Two Years Before the Mast

  • by Richard Henry Dana
  • Narrated by Jim Killavey
  • 15 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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. In it he gives a vivid and detailed account of his fantastic voyage. The book is many things: a history, travelogue, a social documentary and an adventure story. W. Clark Russell, one of the best writers of sea-stories in English, called it "the greatest sea-book that was ever written in any language", and Ralph Waldo Emerson said, it "possesses...the romantic charm of Robinson Crusoe".

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Audible Editor Reviews

This is a classic account of life at sea in the 1830s, written by a Harvard dropout determined to set sail and experience the "real world". Author Richard Henry Dana said his goal with the book was to "to present the life of a common sailor at sea as he really is - the light and the dark together." Performer Jim Killavey's deep voice and Yankee accent is a great match for these vivid stories, which don't shy away from the many cruelties and hardships experienced by sailors. While this is an older recording that lacks the precise sound quality of newer works, sailors and those who wish they were will appreciate its salt-drenched charm.

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What the Critics Say

"Possesses...the romantic charm of Robinson Crusoe." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

great yarn

This book listens well if yo know something about the rigging of a sailing ship. If you are new to this world you will probably get lost in the incredible detail and and miss the truly hard, yet amazing, life of a sailor.
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- f. Lawrence ficks

Sailing to Mexican California

Being a native Californian, I've read several histories of the area and many of them cite passages from Richard Henry Dana's "Two Years Before the Mast". I hesitated to buy the audiobook since I found the English rather archaic, the original book having been published in 1840. But I took the plunge and was pleasantly surprised.

Dana's later, distinguished career as a maritime lawyer came through in his scholarly prose and I came to enjoy his writing style. Why did the Harvard educated son of a prominent Boston family ship out as a common sailor? His book answers this question and hints of his later advocacy for the oppressed and as a foremost abolitionist.

Dana's "Before the Mast" is a vivid account of life aboard a merchant ship from a deckhand's perspective. His descriptions of sail and rigging handling get a bit technical but he does it so well that even I, a landlubber, generally understood the varied and often dangerous tasks of a seaman. And I could see Mexican California as Dana described it.

The narrator, Jim Killavey, did a superb job of conveying Dana's brilliant grasp of events and sensitivity to the human condition. This book is truly a classic.
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- W. Rodger Gantt

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-13-2006
  • Publisher: Jimcin Recordings