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The Pirate, and The Three Cutters   By: (1792-1848)

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First Page:

THE PIRATE

AND

THE THREE CUTTERS

[Illustration: Publishers mark]

[Illustration: Cain. ]

THE PIRATE

AND

THE THREE CUTTERS

BY

CAPTAIN MARRYAT

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY EDMUND J. SULLIVAN AND AN INTRODUCTION BY DAVID HANNAY

London MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED

NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 1897

All rights reserved

INTRODUCTION

Among the few subjects which are still left at the disposal of the duly gifted writer of romance is the Pirate. Not but that many have written of pirates. Defoe, after preparing the ground by a pamphlet story on the historic Captain Avery, wrote The Life, Adventures, and Piracies of Captain Singleton . Sir Walter Scott made use in somewhat the same fashion of the equally historic Gow that is to say, his pirate bears about the same relation to the marauder who was suppressed by James Laing, that Captain Singleton does to Captain Avery. Michael Scott had much to say of pirates, and he had heard much of them during his life in the West Indies, for they were then making their last fight against law and order. The pirate could not escape the eye of Mr. R. L. Stevenson, and accordingly we have an episode of pirates in the episode of the Master of Ballantrae . Balsac, too, wrote Argow le Pirate among the stories which belong to the years when he was exhausting all the ways in which a novel ought not to be written. Also the pirate is a commonplace in boys' books. Yet for as much as he figures in stories for old and young, it may be modestly maintained that nobody has ever yet done him quite right.

Defoe's Captain Singleton is a harmless, thrifty, and ever moral pirate, of whom it is impossible to disapprove. Sir Walter's is a mild gentleman, concerning whom one wonders how he ever came to be in such company. Michael Scott's pirate is a bloodthirsty ruffian enough, and yet it is difficult to feel that a person who dressed in such a highly picturesque manner, and who was commonly either a Don or a Scotch gentleman of ancient descent, was quite the real thing. Mr. Stevenson's pirate is nearer what one knows must have been the life. He is a cowardly, lurking, petty scoundrel. John Silver is certainly something very different, but then when Mr. Stevenson drew the commanding figure in Treasure Island he was not making a portrait of a pirate, but was only making play with the well established puppet of boys' books. Yet, after all, the pirate, if he was not such an agreeable rascal as John Silver, was not always the greedy, spiritless rogue drawn in the Master of Ballantrae . To do him properly and as he was, he ought to be approached with a mixture of humour and morality, and also with a knowledge of the facts concerning him, which to the best of my knowledge have never been combined in any writer.

Captain Johnson, in his valuable General History of the Pirates from their First Rise and Settlement in the Island of Providence to the present time , begins with antiquity. He mounts up the dark backward abyss of time till he meets with the pirates who captured Julius Caesar, and were suppressed by Pompey. This is not necessary. Our pirate was a very different fellow from those broken men of the ancient world, the wrecks of States shattered by Rome and the victims of the usury of the Knights who collected in the creeks of Cilicia. It is not quite easy to say what he was, but we know well enough what he was not. He was not for many generations the recognised enemy of the human race. On the contrary, he was often a comparative respectable person, who was disposed to render service to his king and country at a crisis, even if he did not see his advantage in virtuous conduct. To begin with, he was only a seafaring man who carried on the universal practice of the Middle Ages after they had ceased to be recognised as legitimate. Then for a long time a pirate was not thought worthy of hanging until he had shown a hopelessly contumacious disposition by refusing the king's pardon several times. Sir William Monson, who was admiral to James I... Continue reading book >>




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