Written during the last years of Melville's life, a quarter of a century after his main work, by which his reputation was established, had been completed; and it was not published until 1924, when it was included in the limited Standard Edition. In the opinion of many critics it is Melville's most significant work after Moby Dick, and one of the most remarkable short novels ever written.
uld this well have been otherwise. Cast in a mould peculiar to the finest physical examples of those Englishmen in whom the Saxon strain would seem not at all to partake of any Norman or other admixture, he showed in face that humane look of reposeful good nature which the Greek sculptor in some instances gave to his heroic strong man, Hercules. But this again was subtly modified by another and pervasive quality. The ear, small and shapely, the arch of the foot, the curve in mouth and nostril, even the indurated hand dyed to the orange-tawny of the toucan's bill, a hand telling alike of the halyards and tar-bucket; but, above all, something in the mobile expression, and every chance attitude and movement, something suggestive of a mother eminently favored by Love and the Graces; all this strangely indicated a lineage in direct contradiction to his lot. The mysteriousness here became less mysterious through a matter- of-fact elicited when Billy, at the capstan, was being formally mustered into the service. Ask