Dr. Blood on Trial in Film!

A very quick look at the trial of Dr. Peter Blood as depicted in two film versions.

In support of the 1924 Captain Blood starring Walter Kerrigan, Vitagraph issued a series of advertisements in the form of newspaper headlines and articles, with text credited to author Rafael Sabatini:

Peter Blood is a bit too well-dressed in the scene, given his more than two months in a crowded jail. Sabatini’s original line is far more effective than the line in the film (see the image on the left above). From The Film Daily, Sunday August 31, 1924.
Detail from the advertisement above.

The sets in the 1935 Captain Blood were intended to be more figurative than entirely accurate, reflecting more the psychological impact of the trial. The sense of law-run-amok under the guise of patriarchal law and order is inescapable. The downside is that the set appears more theatrical than authentic.

The Bloody Assize courtroom in the Great Hall of Taunton Castle as depicted in the 1935 Captain Blood starring Errol Flynn. From the blog The Blonde at the Film.
The prisoners at the bar; Dr. Blood looks as if he has indeed been jailed for more than two months. From the blog The Blonde at the Film.

Copyright Treasure Light Press LLC, 2020. First published September 20, 2020.

Dr. Peter Blood Tried for Treason!

Taunton Castle as it appears today, much as it did in 1685. Wikimedia Commons: photograph by Simon Burchell.

The 19th of September: On this day in 1685, Old Style, fictional Dr. Peter Blood was tried and convicted of treason at Taunton Castle, in spite of his having done nothing more than obey the dictates of his conscience and his profession in treating a wounded rebel.

The trial was in fact quite real. From a draft end note to the forthcoming annotated Captain Blood: His Odyssey:

The 19th of September was the second day of the Taunton Assize in Somerset, the “chief seat of the rebellion.” Held in the Great Hall of Taunton Castle and presided over by Lord Chief Justice George Jeffreys, more than five hundred prisoners–514 to 534–were tried over two days. Four pleaded not guilty the first day; three of these men were sentenced to death but the fourth was set free. Approximately three hundred fifty more pleaded guilty the first day and were convicted. On the second day, many of the remainder pleaded guilty and were convicted. One hundred forty-six of those convicted at Taunton were sentenced to hang. Two were reprieved, but the rest were distributed among thirty-six nearby towns where they were hanged, dismembered, tarred, and their dismembered quarters hung from gibbets and various other convenient objects as a warning. Fifteen others sentenced to death were by accident left off Warrant for Execution. Two hundred eighty-four were condemned to transportation, and roughly seventy-seven were variously freed on bail, remitted to jail, recommended for mercy, or otherwise avoided the noose or transportation.

Peter Blood was one of the fortunate–or should we say, less unfortunate–ones, for he was, like the very real Henry Pitman who helped inspire his story, sentenced to be transported to Barbados for ten years in servitude.

Lord Chief Justice George Jeffreys attributed to William Wolfgang Claret, circa 1678 to 1680. Wikimedia Commons.

Copyright Treasure Light Press LLC. First published 19 September 2020.

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Flibustier (a French buccaneer) from a Chart of Le Cap on Saint-Domingue, 1686, by P. Cornuau. French National Library. Similar images can be found in my post here.

A brief post in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day. 🙂

1. Active Duty Pirate Speech:

“[H]owever nothing daunted at the disadvantage of Fight, we made a resolution rather than drown in the Sea, or beg Quarter of the Spaniard, who we used to Conquer, to run the extreamest hazard of Fire and Sword, and after a sharp Contest, still birding with our Fusees as many as durst peep over Deck, we boarded one of them, and carried her; so with her we took the second; and the third had certainly run the same fate, had not she scoured away in time…”

–Buccaneer John Cox.

“Shee fierd a Harkquebus att us, att which wee presented them with a whole Volley; she fier severall small gunns at us, and wounded 3 men. one of them after-wards died. wee laid her aboard and tooke her. She had about 30 hands in her, fitted out for an Armadillo to come downe to the Isle of Plate, to see what a posture we lay in…”

–Buccaneer Edward Povey.

2. Retired Pirate Speech:

“In his drink Sir Henry [Morgan] reflects on the Government, swears, damns, and curses most extravagantly…”

–Calendar of State Papers, Colonial, America and West Indies.

The Buccaneer’s Realm has an entire chapter on “Tarpaulin Cant and Spanish Lingua.”

First posted September 19, 2020.

