Saturday, 31 May 2014

"the good God prepare me!" - on the Last entry of Samuel Pepys his Diary

31 May 1669, 345 years ago, Samuel Pepys, one of world literature’s most famous diarists, wrote the last entry of his diary.
"Up very betimes, and continued all the morning with W. Hewer, upon examining and stating my accounts, in order to the fitting myself to go abroad beyond sea, which the ill condition of my eyes and my neglect for a year or two hath kept me behind- hand in, and so as to render it very difficult now and troublesome to my mind to do it; but I this day made a satisfactory entrance therein. Had another meeting with the Duke of York at White Hall on yesterday's work, and made a good advance: and so being called by my wife, we to the Park, Mary Batelier, and a Dutch gentleman, a friend of hers, being with us. Thence to "The World's End," a drinking house by the Park; and there merry, and so home late. And thus ends all that I doubt I shall ever be able to do with my own eyes in the keeping of my Journall, I being not able to do it any longer having done now so long as to undo my eyes almost every time that I take a pen in my hand; and therefore, whatever comes of it, I must forbear: and therefore resolve, from this time forward to have it kept by my people in long-hand, and must be contented to set down no more than is fit for them and all the world to know; or if there be any thing, I must endeavour to keep a margin in my book open, to add here and there a note in short-hand with my own hand. And so I betake myself to that course, which is almost as much as to see myself go into my grave: for which, and all the discomforts that will accompany my being blind, the good God prepare me!" (Samuel Pepys’ last entry in his diary)


Samuel Pepys’ likeness captured by the English Baroque-era portrait painter
John Hayls (1600 – 1679), called “Hales” by Pepys.*


It’s not that Mr Pepys from Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, London, didn’t have had a remarkable career as a civil servant, starting as a Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board during the last days of Cromwell’s rule and climbed the career ladder to become Chief Secretary to the Admiralty and MP and member of various influential boards after the Restoration until he withdrew from public life after the Glorious Revolution to his death in 1703. Thus, Pepys witnessed all the major events of the turbulent English history during the second half of the 17th century, starting out as a staunch Puritan roundhead and becoming an even stauncher Tory and a bit of a bon viveur himself under the Baroque influences of the merry monarch King Charles II. After all is said and done, an interesting biography – for historians specialised in 17th century affairs, if Pepys would not have kept a diary for 10 years, a testimonial of the life and times during the Restoration Era and charming low angle shot on conditions that has few equals, not only as a primary source but as a witty, highly perceptive testimonial that is well readable even after 350 years.



20 years later: Samuel Pepys painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller in 1689



Keeping a journal was not uncommon for professionals of the 17th and 18th century at all, but whatever made Pepys to expand his notes with chronicling events and adding his very personal experiences and observations, from recording regular pub crawls, parties, his love life to novelties and innovations of the day is unclear, but posterity is quite thankful for the idea and the genuine insight into 17th century, ever since his diaries were published after his shorthand was deciphered by a student of theology, Jonathan Smith, in 1825. And thus, Pepys, in hindsight, became one of the most important witnesses of the coronation of Charles II, the Great Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of London of 1666 and the Second Anglo-Dutch War. He ceased to write when his eyesight began to fail in 1669 and he feared to lose his vision and even if he did not go blind, he dictated professional notes only to a secretary from then on, but already had become one of the most unusual authors and one of the wittiest in literary history.


* The portrait was finished in 1666 and Pepys noted in his diary: "...at noon, home to dinner, and presently with my wife out to Hales's, where I am still infinitely pleased with my wife's picture. I paid him 14l for it, and 25s for the frame, and I think it is not a whit too dear for so good a picture. It is not yet quite finished and dry, so as to be fit to bring home yet. This day I begin to sit, and he will make me, I think, a very fine picture. He promises it shall be as good as my wife's, and I sit to have it full of shadows, and do almost break my neck looking over my shoulder to make the posture for him to work by."


