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"Cachez ce mot que je ne saurais voir" : Edition, Sedition, Piracy, and the "Silences of the Text "

Abstract : In the second half of the 17th century and the first third of the 18th, piracy came to be regarded as the epitome of seditious activities, since the ruin of commerce was considered one of the worst possible crimes at the time. This public acknowledgement of the disruptive nature of piratical acts understandably influenced the perception and representation of those very acts. Alexander-Olivier Exquemelin chronicled freebooters’ adventures in the Caribbean, and was rather outspoken about Morgan’s deeds and misdeeds, notably in the taking and looting of, but earned his English publisher a libel suit after the publication of The Bucaniers of America, once this pirate captain had become Sir Henry Morgan and an important official in Jamaica. Piracy, or even legally-admitted privateering were, to say the least, a rather delicate topic which could ruin a reputation, all the more so as, although distinct in theory, the two were rather uncomfortably close in practice. During his voyage to New Holland, an enraged Captain William Dampier put one of his officers under arrest in Brazil after the latter called him a pirate – perhaps not so much because he saw it as an underserved insult (he would have known better), but rather because it could have undermined his authority over his crew, which was for once a perfectly legal and un-piratical one. As a consequence, Exquemelin’s followers seem to have been especially cautious in their accounts, all the more so as they narrated their own adventures: thus, Dampier, the pirate-scientist, focuses on natural history to avoid tackling more awkward matters; and Wafer, the pirate-surgeon, chooses to simply elide about two years’ of his post-Darien life – when he sailed with Dampier and captured the would-be Batchelor’s Delight from the Danes, a nation then at peace with England. This paper will attempt to show how piracy is best left in the dark, kept hidden, glossed over, avoided, elided, and how respectability, and self-respect, led to potential censorship, or even self-censorship, in piratical writings, especially through the devising of narrative strategies.
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Contributor : Sophie Jorrand <>
Submitted on : Sunday, September 15, 2019 - 12:06:27 PM
Last modification on : Monday, February 10, 2020 - 12:17:30 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-02288641, version 1


Sophie Jorrand. "Cachez ce mot que je ne saurais voir" : Edition, Sedition, Piracy, and the "Silences of the Text ". Elizabeth Durot-Boucé. Speaking Volumes… (S)edition, Impression(s), TIR, pp.109-131, 2017, ISBN : 978-2-917681-34-3. ⟨hal-02288641⟩



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