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Two Years before the Mast: A Personal Narrative (Signet Classics) [Mass Market Paperback]

Richard Henry Dana
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

30 Jun 2010 Signet Classics
This is a reproduction of a book published before 1923. This book may have occasional imperfections such as missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. that were either part of the original artifact, or were introduced by the scanning process. We believe this work is culturally important, and despite the imperfections, have elected to bring it back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide. We appreciate your understanding of the imperfections in the preservation process, and hope you enjoy this valuable book.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton / Signet; Reprint edition (30 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451527593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451527592
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 10.4 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,842,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Richard Henry Dana Jr. (1815–1882) was an American lawyer and politician from Massachusetts, a descendant of an eminent colonial family who gained renown as the author of the American classic, the memoir Two Years Before the Mast. Both as a writer and as a lawyer, he was a champion of the downtrodden, from seamen to fugitive slaves. Dana was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on August 1, 1815 into a family that had settled in colonial America in 1640, counting Anne Bradstreet among its ancestors. In July 1831, Dana enrolled at Harvard College, where in his freshman year his support of a student protest cost him a six month suspension. In his junior year, he contracted measles, which in his case led to ophthalmia. Fatefully, the worsening vision inspired him to take a sea voyage. But rather than going on a fashionable Grand Tour of Europe, he decided to enlist as a merchant seaman, despite his high-class birth. On August 14, 1834 he departed Boston aboard the brig Pilgrim bound for Alta California, at that time still a part of Mexico. This voyage would bring Dana to a number of settlements in California (including Monterey, San Pedro, San Juan Capistrano, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, and San Francisco). After witnessing a flogging on board the ship, he vowed that he would try to help improve the lot of the common seaman. After graduating from law school, he went on to specialize in maritime law, writing The Seaman's Friend in 1841 — which became a standard reference on the legal rights and responsibilities of sailors — and defending many common seamen in court. He had kept a diary during his voyages, and in 1840 he published a memoir, Two Years Before the Mast. The term, "before the mast" refers to sailors' quarters, which were located in the forecastle (the ship's bow), officers' quarters being near the stern. His writing evidences his later social feeling for the oppressed. With the California Gold Rush later in the decade, Two Years Before the Mast would become highly sought after as one of the few sources of information on California. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
The fourteenth of August was the day fixed upon for the sailing of the brig Pilgrim, on her voyage from Boston, round Cape Horn, to the western coast of North America. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HISTORY ALIVE 9 Feb 2009
A fascinating account of a mid-19th century sea voyage undertaken by a 19 year-old whose studies have been interrupted. His decision to sail with the Pilgrim on the trading route round Cape Horn to the western coast of America changes his life (the land route was yet to be opened up). He writes with vivacity, accuracy and humor, and provides us with a window on to the arduous life of a merchant sailor, constantly kept at work on sea and on land (with the hide trade) by domineering captains and first mates (some better than others). As a result of his two year voyage, he came back Boston and finished his training for the law. He dedicated a good part of his life to the cause of sailors to improve their working conditions. His story is an inspiration.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous true story 9 Sep 2010
By Gary B
This is a fabulous true story of an educated young man's adventure aboard a ship which sailed from the east coast of the USA southwards, round Cape Horn, then northwards to the coast of California before it was even part of The States. The outward voyage alone took several months and the author was away from home for two years. The reason for the voyage was to buy cow hides - enough to fill the hold - before returning to Boston via the Cape again.

Mr Dana paints a wonderful picture of the hardships and the occasional brutality of the sailor's life in the 1830s. Although there some fairly detailed descriptions of the working of the ship, the less nautical reader might skim over these parts without losing the flow of the narrative. His descriptions of life at sea and ashore make this book a real page turner.

The edition I read had an additional chapter at the end describing the authors return to California twenty years later, to find that San Francisco had grown from a town consisting of a handful of buildings to a city of approaching half a million people (largely as a result of the gold rush of 1848/9).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing story 29 April 2011
This book paints a vivid and often gritty account of the highs and lows of life on a sail trading ship during the 1830s. The references to Monterey, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and San Diego paint a strange contrast to those cities today. The only downside is the very detailed descriptions of the rigging and sails, which at times are too much to absorb. Nevertheless, I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in sailing, history and adventure.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine read! 28 Jun 1999
By A Customer
The book descriprion on this page is good and I enjoyed this edition of the book with the help of the glossary provided in this edition which contains definitions of sailing terms and and few archaic usages that are in this book. It made it much more enjoyable and understandable.
I liked the grueling portarit of life at sea, reading some first written observations of early California, a fine and admiring description of a very able-bodied seaman that Dana encountered and many other points.
I think to that this challenging adventure for Mr. Dana restulted in restored vision for his failing eyes after he removed himself from life perhaps largely behind a desk. Could the neccessity of challenge and needed to see have contributed?
There are many facets and admirable points in this book. I think you would enjoy it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting glimpse into a time gone by 1 Jun 2011
I enjoyed Mr Dana's account of his somewhat 'gap year' (well, two years actually) along the present-day west coast of the USA. His tales of hardship, danger and a lot of hard toil are vividly told with passion, humour and good knowledge from the author's perspective. It is interesting to read how many of the basic things we take for granted now and couldn't live, didn't exist in the 1800s or were an extreme luxury.

Mr Dana's accounts of the people he met, their lives and his interactions with them were of particular interest and memory to me. He came across a wide range of people on his journey, from the all-empowered captains, to the easy going sandwich-islanders and Dana's obvious ability to relate to, and empathise with each, is interesting.

The only area which didn't work for me in this book is that my version lacked a glossary meaning that a lot of the technical jargon went over my head. For a modern reader, I thought there was perhaps too much sailing terms going on and I found it quite repetitive in the book, so found myself skip-reading large sections of the book in order to get to the areas that interest me. However for those how love living history, or adventures on the high-seas, don't let this put you off.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good book but bad edition. 23 April 2014
By jay.h
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The story itself is an excellent account of sea travel and California at the time and I strongly recommend reading it but I would not suggest anybody buy this particular edition. Its a low quality printing seemingly done for Amazon itself. The images from the original book are not present and the cover image has nothing to do with the ships in the book. It is an image of the clipper vessel Lightning and the exact image on the cover can be found on Wikipedia.
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