Selkirk, Alexander

, whose adventures have given rise to the popular romance of Robinson Crusoe, was born at Largo, in Fifeshire, in Scotland, about 1676, and was bred a seaman. He left England in 1703, in the capacity of sailing-master of a small vessel, called the Cinque- PortsGalley, Charles Pickering captain and in the month of September, the same year, he sailed from Cork, in company with another ship of 26 guns and 120 men, called the St. George, commanded by captain William Dampier, intended to cruise against the Spaniards in the South sea. On the coast of Brasil, Pickering died, and was succeeded in the command by lieutenant Stradling. They proceeded round Cape Horn to the island of Juan Fernandez, whence they were driven by the appearance of two French ships of | 36 guns each, and left five of Stradling’s men on shore, who were taken off by the French. Hence they sailed to the coast of America, where Dampier and Stradling quar^ relied, and separated by agreement. This was in the month of May 1704; and in the following September, Stradling came to the island of Juan Fernandez, where Selkirk and his captain having a quarrel, he determined to remain there alone. But when the ship was ready to sail, his resolution was shaken, and he desired to be taken on board; but now the captain refused his request, and he was left with hm clothes, bedding, a gun, and a small quantity of powder and ball, some trifling implements, and a few books, with certain mathematical and nautical instruments. Thus left sole monarch of the island, with plenty of the necessaries, of life, he found himself at first in a situation scarcely supportable; and such was his melancholy, that he frequently determined to put an end to his existence. It was full eighteen months, according to his own account, before he could reconcile himself to his lot. At length his mind became calm, and fully reconciled to his situation: he grew happy, employed his time in building and decorating his huts, chasing the goats, whom he soon equalled in speed, and scarcely ever failed of catching them. He also tamed young kids, and other animals, to be his companions. When his garments were worn out, he made others from the skin* of the goats, whose flesh served him as food. His only liquor was water. He computed that he had caught, during his abode in the island, about 1000 goats, half of which he had suffered to go at large, having first marked them with a slit in the ear. Commodore Anson, who went there 30 years after, found the first goat which they shot, had been thus marked; and hence they concluded that it had been under the power of Selkirk. Though he constantly performed his devotions at stated hours, and read aloud, yet when he was taken from the island, his language, from disuse of conversation, had become scarcelyintelligible. In this solitude he remained four years and four months, during which only two incidents occurred which he thought worthy of record. The first was, that pursuing a goat eagerly, he caught at the edge of a precipice, of which he was not aware, and he fell over to the bottom, where he lay some time senseless; but of the exact space of time in which he was bereaved of his active powers he could not ferm an accurate estimate. When, however, he came to | himself, he found the goat lying under him dead. It was with difficulty that he could crawl to his habitation, and it was not till after a considerable time that he entirely recovered from his bruises. The other event was the arrival of a ship, which he at first supposed to be French, but, upon the crew’s landing, he found them to be Spaniards, of whom he had too great a dread to trust himself in their hands. They, however, had seen him, and he found it extremely difficult to make his escape. In this solitude Selkirk remained until the 2d of February, 1709, when he saw two ships come to the bay, and knew them to be English. He immediately lighted a fire as a signal, and he found, upon the landing of the men, that they were two privateers from Bristol, commanded by captains Rogers and Courtney. These, after a fortnight’s stay at Juan Fernandez, embarked, taking Selkirk with them, and returned byway of the East Indies to England, where they arrived on the 1st of October, 1711; Selkirk having been absent eight years. The public curiosity being much excited, he, after his return, drew up some account of what had occurred during his solitary exile, which he put into the hands of Defoe, vvho made it the foundation of his well-known work, entitled “Robinson Crusoe.” The time and place of Selkirk’s death are not on record. It is said, that so late as 1798, the chest and musket, which Selkirk had with him on the island, were in possession of a grand nephew, John Selkirk, a weaver in Largo, North Britain. Such are the particulars of this man’s history as recorded in “The Englishman,” No. 26, and elsewhere, but what credit is due to it, we do not pretend to say. 1

1 Sinclair’s Statistical Reports of Scotland. Chalmers’s Life of Defoe, &o>