Among my great aunt Nancy’s books was a copy of “Two Years Before the  Mast” by Richard Henry Dana, a second edition, published in 1869. The  book, presented by Dana to Anna Penelope Wood née Dana (1814 – 1890),  was passed on to her sister Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny née Dana (1820 – 1904), who was Nancy Movius’s grandmother and my third great grandmother. It is now in the possession of Nancy’s son.

The book is inscribed

Anna Penelope Dana Wood
From her
Affectionate Cousin
The Author
June 9th 1869

Underneath is a supplementary inscription:

CFC Crespigny
from her sister
Mrs Wood

A letter from Richard Henry Dana to his cousin is kept with the book

Boston May 25 1869

My dear Cousin

I have asked my English publisher to send you a copy of the second
edition of my narrative, to which I have added a revisit to the old
Scenes. I pray accept it from me as a passing* proof of my affection.

Yours faithfully

Rich H Dana Jr

Mrs A Penelope Wood

* ? not clearly decipherable

Richard Henry Dana junior was born in Cambridge Massachusetts in 1815. His father Richard Henry Dana senior (1787 – 1879) was a lawyer but seldom practiced law, instead writing poetry and criticism. Richard Henry Dana senior was the son of noted lawyer Francis Dana and the grandson of Richard Dana, also a prominent lawyer.

Richard Henry Dana junior was educated first by a strict schoolmaster, regarded by many as an excessively harsh disciplinarian. In his later school years Dana was taught in a school run by the poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. Dana then went to Harvard College but contracted measles, which led to inflammation of his eyes, forcing him to take a break from his studies.

Dana signed on the brig ‘Pilgrim‘ in 1834. His first passage was from
Boston to California around Cape Horn. He returned two years later on
the ship ‘Alert‘, which rounded the Horn in the middle of an Antarctic
winter. On this journey Dana suffered from scurvy and was forced to bear
the pain of an infected tooth.

In Boston Dana resumed his legal studies, graduated in 1837, and was
admitted to the Bar in 1840. He had kept a diary during his voyages and this formed the basis of his memoir, Two Years Before the Mast, which he published in 1840. The title refers to the quarters of ordinary seamen, which were in the often wet and uncomfortable forward part of the boat.

Dana published a second edition in 1869 with an appendix giving details of his return visit to California in 1859. It is a copy of this edition which he presented to his second cousin, my fourth great aunt, Anna  Penelope Wood.

Richard Henry Dana, Jr. c 1870 photographed by George Kendall Warren. Image in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery.

Richard Henry Dana junior had met Anna, her father and her husband on a trip to England in 1856. He stayed with Anna and her husband in  Shrewsbury. [My post ‘S is for Shrewsbury‘ includes some extracts from his diary entries from that visit.]

abbreviated family tree showing Richard Dana and three of his great grandchildren: Anna, Charlotte and Richard Henry Dana junior

It appears that Richard Henry Dana asked his English publishers to send Mrs Wood a copy of the book, with an inscription on his behalf, and to include his personal letter. The handwriting of the inscription is not the same as that of the letter, and was presumably that of a member of the publishing house Sampson Low & Co. The supplementary inscription is in the handwriting of Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny née Dana (1820-1904), younger sister of Anna Penelope Dana Wood.

It seems that Anna Penelope passed the book to her sister, who added the note concerning its provenance. The book was later passed to Charlotte Frances’s grandson Constantine Trent CdeC (1882-1952) and then to his daughter Nancy Movius née CdeC (1910-2003). It is now back in Boston / Cambridge, where the work was first composed having travelled around the world from England via Australia.


The book can now be read online, for example through Project Gutenberg at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2055/2055-h/2055-h.htm

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