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Redburn: His First Voyage, Etc.

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  526 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
Title: Redburn: his First Voyage, etc.Publisher: British Library, Historical Print EditionsThe British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom. It is one of the world's largest research libraries holding over 150 million items in all known languages and formats: books, journals, newspapers, sound recordings, patents, maps, stamps, prints and much more. Its co ...more
Paperback, 658 pages
Published March 17th 2011 by British Library, Historical Print Editions (first published 1849)
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Jan 02, 2013 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Melville is one of the writers I 'saved for later'. I wanted to be able to crack open the occasional unread heavy hitter. It was a risky move. Anything goes wrong now, I will never read 'Moby Dick', and if that car in St-Lazare had driven rather than skidded into my bike back in '04, I would never have read 'Moby Dick' or 'Redburn'. That would be a pity. I would have missed watching Wellingborough, cringe green at the start, learn his ropes. It is complicated, physically taxing work that Melvill ...more
Sep 02, 2013 Darwin8u rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
“For the scene of suffering is a scene of joy when the suffering is past; and the silent reminiscence of hardships departed is sweeter than the presence of delight.”
― Herman Melville, Redburn


It must be awful as a writer to dash off a novel for money or tobacco in a couple of weeks and have it praised, but see your earlier serious novel (Mardi) panned, and your later novel (Moby-Dick) under-appreciated until years after your death. That is the genius of a select group of writers -- they are des
Half way through this, young Redburn having arrived in Liverpool after his first sea voyage, from New York. Melville, of course, is wonderful at evoking sea journeys and it goes without saying that he imbues his descriptions with the allegorical and the transcendent. Here, by distancing the absent narrator who heas each chapter in the third person, there is delightful humour and irony at the expense of the growing, often so priggish, sailor. He cannot be other than who he is, and his own map of ...more
B.R. Sanders
Mar 09, 2013 B.R. Sanders rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
I would be lying if I didn't admit that I am a Melville nerd. I am a big enough Melville nerd that I have the last line of "Bartleby the Scrivener" tattooed on my arm. I am a big enough nerd that reading Moby Dick wasn't enough for me--I followed it up with Redburn.

Here's the thing: Redburn is an early effort that's passable in its own right, but really doesn't prepare you for the genius gamechanger it's laying the groundwork for. You just don't see anything like Moby Dick coming based on Redbur
Feb 26, 2017 Connor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been thinking a lot more about Redburn today. The turn of Redburn from naive sailor on his journey to England into a seasoned sailor on his return, paralleled by Bolton who is more or less a copy of Redburn who falls for the same mistakes he does, is a really neat structure for a novel, especially w/ the narrative voice being an old sailor who laughs at his younger self.

Seems like one of the big themes is also indifference; the sailors are indifferent to Redburn's suffering, the people are
Jerry M
Apr 13, 2017 Jerry M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very nice book. It is a coming of age story loosely based on a real voyage he took in 1839, though the book sets the story about 1848. Redburn is a young man from a formerly well-to-do family who needs to earn his keep and he chooses to go to sea as a common sailor in a merchantman called 'The Highlander'. We learn quite a lot about how life is for the beginner. Redburn signs on as a 'boy', the lowest form of seaman. His age is never specified but he seems to be about 17-18 years of ag ...more
Matt B.
Mar 05, 2009 Matt B. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit more readable still than Melville's first three books, but lacking the high flights of metaphor in his later works, Redburn is an interesting American bildungsroman in the 'coming of age' genre. Melville did not rise to the level of Huckleberry Finn (or anywhere close), but the novel holds interest for Melville scholars for its narrative structure and its (likely) autobiographical elements.

As in Moby Dick, the narrator in Redburn is both a first-person teller of the tale, and an older, sel
Aug 23, 2010 April rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
one of the many amazing passages in redburn about learning the sailor language (check out the semicolon action!):

