Herman Melville was born to a merchant family in New York City in 1819. His father died suddenly in 1832, and Melville took jobs as a bank clerk, a farmhand and a teacher to make ends meet. In 1839, he embarked on the first in a series of sea voyages that would provide him with inspiration for his novels Typee (1846), Omoo (1847) and his great masterpiece, Moby-Dick (1851). Following poor sales and hostile reviews, Melville abandoned fiction writing in 1857, turning to poetry and a career as a customs inspector on the New York docks. He died in relative obscurity in 1891.