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The Privateersman   By: (1792-1848)

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The Privateersman, by Captain Marryat.

Captain Frederick Marryat was born July 10 1792, and died August 8 1848. He retired from the British navy in 1828 in order to devote himself to writing. In the following 20 years he wrote 26 books, many of which are among the very best of English literature, and some of which are still in print.

Marryat had an extraordinary gift for the invention of episodes in his stories. He says somewhere that when he sat down for the day's work, he never knew what he was going to write. He certainly was a literary genius.

"The Privateersman" was published in 1846, the twenty third book to flow from Marryat's pen. Privateering is legalised piracy at sea.

This e text was transcribed in 1998 by Nick Hodson, and was reformatted in 2003.




To Mistress .

Respected Madam ,

In compliance with your request I shall now transcribe from the journal of my younger days some portions of my adventurous life. When I wrote, I painted the feelings of my heart without reserve, and I shall not alter one word, as I know you wish to learn what my feelings were then, and not what my thoughts may be now. They say that in every man's life, however obscure his position may be, there would be a moral found, were it truly told. I think, Madam, when you have perused what I am about to write, you will agree with me, that from my history both old and young may gather profit, and I trust, if ever it should be made public, that, by Divine permission, such may be the result. Without further preface I shall commence with a narrative of my cruise off Hispaniola, in the Revenge privateer.

The Revenge mounted fourteen guns, and was commanded by Captain Weatherall, a very noted privateer's man. One morning at daybreak we discovered a vessel from the masthead, and immediately made all sail in chase, crowding every stitch of canvass. As we neared, we made her out to be a large ship, deeply laden, and we imagined that she would be an easy prize; but as we saw her hull more out of the water, she proved to be well armed, having a full tier of guns fore and aft. As it afterwards proved, she was a vessel of 600 tons burden, and mounted twenty four guns, having sailed from Saint Domingo, and being bound to France.

She had been chartered by a French gentleman (and a most gallant fellow we found him), who had acquired a large fortune in the West Indies, and was then going home, having embarked on board his whole property, as well as his wife and his only son, a youth of about seventeen. As soon as he discovered what we were, and the impossibility of escape from so fast a sailing vessel as the Revenge, he resolved to fight us to the last. Indeed he had everything to fight for; his whole property, his wife and his only child, his own liberty, and perhaps life, were all at stake, and he had every motive that could stimulate a man. As we subsequently learnt, he had great difficulty in inspiring the crew with an equal resolution, and it was not until he had engaged to pay them the value of half the cargo, provided they succeeded in beating us off and forcing their way in safety to France, that he could rouse them to their duty.

Won by his example, for he told them that he did not desire any man to do more than he would do himself, and perhaps more induced by his generous offer, the French crew declared they would support him to the last, went cheerfully to their guns, and prepared for action. When we were pretty near to him, he shortened sail ready for the combat, having tenderly forced his wife down below to await in agony the issue of a battle on which depended everything so dear to her... Continue reading book >>

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