Friday, January 27, 2017

The dread pirate Paul Jones

A few days ago, I purchased several unrelated books in a library sale including John Paul Jones by Evan Thomas about the American 19th century maritime hero and Franklin and Winston by Jon Meacham about the World War II leaders Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, the relationship between them, and how that shaped the post-WWII course of events.

At least, I thought they were unconnected until I came across this passage early in the John Paul Jones book, page 5.
Still, over the years, his popular legend grew. In cheap penny chapbooks, British children in the late eighteenth century read about the terrifying "Pirate Paul Jones" who had plundered their seacoast. Throughout the nineteenth century, authors with a romantic bent — Alexandre Dumas, James Fenimore Cooper, William Thackeray, Rudyard Kipling — made him a character in biography and fiction. He was exalted as "an audacious Viking" in a fictionalized telling of his triumphs (Israel Potter) by Herman Melville. Teddy Roosevelt's cousin Franklin was entranced by the legend. In the mid-1920s, FDR wrote a perfectly awful screenplay treatment of Jones's life. (At a strategy meeting during World War II, FDR's aide, Harry Hopkins, had to interrupt the President as he digressed into a debate over Jones's tactics against the Serapis with the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.)

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