Moby Dick was first published in Britain 151 years ago.
But it wasn’t until 110 years later that I finally got around to reading it.
Not that I have been around quite as long as Melville’s great book, despite the rumours – and that strange portrait locked in my attic which has kept me looking so young and lovely. They don’t call me Dorian Leavey, for nothing.
To be honest, I was originally put off by the book’s title. It sounded like the biography of an over-endowed sex maniac.
There she blows!
I was already worn out after flicking through Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Fanny Hill and The Perfumed Garden. Or was that Lady Chatterley’s Hill, Garden Lover, and The Perfumed Fanny?
Then one day when I was a part-time student at Sidney Webb College in London my English tutor, Mel Gooding, insisted I study Melville’s epic.
It was a great, but very hard book. Full of wonderful imagery and long words. I had to read it again, to get the full Monty.
Nowadays, some young people probably think it’s the story of a mobile phone owned by a dork.
Now there’s an idea for a film adaptation…
Which really wouldn’t do justice to Herman Melville (August 1, 1819 – September 28, 1891), the great American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet.
When he was a young man he had what was known as a roving disposition, and a desire to support himself independently.
When he was about 19 years old he tried and failed to get work as a surveyor on the Erie canal. His brother then helped him get signed on as a ‘green’ hand on a New York ship bound for Liverpool.
Signing on for a full life
After returning to America he decided to sign ship’s articles again. On January 3, 1841, Melville sailed from Fairhaven, Massachusetts on the whaler Acushnet, bound for the Pacific Ocean.
Melville later realised that his life began that day.
His ship sailed around Cape Horn to a series of adventures in the South Pacific. Some say that his finest work – Moby Dick, or The Whale, gives a good idea of what that voyage was like.
This is not the place for the detail of the rest of Melville’s life (look it up on Wikipedia, it’s worth it) but I do recommend reading his novel about the huge deadly white whale – especially if you’re on a cruise.
And when you consider the whale (and hopefully agree with me that killing it should be outlawed), remember that it never gets into trouble until it comes up and starts spouting.
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