This Day In Writing History
On August 22nd, 1893, the legendary American writer Dorothy Parker was born. She was born Dorothy Rothschild in Long Branch, New Jersey.
Her mother, Eliza Marston, was Scottish; her German Jewish father, Jacob Henry Rothschild, was not related to the wealthy Rothschild banking family.
Dorothy would famously quip, "My God, no, dear! We'd never even heard of those Rothschilds." Born two months premature, she would quip that her birth was the first time she was early for anything.
A month before Dorothy's fifth birthday, her mother died. She hated her father because he was physically abusive, and when he later married a woman named Eleanor Lewis, Dorothy referred to her as "the housekeeper."
As a little girl, Dorothy attended the Convent of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic elementary school along with her sister Helen - despite the fact that both girls were the daughters of a Jewish father and Protestant mother.
Dorothy would be expelled from the school for referring to the Immaculate Conception as "spontaneous combustion." She later attended a finishing school for young ladies in Morristown, New Jersey.
In 1913, when Dorothy was twenty years old, her father died. She supported herself by playing piano at a dancing school and took up writing poetry in her spare time.
Best known as a poet, Dorothy began her career as a magazine writer in 1914 when Vogue hired her as an editorial assistant after one of her poems appeared in its sister magazine, Vanity Fair.
In 1917, Dorothy married her first husband, Edwin Pond Parker, and she would use her first married name, Dorothy Parker, as her professional name. She divorced Edwin in 1928.
After working at Vogue for two years, Dorothy was transferred to Vanity Fair to work as a staff writer. By 1918, she had become the magazine's guest drama critic, filling in for the vacationing P.G. Wodehouse.
It was in this capacity that Dorothy Parker began developing the rapacious wit that would make her famous. Her reviews were often brutal. She offered this advice to potential audiences of one particular musical comedy: "If you don't knit, bring a book."
She reviewed a production of Leo Tolstoy's Redemption by saying, "I went into the Plymouth Theater a comparatively young woman, and I staggered out of it three hours later, twenty years older."
Infuriated by Dorothy's scathing reviews of their plays, the wealthy, powerful producers flexed their considerable muscle to get her fired. Her friends and fellow Vanity Fair writers, Robert Benchley and Robert E. Sherwood, resigned in protest.
Together, they formed the Algonquin Round Table, a famous group of New York City writers, actors, critics, and wits. Another founding member of the group was Harold Ross, who would found the New Yorker magazine in 1925.
Ross named Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley as members of the magazine's board of editors, which made his investors happy. Over the next fifteen years, Dorothy would reach her peak of productivity and success.
Her first poetry collection, Enough Rope, was published in 1926. It sold nearly 50,000 copies and received great reviews. The Nation newsmagazine described her poetry as "caked with a salty humor, rough with splinters of disillusion, and tarred with a bright black authenticity."
Within the next four years, she would publish over 300 poems in the New Yorker and many other national magazines. In addition to her poetry, she also wrote humorous pieces, essays, columns, and book reviews for the New Yorker. She also served as the magazine's drama critic for over five years.
Then she tired of drama - and of the drama her reviews created - and resigned as drama critic. She continued writing book reviews - under the byline Constant Reader - until 1933.
Dorothy Parker's writing talent and sparkling wit was noticed by Hollywood, and she became a screenwriter. Her husband at the time, Alan Campbell, was an actor and aspiring screenwriter.
In 1937, she co-wrote the hit film, A Star Is Born and earned an Academy Award nomination. Her political activism would eventually derail her Hollywood career.
She served as a correspondent for the communist magazine New Masses, reporting on the Spanish Civil War. In 1936, before her success with A Star Is Born, she founded the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League.
During the McCarthy era of the 1950s, Dorothy protested the government's relentless and mostly illegal persecution of suspected communists and communist sympathizers.
She never joined the Communist Party, but she did declare herself a sympathizer. The FBI deemed her a subversive and compiled a dossier on her that would reach 1,000 pages in length.
Dorothy Parker was never charged with a crime, but her former Hollywood studio bosses blacklisted her for years. In 1957, she moved back to New York City and served as a book reviewer for Esquire magazine for the next five years.
Dorothy died of a heart attack in June of 1967 at the age of 73. She left her estate to Martin Luther King, Jr. After his assassination, it was passed on to the NAACP.
