This is the master at his best and at the peak of his career. Some of his students and contemporaries have come close but Howard Pyle owns the subject of pirates. Click on this title page to enlarge and read some of the introduction. The man could write. Consider that the year of publication was 1905, one hundred years ago, when some of the most respected authors of the time are almost unreadable today.
An Attack on a Galleon.
Pyle wrote: "Perhaps one of the convoys lags from the rest of the fleet. There comes skimming out from behind the fringed headland a lean, low pinnace full of half-naked cutthroats–white, black, and yellow. It swoops down upon the derelict galleon like the kestrel upon the wild goose...." Click on image to enlarge.
"A lonely island; a long strip of coral sand with combing breakers bursting upon it; a shining mass of treasure poured out upon a sail-cloth spread upon a beach; a circle of hungry-eyed, wolfish, unshaven, partly clad figures gathered about in the sunlight; the pirate chief standing over the booty—counting, adding, subtracting, parcelling.
"So the treasure was divided...."
Click on either of the images above to enlarge.
Extorting Tribune from the Citizens.
"So the [pirates] returned to [Cartagena], which now lay entirely at their mercy without even the dim shadow of . . . authority as a protection. What followed need not be written in full; what they did may better be imagined than told. It is not said how long they remained, but it was long enough to hunt every odd corner for remnants of treasure that had been left behind. In the end, hearing further news of the approach of the Dutch and English fleet, they demanded a payment of 5,000,000 livres as the price of their departure without burning the town—and, incredible as it may sound, they got their price."
The Buccaneer was a Picturesque Fellow.
"The buccaneer was a picturesque fellow when you regard him from this long distance away. He belonged to no country and recognized no kith or kin of human nationality. He spent his money like a prince, and was very well satisfied to live rapidly, even if in so doing his death should come upon him with equal celerity. He clothed himself in a picturesque medley of rags, tatters, and finery. He loved gold and silver ornaments—ear-rings, finger-rings, bracelets, chains,—and he ornamented himself profusely with such gewgaws. He affected a great deal of finery of a sort—a tattered shirt or even a bare skin mattered not very much to him provided he was able to hide his semi-nakedness beneath some such finery as a velvet cloak or a sash of scarlet silk; patched breeches were not regarded when he had a fine leather belt with a silver buckle and a good sword hanging to it. And always there were a long-barrelled pistol or two and a good handy knife stuck in a waist-belt with which to command respect.
"Such was the buccaneer of the seventeeth century."
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Next: Howard Pyle: Captain Keitt, 1907