Paperback review: The Pirates! In an Adventure with the Romantics, By Gideon Defoe


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The Independent Culture

I do love the idea that Mary Shelley really just wanted to write pot-boiler-type horror stories but felt constrained by her husband’s poetic high-mindedness; as fun and light-hearted as Defoe’s Pirates series seems on the surface, there’s always a comment being made, and the intellectualism and preciousness that can alienate readers from the Romantics is nicely punctured here, easy targets though they are.

So, when the Pirate Captain, while visiting Lake Geneva, promises the bored gathering of Byron, Shelley, and Mary a real adventure, he pulls in a wheat-intolerant Charles Babbage, too, for their trip to haunted Castle Ruthven and has a thoroughly merry time with Gothic conventions and stereotypes while giving writing advice (“It is always best when something ‘walks like a man’. Even when it is just a man”). Great fun.