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Aug 04

Return to Treasure Island

The Brown Wedge • 275 views

Return to Treasure Island

[See also here, here, here and here]

In Captain Kidd and the War Against the Pirates Harry Ritchie remarks, a propos the legends of Kidd’s lost treasure, ?the idea of burying loot on a tropical island would have struck [the men who turned to piracy] as insane?. Oh dear – game over for Mr Stevenson? Ritchie makes some sensible remarks on the likely fate of Kidd’s treasure, and also points out the possible tactical advantages of an alleged secret treasure stash to any pirate facing down various legal squabbles in the colonies prior to being shipped back to England for show-trial and a gibbet at Execution Dock.

While Marcus Rediker has shown that there were good incentives for sailors to turn pirate when given the chance, since the rewards were certainly much greater than in the merchant marine, or even the navy, life expectancy for either seaman or buccanneer is short. So there was little incentive to save, and although some pirates sent money home to their wives and families, most were like Ben Gunn, who blows his thousand quid in a mere nineteen days. (Not sure how to calculate the relative value of this, but one version gives ’140,000. Another source suggests this would be 500 times what a labourer could earn in a year). Silver of course, saves: he is a gentleman of fortune in both senses!! Which is merely one of the reasons why Long John Silver, one of the world’s most famous pirates, is nothing of the sort…

Also: why is it that in Treasure Island the history all works, whereas in The Master of Ballantrae, much more obviously a ‘historical novel’, in its exploration of the aftermath of the 45 at home and abroad, Stevenson should send the Master aboard Captain Teach’s ship, when he was killed in 1718…

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