Two Years Before the Mast

Two Years Before the Mast Two Years Before the Mast is a book by the American author Richard Henry Dana Jr written after a two year sea voyage starting in While at Harvard College Dana had an attack of the measles whic

  • Title: Two Years Before the Mast
  • Author: Richard Henry Dana Jr.
  • ISBN: 9781500143107
  • Page: 182
  • Format: Paperback
  • Two Years Before the Mast is a book by the American author Richard Henry Dana, Jr written after a two year sea voyage starting in 1834.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 aTwo Years Before the Mast is a book by the American author Richard Henry Dana, Jr written after a two year sea voyage starting in 1834.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.He kept a diary throughout the voyage, and after returning he wrote a recognized American classic, Two Years Before the Mast, published in 1840, the same year of his admission to the bar.

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    About " Richard Henry Dana Jr. "

  • Richard Henry Dana Jr.

    Dana was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on August 1, 1815, into a family that first settled in colonial America in 1640 As a boy, Dana studied in Cambridgeport under a strict schoolmaster named Samuel Barrett, alongside fellow Cambridge native and future writer James Russell Lowell Barrett was infamous as a disciplinarian, punishing his students for any infraction by flogging He also often pulled students by their ears and, on one such occasion, nearly pulled Dana s ear off, causing his father to protest enough that the practice was abolished.In 1825, Dana enrolled in a private school overseen by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who Dana later mildly praised as a very pleasant instructor , though he lacked a system or discipline enough to insure regular and vigorous study In July 1831, Dana began his studies at Harvard College, though he was suspended for six months before the end of his first year for supporting a student protest In his junior year, he had a case of measles which also caused ophthalmia and his weakening vision inspired him to take a sea voyage.Rather than going on a Grand Tour of Europe, he decided to enlist as a common sailor, despite his high class birth He left Boston on the brig Pilgrim on August 14, 1834, on a voyage around Cape Horn to the then remote California, at that time still a part of Mexico On the 180 ton, 86.5 foot long Pilgrim, Dana visited a number of settlements in California including Monterey, San Pedro, San Juan Capistrano, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Santa Clara and San Francisco He returned to Massachusetts aboard the ship Alert on September 22, 1836, after two years away from home.He kept a diary, and after the trip wrote Two Years Before the Mast based on his experiences The term before the mast refers to sailor s quarters in the forecastle, in the bow of the ship, the officers dwelling near the stern His writing evidences his later social feeling for the oppressed After witnessing a flogging on board the Pilgrim, he vowed that he would try to help improve the lot of the common seaman.After his sea voyage, he returned to Harvard to take up study at its law school, completing his education in 1837 He subsequently became a lawyer, and an expert on maritime law, many times defending common seamen, and wrote The Seaman s Friend, which became a standard reference text on the legal rights and responsibilities of sailors.


  • In a way, the best thing for a writer is misfortune. In that regard, Richard Henry Dana, Jr. got lucky.A young Harvard man, he signed on as a common seaman aboard the brig Pilgrim, bound for California from Boston, to help improve his health. Had it been smooth sailing over benign seas under a wise and beneficent captain, with good food and a leisurely stay on California beaches, we likely would never have heard of Dana.But, thanks to the treacherous and icy waters of Cape Horn, a power hungry c [...]

  • this book is absolutely essential for anyone who has any desire of stepping off the quarterdeck of his historical fiction (O'Brien novels) and heading down to the focs'l to hear about sailing traditional ships from the men who were actually sweating lines, heave-yo-ho-ing, and climbing the rigging to furl the royals before a gale.dana passes the equator four times over the two years that he is a merchant mariner sailing to, the then mexican owned california, to load his ship with hides bound for [...]

  • Mr. Richard Dana Jr. or Dana as his shipmates called him, is a man I would like to know. Based on his autobiographicalTwo Years Before the Mast, a recounting of his 1834-1836, seagoing-adventures aboard the Pilgrim (outbound) and Alert (return), Mr. Dana was a popular, hard-working, man’s man able to tell a tale. While attending Harvard, he contracted measles weakening his eyesight, choosing to become an ordinary seaman on a two year voyage to California—then the farthest hinterlands—for h [...]

  • Two Years before the Mast is a captivating account of Richard Henry Dana, Jr.'s service as a common sailor on a voyage from Boston to the California coast in the early 1830s. The long expositions on the technical aspects of navigation under canvas may not be of interest to those without familiarity with maritime life, but his personal narrative of daily life aboard a sailing vessel and the work of the cowhide trade in early California make the book worthwhile. Two Years before the Mast is an exc [...]

