Israel Potter by Herman Melville


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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Israel Potter, by Herman Melville

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at

Title: Israel Potter

Author: Herman Melville

Release Date: March 20, 2005 [EBook #15422]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Dave Maddock, Mary Meehan and the PG Online
Distributed Proofreading Team.


His Fifty Years of Exile





TO HIS HIGHNESS THE Bunker-Hill Monument

Biography, in its purer form, confined to the ended lives of the true
and brave, may be held the fairest meed of human virtue--one given and
received in entire disinterestedness--since neither can the biographer
hope for acknowledgment from the subject, nor the subject at all avail
himself of the biographical distinction conferred.

Israel Potter well merits the present tribute--a private of Bunker Hill,
who for his faithful services was years ago promoted to a still deeper
privacy under the ground, with a posthumous pension, in default of any
during life, annually paid him by the spring in ever-new mosses and

I am the more encouraged to lay this performance at the feet of your
Highness, because, with a change in the grammatical person, it
preserves, almost as in a reprint, Israel Potter's autobiographical
story. Shortly after his return in infirm old age to his native land, a
little narrative of his adventures, forlornly published on sleazy gray
paper, appeared among the peddlers, written, probably, not by himself,
but taken down from his lips by another. But like the crutch-marks of
the cripple by the Beautiful Gate, this blurred record is now out of
print. From a tattered copy, rescued by the merest chance from the
rag-pickers, the present account has been drawn, which, with the
exception of some expansions, and additions of historic and personal
details, and one or two shiftings of scene, may, perhaps, be not unfitly
regarded something in the light of a dilapidated old tombstone

Well aware that in your Highness' eyes the merit of the story must be in
its general fidelity to the main drift of the original narrative, I
forbore anywhere to mitigate the hard fortunes of my hero; and
particularly towards the end, though sorely tempted, durst not
substitute for the allotment of Providence any artistic recompense of
poetical justice; so that no one can complain of the gloom of my closing
chapters more profoundly than myself.

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