No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

#73: The Atrocities of the Pirates -- Aaron Smith

The first-person account of a young sailor's run-in with pirates in 1822. Smith was captured by a pirae ship, captained by a man known only as Antonio, and forcibly recruited as navigator. He was brutalised and tortured (though in other ways allowed a surprising degree of freedom) and eventually, though enlisting the help of a young noblewoman, escaped by his own cunning. His ordeal wasn't over, though: back in London he was tried for piracy and acquitted, and later rearrested. This book is an expansion of his defense, with an afterword by his descendent Robert Redmond.

Reading the afterword, there's apparently some doubt as to how innocent he truly was, and whether he was at all complicit in the 'atrocities' of which the pirate crew were undoubtedly guilty. Several witnesses claimed to have seen Smith giving orders and being obeyed, or acting as a free individual: naturally, his side of the story was rather different, and involved 'fear of my life' and duress. Redmond makes it clear that the family regarded Smith's experiences, and his trial, as a grave embarrassment. There's surprisingly little sympathy for his situation.

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