"The seafaring biography, Ned Myers or A
Life Before the Mast, originally published in 1843, is the
life story of the sailor Ned Myers, as told to James Fenimore Cooper,
an old friend and former shipmate. Certainly Cooper's literary reputation
is based on the famous "Leatherstocking Tales," mostly
set in New York state during the eighteenth and early nineteenth
centuries, but Cooper wrote more authentically than most authors
about the sea and seafaring men, who he knew well, since he had
been one of them, and he had served as a midshipman in the US Navy
during the years 1808-1810."1
In consenting to lay before the world the experience of a common
seaman, and, I may add, of one who has been such a sinner as the
calling is only too apt to produce, I trust that no feeling of vanity
has had an undue influence. I love the seas; and it is a pleasure
to me to converse about them, and of the scenes I have witnessed,
and of the hardships I have undergone on their bosom, in various
parts of the world.
Meeting with an old shipmate who is disposed to put into proper
form the facts which I can give him, and believing that my narrative
may be useful to some of those who follow the same pursuit as that
in which I have been so long engaged, I see no evil in the course
I am now taking, while I humbly trust it may be the means of effecting
some little good. God grant that the pictures I shall feel bound
to draw of my own past degradation and failings, contrasted as they
must be with my present contentment and hopes, may induce some one,
at least, of my readers to abandon the excesses so common among
seamen, and to turn their eyes in the direction of those great truths
which are so powerful to reform, and so convincing when regarded
with humility, and with a just understanding of our own weaknesses.
. . .
. . .