And more on:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Pepys


Friday, 30 May 2014

On the Death of Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp in 1640

30 May 1640, Peter Paul Rubens, the master of Flemish Baroque art, died at the age of 62 in Antwerp.

“Elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus; extraordinary animals! Rubens rendered them marvellously. I had a feeling of happiness as soon as I entered the place and the further I went the stronger it grew. I felt my whole being rise above commonplaces and trivialities and the petty worries of my daily life." (Eugène Delacroix)




Peter Paul Rubens: “Fall of the Damned”, around 1620



Producing 1,500 paintings in a period of roughly 40 years gives the impression of assembly line work. And in a way it was. At the height of his fame, Rubens maintained a downright workshop with his students and apprentices completing the drafts of the master and other artists contributing to the painting with their specialty, such as painting landscapes or flowers, while Rubens usually did the finishing touches on the masterpiece. Not an uncommon practice in his day and age, but few did it to an extent as he did. But then, Peter Paul Rubens was a busy man, not only a masterclass painter, but a diplomat as well, travelling to various courts all over Europe while taking the likenesses of the Great and Good of his time, knighted by Philip IV of Spain and Charles I of England, married twice two far younger women, his models, too, siring eight children, the last one, Peter Paul, being born eight months after his death and whatnot.


Peter Paul Rubens: "Tiger Hunt" (1620)


Few painters were completely beyond the influence of Rubens well into the late 19th century, if they wanted or not. He himself, influenced during his eight years spent in Italy by classical antiquity, the Renaissance and Leonardo da Vinci, the chiaroscuro, the strong contrasts of light and dark, of early Baroque painters, namely Caravaggio, lead not only Flemish but European art into the direction it took, influencing European visual culture quite prominently for centuries. His ability to capture a story in his monumental oil paintings, often abundant with imagery and symbols like a wimmelbook, ranging from religious to classical mythological and historical motives, is unrivalled and his works, overflowing with an opulence of movement, light and squirming life still retain their ability to enthral and make an audience stare open mouthed at them in fascination even after more than 350 years.


Peter Paul Rubens: "The Birth of the Milky Way" (1637)



And more on:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Paul_Rubens

Thursday, 29 May 2014

"you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics" - T.H. White and “The Once and Future King”



29 May 1906, the author T.H. White was born in Bombay.


"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn." (Terence Hanbury White, “The Book of Merlyn”)



The author at hawking: A page from T.H. White's journal written while training northern goshawks using
 Medieval falconry techniques during the 1930s, material used in his "Goshawk", published 1947 *


Of course Sir Thomas Mallory’s identity is disputed. But if he was who he was, then the author of the Bible of the Arthurian Cycle, “Le Morte d’Arthur”, printed by Thomas Caxton in 1485, had been a most unchivalrous knight himself, a turncoat during the Wars of the Roses, a thief, blackmailer, bandit and rapist. However, his tale about the rise and fall of the legendary King Arthur, his Knights of the Round Table and the Grail Quest established not only our modern picture of medieval chivalry but the image of the legend of King Arthur as well. Thus, we usually imagine knights in shining armour á la John Boorman’s “Excalibur” from 1981 when we think of King Arthur and not of the post-Roman Welsh warlord who might or might not have lived at the end of the 5th century CE. Arthurian imagery based on Mallory was finally codified during the 19th century by Pre-Raphaelite paintings and Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King” and while the Second World War loomed ahead, a bored English school teacher who was a bit of a medievalist as well as an author re-read his old copy of “Le Morte d’Arthur” and set forth to interpret the legends for a post-modern audience. T.H. White began to write “The Sword in the Stone”, the first volume of “The Once and Future King” in 1938, when the lights went out in Europe.



The book cover illustration of Alan Lee for “The Sword in the Stone”
showing Arthur “the Wart” in Merlyn’s study **





By and large adhering to Mallory’s original plot, White’s tetralogy, completely published in 1958 for the first time, begins with a rather light-hearted account of the making of young King Arthur, called “the Wart”, at the court of Sir Ector under the tutelage of a time-travelling Merlyn and descends into tragedy during the next two volumes, “The Queen of Air and Darkness” and “The Ill-Made Knight” until “The Candle in the Wind” describes not only the end of King Arthur and his dreams but the complete dismissal of the idea of chivalry and its substitution with a justice maintained by the strongest, keeping a semblance of order, conditions Merlyn initially taught Arthur to end. Told with a tongue-in-cheek humour and full of references to historical and contemporary events and characters, White had created an outstanding work of fantastic and imaginative literature that influenced recipients from Walt Disney who released “The Sword in the Stone” in 1963 to musicals and various other films and Fantasy authors from Michael Moorcock to J.K. Rowling, whose Dumbledore is far more shaped after White’s Merlyn than Tolkien’s Gandalf.