In 1988, the NAACP interred Dorothy's ashes in a memorial garden outside its Baltimore headquarters. The plaque in the garden reads as follows:
Here lies the ashes of Dorothy Parker (1893–1967) humorist, writer, critic. Defender of human and civil rights. For her epitaph she suggested, 'Excuse my dust'. This memorial garden is dedicated to her noble spirit which celebrated the oneness of humankind and to the bonds of everlasting friendship between black and Jewish people. Dedicated by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. October 28, 1988
Four years later, to celebrate Dorothy's 99th birthday, the United States Postal Service honored her with a commemorative postage stamp.
Quote Of The Day
"Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat." - Dorothy Parker
Today's video features Dorothy Parker reading her classic poem, Inscription for the Ceiling of a Bedroom. Enjoy!
Friday, August 22, 2014
Thursday, August 21, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On August 21st, 1920, Christopher Robin Milne was born. His father was the famous English writer A.A. Milne, who began his career as a playwright, writing over 25 plays. When his son was a year old, he received a teddy bear as a present.
Christopher Robin would name his teddy bear Winnie-the-Pooh, after two real-life animals he encountered: Winnie, a Canadian black bear he saw at the London Zoo, and Pooh, a swan he saw while on vacation.
Christopher Robin's growing collection of stuffed animals, which included a piglet, a tiger, a donkey, and a kangaroo, inspired his father to try his hand at writing children's stories.
His son's teddy bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, would be the main character, and the animals' human friend, a young boy, would be named after Christopher Robin.
In 1925, A.A. Milne bought a country estate, Cotchford Farm in Hartfield, East Sussex, which would serve as the inspiration for Pooh's home, the Hundred Acre Wood.
Winnie-the-Pooh would first appear in a series of short stories published in magazines and newspapers, including Vanity Fair and the London Times.
In 1926, A.A. Milne published a short story collection in book form, called Winnie-the-Pooh, portions of which were adapted from the earlier stories.
It would be followed by a second story collection, The House At Pooh Corner (1928). Both books were illustrated by Ernest Shepard, who used the real Christopher Robin and his stuffed animals as models for the illustrations.
In 1966, Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends made their film debut in an animated Disney featurette, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree.
The short proved to be so popular that Disney made two more featurettes, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968) and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too! (1974).
Three years later, Disney cast Pooh in his first feature-length animated film, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977), which would become an all-time classic.
More movies followed, and the Winnie-the-Pooh franchise would include a TV series, animated TV specials, numerous toys, and even video games.
The enduring, beloved character and his forest friends continue to win new generations of fans, both young and old alike.
And it all began over ninety years ago, with a little boy named Christopher Robin and his stuffed animals.
Quote Of The Day
"The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief — call it what you will — than any book ever written; it has emptied more churches than all the counter-attractions of cinema, motor bicycle and golf course." - A.A. Milne
Today's video features a reading of chapter one of A.A. Milne's first Winnie the Pooh book. Enjoy!
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On August 20th, 1890, the legendary American writer H.P. Lovecraft was born. He was born Howard Phillips Lovecraft in Providence, Rhode Island. He was the only child of a traveling salesman, Winfield Scott Lovecraft.
When H.P. was three, his father suffered a severe psychotic episode while on a business trip in Chicago. He had to be committed to an asylum, as his mental illness was diagnosed as a result of syphilis. He died five years later.
After his father's death, Lovecraft was raised by his mother, her two sisters, and their father, all of whom lived in the same house. Lovecraft was a child prodigy; at the age of three, he could read poetry and recite it verbatim. By the age of six, he was writing his own poems.
His grandfather encouraged his voracious passion for reading, supplying him with classics such as The Arabian Nights, Bullfinch's Age Of Fable, and children's versions of Homer's classic epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey.
Lovecraft's grandfather encouraged his passion for the weird by telling him his own original Gothic horror stories. His mother worried that the stories would upset him, but he loved them and couldn't get enough.
He was a sickly child, though at least some of his illnesses were psychosomatic. He also suffered from night terrors, a rare sleep disorder. There was speculation that he'd inherited his father's syphilis, but that was ruled out.
Because of his poor health, lack of discipline, and argumentative nature, he rarely attended school until he was eight years old. Even then, he only lasted a year before he was pulled out of school.
A voracious reader, Lovecraft educated himself. He developed a particular interest in chemistry and astronomy. When he was nine years old, Lovecraft printed his own hectographed publications, the first of which was called The Scientific Gazette. Age the age of 13, Lovecraft returned to high school.