  • This book made me cry multiple times, but not for the direct subject matter. I think there were just a few too many references to the California coast described in enough detail that the effect was to pry out long-lingering ghosts haunting the coastline of my own isle of denial. his descriptions are never quite up to the par of his literary contemporaries, but the detail leaves any California-lover desperately lamenting the irretrievable passage of those first rough-and-tumble times that "modern [...]

  • I read part of this in Jr HS, then all of it after I graduated from college; my Shakespeare teacher (38 plays in the full year course) asked me, as he read it, why so much reference to the "lee scuppers." For a beginning sailor like me, an easy answer: those are the drains that fill because of the heel of the boat away from windward. (By the way, sailor's usage for "going wrong," say gambling "blown hard to Lee.") I recall how Dana records the loss of their first crewman off South America; this, [...]

  • Historically unique and surprisingly readable first-person account of life at sea on a merchant vessel 1834-36, sailing from Boston, around Cape Horn and up and down the undeveloped, cowhide-disgorging California coast. Most versions also include an equally interesting Afterward, in which the now-40something author returns to California in 1859, post-statehood and post-Gold Rush. Having heard the book's title referenced for years, I'd always assumed it was a fictional adventure tale, but, no, it [...]

  • I read this book after reading about it in Kevin Starr's excellent history of California: California and the American Dream as well as reading about it in the foreword to Herman Melville's "White Jacket".White Jacket was, of course, at least partially inspired by this book, and after reading "Two Years" I can certainly see the influence reflected in Dana's work.This book has, essentially, two scenes that are varied throughout the book. The first scene is "life on board the 19th century clipper s [...]

  • This book is, I suppose, something of a family favorite. It was a favorite of my father's and became one of mine as well. R. H. Dana was a student at Harvard in the 1830s who, following an illness which compromised his eyesight and forced an extended leave from study, signed on as a rank-and-file seaman aboard a merchant vessel bound to California via the arduous passage around Cape Horn. The book is delightful both as a portrait of life at sea in the days of sail and as a sketch of California a [...]

  • This book didn't give me the thrill I was hoping for; it's not exactly The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea. Just as much time is spent on land as at sea, engaged in the hides trade, visiting with Spanish and Indian locals, riding horses, attending wedding fandangoes. Dana's writing is missing some vital spark. There is also so much sailing and ship-equipment terminology that entire paragraphs would go by where I had to guess what was going on, since the language didn't really [...]

  • For anyone interested in sea stories, the early victorian era, or the history of California, this book is required reading. Dana does a great job conveying the specificity and nuances of his work at sea without ever coming off as self-important or boring. His observations of Mexican California are fascinating, and one gets the sense of Dana's genuine curiosity about the languages and customs of this land so far removed from what he had known in Boston. He even picks up a little Spanish along wit [...]

  • Two years into Harvard, in 1834, Dana is advised that further studying by candlelight will blind him. So he quits to work in the world outside of Cambridge--the world of real men. The book is astonishing in so many ways: that it's literate; that he survives sailing around the Great Horn; that he survives the near empty, but still dangerous, American West coast killing cows for their hides; that he advances from the lower deck (a common sailor) to an officer.Dana returns to Massachusetts two year [...]

  • I believe this was one of the books that my 8th grade teacher, Mr. Bailey, recommended to me back in the 50s. For some reason I remembered the names of the books he recommended but never read any until I was in my 70s. I can still remember taking them off the book shelf at the Paso Robles Library and placing them back on the shelf. I remember the exact shelf. You walked into the library, made a right turn into another room, and it was on the first end shelf along with "Kon-Tiki" and "The Raft"-- [...]

  • Rereading this book is a real pleasure. Dana was an extraordinarily good writer, his images so clear that it is easy to follow the complicated life aboard ship. It is of especial interest, I think, to California residents, as he spent most of his time sailing up and back along the coast, and thus describes what well-known cities were like during his time of visitation. One of his frequent stops was just a few miles from me--and the house still exists, now protected.

  • Dana leaves Harvard to spend two years as a sailor, learning the hard life of the uneducated. A rather boring book. Written in the 1830s. This is called an American classic, and it is soothing, in a way. Lots of descriptions of ships, storms and sailor customs. Almost no dialogue. Life on a ship is monotonous – and so is this book.

  • Second Reading: April 11, 2014Two Years Before the Mast is somewhat unique in that my enjoyment of this book is mostly related to the fact that this book exists. I say this as a native Californian with roots that reach back into Mexico. Two Years provides a snapshot of one point along my ancestral past.It's truly fortunate that Dana, a member of the educated professional class of the early 1800s, decided to remedy his eye fatigue by taking one of the lowest working class positions of the time: a [...]

