Saturday, April 10, 2010

I guess you can find just about everything on the Internet these days. I have been reading a most fascinating book – “The Baron of Piccadilly – The Travels and Entertainment of Albert Smith 1816-1860” a quite remarkable man, possibly out-barnumed Barnum but maybe a little more sophisticated. His novel “The Adventures of Mister Ledbury” (still unread) has been in our bookshelves for more years than I can remember. I wonder if I will ever get around to reading it. But in this biography I have just come across a fascinating piece of information. I am near the end of the book. Mister Smith an inveterate traveller is in Hong Kong, this in itself is fascinating. The Brits have no reason to be proud of what went on there in 1850, but what caught my eye even more was this,
‘The American pirate Eli Boggs, who had been tried in Hong Kong in July1857 for piracy and murder, The Times correspondent had reported, “His name would do for a villain of the Blackbeard class but in form and feature he was like the hero of a sentimental novel; as he stood in the dock, bravely battling for his life, it seemed impossible that the handsome boy could be the pirate whose name had been for three years connected with the boldest and bloodiest acts of piracy. It was a face of feminine beauty. Not a down upon the upper lip; large lustrous eyes, a mouth the smile of which might woo a coy maiden; affluent black hair, not carelessly parted; hands so small and so delicately white that they would create a sensation in Belgravia: such was the Hong Kong pirate, Eli Boggs.”
I can’t help but wonder why small white hands would create a sensation in Belgravia as opposed to anywhere else, but to move on…
“Boggs spoke well in his own defence but it was proved that he had boarded a junk and killed fifteen men, thrown the rest of the crew overboard and fired at one who grabbed a rope and held on astern.” Now here is the amazing bit, the jury were so impressed by his youth and courage (and no doubt his beauty) that they acquitted him of murder and found him guilty of piracy. He was sentenced to be transported for life but evidently was dispatched back to the states at the request of the American consul. He died within a short time.
Having never heard of this outrageous man, evidently at one time it is said he commanded over fifty junks and once cut up a Chinaman into tiny pieces and sent him ashore in buckets as a warning to others not to interfere with him, I learn on the Internet because I immediately looked him up for further information and I couldn’t help wondering if in fact Mister Boggs wasn’t a girl. It is possible. At this time there was a young lady by the name of Lulu who was a sensation in London as a trapeze artist, setting many a masculine heart aflame and inspiring a flurry of letters to The times demanding to know why this beautiful young gel should be forced to endanger life and limb in this fashion.
This beautiful young gel was in actual fact a boy, Nino Farini, who in later life emigrated to Canada and became a photographer. Could our pirate also have been a girl? A pretty (no pun intended) bloodthirsty one to say the least. Intriguing thought though.

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