ePUB Herman Melville Æ Æ The Confidence Man His Masquerade PDF ✓ Man His

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 reviewersA 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 othersSources 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 literatureA Selected Bibliography is also included


10 thoughts on “The Confidence Man His Masquerade

  1. says:

    This is Herman Melville's last strange novel and it is obvious why a very nebulous plot doesn't help A Mississippi steamboat leisurely floating down the river picking up and disembarking passengers along the way from St Louis to New Orleans in the antebellum south before the Civil War Set on April Fool's Day a hint to the narrative apparently on board is a confidence man hence the title maybe than one possibly many A glimpse into the struggles of Americans on the edge of civilization the untamed West nearby Manifest Destiny the 19th century doctrine of the nation has come to fruition However people on the Fidele the name of vessel are a gullible lot believing nefarious characters with their sob stories and get rich quick schemesas a person remarks A Ship of Fools A cripple begs for alms but some do not believe the infirmity others even doubt the color of his skin especially a man with a wooden leg no sympathy from him a poor Mexican War veteran 1846 1848 he says but is it quite true with a hard heart like his false appendage An old miser gives money to a perfect stranger a dubious conclusion follows in order to invest on the stock market and the slick speaking con man a silver tongued devil absconds without leaving a receipt Snake oil salesman promises cures for the hopelessly infirm the overprice bottles are as effective as a fish on land The Cosmopolitan man as he is known on board the grand Fedele faithful in French is very persuasive well dressed a calm nature a real gentleman in appearance somehow getting the boat's cynical barber to trust his customers giving credit and taking down a sign which states the opposite view the businessman will regret this error soon The passengers begin to ask questions but the man or men are great speakers and ill people want miracles it still is true today sense goes out the window only recovery of their health matters Melville in the novel makes fun of Emerson and his disciple Thoreau in an around about way the former whaler knows about life not impressed by a silly philosophy The book will infuriate numerous readers because of its hidden meanings and the unclear intrigues Secrets never revealed who is the villain yet humans are basically unchanged from era to era the good the bad and the victims


  2. says:

    An arduous read I read 4 pages a day Very tough going but I finished it Only great admiration for the author pulled me through Not recommended if you have not read his other works Moby Dick; or The Whale of course but for something lighter try Typee and Omoo Both are South Seas adventure stories Later when you're hooked after the diverting White Jacket and Redburn and the stories you may want to move on to the oddments like this and the virtually unreadable Pierre or The Ambiguities


  3. says:

