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Two Years before the Mast: A Personal…

Two Years before the Mast: A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea (Signet… (original 1840; edition 1964)

by Richard Henry Dana Jr. (Author)

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Title:Two Years before the Mast: A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea (Signet Classics)
Authors:Richard Henry Dana Jr. (Author)
Info:Signet Classics (1964), 1 pages
Collections:Your library

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


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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
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 |
personal narrative of Life at sea — 1835-36 — Getting Hides off Calif Coast — Harrowing Tale of Sailor life + sea

While at Harvard College, Dana had an attack of the measles, which affected his vision. Thinking it might help his sight, Dana, rather than going on a Grand Tour as most of his fellow classmates traditionally did (and unable to afford it anyway) and being something of a non-conformist, left Harvard to enlist as a common sailor on a voyage around Cape Horn on the brig Pilgrim. He returned to Massachusetts two years later aboard the Alert (which left California sooner than the Pilgrim).
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  christinejoseph | Jul 24, 2016 |
A fascinating look at early California and the age of sail. This reads more like a personal diary, and in some ways that's what it is. A very successful book when written, it is still very popular. This book gave me a good insight into what it would be like to be a common seaman in the mid 1800's. ( )
1 vote kpfeifle | Jul 12, 2016 |
This was a really excellent book. It's a true story, written by a young man who took time off his studies at Harvard to ship as a common seaman on a merchant marine in 1834.

Upon his return, he wrote the book to, in part, counter the popular, romanticized ideas of life at sea. Dana said that most sea literature of the time was written from the perspective of an officer or captain, and wanted to point out that the view from the forecastle was quite different. He set out to show the reality of the day-to-day drudgery of a sailor's life, and also to advocate for justice and fair treatment for sailors.

Although to describe it as "an account of day-to-day drudgery" doesn't sound that exciting, it's an amazingly fascinating book, full of the details of a now-vanished way of life - both at sea, and on the coast of California, where his merchant ship spent long toil acquiring their cargo of steer hides to bring back at great risk, around Cape Horn and back to Boston.

My only complaint, from a reader's perspective, is that at times Dana is vague about the personal details of some of his shipmates and acquaintances - probably out of courtesy, as he was publishing while most of the men he speaks of were still alive. (Although not everyone is shown in the most flattering of lights). The book was an enormous best-seller (much more so than he expected) at the time, and it includes an Afterword written 24 years later - and it's rather amusing, how, in that section, he is much more careful to speak well of people! ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Good time period book with early history first accounts of San Diego, Monterey and San Francisco. This book made people aware what sort of life sailors really lived and helped improve the lot of future sailors by this being made public.

Mr Dana was advised by his doctor to get out of the office and do something do to failing health and spent two years crewing on this tall ship. The story is a result of that. ( )
  Bruce_Deming | Feb 5, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (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 (49 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dana, Richard Henryprimary 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
Weinstein, Robert A.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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
First words
I am unwilling to present this narrative to the public without a few words in explanation of my reasons for publishing it.
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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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.

(summary from another edition)

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