Long John Silver is a fictional character and the primary antagonist of the novel Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. Silver is also known by the nicknames "Barbecue" and the "Sea-Cook" (the latter of which is also an alternate title for Stevenson's novel). He is considered to be a true example of a stereotypical pirate.
In Treasure Island, Long John Silver is a pirate who was ship's quartermaster under the notorious Captain Flint . Long John Silver had a pet parrot called Captain Flint, often seen sitting on his shoulder where she would nibble on seeds. A quartermaster on a pirate ship ranked higher than any officer except the captain himself, and could veto the captain's decisions whenever the ship was not in a battle. The quartermaster was elected by the crew and one of his tasks was to lead the boarding party from the quarterdeck during the boarding attack. Silver claims to have served in the Royal Navy and lost his leg under "the immortal Hawke". He was said to have been the only man whom Flint ever feared (much like Captain Hook is later said to be the only man Silver himself feared). Like many of Stevenson's characters, there is more than a modicum of duality in the character; ostensibly Silver is a hardworking and likeable seaman, and it is only as the plot unfolds that his villainous nature is gradually revealed. His relationship with Jim Hawkins, the novel's protagonist, is interesting, as he serves as a mentor and eventually father-figure to Jim, creating much shock and emotion when it is discovered that he is in charge of the mutiny, and especially when Jim must confront him and fight later on. Although willing to change sides at any time in the interests of his own survival, Silver has compensating virtues: he is wise enough to pay attention to money management, in contrast to the spendthrift ways of most pirates, and is physically courageous despite his disability; for instance, when Flint's cache is found to be empty, he coolly stands his ground against five grown men despite having only Hawkins to back him.
Historians have noted that Silver's account of his life experiences during the first half of the 18th century is at variance with the known history of the historical figures he mentions, and that Silver is either exaggerating the range and scope of his exploits for the benefit of Jim Hawkins or for potential pirates he is trying to recruit, or that his memory is faulty
When Silver escapes at the end of the novel, he takes "three or four hundred guineas" of the treasure with him, thus becoming one of only two former members of Captain Flint's crew to get his hands on a portion of the recovered treasure; a separate cache of bar silver is apparently left on the island. (The repentant maroonee Ben Gunn is the other, but he spends it all in nineteen days.) Jim's own ambivalence towards Silver is reflected in the last chapter, when he speculates that the old pirate must have settled down in comfortable retirement: "It is to be hoped so, I suppose, for his chances of comfort in another world are very small."
Stevenson's portrayal of Silver has greatly influenced the modern iconography of the pirate. Silver has a parrot, named Captain Flint in mockery of his former captain, who generally perches on Silver's shoulder. Silver has lost one of his legs, and uses a crutch to help him get around. He is married to a woman of African descent, whom he trusts to manage his business affairs in his absence and to liquidate his Bristol assets when his actions make it impossible for him to go home.
According to Stevenson's letters, the idea for the character of Long John Silver was inspired by his real-life friend William Henley, a writer and editor. Stevenson's stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, described Henley as "..a great, glowing, massive-shouldered fellow with a big red beard and a crutch [Henley was crippled]; jovial, astoundingly clever, and with a laugh that rolled like music; he had an unimaginable fire and vitality; he swept one off one's feet". In a letter to Henley after the publication of Treasure Island Stevenson wrote "I will now make a confession. It was the sight of your maimed strength and masterfulness that begot Long John Silver...the idea of the maimed man, ruling and dreaded by the sound [voice alone], was entirely taken from you".