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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

"Capt. Charles Johnson" was indeed Nathaniel Mist

 

Stationers' Company Archive, London, Entries of Copies, 28 April 1710 to 25 September 1746, p. 317.

About the author of A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates (1724):
 
From Quest for Blackbeard - "The most important detail, perhaps, appears that [Nathaniel] Mist’s foreman John Wolfe registered A General History in 'His Majesty’s Stationers’ Company' on June 24, 1724 'for Nathaniel Mist.'* Almost certainly, Mist authored A General History [he certainly owned the copyright] and he profited substantially from the publication. Indeed, A General History seemed to have been his financial lifeboat – at least for a few years [after his imprisonment and fines]. 
* Arne Bialuschewski, “Daniel Defoe, Nathaniel Mist, and A General History of the Pyrates,” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America (PBSA), 98 (March 2004), pp. 25n14, 26 (from: Stationers' Company Archive, London, Entries of Copies, 28 April 1710 to 25 September 1746, 317 (see above picture); Mist owned 100% of the book, too). 
We should note here that Nathaniel Mist was a Jacobite-loving anti-government publisher (think: Fox News) who had been recently jailed and fined for his now-first-amendment-supported propaganda. Not that the propaganda was anything but harmful to Great Britain's reigning monarch. Only two years after publishing A General History, Mist fled England for France to avoid further trouble with the government. Arne Bialuschewski adds further:
In September 1728 an anonymous pamphlet entitled Mist’s Closet Broke Open appeared, which contained a number of epigrams that were published to ridicule Mist after he had taken flight. Its contents are of minor importance, except for the fact that there are two references to Captain Charles Johnson. The first comprises “Sea-news from Capt. Johnson to Mist,” the second is a fictional letter from Mist to Johnson.By that time, it seems, the connection between the fictitious captain and the Jacobite was an open secret in the publishing business.
Professor of Literature Dr. Manushag Powell of Purdue University assures us that this book was written as historical fiction or a "counterfactual" as she puts it.. Furthermore, Daniel DeFoe - sometime author of occasional articles appearing in Mist's newspaper, Weekly Journal or Saturday Evening Post - reputedly "authored" a cheap knock-off of A General History the year after Mist published it. DeFoe, however, never copyrighted this... which makes you wonder how he got later credit for it. Politics may have helped, as he was a spy for Lord Sunderland - keeping an eye on Mist and his anti-government writing! Jacobites often paid dearly for their treasonous efforts and Mist, of course, fled to France in 1726!
 
A General History is filled with corrigendums, or "things to be corrected, typically an error in a printed book," if we presume it to be an actual history. It is best viewed as historical fiction. How can we possibly treat Nathaniel Mist or any of his acquaintances as an historian or his uncited suspect secondary novel as an actual "history" in the face of this overwhelming evidence? There are a plethora of primary documents available from which to gain more trustworthy pirate history - many of them used and then, elaborated upon - even stretched into outright lies - by Mist! I often joke that my historical fiction, Fountain of Hope, could be looked at as "A General History of Florida" one day, based on this same criteria... some may even propose that time travel is real, based on that erroneous assumption! I assure you that - so far - it has not been proven and I never intended Fountain of Hope to be actual history, even though I loaded it to the brim with historical fact - a novelist's tactic to gain more realism. The polemical Mist, on the other hand, did indeed expect his readers to consider A General History to be just that! After all, he called his novel a "history," didn't he?