Textual voyages of self-formation and liberation: Darwin's the voyage of the Beagle and Dana's two years before the mast.
Instead of following the well-established pattern of the grand tour to the classical sites of Mediterranean civilization, our young men travelled westward towards more primitive settings. Their ships doubled the coasts of South America, and we can individuate the two points at which they most nearly crossed paths. On about 20 November 1834, Dana's ship the Pilgrim moving north and Darwin's Beagle moving south crossed the same latitude just above the island of Chiloe off the coast of Chile. Then on about 17 August 1836, while the Beagle was anchored in the Brazilian port of Pernambuco, Dana's ship the Alert sailed past that port on its homeward journey. The Alert returned to Boston on 20 September and the Beagle to Falmouth on 2 October 1836.
Although the two young men sailed by one another without meeting, the books about their travels--Darwin's first published in 1839 and Dana's in 1840-emerge as analogous productions of the historical moment. They express a liberating energy that while motivating the self-formation of the protagonists also has implications for the larger intellectual and cultural environment. That energy operates simultaneously in the context of Darwin's scientific research and in the framework of maritime commerce in which Dana's story unfolds.
Both travellers began their journeys with a concern, not explicitly confessed in the books, about their health. Dana suffered from impaired eyesight, evidently stemming from both physiological and psychological causes, that prevented him from reading and so continuing his career as a student. Darwin suffered from hypochondriac indigestion and heart problems. Both of them hoped that the voyage would have tonic effects. But after sailing away from home, both were dismayed to realise that they might be infecting the populations of the ports at which they called with other diseases of which they were unwitting carriers. In the very first paragraph of his account, Darwin reports ominously that at Teneriffe the ship is "prevented landing, by fears of our bringing the cholera" (Voyage 11). (1) The contamination brought by ships like his to what have once been healthier settings emerges as an even more "melancholy" fact for Darwin in the islands of the Pacific. "Wherever the European has trod," he reflects, "death seems to pursue the aboriginal":
The varieties of man seem to act on each other in the same way as different species of animals--the stronger always extirpating the weaker. It was melancholy at New Zealand to hear the fine energetic natives saying, that they knew the land was doomed to pass from their children. Every one has heard of the inexplicable reduction of the population in the beautiful and healthy island of Tahiti since the date of Captain Cook's voyages. ... The Rev J. Williams ... says, that the first intercourse between natives and Europeans, "is invariably attended with the introduction of fever, dysentery, or some other disease, which carries off numbers of the people. ... It is certainly a fact, which cannot be controverted, that most of the diseases which have raged in the islands during my residence there, have been introduced by ships; and what renders this fact remarkable is, that there might be no appearance of disease among the crew of the ship which conveyed this destructive importation." (459-60) (2)
Dana experiences the same distress with respect to the love-able "Kanakas"--in the generic term for inhabitants of the South Pacific (Chappell 83-84)--of the Sandwich Islands: "they were the most interesting, intelligent, and kind-hearted people that I ever fell in with. I felt a positive attachment for almost all of them" (Two Years 151). (3) The Sandwich Islanders seem doomed, however, to extinction:
It has been said, that the greatest curse to each of the South Sea islands, was the first [white] man who discovered it; and every one who knows anything of the history of our commerce in those parts, knows how much truth there is in this; and that the white men, with their vices, have brought in diseases before unknown to the islanders, and which are now sweeping off the native population of the Sandwich Islands, at the rate of one fortieth of the entire population annually. They seem to be a doomed people. The curse of a people calling themselves Christian, seems to follow them everywhere; and even here, in this obscure place, lay two young islanders, whom I had left strong, active young men, in the vigor of health, wasting away under a disease, which they would never have known but for their intercourse with Christianized Mexico and people from Christian America. (253)
The degeneracy is both a physical state afflicting the aborigines and a moral condition characterizing the "Christianized" Spanish Americans. Dana's first disappointment occurs when, one hundred three days out of Boston, his ship drops anchor for the first time at Juan Fernandez. He finds not the eagerly expected "romantic spot" associated with Robinson Crusoe but rather a squalid prison colony. The buildings are ramshackle, the inhabitants "miserably clad" and "the laziest people upon the face of the earth" (47, 48). He observes, moreover, a degenerate population wherever he goes on the western coast of America. In Latin America, as Darwin further documents, the aboriginal inhabitants are dying as a result not only of European diseases but of the wars of extermination waged by the Spanish Americans. (4) Among the personalities that fascinate and help Darwin, the charismatic but sinister General Juan Manuel de Rosas dominates many episodes as a force antagonistic to life. Darwin learns of his application of a punishment called "staking" to refractory Indians. Treating the human body as if it were an animal hide to be cured, the torturer stretches and ties to four stakes the legs and arms of the culprit and leaves him to bake in the sun (85). On another occasion Darwin observes "the skeleton of an Indian with the dried skin hanging on the bones, suspended to the branch of a tree" (140). To provoke Darwin's further horror is de Rosas's policy of massacring in cold blood all the young Indian women captured: "When I exclaimed that this appeared rather inhuman, [my informant] answered, 'Why, what can be done? they breed so!'" (114). (5)
Both Darwin, whom the process of breeding always fascinates, and Dana have wished to dissociate themselves, in their travel accounts, from the nefarious historical consequences for which other transplanted Europeans and Americans bear responsibility. Despite the frequent notation, especially in Dana's case, of latitudinal and longitudinal positions, their movements are also occurring in a more rarefied atmosphere than that of the spatial and temporal coordinates of the 1830s. They sail in a medium resembling the "strange seas of thought" of Wordsworth's Newton--and in a textual medium too. While not originally intended to evolve in that dimension, their voyages have come to resemble others that acquire significance after the event by being reconstructed--and even created--in writing. "Not before Dana," remarks William C. Spengemann, and he might have added not before Darwin too, "do we find a work [of travel writing] that seems as much an act of creation as an act of recollection" (146).
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When the first edition of his book came into print in 1839, with the title Journal and Remarks, 1831-1836, Darwin professed amazement at the unexpected development: "If I live till I am eighty years old I shall not cease to marvel at finding myself an author: in the summer, before I started, if anyone had told me I should have been an angel by this time, I should have thought it an equal improbability" (Darwin, Correspondence 54). (6) In publishing his book, Darwin discovers both his vocation and, as if for the first time, himself.
Darwin's initiation as a writer, if not as a published author, nevertheless dates from the very beginning of his tour on the Beagle. Although "he had never felt," according to Janet Browne, "any urge to record his feelings before," his departure on the Beagle prompted him to open a diary: "Faced with a long voyage, fully aware that a new kind of shipboard adventure was starting, emotions at bursting point, painfully conscious that he was stepping out into an unknown world ..., Darwin plainly believed the occasion should not pass unremarked" (173). At first an awkward task, his writing soon became as natural and necessary as breathing, and any distinction or boundary between travelling and writing was erased. He made "his life and diary into a continuum so that the book and the keeping of it became an important aspect of the reality it chronicled" (Browne 174).
Responding not only to "the reality it chronicled," his first book also took shape, like all great literary works, in response to other books. From Milton especially, whose Paradise Lost accompanied him on the Beagle, and from Wordsworth, he had learned, even as a child, the delight of narrating, orally, his own tales--what Gillian Beer calls his "passion for fabulation" ("Darwin's Reading" 558). (7) More immediately influential, however, was Alexander von Humboldt's Personal Narrative of Travels to ... the New Continent, (8) which he read "with such enraptured attention," according to John Rosenberg, "that he in effect dreamed the voyage of the Beagle before he ever embarked on it" (97). With a shock of recognition he found himself repeating the masterfully described experiences of Humboldt and seeing the jungles and other scenes through the eyes of that great predecessor. Another work of similarly decisive importance receives credit in Darwin's dedication to Charles Lyell of the second edition of his account of the voyage: "the chief part of whatever scientific merit this journal and the other works of the author may possess, has been derived from studying the well-known and admirable Principles of Geology." "Without Lyell," in the opinion of Janet Browne, "there would have been no Darwin: no intellectual journey, no voyage of the Beagle as commonly understood. His influence--and his impact--on the young traveller can hardly be overestimated" (186).
Evolving in this larger context of textuality, the written account was a work in progress over which the author labored patiently and conscientiously for nearly fourteen years. It began with rough phrases jotted down in the heat of experience in the small notebooks that were always in his pocket. In a second stage, during occasions of tranquillity, these notes were elaborated into the so-called Beagle Diary of 751 manuscript pages. Three years after the return home, a third stage produced the Journal and Remarks, 1832-1836, published as the third and last volume, after the first two written by Captain FitzRoy, in the narratives of the Adventure and Beagle voyages. Eliminating many passages of the Diary and inserting others of new material based on recollections or recovered from the original notebooks, this version offered Darwin the amazed delight of coming for the first time into print. He sent a copy to his hero Humboldt in Prussia, who understood that his own work had inspired Darwin's and kindly hailed Darwin's achievement as superior to his own: "Considering the importance of your work, Sir, this may be the greatest success that my humble work could bring. Works are of value only if they give rise to better ones" (Darwin, Correspondence 425-29). In fact Darwin's published Journal would give rise to a still better book six years later in the considerably revised second edition of 1845, entitled Journal of Researches, itself the basis for his subsequent great works.
The edition of 1845, which came in later printings to be called The Voyage of the Beagle, naturally contains the traces--the fossils, as it were--of the earlier written accounts. Such signs of development over time within the writing suit an emerging story of mental Bildung. Darwin's long-felt affinity with Wordsworth may also have justified for his narrative the subtitle "Growth of a Scientist's Mind" as an appropriate variation on the subtitle for the as yet unpublished Prelude.
