"Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. ... Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can."
- Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
, Chapter 130
"The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung. … All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby-Dick. He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it."
- Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
, Chapter 4131
"I would prefer not to."
- Bartleby, "Bartleby, the Scrivener"32
"Herman I think is making more progress than formerly, and without being a bright Scholar, he maintains a respectable standing, and would proceed further, if he could be induced to study more -- being a most amiable and innocent child, I cannot find it in my heart to coerce him, especially as he seems to have chosen Commerce as a favorite pursuit, whose practical activity can well dispose with much book knowledge."
- Allan Melvill, in a 1830 letter concerning his son33
"It is sadly uninteresting. It is not even given to the gods to be dull; and Mr. Melville is not one of the gods."
- Review of Melville's Clarel
, New York Galaxy
, August 187634
"He is a person of very gentlemanly instincts in every respect, save that he is a little heterodox in the matter of clean linen."
- Nathaniel Hawthorne on Herman Melville, Notebook Entry, November 20, 185635
"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. And I am not sure that he is not a very great man."
- Sophia Hawthorne on Herman Melville, in a letter to her mother, 185036
"Oh! ye state-room sailors, who make so much ado about a fourteen-days' passage across the Atlantic; who so pathetically relate the privations and hardships of the sea, where, after a day of breakfasting, lunching, dining off five courses, chatting, playing whist, and drinking champagne-punch, it was your hard lot to be shut up in little cabinets of mahogany and maple, and sleep for ten hours, with nothing to disturb you but 'those good-for-nothing tars, shouting and tramping overhead', - what would ye say to our six months out of sight of land?"Herman Melville, Typee, Chapter 137
"It is--or seems to be--a wise sort of thing, to realise that all that happens to a man in this life is only by way of a joke.... And it is also worth bearing in mind, that the joke is passed around pretty liberally and impartially, so that not very many are entitled to fancy that they in particular are getting the worst of it."
- Herman Melville, letter to Henry Savage38