Captain Charles Johnson - Author Collection
Captain Charles Johnson is the British author of the 1724 book A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates, whose identity remains a mystery. No record of a captain by this name exists. Some scholars have suggested that "Charles Johnson" was actually Daniel Defoe writing under a pen name, but this is disputed. His work was influential in shaping popular conceptions of pirates, and is the prime source for the biographies of many well known pirates.While Johnson's identity is unknown, he demonstrates a knowledge of the sailor's speech and life, suggesting he could have been an actual sea captain. He could also have been a professional writer, well versed in the sea, using a pseudonym. If this is true, the name was perhaps chosen to reflect the playwright Charles Johnson, who had an unsuccessful play with The Successful Pyrate in 1712, which glamorized the career of Henry Avery and had been something of a scandal for seeming to praise a criminal. Following it, however, many authors would rush forward with biographies and catalogs of criminals, including catalogs of highwaymen and prostitutes. By this theory, the pseudonymous "Charles Johnson" of the pirate catalog was merely taking part in a burgeoning industry in criminal biography.