  • Published in 1840, this is the well-educated Dana's account of his two year voyage as an ordinary seaman, sailing from Boston around Cape Horn to California and back. The purpose is mainly to collect hides, of which some 40, 000 are shipped back (yes, that's a lot of dead animals - and that's only one ship!). I had heard that this book was an exposé of the harsh conditions that sailors faced at the time, and that it was partly responsible for helping to improve those conditions. For this reason [...]

  • 3.5* As one who enjoys sea-stories, especially those of the tall ships - this book gave me a more realistic account of a sailor's life. Pretty much the next best thing to being in jail. I mean that in the sense that the routines were so strictly regimented and the work unending and restrictive (they weren't even allowed to talk to each other on deck). Everything depended on the kind of captain you had. Everything! And to think that 12 year old boys were sent off to sea! (Must have been a differe [...]

  • California before the Gold Rush. Life at sea during the great age of sail. An autobiographical coming of age story for the son of a Cambridge, Massachusetts, aristocracy. (His grandfather Francis Dana was a secretary to John Adams, signer of the Articles of the Confederation, third chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, etc. A few streets in Cambridge are named for family members.) Richard Henry Dana, Jr.'s intent was to bring some dignity to the person of the sailorman in his contemp [...]

  • This was a very interesting book about life aboard the old sailing ships of the 1800's. Reading it reminded me of movie scenes from the Horatio Hornblower series as well as Master and Commander. Being written so long ago, it was interesting to hear him describe things without trying to be politically correct. He definitely didn't like the dirtiness of the whaler ships or the Russian ones. California was not a part of the United States during his travels, so it was a little weird to hear him desc [...]

  • One of the earliest travel diaries, this was a huge hit back in the 1830s. Melville stole liberally from Dana in his creation of Moby Dick. Dana, sick from life at law school at Harvard, takes to the seas on a boat sailing from Boston. They head around the Cape and spend a few years trading along the California coast. Probably the best written account of Pre-Gold rush California, it's fascinating to read his descriptions of singing whales along side their boats, old Monterrey, San Fransisco, his [...]

  • I never thought I'd enjoy a book about sailing, especially from the early 1800s, but this was a really good book! Once I got past the technical sailing jargon (and there's a lot) I really appreciated the look into the life of a career sailor of the time and the hardships they endured. (Guys, they had to make all of their own clothes. canvas and tar.) The details of the year spent in California as it was still part of Mexico was pretty captivating. Apparently they didn't treat the native people a [...]

  • Richard Henry Dana tells the story of his trip, subtitled "A Sailor's Life at Sea", in the brig Pilgrim out of Boston in 1834. Only 19 years old, the Harvard student signed on as a deck hand. For the next two years he experienced a sailor's rugged life, traveling around Cape Horn, visiting Mexico's California territory a full 15 years before it became a U.S. state, and returning home in 1836. The Pilgrim was 'a swearing ship', in which the brutal and choleric Captain Thompson imposed his discipl [...]

  • Great, felt like a precursor to Melville in a lot of ways. Redburn felt like a more fable interpretation of this story, which has a lot of the same elements (young sailor on his first voyage, the brutality of sailing life, the cruelty of the captain and first/second mates).his writing was v pleasing to read, there was one section where he describes awful weather and then just writes "The same" for the next 3 days, as well as the somewhat terrifying ice storm sections.

  • Great nonfiction read about California before the Gold Rush. Slow in parts but not more than is to be expected.

  • I have said before that if you book your travel online and use credit cards then the words “adventure” and “journey” hardly belong in our vocabulary. Two of my favorite books, Two Years Before the Mast: A Sailor’s Life at Sea (1840) by Richard Henry Dana Jr. and Around the World on a Bicycle (1887) by Thomas Stevens chronicle a kind of travel that seem to be at the very end of an era in which travel truly could be defined as adventure. I think that rounding Cape Horn on a square-sailed [...]

  • This is the firsthand account of an educated young man who, in 1836, signed up as a sailor on a merchant ship. He traveled around Cape Horn to the California coast, worked to cure and collect hides, and then made the return trip to Boston.The nautical details might seem dense to those of us who aren't sailing experts, but I still preferred the sections about shipboard life to the ones on California. Some of the California details were interesting enough, especially Dana's time living with a grou [...]

  • I am currently reading Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana. This book is an autobiography and a dairy that is about Dana’s journey on to ship from Boston, Massachusetts to California and back during the mid-1800s. Before the book starts, he was a student at Harvard University, but got Measles and partially lost his vision. He decides to join the crew of a ship for a few years until his vision returns to normal. Dana quickly adapts to the life of a sailor and starts to fit in with h [...]

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