To Cuba and Back
A Vacation Voyage. By Tieknor & Fields. 1859. pp. 288. 16mo., Author of “Two Years before the Mast.” Boston :
IT was, perhaps, a dangerous experiment for the author of a book of the worldwide and continued popularity of “Two Years before the Mast” to dare, with that almost unparalleled success still staring him in the face, to tempt Fortune by giving to the public another book. But long before this time, the thousands of copies that have left the shelves of the publishers have attested a success scarcely second to that of Mr. Dana's first venture. The elements of success, in both cases, are to be found in every page of the hooks themselves. This “ Vacation Voyage" has not a dull page in it. Every reader reads it to the end. Every paragraph has its own charm ; every word is chosen with that quick instinct that seizes upon the right word to describe the matter in hand which characterizes Mr. Dana’s forensic efforts, and places him so high on the list of natural-born advocates, —which gives him the power of eloquence at the bar, and a power scarcely less with the slower medium of the pen. These Cuban sketches are real stereographs, and Cuba stands before you as distinct and lifelike as words can make it. Single words, from Mr. Dana’s pen, are pregnant with great significance, and their meaning is brought out by taking a little thought, as the leaves and sticks and stones and pigmy men and women in the shady corners of the stereograph are developed into the seeming proportions of real life, when the images in the focus of the lenses of the stereoscope. We know of no modern book of travels which gives one so vivid and fresh a picture, in many various aspects, of the external nature, the people, the customs, the laws and domestic institutions of a strange country, as does this little volume, the off-hand product of a few days snatched from the engrossing cares of the most active professional life. With a quick eye for the beauties of landscape, a keen and lively perception of what is droll and amusing in human nature, a warm heart, sympathizing readily where sympathy is required, the various culture of the scholar, and the training of the lawyer and politician, all well mixed with manly, straightforward, Anglo-Saxon pluck, Mr. Dana has, in an eminent degree, all the best qualities that should mark the traveller who undertakes to tell his story to the world.
Some statistics, judiciously introduced, of the present government, and of the institution of slavery and the slave-trade, with the author’s comments upon them, give a practical value to the book at, this time for all thinking and patriotic citizens, and make it one not only to be read for an hour’s entertainment, but carefully studied for the important practical suggestions of its pages.