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I and My Chimney   By: (1819-1891)

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I recently had the pleasure of reading a lesser-known gem of literature, a short story called I and My Chimney by Herman Melville. This unique and thought-provoking work truly captivated me from start to finish.

Melville, renowned for works such as Moby-Dick and Billy Budd, showcases his mastery of storytelling in this lesser-known piece. I and My Chimney is a deeply personal narrative, following the life of a man named Ebenezer, whose life is intertwined with his beloved chimney. Throughout the story, Melville ingeniously uses the chimney as a metaphor for the protagonist's sense of identity and belonging.

One of the aspects that stood out to me in this story was Melville's vivid and lyrical language. His descriptions are incredibly detailed, painting a clear picture of Ebenezer's world and the unique role that the chimney plays in it. Melville's prose effortlessly evokes a sense of nostalgia and warmth that makes the reader feel as though they are right there with Ebenezer, experiencing the story alongside him.

What struck me most about this work is the way Melville tackles the themes of home, identity, and community. Through the lens of Ebenezer's relationship with his chimney, Melville explores the idea that our sense of self can be deeply intertwined with the physical spaces we inhabit. The chimney, for Ebenezer, not only represents a sense of comfort and familiarity, but also serves as a connection to his family, his ancestors, and his community. It becomes a symbol of tradition, grounding him in a rapidly changing world.

Moreover, I found Melville's character development to be remarkable in such a short story. Ebenezer is a complex and relatable protagonist, wrestling with the passage of time, the inevitable march of progress, and his own mortality. Melville skillfully reveals the layers of Ebenezer's personality, allowing the reader to empathize with his struggles and internal conflicts.

While I and My Chimney may not be as well-known as Melville's other works, it is undoubtedly a literary treasure worth discovering. The story's powerful themes and unique narrative style make for a captivating and thought-provoking reading experience. I strongly recommend this story to anyone seeking a heartfelt exploration of home, identity, and the indelible connections that link us to our past and present.

First Page:


By Herman Melville

I and my chimney, two grey headed old smokers, reside in the country. We are, I may say, old settlers here; particularly my old chimney, which settles more and more every day.

Though I always say, I AND MY CHIMNEY, as Cardinal Wolsey used to say, "I AND MY KING," yet this egotistic way of speaking, wherein I take precedence of my chimney, is hereby borne out by the facts; in everything, except the above phrase, my chimney taking precedence of me.

Within thirty feet of the turf sided road, my chimney a huge, corpulent old Harry VIII of a chimney rises full in front of me and all my possessions. Standing well up a hillside, my chimney, like Lord Rosse's monster telescope, swung vertical to hit the meridian moon, is the first object to greet the approaching traveler's eye, nor is it the last which the sun salutes. My chimney, too, is before me in receiving the first fruits of the seasons. The snow is on its head ere on my hat; and every spring, as in a hollow beech tree, the first swallows build their nests in it.

But it is within doors that the pre eminence of my chimney is most manifest. When in the rear room, set apart for that object, I stand to receive my guests (who, by the way call more, I suspect, to see my chimney than me) I then stand, not so much before, as, strictly speaking, behind my chimney, which is, indeed, the true host... Continue reading book >>

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