American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

GOULD, JOHN W. (1814-1838). John W. Gould was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, the seventh son of influential judge and educator James Gould. He was christened “John Gould” but added the middle initial “W.” in 1835 to avoid confusion.

Gould’s health was always poor; he sailed from New York in 1833 before the mast, bound for Canton via Cape Horn,* in an attempt to improve his health. The captain’s behavior forced Gould to leave the ship in Valparaiso, and he returned to New York in 1834 with his health completely restored. Despite minimal formal education, which was limited to a failed attempt at study for a life in the ministry, Gould began writing about his experiences at sea. All of his sea stories were based on his single voyage to Valparaiso and back, and all were written between the ages of nineteen and twenty- two. He published several fiction and nonfiction articles in the New York Mirror, the Knickerbocker Magazine, and the American Monthly Magazine. His works feature extensive use of nautical metaphors and speak of those places he visited or heard about from others. His stories describe sailors’ views of mutiny,* piracy, naval engagements, and the trials of life at sea. His writings were compiled and edited by his brother Edward, also an author, in Forecastle Yarns (1845).

In 1837 Gould became sick again and tried to repeat his cure at sea. He sailed for Rio de Janeiro in 1838 as a passenger. He was very weak throughout the voyage, and despite some convalescence in Rio, he died on the return trip. His journal of the voyage, along with his correspondence and writings, appeared in another volume edited by his brother, John W. Gould’s Private Journal (1838).

Peter H. McCracken