Darwin's formation occurs, as it does with the protagonist of the Prelude, in interaction with many cultural factors. Within the historical context of colonial aggression, corresponding to the French revolutionary episodes in the Prelude, Darwin frequently observes and discusses the relative merits of primitive and advanced stages of civilization. And in the textual dimension his ideas mature in relationship not only to the scientific and other works read before and during the voyage but to those studied after his return home. The poet, as Wordsworth had stated in the "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads, must possess beyond his "more than usual organic sensibility" a mind that "had also thought long and deeply." For the mind of the Darwinian scientist the long and deep thinking must relate to both humanistic and scientific scholarship. The uninstructed child of nature, as Darwin observes with respect most notably to the superstitious savages of the Tierra del Fuego, would never be led to sublime insights into the truth of things. The principal agents in the narrative of mental formation are therefore what Wordsworth terms the human mind and an "external World" that includes cultural phenomena. Darwin may have modelled his story in this respect upon Wordsworth's Excursion, which he read attentively, as David Amigoni points out, "twice through" (59). (9) In lines that Amigoni cites, found in the original Preface to The Excursion, "the individual Mind" and "the external World" are conceived as being "fitted" to one another:
my voice proclaims How exquisitely the individual Mind (And the progressive powers perhaps no less Of the whole species) to the external World Is fitted:--and how exquisitely, too-- Theme this but little heard of among men-- The external World is fitted to the Mind; And the creation (by no lower name Can it be called) which they with blended might Accomplish:--this is our high argument.(ll. 62-71) (10)
Michael Miller has recently coined the term "neural Darwinism" for the process whereby "the mind and the external world [are] fitting themselves to one another" (70). Wordsworthian and Darwinian at once, perhaps, the neural activity begins as a joyful emotion. In his first rambles through a tropical jungle, the landscape he always loved best, Darwin re-lives not only the experiences of Humboldt but the elation to which Wordsworth characteristically applies the term "joy": "Delight," says Darwin, "is a weak term to express the feelings of a naturalist who, for the first time, has wandered by himself in a Brazilian forest. ... Such a day ... brings with it a deeper pleasure than he can ever hope to experience again" (22). The deep delight is unrepeatable and irrecoverable, and we realize immediately that the experience narrated in the text derives from a later impression that complicates the emotion of "the first time." In the same paragraph, indeed, the narrator indicates that he is not simply reporting what originally happened but reorganizing his experiences with respect to subsequent perceptions: "I will not at present attempt to describe the gaudy scenery of this noble bay, because, in our homeward voyage, we called here a second time, and I shall then have occasion to remark on it." But even before arriving at that "second time," the narrator has found that the initial emotion must give way to a more consciously intellectual response. Or, as George Levine states succinctly, "in Darwin, intellect and feeling [are] one," as are, in Darwin's own terms, "pleasure" and "naturalizing," which is the performance of "duty" (133). Already "a naturalist," he cannot simply enjoy the day voluptuously. He must not, that is, resemble what Wordsworth, in Book I of The Prelude, calls "a false steward who hath much received / And renders nothing back" (270-71). So the joy received from that aspect of "the external world" that Darwin, like Wordsworth, often personifies as "Nature" begins to educate the mind of the responsible naturalist. He formulates a conscious perception of plants and animals in accord with Nature's own unconscious purposes.
The assumptions, insofar as we can adduce them, that have underlain the initial phase of Darwin's "naturalizing" continue to relate him to a tradition associated with eighteenth-century scientists like Carl Linnaeus. Natural science means, in this view, chiefly description and classification of the elements of a static order, unchanging except for occasional catastrophes. The Wordsworthian dimension of this phase becomes apparent when Darwin realizes that, while collecting and classifying specimens of flora, fauna and minerals, he is also accumulating an equally interesting collection within his mind. Recalling the Wordsworthian mind in "Tintern Abbey" as "a mansion for all lovely forms" (140), Darwin's mental growth involves a growing collection of fine memories that must not be allowed to decay. As he narrates them, they are chiefly memories of outdoor experiences rather than recollections of passages from books. He records, for example, "the first night which I passed under the open sky [on the Argentine pampas] with the gear of the recado for my bed":
There is high enjoyment in the independence of the Gaucho life--to be able at any moment to pull up your horse, and say, "Here we will pass the night." The death-like stillness of the plain, the dogs keeping watch, the gipsy-group of Gauchos making their beds round the fire, have left in my mind a strongly-marked picture of this first night, which will never be forgotten. (80)
The assumptions underlying the collecting of mental pictures and of natural specimens begin to change, however, during the composition of the work that would later be published. With respect to the specimens, Darwin gradually realizes that science involves more than the accumulation and classification of items. His observations have been providing unexpected evidence of a natural order in which the categories of species are far from static. The scientist must therefore write a history of dynamic processes in which the boundaries between biological categories are in constant flux. In the course of its revisions, a book emerges, as Howard and Valmai Gruber believe, that reveals an author in transit from a passively observant to an actively creative conception of scientific writing (199). The Nature that emerges is in Wordsworthian terms half-perceived and half-created, and the scientist's mental pictures too will be half re-created in retrospect.
The creativity exercised by Nature herself appears in what Darwin frequently terms the "creative force." This vital energy multiplies, as if wilfully, the instances of living species wherever possible, populating the air, the earth, and the sea with more and more versions of life. "It is excusable," Darwin remarks, "to grow enthusiastic over the infinite numbers of organic beings with which the sea of the tropics, so prodigal of life, teems" (421, 484). Seeking the origins of such life, the natural historian travels not just through space but back in time to periods antecedent to human civilizations: "Hence," as reported of another moment of enthusiasm in the Galapagos, "both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact--that mystery of mysteries--the first appearance of new beings on this earth" (400).
Although the narrator does not say so, the awed response here derives, typically enough, both from the original Galapagos experience and from retrospective reflections based on subsequently read texts. Darwin has encountered the phrase "mystery of mysteries" in a letter by Sir John Herschel, published in 1837, about the question of new species. (11) Recognizing then its relevance to his own intuitions about the appearance of species, Darwin endows his original anatomical observations with a thrilling sense of wonder. Far from the old-style, classifying scientist that in the Wordsworthian phrase "murders to dissect," he celebrates like a joyful poet the mystery of abounding life. (12) At such points, most notably, the emotional and intellectual components of the mental response are fused.
Nature herself, however, is murderous as well as creative. In opposition to the "creative force" Darwin discerns a darker force that forever "checks," in his usual term, the prodigal multiplication of life and brings species to extinction. The ubiquitous signs of this check come to fascinate him even more than the evidence of the "creative force." "Certainly," he reflects, "no fact in the long history of the world is so startling as the wide and repeated extermination of its inhabitants," and the phenomenon remains baffling: "how rarely, if ever, we can point out the precise cause and manner of action of the check!" (189). Evidence collected in South America, where the conflict between creative and exterminating tendencies assumes epic dimensions, may, he trusts, some day resolve the great mystery of science: "[The] wonderful relationship in ... [this] continent between the dead and the living [species], will, I do not doubt, hereafter throw more light on the appearance of organic beings on our earth, and their disappearance from it, than any other class of facts" (187).
In passages like one describing "the whole area of the Pampas [as] one wide sepulchre of ... extinct, gigantic quadrupeds" (169), Darwin adopts what Amigoni calls "the epitaphic mode" characteristic of Wordsworth: "Extinction is afforded the kind of reverential language of mortality associated with Wordsworth" (93-94). Darwin's reflections upon mortality, both in nature and in the historical dimension of colonial aggression, also extend perhaps more than in Wordsworth to an impression of obliterating tendencies within his individual mind. The early confidence regarding mental pictures "which will never be forgotten" declines into a "hope" in their endurance: "I hope it will be long before I forget this farewell view of the magnificent Cordillera fronting Chiloe" (315). Towards the end, when the ship returns to the part of Brazil visited at the start of the voyage, he confronts a bleak truth about such farewell views. His growing collection of magnificent mental pictures, including that of the forest in which he had first experienced such joy, will not after all endure: "In my last walk I stopped again and again to gaze on these beauties, and endeavoured to fix in my mind for ever, an impression which at the time I knew sooner or later must fail" (523).
In their complexity, though, Darwinian mental processes may involve enrichment and decay at once, in correspondence with the creative and checking forces that operate throughout Nature. Although his first chapter has referred to "a deeper pleasure than [I] can ever hope to experience again," a still deeper satisfaction may accompany the perception of the event in retrospect. A cryptic notebook entry early in the voyage reads: "Solitude on Board--enervating heat--comfort--had to look forward to pleasures in prospect--do not wish for cold--night delicious." As elaborated in the next stage of his re-writing, the entry changes: "Excepting when in the midst of tropical scenery, my greatest share of pleasure is in anticipating a future time when I shall be able to look back on past events; & the consciousness that this prospect is so distant never fails to be painful" (Charles Darwin 158) The conviction here, which Levine also comments upon as Wordsworthian (143), of the superiority of retrospect to the present prospect, oddly vitiates Darwin's original enjoyment of the delicious night. Yet it increases the enjoyment experienced in the later textual reconstruction of the event.
