Herman Melville (1819 - 1891) was an American novelist, short
story writer, essayist and poet, whose work
is often classified as part of the genre of dark romanticism. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick
and novella Billy Budd, the latter of which was published
said my smiling host, ‘what do you make of the Temple here, and the
sort of life we bachelors make out to live in it?’ ‘Sir,’ said
I, with a burst of admiring candor- ‘Sir, this is the very Paradise
Reviewed by Melissa Lee-Houghton
you are familiar with the work of Herman Melville, this short story
collection may seem tedious at times, with stories ambling very
slowly, though Melville writes with aplomb and conviction. His
characters, largely male-dominated, who are sinking in one way or
another and grasp at hope on their way down, are ineffably
Cock-a-doodle-doo! our character is suffering the strain of
poverty, and sees all around him its effects. While trudging through
the countryside he hears a cock crow louder than the rest and is
perfectly amazed by the tenacity of its call all through the day. He
becomes obsessed to the point of distraction by this bird whose owner
he eventually finds and offers money he can’t afford. It’s a
strange story, written with ecstatic reverie and reaches an
The Two Temples a man is thrown out of the church because he
is poor but finds solace in another country:
"Quickly was my
wandering mind- preternaturally affected by the sudden translation
from the desolate street to this bewildering and blazing spectacle-
arrested in its wanderings…"The man finds charity in an
unlikely place and again narrates a tale brimming with joy and
Paradise of Bachelors is a dense, gothic story of Templars of
London, all celibate bachelors. The narrator dines a great feast with
them one evening:
‘Well,’ said my smiling host, ‘what do you
make of the Temple here, and the sort of life we bachelors make out
to live in it?’ Melville’s
narratives are often punctured by such joviality that it’s hard not
to smile at his ecstatic exclamations and descriptions.
‘Sir,’ said I, with a burst of admiring candor-
‘Sir, this is the very Paradise of Bachelors!'
is a great narrator of place, and will describe a setting to its
perfection, be it uncanny, dream-like, beautiful or ruined. The
Tartarus of Maids is descriptive and takes the reader on a
journey that feels eerie, to a paper mill; the machine there is
almost personified as a mechanical beast. The workers are all "girls"
or unmarried women who toil nearly every day of the year in the mill.
The machine and the maids seem gothic and ethereal while Melville’s
main character describes the place a "Devil’s Dungeon,"
perhaps in sympathy to the ceaseless work of the women and their
difference to the Bachelors.
Sympathy and empathy are apparent in each of the characters he
creates. I think that in Melville’s world he wanted equality and to
create imaginative landscapes for his characters to live in and
reveal their inequalities, and their most noble traits. There
is scope for a new reader to enjoy these stories and grow accustomed
to Melville’s style, which is gregarious and full of zeal.
this particular edition, there is a bonus story by Alex Burrett, The
Beast Of Beddgelert, chosen as an introduction to the new author.
Already knowing the story, I was pleased there was a new slant in
this new version. It is easy to see how Burrett fits in nicely with
Melville, emphasizing every detail so that the reader does not get
carried away by the story’s surface qualities. The characters are
well developed, the descriptive prose arresting, and though a
well-told tale it was enjoyable to read through a new writer’s
from this collection in 42Opus