A reappraisal of Melville's fourth novel, long used as principal source for biographical data on his little known years, this study is based on freshly discovered material that reveals Redburn as a work of artistic imagination, only incidentally indebted to the background of Melville's first sea voyage. The first part of the book is a detailed record of Melville's life, from early years as son of a prosperous New York merchant, through successive cycles of family bankruptcy. Melville signed on as a sailor at the age of 20- strong proof against the autobiographical nature of the novel. The second part of the book examines Melville's methods as an artist, as evidenced in Redburn, the sources from which he borrowed, and the stature of the novel, as a step in progress, an intermediary work by a great genius who had not yet gained full control over his material, but who had taken a large step forward from his first novels of the South Seas. It is an engaging and incisive study of the adolescent. Important in the growing literature of Melville.