Besides exercising his mind in the pleasures and pains of recollecting, anticipating, and forgetting, Darwin's mental formation strengthens a more sublime faculty. In the Brazilian forest he becomes aware not only of easily described "individual objects" but of indescribable "higher feelings of wonder, astonishment, and devotion, which fill and elevate the mind" (36). The perception of geological phenomena too can produce such mental states. The exaltation derives less from what is observed than from reflections about creative and checking forces operating in geological time: "it makes the head almost giddy," he reports of the unmaking erosion that has made the Strait of Magellan, "to reflect on the number of years, century after century, which the tides, unaided by a heavy surf, must have required to have corroded so vast an area and thickness of solid basaltic lava" (196). Reminding us of mountain episodes in Wordsworth, climactic mental experiences also occur high above the sea. Of an Andean excursion, he reports:
We spent the day on the summit, and I never enjoyed one more thoroughly. Chile, bounded by the Andes and Pacific, was seen as in a map. The pleasure from the scenery, in itself beautiful, was heightened by the many reflections. ... Who can avoid wondering at the force which has up-heaved these mountains, and even more so at the countless ages which it must have required to have broken through, removed, and levelled whole masses of them? (274) (13)
The sweeping view over space and time offers the scientist aesthetic and intellectual pleasure at once. His heightened perception works within the dimension of imagination, which is also associated unexpectedly with granite:
Granite to the geologist is classic ground: ... We generally see it constituting the fundamental rock, and, however formed, we know it is the deepest layer in the crust of this globe to which man has penetrated. The limit of man's knowledge in any subject possesses a high interest, which is perhaps increased by its close neighbourhood to the realms of imagination.(301)
Rather than life and death, as in the biological sphere, the opposing forces in the geological struggle are the sea and the land or the forces that lift the land above the sea and later lower it. In the neighborhood of coral reefs too, the narrator crosses the limiting boundary between scientific observation and imaginative insight. Personifying the geological antagonists, he perceives "the ocean and the land ... here struggling for mastery: although terra firma has obtained a footing, the denizens of the water think their claim at least equally good" (482). At first it is "impossible to behold [the] waves without feeling a conviction that an island, though built of the hardest rock ... would ultimately yield and be demolished by such an irresistible power." But then the imagination figures "another power, as an antagonist, [that] takes part in the contest." This opponent unites "the organic forces" of the little gelatinous bodies of polypi, whose "accumulated labour" suggests "myriads of architects at work night and day, month after month." Thanks to their tireless labor, more wonderful than that which has produced the Egyptian pyramids, the "low, insignificant coral-islets stand and are victorious" (485). The coral offers an instance as well of the erasure of boundaries between geological and biological phenomena and, as Amigoni observes, between life and death. The living "coral takes on an epitaphic function" to restore to memory what has had to die below it (Amigoni 95-96).
Ultimately the journey leads Darwin to imagine the perspective of an immortal scientist: "We may thus, like unto a geologist who had lived his ten thousand years and kept a record of the passing changes, gain some insight into the great system by which the surface of this globe has been broken up, and land and water interchanged" (508). That hypothetical, recording geologist refers not just to Darwin but to Nature herself. For Darwin comes to recognize Nature both as an architect that builds and unbuilds the land masses and as a writer that in fossilized traces forever records and partially erases her own history. In The Origin of Species Darwin would indeed conceive himself explicitly as a reader that "deciphers" the "characters" belonging to the "changing dialect" of Nature's writing project (Beer, "Language Theory" 164). (14) As with Wordsworth, Nature has been an interlocutor that has formed him to be her reader and so enabled him in turn to recreate her in his own writing. According to The Origin, moreover, his writing aspires especially to repair the tremendous imperfections and gaps that Nature has left in her own textual records.
In the wonderful interaction that fits Nature and the human mind to one another, Wordsworth awards pre-eminence to the latter at the end of The Prelude--"the mind of man becomes / A thousand times more beautiful than the earth / On which he dwells ..." (Bk. 14, ll. 448-50). Darwin approaches a similar conclusion, which validates not only Wordsworth's theory but, according to Amigoni, "Herschel's narrative of human mental supremacy"--the faculty that may permit man, alone among the species, to escape extinction (86-87). In the last pages of The Voyage of the Beagle, Darwin returns, as promised, "a second time" to the Brazilian jungle, the natural scene that he most appreciates. "Deeply impressed on my mind," the scene acquires in that second act of perception its "sublimity" (530). Far from a sepulchre, Nature emerges here as a site of intense breeding, a "great wild, untidy, luxuriant hothouse made by Nature for herself" (523). Yet as if not just Nature's own creation, that hothouse of breeding has since struck Gerard Edelman as a metaphor for the organic, Darwinian mind in action: the brain functions "not like a computer ... or a telephone exchange; [but] more like the vast aggregate of interactive events in a jungle" (69). The Nature that has provided Wordsworth, on Mount Snowdon, with an image for the poet's growing mind at work has repeated the feat for the mind of the scientist. And more important finally than his coming to know Nature may be the scientist's achievement of self-recognition. In exercising his mental faculties to write his book, the scientist has brought into existence the authorial self at which "I shall not cease to marvel."
Darwin's phrase, "wild, untidy, luxuriant hothouse," conveys, admittedly, only a partial image of "the vast aggregate of interactive events" occurring within his working mind. While being fitted to Nature, the authorial mind is also interacting with other intellectual and cultural energies of "the external World." The stimuli coming from Nature trigger, that is, a mental liberation that the Beagle narrative associates with the author's scholarship too. Although Wordsworth and Herschel receive no mention, the narrative does refer constantly to the texts of Humboldt, Lyell, Hooker, and many others and to Darwin's correspondence with other naturalists. Darwin shows himself to be constantly testing the authorities that he has previously respected and the notions that scientific texts have generally held up till then. With regard especially to Lyell, his investigations frequently lead to reaffirmations of authoritative laws: "we have good evidence," he remarks typically, "[by which] we have confirmed that remarkable law so often insisted on by Mr. Lyell, namely, that the 'longevity of the species in the mammalian is upon the whole inferior to that of the testacea'" (95). Still more common, though, are statements like the two that follow of the opposite tendency:
That large animals require a luxuriant vegetation, has been a general assumption which has passed from one work to another; but I do not hesitate to say that it is completely false, and that it has vitiated the reasoning of geologists on some points of great interest in the ancient history of the world. (97) If this be so, and I cannot doubt it, the grand and broken chain of the Cordillera, instead of having been suddenly thrown up, as was till lately the universal, and still is the common opinion of geologists, has been slowly upheaved in mass, in the same gradual manner as the coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific have risen within the recent period. A multitude of facts in the structure of the Cordillera, on this view receive a simple explanation. (335)
The statements show that he comes to view the intellectual endeavour not as the discovery of absolute truths but as the cultivation of a "reasoning" capacity that should be freed of vitiating assumptions. The effort is also to formulate explanations that are as "simple" as possible for any "multitude of facts." To do that, the mind must risk choices that are less blindly and implacably unerring than those entailed in what Darwin would later call "natural selection." Stated in such terms, Darwin's consciousness of what his mind is doing places him in the forefront of the great tradition of scientific research that dates from the Renaissance. What remains still more originally at work in his writing is the quality of an imaginative daring and an intuitive subtlety that his humility hides from his own consciousness. The text that is the principal product of his long voyage demonstrates a remarkably superior mind in quiet growth and free action.
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In the voyage of Dana, Defoe's Robinson Crusoe may correspond to Humboldt's Personal Narrative of Travels to ... the New Continent, the book so prized by Darwin: "It is to Robinson Crusoe," Martin Green believes, that Dana's Two Years Before the Mast  "most often sends us back" (74). (15) Dana wished to repeat some of the experiences narrated by Defoe until his sad realization on the island of Juan Fernandez that it was no longer "the most romantic spot of earth." Yet unlike Darwin, Dana did not set out on his voyage with books to guide his perceptions of things, and writing was not from the start a necessary component of his travel experiences. Indeed in the mental and physical crisis that triggered his departure from home, he found that his ailing eyes could no longer read, and the thought of books sickened him. (16) He shipped out as a common sailor because the job required no reading and because the sailor's identity seemed the antithesis of the Harvard undergraduate that he was seeking to put behind him. The published account of the voyage did not, therefore, derive in the fashion of Darwin's from compendious notes and numerous drafts. In the description of Douglas B. Hill, Jr., it "is the product of meagre notes worked over by a reminiscent imagination" (314). (17)
Another feature that distinguishes Dana's narrative of formation from Darwin's relates to the interlocutors of the two protagonists. Whereas Darwin has most often cast Nature, gendered as feminine, in the role of his interlocutor in "the external World," Dana personifies that interlocutor in the ship--again feminine but providing a manly environment. Darwin has never adjusted, in fact, to life aboard ship where his chronic seasickness has sometimes prompted the young Fuegian passenger Jemmy Button to pat him with bemused compassion and to exclaim, "Poor, poor fellow!" (Darwin 222). To the extent possible Darwin has lived ashore and travelled over land. In contrast, Dana gains his sea-legs after three days aboard the ship and never experiences seasickness again. The fact offers him complacent satisfaction when he observes with scant sympathy some passengers evidently in the throes of qualms like Darwin's:
[W]hat a miserable and forlorn creature a sea-sick passenger is[!] Since I had got over my own sickness, the third day from Boston, I had seen nothing but hale, hearty men, with their sea legs on, and able to go anywhere, (for we had no passengers;) and I will own there was a pleasant feeling of superiority in being able to walk the deck, and eat, and go about, and comparing one's self with two poor, miserable, pale creatures, staggering and shuffling about decks, or holding on and looking up with giddy heads, to see us climbing to the mast-heads, or sitting quietly at work on the ends of the lofty yards. A well man at sea has little sympathy with one who is seasick; he is too apt to be conscious of a comparison favorable to his own manhood. (74)
The distinction between the well man at sea and the seasick man relates to differing conceptions of manhood. In Margaret Cohen's analysis of fictional narratives of voyages--which naturally does not treat Dana's non-fictional account--"work" constitutes the fundamental subject matter, and manhood is associated with the performance of physical tasks aboard ship. Such work, as Cohen observes with reference to Marx, engages man in an ennobling interaction with Nature, a condition that fails to characterize the degrading, alienating work in the factories of the industrial novels. Working on the "deck" rather than at the "desk," to adopt Cohen's terms (486, 491), Dana leaves the activities of the scholar behind him in order to prove his manhood in healthy physical labor. The seasick Darwin does not, of course, work in this way, but it may be argued that he too demonstrates his manhood in activities very different from those of desk-work. In natural settings ashore he joins forces with the manly Gauchos and sleeps with them under the stars. His ennobling physical labors include the climbing of steep mountains, the travels on foot and horseback across long distances of difficult terrain, and the excavation of fossils.
