Just before going to battle Maximus says to his men "what we do in life, echoes in eternity," in the movie Gladiator. Well that's certainly true for some people, not you or me or someone walking on the street maybe, but somebody who did or accomplished something really important or fascinating during his or her life. Unfortunately sometimes that person can't live long enough to see what history will write about him in future.
From certain point of view, I believe, Herman Melville is one of them. Although he was born in a rich family with famous and important ancestors, I believe he lived some part of his life in misery, which is not quiet the case for someone else who had the same opportunities. During his life he worked hard on his books, but publishing them was a problem, and his historical background didn't help him at all when he argued with the publishers.
After his first two brilliant books he became famous very quickly, although later on in his life he was falling from the peak of his fame. Even one of the most famous works of his nowadays, Moby-Dick couldn't earn him as much respect in the market as it does today. After the two books, Typee and Omoo, he found himself in dept in several occasions just to write more books, but everything he wrote got him into more dept than he was before simply because the money he spent for printing was greater than he earned from selling the books. And not only in the economic way, but also in number of readers he lost a great deal. He didn't give up in the beginning and tried to raise funds for his books and even had to sell part of his farm for his debts.
However after a few years of living in discomfort nearly a few months before he died newspapers and critics were giving his fame back to him and talked about his imaginativeness and success. Melville earned his reputation back, after he died, not during his lifetime.
I believe his most known book Moby-Dick is known to be his masterpiece. In it's introduction we can see that Moby-Dick is referred to being the greatest English novel and earned that spot by being really in English. Unlike those times when Melville had to go around asking people for money to publish his books, I believe he would face no difficulty today since everyone knows his works. They are taught in schools now, for example first time I read Moby-Dick, it was for the English course in high school and we are now studying it as well.
What Melville lived through reminded me home as I read the article or while I was writing this. In Turkey when somebody who is known dies, suddenly everyone will go, oh what a great talent he was, or she was the best and stuff like that. The cds of a singer sells at least twice as much as it would when he was alive or the movies of an actor are shown everywhere. And this happens all the time and yet people still ask why after his death but not before. Well I always ask that question and still couldn't come up with a satisfactory answer.