Item description for Israel Potter by Herman Melville...
Biography of a soldier in the American Revolution. Melville explains, "Biography, in its purer form, confined to the ended lives of the true and brave, may be held the fairest meed of human virtue--one given and received in entire disinterestedness--since neither can the biographer hope for acknowledgment from the subject, nor the subject at all avail himself of the biographical distinction conferred. Israel Potter well merits the present tribute--a private of Bunker Hill, who for his faithful services was years ago promoted to a still deeper privacy under the ground, with a posthumous pension, in default of any during life, annually paid him by the spring in ever-new mosses and sward."
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.21" Width: 6.14" Height: 0.82" Weight: 1.23 lbs.
Release Date Dec 17, 2007
Publisher Tutis Digital Publishing Pvt. Ltd.
ISBN 8184564848 ISBN13 9788184564846
Availability 0 units.
More About Herman Melville
Elizabeth Hardwick (1916-2007) is the author of many books and essays, including Herman Melville (Penguin Lives), American Fictions, and Seduction and Betrayal: Women and Literature.
Herman Melville lived in New York City, in the state of New York. Herman Melville was born in 1819 and died in 1891.
Herman Melville has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about Israel Potter?
A charming (if over-the-top) spoof of Revolutionary heroics Jul 25, 2006
After the financial failure of "Moby-Dick" and the social scandal of "Pierre," Melville settled down to write a book that would please the public, his publisher, and (most important at this point in his life) his bank account. He promised George Putnam (his publisher) both "nothing of any sort to shock the fastidious" and "nothing weighty." In short, he wrote an adventure story.
But not just any adventure story. Melville drew on a little-known autobiography published 30 years earlier and called the "Life and Remarkable Adventures of Israel R. Potter," which recounted the extraordinary career of a veteran of the Battle of Bunker Hill who delivered secret wartime letters to Benjamin Franklin, who found himself stranded in Europe, and who ended up a pauper in London. (The original Northwestern-Newberry edition reprints a facsimile copy of this source, keyed to passages in Melville's text. More remarkably, this edition notes the recent discovery of an unrelated text by a British author who included a brief account of Potter's days as a nomadic street-trader in London, along with a portrait of the man himself.)
Yet Melville's book is not merely a biographical novel. Instead, he greatly embellishes Potter's account, incorporating a farcical portrait of Franklin and adding equally comic accounts of John Paul Jones, King George, Ethan Allen, and several other historical figures whom Potter never actually met. In Melville's hands, Franklin becomes a miserly, philandering "tanned Machiavelli in tents" and "not less a lady's man, than a man's man, a wise man, and an old man"; Allen is transformed into a larger-than-life Paul Bunyan figure; King George is a kindly dolt; and Jones turns into a tattooed, flirtatious, vainglorious rake. And poor Israel Potter himself is alternately drafted, imprisoned, released, and press-ganged.
The result is not only Melville's most accessible work but also an over-the-top spoof of the heroic amateurs running the Revolution and (more subtly) an acidic indictment of the abandonment of the early American dream. While it lacks the depth or the "weight" of his other late works, "Israel Potter" makes up for its shortcomings with charm and mirth.
The least known and most humorous of Melville's works. Jun 12, 1997
This book is at the same time the least and the most "Melvillian" of all Melville's corpus. Melville wrote in Moby-Dick that "two thirds of the world revolve in darkness." This idea certaily holds true for most of Melville's works, but not Israel Potter. In this uncharacteristically light-hearted and crisply written rewriting of American history, Melville gives an early literary version of Woody Allen's film Zelig. The character Israel Potter is that same sort of insignificant historical non-entity who just happens to get caught up in incredibly significant historical moments. In his various wanderings Israel meets and becomes politically involved with a trio of the most important American patriots--Ben Franklin, John Paul Jones, and Ethan Allen. It is through these encounters that Melville subtlely (and sometimes not so subtlely) realizes his critical agenda and those darker themes that dominate so much of his other work begin to show themselves. In his portrayal of Franklin, Melville takes a bash at what he sees as the exemplar of American "genius"--the same American genius that ignored and misunderstood his most significant works and forced him into obscurity and poverty in his lifetime. Melville sees Franklin as representative of all that is wrong with the American character--he is parsimonious, small-minded, hard-headed, and morally hypocritical. In the other two historical figures, John Paul Jones and Ethan Allen, Melville finds redemption. In them he sees represented more of that European idea of genius, the manly half-savage/half-civilized genius of Thomas Carlyle. Like Queequeg in Moby-Dick who is described as "George Washington canabalistically rendered," Jones and Allen are wildmen in a civilized society, raging against the world as they utter their outrageous and at times incomprehensible truth. A fun yet undenialbly thought-provoking read. Enjoy