To be ennobling, however, the work cannot be a purely physical activity, and Cohen finds in the narratives of voyages that physical and mental agility are always combined in the acquisition of "know-how" (486, 488). This "know-how" implies, according to the thesis of Hester Blum's monograph, an "epistemology" characteristic of literary treatments of sailors "that strives to encompass the simultaneity of manual and mental labor" (194). So like Darwin, whose work also combines "feeling" and "intellect," Dana must form his manhood with respect to both body and mind. Within the external environment of the ship, his Bildung shows not just increasing physical prowess, but "the mind," in the phrase applied to Darwin, "and the external world fitting themselves to one another."
In the American context, the Wordsworthian fitting together of mental and physical, or external, phenomena resembles that described by Dana's sometime schoolmaster and later fellow member of Bostonian clubs, Ralph Waldo Emerson. With respect to man and the external environment, Emerson's essay "Nature" observes a fitness between the natural "world" and the human "head" or "brain": "Man carries the world in his head, the whole astronomy and chemistry suspended in a thought. Because the history of nature is charactered in his brain, therefore is he the prophet and discoverer of her secrets." Nature has fit man not only to discover her secret laws but to create, by his work, objects that are secondarily the productions of nature herself: "Nature who made the mason, made the house" (241). In the case of Dana we may elaborate the statement further to read, "Nature, who made the sea and the need for sailing, made the shipbuilder and the ship." So as an aspect of the symbiosis between man and the natural elements, Dana's story shows the increasing symbiosis between himself and the ship, fitted to the exigencies of one another.
"Nature" was published in 1844, four years after Dana's book, but Emerson's lecture "The American Scholar" was first delivered in 1837 in Dana's presence and so may have influenced the composition of the book. As the three principal factors in the scholar's formation, the lecture specifies Nature (as a capitalized personification), books, and physical work (7-15). To apply the factors to the formation of Dana, we would need to alter the order of the three to Nature, work, books. The Emersonian categories do not imply, however, a temporal progression; Emerson does not develop a myth like Wordsworth's of the stages of self-formation culminating in a moment of revelation. It is therefore preferable to treat Dana's story of Bildung, like Darwin's, in Wordsworthian rather than Emersonian terms.
Dana's development possesses analogies in particular with the passive and active phases of Darwin's formation. The naturalist, we recall, has at first passively recorded a static natural order and has later actively created the vision of an evolving Nature. So with nostalgia for a lost innocence or pastorality, Dana adapts passively and unreflectingly in the first phase to the healthy sailor's condition of non-intellectual manhood. The attitude towards sailors recalls Wordsworth's view of shepherds but also involves some sentimental posing. A crisis then provokes the gradual emergence of a more mature version of the former Harvard student. In the later and more authentic phase, Dana's apparent passivity gives way to an active creativity, as he re-makes the world of the ship in accord with his own desires. Whereas he has at first been fitted to the ship, the ship is later fitted to him.
With traces of irony deriving from their being narrated some years after the events, the early chapters of the story thus focus upon Dana's complacent satisfaction in acquiring the seasoned sailor's skills. Not really an environment of pastoral innocence, the ship requires sailors to undergo forms of training and discipline in order to confront harsh climactic challenges. As the ship approaches Cape Horn, a night arrives when
it was my turn to steer, or, as the sailors say, my trick at the helm, for two hours. Inexperienced as I was, I made out to steer to the satisfaction of the officer, and neither S--nor myself gave up our tricks, all the time that we were off the Cape. This was something to boast of, for it requires a good deal of skill and watchfulness to steer a vessel close hauled, in a gale of wind, against a heavy head sea. (31)
Besides this sort of "watchfulness," to be distinguished from that of reading books, he dares to reef sails in high winds and to perform other dangerous operations when drenching seas sweep over the decks. It becomes natural to do without periods of comfortable sleep ("a sailor can sleep anywhere") and to treat daunting moments with good humor ("a man's no sailor, if he can't take a joke") (35). The campaign to merge his identity with that of the common sailors culminates in a sleeping arrangement somewhat like that of Darwin in the Gaucho encampment. He and his friend S--(18) are allowed to move their berths into the forecastle: "We now began to feel like sailors, which we never fully did when we were in the steerage" (56).
While gaining health, sunburnt color and manliness, he has also been receiving education in a sort of academic system that constitutes a welcome alternative to that of Harvard. The seaboard wisdom involves quaint superstitions, but after expressing doubt about one of these, he meekly accepts the reproach of another sailor for, in the term of Blum, his sceptical epistemology: "You think," says John, the oldest member of the crew, "'cause you been to college, you know better than anybody. ... You wait till you've been to sea as long as I have, and you'll know" (44). In this counter-academy or college of the ship an especially important skill is that "act of what the sailors will allow to be seamanship--sending down a royal-yard." Another old sailor, "whose favor I had taken some pains to gain," tutors him in the procedure, and he studies for the test, "repeating the operations over in my mind, taking care to get everything in its order, for the slightest mistake spoils the whole." We notice indeed that the mental preparation--"in my mind"--is at least as important as the physical operation. Passing then the actual test, he hears the "'well done' of the mate, when the yard reached the deck, with as much satisfaction as I ever felt at Cambridge on seeing a 'bene' at the foot of a Latin exercise" (76). He has performed what Cohen calls "the bravura gesture" (485) and seems perfectly fitted in that moment to the shipboard environment.
In the non-navigational tasks assigned to him, Dana similarly learns the required skills readily and comes to excel. The commercial raison d'etre of the voyage is the acquisition and transportation of hides, and Dana's principal activity during the many months passed along the Californian coast is that of "curing" hides: "The throwing the hides upon the pole was the most difficult work, and required a sleight of hand which was only to be got by long practice. As I was known for a hide-curer, this post was assigned to me." After their curing, the hides--in this case forty thousand of them--are laboriously stowed aboard ship in a process called steeving, and Dana masters this art as well: "steeving ... is no mean art, and a man skilled in it is an important character in California." This technical art, which provides a fine example of Cohen's "know-how," combines the hides into "books": "a large 'book' was made of from twenty-five to fifty hides, doubled at the backs, and put into one another, like the leaves of a book." A complicated technology of forcing "the large books chock in" enables the hold of the ship to accommodate an astonishing number of hides: "into a pile in which one hide more could not be crowded by hand, an hundred or an hundred and fifty were often driven" (269). (19) Not only a counter-academy, the ship becomes with its cargo of hide "books" a counter-library. (Darwin's ship is becoming, in the meanwhile, a potential museum with a growing collection of zoological, botanical, and mineral specimens that would end up in the Victoria and Albert Museum.)
In the midst of Dana's curing and steeving activities, however, the voyage that was initiated in hope has been going sour for the entire crew. They learn that the length of their service is being arbitrarily extended: "a cloud seemed to hang over the whole voyage." They find that in the jurisdiction of Mexican California "there is neither law nor gospel" and "sailors are at their captain's mercy": "We lost all interest in the voyage; cared nothing about the cargo, which we were only collecting for others" (97). In the logic of capitalism, the crew recognizes its alienation from the products of its labor, which comes now to resemble the degrading labor of factories. Dana can no longer take pride in his prowess in the arts of curing and steeving.