The Duel on the Beach, Part I: In Fiction

Swordplay & Swashbucklers

N. C. Wyeth’s illustration for the short story “The Duel on the Beach” by Rafael Sabatini, in Ladies’ Home Journal, September 1931. The story was the basis for the 1932 novel The Black Swan. The painting was also used for the dust jacket, and in some editions the frontispiece, of the novel. The original is privately held. For more information, see the Brandywine River Museum of Art. Author’s collection.

It’s all too easy to imagine a duel on the beach between pirates or, as fiction and film often have it, between pirate captains. A sandy beach, palm trees, spectators often including both pirates and a woman in distress, a tropical sea and sky–a duel is mandatory in the genre if only because the setting demands one.

This blog post is part one of a likely five part series on the classical piratical duel on the beach, a…

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Risk, Escape, & Life

He rose at dawn and, fired with hope,
Shot o’er the seething harbor-bar,
And reach’d the ship and caught the rope,
And whistled to the morning star.

And while he whistled long and loud
He heard a fierce mermaiden cry,
‘O boy, tho’ thou art young and proud,
I see the place where thou wilt lie.

‘The sands and yeasty surges mix
In caves about the dreary bay,
And on they ribs the limpet sticks,
And in thy heart the scrawl shall play.’

‘Fool,’ he answer’d, ‘death is sure
To those that stay and those that roam,
But I will nevermore endure
To sit with empty hands at home.

‘My mother clings about my neck,
My sisters crying, “Stay for shame;”
My father raves of death and wreck,–
They are all to blame, they are all to blame.

‘God help me! save I take my part
Of danger on the roaring sea,
A devil rises in my heart,
Far worse than any death to me.’

–Alfred Lord Tennyson, “The Sailor Boy”

“Oorlogsschepen tijdens een storm” by Ludolf Bakhuysen, ca. 1695. Rijksmuseum.

The Romantic Ideal

“But fortunately romance never dies. The spiritual hunger of humanity seeks nourishment in ideals, which it is the business of romance to furnish. Romance is of no particular time or age. If it has usually preferred to lean upon the remote epochs, it is only because the remote is easier to idealise.”

–Rafael Sabatini, “My New Adventures of Captain Blood,” Pearson’s Magazine, December 1929.

Publicity still, Captain Blood (Warner Bros., 1935).

Laughter & Madness

“He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”

–Rafael Sabatini, Scaramouche, 1921.


The quotation was many years ago inscribed over the doors to a building at Yale University, then, reportedly, covered up as being too plebeian–Sabatini was considered a “popular” author, not a literary one, by many. It was later restored.

Copyright Treasure Light Press LLC.

Of Foolhardiness

“I hope no man will call me timorous; and yet I’ld as soon be called that as rash.”

Dr. Peter Blood, about to become Captain Blood, commenting on the dangers of blind faith in the face of contrary reality in Captain Blood Returns, “The Blank Shot,” by Rafael Sabatini, 1930.

In other words, wear your mask!

Het kanonschot (The Cannonshot) by Willem van de Velde the Younger, ca. 1680. Rijksmuseum.


Early in the morning on this day, July 6, 1685, Old Style, the rebel force of the Duke of Monmouth, pretender to the Crown, was defeated at Sedgemoor. Monmouth’s rebellion was brutally crushed.

Fictional physician (clearly one with surgical skill as well) Dr. Peter Blood, in spite of having taken no part in the rebellion, was arrested for treason for having treated the wounds of a rebel.

Also arrested for treason was sea chyrurgeon Henry Pitman of Yeovil, his family Quaker, whose account of his odyssey would go far to inspire Captain Blood: His Odyssey by Rafael Sabatini.

According to Pitman, he had come to see Monmouth and his army, then headed home with a friend but found himself caught between the rebel camp and Royalist patrols. He returned to Monmouth’s camp, lost his horse (probably confiscated by the rebels), and was prevailed upon by friends in Monmouth’s army to help treat the wounded.

Pitman claimed he was merely doing his Christian duty in treating the wounded, both rebels in arms and Royalist prisoners. Though never in arms, he was in Bridgwater during the Battle of Sedgemoor, possibly even with the army as it marched to attack, and was captured as he fled homeward after the defeat.

Oak leaves were a recognition device worn by many followers of the Duke of Monmouth. The pistol is a replica doglock common to the period. The hilt of the replica backsword is of a style made in both England and Scotland from the late 17th century into the 18th. Photograph by Mary E. Crouch.

Copyright Treasure Light Press LLC.