On this date in American literary history – August 14, 1834, 19-year-old Richard Henry Dana, author of Two Years Before the Mast, began his two year adventure as a seaman. Dana was born on August 1, 1815 in Cambridge, Massachusetts and as a young man enrolled at Harvard, but a case of the measles in college left his eyes weakened. This inspired him to take a sea voyage while recuperating. During his two years at sea, he sailed to California, then around Cape Horn, then back to Boston. He then resumed his studies and became an attorney. In 1840, he published Two Years Before the Mast, an semi-autobiographical account of the abuse endured by seamen. The book was very successful and the following year, he published The Seaman's Friend, a complete guide to the legal rights of seamen. Dana as also an ardent abolitionist and helped form the Free Soil Party in 1848. During his life time he would publish several other books that included To Cuba and Back (1859). He died on January 6, 1882 in Rome, Italy from influenza and was buried at the Protestant Cemetery within the city.