A sailor's observation of a younger, wilder California
In this excerpt from Richard Henry Dana's around-the-Horn masterpiece, Two Years Before the Mast, we experience the wonder Dana felt when beholding the California coast for the first time, in 1835:
''[T]here was a grandeur in everything around, which gave a solemnity to the scene, a silence and solitariness which affected every part! Not a human being but ourselves for miles, and no sound heard but the pulsations of the great Pacific!''
The passages taken from Two Years Before the Mast and compiled here reveal what California was like before the gold rush. The heavily forested San Francisco Bay Area is a fabulous place to collect firewood for the galley stoves. Monterey, with its whitewashed adobes, is more picturesque than Santa Barbara, where the adobes ''are mostly left of a mud color.'' Interestingly, San Pedro (Port of Los Angeles) is ''universally called the hell of California.''
This pocket-sized book aims to zero in on Dana's insightful descriptions of pre-American California. His eyewitness observations of a land vibrant with commerce yet largely undeveloped will appeal to anyone interested in the many incarnations of this state.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Richard Henry Dana Jr. left his studies at Harvard College in 1834 to become a common seaman on the hide-trading brig Pilgrim in the hopes that a sea voyage would aid his failing eyesight. The diary he kept during this trip was the basis for Two Years Before the Mast. He returned to Boston in 1836 and completed a law degree at Harvard in 1837, subsequently becoming a lawyer and expert on maritime law.
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