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Life Aboard A British Privateer in the Time of Queen Anne
Being the Journal of Captain Woodes Rogers, Master Mariner, with Notes and Illustrations by Robert C. Leslie (1889)


MOST people know their "Robinson Crusoe," and have heard of the author Defoe. But how many of us have heard even the name of Woodes Rogers, Master Mariner? or have read his quaint Journal of a cruising voyage round the world in the ships "Duke" and "Dutchess" of Bristol. Yet it was this Woodes Rogers who not only discovered the original Crusoe, Alexander Selkirk, but after making a "note of him when found" upon the island of Juan Fernandez/ at once proceeded to make very practical use of him by giving him command of the "Increase" one of many small prizes taken in the South Seas from the Spaniards by the "Duke" and "Dutchess." That Rogers was more than a master mariner, of much resource and pluck, is shown in his Journal, and the wonderful way in which he handled the very mixed group of men which formed the small floating commonwealth under him. It was more than thirty years later that Lord Anson sailed a similar voyage round the world with the advantage of the experience of Rogers and others, while Anson's squadron was fitted, manned, and armed by Government: yet, considering the loss of life and material which marked that cruise, it seems to me that, judged by results, Rogers' voyage was a far more wonderful performance, and that it attracted some attention at the time is shown by a notice of it in Captain Berkley's "Naval History," (published, 1756), where, under the heading of "Conduct of the Bristol Privateers" he says, "we have read in very pompous language the names of those who, with great ships and great preparations, encompassed the Globe. But at this time came in two privateers, of Bristol, who with no more than the common strength of such vessels, undertook the voyage, and at the end of two years and three months returned,' &c.

In his own Preface, Captain Rogers says, "I was not fond to appear in print; but my friends who had read my journal prevailed with me at last to publish it," adding, "I know 'tis generally expected, that when far distant voyages are printed, they should contain new and wonderful discoveries, with surprising accounts of people and animals; but this voyage being only designed for cruising on the enemy, it is not reasonable to expect such accounts here as are to be met with in travels relating to history, geography, &c., while, as for stile, I have not had time, were it my talent, to polish it; nor do I think it necessary for a mariner's journal. 'Tis also," he says, "a particular misfortune, which attends voyages to the South Sea, that the buccaneers, to set off their own knight-errantry, and to make themselves pass for prodigies of courage and conduct, have given such romantick accounts of their adventures, and told such strange stories, as make the voyages of those who come after (and cannot allow themselves the same liberty), to look flat and insipid to unthinking people. Therefore I request my readers, that they be favourable in their censures when they peruse this journal which is not calculated to amuse, but barely to relate the truth, and which is all written in the language of the sea, that being more genuine and natural for a mariner than the method used by authors that write ashoar." I have, therefore, in the following extracts, quoted Roger's Journal as closely as possible, adding only a short connecting note here and there, where required.

Robert C. Leslie.

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