Monday, March 4, 2013

Lady Pirates: "She was of a Fierce Temper"

The life of Anne Bonny, famous lady pirate who disappeared into a misty past after living through a sensational trial and giving birth in jail, has been hashed and rehashed. But it never hurts to hear from a contemporary source, no matter how familiar the story. Here, then is Captain Johnson aka Daniel Defoe's short but engaging description of Mistress Bonny from his A General History of the Pyrates:

She was of a fierce and courageous Temper, wherefore, when she lay under Condemnation, several Stories were reported of her much to her Disadvantage, as that she had kill'd an English Servant-Maid once in her Passion with a Case-Knife, while she look'd after her Father's House; but upon further Enquiry, I found this Story to be groundless: It was certain she was so robust, that once, when a young Fellow would have him with her, against her Will, she beat him so, that he lay ill of it a considerable Time.

While she lived with her Father, she was look'd upon as one that would be a good Fortune, wherefore it was thought her Father excepted a good Match for her; but she spoil'd all, for without his Consent, she marries a young Fellow, who belong'd to the Sea, and was not worth a Groat; which provoked her Father to such a Degree, that her turn'd her out of Doors, upon which the young Fellow, who married her, finding himself disappointed in his Expectation, shipped himself and Wife, for the Island of Providence, expecting Employment there.

Here she became acquainted with Rackam the Pyrate, who making Courtship to her, soon found Means of withdrawing her Affections from her Husband, so that she consented to elope from him, and go to Sea with Rackam in Men's Cloaths: She was as good as her Word, and after she had been at Sea some Time, she proved with Child, and beginning to grow big, Rackam landed her on the Island of Cuba; and recommending her there to some Friends of his, they took Care of her, till she was brought to Bed: When she was up and well again, he sent for her to bear him Company.

The King's Proclamation being out, for pardoning of Pyrates, he took the Benefit of it, and surrender'd; afterwards being sent upon the privateer Account, he return'd to his old Trade, as has been already hinted in the Story of Mary Read. In all the Expeditions, Anne Bonny bore him Company, and when any Business was to be done in their Way, no Body was more forward or courageous than she, and particularly when they were taken; she and Mary Read, with one more, were all the Persons that durst keep the Deck, as has been before hinted.

Her Father was known to a great many Gentlemen Planters of Jamaica, who dealt with him, and among whom he had a good Reputation; and some of them, who had been in Carolina, remember'd to have seen her in his House; wherefore they were inclined to shew her Favour, but the Action of leaving her Husband was an ugly Circumstance against her. The Day that Rackam was executed, by special Favour, he was admitted to see her; but all the Comfort she gave him, was, that she was sorry to see him there, but if he had fought like a Man, he need not have been hang'd like a Dog.

She was continued in Prison, to the Time of her lying in, and afterwards reprieved from Time to Time; but what is become of her since, we cannot tell; only this we know, that she was not executed.

Header: Pirates Abroad by Don Maitz


Anonymous said...

Truly classic. Honestly, does "hang'd like a Dog" ever get old? But right now I'm fond of "a young Fellow, so belong'd to the Sea, and was not worth a Groat." Of only the young part was still true. Plus, I'd like to thin I was worth at least a shilling.

Timmy! said...

I did not know that she had a previous child with Rackam, Pauline... So there is something new about the story for me anyway.

I like the painting too...

Pauline said...

Iwinant: No, it doesn't; that quote will live as long as there are people who care about history. And I like to think that all of the Brethren - yourself included - are only one more cruise away from hitting the really rich galleon!

Timmy! That's the story; what became of him or her is just as puzzling as what became of their mother and little sibling.

Anonymous said...

Oh, lwinant is me, Blue Lou. Trying to get Wordpress set up still.