Melville in the South Seas.

Melville joined the navy in August 1843, and joined the United States in Honolulu in 1844, spending fourteen months on U.S. naval duty between Honolulu and Boston, arriving there in October 1844.

p. 358, in Honolulu: The next thirty days were spent preparing for the homeward-bound cruise. A number of men and officers whose terms of service had not expired were transferred to ships that were to remain on the station. Among these were Midshipmen Samuel R. Franklin, sent to the Relief, and Alonzo C. Jackson, to the Savannah. Hence-forward we are deprived of their confirmatory records of the cruise. The United States was stripped of its charts and maps and all excess equipment. The most interesting part of this was the ship’s library, consisting of the following: ‘Prescott’s Ferdinand and Isabella, 3 volumes; Bancroft’s History of the United States; Darwin’s Voyages of H. B. M.‘Adventure’ and ‘Beagle,’ 4 volumes; Livingstone’s Atlas; Hough’s Military Law Authorities and Courts Martial; and Harper’s Family Library.

This forms Melville’s earliest known reading list, and it has proved of considerable value for literary source-hunting in the South Sea volumes. In White-Jacket he speaks of reading voraciously while on board the United States, especially as his principal antidote against ennui while lying in port, and mentions specifically a dozen or more volumes that he read. Since none of the ones he mentions are in the list of those transferred from his ship at Callao, the implication is that this was only part, and perhaps a small part, of the ship’s library….