The Text: Billy Budd


This edition of Billy Budd is based on the 1924 Raymond Weaver edition of the novel . . . sort of. As even the most cursory glance at the convoluted textual history of this novel shows, there has traditionally been agreement about this novel only in the broadest terms. Different editors have adjusted the text in various ways arranging and rearranging certain sections, inserting and excluding other sections. For a more full discussion of the complex manuscript issues of Billy Budd, click here.

That said, without trying to ignore the significant textual issues while also trying to make the novel as accessible as possible for today's reader, the following table of contents matches that which is found in many contemporary editions of the novel. It is based on F. Barron Freeman's 1948 edition and Elizabeth Treeman's later modifications to the text and includes certain chapters which Weaver either excluded or incorporated with the surrounding chapters. Further, as the Weaver and the Freeman/Treeman text hold, the ship upon which most of the action takes place is referred to as the Indomitable (not the Bellipotent as Harrison Hayford and Merton Sealts maintain that Melville intended it to be). In an effort to point out these variations, notes throughout the text mark points of departure between the various editions.

Key to Symbols Within the Text:
Color Reference Icons
Blue = Glossary Wheel Illustrations
Red = Allusions Book Manuscript Note
Green = Nautical References Harpoon Commentary

Dedication: To Jack Chase, Englishman . . .
Preface: "The year 1797. . ."
Chapter 1: "In the time before steamships..." -- The Handsome Sailor -- Billy Budd
Chapter 2: New man aboard the Indomitable -- Billy's History -- "a vocal defect"
Chapter 3: Impressment -- Spithead -- Nore
Chapter 4: "Concerning the greatest sailor -- Nelson
Chapter 5: "...not every grievance was redressed" -- Underpinnings
Chapter 6: Captain the Honorable Edward Fairfax Vere
Chapter 7: More on Vere
Chapter 8: John Claggart, the Master at Arms
Chapter 9: Billy witnesses a flogging -- the Old Dansker -- "Jimmy Legs is down on you..."
Chapter 10: An Incident: Spilling the Soup
Chapter 11: Natural Depravity: "What was the matter with the Master-at-arms?"
Chapter 12: Natural Depravity: "Lawyers, Experts, Clergy"
Chapter 13: Natural Depravity: "Pale ire, envy and despair"
Chapter 14: "passion in its profoundest" -- Squeak -- "ogres of trifles"
Chapter 15: Incident with Afterguardsman-- the Offer -- "two small objects faintly twinkling in the nightlight"
Chapter 16: Billy's Confusion -- "Old Merlin's 'advice'"
Chapter 17: Frankness and Finesse
Chapter 18: "As it was, innocence was his blinder."
Chapter 19: Claggart and Vere -- The Accusation
Chapter 20: Billy, Vere, and Claggart -- "Fated boy..."
Chapter 21: Preparation for the Drumhead Court
Chapter 22: Sanity and Insanity -- Proceedings of the Court
Chapter 23: Vere Relays Billy's Sentence
Chapter 24: The Crew's Reaction
Chapter 25: The Chaplain's Visit -- Innocence and Religion
Chapter 26: The Hanging -- Billy's Benediction
Chapter 27: "A digression" -- Euthanasia
Chapter 28: Billy's Burial -- An Omen
Chapter 29: The Atheiste -- "Billy Budd, Billy Budd."
Chapter 30: News from the Mediterranean: The Official Report
Chapter 31: "Billy in the Darbies"

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