"It is really wonderful how many names there are in the world. There is no counting the names, that surgeons and anatomists give to the various parts of the human body; which, indeed, is something like a ship; its bones being the stiff standing-rigging, and the sinews the small running ropes, that manage all the motions.
I wonder whether mankind could not get along without all these
Nov 01, 2007 Victoria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: up-all-night
I loved this story and couldn't stop turning the pages. I felt like I actually got to know the main character and was alongside him on his travels.
Sep 18, 2011 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 19th-c-american
One of Melville's "cakes and ale" books (along with White Jacket), and one of his best despite the author's negative label. Melville seemed perturbed about the reception of Mardi, and felt that the sap-headed public only wanted travel-oriented tales of the seas. Unwittingly, he spun to very well-written books that are something more than cakes and ale--something more than what Typee and Omoo could ever be. In Redburn and White Jacket Melville touches upon his philosophical touchstones in wyas mo ...more
Jun 19, 2014 Sergio rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Redburn" is a fictional narrative based on Melville's own experience, young boy's first voyage into the hostile world, and the feeling is that of reading his personal journal.
Of course, Melville's Moby-Dick, great in its theme and style is a brighter sun to me. Nevertheless, "Redburn" has the same voice and passion. I enjoyed the book.

The title of this book totally isn't Moby Dick. It seems like a shame that for so many, the fact that this book is not Moby Dick seems to be Redburn's most egregious error. Just pretend someone else wrote it and it totally becomes a good book, like MAGIC!!!11

I'm not really down for Moby Dick 2: A Fish to Kill, anyway.
gabriel henderson
good old herman. this was written before "moby dick," (i believe) and is not quite so elloquent, but melville still has some beautiful passages tucked in there. as with "moby dick," there are a few long dry chapters that you will have to endure.
Jan 03, 2015 Angela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Redburn is returning to the wonder of Herman Melville without having to drag around the epic that is Moby Dick. After I'd attended the Moby Marathon Reading, I absolutely had to read Melville again. And this one just happened to be sitting on my shelf unread.

Redburn is charming. He'd determined to take his first voyage, and boards the Highlander with his hand-me-down hunting coat and no earthly idea what he's getting into. It doesn't take long for him to hate being a sailor. And then he loves it
Scott Brennan
This novel is filled with Melville's preliminary experimentations with nonfiction and auto-fiction he would fully realize in the cytology and technical seafaring chapters of Moby-Dick. In many ways, Redburn seems an extended sketch in preparation for the masterwork to come. We see how Ahab comes out of the creepy, charismatic, evil, invalid sailor, Jackson, and how Queequeg rises out of the androgynous Harry Bolton. Redburn, the first-person narrator, confesses he is "a sort of Ishmael" amongst ...more
Corinne  E. Blackmer
Redburn: His First Voyage, Being the Sailor-Boy, Confessions and Reminiscences of the Son-of-a-Gentleman, In the Merchant Service
Redburn Wellingborough, a young man who idealizes his Revolutionary War era father, decides to go to sea, leaving his bereaved mother and sister and taking with him a journal written by his father that he regards as sacrosanct. The moment he leaves home, however, he is ridiculed for his antique clothing, and we become aware that we are in the Jackson Era, during which
Mark Stephenson
Jan 02, 2014 Mark Stephenson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wellingborough Redburn comes from a large and illustrious New York mercantile family which has recently become impoverished because of the bankruptcy and death of his father. Needing to support himself, he decides to find employment where employment is available - the sea. This novel, like Melville's earlier Typee and Omoo, is a sort of fictionalized memoir based upon his own experiences at sea - this time his first voyage in 1839. This was not aboard a whaling ship but on a merchant vessel carr ...more
Aug 03, 2008 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This shoddy number shows that Melville wasn't good at writing for money. It's about a well-mannered lad down on his luck who becomes a sailor and has to learn the hard way how to be a sailor. Then it's about Liverpool, with meanandering passages about the mean lives therein—sort of like Dickens without the rich characters. Then it's back to the ship, but with the addition of some new sailors, one with womanly eyes and another with a liquid singing voice; much of the remainder of the book focuses ...more
Tyler Jones
Jun 13, 2015 Tyler Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-sea-the-sea
Much less daunting than Moby Dick, this is a great yarn that swings between moments of comedy and tragedy. A cast of memorable characters that includes a really evil old sailor named Jackson who would have been right at home in Blood Meridian. I would recommend it to those who have tried the one about the whale, but just couldn't get over the humpback. (Sorry. I couldn't help myself.) This is a great introduction to Melville; much meatier than Typee, but still has enough propulsive plot to keep ...more
Becky Sharp
Aug 24, 2015 Becky Sharp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Se nota que es una novela con fuertes dosis autobiográficas. La primera mitad me ha parecido sublime, pues habla del mar con la pasión de los que realmente han vivido allí, y aún así huye de todo romanticismo e idealismo sobre la vida de los marineros, trata las condiciones precarias en las que trabajaban, la mala calidad de la comida, los malos modos de los marineros y su inquina hacia el más débil.
Una vez el barco llega a Liverpool confieso que me pareció estar leyendo una novela diferente, a
May 22, 2013 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An amazingly good book. About Melville's first voyage to sea...done with wit and an incredible amount of detail about "how it was." There's a fair amount of philosophizing, 99% of which shows Melville to be a modern thinker, e.g. why shouldn't a black man be able to walk with a white woman as they do in England. Most of his comments skewer our foibles as people and a nation.

