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Brady Cyrus Townsend
Sir Henry Morgan, Buccaneer: A Romance of the Spanish Main

"Woe to the realms which he coasted! for there
Was shedding of blood and rending of hair,
Rape of maiden and slaughter of priest,
Gathering of ravens and wolves to the feast;
When he hoisted his standard black,
Before him was battle, behind him wrack,
And he burned the churches, that heathen Dane,
To light his band to their barks again."
Scott: "Harold the Dauntless."


In literature there have been romantic pirates, gentlemanly pirates, kind-hearted pirates, even humorous pirates – in fact, all sorts and conditions of pirates. In life there was only one kind. In this book that kind appears. Several presentations – in the guise of novels – of pirates, the like of which never existed on land or sea, have recently appeared. A perusal of these interesting romances awoke in me a desire to write a story of a real pirate, a pirate of the genuine species.

Much research for historical essays, amid ancient records and moldy chronicles, put me in possession of a vast amount of information concerning the doings of the greatest of all pirates; a man unique among his nefarious brethren, in that he played the piratical game so successfully that he received the honor of knighthood from King Charles II. A belted knight of England, who was also a brutal, rapacious, lustful, murderous villain and robber – and undoubtedly a pirate, although he disguised his piracy under the name of buccaneering – is certainly a striking and unusual figure.

Therefore, when I imagined my pirate story I pitched upon Sir Henry Morgan as the character of the romance. It will spare the critic to admit that the tale hereinafter related is a work of the imagination, and is not an historical romance. According to the latest accounts, Sir Henry Morgan, by a singular oversight of Fate, who must have been nodding at the time, died in his bed – not peacefully I trust – and was buried in consecrated ground. But I do him no injustice, I hasten to assure the reader, in the acts that I have attributed to him, for they are more than paralleled by the well authenticated deeds of this human monster. I did not even invent the blowing up of the English frigate in the action with the Spanish ships.

If I have assumed for the nonce the attributes of that unaccountably somnolent Fate, and brought him to a terrible end, I am sure abundant justification will be found in the recital of his mythical misdeeds, which, I repeat, were not a circumstance to his real transgressions. Indeed, one has to go back to the most cruel and degenerate of the Roman emperors to parallel the wickednesses of Morgan and his men. It is not possible to put upon printed pages explicit statements of what they did. The curious reader may find some account of these "Gentlemen of the Black Flag," so far as it can be translated into present-day books intended for popular reading, in my volume of "Colonial Fights and Fighters."

The writing of this novel has been by no means an easy task. How to convey clearly the doings of the buccaneer so there could be no misapprehension on the part of the reader, and yet to write with due delicacy and restraint a book for the general public, has been a problem with which I have wrestled long and arduously. The whole book has been completely revised some six times. Each time I have deleted something, which, while it has refined, I trust has not impaired the strength of the tale. If the critic still find things to censure, let him pass over charitably in view of what might have been!

As to the other characters, I have done violence to the name and fame of no man, for all of those who played any prominent part among the buccaneers in the story were themselves men scarcely less criminal than Morgan. Be it known that I have simply appropriated names, not careers. They all had adventures of their own and were not associated with Morgan in life. Teach – I have a weakness for that bad young man – is known to history as "Blackbeard" – a much worse man than the roaring singer of these pages. The delectable Hornigold, the One-Eyed, with the "wild justice" of his revenge, was another real pirate. So was the faithful Black Dog, the maroon. So were Raveneau de Lussan, Rock Braziliano, L'Ollonois, Velsers, Sawkins, and the rest.

In addition to my desire to write a real story of a real pirate I was actuated by another intent. There are numberless tales of the brave days of the Spanish Main, from "Westward Ho!" down. In every one of them, without exception, the hero is a noble, gallant, high-souled, high-spirited, valiant descendant of the Anglo-Saxon race, while the villain – and such villains they are! – is always a proud and haughty Spaniard, who comes to grief dreadfully in the final trial which determines the issue. My sympathies, from a long course of reading of such romances, have gone out to the under Don. I determined to write a story with a Spanish gentleman for the hero, and a Spanish gentlewoman for the heroine, and let the position of villain be filled by one of our own race. Such things were, and here they are. I have dwelt with pleasure on the love affairs of the gallant Alvarado and the beautiful Mercedes.

