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 Two Years Before the Mast

by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.

"Born into an illustrious and prosperous family, Richard Henry Dana, Jr. resisted an inclination to join the navy and instead entered Harvard College at age sixteen, in 1831. He, however, interrupted his studies after three years, leaving Harvard because of an eye ailment. At the time, New England merchant ships were sailing to California to take advantage of a recent trade boom along the Pacific Coast. Dana decided to become a seaman on one of these merchant ships. Two years later he returned to his studies at Harvard, graduated, and took up teaching and the study of law. It was while he was in law school that Dana completed Two Years before the Mast, a narrative in which he reported in vivid detail what day-to-day life was like for a merchant seaman of his era." -- Literature and Its Times: Profiles of 300 Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events that Influenced Them. Joyce Moss and George Wilson.