Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Boy Pirate

The Boy Pirate; or, Life on the Ocean by Captain Irving Lyons, London: Newsagents’ Publishing Co., 147 Fleet Street, 1865. The establishment press came down hard on The Boy Pirate because in 1867 a fourteen year old boy brought up on theft charges was found to have a few penny numbers in his possession. The Boy Pirate, Boy Detective and Boy Highwayman were “just what their titles indicate, tales of crime in which violence, intrigue, robbery and murder are the chief sources of sensational interest. In nearly all these novels the hero is a criminal. To be-fool the police, to escape from justice, or to foil the law are the most favourite adventures to these jaunting and charming villains.”

As in all these so-called ‘moral panics’ the panic was only on the side of the sanctimonious establishment in the voices of such periodicals as the Spectator. The middle and working classes enjoyed their sensational penny numbers too much to pay attention to the nay-sayers.

Immediately following the penny dreadful's first appearance on newsstands The Boy Pirate was presented on the stage of the Effingham Theatre under the proprietorship of Morris Abrahams with “all the original scenery and effects.” The melodrama was still running at the Victoria Theatre two years later in a version written and acted by William Travers, who also penned a dramatic version of The Boy Detective.


  1. In books like this, I see the roots of the future young comic´s heros of the middle of XX century, very populars in Spain and France, and I can imagine in every country with a similar "imaginarium" in his fictional past.
    Thanks, at last I can see one of these primitive pieces... the lovers of genre and ancient papers have a doubt with your page... Thanks another time.
    (And sorry for my poor english, too)

  2. The old Spanish comics you post on your own wonderful blog (see link on right)have a lot in common with the penny dreadfuls of old. Your English is fine I understand you completely.