As the captain becomes ever more tyrannical and arbitrary in his enforcement of "discipline," "severity created discontent, and signs of discontent provoked severity" (98). The narrator documents with many particulars the mistreatment and injustice to which the common sailor, generically called "Jack," (20) is subjected. In the complexity of its issues, the text becomes increasingly what Cesare Casarino terms "the modernist sea narrative" as opposed to earlier forms like "the exotic picaresque and ... the Bildungsroman of the sea" (8). (21)
The unhealthy situation, when law and gospel fail, allows psychic violence to erupt into disastrous physical brutality. The violence that Darwin has observed in the perpetration of torture, at the hands of General de Rosas and other European colonists, upon the bodies of Indians and slaves now occurs on the American ship. A sailor, with whom Dana identifies, is "seized up ... with his wrists made fast to the shrouds" and undeservedly and viciously flogged: "All these preparations made me feel sick and almost faint, angry and excited as I was. A man--a human being, made in God's likeness--fastened up and flogged like a beast! A man, too, whom I had lived with and eaten with for months, and knew almost as well as a brother" (105-06). While having handled flayed and cured animal hides without apparent compunction, Dana has never imagined that the same treatment could be applied to a man like himself. In blind rage, the idea of mutiny tempts him:
The first and almost uncontrollable impulse was resistance. But what was to be done? The time for it had gone by. The two best men were fast, and there were only two beside myself, and a small boy of ten or twelve years of age. And then there were (beside the captain) three officers, steward, agent and clerk. But beside the numbers, what is there for sailors to do? If they resist, it is mutiny; and if they succeed, and take the vessel, it is piracy. ... Bad as it was, it must be borne. It is what a sailor ships for. (106-08)
Dana's sickness worsens when the captain flogs a second sailor, John, perhaps the most admirable member of the crew, for venturing to protest and later crying out, "'Oh, Jesus Christ! Oh, Jesus Christ!'" The gloating torturer claims blasphemously to be superior in his violence to the mild ineffectuality of Jesus Christ, and Dana's weak eyes cannot bear the sight: "Disgusted, sick, and horror-struck, I turned away and leaned over the rail, and looked into the water." The bare back of the unfortunate man "covered with stripes and wales in every direction, and dreadfully swollen" recalls the crucified Christ. But rather than a Christian revelation, the episode constitutes an epiphany of the horror of the sailor's condition, exposing not his manliness but his beastliness. Unable to respond adequately, Dana can only make a vague resolution to "do something" in the future to ameliorate the sailor's plight:
I thought of our situation, living under a tyranny; of the character of the country we were in; of the length of the voyage, and of the uncertainty attending our return to America; and then, if we should return, of the prospect of obtaining justice and satisfaction for these poor men; and vowed that if God should ever give me the means, I would do something to redress the grievances and relieve the sufferings of that poor class of beings, of whom I then was one. (109)
Characteristically but, probably for most of us, perversely, D.H. Lawrence justifies flogging in his important essay on Dana's book as a natural event similar to a meteorological storm--"a violent readjustment of some polarized flow" (118-23). Lawrence is useful at least in relating the undeserved flogging of the sailors to the subsequent flogging of the ship itself at the hands of the elements. A storm that rages for three days and three nights reminds us of the period of Christ's descent into hell after the crucifixion, to which the shipboard floggings have alluded. In the Biblical account, "the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom" (Mark 15:38), while in Dana's description of the nautical event "the great mainsail gaped open, and the sail ripped from head to foot." We think of the sailor, bound to the very same mast of the mainsail, whose back has been "covered with stripes and wales in every direction." The captain, who has wounded the sailors without remorse, is now anxious about the damage to the sails: "'Lay up on that main-yard and furl the sail, before it blows to tatters!' shouted the captain. ... Away went the foretopmast staysail, blown to ribbons" (224-25).
The physically flogged ship constitutes the setting for the spiritual and mental ordeal of Dana even more intensely, Lawrence believes, in "the horrific struggle round Cape Horn, homewards": "[It] is the crisis of the Dana history. It is an entry into chaos, a heaven [or hell?] of sleet and black ice-rain, a sea of ice and iron-like water. Man fights the element in all its roused, mystic hostility to conscious life. The fight is the inward crisis and triumph of Dana's soul" (126). Dana faces the actuality of Darwin's theorized "checking" force--so hostile to living species, for example, in the Falkland Islands. Yet despite its physicality, Lawrence observes the extreme fight as being waged within Dana's conscious mind and soul.
Before this moment of horrific triumph, however, Dana has already been confronting less horrifically, in what I consider his second phase, the darkly hostile energies and emerging triumphant. Despite the reflection after the floggings--"Bad as it was, it must be borne. It is what a sailor ships for"--he soon manifests an ability to do more than submit passively to despair. The day after the floggings, a Sunday, he finds unexpected poetic inspiration. In solitude ashore near San Pedro, he looks out to "a small, desolate-looking island," the burial place of an English commander, who unhappily "far from home" has apparently poisoned himself: "It was the only thing in California from which I could ever extract anything like poetry" (110).
The poetry may belong to the Wordsworthian "epitaphic mode" that Amigoni has discerned in Darwin. A reverential awe before the mystery of mortality has subtly informed Dana's narrative, indeed, since his reflections upon the "vacancy" left behind the young sailor George Ballmer, lost overboard early in the voyage (40). The implicitly epitaphic quality would become quite explicit in the nostalgic sequel to Two Years called "Twenty-Four Years After," which imaginatively recasts all of Two Years into the dimension of what is no more. (22) In Two Years itself, however, the sense of existential fragility produces not so much mourning as an increased recognition of life's value. Not long after musing at the burial place, Dana experiences in another moment of solitude at San Juan, "the only romantic spot in California," an even stronger awareness of his own human worth:
My better nature returned strong upon me. Everything was in accordance with my state of feeling, and I experienced a glow of pleasure at finding that what of poetry and romance I ever had in me, had not been entirely deadened by the laborious and frittering life I had led. Nearly an hour did I sit, almost lost in the luxury of this entire new scene of the play in which I had so long been acting. (144) (23)
After "the laborious and frittering" phase, the emphasis of the narrative shifts increasingly from physical to mental experiences. While remaining the sailor, Dana associates his own perceptions more frequently now with those of the authors of other literary texts. The joy or "glow of pleasure" resembles, as observed in the case of Darwin, that of the Wordsworthian poet. Dana's impression of himself as an actor in a play, too, suggests a foreshadowing awareness of the literary or textual dimension in which he will later enact his story.
In the "new scene" he draws both on stores of poetic vitality recovered within himself and upon books that begin to come to hand. During the week after the floggings, regret about the absence of books rather surprisingly begins to trouble him as a form of thirst. Although having precisely wanted at the start of the voyage to do without books, he now welcomes the chance "finding [of] a part of a volume of Scott's Pirate ... but it failed me at a most interesting moment" (111). The problem with his eyes that has made reading painful is mysteriously cured, (24) and references to reading books on the ship thereafter suggest that the activity becomes habitual. Having suffered from the "dearth" of books, he now compulsively reads everything in print that turns up, including children's stories. Another spell on shore brings him into contact with a polyglot Austrian sailor who "had a chest-full of books, which he willingly lent me to read." Immense pleasure ensues from a discovery made at the bottom of the Austrian's chest, "'Mandeville, A Romance, by Godwin, in five volumes'": "I bore it off, and for two days I was up early and late, reading with all my might, and actually drinking in delight. It is no extravagance to say that it was like a spring in a desert land" (169). (Dana's simile would be quoted in the advertisement for a sixty-volume "Sailor's Library" in 1843 [Skallerup 98]). The process of his recovery thus resembles the traditional journey through the desert towards some land of promise. That land is Cambridge, the book-filled land from which he has been so eager to escape and for which he now yearns with increasing homesickness. The blessed expectation of a return home, when he later dares to entertain it, "was a cure for everything" (280).
He appreciates the custom among sailors of "exchang[ing] books ...--a practice very common among ships in foreign ports, by which you get rid of the books you have read and re-read, and [get] a supply of new ones in their stead" (217-18). In the constant quest for fresh supplies or springs in the desert, the discovery of a novel by Bulwer offers the supreme experience of joy that helps redeem the fundamental unhappiness of the voyage:
I found, to my surprise and joy, that it was nothing else than Bulwer's Paul Clifford. This, I seized immediately, and going to my hammock, lay there, swinging and reading, until the watch was out. The between-decks were clear, the hatchways open, and a cool breeze blowing through them, the ship under easy way, and everything comfortable. I had just got well into the story, when eight bells were struck, and we were all ordered to dinner. After dinner came our watch on deck for four hours, and, at four o'clock, I went below again, turned into my hammock, and read until the dog watch. As no lights were allowed after eight o'clock, there was no reading in the night watch. Having light winds and calms, we were three days on the passage, and each watch below, during the daytime, I spent in the same manner, until I had finished my book. I shall never forget the enjoyment I derived from it. To come across anything with the slightest claims to literary merit, was so unusual, that this was a perfect feast to me. The brilliancy of the book, the succession of capital hits, lively and characteristic sketches, kept me in a constant state of pleasing sensations. It was far too good for a sailor. I could not expect such fine times to last long. (188-89)
His mental training entails the application here of critical criteria to literary texts. But although the ship offers at that point an ideal environment for such appreciation of "literary merit"--"a cool breeze ... the ship under easy way, and everything comfortable"--the book is "too good for a sailor." The phrase provides one of many indications of his growing dissociation of his "better nature" from the sailor's nature. It becomes clear that the other sailors too no longer identify him as one of themselves, if indeed they ever have. They recognize, for example, his superior linguistic skills: "As I soon knew more Spanish than any of the crew, (who indeed knew none at all,) and had been at college and knew Latin, I got the name of a great linguist, and was always sent for by the captain and officers to get provisions, or to carry letters and messages" (85). His public reading skills as well come into demand one day when the bored crew must remain on deck during a process of fumigation:
One man recollected a book he had left in the galley. He went after it, and it proved to be Woodstock. This was a great windfall, and as all could not read it at once, I, being the scholar of the company, was appointed reader. I got a knot of six or eight about me, and no one could have had a more attentive audience. ... Many of the reflections and the political parts, I omitted, but all the narrative they were delighted with; especially the descriptions of the Puritans, and the sermons and harangues of the Round-head soldiers. The gallantry of Charles, Dr. Radcliffe's plots, the knavery of "trusty Tomkins,"--in fact, every part seemed to chain their attention .... I read nearly all day, until sundown; when, as soon as supper was over, as I had nearly finished, they got a light from the galley; and by skipping what was less interesting, I carried them through to the marriage of Everard, and the restoration of Charles the Second, before eight o'clock. (267)
Dana chains attention and gains power over his auditors as he carries them through, in an imaginary voyage that parallels the literal navigation of the ship, to the marriage and the restoration. His reading transforms the crew that surrounds him into a community that is at least temporarily freed, for about ten hours, from the command of the tyrannical captain. Literary authority is restored, and "law and gospel" take precedence over brute physical force.
