Monday, November 14, 2016

5 Moby-Dick Facts

Moby-Dick: The Whale by Herman Melville was published 165 years ago in the United States on November 14, 1851. The book, about a sea captain obsessed with killing a white whale to the detriment of everything around him, is an American classic. Here are five facts about Moby-Dick (and yes, there is supposed to be a hyphen).

It was inspired by two whales

Much like Law & Order, Moby-Dick was ripped from the headlines. The first story was about a whale in the Pacific named Mocha-Dick that would come close to sailing vessels and at the slightest aggressive action would sink the ships. The second story came from 1820 when the ship Essex was sunk by a very aggressive and large whale, leaving the surviving crew stranded for months at sea.

It was written fairly fast

The novel was begun in 1850 and completed in 1851. Melville even rewrote the novel after talking with fellow author and friend Nathaniel Hawthorne. At over 200,000 words, that's a pretty quick pen Melville had.

The book is dedicated to Nathaniel Hawthorne

Melville and the Scarlet Letter author lived close to each other as Moby Dick was being completed. Hawthorne advised Melville on the novel, causing the massive rewrite before publication. Both authors gave each other's books glowing reviews.

The book was not a best seller

Selling only 3,175 copies in Melville's lifetime (he lived another 40 years after its publication) the novel marked the beginning of the end of Melville's writing career. He had been a successful author previous to Moby-Dick, but the white whale seemed to sink his prose and poetry alike until his death. It did not become popular until its reprint in 1891.

Starbucks Coffee is named from the book.

The creators of Starbucks originally wanted to name the coffee chain "Pequod" after the Ahab's ship, but changed their mind and named it after the ship's first mate instead.


11 Things You Might Not Know About 'Moby-Dick' - Mental Floss

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