A lot is happening at present. At the end of November Pen & Sword are publishing my latest book, ‘Pirates and Privateers in the 18th Century – the final flourish’ and I will be telling some of the exploits when I do a lecture-cruise for Fred Olsen on board the Boudicca when she sails in two weeks time through the islands of the Indian Ocean. In particular I will feature the remarkable story of Olivier Levasseur – possibly the wealthiest pirate who ever lived – who operated out of the Seychelles, was captured off Reunion, and was hanged on Mauritius. All very apt, as our ship will be visiting … the Seychelles, Reunion and Mauritius. Ooh argh me hearties, there be tales of buried treasure….
Meanwhile I am checking the final proofs for a book due out next Spring to mark the 300th anniversary of the publication of Robinson Crusoe. It will look at the whole question of castaways and shipwrecks in the Georgian era, and include some of the stories which are believed to have inspired Defoe to write his famous work. Nowadays Robinson Crusoe is almost always published as a single story, and it was only when I started the research for my book that I realized that Defoe had written two sequels, and that in the Victorian era both the original book and the first of the two sequels were usually published as a single item. The second sequel seems to have disappeared without trace – by then Defoe was somewhat running out of inspiration and was flogging a dead horse.
One of the castaway stories will be featured on the cruise – the astonishing tale of survival about a group of shipwrecked women (captured slaves) who survived fifteen years on a tiny island, without running water and with no useful vegetation, living off birds and turtle eggs. The French had deserted them on this barren island, near Reunion, promising to return. Well, they kept their promise, but only after a decade and a half. It really is a remarkable survival story.
To cap an interesting year I have been asked to go to Colonial Williamsburg in the States in February to deliver a lecture on life in Georgian London. I have always wanted to do a lecture tour in America, and this is my chance! They are holding a five-day seminar in this (largely replica) Georgian colonial town and it will be great to see all the buildings and the demonstrations of 18th Century skills. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is extremely generous and have taken care of everything.
Meanwhile I am putting the final touches to my book on ‘unsung Georgian heroes’ – inventors etc who changed our world but who are largely overshadowed by the greats of the Georgian period such as Boulton, Watt, Wedgwood and ‘the rest of the boys in the band’. I have to submit it to Pen & Sword by the end of January. Time, then, to start on my final oeuvre, which will be on Sex and Sexuality in the Georgian era. Who ever would thought that retirement could be such good fun?