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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $15.50
  • January 2006
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-97927-5
  • 528 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

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The Confidence-Man

Norton Critical Editions

Second Edition


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Herman Melville (Author), Mark Niemeyer (Editor, Sorbonne), Hershel Parker (Editor, University of Delaware)


The text of The Confidence-Man reprinted here is again that of the first American edition (1857), slightly corrected.

The Second Edition features significantly expanded explanatory annotations, particularly of biblical allusions.

"Contemporary Reviews" includes nineteen commentaries on The Confidence-Man, eight of them new to the Second Edition. Better understood today are the concerted attacks on Melville by, especially, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Methodist reviewers.

A new section, "Biographical Overviews," embodies the transformation of knowledge about Melville’s life that has occurred over the last three decades. This section provides a wide range of readings of Melville’s life by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Dennis Marnon, and Hershel Parker, among others.

"Sources, Backgrounds, and Criticism" is thematically organized to inform readers about movements and social developments central to Melville’s America and to this novel, including utopias, cults, cure-alls, Transcendentalism, Indian hating, the Bible, and popular literature.

A Selected Bibliography is also included.




    The Text of The Confidence-Man

    1. A Note on the Text
    2. The River
    3. Melville’s Sources for Chapters 14 and 44 and His Revisions
    4. Elizabeth S. Foster – [The “Shock of Wit” in Melville’s Revisions of Chapter 14]
    5. Harrison Hayford – [Melville’s “Smoky” Revisions of Chapter 14]
    6. Tom Quirk – [“Sources for Chapters 14 and 44 in The Confidence-Man]

    Contemporary Reviews

    1. Anonymous – [A Sketchy Affair]
    2. Anonymous – [A “Ubiquitous” Rouge]
    3. Anonymous – [A Morality Enacted by Masqued Players]
    4. Anonymous – [Philosophy Brought “Into the Living World”]
    5. Anonymous – [Melville as “A Mediaeval Jester”]
    6. Anonymous – [Hardly “A Genuine Sketch of American Society”]
    7. Anonymous – [Ineffably Meaningless and Trashy]
    8. Anonymous – [Hard Reading]
    9. Anonymous – [The Hardest Nut to Crack]
    10. Anonymous – [A Connected Series of Dialogues]
    11. Anonymous – [Melville’s “Reckless Perversion of High Abilities”]
    12. Anonymous – [A Mass of Writing Undigested and Indigestible]
    13. Anonymous – [Melville as Excellent Master of the Ceremonies]
    14. Anonymous – [No Prospect of Any Good]
    15. Anonymous – [A Writer “Not in Love or Sympathy with His Kind”]
    16. Anonymous – [A Strange Book]
    17. Anonymous – [A “Picture of American Society”]
    18. Anonymous – [Melville as Keen and Bitter Observer]
    19. Anonymous – [A Dull and Dismally Monotonous Book]

    Biographical Overviews

    1. Hershel Parker – The Confidence-Man‘s Masquerade
    2. Johannes Dietrich Bergmann – From The Original Confidence Man
    3. Dennis Marnon – Old Major Melville and “This World’s Goods”
    4. Stephen D. Hoy – Melville’s Bubbles
    5. Hershel Parker – From Damned by Dollars
    6. Hershel Parker – “The Root of All Was a Friendly Loan”
    7. Hershel Parker – A Note on Melville’s Fascination with Criminals, Punishment, and Execution
    8. Jonathan A. Cook – Melville, the Classics, and The Confidence-Man
    9. Herman Melville (as Recorded by Evert A. Duyckinck) – [Melville’s After-Table Talk, October 1, 1856]
    10. Nathaniel Hawthorne – [With Melville on Terms of Sociability and Confidence]
    11. Hershel Parker – Melville as a Student of Aesthetics

    Backgrounds, Sources, and Criticism


    1. Hershel Parker – Delusions of a “Terrestrial Paradise”
    2. Herman Melville – [Who Is Happier: Polynesian Savage or Self-Complacent European?]
    3. Herman Melville – [Must Christianizing the Heathen Destroy the Heathen?]
    4. Herman Melville – From The Discourse of Alma
    5. Dr. John Wakefield Francis – [The Bostonian Heresy Invades Manhattan]
    6. Abraham Tucker – From Benevolence
    7. Herman Melville – From Chronometicals and Horologicals
    8. Orville Dewey – [The Minister’s Burden: Being Expected to Sympathize with the Afflicted]
    9. Herman Melville – [Why Sensitive People Should Not Let Themselves Feel Pity]
    10. Orville Dewey – [Poverty Not a Common Lot]
    11. Orville Dewey – [What Distresses the Poor: Artificial Wants]
    12. Herman Melville – [Why the Poor in the United States Suffer More Than the Poor Elsewhere]
    13. Orville Dewey – [Joseph Curtis vs. Horace Greeley]
    14. Orville Dewey – [Robert Minturn’s Scheme to Thwart Dishonest Beggars]
    15. Scott Norsworthy – The New York Tribune on Begging and Charity
    16. Herman Melville – [New-Fangled Notions of the Social State]
    17. Patricia Cline Cohen – A Confident Tide of Reformers
    18. Susan M. Ryan – From Misgivings: Melville, Race, and the Ambiguities of Benevolence


    1. Carl Van Vechten – [The Great Satire of Transcentalism]
    2. Brian Higgins – Mark Winsome and Egbert: “In the Friendly Spirit”


    1. Nathaniel Hawthorne – [A Satanic Beggar: The Devil in Popular Stories]
    2. Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Celestial Railroad
    3. Herman Melville – [The Devil Is a Curious Chap]
    4. Thomas L. McHaney – The Confidence-Man and Satan’s Disguises in Paradise Lost


    1. Historical Background
      1. The Historical Fact of Indian Hating
      2. Joel Barlow – [Columbus’ Questions]
      3. James Hall – Indian Hating—Some Sources of This Animosity—Brief Account of Col. Moredock
      4. Herman Melville – All Races: Made in “the Image of God”
      5. Herman Melville – [Civilized Atrocities in the South Pacific]
      6. Henry Whitney Bellows – [Extermination as a Solution]
      7. Anonymous – Columbia Trial Reveals Life (“Everyone Kills Indians”) on the Plains
      8. Margaret Coel – Indian Hating Today
    2. Political Background
      1. The Politics of Allegorizing Indian Hating
      2. Elizabeth S. Foster – [Melville’s Allegorical Indian as a Type of Confidence-Man]
      3. John W. Shroeder – Sources and Symbols for Melville’s Confidence-Man
      4. Hershel Parker – The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating

    Selected Bibliography