SQUIRE TRELAWNEY, Dr. Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that only because there is still treasure not yet lifted, I take up my pen in the year of grace 17— and go back to the time when my father kept the Admiral Benbow inn and the brown old seaman with the sabre cut first took up his lodging under our roof.

Dose it an expression and mean: I write about it that happened in 18th century? or Dose it mean: in 18th century I started to write about it?

this contexet is from a novel named: treasure Island.

3 Answers 3


It means "I am starting to write in a year which I am not specifying which is 17xx", ie at some point in the 18th century.

It was common to omit details, such as calling a person "P----" instead of the full name. It's interesting to note that in Edgar Allen Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue, which was published in 1841, we see the same form: "Residing in Paris during the spring and part of the summer of 18--". Here's a whole question about that: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/9479/why-in-old-books-are-dates-often-given-with-the-years-redacted

PS. As Treasure Island is an extremely well-known book, it would normally be "It is from the novel Treasure Island" and not "a novel ..."


This is a figure of speech used in some novels written in the 19th century (and possibly earlier). It simply means that the writer chooses not to specify the exact year -- the year doesn't really matter -- but it was sometime in the 1700s.

"The year of grace" is a variation on "The year of our Lord", both of which are an English version of the Latin Anno Domini (AD). So again, the writer means 17xx AD.


The style here is rather out of date. Except as a period piece, no one writes like that currently. In fact, even when Treasure Island was first published in 1881, the style was old fashioned, because it was describing events set more than one hundred years before it was published, and the author attempted to evoke that period by his style.

"I take up may pen" means "I am starting to write this book". "The year of grace" means "the year AD" from the concept that these years were numbered from the birth of Jesus. The format "the year 17--" was commonly used, particularly in historical novels, to mean "a year in the 1700s, which i will not specify". The idea is that the narrator first wrote the full year, but then blanked out the last two digits. This avoids to close a connection with real history. Poe, in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" used the same convention, as did many other authors. It was also common to use dashes to obscure the name of a fictional location (town or city or district) or of a fictional character, or of a real location or person used fictionally. This may have been to add an air of mystery, to avoid possible defamation claims, or to avoid critics pointing out inconsistencies.

In short

I take up my pen in the year of grace 17—

means "I start to write this book in an unspecified year in the 1700s." The events presumably would have occurred some years earlier -- the narrator is writing his account well after the (supposed) facts.

  • Snap! Or Jinx! Or whatever they say where you are :)
    – jonathanjo
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 17:23

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