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Two Years Before the Mast   By: (1815-1882)

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Richard Henry Dana's memoir, Two Years Before the Mast, is an extraordinary account of the author's experiences at sea during the mid-19th century. Spanning two years, this gripping narrative takes readers on a compelling voyage as Dana vividly describes the challenges, hardships, and moments of sheer beauty encountered on his journey.

From the very beginning, Dana's writing captures the reader's attention, painting a vivid picture of life aboard a merchant vessel. His attention to detail and ability to create realistic scenes make it easy to imagine the bustling harbors, towering seas, and countless tasks that filled his days. The book truly immerses readers in the sailor's world and presents an insightful portrayal of life at sea during that time.

One of the most striking aspects of Dana's memoir is his keen observation of the people he encounters during his voyage. Through his encounters with a diverse range of characters, he provides a glimpse into the social dynamics and hierarchies aboard the ship. His portrayal of the captain, officers, and crew members conveys the harsh realities of the hierarchical society on board, where power dynamics and oppressive conditions often prevailed. The author's detailed descriptions of his shipmates invite the reader to form emotional connections, making it impossible not to empathize with their struggles and victories.

As the book progresses, Dana's incredible storytelling ability shines through as he recounts various adventures and mishaps that befall the ship during their time at sea. From treacherous storms to perilous navigations, he effortlessly puts readers right in the middle of the action. With each chapter, the level of excitement and tension builds, creating a suspenseful atmosphere that keeps the reader eagerly flipping the pages.

Beyond the thrilling narrative, Two Years Before the Mast is also a profound exploration of themes such as nature, labor, and personal transformation. Dana beautifully describes the mesmerizing beauty of the sea and its captivating power over those who venture upon it. This poetic depiction of nature serves as a stark contrast to the grueling toil and hardships endured by the crew members.

Additionally, the memoir offers deep insights into the transformative power of hardship and the resilience of the human spirit. As Dana undergoes physical and emotional challenges, we witness his growth from an inexperienced young sailor to a seasoned seaman. His personal journey adds a layer of depth to the narrative, making it not only a captivating adventure but also a profound introspection into the human condition.

In conclusion, Two Years Before the Mast is an exceptional memoir that transports readers to a bygone era of maritime adventure. Richard Henry Dana's captivating storytelling, meticulous attention to detail, and thoughtful exploration of various themes make this book an absolute must-read for anyone seeking a vivid and immersive experience of life aboard a 19th-century ship.

First Page:

Two Years Before the Mast Richard H. Dana, Jr.


In 1869, my father, the late Richard Henry Dana, Jr., prepared a new edition of his ``Two Years Before the Mast'' with this preface:

``After twenty eight years, the copyright of this book has reverted to me. In presenting the first `author's edition' to the public, I have been encouraged to add an account of a visit to the old scenes, made twenty four years after, together with notices of the subsequent story and fate of the vessels, and of some of the persons with whom the reader is made acquainted.''

The popularity of this book has been so great and continued that it is now proposed to make an illustrated edition with new material. I have prepared a concluding chapter to continue my father's ``Twenty four Years After.'' This will give all that we have since learned of the fate of crew and vessels, and a brief account of Mr. Dana himself and his important lifework, which appears more fully in his published biography[1] and printed speeches and letters.[2] This concluding chapter will take the place of the biographic sketch prefixed to the last authorized edition. There is also added an appendix with a list of the crews of the two vessels in which Mr. Dana sailed, extracts from a log, and also plates of spars, rigging and sails, with names, to aid the reader... Continue reading book >>

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