The King of Pirates

The Preface

Daniel Defoe

ONE of the particular advantages of the following letters from Captain Avery is the satisfaction they will give the readers how much they have been imposed upon in the former ridiculous and extravagant accounts which have been put upon the world in what has been published already.

It has been enough to the writers of this man’s life, as they call it, that they could put anything together to make a kind of monstrous unheard-of story as romantic as the reports that have been spread about of him; and the more those stories appeared monstrous and incredible, the more suitable they seemed to be to what the world would have been made to expect of Captain Avery.

There is always a great difference between what men say of themselves, and what others say for them, when they come to write historically of the transactions of their lives.

The publisher of these letters recommends this performance to the readers, to make their judgment of the difference between them and the extravagant stories already told, and which is most likely to be genuine; and, as they verily believe these letters to be the best and truest account of Captain Avery’s piracies that ever has or ever will come to the knowl edge of the world, they recommend them as such, and doubt not but they will answer for themselves in the reading.

The account given of Captain Avery’s taking the Great Mogul’s daughter, ravishing and murdering her, and all the ladies of her retinue, is so differently related here, and so extravagantly related before, that it cannot but be a satisfaction to the most unconcerned reader to find such a horrible piece of villainy, as the other was supposed to be, not to have been committed in the world.

On the contrary, we find here that, except plundering that princess of her jewels and money to a prodigious value, a thing which, falling into the hands of freebooters, every one that had the misfortune to fall into such hands would expect; but that, excepting this, the lady was used with all the decency and humanity, and perhaps with more than ever women falling among pirates had found before, especially considering that, by report, she was a most beautiful and agreeable person herself, as were also several of those about her.

The booty taken with her, though infinitely great in itself, yet has been so magnified beyond common- sense, that it makes all the rest that has been said of those things ridiculous and absurd.

The like absurdity in the former relations of this matter is that of the making an offer of, I know not how many millions, to the late Queen for Captain Avery’s pardon, with a petition to the Queen, and her Majesty’s negative answer; all which are as much true as his being master of so many millions of money which he nor his gang never had, and of his being proclaimed King of Madagascar, marrying the Mogul’s daughter, and the like. And, by-the- bye, it was but ill laid together of those who published, that he first ravished her, then murdered her, and then married her; all which are very remarkable for the recommending the thing to those that read it.

If these stories are explained here and duly exposed, and the history of Captain Avery set in a fairer light, the end is answered; and of this the readers are to be the only judges. But this may be said without any arrogance, that this story, stripped of all the romantic, improbable, and impossible parts of it, looks more like the history of Captain Avery than anything yet published ever has done; and if it is not proved that the captain wrote these letters himself, the publisher says none but the captain himself will ever be able to mend them.

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