Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile

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Romance by Melville, published in 1855. It is largely based on an anonymous Life and Remarkable Adventures of Israel Potter (1824).

Israel Potter, a New England boy, after youthful experiences as a farmer, surveyor, and peddler becomes a sailor on whaling ships. He joins the Revolutionary army in time to participate in the Battle of Bunker Hill, but is captured by the British and taken to England. There he escapes, goes to London as a laborer, is befriended by rebel agents, and joins them in secret activities. Traveling between London and Paris, he meets Horne Tooke, Franklin, and John Paul Jones, and, becoming a friend of the last, takes part in naval affairs, including the battle between the Bonhomme Richard and the Serapis. In England again, Israel is associated with Ethan Allen, flees to London in fear of apprehension, and becomes a workman again, marrying and living in alternate want and moderate plenty. Finally, 45 years after his departure, he returns to America, infirm and impoverished, to seek a pension. He is refused, dictates his memoirs, and dies in poverty.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Herman Melville (1819—1891) American novelist and short-story writer

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