Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
April 09, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

A Pirate of Exquisite Mind

Current Status
In Season
Diana Preston, Michael Preston

We gave it an A-

The Prestons unearthed a writer’s holy grail in William Dampier: a truly extraordinary man who has been largely, if mysteriously, forgotten. Orphaned as a child in 17th-century England, Dampier became an explorer, buccaneer, and naturalist at a young age. A man able to describe the beauty of a hummingbird yet partake in a brutal career of plunder and violence, Dampier was the first person to complete three journeys around the globe and the first to write a detailed account of the Galapagos in English (Darwin relied on his books). While Dampier was an acute observer of the world, he apparently wrote very little about himself or his emotional reactions, leaving Pirate (through no fault of the Prestons) heavy on Dampier’s itineraries but light on reflection.

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