Melville was born into a comfortably well-off merchant family in New York, but his father went bankrupt and insane, and died when he was 12 (other sources say 14), leaving his mother a widow with eight children. At 15 he was working, variously as bank clerk, farm laborer and teacher, before going to sea at 19 (or 18).
During a voyage in 1842 to the Marquesas in the South Pacific he and a friend jumped ship and for the next few years lived there among the Typee people, then "notorious cannibals." He was adopted by a chief and married his daughter, Pe'ue.
His experiences formed the background for his novel Typee (published 1846), but were generally believed to be fictional until a century later, when anthropologists working in the Marquesas found the entire incident corroborated in Typee oral history. Melville's other novels include Omoo, and Moby-Dick, often considered the finest novel ever written by an American.
To see local Adoption resources, please select a location (U.S. only):
Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.