Two Years Before the Mast is a book by the American author Richard Henry Dana, Jr., written after a two-year sea voyage starting in 1834 and published in 1840. While at Harvard College, Dana had an attack of the measles that affected his vision. Thinking it might help his sight, Dana, rather than going on a Grand Tour as most of his fellow classmates traditionally did (and unable to afford it anyway), and being something of a nonconformist, left Harvard to enlist as a common sailor.
"Great Historical Account"
This is the true story of a Harvard graduate who forsook his studies for two years of the grueling life of an ordinary seaman. This exciting tale was the first to realistically describe the lives of the roughly treated, poorly paid sailors of the merchant marine.
"Interesting, informative, and real"
Richard Henry Dana, a law student turned sailor for health reasons, sailed in 1834 aboard the brig Pilgrim on a voyage from Boston around Cape Horn to California. Drawing from his journals, Two Years Before the Mast gives a vivid and detailed account, shrewdly observed and beautifully described, of a common sailor's wretched treatment at sea, and of a way of life virtually unknown at that time.
Two Years Before the Mast, written by Richard Henry Dana, provides a vivid account of "the life of a common sailor at sea". Dana sails from Boston, around Cape Horn, stopping in several ports along the California coast including San Diego, San Pedro, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco. On the return trip around Cape Horn in the middle of the Antarctic winter Dana describes terrifying storms and incredible beauty, giving vivid descriptions of icebergs and the scurvy that afflicts members of the crew.
Richard Henry Dana called this book a "a voice from the sea". It had an influence on both Joseph Conrad and Herman Melville, both of whom sang its praises. Dana was a law student at Harvard College who decided, in 1834, to take a break from his studies in order to experience the "real world" by signing on as a common sailor for a two year voyage from Boston around Cape Horn to California. He kept a journal which he turned into a book after the voyage.