In 1908, just before his high school graduation, Lovecraft suffered what he called a nervous breakdown. Lovecraft biographer J.T. Joshi suggested that the breakdown was caused by Lovecraft's difficulty in learning advanced mathematics.
Without learning advanced mathematics, he would never be able to become a professional astronomer. Lovecraft's failure to complete his education was a lifelong source of disappointment and shame for him.
Though he had written some fiction before, most of H.P. Lovecraft's early work was poetry, which he wrote prolifically. In 1914, he wrote a letter complaining about the insipidness of a series of popular love stories that had been published in a pulp magazine called The Argosy.
The resulting debate in the magazine's Letters section caught the attention of Edward F. Daas, president of the United Amateur Press Association (UAPA), who invited Lovecraft to join the organization, which encouraged him to submit more poems and essays for publication.
Three years later, Lovecraft, an avid letter writer, returned to writing fiction after being prodded to do so by some of his correspondents. His first new horror story, Dagon, was published in W. Paul Cook's The Vagrant in 1919, then reprinted in Weird Tales in 1923.
The story is told by a tormented, suicidal morphine addict who recalls a horrific experience he had while in the Merchant Marines during World War 1. After his cargo ship is captured by the Germans, he escapes in a lifeboat.
Drifting across the Pacific, he eventually lands on an island where he encounters a monster that was once worshiped as a sea god by an ancient race of fish-men. All that remains of them is the shrine that they built for their god.
In 1919, after suffering from mental illness for years, H.P. Lovecraft's mother was placed in the same institution as her husband. Lovecraft corresponded with her frequently, and remained close to her until her death in 1921 - the result of complications from gall bladder surgery. Lovecraft was devastated.
A few weeks later, he attended an amateur journalist convention in Boston, where he met Sonia Greene, a Ukrainian-Jewish shopkeeper (she owned a hat store) whom he married in 1924. Lovecraft's aunts were not happy that he married a woman of the merchant class; the fact that she was Jewish probably didn't thrill them, either.
The Lovecrafts moved to the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. At first, Lovecraft was thrilled to be living in New York, but he quickly came to hate the city. The couple faced financial difficulties, including the loss of Sonia's hat shop.
H.P. was unable to find work, as the city teemed with a large immigrant population willing to work for low wages. Lovecraft's frustration fueled the racism that would later be reflected in his writings, which sometimes contained bestial black and scheming Jewish characters.
Lovecraft's racism was atypical; he tended to regard people more in terms of class than race. For example, in his story Cool Air, Lovecraft's narrator makes disparaging remarks about the poor Hispanics in his neighborhood while admiring and praising the wealthy, cultured Dr. Munoz, who is also Hispanic.
These and other contradictory aspects of Lovecraft's racism have led scholars to believe that in both his writings and in life, Lovecraft was questioning the veracity of his racial views. Sonia Greene, Lovecraft's wife, had to remind him that she was Jewish when he made anti-Semitic remarks.
It made an impact on him; near the end of his life, when he learned of Hitler's persecution of Jews in Germany, he was horrified. He denounced Nazi ideology as irrational. A few years after they were married, Lovecraft and Sonia separated. They later divorced amicably. Sonia moved to Cleveland and H.P. returned to Providence to live with his aunts.
Lovecraft continued to write and publish short stories and essays. He wrote over sixty short stories, most of them horror, establishing himself as a master of the form. His stories reflected his personal beliefs. He considered himself an agnostic in theory and an atheist in practical terms.
Many of his stories present gods not as loving creators, but as ancient, monstrous alien beings who have influenced the development of the human race over the ages. Often malicious, these gods inspire the formation of cults and demand sacrifice, as seen in Lovecraft's "Cthulu Mythos" of loosely connected stories.
In some of these stories, Lovecraft mentions a book called the Necronomicon - an ancient book of black magic whose rituals can summon evil deities, demons, and spirits. The book was supposedly written by the "Mad Arab," Abdul Alhazred, in 8th century Persia.
In the early 1970s, a book appeared that claimed to be the real Necronomicon, translated by someone known only as Simon. The book has no connection to Lovecraft and appears to be based on Sumerian mythology.
The book included a forward warning the reader not to attempt to perform the rituals contained in the book, which has since become a cult favorite. Still in print, it has sold over 800,000 copies.
Another theme in Lovecraft's writing is the dangers of modern science and technology, which inspire humans to investigate things that should be left alone, tampering with the order of the universe. Such was the subject of his classic 1919 short story, Beyond The Wall Of Sleep.
