Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Avery, John

AVERY, JOHN? (fl. 1695), was a pirate, whose depredations in the Eastern seas, in the year 1695, occasioned much embarrassment to the East India Company and to the government. Having fitted out in the West Indies a ship mounting 46 guns, and with a motley crew of 130 men, he established himself at Perim and levied toll on all vessels passing in or out of the Red Sea, and especially on a large ship belonging to the Mogul himself, which he taxed to the extent of upwards of 300,000l. The Mogul retaliated on the company's officers at Surat, and put a stop to the English trade; but Avery, satisfied, for the time being, with his booty, and perhaps anticipating danger, returned to the West Indies, sold his ship, and dispersed the crew. Several of these were afterwards caught in Ireland or England, and some were executed; but of Avery himself—notwithstanding large rewards offered for his apprehension by both the government and the company—nothing was ever positively known. The received story is that he was a native of Plymouth; that, on his return to England, he lived for some time at Bideford; and that, having been cheated out of his vast wealth by some Bristol merchants, he died there, of rage and vexation, in extreme poverty. But the authority for these statements is extremely doubtful.

[John Bruce's Annals of the Hon. East India Company, vol. iii. pp. 188-223; Hamilton's New Account of the East Indies (1727), vol. i. p. 42; Captain Johnson's General History of the Pyrates (1724), p. 45, &c. Other and more detailed accounts—e.g. 'The Life and Adventures of Captain John Avery... now in possession of Madagascar, written by a person who made his escape from thence (1700);' or, 'The King of Pirates, being an account of the famous enterprizes of Captain Avery, the mock king of Madagascar, in two letters from himself (1720), which has been attributed to Defoe—are fiction, with scarcely a substratum of fact.]

J. K. L.