Based on Melville's actual experiences after having jumped ship in the Marquesas Islands, this work was extremely popular, and provoked disbelief among its readers until the events it described were corroborated by Melville's fellow castaway, Richard Greene. While the book is based on fact, Typee is properly considered a work of fiction: the three week stay on which the author based his story is extended to four months, and Melville drew extensively on contemporary accounts by Pacific explorers to add cultural detail to what might otherwise have been a straightforward story of escape, capture and re-escape.
ll the world on his mountain-pile of history and romance. Longfellow, I believe, is not yet at the Oxbow, else the winged horse would neigh at him. But here in Lenox I should find our most truthful novelist [Miss Sedgwick], who has made the scenery and life of Berkshire all her own. On the hither side of Pittsfield sits Herman Melville, shaping out the gigantic conception of his 'White Whale,' while the gigantic shadow of Greylock looms upon him from his study window. Another bound of my flying steed would bring me to the door of Holmes, whom I mention last, because Pegasus would certainly unseat me the next minute, and claim the poet as his rider.'
While at Pittsfield, Mr. Melville was induced to enter the lecture field. From 1857 to 1860 he filled many engagements in the lyceums, chiefly speaking of his adventures in the South Seas. He lectured in cities as widely apart as Montreal, Chicago, Baltimore, and San Francisco, sailing to the last-named place in 1860, by way of Cape Horn, on the Meteor, com