Encounters with Some Sketchy Pirates

BY TRACY HOFFMAN

Thursday, September 20, 2018

So much can be said, and should be studied more rigorously, about Washington Irving’s connections with pirates.

Firstly, Irving was robbed by pirates. As a frequent traveler, zooming to and fro from America to England, he not only weathered storms and sat quarantined in harbors for days, he also experienced being robbed by pirates off the coast of Sicily. His journals include the details.

Secondly, in Tales of a Traveller (1824), the third installment of the sketchbook trilogy, Irving tucked some pirate stories at the end. In fact, “Kidd the Pirate” and “The Devil and Tom Walker” should be studied collectively instead of “The Devil” being solely anthologized since the narrator for “The Devil” is set up at the conclusion of “Kidd.”

I rather see pirate stories concluding Irving’s career as a sketchbook storyteller. His career transitioned into more history and biography after Tales of a Traveller. If things had gone better with this set of stories, his career would have taken a different trajectory. The pirates completed a chapter in his life.

Thirdly, Irving wrote about Bermuda and had a few things to say about pirates in a grouping of sketches he called “The Bermudas.” I’m also reminded of stories in The Sketch Book (1819) such as “The Widow and Her Son” which deals with a mother whose son is lost at sea.

Finally, a pirate birthday party united me (the president of the Washington Irving Society) with the then president of the City of Irving’s Heritage Society. I was attending the children’s party along with my nephew, who was then about four, and she was attending because she knew the children whose birthday it was. The two of us collided amongst pirates, and the rest is history. I’ve had a great connection with the City of Irving, Texas–named after Washington Irving–ever since.

Published in: on September 20, 2018 at 5:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

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