The performance of his navigational chores makes some of them too into literary exercises. To pass the hours while on watch, he repeats to himself passages committed to memory from books. Besides dull material such as a list of "the kings of England ... and a large part of the peerage, which I committed from an almanac that we had on board," there are chapters from the Bible and "Cowper's Castaway, which was a great favorite with me": "the solemn measure and gloomy character ..., as well as the incident that it was founded upon, made it well suited to a lonely watch at sea. Then his lines to Mary, his address to the jackdaw, and a short extract from Table Talk; (I abounded in Cowper, for I happened to have a volume of his poems in my chest)." Thereupon followed passages from Horace and Goethe, and "after I had got through these, I allowed myself a more general range among everything that I could remember, both in prose and verse" (329-30). His memory, at least in the textual narration, may strike us as prodigious. He has made his mind not so much "a mansion for all lovely forms," in the Wordsworthian metaphor noticed above, as a library filled with literary and other texts. An analogy thus exists between his mind and the ship's hold, which he has stuffed with hide "books," and the vessel may be viewed now as primarily the site of literary activity. Having first been fitted to the ship and the commercial requirements of a voyage that transports hides, Dana has now fitted the ship to his own humanistic mentality.
Like his "steeving" of the ship's hold with encumbering hide "books," Dana's "curing" skills come to refer to the non-commercial dimension of the voyage. For he begins to cure not only animal hides but medically and lovingly to cure human bodies and so to supplant the captain whose floggings wound men. The naive Sandwich Islanders suffering from one of the white man's diseases, apparently a venereal infection, attribute literally healing skills to Dana: "thinking, from my education, that I must have some knowledge of medicine, the Kanakas had insisted upon my examining him [the friend whose name is Hope] carefully; and it was not a sight to be forgotten" (254). With difficulty, because of the captain's unwillingness to waste medical provisions on the Kanakas, Dana does eventually procure a medicine that proves effective: "I shall never forget the gratitude that he expressed. All the Kanakas attributed his escape solely to my knowledge, and would not be persuaded that I had not all the secrets of the physical system open to me and under control." In leaving California, his only regret derives from having to bid farewell to the Kanaka friends that he has cured: "I felt an interest and affection for many of these simple and true-hearted men, such as I never felt before but for a near relation. Hope shook me by the hand, said he should soon be well again, and ready to work for me when I came upon the coast, next voyage, as officer of the ship; and told me not to forget, when I became captain, how to be kind to the sick" (273, 283-84). Dana becomes in prophecy, if not in actuality, the captain that offers love and imposes his own spiritually healing authority upon the men working for him. His relationship with the lovable and faithful Hope may also have incidentally echoed aspects of that between his admired Robinson Crusoe and the indigenous Friday. (25)
There is, to be sure, a final challenge to the narrator's authority. Having transformed the hold into such a heavily stocked library, Dana encounters the vessel's resistance: "cramped and deadened by her cargo, ... we could not get more than six knots out of her [the ship]. She had no more life in her than if she were water-logged." The older sailors foresee correctly, however, that the ship will adjust to the load: "you'll see her work herself loose in a week or two, and then she'll walk up to Cape Horn like a race-horse" (288). Indeed the gallant ship does recover, and in what Lawrence considers the supreme crisis, around Cape Horn, she confronts Darwin's "checking" force and preserves her precious cargo of memories, books and life from extinction.
Thereafter the narrative of the voyage homewards demonstrates the symbiosis of sailors and their ship that typifies the author's own self-integration and control over the material with which he works. The older sailors' comparison of the ship to "a race-horse" foreshadows Dana's slight misquotation on a later occasion, as we shall see, of some lines from Byron's Childe Harold: "my feet were once more treading the deck, bounding under me like a steed that knows its rider" (Dana, Journal 268). (26) The rider and the steed that know one another and respond with such mutual alacrity provide an example of Cohen's "know-how" at its most intense aesthetic fusion of physical and mental dexterity. The image, it is also interesting to notice, occurs with similar significance in Darwin's narrative. In Darwin's mental picture gallery, an especially "fine picture one can form in one's mind" is that of the escape on horseback of a hunted Indian chief with his young son. Galloping bareback while "patting the horse's head, and talking to him ... the naked, bronze-like figure of the old man with his little boy ... rid[es] like a Mazeppa on the white horse, ... leaving far behind him the host of his pursuers!" (117).
After rounding Cape Horn, Dana's ship, too, flies at top speed towards freedom as the narrative, in the observation of Robert Foulke, "celebrates the thrill of pushing a ship to its limits" (23). (27) The work of navigation entails once more an un-alienated, ennobling sort of artistry. Like Darwin's Indian chief talking to his steed, the sailors address their female vessel affectionately: "'Hurrah, you jade, you've got the scent!--you know where you're going!' And when she leaped over the seas, and almost out of the water, and trembled to her very keel, the spars and masts snapping and creaking,--'There she goes!--There she goes,--handsomely!--as long as she cracks she holds!'" (337). It is a virtuoso performance, in which the ship seems to share with the crew an impression of their common liberation: "If the best part of the voyage is the last part, surely we had all now that we could wish. Every one was in the highest spirits, and the ship seemed as glad as any of us at getting out of her confinement" (339).
The experience that constitutes the epiphany of the integration of Dana and the transfigured ship, fitted to the exigencies of one another, occurs more quietly a few pages later. In awed admiration of the ship, the sailor as expert steersman and handler of sails blends with the artist in whose mind the beautiful ship emerges virtually into self-awareness. The tattered sails and other wounds suffered in the recent gales have been cured, and under full sail in the tropical night the ship both moves and remains motionless as a sculpture. From the flying jib-boom Dana senses the navigation of the "studding-sails" amidst the star "studded" sky beyond human reach--in what Darwin terms the "realms of imagination":
Being so far out from the deck, I could look at the ship, as at a separate vessel;--and there rose up from the water, supported only by the small black hull, a pyramid of canvas, spreading out far beyond the hull, and towering up almost, as it seemed in the indistinct night air, to the clouds. ... The dark blue sky was studded with the tropical stars; there was no sound but the rippling of the water under the stem; and the sails were spread out, wide and high;--the two lower studding-sails stretching, on each side, far beyond the deck: the topmast studding-sails, like wings to the topsails; the top-gallant studding-sails spreading fearlessly out above them; still higher, the two royal studding-sails, looking like two kites flying from the same string; and, highest of all, the little sky-sail, the apex of the pyramid, seeming actually to touch the stars, and to be out of reach of human hand. So quiet, too, was the sea, and so steady the breeze, that if these sails had been sculptured marble, they could not have been more motionless. ... I was so lost in the sight, that I forgot the presence of the man who came out with me, until he said, (for he, too, rough old man-of-war's-man as he was, had been gazing at the show,) half to himself, still looking at the marble sails--"How quietly they do their work!" (342)
The impression of "being lost in the sight" and of "gazing at the show" recalls the moments after the floggings when "my better nature returned strong upon me": "I s[a]t, almost lost in the luxury of this entire new scene of the play in which I had so long been acting." In its own "better nature," the defamiliarized ship now appears in a theatrical scene like that in which Dana has observed himself. Yet she performs so quietly that the analogy is with sculpture rather than drama, and the "work" that Cohen considers "the fundamental subject matter at issue" in sea stories is here a work of art. Besides the sails at which the narrator gazes so raptly, the perception is of an activity occurring within his mind. Resembling Wordsworth's vision on Mt. Snowdon and Darwin's of the jungle hothouse of Nature, the quietly working sails offer Dana an image of his own working imagination. The "show" is revealing to him the idea of the book that begins now to take shape, the white sails implying the still blank pages. In fusing the sailor's practical wisdom with the skills of the literary scholar, the mind of Dana provides the ideal breeding ground for the incubation and growth--or the navigation--of such a book.
After his homecoming, it becomes clear that Dana's work on "deck" has not only restored him to physical health but has fit him, unlike the fictional sailors that Cohen treats, to work at the "desk." No longer resistant to academic discipline, he returns to Harvard for a brilliant last year. His senior honors thesis has originated, interestingly enough, in the most joyful literary experience of his voyage, the discovery and entranced reading of Bulwer's Paul Clifford.
Entitled "A dissertation on the moral & literary character of Bulwer's novels," the academic exercise focuses upon the revelatory thrust of Pelham, Paul Clifford, and Eugene Aram. These works enact a "disclosure," Dana maintains, to a smug and complacent audience of "what sin & misery" there really are in the world. A profound innovator, Bulwer "is the first, we believe, who has introduced these characters [of criminality] with their shocking & revolting habits, & peculiar dialect, into the literary world." Among recent writers he "has trodden nearly alone" a "walk in life" that leads into "infernal regions." Whereas "Miss Edgeworth, with all the quiet industry of a spinster with her wheel, sitting by the domestic fire side, has woven a veil" to keep the devil "well out of sight & out of mind," the "veil has been lifted" in Bulwer. Only with Byron perhaps is a comparison possible in terms of the ambiguity of their morality: "Bulwer, like Byron ... sometimes appears to be almost in league with [the devil], yet at others, he exposes him in all his deformity." Defending Eugene Aram from the frequent charge of its dangerousness, Dana goes on to discern the ennobling effect of Bulwer's exposures. Beyond any simple moral vision, the novels "stir up the great elements of our being" and appeal to those "minds wh[ich], though far fr[om] virtue, yet seem more conscious of their higher nature than others." The "higher nature" reminds us of Dana's awareness, at certain moments in Two Years, of his "better nature" and of Darwin's "higher feelings of wonder, astonishment, and devotion, which fill and elevate the mind." Dana returns to the point in the conclusion of his thesis: "[we] would simply ask any reflective man, who is a reader of Scott, Miss Edgeworth, & other popular writers, if he can come fr[om] Bulwer without having had at times awakened in him a feeling of his higher nature, at times a sense of the vanity of worldly things."
