Alas! this little book mentions no Poll of Portsmouth, nor does it favour us with a "Yeo, heave, oh!" nor is there so very much "cut and thrust" about it. It was written in that uninspiring day when Pirates were a very real nuisance to such law-abiding folk as you and I; but it has the merit of being written, if not by a Pirate, at least by one who came into actual contact with them. I am not at all sure that "merit" is the right word to use in this instance, for to be a Pirate does not necessarily ensure you making a good author. Indeed, it might almost be considered as a ban to the fine literary technique of an Addison or a Temple. It has, however, the virtue of being in close touch with some of the happenings chronicled. Not that our author saw above a tithe of what he records had he done so he would have been "set a-sundrying" at execution dock long before he had had the opportunity of putting pen to paper; but, as far as posterity was concerned, he was lucky in his friend William Ingram, evidently a fellow of good memory and a ready tongue, who, as our author states in his Preface, "was a Pirate" and who eventually was hanged in good piratical company on the llth of June, 1714.
The actual history of the little book, the major part of which is here reprinted, is as follows: Its full title is "The History and Lives of all the most Notorious Pirates and their Crews," and the fifth edition, from which our text is taken, was printed in 1735. A reproduction of the original title-page is given overleaf.
A little research into the book's history shows us that it is consistent throughout, and that it is a "piracy", in the publisher's sense of the word, of a much larger and more pretentious work by Captain Charles Johnson, titled "A General History of the Pyrates from their first Rise and Settlement in the Island of Providence to the Present Time; With the Remarkable Actions and Adventures of the two Female Pyrates Mary Read and Anne Bonny."
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About the Author
Claud Lovat Fraser was a member of a distinguished old family in which it was traditional to include the name Lovat in the eldest son's name. For much of his life he was known simply by that name. Fraser's father (also Claud) was a prominent solicitor.
The young Fraser and his younger brother Alan were educated at Charterhouse School in Surrey. In 1907 he began his studies to enter his father's law firm, but was always more interested in becoming an artist. In 1911, with his father's blessing he left the family firm and began to pursue a career in art.
After a brief period under the tutelage of Walter Sickert in 1912, he executed illustrations for Haldane Macfall's essay on art and aesthetics entitled The Splendid Wayfaring.
In 1913, along with Holbrook Jackson and the poet Ralph Hodgson, Lovat Fraser established a small publishing firm called The Sign of the Flying Fame to produce decorative poetry broadsides and chapbooks. Although printed in limited editions and often hand-coloured, they were affordably priced and were intended to make poetry more accessible to the general public.
In the autumn of 1914, Fraser enlisted with the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps and was quickly commissioned to the 14th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. He went on to produce sketches as a record of the trenches and battlefields of Flanders. He was one of few British officers to survive the Battle of Loos in 1915. In December of that year, his battalion withstood a German gas attack but in the confusion of the event, he neglected to put on his gas mask and suffered injuries to his lungs. He was promoted to captain in early 1916, but by late February he was invalided home, suffering from the effects of gas and from shellshock after a battle at the Ypres Salient.