    Short review Complicated dense angry and funny too though in that depressing kind of way Longer rambling comments and some quotes If one is going to try and come up with some sort of definition of a masterpiece surely one of the criteria must be an almost permanent relevance that something of what is said about our species remains as true now as it was when the author picked up his pen This wonderful book and a quick google shows me I am far from the first to think this speaks directly and clearly of our current Trumpian islamaphobic age of our conned and conning selves Ah sir they may talk of the courage of truth but my trade teaches me that truth sometimes is sheepish Lies lies sir brave lies are the lions Current US politics in a nutshell Oftener it falls that this winged man who will carry me into the heaven whirls me into the clouds then leaps and frisks about with me from cloud to cloud still affirming that he is bound heavenward and I being myself a novice am slow in perceiving that he does not know the way into the heavens and is merely bent that I should admire his skill to rise Is almost too perfect a description of Trump And the extraordinary section on indian hating for which one can easily replace the word indian with muslim note that in the following quote these are not the words of our author but those of a judge as reported by another character there are many layers here in other words are all Indians like Mocmohoc? Not all have proved such; but in the least harmful may lie his germ There is an Indian nature Indian blood is in me is the half breed's threat But are not some Indians kind? Yes but kind Indians are mostly lazy and reputed simple at all events are seldom chiefs; chiefs among the red men being taken from the active and those accounted wise Hence with small promotion kind Indians have but proportionate influence And kind Indians may be forced to do unkind biddings So beware the Indian kind or unkind said Daniel Boone who lost his sons by them But have all you backwoodsmen been some way victimized by Indians? No Well and in certain cases may not at least some few of you be favored by them? Yes but scarce one among us so self important or so selfish minded as to hold his personal exemption from Indian outrage such a set off against the contrary experience of so many others as that he must needs in a general way think well of Indians; or if he do an arrow in his flank might suggest a pertinent doubt'In short' according to the judge 'if we at all credit the backwoodsman his feeling against Indians to be taken aright must be considered as being not so much on his own account as on others' or jointly on both accounts True it is scarce a family he knows but some member of it or connection has been by Indians maimed or scalped What avails then that some one Indian or some two or three treat a backwoodsman friendly like? He fears me he thinks Take my rifle from me give him motive and what will come? Or if not so how know I what involuntary preparations may be going on in him for things as unbeknown in present time to him as me a sort of chemical preparation in the soul for malice as chemical preparation in the body for malady'Not that the backwoodsman ever used those words you see but the judge found him expression for his meaning And this point he would conclude with saying that 'what is called a friendly Indian is a very rare sort of creature; and well it was so for no ruthlessness exceeds that of a friendly Indian turned enemy A coward friend he makes a valiant foe” And then for those of you who prefer their novels to come seasoned with a little meta If reason be judge no writer has produced such inconsistent characters as nature herself has It must call for no small sagacity in a reader unerringly to discriminate in a novel between the inconsistencies of conception and those of life as elsewhere Experience is the only guide here; but as no one man can be coextensive with what is it may be unwise in every case to rest upon it When the duck billed beaver of Australia was first brought stuffed to England the naturalists appealing to their classifications maintained that there was in reality no such creature; the bill in the specimen must needs be in some way artificially stuck on But let nature to the perplexity of the naturalists produce her duck billed beavers as she may lesser authors some may hold have no business to be perplexing readers with duck billed characters Always they should represent human nature not in obscurity but transparency which indeed is the practice with most novelists and is perhaps in certain cases someway felt to be a kind of honor rendered by them to their kind But whether it involve honor or otherwise might be mooted considering that if these waters of human nature can be so readily seen through it may be either that they are very pure or very shallowBut as in spite of seeming discouragement some mathematicians are yet in hopes of hitting upon an exact method of determining the longitude the earnest psychologists may in the face of previous failures still cherish expectations with regard to some mode of infallibly discovering the heart of manBut enough has been said by way of apology for whatever may have seemed amiss or obscure in the character of the merchant; so nothing remains but to turn to our comedy or rather to pass from the comedy of thought to that of action This is a difficult book The sentence structure is complex Melville seems to be under the impression he will be paid by the comma and the focus of the critique is much complex and subtle than it may appear One has to read very carefully and closely particularly in the second half in order not to be led astray to be conned as it were there is most definitely a sense in which the con man being laid bare here is the writer and us his victims The section on indian hating can be and has been completely misread Any reader of Melville must recognise where he stands when it comes to pedlars of race hatred and accordingly should not be misled by words coming from his character's mouthsI am far too lazy at present to bother to write and to whom would I possibly be rambling when so much already exists on this book? Suffice it to say that any of you curious about whether or not he has another masterpiece up his sleeve other than the Whale Book really should go give this a try


  4. says:

