Born in Nantucket and moved to New Bedford, both whaling communities. Father died in a shipwreck near Fairhaven when Reuben was 11. He soon took to sea with his elder brother. His style is aphoristic and cliché-ridden. Whatever the nature of his final conversion, it seems clear that he was never a member of a reading community.
p. 16: Sometimes of a Saturday afternoon I would be called from my sport by my mother’s voice, and required to read passages from the scriptures to her, which was far from agreeable to me. It has been a source of regret to me in many a dark and dreary hour of my life that I had not heeded better those kind admonitions from my mother’s lips, for much pain and trouble would it have saved me.
p. 22, in the Sandwich Islands: Not infrequently it happens, that the ship which brings out a missionary and his family to aid in their [native] enlightenment will land at the same time from 500 to 100 barrels of rum, to spread its blighting curse, and undo the good which might be done.
p. 23: They have a school on week days and their manner of learning and their manner of learning is quite singular. The first one commences and the whole school repeat every word after him as loud as they can bawl, and a stranger passing a kanaka school would judge that it contained a party of noisy boys at play.
p. 24-27 gives a succinct summary of the manner of capturing and trying out the catch.
p. 102, this book of travel reporting on the South Seas and other cruises accompanied by his account of a desolate and immoral life, ends with his conversion: It is now eight months since I have broken the bondage of the evil habit [drink] that chained me, and by the blessing of God, I have become proof against temptation; and when I shall receive my discharge from this, my last cruise, I have confidence that it will be the most profitable that I have ever made; not in dollars and cents, but in the effects which a serious and thoughtful examination of my former wild career has produced upon me.