In all Melville's life he is not known to have so intricately tangled up so much misapprehension and misinformation as he did about Owen Chase.The details of Melville's acquisition of a copy of Owen Chase's Narrative, and the confused notes he made in it are worth reading. The story involves Judge Shaw's connections in Nantucket, a whale-man mistaken for Owen Chase, and the "surprising effect" the Narrative had on young Herman, about to turn 22 years old and hunting whales in the same ocean where the Essex was sunk by a vengeful sperm whale. See Parker's Melville, pp. 196-199 and Parker's notes on Melville's notes in the Norton Critical Edition of M-D, 2nd ed., p. 571.
- Hershel Parker, Melville, v.1, p. 197
On 23 July 1841 the Lima of Nantucket gammed with the Acushnet... ...this may have been the occasion when he [Melville] met a son of the famous Owen Chase, and first held a copy of Chase's Narrative.So, one hundred seventy-one years ago today may have been Melville's first reading of Chase's horrific encounter with a sperm whale. Ten years later, the fruit of that seed was ripe.
- Hershel Parker, Melville, v.1, p. 196