"and that even Moby Dick bombed in Melville's lifetime."
Cover of first edition
Public DomainCover of first edition Credit: Breinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Herman Melville's Moby-Dick tells the story of the roaming whaler Ishmael and his obsessive quest to find and destroy a whale he believes to represent all evil. It recieved mixed reviews upon its release in 1851, the pervading critical fault being a lack of understanding of what is a very sophisticated text. One prominent publication described it as an 'ill-compounded mixture of romance and matter-of-fact.' Unlike the furious Dermot, Melville expected and accepted such criticism. In a letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne he wrote '...for not one man in five cycles, who is wise, will expect appreciative recognition from his fellows, or any one of them. Appreciation! Recognition! Is Jove appreciated?' Posthumously the novel came to be regarded by many as the Great American Novel. In interview Mitchell explains that his 'character Ewing was (pretty obviously) Melville, but with shorter sentences.' Not so obvious, perhaps, to some of us...