The Confidence-Man

Works of Melville

Book 7
谷月社
3
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A MUTE GOES ABOARD A BOAT ON THE MISSISSIPPI.

At sunrise on a first of April, there appeared, suddenly as Manco Capac at the lake Titicaca, a man in cream-colors, at the water-side in the city of St. Louis.

His cheek was fair, his chin downy, his hair flaxen, his hat a white fur one, with a long fleecy nap. He had neither trunk, valise, carpet-bag, nor parcel. No porter followed him. He was unaccompanied by friends. From the shrugged shoulders, titters, whispers, wonderings of the crowd, it was plain that he was, in the extremest sense of the word, a stranger.

In the same moment with his advent, he stepped aboard the favorite steamer Fidèle, on the point of starting for New Orleans. Stared at, but unsaluted, with the air of one neither courting nor shunning regard, but evenly pursuing the path of duty, lead it through solitudes or cities, he held on his way along the lower deck until he chanced to come to a placard nigh the captain's office, offering a reward for the capture of a mysterious impostor, supposed to have recently arrived from the East; quite an original genius in his vocation, as would appear, though wherein his originality consisted was not clearly given; but what purported to be a careful description of his person followed.

As if it had been a theatre-bill, crowds were gathered about the announcement, and among them certain chevaliers, whose eyes, it was plain, were on the capitals, or, at least, earnestly seeking sight of them from behind intervening coats; but as for their fingers, they were enveloped in some myth; though, during a chance interval, one of these chevaliers somewhat showed his hand in purchasing from another chevalier, ex-officio a peddler of money-belts, one of his popular safe-guards, while another peddler, who was still another versatile chevalier, hawked, in the thick of the throng, the lives of Measan, the bandit of Ohio, Murrel, the pirate of the Mississippi, and the brothers Harpe, the Thugs of the Green River country, in Kentucky—creatures, with others of the sort, one and all exterminated at the time, and for the most part, like the hunted generations of wolves in the same regions, leaving comparatively few successors; which would seem cause for unalloyed gratulation, and is such to all except those who think that in new countries, where the wolves are killed off, the foxes increase.
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About the author

Works of Melville
Herman Melville (August 1, 1819 – September 28, 1891) was an American novelist, short story writer, and poet from the American Renaissance period. Most of his writings were published between 1846 and 1857. Best known for his sea adventure Typee (1846) and his whaling novel Moby-Dick (1851), he was almost forgotten during the last thirty years of his life. Melville's writing draws on his experience at sea as a common sailor, exploration of literature and philosophy, and engagement in the contradictions of American society in a period of rapid change. The main characteristic of his style is probably pervasive allusion, reflecting his written sources. Melville's way of adapting what he read for his own new purposes, scholar Stanley T. Williams wrote, "was a transforming power comparable to Shakespeare's".

Born in New York City as the third child of a merchant in French dry-goods, Melville ended his formal education abruptly after his father died in 1832, shortly after bankruptcy left the family in financial straits. Melville briefly became a schoolteacher before he took to sea in 1839. This voyage to Liverpool as a common sailor on a merchant ship became the basis for his fourth book, Redburn (1849). In late December 1840 he signed up aboard the Acushnet for his first whaling voyage, but jumped ship eighteen months later in the Marquesas Islands. His first book, Typee (1846), a fictionalized account of his life among the natives there, became such a success that he worked up a sequel, Omoo (1847). The same year Melville married Elizabeth Knapp Shaw; their four children were born between 1849 and 1855.

In August 1850, Melville moved his family to a farm near Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he established a profound but short-lived friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne. Moby-Dick was published in 1851 to mixed reviews, but proved a commercial failure. Less than a year later, Melville's career as a popular author effectively ended with the cool reception of Pierre. The next years he turned to writing short fiction for magazines, such as "Bartleby, the Scrivener" and "Benito Cereno." After the serialized novel Israel Potter was published as a book in 1855, the short stories were collected in 1856 as The Piazza Tales. In 1857, Melville voyaged to England and the Near East; twenty years later, he worked his experience in Egypt and Palestine into an epic poem, Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land (1876). In 1857 he published The Confidence-Man, his last prose work during his lifetime. Having secured a position as Customs Inspector, he moved to New York. He turned to poetry, the first example of which is his poetic reflection on the moral questions of the Civil War, Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866).

