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Before the Mast.
Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
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Richard Dana. Two Years Before the Mast.
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About the author
Two years before the mast were but an episode in the life
of Richard Henry Dana, Jr.; yet the narrative in which he
details the experiences of that period is, perhaps, his chief
claim to a wide remembrance. His services in other than liter-
ary fields occupied the greater part of his life, but they brought
him comparatively small recognition and many disappoint-
ments. His happiest associations were literary, his pleasantest
acquaintanceships those which arose through his fame as the
author of one book. The story of his life is one of honest and
competent effort, of sincere purpose, of many thwarted hopes.
The traditions of his family forced him into a profession for
which he was intellectually but not temperamentally fitted:
he should have been a scholar, teacher, and author; instead he
became a lawyer.
Born in Cambridge, Mass., August 1, 1815, Richard
Henry Dana, Jr., came of a line of Colonial ancestors whose
legal understanding and patriotic zeal had won them distinc-
tion. His father, if possessed of less vigor than his predeces-
sors, was yet a man of culture and ability. He was widely
known as poet, critic, and lecturer; and endowed his son with
native qualities of intelligence, good breeding, and honesty.
After somewhat varied and troublous school days, young
Dana entered Harvard University, where he took high rank in
his classes and bid fair to make a reputation as a scholar. But
at the beginning of his third year of college a severe attack of
measles interrupted his course, and so affected his eyes as to
preclude, for a time at least, all idea of study. The state of the
family finances was not such as to permit of foreign travel in
search of health. Accordingly