Captain Charles Johnson

Birth: 1724


Captain Charles Johnson (fl. 1724-1736), was author of "A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates, and also their Policies, Discipline, and Government from their first Rise and Settlement in 1717 to the present year, with the Adventures of the two Female Pyrates, Mary Read and Anne Bonny," London, Ch. Rivington and others, 1724, 8vo. The writer, whose name is most likely an assumed one, states in the preface that "those facts which he himself was not an eye-witness of he had from the authentick relations of the persons concerned in taking the pyrates, as well as from the mouths of the pyrates themselves, after they were taken."

The book deals exclusively with English pirates, including Avery, Davis, Roberts, and ten others; it soon became popular. A "second edition, with considerable additions," was published in 1724, a third edition in 1725, and a fourth, with a second volume, with additional lives and an appendix, in 1726. Some of the lives are reproduced by Mr. Howard Pyle in "The Buccaneers and Marooners of America," 1891, 8vo. The first volume was translated into Dutch by Robert Hennebo, Amsterdam, 1727, 2 vols. 12mo, with new illustrations; a German version by Joachim Meyer was printed at Gosslar 1728, 12mo, and it appeared in French as an appendix to an edition of Exquemelen's "Histoire des Avanturiers," 1726, vol. iv. The second volume was reprinted at Norwich, 1814, 12mo.

In 1734 was published "A General History of the Lives and Adventures of the most famous Highwaymen, Murderers, Street Robbers, &c., to which is added a genuine Account of the Voyages and Plunders of the most notorious Pyrates, interspersed with several diverting Tales and pleasant Songs, and adorned with the Heads of the most remarkable Villains in copper." The authorship is ascribed to "Captain Charles Johnson;" the book, a handsome folio, was published in seventy-two weekly twopenny numbers; some copies bear the date of 1736.

The original edition is very rare, and is sought after for the plates, as well as for the letterpress, which is more sprightly than decent. Johnson's "Highwaymen," however, is merely a reprint of Captain Alexander Smith's "Highwaymen" (1714 and other editions), with the addition of most of the lives of the "Pyrates" (editorially improved), included in the first volume mentioned above. The book was reprinted in a smaller size and with inferior engravings at Birmingham, 1742, fol. The text is bowdlerised in the subsequent editions of Edinburgh, 1814, and London, 1839 (Tegg), with additions by C. Whitehead, 1840, 1842 (Bohn), and 1853.

[Lowndes's Bibliographer's Manual (H. G. Bohn), iii. 1214, with list of plates in Lives of the Highwaymen, 1734.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900 by Henry Richard Tedder, Volume 30. pg. 5-6.

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