    This is the kind of book that could’ve gone on forever concluding only when the author’s spleen andor exuberance gave out and Melville admitted as much with the last sentence Something further may follow of this Masqueradebut this reader’s glad it didn’t as his enthusiasm for the book faded toward the end Which isn’t to knock the book necessarily since The Confidence Man is almost of a conceptual piece than a novel; meaning that the idea is as important or even than the actual execution; and the idea is a winner The entire novel takes place aboard a boat going down the Mississippi from St Louis to New Orleans and all the action takes place on a single day April 1 The main character or characters is a confidence man who shape shifts into at least six personages during the journey from a crippled black man to a gregarious white cosmopolitan But then this is all inference by the reader as Melville treats all his manifestations as separate and distinct beings playing the confidence man himself never admitting the deception All of these avatars of the con man attempt to fleece their fellow passengers in one way or another but as they’re doing it they are also through Melville calling attention to hot button issues of the day from Native American widows and orphans needing assistance to a proliferation of so many different bank notes issued by so many different banks that people couldn’t tell what was real money and what wasn’t to the popularity of Emerson and Transcendentalism which Melville apparently loathed So Melville uses the format as a vehicle for social commentary but I think his larger concerns were with personal identity and faithReading The Confidence Man can induce a very curious state of mind a state in which one doesn’t know how to take anything as if presented with a substantive riddle with no solution; so reading the book itself becomes an issue of faith of moving forward through irreducible uncertainty Much of this is due to the fact that the confidence man is one of if not the most sympathetic characters on the boat As he moves from personage to personage imploring them to have faith to have trust and confidence in them the few who refuse to fall for his ploys are the meanest most ingrown characters of the bunch; as if by refusing faith even in a flimflammer is to reduce and circumscribe one’s life to such a degree as to become a crabbed asocial nutjobIn this way Melville emphasizes the importance of faith but from a cynical angle as if it’s the only option when living in a world where nothing is as it seems where nothing can be trusted in the traditional sense; in effect saying that when living in a world where nothing can be trusted the only healthy option is to trust everything This can be construed in terms of faith as a concept as a kind of nihilistic Christianity or even accurately Buddhism as there seems to be know over arching “god” on Melville’s boat just a big cloud of uncertainty and deception of Maya And reading the book itself gives the feeling of navigating through Maya of navigating without any certain knowledge other than faith


  5. says:

    The Confidence Man is a very cryptic book Poorly received during its time and was the last book he published in his lifetime It is part morality play part theatre part absurd it is very hard to label in fact At the beginning the revolving characters reminded me of Chaucer's Tales a possible inspiration for Melville? amd then I also thought of Richard Linkletter's cult classic first movie Slacker where each character introduces us to a new one and then vanishes If I compared A Brief History of Seven Killings to Caraveggio I would compare The Confidence Man to a Rembrandt painting a quiet chiascuro lit by candles and snuffed out at the end It is a very post modern narrative structure complete with recursive stories and chapters which break the fourth wall where the narrator addresses us directly I would have given it 35 stars but since it is Melville and it was so influential on Pynchon and DFW I'll settle with four and encourage you to try this one after you conquer the White Whale


  6. says:

    Introduction by Stephen MattersonA Note on the TextBibliography The Confidence Man His Masquerade NotesAppendix A 'The River'Appendix B James Hall's 'Sketches'


  7. says:

    what is this novel? is it a novel? is it a collection of vignettes? is there a plot? honestly who knows?Following up the critical failure of Moby Dick Melville decided to pen his final novel The Confidence Man I'm not even sure if I can give a plot summary here It's set on a steamboat on the Mississippi and we sort of jump from character to character as they each are involved with backstories and plots that don't particularly amount to anythingThis book is just so odd I genuinely have no idea what to think of it In parts it's funny and in other parts it's completely incomprehensible and inpentrable Honestly I can only really compare it to something like Finnegans Wake or other famously obtuse novelsI do have a feeling that the problem is with me however I think I have to admit defeat I've a feeling that this is a novel I'll have to revisit maybe in 40 years time So please await my review


  8. says:

    Combustible brilliant dialectical like a Marx brothers film in the mid American 19th Century Literally filled with ramshackle charming sleazy opportunistic phantasmal eccentric grotesque gaudy loquacious characters who are all out to Talk to anyone about anything especially their own opinions biases agendas philosophies and observations Trick see above that is to con anyone they can get their hands on to abide by or follow or merely acknowledge their particular grievances and demands Make beg borrow sell steal panhandle wheedle commiserate gyp or simply buy and sell Survive this ship of fools has a definite Melville ian touch of foreboding decadence and chaos Nobody here gets out alive if you will Everybody's flying by the seat of their pants and everyone is or seems to be desperately trying to talk themselves out of thinking about it for very long if at all The Confidence Man serves as a devastating critique of the rootlessness of American life and the chaotic fabric of the society we know a tad better a tad I say a tad than our ancestors did than 150 years ago The formlessness of many of the usual social blocks class hereditary privilege indigenous roots in the soil etc is very much part of the drift and sway of the Fidele as it heads down the Mississippi river like O I dunno some other guys did once or twice and intowhateverThe whole experience of reading this text Novel? Digression? Dialogues? Sketches?never mind writing the damn thing in the first place What was that like for poor tormented incessantly metaphysical Melville? has everything which has now known to be categorized as 'Post modernism' discordant narrative free interplay of signs and identities and constantly re imagined borders of the self language the world at large the humor the self awareness of the narrative creating itself out of itself the self mocking overtures of any definitive statement or final LogosIn a way it sort of reminded me of Richard Linklater's film slacker in that it has a similar rambling spontaneous chain of conversational quality The camera is always moving from table to table as everyone carries on their conversations at any spot at which they happen to be Smurfs political insights Madonna's pap smear suicide notes conspiracies and conversationsIt's absolutely indispensable reading for anyone who is like me obsessed with the psyche or soul spirit or inner nature of America


  9. says:

    Strange that in a work of amusement this severe fidelity to real life should be exacted by anyone who by taking up such a work sufficiently shows that he is not unwilling to drop real life and turn for a time to something different Yes it is indeed strange that any one should clamour for the thing he is weary of; that any one who for any cause finds real life dull should yet demand of him who is to divert his attention from it that he should be true to that dullnessWell said man And in The Confidence Man the last thing on Melville’s mind is fidelity to reality For that reason and for its particular night scented theatrical atmosphere I loved this despite that I couldn’t tell you rightly what it’s “about” or even follow its convolutions at times I picked it up put it down read other books between lingered over it for 2 3 months; lucky then that it was plotless At base level what kept me reading was atmosphere and sheer pleasure in language and the way its characters ill described without backstories and masked as they may have been spoke always so convincingly – not that their speech was peppered with slang or “true to life” in fact it was almost Shakespearean but it burst forth came unforced seemed naturalinevitable as of beings – maybe human maybe other “You can conclude nothing absolute from the human form” – hashing harsh truths in spirited debate Contrasted with a spate of small press contemporary “experimental” works – which uniformly lacked this alive seeming speech – The Confidence Man came to seem a lifeline paradoxically to something “real” Not that I enjoyed it entirely In the words of a critic I don’t know of John Bryants “Eventually the reader’s mind short circuits” But as in the prose of Beckett the placement of a comma could at once redeem it Am I the only one who laughs at the commas in the above quoted passage? Melville’s pedanticism I’m sure is self conscious Some days or nights I was daunted; I read something else But some nights it hypnotised me What can we have confidence in? And is he who tests our confidence angel or devil? If he has to test it you might say he too lacks confidence In this refractive self perpetuating inquiry I lost myself His “most perfect book”? H Bruce Franklin in the 60s I’m not familiar enough with Melville to know but there is a kind of perfection – maddening impenetrable – here A 19th century Thomas Bernhard with mirrors on the Mississipi in the key of black Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll finish Moby DickIf ever in days to come you shall see ruin at hand and thinking you understand mankind shall tremble for your friendships and tremble for your pride; and partly through love for the one and fear for the other shall resolve to be beforehand with the world and save it from a sin by prospectively taking that sin to yourself then will you do as one I now dream of once did and like him will you suffer; but how fortunate and how grateful should you be if like him after all that had happened you could be a little happy again


  10. says:

    This book was really peculiar The blurb on the back of my paperback says that the book “survived the dismal reception it received in 1857” Having finished reading it I can see why its reception was dismal It is a combination of of vignettes featuring fast talking con men and their targets philosophical debates and hypotheticals suitable for an ethics class Getting through this book particularly the philosophical parts felt like trudging through wet sand “That each member of the human guild is worthy respect my friend rejoined the cosmopolitan is a fact which no admirer of that guild will question; but that in view of higher natures the word sublime so frequently applied to them can without confusion be also applied to man is a point which man will decide for himself; though indeed if he decide it in the affirmative it is not for me to object” Melville certainly could do better