And there were very few tedious areas (which unfortunately stick out in my memory of Moby Dick so much, that I was quite s
Feb 21, 2015 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
4 stars only on the "Melville Scale". For almost anyone else it would be a 5. It's a wonderful book. Funny, warm, insightful. The narrator here is nicely complex, seeing the world from the perspective of a boy on his first voyage from home, yet filtered through the more worldly wise voice of a much older man looking back at his youth.

This novel also features some of Melville's most emotionally moving scenes, including Chapter 37's heartbreaking lament for those ground up in the gears of Capital
Oct 29, 2013 Mat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
great book by Melville. all the typical Melvillean trademarks are here - story set on the sea, short chapters, slightly difficult vocabulary, singular style of description.

great plot and unforgettable characters. Harry Bolton is a prima donna spoiled bourgeois young gentleman who suffers from extreme mood swings. Captain Riga was the unscrupulous captain and the author is the greenhorn new ship sign-up.
Written in the same year, i also noticed many similarities in poetic style between Redburn and
Brian S
Dec 14, 2015 Brian S rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Far from the second class work it is sometimes denoted as, Redburn is both a run-up to Moby Dick and a masterpiece in its own regard. If you just looked at it as a travel memoir it would be good enough, but it is more. The narrator’s ruminations and observations add to the fascinating documentation of the lives of sailors and others who find themselves about the sea in the mid 19th century. A delight to read.
Richard Epstein
You'll know I was once a serious student of literature when I tell you I've read both Redburn and Israel Potter. I couldn't enjoy them, of course; no one could do that; but I read them through and made fatuous notes in the margins.

How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle. Today I miss Elmore Leonard far more than Melville and would rather consider Dutch's idea of a confidence man than Herman's.
Nov 04, 2009 Teddie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The novel he wrote just before Moby Dick, Melville does a good deal of describing the characters of sailors and the general milieu of Liverpool circa 1840. But if you're looking for a plot, there's none: he gets on a ship, sails to Liverpool, meets some guy who sucks at sailing, and sails back to New York. I only liked it for the historical detail and colorful dialog.
Brian Gordon
Feb 01, 2015 Brian Gordon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 01, 2011 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reads like a trial run for Moby Dick, but an excellent salty story. Definitely a good one if you like tall ship sailing and/or are interested in the period.

If you liked this, make sure to follow me on Goodreads for more reviews!
Stuart Kenny
Jun 28, 2014 Stuart Kenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm surprised how much I enjoyed this book--I couldn't put it down! Nothing happens--it's just a series of vignettes. And yet, it was very compelling. I felt it was sort of a prequel to Moby Dick--setting the stage, sketching the characters, etc. It works better than Mardi because the symbolism isn't heavy-handed. Because it feels so natural, the subtle symbolism works.
Dec 18, 2007 Davy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sea
Although I don't consider this to be either my favorite Melville novel or my favorite seafaring adventure, it DOES happen to be the book I was reading when I realized how much I truly do love Melville novels and seafaring adventures.
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Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. His first two books gained much attention, though they were not bestsellers, and his popularity declined precipitously only a few years later. By the time of his death he had been almost completely forgotten, but his longest novel, Moby-Dick — largely considered a failure during his lifetime, and most responsible for ...more
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“At length I fell asleep, with the volume in my hand; and never slept so sound before” 9 likes
“For the scene of suffering is a scene of joy when the suffering is past; and the silent reminiscence of hardships departed is sweeter than the presence of delight.” 5 likes
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