In 1867 his oldest child, Malcolm, died at home from a self-inflicted gunshot. In 1886 Melville retired as Customs Inspector and privately published two volumes of poetry. During the last years of his life, he returned to prose again and worked on Billy Budd, Sailor. Left unfinished at his death, it was eventually published in 1924; it was adapted as a Broadway stage play and as an English opera in 1951, and a decade later as a film. Melville's death in 1891 from cardiovascular disease subdued the reviving interest in him. The centennial in 1919 of his birth was near the starting point of the "Melville Revival," as scholars returned to his work and life, and Melville's writings have been appreciated as world classics.

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Additional Information

Publisher
谷月社
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Published on
Dec 28, 2015
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Pages
238
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Action & Adventure
Fiction / Literary
Literary Collections / American / General
Literary Collections / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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See entire series

Book 9

THE JACKET.

It was not a very white jacket, but white enough, in all conscience, as the sequel will show.

The way I came by it was this.

When our frigate lay in Callao, on the coast of Peru—her last harbour in the Pacific—I found myself without a grego, or sailor's surtout; and as, toward the end of a three years' cruise, no pea-jackets could be had from the purser's steward: and being bound for Cape Horn, some sort of a substitute was indispensable; I employed myself, for several days, in manufacturing an outlandish garment of my own devising, to shelter me from the boisterous weather we were so soon to encounter.

It was nothing more than a white duck frock, or rather shirt: which, laying on deck, I folded double at the bosom, and by then making a continuation of the slit there, opened it lengthwise—much as you would cut a leaf in the last new novel. The gash being made, a metamorphosis took place, transcending any related by Ovid. For, presto! the shirt was a coat!—a strange-looking coat, to be sure; of a Quakerish amplitude about the skirts; with an infirm, tumble-down collar; and a clumsy fullness about the wristbands; and white, yea, white as a shroud. And my shroud it afterward came very near proving, as he who reads further will find.

But, bless me, my friend, what sort of a summer jacket is this, in which to weather Cape Horn? A very tasty, and beautiful white linen garment it may have seemed; but then, people almost universally sport their linen next to their skin.

Book 5

MY RECEPTION ABOARD

IT WAS the middle of a bright tropical afternoon that we made good our escape from the bay. The vessel we sought lay with her main-topsail aback about a league from the land, and was the only object that broke the broad expanse of the ocean.

On approaching, she turned out to be a small, slatternly-looking craft, her hull and spars a dingy black, rigging all slack and bleached nearly white, and everything denoting an ill state of affairs aboard. The four boats hanging from her sides proclaimed her a whaler. Leaning carelessly over the bulwarks were the sailors, wild, haggard-looking fellows in Scotch caps and faded blue frocks; some of them with cheeks of a mottled bronze, to which sickness soon changes the rich berry-brown of a seaman's complexion in the tropics.

On the quarter-deck was one whom I took for the chief mate. He wore a broad-brimmed Panama hat, and his spy-glass was levelled as we advanced.

When we came alongside, a low cry ran fore and aft the deck, and everybody gazed at us with inquiring eyes. And well they might. To say nothing of the savage boat's crew, panting with excitement, all gesture and vociferation, my own appearance was calculated to excite curiosity. A robe of the native cloth was thrown over my shoulders, my hair and beard were uncut, and I betrayed other evidences of my recent adventure. Immediately on gaining the deck, they beset me on all sides with questions, the half of which I could not answer, so incessantly were they put.

As an instance of the curious coincidences which often befall the sailor, I must here mention that two countenances before me were familiar. One was that of an old man-of-war's-man, whose acquaintance I had made in Rio de Janeiro, at which place touched the ship in which I sailed from home. The other was a young man whom, four years previous, I had frequently met in a sailor boarding-house in Liverpool. I remembered parting with him at Prince's Dock Gates, in the midst of a swarm of police-officers, trackmen, stevedores, beggars, and the like. And here we were again:—years had rolled by, many a league of ocean had been traversed, and we were thrown together under circumstances which almost made me doubt my own existence.

But a few moments passed ere I was sent for into the cabin by the captain.

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