For launch at Ekor Bookshop and Café, Wellington; 25 August 2016.
I have just received the following email. It is from William Henry Hayes. The email address is ‘underworld’. I tried to reply but the lines are clogged by politicians getting advice. It reads
Another buccaneer by the name of Voltaire – I havn’t been able to find him, he seems to live in a different part of the resort – said ‘to the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth.’ What he did not say was, how could you respect the truth when all that is left are lies? No one ever gave me a chance to defend myself; they all pretend they are honest and I am not.
Consider the tailor suing me for$US15,000 (in today’s prices) for my clothing, and $US1200 for each member of my crew. Me, spend that amount on my scurvy crew? Don’t be ridiculous. The silly old fraud is grossly exaggerating; no wonder I refused to pay. The chandlers and other suppliers were always overcharging; why should one pay for poor quality over-priced goods?
The courts of the Pacific were all crooked so I avoided them. As for claims I often sailed early to avoid courts and debts; had to – winds and tides wait for no man. I was a good sailor – nobody says I wasn’t – and I could be courageous as some reliable reports tell. Yet one of the stories about me says I learned my seafaring skills in Cleveland, Ohio, where I grew up; for heaven’s sake, it is 400 miles from the sea.
So how can your respect the truth, when all that it left is lies? Joan Druett’s done a good job. She has had to report the falsehoods, but she does so judiciously, and gives the alternate accounts – far fewer but, if I say so myself, truer.
I am not surprised. She is a noted marine historian but I have to add she is quite attracted to me – been chasing me for 15 years. Not bad for a 180 year old, but a gentleman like me attracts the ladies. The stories my critics tell about my liaisons are not fair on the women either.
Take my nickname. ‘Bully’. Nobody ever said it to my face; they wouldn’t dare. It came from an old term for ‘a fine chap’ – as in ‘bully for you’. Not that my detractors would admit that.
The truth was that I was an entrepreneur in the Wild West of the Pacific. Some entrepreneurs have luck, I had less. The lucky get knighthoods, and then defame the unlucky as notorious to hide the fact that they got up to the same shady activities.
In truth I was much the same as other trader-captains of that time and ocean. I’ve been made the scapegoat for their sins. The stories in the book aren’t about me; they are about the Pacific in the mid-nineteenth century. Taken that way the book makes a jolly good read.
So thankyou , Joan, for doing your best to rescue my reputation. You wouldn’t like to visit me in my cabin, would you – as many ladies have done in the past? I’m afraid it is a bit hotter than usual.
And for the rest of you, entrepreneurs move on. I have some stunning high-return bonds in very secure enterprises for sale. If anyone has the cash to invest, just contact me through my email.
Oh, and vote for Donald Trump.