Two Years Before the Mast By Richard Henry Dana INTRODUCTION Biographical Note Two years before the mast were but an episode in the life of Richard Henry Dana, Jr.; yet the narrative in which he details the experiences of that period is, perhaps, his chief claim to a wide remembrance. His services in other than literary fields occupied the greater part of his life, but they brought him comparative...
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I can see why this book is ranked among the Classics, and it is certainly a classic work in American Literature. Richard Henry Dana, a Harvard student from a well-to-do family, suffering from health issues due to the stress of academic life, makes a...
cognition and many disappointments. His happiest associations were literary, his pleasantest acquaintanceships those which arose through his fame as the author of one book. The story of his life is one of honest and competent effort, of sincere purpose, of many thwarted hopes. The traditions of his family forced him into a profession for which he was intellectually but not temperamentally fitted: he should have been a scholar, teacher, and author; instead he became a lawyer. Born in Cambridge, Mass., August 1, 1815, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., came of a line of Colonial ancestors whose legal understanding and patriotic zeal had won them distinction. His father, if possessed of less vigor than his predecessors, was yet a man of culture and ability. He was widely known as poet, critic, and lecturer; and endowed his son with native qualities of intelligence, good breeding, and honesty. After somewhat varied and troublous school days, young Dana entered Harvard University, where he took high rank in his classes and bid fair to make a reputation as a scholar. But at the beginning of his third year of college a severe attack of measles interrupted his course, and so affected his eyes as to preclude, for a time at least, all idea of study. The state of the family finances was not such as to permit of foreign travel in search of health. Accordingly, prompted by necessity and by a youthful love of adventure, he shipped as a common sailor in the brig, Pilgrim, bound for the California coast. His term of service lasted a trifle over two years—from August, 1834, to September, 1836. The undertaking was one calculated to kill or cure. Fortunately it had the latter effect; and, upon returning to his native place, physically vigorous but intellectually starved, he reentered Harvard and worked with such enthusiasm as to graduate in six months with honor. We are delighted to publish this classic book as part of our extensive Classic Library collection. Many of the books in our collection have been out of print for decades, and therefore have not been accessible to the general public. The aim of our publishing program is to facilitate rapid access to this vast reservoir of literature, and our view is that this is a significant literary work, which deserves to be brought back into print after many decades. The contents of the vast majority of titles in the Classic Library have been scanned from the original works. To ensure a high quality product, each title has been meticulously hand curated by our staff. Our philosophy has been guided by a desire to provide the reader with a book that is as close as possible to ownership of the original work. We hope that you will enjoy this wonderful classic work, and that for you it becomes an enriching experience.