Since 1919 when interest in Herman Melville first actively revived, scattered groups of his letters have been published in various editions. This volume is an attempt to collect all the available letters into one convenient edition with appropriate comment and careful transpcriptions. Altogether 271 letters are presented, of which only about 100 can be said to be new or published in full for the first time. The most interesting- the only really revelatory letters- are the ones Melville wrote to Hawthorne in the 1870's. This relationship was, at least on Melville's side, an overwhelming one in which he made obeisance to Hawthorne's colder, more classical talents. Otherwise, the letters are largely of interest to Melville scholars. They are addressed to his large family whom he ""reckoned up by dozens"", and to his literary friends, chiefly Evert and George Duyckinck, who first encouraged him. A few letters refer to his late- not his early- travels, and some to his disappointing attempt to gain a consular post abroad. In the later years he settled for a quieter life- as a customs officer and family man, and his ambitions subsided. . . . A work, prepared with scholarship and precision, for lasting reference over and above its immediate interest to Melville devotees.