The thesis earns the Bowdoin Prize for "dissertations in English" in 1837. (28) Dana graduates at the head of his class--and at the Phi Beta Kappa ceremony, the day after graduation, hears Emerson deliver "The American Scholar" (Richardson 262-63).
During the next three years, while Darwin is revising the earlier accounts of his own voyage, Dana works to produce, influenced possibly by Emerson, what we may consider the great sequel to his dissertation on Bulwer. The voyage experienced on the "deck" is recreated at the "desk," of course, primarily in Two Years Before the Mast, which lifts the veil, as Bulwer's novels have done, from hitherto concealed existential horrors. These are in Dana's case the horrors of the common sailors' condition. In the conception of Blum the hard work that fashions this revelatory book continues in another form the sailor's hard work, which has been the necessary prerequisite or first phase of the authorial task (86). Blum cites in this regard a contemporary review of the book in The North American Review, a periodical founded by Richard Henry Dana, Sr.: "hard labor is necessary to effect any thing considerable in literature; and probably few works ever cost more, if we may reckon the toils, sacrifices, and temptations of a common sailor, as part of his preparation for a memorable narrative of sea life" (Rev. of Two Years 57).
At the cost of such labor, Dana the author partially fulfils, as John Peck also believes (102), the sailor's solemn vow--"that if God should ever give me the means, I would do something to redress the grievances and relieve the sufferings of that poor class of beings, of whom I then was one." If the author's memory is accurate and not a reconstruction after the fact, the sailor has already foreseen ("then") his possible future as an author or an advocate in some form of seamen's rights. In imagination the book accomplishes this advocacy in a narrative that consistently wrests moral authority away from the nasty captain. The writing performs, as it were, the mutiny that the narrator has so hopelessly contemplated at the moment of the floggings. He foretells well before the end of the book the death of the captain, which will result--appropriately for the captain of a ship infecting Pacific islands with diseases--from "a fever on the deadly coast of Sumatra" (255).
Upon completing the narrative proper of the voyage, Dana conceives the possibility for a further textual development and composes, almost as a new work, the "Concluding Chapter." Not always included in later editions of the book, this chapter hypothesises another story, that of a counter-voyage to the one just narrated under the command this time of an ideal captain. This new commander cares for the spiritual well-being of his crew and so provisions the ship with Bibles and other books and offers instruction in reading, writing, and numerical skills. He is indeed the captain that Dana would himself have become if the prophecy of Hope, the beloved Sandwich Islander, had been fulfilled. This textual counter-voyage, for which no commercial purpose is indicated, under his own captaincy has probably been on his mind during the entire composition--which is to say the navigation--of the book. Constituting always a shadowy subtext, as most notably in the episode of his reading to the crew, it emerges at last as the voyage that he has principally desired to narrate. Whereas Darwin, as I have said, appears unconscious finally of the heroic mentality that has come into action in his text, Dana formulates a conscious, if still only hypothesized, definition of his heroic self.
* * *
More than Falmouth and Boston, the destinations of the sea voyages of Darwin and Dana are the written texts that not only report but consolidate--and thereby perform--the liberation of the confident authorial self. The texts also permit the interlocutors of Darwin and Dana, with whom they have been sharing the authorial task, to achieve their own form of liberation. Nature, in the case of Darwin's published work, supposedly breaks free from the categories that scientists like Linnaeus have imposed upon her and begins to tell her own story. For Darwin is transcribing, in his implicit and exhilarating self-identification with the Nature that he comes to understand so well, the history that Nature is forever writing and partially erasing in her own idiom. To Darwin's amusement, his transcriptions from the evidence of fossils strike some people in South America and in England, "who are a century behindhand," as "useless and impious" (373-74). Dana's writing comes analogously to transcribe a hitherto ignored appeal emanating from the ship. It emanates in particular from the forecastle of the ship, which a veil like that to which Dana's thesis on Bulwer has referred, has up till now hidden from the view of polite society. In the italicized phrase of the preface that serves as subtitle for many editions, the book makes heard for the first time in print, Dana believes, "a voice from the forecastle." If not actually redressing grievances and relieving sufferings, the book articulates at least the wrongs to which semi-literate sailors have hitherto been unable to give effective utterance. (29) Like Darwin's bringing of fossils and bones to light, the articulation may also resemble an act of disinterment. In an essay of 1892, W. Clark Russell observes that Dana, like Melville after him, "seiz[ed] the pen for a handspike [and] prized open the sealed lid under which the merchant-seaman lay caverned" (149). The sailors and the ship receive their release in that implicit mutiny that transfers prestige from representatives of New England capitalism to "that poor class of beings, of whom I then was one." In its tendency to destabilize established authority, Dana's book may, like Darwin's, have troubled some readers as "useless and impious."
In the two books, liberating potentialities of the Zeitgeist may be expressing themselves simultaneously, as I have suggested, in the scientific context and in the commercial-nautical context. The eventual consequence in the Victorian scientific domain would of course be profoundly revolutionary, but, while less obviously subversive, Dana's book, too, would produce--"indirectly," in the opinion of his son--immensely good effects. The book gave practical force, along with the author's The Seamen's Friend (1841) and his legal championship of sailors' causes, to the vocation, announced within the book, to improve their lot. (30) As a particularly useful result, the book contributed decisively to the current campaign to equip American vessels with libraries that would humanize the shipboard environment. (31) These libraries frequently contained Dana's own book, which came thereby to inspire, Harry R. Skallerup claims, "innumerable voyagers to take pen in hand and attempt to write books about their travels while afloat" (98, 211, 215). In accord with the suggestion in Humboldt's letter to Darwin, a book proves its value in the later texts to which it "give[s] rise."
In their subsequent careers, the authors do not demonstrate a similar continuity with the travelling phase of their youth. Darwin emphasizes indeed a certain discontinuity when touching again, in the concluding pages of the Beagle narrative, upon an unhappy aspect of the voyage. While lingering over the "farewell view" of the beloved Brazilian jungle, the narrator takes leave of the continent, constructed as both a breeding ground and a sepulchre, to which he does not wish to return. The sites of what I have considered his mental enfranchisement are also those of a terrible bondage: "On the 19th of August ," he reports of a moment close to that in which Dana's ship is passing his at Pernambuco, "we finally left the shores of Brazil. I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave-country. To this day, if I hear a distant scream, it recalls with painful vividness my feelings, when passing a house near Pernambuco, I heard the most pitiable moans, and could not but suspect that some poor slave was being tortured" (525). Besides the beautiful but already fading memories of experiences in the great outdoors, Darwin's mind holds the haunting traces of the floggings and other horrors perpetrated by the supposedly civilizing colonizers. He will remain henceforth at home apparently without further need of the joyful stimulation of primordial natural settings. It is enough to have given them a textual existence as he continues in future years to elaborate the implications of his memories and of the material accumulated during the years of the voyage.
Dana remains, in contrast, nostalgic for the sailor's life even after he becomes the lawyer: "I believe I was made for the sea," he is reported to have remarked, "my life on shore has been a mistake." (32) Recalling the Harvard student so naively eager in first embarking on the ship to dress himself convincingly as a sailor, the lawyer sometimes disguises himself as a sailor and wanders in waterfront districts (Dana, Journal 74-82). Although the pretext is to pick up prostitutes in order to help save them, he is not in fact done with the sailor's life. When the overworked lawyer feels weak, like "a person just recovered from a sickness," the sea continues, according to a journal entry of 1844, to offer a cure:
Salt water, freedom from care & anxiety, & the excitement & variety of a journey always restore me. ... Out upon the heaving ocean, & my feet were once more treading the deck, bounding under me like a steed that knows its rider. The joyousness, the exaltation of feeling which comes over me at such changes I can hardly describe. I feel it in every nerve, my heart opens, I breathe free, my muscles spread, & I am a new man. I seem to be drinking in health & vigor at every breath. (Dana, Journal 268)
Besides echoing the stanza from Childe Harold about "the steed that knows its rider," which we have already observed, the passage alludes to the metaphor of drinking in Two Years Before the Mast. In that work, Dana has reported his "actually drinking in delight" while reading Godwin, whereas now he is "drinking in health & vigor" not from a book but from the sea breezes. The unslaked thirst thereafter prompts him, unlike Darwin, to turn periodically from his books and his desk to tread the deck on long voyages--to California again, to Cuba, to China, and to Europe.
His final voyage possesses literary overtones once more. It follows the itinerary of the grand tour that Dana has not made, according to the usual custom, in youth. He arrives in Rome, where he falls ill and delirious. His last desire is to set out on yet another voyage, and he must be restrained in bed (Fleming 380). Death ensues in January 1882 at the age of 66. His grave in the Protestant Cemetery is among those of writers, including the Romantic poet "whose name was writ in water." Three months later in April 1882, Darwin dies in London at the age of 73 and is buried in Westminster Abbey. (33) The books in which our two youthful protagonists have formed themselves fortunately withstand the checking and shipwrecking perils that operate in the textual dimension too and maintain their vitality intact.
An earlier version of portions of this article dealing with Richard Henry Dana has appeared as "Curative Work: Dana's Two Years Before the Mast" (Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture 12-13 : 219-38).
(1) Unless otherwise noted, all citations of Darwin are from this work.
