Monday 5 January 2009
A 300-year-old journal of a British explorer who saved the real-life Robinson Crusoe and defeated pirates of the Caribbean has been discovered.
The extremely rare account chronicles a three-year round-the world voyage of the swashbuckling privateer Capt Woodes Rogers, who made a fortune pillaging from pirate ships and Spanish galleons.
It is thought only a hundred copies of his book, A Cruising Voyage around the World, were printed seven years after Rogers completed his odyssey. One was recently found in a loft in Bristol, where Rogers’ was based, and is expected to fetch £3,000 when it is auctioned on January 21st.
Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe, first published in 1719 and sometimes regarded as the first novel in English. The book is a fictional autobiography of the title character, an English castaway who spends 28 years on a remote tropical island near Venezuela, encountering Native Americans, captives, and mutineers before being rescued. This device, presenting an account of supposedly factual events, is known as a “false document” and gives a realistic frame story.
There were many stories of real-life castaways in Defoe’s time. Defoe’s initial inspiration for Crusoe is usually thought to be a Scottish sailor named Alexander Selkirk, who was rescued in 1709 by Woodes Rogers’ expedition after four years on the uninhabited island of Más a Tierra in the Juan Fernández Islands off the Chilean coast. Rogers’ Cruising Voyage was published in 1712, with an account of Alexander Selkirk’s ordeal. However, Robinson Crusoe is far from a copy of Woodes Rogers’ account: Selkirk was marooned at his own request, while Crusoe was shipwrecked; the islands are different; Selkirk lived alone for the whole time, while Crusoe found companions; while Selkirk stayed on his island for four years, not twenty-eight. Furthermore, much of the appeal of Defoe’s novel is the detailed and captivating account of Crusoe’s thoughts, occupations and activities which goes far beyond that of Rogers’ basic descriptions of Selkirk, which account for only a few pages.