"Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges."
So wrote Melville of Billy Budd, Sailor, among the greatest of his works and, in its richness and ambiguity, among the most problematic. Outwardly a compelling narrative of events aboard a British man-of-war during the Napoleonic Wars, Billy Budd, Sailor is a nautical recasting of the Fall, a parable of good and evil, a meditation on justice and political governance, and a searching portrait of three extraordinary men.
The eight shorter tales included here establish Melville, with Hawthorne and Poe, as the greatest American story writer of his age. Several of the tales"Bartleby the Scrivener", "Benito Cereno", "The Encantadas", and "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids"are acknowledged masterpieces. All show Melville a master of irony, point-of-view, and tone whose fables ripple out in ever-increasing circles of meaning.
The texts of all the stories are reprinted from the most authoritative recent editions. This edition also includes the original source for "Benito Cereno".