Two Years before the Mast
Richard H. Dana, Jr.
Two Years Before the Mast is a memoir by the American author Richard Henry Dana, Jr., published in 1840, having been written after a two-year sea voyage from Boston to California on a merchant ship starting in 1834.
While an undergraduate at Harvard College, Dana had an attack of the measles which affected his vision. Thinking it might help his sight, Dana 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.
In 1869, my father, the late Richard Henry Dana, Jr., prepared a new edition of his &'grave;Two Years Before the Mast'' with this preface:
&'grave;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 &'grave;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 and printed speeches and letters. 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.
In the winter of 1879-80 I sailed round Cape Horn in a full-rigged ship from New York to California. At the latter place I visited the scenes of &'grave;Two Years Before the Mast.'' also during his lifetime frequently confirmed all that came under his observation. Such truth in the author demands truth in illustration, and I have cooperated with the publishers in securing a painting of the Alert under full sail and other illustrations, both colored and in pen and ink, faithful to the text in every detail.