Sir Ian McKellen as Magneto musing over the first edition of “The Once and Future King” in his prison cell at the beginning of “X2: X-Men United” (2003)


White himself led a quite complicated, checkered and controversial life. Born in India and sent to a hell of a boarding school in England, quite like Kipling, he found a bit of a home during his years of study in Cambridge, indulged himself in medieval culture and heritage, became an amateur falconer and tried to recreate medieval hawking techniques, was a teacher and struggled with his ill health, became a full time author and fled to neutral Ireland when the war broke out, allegedly to become a conscientious objector, might have been an unfulfilled homosexual but never had a relationship with either men or women, an agnostic and a heavy drinker and died of a heart failure at the age of 57 in Athens while returning from a lecture tour in the United States, leaving a wealth of unpublished texts and a literary heritage as charming and subtly influential as few 20th century’s authors did.



** The image was found on: http://windling.typepad.com/blog/2012/10/ellen-meloy-t-h-white.html)



And more on:

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

“… painted in oil and syrup” - The Austrian academic painter, designer and decorator Hans Makart


28 May 1840, the Austrian academic painter, designer and decorator Hans Makart was born in Salzburg.


“… painted in oil and syrup” (Alfred Döblin)



An example of Hans Makart’s favourite motives, Cleopatra, in this case “Die Niljagd der Kleopatra” (Cleopatra hunting on the Nile), 1876.


It was the idea of a “Gesamtkunstwerk”, a total work of art made popular by Richard Wagner after the 1850s, that sprouted some curious, but quite picturesque shoots in Vienna and has characterised an era, the Ringstraßenepoche. With his decree “It is My will” from 1857, Emperor Franz Joseph had the city walls and moats of his capital torn down and a new boulevard laid out, the Ringstraße, with its amalgam of historistic styles, Jigsaw Gothic for major religious and public structures, Renaissance and Baroque for the palais, the Bourgeoisie’s and nobility’s urban villas with their interior furnishing being an explosion of stucco, plush, arrases, boiseries, multi-layered chandeliers and paintings, imperative for the “Gesamtkunstwerk”. And of course, they were, fitting to plush and chintz, executed in the prevalent Academic style’s sensuous salon sujets, thinly veiled under a historical or mythological pretence and the local master of this kind of imagination was the “magician of colours”, Hans Makart.





"Titian", as imagined by Hans Makart (1881 - 1884)


The idea of the “Gesamtkunstwerk” was pursued by Wagner’s friend Makart from decorating the palais and creating stage designs down to styling hats and collars and arranging the pageant for the silver wedding of the emperor and empress, the fabled “Sissy”, with several hundred costumes, Renaissance for the burghers á la Dürer and baroque for artists. His paintings were inspired by Titian and Rubens, but his paragons were charged by Makart full of pathos and indulging in histrionics with a rapture of colours. And with portraits and the imagery of legends and legendary history and a style that sometimes crossed the borders of academic art into realism and symbolism, Makart became the celebrated artistic darling of Viennese high society, almost to a point of being cultishly worshipped. The charm was past at the moment of his early death from paralytic dementia caused by late-stage syphilis at the age of 44 in 1884 and Vienna felt that the “Ringstraßenepoche” had come to an end. Especially Makart’s oeuvre was at the very least smiled at if not ridiculed over the following decades, but artists like Klimt and many other representatives of the upcoming Art Nouveau had already picked up elements from his works and spun his threads forth into the 20th century. 




"Peter Paul Rubens" à la Hans Makart (1881 - 1884)





Tuesday, 27 May 2014

"Anything else is kind of piddling.” - Dashiell Hammett

27 May 1894, 120 years ago, the American author Dashiell Hammett was born in Saint Mary's County, Maryland
“When you write, you want fame, fortune and personal satisfaction. You want to write what you want to write and feel it's good, and you want this to go on for hundreds of years. You're not likely ever to get all these things, and you're not likely to give up writing and commit suicide if you don't, but that is -- and should be -- your goal. Anything else is kind of piddling.” (Dashiell Hammett)



Dashiell Hammett*

Detective fiction was hardly a hundred years old, back in the 1920s, when the Golden Age of the genre began with the works of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. Based on Poe, Wilkie Collins and, of course, Arthur Conan Doyle, the genre already had become one of the most widely read categories of literature. However, the tales about Lord So-and-so who was the only one who could know about murdered Lady Such-and-such being deadly allergic to the bite of the Indian tea louse from the time they spent together at Simla and the whimsical detective and his faithful sidekick finding out about it by comparing different forms of cigar ash, the classical whodunits, were a bit remote from the reality of crime exploding in the Western World. A new school of crime fiction began to assert itself, first in pulp fiction magazines and later in full-fledged novels and Dashiell Hammett was to become its Dean.






