Wide World of Quotes > Herman Melville Quotes


Herman Melville
American novelist and poet
(1819-91)



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Fame is an accident; merit a thing absolute.
-- Mardi (1849)

That Calvinistic sense of innate depravity and original sin from whose visitations, in some shape or other, no deeply thinking mind is always and wholly free.
-- Hawthorne and his Mosses (1850)

Genius, all over the world, stands hand in hand, and one shock of recognition runs the whole circle round.
-- Hawthorne and his Mosses (1850)

Call me Ishmael.
-- Moby Dick (1851), opening words

Meditation and water are wedded for ever.
-- Moby Dick (1851), ch. 1

Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.
-- Moby Dick (1851), ch. 3

Delight, -- top-gallant delight is to him, who acknowledges no law or lord, bt the Lord his God, and is oonly a patriot to heaven.
-- Moby Dick (1851), ch. 9

But when a man's religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive torment to him; and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to lodge in; then I think it high time to take that individual aside and argue the point with him.
-- Moby Dick (1851), ch. 17

A whaleship was my Yale College and my Harvard.
-- Moby Dick (1851), ch. 24

Old age is always wakeful; as if, he longer linked with life, the less man has to do with aught that looks like death.
-- Moby Dick (1851), ch. 29

This it is, that forever keeps God's true princes of the Empire from the world's hustings; and leaves the highest honours that this air can give, to those men who become famous more through their infinite inferiority to the choice hidden handful of the Divine Inert, than through their undoubted superiority over the dead level of the mass.
-- Moby Dick (1851), ch. 33

To produce a mighty book, you must produce a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.
-- Moby Dick (1851), ch. 104

For whatever is truly wondrous or fearful in man, never yet was put into words or books.
-- Moby Dick (1851), ch. 110


Aye, toil as we may, we all sleep at last on the field. Sleep? Aye, and rust amid greeness, as last year's scythes flung down, and left in the half-cut swathes.
-- Moby Dick (1851), ch. 132

To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.
-- Moby Dick (1851), ch. 104

Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale... from hell's heart I stab at thee.
-- Moby Dick (1851), ch. 135

I would prefer not to.
-- The Piazza Tales (1856), ‘Bartleby the Scrivener’

Those whom books will hurt will not be proof against events. Events, not books, should be forbid.
-- The Piazza Tales (1856), ‘The Encantadas’

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 one first blendingly enter into the other? So with sanity and insanity.
-- Billy Budd, Foretopman (first published 1924), ch. 21

There is nothing nameable but that some men will, or undertake to, do for pay.
-- Billy Budd, Foretopman (first published 1924), ch. 21


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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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