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Redburn. His First Voyage

Herman Melville

Book Overview: 

Melville wrote of some of his earliest experiences at sea in the story of Wellingborough Redburn, a wet-behind-the-ears youngster whose head was filled with dreams of foreign travel and adventure. In Redburn, the protagonist enlists for a stint as a seaman aboard Highlander, a merchant ship running between New York and London. As with many of Melville's works, this one is as much about class and race as it is about the sea.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .tains, before shipping a man, always ask him whether he can sing out at a rope.

During the greater part of the watch, the sailors sat on the windlass and told long stories of their adventures by sea and land, and talked about Gibraltar, and Canton, and Valparaiso, and Bombay, just as you and I would about Peck Slip and the Bowery. Every man of them almost was a volume of Voyages and Travels round the World. And what most struck me was that like books of voyages they often contradicted each other, and would fall into long and violent disputes about who was keeping the Foul Anchor tavern in Portsmouth at such a time; or whether the King of Canton lived or did not live in Persia; or whether the bar-maid of a particular house in Hamburg had black eyes or blue eyes; with many other mooted points of that sort.

At last one of them went below and brought up a box of cigars from his chest, for some sailors always provide little delicacies of that kind, to break off . . . Read More

Community Reviews

OK maybe 3.5 on account of certain rhapsodic sections

So what's all this talk about Melville's 'Redburn' dripping with homosexuality? Turns out, it doesn't consistently drip with the stuff - but it does spring a leak. That leak is the totality of Chapter 46 (XLVI): 'A Mysterious Night in London'.

It has got to be one of the gayest chapters in American l

I took a Melville seminar in grad school and when it came time to write a paper on Moby Dick (frankly, a book I struggled to get through), I told my teacher that I wanted to do something on homo-eroticism, especially in the bed scene between Ishmael and Queequeg. She dismissed this out of hand. Not

From Wellingborough Redburn To Buttons

I decided to celebrate this past Memorial Day by revisiting a classic American novel. I chose one of my favorite authors, Herman Melville, and his "Redburn: His First Voyage" (1849).

"Redburn" was Melville's fourth novel and followed upon the visionary book, "Mar

This novel is, I see now on second reading, a proto-Moby Dick without the hyper-intrusive narrator (Ishmael) but with the usual gay (overt?) subtext.

Melville rarely, almost never, wrote extensively about women. “As for ladies, I have nothing to say concerning them; for ladies are like creeds; if yo

Half way through this, young Redburn having arrived in Liverpool after his first sea voyage, from New York. Melville, of course, is wonderful at evoking sea journeys and it goes without saying that he imbues his descriptions with the allegorical and the transcendent. Here, by distancing the absent n

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