The Piazza Tales

Six stories framed by a tale of a piazza

Included in this Herman Melville collection are six tales that range considerably — from “The Encantadas” (an allegorical travelogue) to the haunting “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” Opening the volume is “The Piazza,” a pastoral sketch that frames the collection. “Benito Cereno” — a subversive satire — of grows out of a true story of mutiny among the enslaved . . .

1.”The Piazza”
2.”Bartleby the Scrivener” (first published in Putnam’s November and December 1853)
3.”Benito Cereno” (first published in Putnam’s October, November and December 1855)
4.”The Lightning-Rod Man” (first published in Putnam’s August 1854)
5.”The Encantadas or Enchanted Isles” (first published in Putnam’s March, April, and May 1854)
6.”The Bell-Tower” (first published in Putnam’s August 1855)

(from Goodreads)

Note: As I researched this collection, I was in doubt if it was a short story cycle / linked short story collection, but Jennifer Smith, author of American Short Story Cycle, offers this argument in its favor:

“‘The Piazza’ offers a new vantage to look at Melville’s past work – just as the piazza in the story reframes the old farmhouse and invites fresh views of its environs. In both collections, all of the stories, save these opening tales, had been previously published. These original framing pieces, which locate the composition of the subsequent stories in a place and time, announce an authorial vision of connection for the volumes.”

– Smith, Jennifer J.. American Short Story Cycle (Kindle Locations 418-421). Edinburgh University Press. Kindle Edition.

More about this collection

Full text at Project Gutenberg

Excerpts, publishing history and contemporary reviews at


“More terrible, to see how feline Fate will sometimes dally with a human soul, and by a nameless magic make it repulse a sane despair with a hope which is but mad. Unwittingly I imp this cat-like thing, sporting with the heart of him who reads; for if he feel not he reads in vain.”

– Herman Melville, The Piazza Tales


This site is a labor of love so many entries could benefit from more quotes, links to interesting background material, author interviews, etc. If you have material for the collection on this page, please get in touch.

Unless otherwise noted, the blurb is adapted from Goodreads.
Read more

You might also like

share this