A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: The Life of William Dampier

A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: The Life of William Dampier

Hardback

By (author) Diana Preston, By (author) Michael Preston

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Paperback $12.90
  • Publisher: WALKER & CO
  • Format: Hardback | 372 pages
  • Dimensions: 168mm x 244mm x 36mm | 726g
  • Publication date: 1 April 2004
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0802714250
  • ISBN 13: 9780802714251
  • Illustrations note: illustrations, maps
  • Sales rank: 440,100

Product description

Darwin took his books aboard the Beagle. Swift and Defoe used his experiences as inspiration in writing "Gulliver's Travels" and "Robinson Crusoe." Captain Cook relied on his observations while voyaging around the world. Coleridge called him a genius and "a man of exquisite mind." In the history of exploration, nobody has ventured further than Englishman William Dampier. Yet while the exploits of Cook, Shackleton, and a host of legendary explorers have been widely chronicled, those of perhaps the greatest are virtually invisible today--an omission that Diana and Michael Preston have redressed in this vivid, compelling biography. As a young man Dampier spent several years in the swashbuckling company of buccaneers in the Caribbean. At a time when surviving one voyage across the Pacific was cause for celebration, Dampier ultimately journeyed three times around the world; his bestselling books about his experiences were a sensation, influencing generations of scientists, explorers, and writers. He was the first to deduce that winds cause currents and the first to produce wind maps across the world, surpassing even the work of Edmund Halley. He introduced the concept of the "sub-species" that Darwin later built into his theory of evolution, and his description of the breadfruit was the impetus for Captain Bligh's voyage on the Bounty. Dampier reached Australia 80 years before Cook, and he later led the first formal expedition of science and discovery there. "A Pirate of Exquisite Mind"restores William Dampier to his rightful place in history--one of the pioneers on whose insights our understanding of the natural world was built.

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Author information

Born and raised in London, Diana Preston studied Modern History at Oxford University, where she first became involved in journalism. After earning her degree, she became a freelance writer of feature and travel articles for national UK newspapers and magazines and has subsequently reviewed books for a number of publications, including "The Wall Street Journal" and "The Los Angeles Times." She has also been a broadcaster for the BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and has been featured in various television documentaries. "A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: Explorer, Naturalist and Buccaneer: The Life of William Dampier "(Walker & Company, April 2004) is a new biography of the 17th-century British explorer, naturalist, scientist, pirate and buccaneer William Dampier coauthored by Diana and her husband, Michael Preston. Diana's decision to write "popular" history led her to "The Road to Culloden Moor: Bonnie Prince Charlie and the '45 Rebellion" (Constable UK, 1995). It was followed by "A First Rate Tragedy: Robert Falcon Scott and the Race to the South Pole" (Houghton Mifflin, 1998), "The Boxer Rebellion" (Walker & Company, 2000), and "Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy" (Walker & Company, 2002). When not writing, Diana and Michael are avid travelers. Together, they have sojourned throughout India, Asia, Africa, and Antarctica, and have climbed Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and Mount Roraima in Venezuela. Their adventures have also included gorilla-tracking in Zaire and camping their way across the Namibian desert. They live in London, England.

Editorial reviews

Rich with incident and novelty, the life of a swashbuckler whose exploits and writings impressed generations of readers, including Darwin and Humboldt, though he's little remembered today. Thoroughly dazzled by their subject, the authors aim to redress that injustice. Nonfiction veteran Diana Preston (The Boxer Rebellion, 2000, etc.) and husband Michael convey Dampier's life in punchy, declarative sentences, strained only by the sheer plentitude of his doings. Most of the material comes from his published works; Dampier pretty much invented the modern travel narrative, fashioning bestsellers borne on "the accessibility of his writing and the exoticism of his experience." Much of the rest comes from records at the Court of Admiralty; he was also an active buccaneer and a lousy leader of men. Cut of standard English piratical cloth, this rumbustious plunderer of Spanish ships and towns always had an eye skinned for booty or opportunities for ransom. His pioneering qualities and inexhaustible curiosity made him a natural star in an age "when inquiry was fashionable and ingenuity admired." The Prestons present Dampier as an ambiguous figure, a man who would engage himself in daring and bloody raids, then turn around and write A Discourse of Trade-Winds, Breezes, Storms, Seasons of the Year, Tides, and Currents. He was hungry not just for filthy lucre, which often evaded his grasp, but also for appreciating and appraising the strange lands he visited as he circumnavigated the globe the times. (He visited Australia years before Cook.) No silver or gold? No problem for Dampier, who would take his payment in observations of flamingoes so numerous they looked like "a wall of new brick" (pink, 17th-century brick, that is), or in hunting with the raja of Mindanao, or in savoring the local oysters. Yeomanly treatment of a man who "wanted desperately to make his fortune but was seduced by the quest for knowledge." (65 b&w illustrations, 12 maps) (Kirkus Reviews)