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Special Collections Department



Accounts of sea voyages often have elements of personal narration. William Dampier's and George Shelvocke's accounts of their voyages, for example, are written from idiosyncratic, individual points of view, which make their reports highly readable. Personal narratives, however, may be distinguished from voyage accounts in that the voyage account is primarily a record of travel, while the personal narrative, although detailing the events of one or more voyages, is concerned primarily with the life of the individual relating the story. The personal narrative of voyage experiences achieved a high form in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. While some narratives include dramatic tales of adventure that seem to border on fiction, the personal narrative was particularly valued for its authenticity and reliability, which is what brought Richard Henry Dana's Two Years Before the Mast such wide acclaim. The sources for these personal accounts were travel diaries, ships logs, and manuscript memoirs.

Nathaniel Uring.
A History of the Voyages and Travels of Captain Nathaniel Uring. London: W. Wilkins, 1726.

In this personal narrative of seafaring life, Captain Uring, a merchant skipper during the time of Queen Anne, details his career of danger and adventure on the high seas. He was involved in the slave trade, was present at the battle of Copenhagen, made a landing to help soldiers at Cadiz, transported the mail from Falmouth to the West Indies, was shipwrecked on the Mosquito Coast, lumberjacked in Belize, and even served a commission as a governor.

Gift of Joseph Y. Jeanes, Jr.

John Willock.
The Voyages and Adventures of John Willock Mariner. Philadelphia: Hogan and M'Elroy, 1798.

First American edition; first published in Penrith [1789]. John Willock was an English mariner who sailed to the West Indies, Virginia, Philadelphia, and New York before 1780. He deserted, then sailed on American vessels in the coastal trade for several years. He then sailed to Europe (giving accounts of the Cape Verdes and Cadiz, including a bull fight), before being captured by Algerian pirates and held captive in Morocco. He was released, and went to sea again, sailing to Canada (where he gives accounts of Quebec and Montreal). He was finally shipwrecked on the Irish coast in 1789.

"Letters Written During a Cruise in the Pacific, 1826-1829," 1 volume.

A manuscript copy book of letters written by an anonymous Philadelphian to his friend, Ned, while a crewman on the U.S. frigate Brandywine.

Abby Jane Wood Morrell (b. 1809).
Narrative of a Voyage to the Ethiopic and South Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Chinese Sea North and South Pacific Oceans... New York: J. J. Harper, 1833.

Between 1829 and 1831, Abby Jane Wood Morrell accompanied her husband, American sealing captain and South Seas explorer Benjamin Morrell, on his fourth voyage, and published this account of the journey based on her journals. Much like Richard Henry Dana seven years later, one of Morrell's principle aims in publishing her account was "an irrepressible desire to make some observations on a subject which has become an object of no small interest to philanthropic sympathy..I mean the amelioration of the condition of the American seaman."

Gift of the University of Delaware Library Associates

Richard Henry Dana (1815-1882).
Two Years Before the Mast. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1840. With a signed, autograph letter from Dana to H. B. Hammond, thanking him for his part in retrieving some lost volumes of Dana's, and stating that he is enclosing a note that includes the autograph of his father, poet and essayist Richard Henry Dana, Sr.; Boston, Mass., June 25, 1859, 1 page.

Richard Henry Dana, Jr. was among the most influential lawyers of his day, but he is more widely remembered for this remarkable first hand account of an ordinary seaman in the American merchant marine service. In 1834, Dana joined the brig Pilgrim as a common sailor for a voyage around Cape Horn to California. Two years later he returned to Boston aboard the ship Alert. Two Years Before the Mast, published the year of his admission to the bar, was written from notes made during his journey. His purpose was to provide an account of sea life from the point of view of the forecastle, and to bring attention to the difficult life of the sailor. The narrative also concerns his experiences in California in 1835-36, Juan Fernandez Island, Cape Horn, etc., and is valuable for its descriptions of California ranching and social life in Mexican times, including San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Monterey.

The book, first published as No. 106 of Harper's Family Library, immediately became popular both in this country and in England, and has since been reprinted in many editions, including one in French attributed to James Fenimore Cooper.

Gift of Gordon Pfeiffer

James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851).
Ned Myers, or, A Life Before the Mast. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1843.

This is the true story of the sailor Ned Myers, as told to James Fenimore Cooper, an old friend and former shipmate. Cooper spent a year as a common seaman "before the mast," 1806-07, on the merchant ship Sterling. It was during the Sterling's voyage from New York to England and the Mediterranean that Cooper became close friends with the 13 year old cabin boy Ned Myers. Cooper met Myers again years later in 1843, and the two began their collaboration.

In Ned Myers, Cooper provides the reader with the same realistic, unvarnished view of seafaring life that he used as the basis of his early nautical novels. Ned Myers spans the better part of its subject's life, from his birth in Quebec about 1793 until the end of his seagoing days in the 1840s. By Cooper's tally, Ned had been a crew member of 72 different vessels, and a prisoner or passenger on some 30 more, spending about 25 years out of sight of land. Ned Myers was Cooper's response to Richard Henry Dana's immensely popular Two Years Before the Mast, which had appeared only three years before. Cooper's work matched Dana's in maritime realism and reinforced the technical authenticity of Cooper's early sea novels, but never attained the critical acclaim of Dana's literary triumph.

Gift of Dorothy Lawson Hawkins

George Arthur Gray.
Journal, 1863-66. 4 volumes.

A manuscript journal of Gray's three year cruise from Boston to China and back on the Dorchester. Gray made numerous sketches and maps that he included in his journal, which he apparently intended for publication.

William A. Andrews (b. 1843).
A Daring Voyage Across the Atlantic Ocean. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1880.

In 1878, two brothers, William A. and Asa Walter Andrews, made a daring crossing of the Atlantic in a shallow, twenty foot, single sailed dory called the Nautilus. The editor of The Boy's Own Paper acquired their story, and edited and published William Andrews log of the journey, with much historical and editorial commentary.

Albeit N. Raub Fund

Frederick A. Hodge.
Log books, 1881-85. 2 volumes.

These logs were kept by midshipman Hodge aboard the HMS Minotaur, Achilles, and Swiftsure. The two volumes are extensively illustrated with watercolors, drawings, sketches, and maps. As proof of the veracity of the logs, the first volume is certified by the signature of the captain, Harry M. Rawson.

Albeit N. Raub Fund

William Henry Beehler (1848-1915).
The Cruise of the Brookyn. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1885.

William Henry Beehler was a Lieutenant on the U.S.S. Brooklyn during its cruise in the South Atlantic and East Indian Oceans, 1881-84, and served as the editor of the on board publication the Brooklyn Eagle. After the voyage, Beehler published the journal in book form with a few additions.

Albeit N. Raub Fund

Mark Twain (1835-1910).
Following the Equator, a Journey Around the World. Hartford, Conn: The American Publishing Co., 1897.

Mark Twain undertook a lecture tour around the world as a way of raising money to pay his debts. Following the Equator is his humorous record of the voyage. Despite the high tone of the book, Mark Twain wrote it during a dark period in his life his publishing house had failed and he entered bankruptcy before he left, and his daughter Susy died while he was on his tour. His mood may be reflected in the maxims of Pudd'nhead Wilson which open each chapter of Following the Equator, such as, "Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of humor is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven," and "Pity is for the living, envy is for the dead."

Gift of the University of Delaware Library Associates

Introduction Circumnavigations Arctic Explorations Collections South Seas Scientific Expeditions Fiction

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