Herman Melville is one of the most renowned authors in American literature, and his work continues to influence readers to this day. His writings are known for being thought-provoking and full of insight, and many of his quotes have become some of the most beloved literary passages. Throughout his career, Melville wrote an impressive amount of fiction and non-fiction works that often commented on societal issues.
About Herman Melville
Herman Melville, an American novelist, and poet were born on August 1st, 1819, in New York City. His father was a prosperous merchant who lost his fortune when Herman was twelve. As a result of his father’s financial misfortunes, Melville had to leave school and search for work at age thirteen.
He worked as a bank clerk and later became a teacher for two years in upstate New York before joining the crew of a whaling ship in 1841. Melville’s first novel Typee (1846), which told the story of his adventures among Polynesian islanders during this voyage, made him famous overnight.
He went on to write several other novels including Moby Dick (1851) which has become one of the most enduring works of world literature. He wrote numerous works throughout his life including Typee (1846), Omoo (1847), and White-Jacket (1850).
Best Herman Melville Quotes
Herman Melville is a celebrated writer of the 19th century, renowned for his groundbreaking novels. In addition to his timeless works of literature, he is also known for his thought-provoking and often profound quotes. Here are some of the best Herman Melville quotes that capture his wisdom and insight into the human condition.
“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.”
Today’s world is one of ever-increasing competition, where it is often tempting to take the easy route and imitate successful ideas or strategies. However, in pursuit of success, it is essential to remember that originality can be a more rewarding path than imitation. The statement “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation” demonstrates this concept perfectly.
“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”
“A smile is the chosen vehicle of all ambiguities.”
“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”
“It is not down on any map; true places never are.”
“I do not think I have any uncharitable prejudice against the rattlesnake, still, I should not like to be one.”
“Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunk Christian.”
“As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.”
“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.”
“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”
“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.”
“I try all things, I achieve what I can.”
“I would prefer not to.”
“Ignorance is the parent of fear.”
Ignorance is often a root cause of fear. Fear can be paralyzing, and can prevent us from doing things that could be beneficial to our lives. It can also stop us from forming meaningful relationships or pursuing our dreams. To better understand why we have fear, it is important to look at the role that ignorance plays in this emotion. This Quote aims to explore how ignorance is the parent of fear, and what steps we can take to overcome it.
“Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began. Consider all this; and then turn to the green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man, there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!”
“Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.”
“…to the last, I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.”
“For there is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.”
“and Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.”
“There is a wisdom that is woe, but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he forever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.”
“A man thinks that by mouthing hard words, he understands hard things.”
“Human madness is oftentimes a cunning and most feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into some still subtler form.”
“I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.”
“Think not, is my eleventh commandment; and sleep when you can, is my twelfth.”
“Who in the rainbow can draw the line where the violet tint ends and the orange tint begins? Distinctly we see the difference of the colors, but where exactly does the one first blendingly enter into the other? So with sanity and insanity.”
“To enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more. For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.”
“Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death. Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air. Me thinks my body is but the lees of my better being. In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is not me.”
“It is the easiest thing in the world for a man to look as if he had a great secret in him.”
“See how elastic our prejudices grow when once love comes to bend them.”
Love is a powerful force, capable of transforming us in ways we may have never previously imagined. Our preconceived notions and prejudices are not exempt from the power of love; quite the contrary, it is often love that has the capacity to transform these views and open our minds to new ways of thinking. we will examine how the arrival of love can be a powerful agent for change, capable of bending and reshaping our preconceived notions and prejudices.
1819-1891. Widely known as the “man who lived among the cannibals,” Herman Melville was one of the most famous Dark Romantic writers of the 19th century.
Herman Melville developed debilitating physical and psychiatric disorders in middle age.
Dark Romantics focus on human fallibility, self-destruction, judgment, and punishment, as well as the psychological effects of guilt and sin.
Let’s Wind Up
Herman Melville’s words of wisdom are timeless and can be employed to guide us through any situation. His quotes remind us that life is a journey to be embraced, no matter how difficult the obstacles are.
They also remind us that our dreams are achievable if we work hard and remain focused on our goals. Melville’s writing style was unique and his ability to capture the complexity of human emotion was remarkable.