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Israel Potter: His Fifty Years Of Exile

by Herman Melville

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The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
(in full Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile) Fictionalized story of an American who fought in the War of Independence and of his subsequent struggles for survival, by Herman Melville. Published serially in 1854-55 in Putnam's Monthly Magazine and in 1855 in book form, this short picaresque novel was based on a historical Israel Potter, whose autobiographical narrative Melville had read. Israel Potter lived a life of adventure, serving bravely as a regular soldier in the American Revolution. Later, he served under John Paul Jones in the new American navy and was a secret courier for Benjamin Franklin. In exile in Europe, Potter lived a poverty-stricken existence. Upon his return to the United States, his request for a pension was denied. He died forgotten and destitute. Melville turned Potter into a picaresque hero and embellished the facts of his life, satirizing his encounters with Franklin and adding a vignette about Ethan Allen.



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