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Two years before the mast : a personal…

Two years before the mast : a personal narrative of life at sea (original 1840; edition 1841)

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Title:Two years before the mast : a personal narrative of life at sea
Info:London : Edward Moxon, 1841.
Collections:Your library

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

19th century (63) adventure (68) American (22) American History (15) American literature (42) autobiography (65) biography (55) California (63) classic (61) classics (37) ebook (16) fiction (128) historical (14) history (108) Kindle (13) literature (67) maritime (43) maritime history (17) memoir (95) nautical (55) non-fiction (100) novel (13) read (19) sailing (70) sea (57) seafaring (35) ships (15) to-read (17) travel (52) unread (25)

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Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
When I was a sophmore in high school I decided to read this book, for reasons I no longer remember. I found it a struggle but persisted, though I think I was glad whenI reached the end. Excitement was not often in evidence ( )
  Schmerguls | Sep 14, 2013 |
As he notes in the preface, this is the author's edition that Dana issued, with additional material updating the story to 1868.
  SteveJohnson | Jul 27, 2013 |
Mr. Dana's writing style (sometimes charming, sometimes fascinating but most often tedious) perhaps unintentionally provides the reader with a true feel for 19th century sailor's life on the sea.

I would have rated this work much higher if it were half its length. That said, he provides an invaluable insight into early Californian history, and for that reason alone should not be missed. ( )
2 vote la2bkk | Jul 14, 2013 |
An amazing glimpse into 1800s, this is the autobiographical account of two years in the life of Richard Henry Dana from 1834 to 1836.

Leaving America he sails on the Pilgrim and its voyage heads from Boston to South America and around Cape Horn to California where he spends a season in San Diego preparing hides. He then boards the Alert for the return journey as the Pilgrim was not due to return for another 12 months.

The book is written in the language of the day at at times can be quite formal compared to the writing of today, that being said, it isn't at all a difficult book to read.

The descriptions of life at sea, corporal punishment, 1830s California, people and circumstances are all an interesting window into the past making it worth reading even if one is not particularly interested in sailing itself.

An enjoyable non fiction read. ( )
1 vote HenriMoreaux | May 7, 2013 |
This is the true story of R.H. Dana's two years as a common sailor. The "before the mast" refers to the sailor's quarters in the forecastle. The book is based on the diary he kept during the voyage.

R.H. Dana was from a good family, and was an undergraduate at Harvard when he had an attack of measles which affected his eyesight. He was unable to read, and decided to enlist as a merchant seaman to rest his eyes and give himself something to do.

The book recounts the voyage from Boston to California, the time in California going from port to port and loading cow hides, and the voyage back to Boston. The sea voyages are by far the most interesting parts of the book, especially the return voyage around cape horn, which is vividly portrayed. By contrast, the time in California gets a bit monotonous, and I think should have been summarised. ( )
1 vote Pondlife | Dec 20, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (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, AnneIntroductionsecondary 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 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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:49 -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)

» see all 7 descriptions

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