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Two Years Before the Mast

published, account and dana

TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST, by Richard Henry Dana, Jr., is a truthful narrative that has all the fascination of fiction. When the author was advised to try a sea voyage for his health, which had become im paired during his student days at Harvard, he rejected the conventional pleasure trip to Europe, and shipped as a common sailor on a vessel bound from Boston around Cape Horn to what is now California and Oregon. Gold was not yet discovered, and the cargo chiefly sought was hides. On his return he published, in 1840, the account of his experiences which has become an American classic. It gives' an admirably vivid account of life on a sailing vessel in the days when the old American merchant marine was at its best, and it shows glimpses of the Pacific Coast that are interest ing in view of later historical developments. Young Dana was not only a close observer but a °good mixer.° His descriptions of ocean storms, of the wild scenery around the Cape, of the coast country, of the details of naviga tion and the stowing of cargo are supplemented by sympathetic and very real portrayals of his shipmates during the long cruise. Though he

did not write for the sake of effecting reforms, his recital of unnecessary hardships and abuses to which the crew were subjected attracted public attention, and had a salutary effect. His style is not ambitious, but is apt, direct and admirably suited to his material. It may have been this lack of apparent effort that made publishers slow to accept the work. The manu script is said to have brought the author but a nominal sum, but the merits of the book were promptly recognized as soon as it was pub lished, and in America. While by no means a "juvenile" it is a narrative of unfailing interest for boys. A later edition, published in 1869, contains an added chapter which gives an account of a later trip to Cali fornia; this is -of both •comparative and bio graphical interest. Handsomely illustrated editions of the work have been published in recent years.