In this story, an intern at a hospital for the criminally insane uses one of the inmates - a homicidal maniac - as his guinea pig to test a device he invented to facilitate telepathic communication. The experiment goes awry as the intern and his test subject channel an alien being made of light.
Although Lovecraft published dozens of short stories in Weird Tales and many other pulp magazines - and was sometimes paid very large sums of money for them - his finances soon dwindled and he was forced to move to smaller quarters with his surviving aunt.
In 1936, H.P. Lovecraft was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. He died a year later at the age of 46. His stories have been adapted as feature films and for TV series such as Showtime's Masters Of Horror.
Heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Metallica, and Mercyful Fate have based songs on Lovecraft's works. King Diamond paid tribute to Lovecraft with his classic song, The Lake, which appears as the B-side of the single, Halloween:
Any Sunday morning
well just before dawn
a little girl is dancing
on the mansion lawn
She calls out a name:
"Dagon of the sea!
Appear from the darkest deep
and hear my need!"
Down by the lake
there's a shadow of grief
dancing hand in hand
with the devil...
H.P. Lovecraft continues to inspire generations of writers, including horror master Stephen King, who considers him a major influence, declaring him to be "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale."
Quote Of The Day
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." - H.P. Lovecraft
Today's video features a reading of H.P. Lovecraft's classic short story, Dagon. Enjoy!
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On August 19th, 1902, the famous American poet Ogden Nash was born in Rye, New York. His father owned an import-export company; due to the nature of the business, the Nash family moved frequently when Ogden was a boy.
After he graduated St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island, Ogden Nash entered Harvard University. He dropped out a year later and returned to St. George's School to teach.
A year after that, he quit teaching and worked a series of menial jobs, including writing advertisement cards for streetcars at an agency that once employed writer F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Eventually, Nash landed a job as an editor for the Doubleday publishing house and began to write poetry. He would say in a 1958 interview that he always had a fondness for rhyme: "I think in terms of rhyme, and have since I was six years old."
In 1931, Ogden Nash published his first book of poetry, Hard Lines. It became a huge success and earned Nash national recognition, establishing his talent for humorous verse with playful rhyming and anti-establishment themes.
That same year, he married his wife, Frances Leonard. Three years later, in 1934, the couple moved to Frances' hometown, Baltimore, Maryland, where Ogden Nash would live for the rest of his life.
When Nash wasn't writing poems, he made guest appearances on radio shows and toured the U.S. and England, where he gave lectures at colleges and universities.
He was respected by the literary establishment and his poems were published frequently in anthologies, even serious ones such as Selden Rodman's A New Anthology of Modern Poetry (1946).
As a poet, Nash was known for his pun-like rhymes and for deliberately misspelling words for comic effect, as in this riff on Dorothy Parker's famous lines "Men seldom make passes / At girls who wear glasses:"
A girl who is bespectacled
She may not get her nectacled
But safety pins and bassinets
Await the girl who fassinets.
In one of Nash's most famous rhymes, he parodied Joyce Kilmer's famous lines "I think that I shall never see / A poem as lovely as a tree:"
I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all.
My favorite Nash lines are these classics from his poem Reflections On Ice-Breaking:
Nash also wrote a series of poems dedicated to his favorite football team, the Baltimore Colts, now known as the Indianapolis Colts.
In 1943, Ogden Nash collaborated on writing the Broadway musical One Touch Of Venus. Nash wrote all the song lyrics himself and co-wrote the libretto with S.J. Perelman.
The music was composed by the great Kurt Weill. The musical is a loose spoof of the Pygmalion myth that satirizes modern (1940s) suburban America and its values, artistic fads, and social and sexual mores.
The original Broadway production opened on October 7th, 1943, at the Imperial Theatre and closed on February 10th, 1945, after 567 performances. Directed by Elia Kazan, it starred Mary Martin, Kenny Baker, and Paula Laurence.
Marlene Dietrich was originally cast in the title role of Venus, but backed out during rehearsals, calling the musical "too sexy and profane." Mary Martin took over the role and used it to establish herself as a Broadway star.
In addition to his poetry collections, Odgen Nash also wrote children's books. His daughter Isabel was married to the celebrated photographer Fred Eberstadt.
Nash's granddaughter, Fernanda Eberstadt, became an acclaimed writer - a child prodigy who wrote her first novel at the age of eleven.
