Sleeper was an American sailor, journalist, and politician who was Mayor of Roxbury, Mass., and a member of the Mass. Senate. As a novelist he used the pseudonym of Mawser Martingale, and I suspect this book is autobiographical fiction. He went to sea as a cabin boy in 1809, age 15, and the book is about his first command in the merchant marine in 1821.
p. 9-10: From my earliest years I manifested a strong attachment to reading; and as matters relating to ships; and sailors captivated my boyish fancy, and exerted a magic influence on my mind, the “Adventures of Robinson Crusoe,” “Peter Wilkins,” “Philip Quarle,” and vagabonds of a similar character, were my favorite books.
p. 11, more of his pompous “taste for reading” and his parent’s “ingrafting on my mind strict moral principles….”
p. 147-48, preparing for a voyage to the Pacific north-west fur trading areas: I laid in a good stock of clothes, such as were needed on a voyage to that inclement part of the world, provided myself with various comforts for a long voyage, and purchased as large an assortment of books as my limited funds would allow,—not forgetting writing materials, blank journals, and every thing requisite for obtaining a good practical knowledge of navigation, and of other subjects useful to a shipmaster.
p. 201-02, a long passage about a pamphlet predicting the end of the world on Jun 11th, read to the captain by this author, all based on the long reading of Revelation, “the crude absurdities of a crack-brained religious enthusiast” named Cochrane from Richmond, Va.
p. 387-88: On this voyage I had one source of pleasure, of an elevated character, which was denied to the rest of my shipmates. This was my attachment to books. Before I left New Orleans, I purchased a variety of second-hand volumes; a miscellaneous collection, which enabled me to pass may pleasant hours on our passage to Havre, and at the same time lay in a stock of information which might prove of great value at a future day.
In books I found biographies of good men, whose example fortified my mind against the temptations to vice and immorality, which beset the sailor on every side. They furnished me with an interesting occupation in an idle hour, acted as a solace for disappointment, and a faithful friend and consoler in anxiety and trouble; inspired me with a feeling of emulation, and bade me look forward with hope. Many is the hour when, after a hard day’s work, or an exciting scene of peril or suffering, by the dim light of a tallow candle, or a lamp manufactured by my own hands, while others were lamenting their hard fate, or pouring out their indignation in unavailing grumblings, I have, while poring over a book, lost all sense of unhappiness, and been transported far away to other and happier scenes; sometimes exploring with Barrow the inhospitable wastes of Africa; accompanying Christiaan on his journey to the Celestial City; sympathizing with the good Vicar of Wakefield in his domestic misfortunes; sharing the disquietudes of Rasselas in the “Happy Valley”; tracing with almost breathless interest the career of some ancient hero whom Plutarch has immortalized, or lingering over the thrilling adventures and perils of “Sindbad the Sailor.”
A sailor before the mast, as well as the inmates of the cabin, has many hours on every voyage, which may be, and should be, devoted to reading and study. When a resident of the forecastle, I have by my example, and by urgent appeals to the pride, the ambition, and good
sense of my shipmates, induced then to cultivate a taste for reading, and awakened in their minds a thirst for information.