The authoritative edition of Melville's only historical novel
Based on the life of an actual soldier who claimed to have fought at Bunker Hill, Israel Potter is unique among Herman Melville's books: a novel in the guise of a biography. In telling the story of Israel Potter's fall from Revolutionary War hero to peddler on the streets of London, where he obtained a livelihood by crying "Old Chairs to Mend," Melville alternated between invented scenes and historical episodes, granting cameos to such famous men of the era as Benjamin Franklin (Potter may have been his secret courier) and John Paul Jones, and providing a portrait of the American Revolution as the rollicking adventure and violent series of events that it really was.
This edition of Israel Potter, which reproduces the definitive text, includes selections from Potter's autobiography, Life and Remarkable Adventures of Israel R. Potter, the basis for Melville's novel.
Published in 1855, Melville's fictional biography is his only historical novel. It tells the story of Israel Potter, a Revolutionary War hero and Bunker Hill survivor who ultimately ends up on the streets of London. Melville mixes fact with fiction and real characters (Ben Franklin) with invented ones.