Good News in History, November 14

Good News in History, November 14

Moby Dick illustration by A. Burnham Shute


165 years ago today, Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick was published. With one of the most famous opening lines in literature, “Call me Ishmael,” a sailor tells the story of the obsessive quest of Captain Ahab for revenge on a white whale that bit off the whaler’s leg at the knee. The novel was a commercial failure, and out of print at the time of the author’s death in 1891, but during the 20th century, it earned a reputation as a Great American Novel.  (1851)

“The product of a year and a half of writing, the book draws on Melville’s experience at sea, on his reading in whaling literature, and on literary inspirations such as Shakespeare and the Bible. The white whale is modeled on the notoriously hard to catch actual albino whale Mocha Dick, and the ending is based on the sinking of the whaler Essex by a whale. The detailed and realistic descriptions of whale hunting and of extracting whale oil, as well as life aboard ship among a culturally diverse crew, are mixed with exploration of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of God. In addition to narrative prose, Melville uses styles and literary devices ranging from songs, poetry, and catalogs to Shakespearean stage directions, soliloquies, and asides.” (Wikipedia)

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • Journalist Nellie Bly began her successful Jules Verne-inspired attempt to travel around the world in 80 days; she succeeded — and needed only 72 (1889)
  • Czechoslovakia became a republic (1918)
  • The BBC, British Broadcasting Company, began radio broadcasts (1922)
  • President Roosevelt declared the Philippines to be a free territory (1935)
  • Lech Wałęsa, the leader of Poland’s outlawed Solidarity movement, was released after eleven months of internment near the Soviet border (1982)



And, on this day in 1840 Claude Monet, one of the founders of French Impressionist painting, was born in Paris. Beloved for his later works of lily ponds at his countryside home in Giverny, he exemplified the movement’s core value of expressing one’s perceptions of nature through broken color and rapid brushstrokes. The term “Impressionism” was derived from the title of his painting Impression, Sunrise, displayed in 1874 at the first exhibition mounted by the radical new school of artists. Look at dozens of his works on Wikipedia