By: John Howell (1788-1863)
This work was the true story of Alexander Selkirk (1676 to December 13, 1721), a Scottish sailor who was employed in a number of different trades during his early life. As a young man, Selkirk learned the skills of tanning and shoemaking, and later became a buccaneer (a government-sanctioned pirate) on the Cinque Ports, working his way up to the position of ship's sailing master or navigator. But in the case of Selkirk, his experiences would eventually help him to survive his isolation on a deserted island in the Juan Fernández archipelago, off the coast of Chile, where he spent 52 months before being rescued.
The Life and Adventures of Alexander Selkirk is a real-life “survivor man” narrative: Alone, pitted against nature with only his wits and the barest of tools at his disposal, the protagonist eventually triumphs over his adversities. Certainly this theme is at the heart of what makes it so timeless, but it includes an exploration into the story of who Selkirk was before the adventure began. In his research, Howell diligently investigated Selkirk's life through parish records from the small town of Largo in Fife, Scotland, where Selkirk was born and spent his childhood. He also conducted interviews with surviving relatives, and gleamed information from the published accounts of others with whom Selkirk had sailed, such as privateer and explorer, Captain William Dampier, and the man who ultimately rescued him, Captain Woodes Rogers. (Introduction by James K. White)