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Herman Melville (1819-1891) Chronology

  • 1774 – Thomas Melvill (1751-1832), Melville’s paternal grandfather, marries Priscilla Scollay (1755-1833), Melville’s paternal grandmother.
  • 1778 – Peter Gansevoort (1749-1812), Melville’s maternal grandfather, marries Catherine Van Schaick (1751-1830), Melville’s maternal grandmother.

  • 1781 – Lemuel Shaw (1781-1861), Melville’s father-in-law, is born.
  • 1782 – Allan Melvill (1782-1832), Melville’s father, is born.
  • 1784 – Elizabeth Knapp Shaw (1784-1822), Melville’s mother-in-law, is born.
  • 1791 – Maria Gansevoort (1791-1872), Melville’s mother, is born.
  • 1793 – Hope Savage Shaw (1793—1879), Melville’s stepmother-in-law, is born.
  • 1814 – Allan Melvill marries Maria Gansevoort.
  • 1815 – Gansevoort Melville (1815-1846), Melville’s brother, is born. (The family name was spelled Melvill until 1838 or so.)
  • 1817 – Helen Maria Melville Griggs (1817-1888), Melville’s sister, is born.
  • 1819 – Herman Melville (1819-1891) is born.
  • 1821 – Augusta Melville (1821-1876), Melville’s sister, is born.
  • 1823 – Allan Melville (1823—1872), Melville’s brother, is born.
  • 1825 – Catherine Gansevoort Melville Hoadley (1825-1905), Melville’s sister, is born. Melville attends New-York Male High School (to 1829).
  • 1827 – Frances Priscilla Melville (1827-1885), Melville’s sister, is born. Melville visits paternal grandparents in Boston (and again in 1829).
  • 1829 – Melville attends Grammar School, Columbia College, New York (to 1830).
  • 1830 – Thomas Melville (1830—1884), Melville’s brother and youngest sibling, is born. Allan Melvill fails in business and moves with family to Albany. Melville attends Albany Academy (to 1832).
  • 1832 – Allan Melvill, Melville’s father, dies in Albany. Melville clerks at New York State Bank, Albany (to 1835). Melville’s mother moves with family to Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
  • 1833 – Melville visits Pittsfield briefly.
  • 1834 – Works as clerk and bookkeeper in brother Gansevoort’s fur and cap store, Albany (to 1835).
  • 1835 – Joins Albany Young Man’s Association.
  • 1836 – Joins Ciceronian Debating Society, attends classes at Albany Classical Academy (to 1837).
  • 1837 – Gansevoort Melville’s store fails. Melville manages Uncle Thomas’s farm near Pittsfield, then teaches in Sikes District School, near Pittsfield, Massachusetts (to 1838).
  • 1838 – Melville’s mother moves with her family to Lansingburgh, north of Albany. Melville becomes president of Philo Logos debating society. Albany. Studies surveying and engineering at Lansingburgh Academy (to 1839).
  • 1839 – Publishes “Fragments from a Writing Desk” pseudonymously in Lansingburgh paper; sails as crew member of the trader St. Lawrence New York to Liverpool and return; teaches at a school in Greenbush, near Albany (to 1840).
  • 1840 – Teaches in Brunswick, New York; visits Uncle Thomas in Galena, Illinois, with friend Eli James Murdock Fly; travels on a Mississippi River steamboat; unsuccessfully seeks work in New York City.
  • 1841 – January, sails from Fairhaven, Massachusetts, as crew member of the American Whaler Acushnet; March, stops at Rio de Janeiro; April, rounds Cape Horn; June, visits Santa, Peru; fall and Winter, cruises through Galapagos Islands.
  • 1842 – June, in Marquesas Islands; July, with Richard Tobias Greene, deserts the Acushnet and goes into the interior of Nuku Hiva; August, ships as crew member aboard the Australian Whaler Lucy Ann; September, refuses duty near Tahiti and is imprisoned by British consul; October, escapes with John B. Troy to the island of Eimeo and works on potato farm; November, signs as crew member on the American Whaler Charles and Henry.
  • 1843 – April, visits Lahaina, Hawaiian Islands; is discharged and works as store clerk and bowling-alley pinsetter in Honolulu; signs as ordinary seaman aboard the US. naval frigate United States, becomes friendly with John J. Chase; fall, visits Marquesas, Tahiti, Valparaiso, Callao.
