The Confidence-Man (1857) is a novel by American writer Herman Melville. After the failure of his novels Moby-Dick (1851) and Pierre: or, The Ambiguities (1852), Melville struggled to find a publisher who would accept his work. When it was published, The Confidence-Man was seen as a flawed, unnecessarily complicated novel, and beyond several collections of poetry, it all but ended Melville’s career as a professional writer. When Melville’s work was reappraised in the 1920s, however, scholars recognized his status as one of nineteenth century America’s finest literary voices. A keen visionary, Melville’s satirical outlook and pessimistic sense of American morality drive the fragmented narrative of The Confidence-Man, his final, most complicated, and perhaps most rewarding novel.
In St. Louis, a mute man dressed in cream colored clothes boards a riverboat bound for New Orleans. On the journey down the Mississippi, a cast of characters at once bizarre and commonplace passes the time playing cards, engaging in conversation, and attempting to gain one another’s trust. A crippled African American beggar faces disbelief when he speaks of his life on the streets. A young and naïve student idolizes wealthy men and hopes to make a fortune by investing in stocks. A man in a gray suit asks his fellow passengers to donate to a suspicious charity. As the boat sails on, it becomes increasingly clear that while confidence is easily purchased, honesty remains the rarest of commodities. Set and published on April Fool’s Day, The Confidence-Man is a satire of American life that explores with unsparing pessimism themes of religion, identity, morality, and the role of money in everyday life.
With a beautifully designed cover and professionally typeset manuscript, this edition of Herman Melville’s The Confidence-Man is a classic of American literature reimagined for modern readers.
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