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Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry…
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Two Years Before the Mast (1840)

by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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SUMMARY:
Two Years Before the Mast, by Richard Henry Dana, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics: New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars Biographies of the authors Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events Footnotes and endnotes Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work Comments by other famous authors Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations Bibliographies for further reading Indices & Glossaries, when appropriateAll editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works. When doctors told Richard Henry Dana that an ocean voyage might halt his impending blindness, the nineteen-year-old Harvard undergraduate dropped out of school and became an ordinary deckhand on the brig Pilgrim. The perilous journey from Boston, begun in 1834, took the ailing yet determined youth past Cape Horn and around the Americas, concluding in the Mexican territory California. This expedition inspired Two Years before the Mast, a first-hand account of “the life of a common sailor” and a work that combines history, philosophy, and personal experience. Published in 1840, the book convincingly re-creates life at sea—the beauty and adventure but also the cold, danger, and backbreaking labor. Dana’s depiction of the inhuman conditions suffered by seamen at the hands of capricious, brutal, and even mad captains and ship owners was so stark that the book fueled urgent cries for reform. It also was deeply admired by Herman Melville, Dana’s most famous literary confidante. Dana eventually became a lawyer, devoting himself to fighting for the rights of sailors—and slaves—in court. He went on to help form the anti-slavery Free Soil Party, work for the federal government during the Civil War, and serve on the Massachusetts legislature. Anne Spencer is the author of Alone at Sea: The Adventures of Joshua Slocum and three books of sea stories and folklore for young adults. A documentary maker for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, she lives in Toronto.
  buffygurl | Mar 8, 2019 |
This is the story of Richard Henry Dana Jr. adventure from his jornals written in 1834. It contains excerpts from his journal he kept for two years after leaving harvard and embarking as a seaman abourd the Pilgrim and later transfering to the Alert sailing vessels. The descriptions of the inhabitants of the region before becoming California are very interesting as is the highly detailed descriptions of the sailing and life of a seaman abourd a merchant vessel engaged with the hide trad and crossing Cape Horn. Overal an enjoyable educational read for anyone interested in sailing ships and early America. ( )
  dswaddell | Jun 25, 2018 |
This book recounts the two years when Richard Henry Dana, Jr., took a break from his university studies and sailed on cargo ships. These were sailing vessels just as the age of steam was starting to come in and before the Panama Canal was built, so the journeys were arduous and the weather conditions ferocious. The work was also backbreaking and monotonous, but the sailors forged strong bonds with each other and there was time for reading and recreation. The edition I read contains an afterword “Twenty-Four Years After” by Dana, and another afterword, “Seventy-Six Years After”, by Dana’s son. These two afterwords illustrate how society and technology advanced after Dana’s voyages and filled in more information about the lives and careers of his shipmates.

Overall, this was all right. It required sustained concentration, which unfortunately I did not have; it took me nearly six months to read this. The formatting of the Project Gutenberg copy might have contributed, what with the weird division into “chapters” that didn’t match the book’s chapters, and the placement of the endnotes that made it hard to remember what the notes were referring to by the time I finally got to them. I also found it uncomfortable to read Dana’s thoughts on the intelligence of people who weren’t American—or rather, who weren’t white. They were “of their time,” thinking of peoples such as the Sandwich Islanders as primitive but loyal, that kind of thing.

For those who like nautical talk, this book is full of tackles and spritsails and jib-booms. It all sounds lovely, if impenetrable in places, although it was easier to get into when I read a whole bunch of it at once and just let it wash over me.

I would perhaps recommend this in print to people who like true stories of going to sea. ( )
1 vote rabbitprincess | Sep 19, 2017 |
If you missed this in school, read it now. An exciting adventure story that influenced a generation of writers. ( )
  Mark_Bacon | Jul 24, 2017 |
Amazing book written by a man who lived it. A detailed snapshot of
American history.

This book more then any, tells in detail the life of early 19th century sailors. It also shows the real condition of the California when it was a poor, barren and empty property of Mexico. ( )
  ikeman100 | Jun 25, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
Almost two centuries later, we are all made richer by Dana's classic memoir, "Two Years Before the Mast," which is among the finest books ever written about the immensely popular subject of adventure at sea, and is as relevant and readable today as it was then.
 

» Add other authors (156 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dana, Richard Henry, Jr.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davis, WesAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dobkin, AlexanderIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fleming, ThomasAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grenfell, Sir WilfredIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grenfell, WilfredIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kemble, John HaskellEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Killavey, JimNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kinder, GaryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mayes, BernardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McFee, WilliamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morris, WrightAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Orr, Monro S.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pears, CharlesIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Philbrick, ThomasEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seelye, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, E. BoydIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Spencer, AnnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Spencer, AnneIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weinstein, Robert A.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Crowded in the rank and narrow ship, --
Housed on the wild sea with wild usages, --
Whate'er in the inland dales the land conceals
Of fair and exquisite, O! nothing, nothing,
Do we behold of that in our rude voyage.
Coleridge's Wallenstein
Dedication
First words
I am unwilling to present this narrative to the public without a few words in explanation of my reasons for publishing it.
Quotations
Yet a sailor's life is at best but a mixture of a little good with much evil, and a little pleasure with much pain. The beautiful is linked with the revolting, the sublime with the commonplace, and the solemn with the ludicrous.
Death is at all times solemn, but never so much so at sea. A man dies on shore, his body remains with his friends, and the mourners go about the streets; but when a man falls overboard at sea and is lost, these is a suddeness in the event, and a difficulty in realizing it, which give to it an air of awful mystery. ...you miss a man so much. A dozen men are shut up together in a little bark upon the wide, wide sea, and for months and months see no forms and hear no voices but their own, and one is taken suddenly from among them, and they miss him at every turn. It is like losing a limb.
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Disambiguation notice
This work is Dana's Two Years Before the Mast (unabridged).  Please do not combine with anthologies or abridged editions.
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Book description
This 1937 edition from The Spencer Press features an introduction by Leonard Davidow. 

Tracing an awe-inspiring oceanic route from Boston, around Cape Horn, to the California coast, Two Years Before the Mast is both a riveting story of adventure & the most eloquent, insightful account we have of life at sea in the early 19th century.
Richard Henry Dana Jr. is only nineteen when he abandons the patrician world of Boston & Harvard for an arduous voyage among real sailors, amid genuine danger. The result is an astonishing read, replete with vivid descriptions of storms, whales, & the ship's mad captain, terrible hardship & magical beauty, & fascinating historical detail, including an intriguing portrait of California before the gold rush.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140390081, Paperback)

In 1834, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., left the comforts of genteel Boston to endure the hardships and abuses of the most exploited segment of the American working class.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:01 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Describes life at sea in the 1830's from the viewpoint of a common sailor in the American merchant service.

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