Written by an Assistant Librarian of the University of Michigan and son of the captain, who says he wrote it to increase an “insufficient salary.” First published in a weekly newspaper, readers he claims called for book publication. The author was early on a cabin boy, a job from which he was “ignominiously dismissed” for his greater interest in the world, than the world around him.
p. 59-60, approaching San Francisco and a burial at sea: It was afternoon when poor Whitman’s body was committed to the deep. There was no wind—not a breath. Since morning not a catspaw had wandered by; but the sea, blue as the sky, stretched far away, smooth, glassy and unbroken. The flag was set half mast. It hung straight down in vertical folds, opening and shutting slightly with the monotonous motion of the ship, as she fell and rose, slowly, on the long ocean swell.At two o’clock the body of the deceased, sewed up in canvass, and with heavy weights at the feet, was borne out of the cabin. A plank, laid in the starboard gangway, received it. The feet were placed outboard. The whole ship’s company, with uncovered heads, assembled around. Almost perfect silence ensued. There was no sound of animate thing, save the twitter of the stormy-petrel—no sound of inanimate thing, only the bellying and col lapsing sails. The service (that of the Church ofEngland,) was read by one of the passengers. The reading was audible to all, though sad and low.
"Man that is born of woman, hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.
"In the midst of life we are in death. Of whommay we seek for succor, but of Thee, O Lord, whofor our sins art justly displeased?"
[This is here followed by other passages from the Book of Common Prayer].
p. 75: In the appendix to his Life of Columbus, Washington Irving gives very interesting accounts of the Islands of St. Borondon and the Seven Cities.
I said these accounts were interesting—so is the whole work. For every one who has not read it, there is a great treat in reserve, and I recommend partaking of it as soon as convenient.
p. 75-77: I now became [after he was fired], in some respects, a vagabond—i. e, I experienced all the joys of vagabond life, without any of its hardships and discomforts. I slept very cosily at night, and feasted, physically and mentally, by day. My physical food was pea soup, beef, and duff—my mental food such books as "Ten Thousand Topsail-Sheet Blocks" "Fanny Campbell, The Female Pirate Captain," and "The Blood-Red Revenger of the Spanish Main." This kind of literature the passengers possessed by the bushel.These books were enclosed in fair "yellow covers," and on their pages, inside, were described adventures so wonderful that sometimes doubts of their truth rose, even in my confiding mind. It was all in print, however, and my doubts could not scale such a wall as that. Many men disbelieve that "Whatever is, is right," but no natural child disbelieves that whatever is in print, is true.As my supplies of time and books were unlimited, I read on, and on, and on, until, at length, I got an overdose, and became violently sick of "yellow covered literature." Even now, when I see such books, the sight produces nausea.Many men are miserable because their children seem to have acquired an insatiable taste for reading "dime novels." The taste is not insatiable, thou unhappy parent, but can be corrected. How arechildren cured of stealing sugar? Not by any Homeopathic doses, but by being compelled to eat sugar in great quantities, until the stomach rebels,and sends the saccharine matter back by the way it came. Really, though if not Homeopathic practice, this is Homeopathic principle—similia similibus curantur [like is cured by like].Proceed in the same way to correct this taste for reading these books that are morally and mentally injurious. Buy dime novels by the wholesale, set the children to reading, keep them reading; when they tire give them no rest, and, my word for it, in the end, you may cow them by the name of these books, as "on the sands of Yemen the Arab mother hushed her child by the name of Richard."
p. 86: Universal nature has been termed a vast book, from which all in sympathy with nature can read. The page open to us then, was inscribed with poetry — the poetry of the sea. Whoso loved poesy and read:
“To him the gushing of the wave,
Far, far away did seem to mourn and rave
On alien shores;
And deep asleep he seemed, yet all awake,
And music in his ears his beating heart did make,"
p. 208-09: It now occurs to me that I have not designated by what passage my father intended to pass the East Indian Archipelago. He had never navigated those seas, and had, therefore, asked advice, and consulted many authorities on the subject. He was generally advised to sail by the Gilolo and Ombay passages. It was declared to him that fair winds, fair currents and fair weather, prevailed there at that season. Just consult the proper map in the Atlas, and you will see the direction in which we were to go. The Gilolo Passage lies between the Island of Gilolo and the small islands lying around the northern end of Papua, or New Guinea. To reach the Ombay Passage from there, one must sail through Pitt’s Passage, by the northern end of Bouro, and thence southward across the Banda Sea. Ombay Passage is between Timor and the small Island of Ombay, to the north, and leads into the open Indian Ocean. The advice received in regard to this route was backed up by books. Miserable, miserable advice it was, and lying books they were that confirmed it.
p. 210: When taken ill I was reading, for the first time, Cooper’s "Last of the Mohicans." I had reached the point where Hawkeye and his inseparable friends rescue Duncan Heyward’s party from the grasp of Magua, on the summit of the mound whither he had led them. Of course I had been time, is not? And now my wandering mind went forth to mingle in the stirring scenes described and to engage with the same actors in new ones.
I participated in the eventful night in the cavern on the rocky island at Glenn’s. My blood was curdled by the strange sounds, which, rising from the river’s bed, Hawkeye declared not to be of earth. “When day broke, I fought the Hurons across the tumbling water. I conversed with Chingachgook, with Hawkeye, and with Uncas, as though they were always by my side. And so, for days, I lived in an unreal world. Beings who had no existence were my companions—my haunts were strange localities, thousands of leagues away. Yet through all this I saw, darkly and dreamily, the real world about me.
p. 327: These Reminiscences have already exceeded all reasonable limits. To continue them would be an imposition upon those readers who, from principle, read all books through, and a piece of unpardonable stupidity in me. I shall therefore resolutely turn my back upon the temptation of which I have spoken, and make the best speed I can across the Atlantic.