I returned to Two Years Before the Mast for the first time in decades as research for a project on which I’m about to embark. I’m here to tell you that Richard Henry Dana’s classic memoir wears exceeding well. The prose is simple and lucid, if overladen with nautical terminology. His descriptions of life aboard ship, the topography and inhabitants of what we now call our west coast (at least the part as far north as San Francisco) are priceless history.
This time around I was impressed with the multi-ethnicity of the shipboard populations. Lots of Hawaiians (Kanakas or Sandwich Islanders) particularly. I got a great deal of material, but just as importantly enjoyed the journey through time (180 years worth) to the space where I now sit.
Glancing through his Wikipedia bio, I note that he became an abolitionist lawyer and an all around prominent and good guy after this voyage. Not so often that the impression you get of a man on the printed page at so young an age is manifested in reality. Happy that it was so with RHD.