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Old 01-03-2014, 11:18 PM   #1
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Eliot, Charles W. (editor): Harvard Classics Volume 23 V1.0 3 Jan 2014

The Harvard Classics Volume 23 (Dana) Published 1909

Edited by Charles W Eliot LL D. (March 20, 1834 - August 22, 1926)

Richard Henry Dana Jr. (August 1, 1815 – January 6, 1882) was an American lawyer and politician from Massachusetts, a descendant of an eminent colonial family who gained renown as the author of the American classic, the memoir Two Years Before the Mast. Both as a writer and as a lawyer, he was a champion of the downtrodden, from seamen to fugitive slaves.

Two Years Before the Mast was written after a two-year sea voyage starting in 1834. A film adaptation under the same name was released in 1946.

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).

The term "before the mast" refers to the quarters of the common sailors — in the forecastle, in the front of the ship. His writing evidences his later sympathy with the lower classes; he later became a prominent anti-slavery activist and helped found the Free Soil Party.

Dana did not set out to write Two Years Before the Mast as a sea adventure, but to highlight how poorly common sailors were treated on ships. It quickly became a best seller.

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