But, after all, the story is preëminently the story of Morgan. I have striven to make it a character sketch of that remarkable personality. I wished to portray his ferocity and cruelty, his brutality and wantonness, his treachery and rapacity; to exhibit, without lightening, the dark shadows of his character, and to depict his inevitable and utter breakdown finally; yet at the same time to bring out his dauntless courage, his military ability, his fertility and resourcefulness, his mastery of his men, his capacity as a seaman, which are qualities worthy of admiration. Yet I have not intended to make him an admirable figure. To do that would be to falsify history and disregard the artistic canons. So I have tried to show him as he was; great and brave, small and mean, skilful and able, greedy and cruel; and lastly, in his crimes and punishment, a coward.

And if a mere romance may have a lesson, here in this tale is one of a just retribution, exhibited in the awful, if adequate, vengeance finally wreaked upon Morgan by those whom he had so fearfully and dreadfully wronged.


Brooklyn, N.Y., December, 1902.

Note. – The date of the sack of Panama has been advanced to comply with the demands of this romance.


Sir Henry Morgan, Buccaneer



His Gracious Majesty, King Charles II. of England, in sportive – and acquisitive – mood, had made him a knight; but, as that merry monarch himself had said of another unworthy subject whom he had ennobled – his son, by the left hand – "God Almighty could not make him a gentleman!"

Yet, to the casual inspection, little or nothing appeared to be lacking to entitle him to all the consideration attendant upon that ancient degree. His attire, for instance, might be a year or two behind the fashion of England and still further away from that of France, then, as now, the standard maker in dress, yet it represented the extreme of the mode in His Majesty's fair island of Jamaica. That it was a trifle too vivid in its colors, and too striking in its contrasts for the best taste at home, possibly might be condoned by the richness of the material used and the prodigality of trimming which decorated it. Silk and satin from the Orient, lace from Flanders, leather from Spain, with jewels from everywhere, marked him as a person entitled to some consideration, at least. Even more compulsory of attention, if not of respect, were his haughty, overbearing, satisfied manner, his look of command, the expression of authority in action he bore.

Quite in keeping with his gorgeous appearance was the richly furnished room in which he sat in autocratic isolation, plumed hat on head, quaffing, as became a former brother-of-the-coast and sometime buccaneer, amazing draughts of the fiery spirits of the island of which he happened to be, ad interim, the Royal Authority.

But it was his face which attested the acuteness of the sneering observation of the unworthy giver of the royal accolade. No gentleman ever bore face like that. Framed in long, thin, gray curls which fell upon his shoulders after the fashion of the time, it was as cruel, as evil, as sensuous, as ruthless, as powerful an old face as had ever looked over a bulwark at a sinking ship, or viewed with indifference the ravaging of a devoted town. Courage there was, capacity in large measure, but not one trace of human kindness. Thin, lean, hawk-like, ruthless, cunning, weather-beaten, it was sadly out of place in its brave attire in that vaulted chamber. It was the face of a man who ruled by terror; who commanded by might. It was the face of an adventurer, too, one never sure of his position, but always ready to fight for it, and able to fight well. There was a watchful, alert, inquiring look in the fierce blue eyes, an intent, expectant expression in the craggy countenance, that told of the uncertainties of his assumptions; yet the lack of assurance was compensated for by the firm, resolute line of the mouth under the trifling upturned mustache, with its lips at the same time thin and sensual. To be fat and sensual is to appear to mitigate the latter evil with at least a pretence at good humor; to be thin and sensual is to be a devil. This man was evil, not with the grossness of a debauchee but with the thinness of the devotee. And he was an old man, too. Sixty odd years of vicious life, glossed over in the last two decades by an assumption of respectability, had swept over the gray hairs, which evoked no reverence.

There was a heavy frown on his face on that summer evening in the year of our Lord, 1685. The childless wife whom he had taken for his betterment and her worsening, some ten years since – in succession to Satan only knew how many nameless, unrecognized precursors – had died a few moments before, in the chamber above his head. Fairly bought from a needy father, she had been a cloak to lend him a certain respectability when he settled down, red with the blood of thousands whom he had slain and rich with the treasure of cities that he had wasted, to enjoy the evening of his life. Like all who are used for such purposes, she knew, after a little space, the man over whom the mantle of her reputation had been flung. She had rejoiced at the near approach of that death for which she had been longing almost since her wedding day. That she had shrunk from him in the very articles of dissolution when he stood by her bedside, indicated the character of the relationship.


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Sir Henry Morgan, Buccaneer: A Romance of the Spanish Main

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