The Continental Op, Dashiell Hammett’s otherwise nameless, podgy, middle-classed, middle-aged anti-hero struggling with his humanity and his own peculiar code of honour, working on cases involving completely corrupt police shops, murdering magistrates and a whole dramatis personae with their own shady agendas was a far cry from the gentlemen geniuses solving crimes in surroundings where the lower classes acted as colourful curiosities at best. And Hammett’s style of writing, laconic, terse, full of black humour and quite realistic, describing the dark underbelly of the United States, soon to be known as “hard-boiled”, opened up a whole new venue for fiction and his “Maltese Falcon” is still counted among the hundred best American novels of the 20th century, regardless of crime and pulp fiction.



Cover of the September 1929 issue of the pulp magazine "Black Mask",
featuring the "Maltese Faclon" for the first time.



Working a few years as field operative for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, masquerading as Continental Detective Agency in his stories, Dashiell Hammett was one of the few crime fiction writers who actually had first had experience of the topic he was writing about. He left the Pinkertons, who, usually quite tight-lipped, never publicly acknowledged or denied having had Hammett on their payroll, because of his failing health and their role as strike breakers in the 1920s. Hammett always was dallying with communism, a love-hate-relationship that finally broke his back in the McCarthy Era after 10 years of writing classics of crime fiction and a period of writer’s block and alcohol abuse in the days when a martini before breakfast was de rigueur anyway and he never managed to steer away from the hard-boiled genre he had created to writing novels like Fitzgerald and Hemingway like he always wanted to.


* The caricature of Dashiell Hammett in “film noir” outfit, carrying his fabulous creation, the Maltese Falcon, was found on:

http://www.listal.com/viewimage/4705350h

and more about Dashiell Hammett on:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dashiel_Hammett


Monday, 26 May 2014

The Teutoburg Forest revisited - Augustus’ grandnephew and emperor-to-be Germanicus' Triumph in 17 CE



26 May 17 CE, Augustus’ grandnephew and emperor-to-be Germanicus returned to Rome after four years campaigning in Germania to celebrate his triumph for his alleged victories over the tribes west of the Elbe.


“At the end of the year, a triumphal arch was raised near the Temple of Saturn; a monument this for the recovery of the Varian Eagles, under the conduct of Germanicus, under the auspices of Tiberius. A temple was dedicated to Happy Fortune near the Tiber, in the gardens bequeathed to the Roman People by Caesar, the Dictator. A chapel was consecrated to the Julian family, and statues to the deified Augustus, in the suburbs called Bovillae. In the consulship of Caius Celius and Lucius Pomponius, the six-and-twentieth of May, Germanicus Caesar triumphed over the Cheruscans, the Cattans, the Angrivarians, and the other nations as far as the Elbe. In the triumph were carried all the spoils and captives, with the representations of mountains, of rivers, and of battles; so that his conquests, because he was restrained from completing them, were taken for complete. His own graceful person, and his chariot filled with his five children, heightened the show and the delight of the beholders; yet they were checked with secret fears, as they remembered "that popular favour had proved malignant to his father Drusus; that his uncle Marcellus was snatched, in his youth, from the burning affections of the populace; and that ever short-lived and unfortunate were the favourites of the Roman People." (Tacitus, “The Annals”)


Karl von Piloty's (1826 - 1886) monumental 190'' x 280'' imagination of: "Thusnelda in Germanicus' Triumph" (1874)



The annihilation of Quintilius Varus’ three fighting legions, three cavalry alae and six auxiliary cohorts in 9 CE by warriors from a coalition of Germanic tribes under the overall command of Arminius in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest did not only signal a provisional end of Roman plans to move the frontiers of the Empire from the Rhine to the River Elbe in the east, but caused a mass panic in Rome itself. Gauls and Germanics were expelled from the city, Augustus’ Germanic bodyguard interned on an island and more than one third of the Roman army was concentrated along the Rhine, from Mainz up north to the mouth of the river. However, the time when the Roman emperors drew the Iron Curtain close had not come yet. Until his proclamation as emperor, Tiberius probed into Germanic territory every now and then and after his elevation to the purple, his nephew and designated heir to the throne, Nero Claudius Germanicus took over in 13 CE as commander-in-chief of the Roman armies of the Rhine, 8 legions, at least 400.000 highly professional fighting men, their auxiliaries included.