  • 1844 – January, visits Lima; spring, visits Mazatlan; summer, visits Rio de Janeiro; October, is discharged in Boston and rejoins family in Lansingburgh.
  • 1846 – Typee is published. Gansevoort dies in London. Greene appears in Buffalo and verifies part of Typee.
  • 1847 – Melville tries unsuccessfully to find government work in Washington, DC. Omoo is published. Melville marries Elizabeth Knapp Shaw Melville (1822-1906) in Boston; they live in New York with his brother Allan and Allan’s wife Sophia E. Thurston, and with the brothers’ mother and their four single sisters. Finances are provided by Melville’s father-in-law Lemuel Shaw. Melville becomes friendly with New York men of letters Evert Duyckinck and Cornelius Mathews.
  • 1849 – Malcolm Melville, Melville’s first son, is born. Mardi is published. Redburn is published. Melville visits England and the Continent (to 1850).
  • 1850 – August, meets Nathaniel Hawthorne; buys a farm he names Arrowhead, outside Pittsfield; moves there with family.
  • 1851 – Stanwix Melville, Melville’s second son, is born. Moby-Dick is published.
  • 1852 – Pierre is published.
  • 1853 – Elizabeth Melville, Melville’s first daughter, is born. Family and close friends begin to worry about his financial insecurity and intermittent depression, try unsuccessfully to obtain a consular appointment for him. Melville publishes short fiction and sketches in Putnam’s Monthly Magazine and Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (to 1856). Catherine Melville marries John Chipman Hoadley. Fire at Harper’s destroys many of Melville’s unsold books though not any stereotyped plates.
  • 1854 – Israel Potter is published serially in Putnam’s Monthly Magazine (to 1855).
  • 1855 – Melville suffers from rheumatism and then sciatica. Israel Potter is published in book form. Frances Melville, Melville’s second daughter, is born. Oliver Wendell Holmes examines Melville.
  • 1856 – The Piazza Tales are published. Travels in the British Isles, the Mediterranean region, and Asia Minor, on funds provided by father-inlaw (to 1857).
  • 1857 – The Confidence-Man is published.
  • 1858 – Melville lectures south to Tennessee and west to Ohio.
  • 1859 – Lectures south to Baltimore and west to Wisconsin; lectures in New York and Massachusetts (to 1860).
  • 1860 – Sails to San Francisco aboard ship captained by his brother Thomas, returns via Panamanian isthmus.
  • 1861 – Visits Washington, DC, in unsuccessful attempt to obtain consular appointment; suffering from rheumatism, spends winter in New York City with family (into 1862).
  • 1862 – Moves with family from Arrowhead into Pittsfield; is badly hurt in road accident.
  • 1863 – Moves With family to New York City.
  • 1864 – Visits Union Army camp in Virginia.
  • 1866 – Publishes five Civil War poems in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. Battle-Pieces are published in book form. Melville becomes inspector of customs at Port of New York (to 1885).
  • 1867 – Elizabeth Melville’s minister and family discuss a legal separation from Melville, who they fear is insane, but decide against it. Malcolm Melville commits suicide.
  • 1869 – Stanwix Melville begins years of unstable wandering.
  • 1872 – Fire destroys Elizabeth Melville’s Boston property.
  • 1876 – Clarel is published at uncle Peter Gansevoort’s expense.
  • 1878 – Elizabeth Melville’s aunt, Mrs. Martha Marett, dies and wills Elizabeth considerable money.
  • 1880 – Frances Melville marries Henry B. Thomas.
  • 1882 – Eleanor Melville Thomas, Melville’s first grandchild, is born.
  • 1886 – Stanwix Melville dies in San Francisco.
  • 1887 – Melville receives final royalty statement from Harper’s.
  • 1888 – Visits Bermuda, privately publishes John Marr.
  • 1891 – Privately publishes Timoleon, prepares Weeds and Wildings, and leaves it and Billy Budd in manuscript form; dies.

Biography, Photos, Quotes of Herman Melville