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Wellington Redburn is a fifteen-year-old from the state of New York, with only one dream - to run away to sea. However, when he does fulfil this long-held fantasy, he quickly finds that reality as a cabin boy is far harsher than he ever imagined. Mocked by the crew on board the Highlander for his weakness and bullied by the vicious and merciless sailor Jackson, Wellington must struggle to endure the long journey from New York to Liverpool. But when he does reach England, he is equally horrified by what he finds there: poverty, desperation and moral corruption. Inspired by Melville’s own youthful experiences on board a cargo boat, this is a compelling tale of innocence transformed, through bitter experience, into disillusionment. A fascinating sea journal and coming-of-age tale, Redburn provides a unique insight into the mind of one of America’s greatest novelists.
“Wellingborough, as you are going to sea, suppose you take this shooting–jacket of mine along; it’s just the thing—take it, it will save the expense of another. You see, it’s quite warm; fine long skirts, stout horn buttons, and plenty of pockets.”
Out of the goodness and simplicity of his heart, thus spoke my elder brother to me, upon the eve of my departure for the seaport.
“And, Wellingborough,” he added, “since we are both short of money, and you want an outfit, and I Have none to give, you may as well take my fowling–piece along, and sell it in New York for what you can get.—Nay, take it; it’s of no use to me now; I can’t find it in powder any more.”