toward German metaphysics. Having decided to visit London to find a publisher for White-Jacket, his fifth book, Melville boarded the Southampton in New York on October 11, 1849. His friend George Duyckinck came to see him off, along with another passenger, Professor George J. Adler. Duyckinck introduced the two men, who would become fast friends aboard the Southampton. Few personal encounters have had such a profound and lasting impact on American literature. Two years younger than Melville, Adler had been born in Leipzig, Germany but emigrated to the United States with his family at twelve. The Adlers settled in Buffalo, but in 1840 George came to New York City to attend New York University. A bright and ambitious student, Adler pursued his own studies and also tutored his classmates in such diverse subjects as classics, mathematics and philosophy. He graduated valedictorian in 1844. Two years later New York University granted him a professorship. The position was honorary, meaning that it came with no salary attached. Instead, it merely gave Adler the opportunity to teach those students who wished to take German as an elective. He collected whatever fees he could directly from the students. Cambridge University Press 2018.
- English Literature & Linguistics [42 items ]