The Melville scholar John Bryant traces the roots of the author’s fascination with the sea from his childhood days in Manhattan. In the introduction to the Penguin edition of Typee (1846), Bryant writes:

Much of the area is now a park built on landfill, but in earlier days Pearl Street stretched along the waterfront, and the Melville home stood right at the confluence of the Hudson and East Rivers, so that in the summer of his first year Melville learned to walk on the edges of New York Harbor. Today, iron railings gird those edges, allowing tourists to lean safely and observe the Statue of Liberty, but the infant Melville toddled the area unfenced in search of the seashells that gave his street its name. Thirty years later, in the voice of Ishmael, the author would describe his old backyard as a magnet for all manner of seekers