Ogden Nash died of Crohn's Disease in 1971 at the age of 68. On August 19th, 2002, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp featuring Ogden Nash and six of his poems to commemorate the centennial of his birthday.
It was the first stamp in the history of the Postal Service to contain the word sex.
Quote Of The Day
"People who have what they want are very fond of telling people who haven't what they want that they really don't want it, and I wish I could afford to gather all such people into a gloomy castle on the Danube and hire half a dozen capable Draculas to haunt it." - Ogden Nash
Today's video features Ogden Nash reading his poem Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man. Enjoy!
Monday, August 18, 2014
My novel, Crooked Lines, was chosen for the Bonus Book Club Selection in The Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys Book Clubs. The club is touted as the largest "meeting and discussing" book club in the world, 550+ chapters.
I am invited to Nacogdoches, Texas in January, where they showcase 50 authors at the Annual Pulpwood Queen Book Club Convention and my book will be a contender for Bonus Book of the Year!
My book, Hidden History of Los Angeles Transportation, (working title: More Than Red Cars), published by the History Press of South Carolina, will be out November 4.
Friday, August 15, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On August 15th, 1885, the famous American writer Edna Ferber was born in Kalamazoo, Wisconsin. When she was twelve years old, her family moved to Appleton, Wisconsin. She graduated from high school there, then briefly attended Lawrence University.
After leaving university, Edna began a career in journalism, working as a reporter for the Appleton Daily Crescent and the Milwaukee Journal. In 1911, her first novel, Dawn O'Hara, was published.
Edna's novels featured strong female protagonists. One of her most popular characters, who appeared in several novels, was Emma McChesney, an intelligent, stylish divorced single mother who becomes a hugely successful businesswoman.
She was quite a controversial character for the time - the early 1900s. Her author's novels also dealt with racial or sexual discrimination, which were very controversial issues back then.
In 1924, Edna Ferber published the novel that won her a Pulitzer Prize for Literature. So Big told the story of Selina Peake De Jong, a schoolteacher in farm country, and her son Dirk, nicknamed So Big.
While teaching school, Selina lives on the Pool family farm. She forms a bond with the family's young son, Roelf, who wants to be an artist, not a farmer. She encourages him to pursue his dream, and he runs off to France.
Meanwhile, Selina marries a Dutch farmer named Purvus, and they have a son, Dirk. After Purvus dies of illness, Selina takes over their farm and makes it successful to provide for Dirk's future.
Dirk grows up to become a talented architect, but finds that he's more interested in making money than in his artistic talent. So, he switches gears and becomes a stockbroker. He makes a lot of money.
Dirk's fiancee, a famous artist named Dallas O'Mara, tries in vain to convince him that there are more important things in life than money. Meanwhile, Roelf Pool, now a famous sculptor, returns to town and visits Selina, who had encouraged him to pursue his dream.
Dallas falls in love with Roelf, who, like her, values art more than money. When Dirk finds out, he decides not to stand in the way of Dallas' happiness. She and Roelf run off together, and a heartbroken Dirk is left alone in his luxury apartment to contemplate all that his pursuit of money has brought him.
So Big was adapted as a feature film in 1932 and again in 1953. The 1953 version featured a different ending, as the original ending, with Dirk allowing his fiancee to run off with another man, was considered immoral under the stifling Production Code.
In 1926, Edna Furber published another classic novel, Show Boat. The story takes place on a "show boat" - one of many floating live theaters that traveled the Mississippi River in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The novel opens in the Reconstruction era South, moves on to New York City in the Roaring Twenties, and comes full circle, returning to the mighty Mississippi River. Show Boat would be adapted as a popular Broadway musical by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein.
Edna's 1941 novel Saratoga Trunk and her 1958 novel Giant would also be adapted as Broadway musicals and feature films. Other novels would be adapted as acclaimed feature films.
Giant (1952) was a controversial epic novel set around the oil boom of the 1920s. It told the story a Texas cattleman who marries a wise and fiercely independent society woman. It was controversial because it accurately depicted the racist persecution and exploitation of Mexicans by white Texans.
Edna's 1958 novel Ice Palace would be adapted as a feature film in 1960. The film adaptation of Edna's tale of the fish cannery business in postwar Alaska featured Japanese American actor George Takei in a small role several years before he became famous as Lieutenant Sulu on the classic 1966-69 American TV series Star Trek.
Throughout her remarkable literary career, Edna Ferber wrote over two dozen novels. She died in 1968 at the age of 82.
