You probably don’t remember that early video game called Myst, right? It was a really cool mystery role-player, but instead of first person move-arounds, it simply put you into rooms were cool stuff could be discovered. It was an all-surrounding environment, though, and I used to play it just to escape there. I used the title here only because the spelling looks ancient.
Let us be clear: the word mist was never spelled myst.
So, anyway, it’s a funny thing about Edward Teach. I’ve been reading Kevin Duffus’ book The Last Days of Blackbeard, and he makes a great argument for our Mr. Beard to have not only not been Edward Teach, but probably not Blackbeard, either.
In London, there’s a great big river – what’s it called? The Thames, that’s right. And there’s that song that says “parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.” Remember that one? In both cases, the “th” at the beginning of the noun is pronounced like a “t”. Our Mr. Teach most probably was actually Mr. Thatch, but without pronouncing that first “h.”
Here’s a shameless plug: in my book, Marigold’s End, the nasty pirate Red Suarez can’t pronoun the “th,” making his dialog the very devil to write!
So, Edward Teach was most likely Edward Thatch.
Most of what we know about Blackbeard comes from Samuel Johnson’s A History of Pyrates…” – the entire title is on our Further Reading page. Captain Johnson, however, didn’t have the luxury of 300 years of history to research the notorious Mr. Thatch, and didn’t quite have his ducks in a proper row. A dicey historian at best, his works seems in part to be based on hearsay.
Mr. Duffus found no record of Edward Teach, or Thatch, or Drummond, as some suggest, having lived in RedCliffe, or Bristol, at the time the pirate was to have been there.
He did, however, find evidence of land being owned by a Captain James Beard in Bath, North Carolina, along the shores of the Pamlico River. The records are muddy and confused – what must have been crystal clear in the 1690’s has been fogged over by the mists of time – but they point to some curious things. Captain James Beard married a local widow, named Elizabeth Marston. According to legend in Bristol England, Blackbeard’s mother cooked for a seafaring Captain Marston… ah HAH!
But, sadly, there’s no ah-HAH to be had. Could the Captain Marston of Bristol actually, through the cloudy lens of history, actually be the Captain Marston of Bath, North Carolina, who died and left a wife and young son behind? Could James Beard have given his last name to the son?
Is Blackbeard actually incorrect? Was he a fellow named Edward Beard that grew a great, shaggy black beard, and was called Edward “Black” Beard?
Mr. Duffus believes that do be the case, and refers to him as Black Beard.
The difficulty of piercing the veil of time is most frustrating when you’re trying to piece together a novel about Blackbeard, or Black Beard, or Edward Teach/Thatch/Drummond/Beard. Even his ship is a mystery!
Ah, but such is the writer’s task – peering through the mysts of thyme!