"Germanicus' unfortunate campaign" - German illustration by an unknown artist around 1900


During a first sally across the Rhine in 14 CE, Germanicus almost stumbled into the same trap prepared by Arminius and his tribesmen as Varus did. The next punitive expedition against the Germanics was introduced with a visit on the battlefield of the Teutoburg Forest. The historian Tacitus described the eerie scene a hundred years later: “In the open fields lay their bones all bleached and bare, some separate, some on heaps; just as they had happened to fall, flying for their lives, or resisting unto death. Here were scattered the limbs of horses, there pieces of broken javelins; and the trunks of trees bore the skulls of men. In the adjacent groves were the savage altars; where, of the tribunes and principal centurions, the barbarians had made a horrible immolation.“ After a proper burial of their comrades, Germanicus’ troops were in the right fighting mood and marched deeper into the territories of the tribes, meandering through the North German plain, fighting a major battle at Idistaviso, somewhere along the Weser, that ended, probably, with a narrow Roman victory against Arminius. And after Germanicus had retrieved two of the three legionary eagles lost by Varus and managed to capture Arminius' pregnant wife Thusnelda, Tiberius recalled him back to Rome for a triumph.


Caspar David Friedrich (1774 - 1840): "Grave of Arminius" (1812)




Whatever Germanicus’ campaign might have achieved, the Germanic tribes were far from being subdued and the Romans tried to contain them by fortifying their borders with the Limes Germanicus over the next centuries. And while Arminius was murdered by Germanic rivals in 21, his wife Thusnelda, daughter of the Cheruscan prince and Roman ally Segestes, was presented to the Roman public during Germanicus’ triumph in the presence of her father, a guest of honour, who had turned her in to the Romans after her elopement with Arminius. She gave birth to their son Thumelicus in captivity and the two remained Roman hostages in Ravenna, their fate lost in the dark recesses of history. There is a rumour, however, that Thumelicus died as a gladiator in the arena at the age of 16 around 30 CE, during the reign of Claudius, Germanicus’ brother who succeeded Tiberius after Germanicus was poisoned in Antioch in 19 CE.

And more about Germanicus on

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germanicus


Saturday, 24 May 2014

"Walk wide o' the Widow at Windsor" - Queen Victoria's birth in 1819

24 May 1819, 195 years ago, Queen Victoria was born at Kensington Palace in London.

“Walk wide o' the Widow at Windsor, For 'alf o' Creation she owns: / ... Hands off o' the sons o' the Widow, Hands off o' the goods in 'er shop, / For the Kings must come down an' the Emperors frown When the Widow at Windsor says "Stop"!” (Rudyard Kipling, “The Widow at Windsor”)

A colourised likeness of Queen Victoria, taken in the late 1880s


It is probably a myth that the Queen was “not amused”. Actually, she “was immensely amused and roared with laughter" quite often, as one of her ladies-in-waiting noted, if not in public. After the death of her beloved husband Albert in 1861, she wore mourning for the rest of her long life. A whimsically fantastical figure, largely withdrawn from public life, ruler of one fifth of earth’s surface and one third of the world’s population, the largest empire in history, only as half educated as many ladies of her generation were, but with a keen sense for the evaluation of political situations, usually just as sound as that of her ten prime ministers serving during her reign between 1837 and 1901, gifted wit a sharp intellect and the ability to persuade logically and in carefully thought out speech. Victoria would probably stood out everywhere, even if she had not been the Queen of the United Kingdom and Empress of India, much as her great predecessor Elizabeth who once mentioned “if I were turned out my realm in my petticoat, I would prosper anywhere in Christendom”. But it was probably her greatest achievement to establish herself not as an absolute monarch, but as an identification figure that provided at least a hint of stability in a time when circumstances of life changed dramatically at short notice as they hadn’t before since the 15th century. 



