This legendary account of a voyage around Cape Horn captures the majesty and misadventure of life at sea in the early nineteenth century
In 1834, nineteen-year-old Richard Henry Dana left Harvard University to enlist as a deckhand on a brig sailing from Boston to the California coast. For the next two years, he recorded the terrifying storms, awe-inspiring beauty, and dreadful hardships of the journey in a diary he would later expand into this riveting memoir of “the life of a common sailor at sea as it really is.”
Dana spares no detail in portraying the wretched conditions he endured and the cruelty of the ship’s captain, but he also paints vivid, unforgettable pictures of natural wonders such as icebergs and schools of migrating whales. His descriptions of the missions and presidios of pre–Gold Rush California captured the imagination of the country when the book was first published in 1840, and they serve as valuable historical documentation to this day.
An instant classic and inspiration for contemporaries such as Herman Melville, Two Years Before the Mast is one of the most remarkable and influential adventure stories in American literature.
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“Possesses . . . the romantic charm of Robinson Crusoe.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Dana’s small book is a very good book.” —D. H. Lawrence
“Unmatchable.” —Herman Melville
Richard Henry Dana (1815–1882) was an American lawyer, author, and statesman best known for his classic memoir Two Years Before the Mast. Born to a prominent family in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dana defended the rights of merchant seamen, helped to found the antislavery Free Soil Party in 1848, and advocated on behalf of freedmen during Reconstruction. The city and headland of Dana Point, California, is named in his honor.