(2) Alfred W. Crosby cites Darwin and discusses in an interesting chapter (217-68) the phenomenon of the apparently doomed natives of New Zealand. The European ships calling at Pacific ports "were like giant viruses fastening to the sides of a gigantic bacterium and injecting into it their DNA, usurping its internal processes for their own purposes" (227). The environment of New Zealand was contaminated and immensely altered by the introduction of new plants and animals, and the contagion of European religion and culture further undermined the guiding traditions and health of native society. Amidst the complexity of the multiple threats, however, the cultural and immunological vulnerability of the natives of New Zealand to infectious diseases--venereal diseases and tuberculosis, in particular--was a decisive factor, certainly of greater importance than any military superiority of the British. The widespread impression that they were dying out, in the words of the British Resident, James Busby, in 1837, "has produced amongst [the Maori] a very general recklessness and indifference to life" (250).
(3) Unless otherwise noted, all citations to Dana are from this work.
(4) The inseparability, as parts of a single pathological phenomenon, of spreading contagious diseases and military campaigns has always been apparent. It receives frequent attention, as I have noted in Nineteenth-Century Narratives of Contagion (10-11, 75), in literature of that period that finds in contagion an omnipresent master metaphor.
(5) The protection of General de Rosas helped Darwin to move through dangerous territories, at one point (153) supplying him with a document that enabled him to pass the lines of the military forces blockading Buenos Ayres.
(6) Janet Browne (330-31) points out that in terms of strict factuality Darwin's first publication was not the Journal and Remarks of 1839 but a notice of a few pages composed by Darwin and FitzRoy regarding the activities of Anglican missionaries in some of the territories visited during the voyage. This brief notice was published in the South African Christian Recorder a few weeks after Darwin and FitzRoy sailed from Capetown in 1836. Darwin may have been unaware of the publication of the notice and certainly never referred to it thereafter.
(7) George Levine (140-41) discusses the importance for Darwin of reading Milton during the Beagle voyage.
(8) In a discussion of Humboldt's achievement, Anthony Pagden describes the travels as "the most extensive scientific exploration of America yet attempted." "Few naturalists," Pagden continues in a statement that we may also wish to apply to Darwin, "have left such a detailed record of the aesthetics and the cognitive strategies on which they were engaged, nor struggled so long to get them into words" (25).
(9) Amigoni discusses (91) Darwin's observations about the primitive inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego. With respect to Darwin's having read The Excursion twice, Levine facetiously finds the "feat rather more heroic, even some literary people might say, than circling the world for five seasick years on the Beagle" (141).
(10) Cited by Amigoni (64), the lines are taken, as Wordsworth's note states, "from the conclusion of the first book of 'The Recluse' [and] may be acceptable as a kind of prospectus of the design and scope of the whole poem" (335).
(11) Amigoni (84) identifies the source of the phrase in a publication of 1837.
(12) The tradition of the scientist as poet goes back at least to Lucretius and among other eminent figures may include Carl Linnaeus, of whom August Strindberg supposedly remarked, "Linnaeus was actually a poet who happened to become a naturalist" (qtd. in "Linnaeus Deceased").
(13) Possibly with reference to this episode, Amigoni quotes a passage in an endnote of The Excursion that "is likely to have produced resonances for [Darwin]". In this endnote Wordsworth is himself quoting another author, William Gilbert, with respect to "the Man of Mind": "when he walks along the river of Amazons; when he rests his eye on the unrivalled Andes; when he measures the long and watered savannah; or contemplates, from a sudden promontory, the distant vast Pacific--and feels himself a freeman in this vast theatre, ... his exaltation is not less than imperial" (Amigoni 80-81).
(14) Beer refers especially to Chapter X of The Origin of Species, in the last paragraph of which occurs the following statement: "Following out Lyell's metaphor, I look at the geological record as a history of the world imperfectly kept, and written in a changing dialect" (363).
(15) The likeness to Defoe was noticed first by R.W. Emerson at the time of publication. A review in the Spectator of the first British edition similarly found the book "Defoelike" (qtd. in Philbrick 20). The "Advertisement" to a Routledge edition of Dana's book (London, 1880) refers to the work as "this 'Robinson Crusoe at sea.'"
(16) Bryce Conrad wittily associates Dana's ocular and psychological ailments: "Dana has gone to sea for the benefit of his 'I' as much as for his 'eye'" (293).
(17) Apparently Dana had also kept a journal during the voyage, but this was carelessly entrusted upon his return to Boston to his cousin Francis Dana, who lost it.
(18) The friend is Benjamin Godfrey Stimson, who is known for having chided Dana after publication of Two Years because the book contained no reference to the author's affairs with Indian girls in California (Fellman 98). Stimson's name is misspelled, however, in Fellman's article (see Richard Henry Dana, III, 509, which gives information about Stimson but not the detail about his chiding Dana).
(19) James M. Cox believes that the process of steeving also provides a metaphor for "the very form of [Dana's] book": a "dynamic principle [of] insertion," or wedging in of material, increases the "compactness" of the book (172).
(20) "Jack Tar" was a current generic name for the typical sailor--see entry in Wikipedia.
(21) Casarino lists Dana's book as one that exemplifies interference between the older "exotic-picaresque" sea stories and the newer "Bildungsroman of the sea." I believe, however, that it also exemplifies qualities of Casarino's "emergent and entirely new form of the modernist sea narrative": "life aboard ship ... is revealed in all of its explosive economies of power--its disciplinary mechanisms, racial conflicts, nationalist chauvinisms, ... brutal law enforcements, antinomies of work and leisure, hierarchical subdivisions and distributions of space, the whole multiform dialectic of capital and labor, and the forever impending possibility of mutiny" (9). The only issues of modernity mentioned by Casarino but suppressed by Dana are "gendered roles, sexual desires and homophobic anxieties."
(22) Recounting a later voyage to California in 1859-60, "Twenty-Four Years After" is usually appended to editions of Two Years Before the Mast. In finding with regret how few vestiges remain of the old California of his first voyage, Dana locates all value in the past and sees the present only as vacancy:
The past was real. The present, all about me [in San Diego], was unreal, unnatural, repellent. I saw the big ships lying in the stream, the Alert, the California, the Rosa, ... the poor, dear old Pilgrim, the home of hardship and hopelessness; the boats passing to an fro; ... the peopled beach ... the Kanakas interspersed everywhere. ... I alone was left of all, and how strangely was I here! ... Where were they all? Why should I care for them,--poor Kanakas and sailors, the refuse of civilization, the outlaws and beach-combers of the Pacific! Time and death seemed to transfigure them. Doubtless nearly all were dead; but how had they died, and where? In hospitals, in fever-climes, in dens of vice, or falling from the mast, or dropping exhausted from the wreck[?] (407)
(23) My article "Navigating in Perilous Seas of Language" (389-90, 400 n. 29) considers the allusions in Hopkins's "The Wreck of the Deutschland" to flogging, from which poetry ensues, and suggests a comparison between the episodes in Hopkins's poem and Dana's narrative.
(24) Dana never indicates when and how his eyesight improves so fully. His biographer, Charles Francis Adams states rather vaguely of the whole voyage, "The heroic treatment to which he had recourse settled the difficulty with his eyes; thereafter they gave him no more trouble" (14).
(25) Bernhard Klein suggests that in many sea narratives the environment of the ship permits the reversal or undoing of the relationship of dominance/subservience that characterize the white man and the "indigenous seafarer": "the paradigmatic shipboard encounter between [Friday] and Crusoe ... might thus not have been the lopsided master-servant relationship that the teller of the tale implies, but rather the meeting of two voyagers of unequal social power but comparable temperament" (105, 103).
(26) The lines from Byron's Childe Harold, Canto III, stanza ii, are: "And the waves bound beneath me as a steed/That knows his rider."
(27) Foulke goes on to point out that Dana also "describes the mess when sails blow out and spars break," but such descriptions apply to earlier episodes in the story.
(28) The Bowdoin Prize Fund is the oldest of its kind at Harvard, having been founded by Governor James Bowdoin of Massachusetts, a member of the Harvard Class of 1745.
(29) In the paradoxical opinion of Hugh Egan, Dana demonstrates that in becoming the spokesman of the common sailor he is not "one of them" (182).
(30) While Philbrick (21) does not believe that the influence of Dana's book produced any specific measures designed to improve the seaman's condition, Dana's son has insisted upon the "indirect" efficacy of the book. In asking "what did Mr. Dana accomplish for sailors," he mentions his father's unremunerated support of sailors in many lawsuits, into which "he put his whole, mind, heart and soul," and his many other publications and petitions to Congress on behalf of sailors: "but above all it was the indirect influence of his 'Two Years Before the Mast' which did most to relieve their hardships" (Richard Henry Dana, III, 519-20).
(31) "Although loan libraries were put on some ships before 1840, the release of Richard Henry Dana's Two Years before the Mast spurred the public to do more to help alleviate the boredom and lack of constructive pastimes available to the crews of American merchant vessels. Also, as crews were less likely to be native-born Americans by mid-century, libraries represented a way to help Americanize the men in the forecastle with works that could be read aloud. By the time of the Civil War, loan libraries were being placed in a systematic way on ships" (Park 39).
(32) After reporting this remark, John Haskell Kemble adds, "he could neither abandon his home altogether nor get back to it once he had set sail" (xv).
(33) Ralph Waldo Emerson, to whom this essay has referred, also died in April 1882. Dana and Emerson are listed in succession in the proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 30 May 1882, among the eighteen members of the Academy, who included Longfellow too, that had died in the course of the last year.
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ALLAN C. CHRISTENSEN is Professor Emeritus of English at John Cabot University in Rome. Besides many articles on Romantic and Victorian literature, he has published a book on Giovanni Ruffini and two on Bulwer Lytton. His most important recent work is Nineteenth-Century Narratives of Contagion.
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|Author:||Christensen, Allan C.|
|Publication:||Papers on Language & Literature|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2010|
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