Stephen Poyntz Denning (1795 - 1863): "Victoria, Aged Four" (1823)



It is not as if the age she gave her name to would have evolved radically different if she would have not been the Great White Mother and various other factors played a far more important role that Britain did not take the road the rest of Europe pursued during the 19th century with politic, national and ethnic upheavals on a regular basis. Even if social abuses existed in abundance during the days of industrialism and colonialism. And while the actual political power of the Crown dwindled during her reign and the United Kingdom evolved into a constitutional multi-party democracy, a development Victoria was more or less in denial about but did not obstruct either, the monarchy’s traditions and the celebration of the Empire, growing more and more pompous over the decades and contrasting her personal rather modest habits, gave the necessary stability for a by and large calm change of conditions. Her charisma and conspicuous influence over the crowned heads of Europe, usually blood relations of her, added a steadiness in European political conditions towards the end of the century and it was just a decade after her death and period of peace of more than 40 years on the continent that matters exploded into the catastrophe of the 20th century.

And more on:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Victoria

Friday, 23 May 2014

“Some thousands they will flock when we die, when we die" - Captain William Kidd

1701, Captain William Kidd was hanged at Execution Dock in Wapping, London, for murder and piracy.

“Some thousands they will flock when we die, when we die, / Some thousands they will flock when we die, / Some thousands they will flock / To Execution Dock, / Where we must stand the shock and must die.” ("Captain Kid's Farewell to the Seas, or, the Famous Pirate's Lament", printed in London 1701)



Howard Pyle’s fanciful illustration of William "Captain" Kidd
 overseeing the burial of his fabled treasure (1911)
from “Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates:
Fiction, Fact & Fancy Concerning the Buccaneers & Marooners
of the Spanish Main” (1921
)


Between 1513 and 1737, the Armenian capital of Yerevan changed hands 14 times and the actual Kingdom of Armenia had ceased to exist in 1375. Nonetheless, the good ship “Quedagh Merchant” ran under an Armenian flag, whatever that was in 1698, owned by an Indian, operated out of Surat under the protection of the French East India Company, the Armenian merchants who chartered the 350-ton ship were represented by an agent of the Honourable East India Company, the vessel was captained by an English skipper with an Asian crew and a French plenipotentiary who started negotiating when the privateer “Adventure Galley”, Captain William Kidd, out of Deptford, came alongside. Thus, in terms of maritime law, things were as confused as the boarding of a banana freighter sailing out of Singapore under Panamanian colours with a shipload of Chinese missiles bound for a crisis region. In case of the “Quedagh Merchant” it was luxury goods and Captain Kidd decided to board her as a legitimate prize of war.



Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863 - 1930): "Captain Kidd in New York Harbor" (1920)


Captain Kidd’s privateering cruise during the Nine Years’ War was ill-fated from its beginning in 1695. Tasked by the governor of colonial New York, the Whig Richard Coote, 1st Earl of Bellomont, to harass enemy French shipping, most of his hand-picked crew was pressed into service in the regular Navy already in the Thames, he had to replace them with the dregs of colonial society in New York and was threatened with mutiny when no ships to capture turned up in his hunting grounds in the Indian Ocean – privateersmen did not receive regular pay but a share of the prize money and loot they had captured. The capture of the “Quedagh Merchant” and the sale of her cargo in Cochin in Southwest India seemed to solve Kidd’s problems at once, but he got cold feet already on his return trip into the Atlantic – was the Indo-Armenian ship a legitimate prize of war or was her capture an act of piracy against friendly nations and the East India Company? Kidd was uncertain himself, hid the fabulous amount realised from selling “Quedagh Merchant’s” goods, the bulk of Kidd’s famous treasure, somewhere between the Indian Ocean and the Americas and changed ship thrice until he returned to New York and was immediately imprisoned by Governor Coote for piracy.




Hanging in chains at Execution Dock -
the end of Captain Kidd, as imagined in Charles Ellms
"The Pirates' Own Book" (1837)




In 
1700, Kidd was committed back home to England where the Whig Junto was succeeded by a Tory government and the former privateer captain, once commissioned by a Whig, was not well-liked at all anymore, became the only pirate who was questioned by parliament and while his former supporters withdrew, his case degenerated into a show trial. He was sentenced to death, for murder and piracy and was brought to Execution Dock in Wapping, hanged, the rope broke and Kidd was strung up again, this time for good, and swung in a gibbet over the Thames at Tilbury Point as a warning example to other would-be pirates. His tale and that of his fabled treasure, once taken from the quasi-Armenian merchantman, began to carry away writers and readers of adventure fiction as well as treasure hunters and the stories based on Kidd’s treasure became true classics, from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Gold-Bug" and Washington Irving's The Devil and Tom Walker to Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.


And more on:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Kidd

And the complete lyrics of the song quoted above can be found on: