Richard Henry Dana Jr. by Richard Henry Dana Jr.
Two Years Before the Mast and OtherVoyages (Library of America)

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This volume collects three sea-going travel narratives by Richard Henry Dana, Jr., that span 25 years of maritime history, from the age of sail to the age of steam.

Suffering from persistent weakness in his eyes, Dana left Harvard at age 19 and sailed from Boston in 1834 as a common seaman. Two Years Before the Mast (1840) is the classic account of his voyages around Cape Horn and time ashore in California in the decade before the Gold Rush. Written with an unprecedented realism that challenged the romanticism of previous maritime literature, Dana's narrative vividly portrays the daily routines and hardships of life at sea, the capriciousness and brutality of merchant ship captains and officers, and the beauty and danger of the southern oceans in winter. Included in an appendix is "Twenty-Four Years After" (1869), in which Dana describes his return to California in 1859-1860 and the immense changes brought about by American annexation, the frenzy of the Gold Rush, and the growing commerce of "a new world, the awakened Pacific."

Dana first visited Cuba in the winter of 1859 while the possible annexation of the island was being debated in the U.S. Senate. To Cuba and Back (1859) is his entertaining and enthusiastic account of his trip, during which he toured Havana and a sugar plantation; attended a bullfight; visited chuches, hospitals, schools, and prisons; and investigated the impact on Cuban society of slavery and autocratic Spanish rule.

Journal of a Voyage Round the World, 1859-1860 records the 14-month circumnavigation that took Dana to California, Hawaii, China, Japan, Malaya, Ceylon, India, Egypt, and Europe. Written with unflagging energy and curiosity, the journal provides fascinating vignettes of frontier life in California, missionary influence in Hawaii, the impact of the Taiping Rebellion and the Second Opium War on China, and the opening of Japan to the West, while capturing the transition from the age of sail to the faster, smaller world created by the steamship and the telegraph.

About Richard Henry Dana Jr.

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Thomas Philbrick is professor emeritus of English at the University of Pittsburgh.
Published October 6, 2005 by Library of America. 926 pages
Genres: Sports & Outdoors, Travel, Action & Adventure, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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