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Captain Singleton by Daniel Defoe

Captain Singleton (1720)

by Daniel Defoe

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Verkorte uitgave
  Marjoles | Jul 30, 2017 |
A nice edition of what's essentially the text of the first edition, with a sensible introduction and notes. Sadly out of print, as it allows pseudo-intellectuals like me to respectably read in public adventure stories about pirates called Bob.

What’s interesting here is where you have to activate your suspension of disbelief. In most first person novels you have to ignore how some random person can write a good novel. Here, the tone is spot on throughout. It reads exactly like a memoir. What you have to wink at are things that we now know to be inaccurate. My understanding is that at this period the Portuguese had a number of trading stations along the coast of Mozambique – making a cross-continental trek across Africa completely unnecessary.

There’s much to enjoy here, funny moments and engaging events, but Bob is a relatively uninteresting narrator and the theme of money and trade is not enough to elevate this above an adventure story. ( )
  Lukerik | May 19, 2015 |
I was surprised how much I liked this book in the end. I haven't read [b:Robinson Crusoe|2932|Robinson Crusoe|Daniel Defoe|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1298412056s/2932.jpg|604666] yet, so I can't say if this book meets up with it; I might do so later.

The book tells the story of Bob Singleton, who had been kidnapped as a boy from a good home and grew up with no real home. He came aboard a ship and eventually ended up being cast on an island with other crewmen. They managed to get to Africa and about the first half of the novel deals with the company's travel through Africa until they found a port from which they could get back to Europe. After their return there Singleton became member of another ships' crew and after a mutiny they led the lives of pirates with Singleton as their captain, which mostly covers the last half of the book, finishing in Singleton and a friend being repentant, leaving of their (successful) lives as pirates and returning home in disguise to find a peaceful life.

I was surprised that the natives of the islands and Africa were not depicted so much as savages but as real people. Although they lived differently with other habits, the travelers still treated them with respect and lived friendly among some of them for a time. William was probably my favorite character in the story and he was certainly the sense in it, often cautioning his friend Singleton and giving him good advice. It was him, who eventually got Singleton to give up piracy.

All the adventures and travels of Singleton are talked about in great detail, which is sometimes a bit dull, probably also because there is next to none dialogue in the beginning and only some near the end of the book. It certainly picked up after the company had left Africa and Singleton began his life as a pirate. While I enjoyed his turn of mind to leave of the piracy, it seemed a bit sudden and his motives don't really convince me. Still the message is clear and all in all I don't regret having read this lesser known book written by Daniel Defoe. ( )
  Zurpel | Sep 22, 2013 |
Daniel Defoe wrote Captain Singleton (1720) immediately after his more famous novel, Robinson Crusoe (1719). Captain Singleton shares many things with Robinson Crusoe: the sea, survivalism and exotic adventures, being stranded in remote places and the necessity of befriending an African and transcending the language barrier in order to survive.

The book is about a young man’s rise to captain of a pirate ship. In the first half of the book Robert Singleton is a teenager, part of a mutinous pirate crew stranded in Africa. In order to get home (without being hung as criminals) the crew befriends an African prince and walks across Africa. This half of the book is a travelogue and an adventure novel. Those interested in democracy among pirate crews will enjoy reading how the mutineers make decisions and cope with the discovery of gold ingots during their voyage.

In the second half of the book (each half of the book can be read alone, little connects them but a common narrator) Robert Singleton is now captain of his own pirate ship. He captures a ship’s surgeon, a Quaker named William Walters. (No, not the Wild West outlaw.) The first Quaker character in English literature turns out to be witty, funny, brave, thoughtful and romantic. (Yes, romantic.) In the course of many adventures set around the world, William persuades Singleton and his officers to renounce violence, think of African slaves and native villagers as fellow human beings, and talks Singleton out of being a pirate. The last two chapters of the book take a hard swerve: with little foreshadowing in the second half (and none in the book’s first half) – and without ever mentioning the word ‘love’ -- William and Singleton fall in love and try to devise a life together. These lovely last two chapters will make you want to re-read the second half of Captain Singleton immediately.

Unlike other books where a narrator confesses his participation in a crime (Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason’s The Rule of Four), Defoe’s narrator is very aware that he has written a self-incriminating confession. (Although for all of Singleton’s anxiety about repentance for his life as a pirate neither he nor William ever speak a word about repenting for same-sex love.)

The strongest light this book sheds on Defoe’s writing is his capacity for irony and sly humor. William repeatedly walks up to Singleton (or his ship’s officers) while they are pursuing a heavily laden ship, asks an obvious question like, “Aren’t you in this for the money?” And talks them out of ever firing a shot. The other pleasure of this book is its grounding in history: Defoe’s pirates sail the real geography of this world and plunder the gains of the era’s colonialism and international commerce. What they get depends on where they are, what nationality the captured ship is, and how well they have judged her cargo and passengers through a telescope on a heaving ocean. (Pirate Lesson 1: do not plunder a ship after she has sold all of the merchandise in her hold.)

This is a slow book written to be read in chapter-by-chapter installments, but read it all the way through to the end – you will be richly rewarded.

(I listened to this book in DSayers' reading of it at Librivox.org: his
prosaic tone suits the pseudo-autobiographical voice of this book and his reading of the dialogue in the last two chapters should not be missed.) ( )
1 vote LisaShapter | Jun 8, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0192822004, Paperback)

Abducted as a child and forced to sea at the age of 12, Bob Singleton loses the fortune he made crossing Africa on foot, only to make a greater one as a pirate, before his realisation that he is `a Thief, a Pirate, a Murtherer, and ought to be hanged' sets him on the road to salvation in the company of one of Defoe's most memorable characters, William the Quaker. At once an adventure story, travel narrative, and view of eighteenth century society through the eyes of one of its outcasts, Captain Singleton is no longer considered one of Defoe's minor works, but an outstanding novel of ideas.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:35 -0400)

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Set sail for adventure! "As it is usual for great persons, whose lives have been remarkable, and whose actions deserve recording to posterity, to insist much upon their originals, give full accounts of their families, and the histories of their ancestors, so, that I may be methodical, I shall do the same, though I can look but a very little way into my pedigree, as you will see presently." The style of 'Captain Singleton,' like that of 'Robinson Crusoe,' is so perfect that there is not a single ineffective passage, or indeed a weak sentence, to be found in the book. A masterpiece!… (more)

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