Herman Melville Born in New York City, the son of New England merchant. He worked at odd jobs (clerk, garmhand, teacher) before sailing to the South Seas on the whaler Acushnet. He deserted his ship, lived among cannibals, mutinied on an Australian boat, then spent two years on an American boat returning to the U.S. He successfully romanticized these adventures, publishing seven novels in six years, including Moby Dick (1851), one of the masterworks of American fiction. His popularity waned, and by the time he died he was virtually forgotten. Billy Budd was his last great novel. As his writing declined, Melville sailed again, around Cape Horn to San Francisco on a clipper ship commanded by his brother.