Two Years Before the Mast: A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea (Penguin Classics)

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9780140390087: Two Years Before the Mast: A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea (Penguin Classics)

In 1834, Richard Henry Dana Jr. left the comforts of Boston for the hardships and abuses of the most exploited segment of the American working class.  Dana’s account of his passage around Cape Horn to California, and back, is a remarkable portrait of the seagoing life: the day-to-day routines and conversations, the sailors who manned the ship, the brutality of incompetent officers, and the style of life in the newly emerging coastal towns of California. 

As Thomas Philbrick discusses in his introduction, the public’s sympathy for the plight of mariners, which was aroused by the book, eventually faded, but Two Years Before the Mast forever changed readers’ romanticized perceptions of life at sea and inaugurated a lasting tradition of realism and concern for human values.

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From the Inside Flap:

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 and the most eloquent, insightful account we have of life at sea in the early nineteenth century. Richard Henry Dana is only nineteen when he abandons the patrician world of Boston and Harvard for an arduous voyage among real sailors, amid genuine danger. The result is an astonishing read, replete with vivid descriptions of storms, whales, and the ship's mad captain, terrible hardship and magical beauty, and fascinating historical detail, including an intriguing portrait of California before the gold rush. As D. H. Lawrence proclaimed, "Dana's small book is a very great book."

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"Possesses . . . the romantic charm of Robinson Crusoe."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

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