Quote Of The Day
"Life can't defeat a writer who is in love with writing, for life itself is a writer's lover until death." - Edna Ferber
Today's video features a clip from the acclaimed 1936 feature film adaptation of the Broadway musical based on Edna Ferber's classic novel, Show Boat. This clip features the classic song Ol' Man River performed by the legendary Paul Robeson. Enjoy!
Thursday, August 14, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On August 14th, 1834, the famous American writer Richard Henry Dana Jr. set sail from Boston, Massachusetts on an ocean journey where he would write his most famous book. His ship, the brig Pilgrim, was bound for California, which was still Mexican territory at the time.
Dana was a boy of nineteen when, like so many other young men, he heard the romantic call of the sea. He decided to keep a diary of his experiences as a sailor, which he would later turn into a book.
Two Years Before the Mast (1840) would prove to be one of the most popular and best selling non-fiction books of the 19th century, a classic work of American literature. It would inspire the legendary American writer Herman Melville to write his classic novel, Moby Dick (1851).
Before he signed on to the Pilgrim, Richard Henry Dana Jr. had envisioned life as a sailor to be a grand romantic adventure. The journey he chronicled in his diary was an adventure, but one fraught with hardship, ruthless oppression, and terror.
He quickly realized that "There is not so helpless and pitiable an object in the world as a landsman beginning a sailor's life." Common sailors were quartered "before the mast" - on the upper deck at the front of the ship.
While the captain and his main crew lived in comfortable quarters, common sailors were packed in like sardines and forced to brave the elements to do their work, which included standing outside on deck in the middle of storms to monitor the weather.
The captain was a cold blooded sadist and looked upon common sailors as expendable lower class scum. He beat them for pleasure, screaming at them, "If you want to know what I flog you for, I'll tell you... it's because I like to do it! Because I like to do it! It suits me! That's what I do it for!"
Although the captain had declared the Pilgrim a "temperance ship," he and his cronies kept a stock of rum for themselves. They also kept a stock of coffee, but denied the common sailors hot coffee to warm themselves in the freezing weather.
The journey took the Pilgrim and her crew around Cape Horn, where Richard Dana was awestruck by the "thundering sound" and "true sublimity" of the mammoth icebergs that seemed to surround his ship.
The Pilgrim was ill prepared for frozen waters and icebergs. One day, Dana, suffering from a badly infected tooth that swelled his mouth so much that he couldn't eat, went below deck for treatment. While recovering, he contemplated his situation.
"It was not easy to sleep," Dana wrote, "lying, as I did, with my head directly against the bows, which might be dashed in by an island of ice, brought down by the very next sea that struck her..."
When the Pilgrim landed on the coast of California, Dana explored the territory and got to know its people. In his book, he wrote the following about the people of 1830s Mexican California:
The Californians are an idle, thriftless people, and can make nothing for themselves. The country abounds in grapes, yet they buy bad wines made in Boston and brought round by us, at an immense price, and retail it among themselves at a real (12 1/2 cents) by the small wine-glass. Their hides, too, which they value at two dollars in money, they give for something which costs seventy-five cents in Boston; and buy shoes (like as not, made of their own hides, and which have been carried twice around Cape Horn) at three or four dollars...
After his two year tour of duty was over, Dana returned to Boston, where he would study law at Harvard and become a respected attorney specializing in maritime law. He defended many common sailors in court.
Dana's experiences on the Pilgrim instilled in him a deep compassion for the poor and oppressed. He was also a prominent and ferocious abolitionist. In 1840, the year he passed the bar, his classic book Two Years Before the Mast was published.
Richard Henry Dana Jr. would publish other non-fiction books and articles. In 1841, he published The Seaman's Friend, a handbook on seamanship and the legal rights and responsibilities of sailors. It became the standard textbook for all seamen.
Dana died of influenza in 1882 at the age of 66. His most famous book, Two Years Before the Mast, would be adapted as a feature film in 1946, co-starring Brian Donlevy as the author.
If you would like to download the free public domain e-book version of Richard Henry Dana Jr's classic book Two Years Before the Mast, you can find it at Munsey's Archive.
If you would like to download the free public domain unabridged audiobook version of Two Years Before the Mast, you can find it here at the LibriVox Archive.
Quote Of The Day
“Better to be driven out from among men than to be disliked by children.” - Richard Henry Dana Jr.
Today's video features the original theatrical trailer for the 1946 feature film adaptation of Richard Henry Dana Jr's classic book, Two Years Before the Mast. Enjoy!