Alcohol in the Writings of Herman Melville

“The Ever-Devilish God of Grog”

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About the Book

In early to mid-19th century America, there were growing debates concerning the social acceptability of alcohol and its consumption. Temperance reformers publicly decried the evils of liquor, and America’s greatest authors began to write works of temperance fiction, stories that urged Americans to refrain from imbibing.
Herman Melville was born in an era when drunkenness was part of daily life for American men but came of age at a time when the temperance movement had gained social and literary momentum.
This first full-length analysis of alcohol and intoxication in Melville’s novels, short fiction and poetry shows how he entered the debate in the latter half of the 19th century. Throughout his work he cautions readers to avoid alcohol and consistently illustrates negative outcomes of drinking.

About the Author(s)

Corey Evan Thompson teaches with the Akwesasne Mohawk Board of Education near Cornwall, Ontario. He has also taught at the University of Windsor, St. Clair College, and Canadore College, and he has published more than a dozen articles on American, Canadian, and Victorian literature in scholarly journals.

Bibliographic Details

Corey Evan Thompson
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 216
Bibliographic Info: appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9960-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2120-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
Introduction 5
1. Melville’s Temperance Fiction 17
2. The Prodromal Phase of Alcoholism 30
3. Melville’s Supposedly Social Drinkers 43
4. Unscrupulous Sippers, Smugglers and Servers 52
5. Alcohol, Deception and Melville’s Confidence Men 64
6. Loss of Rank, Loss of Reputation 79
7. Alcohol, Ill Health and Penury 88
8. Of Grog and Monsters: Melville’s Addiction Narratives 101
9. Melville’s Dark Temperance 111
Conclusion 120
Afterword: Melville and the Bottle 136
Appendix: A Concordance of Melville’s Characters and Alcohol 151
Chapter Notes 163
Bibliography 189
Index 199

Book Reviews & Awards

“Thompson’s Alcohol in the Writings of Herman Melville stands as a fascinating and thorough treatment of one of the most neglected subjects in Melville criticism. Thompson makes a powerful case for the ubiquity of alcohol in Melville’s writing and life. With indefatigable research and a sharp critical eye, Thompson has tracked down seemingly every reference and innuendo to alcohol and its social, cultural, and literary effects in Melville. Particularly impressive is his wise approach to “The Melville Question”…whether or not Melville was an alcoholic…by way of focusing on the function of alcohol and alcoholics within his writings, a far more interesting endeavor than engaging it directly and venturing forth a tentative answer. Instead Thompson immerses us in the materials readily available and abundant, yet surprisingly under discussed, of Melville’s own texts. Herein, we discover a richly nuanced study that refuses easy answers to the complex place of alcohol within his writings.”—David Dowling, University of Iowa.